Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All About Austen

With my frequent references to Netherfield and Hartfield for my own residences, there is hardly any need to reveal that one of my secret passions is the novels of Jane Austen. Till now I've always lived by the oft-repeated mantra of the Regency matchmaker extraordinaire Mrs Bennet - It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife

Adaptations of her famous novels are numerous from acclaimed movies based on them to the more unusual parodies adding zombies and vampires into the mix of stodgy British rural gentry. So rather than spend my past week dining on yee sang and new year cookies, I have been rabidly catching up on a web series ostensibly based on Pride and Prejudice, arguably Austen's most well-known tour de force. A tad late to the party - albeit fashionably so - but there is no better time to watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Watch it! Certainly deserves winning the Primetime Emmy Award in 2013 for Outstanding Creative AChievement in Interactive Media-Original Interactive Program. Yes, quite the mouthful! Rather than a reluctant debutante, Lizzie is now an enterprising grad student out to complete her thesis by filming a vlog with her best friend Charlotte Lu. 

And get this - Bingley has turned into Bing Lee, as in Asian-American - and that's not even the most radical departure from the novel! Another character from the novel, Colonel Fitzwilliam has been turned into a fabulous gay black man!

Of course they couldn't change the main protagonists that much. Admittedly the coldly aristocratic Mr Darcy might not be to everyone's tastes - certainly wasn't to mine either - despite the fact that Charming Calvin once likened me to him! In real life, I think we would probably have intensely disliked each other at first sight! Fortunately the web series turned that haughty arrogance into something a tad more approachable, though as always our Darcy's quite the socially awkward fellow. 

A touch of Asperger's perhaps? 

Although as always, Darcy is melt-your-panties hot. 

Bowtie. What is there not to love?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Norms Away From Netherfield

Netherfield has been our abode for several years now and though the tenants have changed, the rules of the house have remained the same. Basically house rule no.1 - 'Don't Burn Down the House'. Other than that, most anything goes with the wildly easygoing denizens of Netherfield, namely me, Fabulous Felix and now Pretty Paisley

Previously Kool Kat tended to be a bit more maniacal when it came to household rules but after a few weeks of dealing with the rest of the more accomodating tenants here, even she started to mellow down. Also Felix tended not to listen by erecting a Shield of Obliviousness so she soon realized that her persistent naggings would be for naught. 

So Netherfield has always remained a bastion of no rules. 

Which is a far cry from the Draconian Domicile for Dogmatic Duennas several miles down the road.

Coincidentally a place where Sober Sophia and the rest of her teaching crew have decided to set up their budding household. Though we all gave her sufficient warning about the infinite perils of sharing an abode with your work colleagues - and your superiors, Sophia - ever the optimist - trusted in the sisterhood of women.

The ladies at the Domicile for Dogmatic Duennas

Within the short span of a week, the lecturing ladies have come to realize that their differing personalities and habits have ignited a growing friction - which has only become worse with them also spending all their hours of work together. With vastly disparate standards of cleanliness, even their fledgling roster of household chores had become an object of contention. 

Whereupon the ladies all decided to have a Meeting of minds.

To solve their ongoing household woes, they all decided to come up with rules. Or as they term it, norms. Make that Norms with a capital N since it was all duly notarized and signed by the witnesses to the meeting. 

Paul : That's a helluva lot of Norms. I think we had less rules back in school.
Sophia : We want it to be thorough.
Paul : And most of it's pretty common sense actually. 
Sophia : Oh? 
Paul : Like keeping the noise down in the morning. That's common courtesy, no? 
Sophia : Surprisingly not that common. 
Paul : Switching off the lights after use? 
Sophia : Also not that common. 
Paul : Wow. 
Sophia : Yeah. 
Paul : The rules are signed in blood I assume. 
Sophia : Yes. You haven't even seen our household accounts yet. 
Paul : Judging by the house rules, I assume it's counted down to the smallest cent, filed out in triplicate with independent auditors coming to check regularly? 
Sophia : Yes. 

Sounds more like a penitentiary than a domicile! And just today there was a small argument amongst the ladies over their laundry. I am starting to foresee a heinous murder-suicide somewhere in the near future at the Draconian Domicile for Dogmatic Duennas.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Changing Norms

Just try it. Stay a little while longer in the men's locker room at the gym and watch the daily happenings with a keen eye. You'll notice that the older men tend to just nonchalantly strip right down to - well if you're lucky, some sloppy no-longer-tighty-whities; if you're not so lucky, perhaps right down to their wrinkly saggy skin.

Surprisingly it's always the perfectly sculpted, muscular young dudes - who spend half their workout time earlier strip-posing for Instagram in front of the floor-length gym mirrors - who now hastily scurry into the farthest shower cubicles to change. Why the sudden change? Out of a misplaced sense of modesty - or some lingering sense of homophobia?

Wonder what happens if he drops his towel!

Never could quite figure it out but today as I changed out of my sweat-drenched shirt in front of the lockers, I started to realize something. Perhaps something resembling an epiphany even as two reasonably attractive college boys scampered into the cubicles to remove their casual attire!


Yes, I'm gradually losing my inhibitions. Well the little that I had left.

But then again I come from an all-boys school so changing in front of other guys wasn't very much of a big deal. There's really nothing much to be shy about when everyone theoretically comes with pretty much the same equipment. In fact some of my less prudent classmates simply stripped right down to their skivvies in the classroom for Physical Education - and probably would have elected to remain en deshabille throughout the entire morning session with our terribly unforgiving tropical heat.

Which would have severely distracted me from my studies if that had actually come true since some of the more comelier boys were quite the scrumptious eye-candy back then. Fresh-faced schoolboys stripping out of their school uniforms, anyone?

Sadly, single-sex institutions aren't quite as common these days with most of the newer schools opting for co-education. Struck me though that perhaps it explains why the boys nowadays are so terribly modest when it comes to disrobing in front of their peers? With girls around, wouldn't be all that common for them to let it all hang loose in a co-ed environment, would it?

Or has the etiquette for the men's locker room changed drastically when I wasn't looking!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tough Love

The only constant in life is change.

However that doesn't make significant life changes any easier to accept; from the exceptional events such as marriage and pregnancy to the more mundane monotonies such as transferring to a new place or finding a new job. Me, I've always hated change.

Seems I'm the only one since it invigorates some of my friends! For Kitty Kat, finding and getting the paid job was simple enough. Easy enough to pick up the reins of her working life after only a couple of years devoted to dutiful housewifery but it's not long before Kitty Kat realizes that the difficulty comes when she finds herself inevitably hedged by her terrifyingly idealistic young colleagues at work.

Or at least that's my take on the situation - but then I'm watching the entire tense work drama with the tired cynicism of someone running the miserable rat race for the past ten years. Even the way they painstakingly deal with each and every problematic work situation inevitably draws a wicked sneer to my lips. So much kinder than I would be of course.

Gosh have they never heard of the whip? 

Then again perhaps teachers have a more tolerant, sympathetic nature - when I would have flown into a towering rage. Many a time, they tend to have a more... passive response with tea and sympathy rather than my more caustic rejoinder. Otherwise why else would they all bother to molly-coddle a fellow colleague who finds himself unsuited to the job after a mere five days on the job?

Sophia : He doesn't feel suited to the job and wants to leave. So we have been offering counselling for the past few days. 
Paul : No doubt with a pot of calming tea? 
Sophia : Well yes. 
Paul : You shouldn't do that anymore. It's not helping, is it? 
Sophia : Not really. 
Paul : Try my way then. Scold him. Smack him. Wallop him. Make him cry. 
Sophia : Oh but what about his self esteem?
Paul : What do I care about his self esteem? I'm not his father or brother. And he's a grown man, for God's sakes.  
Sophia : But -
Paul : This is work. It's not play. And this whiny creature is threatening to quit after only a measly five days because he is not feeling it? If he were my intern, I would dropkick him off the fifth floor window. 

Not exactly the answer these wide-eyed idealists needed. In fact Sober Sophia looked pale enough that you'd think I'd just viciously strangled a helpless puppy in front of her! From the horrified look on their faces, I gathered tough love wouldn't be the answer for most of these hippie kumbaya Gen-Y folks. Even less the revolutionary idea of bringing back the cane.

Since I would love to have whipped the fellow.

And not in any kinky sadomasochistic manner. No Shades of Grey here.

But seriously. Five days. If that's all the time it takes to have them raise their weakling hands in apparent surrender, then I'm not surprised my fellow peers find it nigh impossible to hire anyone during interviews these days. I would have given them the boot right in their faces.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Petulant

Prior to meeting up with us, Diffident David actually ran around with an entirely different, doggedly heterosexual crowd. Didn't have very much of an opinion on them since his erstwhile friends generally remained clammed up when we were around, either from a misplaced sense of bashfulness or a seething streak of homophobia. Repeatedly trying to convince me that they were remarkably social away from our contaminating presence didn't help in my appraisal.

However recent exchanges between my friends decidedly changed my view of these 'friends' of his.

Paul : So what should we have for dinner? 
Kat : Let's have some porridge since it's a heaty day. 
Paul : Didn't David want to have some noodles? 
David : Oh no, if she wants to have porridge, we can. 
Paul : There's nothing wrong with giving your opinion when it's asked for. 
David : I don't want her to get angry with me. 
Paul : For suggesting somewhere else to eat? Kat, are you angry? 
Kat : Why would I be? 

Seriously from this brief summary, it's hard to comprehend just how distraught David actually was - especially since I've tried my best to tone down his unwarranted agitation! He was that anxious not to offend Kat - who remained perfectly oblivious to his alarming distress. From his response, one would expect our unassuming Kat to be a hellish termagant - when in real life she is almost the opposite.

Yeah, they laugh now but wait till they argue over what to order next!

Makes me wonder about David though.

Just that hint of overanxiety over a seemingly inconsequential difference of opinion gave me a very negative opinion of his former friends. Forever and always to be dubbed the Petulant. Supposedly such little trivial items - disagreements over dinner? - are enough to have these cantankerous trio all pitch a collective hissy fit. Possibly reason enough to end a decade-long friendship!

As dramatic as they are, perhaps they could even re-enact the entire infamous scene from Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils 天龍八部 where a great hero toasts his so-called 'friends' before ending their bonds of brotherhood! All over the sadly negligible fact that he hails from an enemy country which in their intolerant gaze indelibly marks him as a traitor.

No doubt in Chinese we would call these thin-skinned miscreants 小气 which in this particular context means far too easily offended. Well, if you ask me, it must be exhausting trying to gratify such overly sensitive creatures when every little annoyance just might trigger their unreasonable anger. I would be glad enough to toast them all farewell.

Which of course prompted the expected weekly lecture from me on the definition of friends. Poor Diffident David. Honestly if I had such friends like the Petulant, who needs enemies?