Saturday, December 31, 2016

Intense

Truthfully most of us hold some unfortunate misconceptions about ourselves; more than a few erroneous shades emerging during our troubled adolescence. It is only with the saner light of older adulthood - and the relentless allusions from mates - that some of these bothersome phantoms are finally laid to rest.

Though I still maintain that I was the diffident wallflower way back when. Really. 

Or at least I thought I was. Apparently everyone I know these days think that was just a fraudulent myth that I dreamt up. Overwhelmed by my relentless browbeating under the interrogation spotlight, a number of my hapless victims find it supremely unlikely that I was in any way introverted in the past. Repeatedly telling them that personalities undergo a mild shift as we all grow older doesn't seem to make a dint in their preconception of me.

Oh yeah I'm helluva intense!

And yes, they do have a catchphrase that they use repeatedly for me.

Intense

Quite a couple of times, me - and some of my more forceful friends - find ourselves being spoken of as such. For me, I associate the word with wildly fanatical zealots such as the brooding Heathcliff stalking the moors madly obsessing over a lost love. Seems I was quite mistaken. Generally though, it's being recounted by a much younger millennial sounding mindlessly mellow as if they've just smoked a collective doobie.

Paul : What are you doing in your life? Get out there and so something about it. 
Millennial : Oh man. Wow. 
Paul : What is that? 
Millennial : That's just wow. 
Paul : Huh? 
Millennial : Intense, man. Just intense. 
Paul : Are you high? 
Millennial : Chill, man. 

Perhaps they'd prefer someone unbelievably wishy-washy in their opinions?

In fact I don't take it as a diss. Far from it since I would much prefer to be intense rather than the opposite. Let's face it, the direct antonyms such as bland and blah don't exactly fit into my aspiration in life. Just amusing that someone like me - who I flatter myself to think rather laidback - would be taken as someone unreasonably tenacious. 



Well, maybe when they're really on weed. Everyone else would seem quite intense then. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Memoirs of A Concubine

Surely it was inconceivable that her very own sister, intricately tied to her by heavy bonds of blood and family, could have concocted, compounded and carried out such a malicious scheme solely to sully her reputation in the eyes of the other concubines in the Inner Court. The imperial concubines, supposedly the epitome of courtly elegance, so exquisitely bedecked with silk and pearls - and yet only too quick to abandon all semblance of civilized poise when the slightest opportunity arose to tear down the reputations of their supposed 'sisters' in court. 

Waving away the palace maids that hovered around her anxiously, Concubine Jing paced the floor of her inner chambers while trying to distract herself from her recent troubles. Right on top of her writing desk lay a red lacquered box which she opened to reveal an old letter. Wasn't it only less than a year ago that her kind older sister had written out a perfectly worded invitation begging for her attendance at court? 

Perchance her own star had risen too fast at the unanticipated expense of the other concubines? When it came to the emperor's ever changing affections, there were some who whispered that even the formerly radiant shine of her sister's elaborate Phoenix crown seemed to dim beside her very own lowly concubine tiara. Just a meagre pearl less than the size of her nail adorned that seemingly inconsequential tiara but even that modest gleam seemed to have drawn the lustful eyes of the young emperor - and apparently the jealous wrath of his newly enthroned empress. 

Not the king but hey, a hot prince is always welcome. 

As Concubine Jing unfolded the letter, several dried leaves tumbled out. Rosewood petals. Extremely rare plant indeed - and yet half a leaf was it took to generate an extreme reaction that could lead to death, epecially to someone like her sister who was allergic to it. The germ of a plan immediately came to Concubine Jing.

Was that why she had packed the fairly innocuous leaves along so many months ago when she'd first entered the palace? 

Pardon the wishy-washy pseudo sentimentality but I can't help it especially with Charming Calvin whiling away the afternoons watching what I sneeringly dub Classless Chinese Concubine Catfights.

Unsurprisingly, more than a millenia worth of Imperial China with all the drama, intrigue and scandal contained therein has apparently provided near endless fodder for the Chinese television script writers; even spinning off a particularly trashy genre based purely on the clashes, confrontations and catfights of the imperial harem of the Inner Court. For those unfamiliar with classical Chinese mores, think a purely all-female Game of Thrones with perhaps a dash of Gossip Girl and a dollop of Scream Queens; all dolled up in the lavish intricacies of Imperial Qing Empire concubinage.

Usually with the overarching theme of a good girl gone bad. Way, way bad.


In fact the series called The Empresses in the Palace received such worldwide notoriety that even entertainment giant Netflix has co-opted the hit historical drama - although it was compressed from several dozens of complex episodes to a measly six. Nonetheless the heavily edited version managed to condense most of the pernicious schemes carried out into their pertinent bits without the dull monotonous concubinage chatter.

Simple actually. See wicked concubine. See her plan. See victim drop dead from a myriad of nefariously ingenious ways. See wicked concubine smile.


Apparently quite a few of my friends assume this would be entirely up my alley, not knowing my oft-mentioned preference for sweet, sappy romances with a definite happy ending. Watching the main protagonist - usually innocently pure as driven snow initially - being browbeaten repeatedly by the villainesses before having her abruptly transform into a monstrous bitch simply isn't my kinda show. Usually find such weak-willed doormat characters highly deserving of repeated abuse.

Honestly I like my bitches downright nasty right from the beginning.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Gun Show

Men are visually inclined.

If there's any doubt of it at all, just look at the amount of titillating visual stimulus specifically geared towards men - regardless of sexual orientation - from the ubiquitous flesh magazines to the copious strip bars. Let's face it, it really doesn't take much to arouse the senses for a man after all. Just the sight of a deep cleavage scrupulously exposed, even the flash of a perfectly turned ankle can be enough to set the pulse racing.




As the straight men have their countless titty bars, the gay boys have their own equivalent in the ever-present dancing go-go boys who writhe and undulate deliciously in their briefest thongs to the relentless thumpa thumpa beat of the gay discotheque. For the boys who might wail at the unjustly conservative prudishness here that prohibits such seeming licentiousness, they can take hope in the fact that beautifully fit male specimens bumping and grinding for their visual pleasure aren't only available at the go-go bars.

After all why bother paying for a show when you can get it free at the gym?

Really. Gym boys these days seem to find the overly large locker room mirrors adequate reason enough to pose and flex for everyone's benefit. Raucous runway music and flashing strobe lights notwithstanding. These days not only do I get inadvertently shoved onto a coveted front-row seat to the spectacular gun show, I also get invited to do a little groping. Without even paying the prerequisite dollar.

Though I'll admit I would much prefer sliding that crumpled note into their skimpy briefs.

I mean, would you say no to grabbing his pecs? 

Didn't take very long after exiting the showers to find a post college boy starting the afternoon show in front of the mirrors. I wasn't entirely unfamiliar to this particular beefcake of course since I'd often caught myself drooling behind him while he earnestly performed his routines. Delicious Danish I called him. The man ticked all the right boxes for me from the rugged, faintly stubbled jaw to the rounded shelf of his chiseled pecs.

And that spectacularly curved bubble butt at the back of course.

So finding him flexing in front of the mirrors clad only in black boxer briefs, I found myself transfixed to the spot. Instead of squealing in horror to flee into the shadows though, he beckoned me over instead.

Danish : What do you think? 
Paul : About what? 
Danish : My chest? I'm trying to get my pecs bigger. Bulking up. 
Paul : They already look great. Really.
Danish : Maybe rounder. Fuller. Care to feel it? 
Paul : Umm.
Danish : Come on. Just grab it.

It's rare indeed that sculpted collegiates reach out to pull my hand onto their bulging pecs. My head was already playing the beginning thumpa thumpa refrain to some cheesy gay porn soundtrack. It was with much steely resolve that I refrained from inching my itchy fingers lower down to the hem of his shorts.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Waiting in the Wings

Often I've repeated my faint distaste of mawkishly fawning couples who find themselves figuratively joined at the hip. Even the veriest thought of a fleeting moment's separation seems to bring about a world of agonising torment unimaginable. Perhaps those recently enjoined I grant a couple of months to revel in their joyous cohabitation.

Hoping beyond hope that most would get over the relentlessly punishing forever-together time. However an ill-fated number find themselves far too weak to extricate themselves from such union and are forever lost as a shipped portmanteau.

Well... unless he looked like Chris Evans. Yes, I am quite biased. Even so if I waited for an hour, the man had better be ready to be my sex slave after.  

Such a two-headed creature eternally bonded I found right there in my local gym. For more than a week I've watched this fascinating quadruped make its way to the weight stations only for the male to uncouple for his obligatory hour of weightlifting whilst the female of the pair sits herself at the side to observe.

Rather than hie herself to whichever location would suit her best, all she does is position herself in a corner to watch. And she does this each time I see her. One would think with female empowerment these days, there would be better options for a girl like her instead of just whiling her wasted time waiting for her man.

Paul : She just sits there like a statue waiting!
Kat : Maybe she doesn't have anything to do!
Paul : Read a book. Sketch a scene. Find a job. Get a life. 
Kat : Or maybe take up some exercise?
Paul : You would have thought so but the only exercise she gets is sending texts with her fingers.
Kat : Is her boyfriend hot at the very least? 

She could only wish. Well... short of lying in wait for Chris Evans to finish his workouts - since hey, who wouldn't wanna watch him do squats!


Even then, it would be a one time thing to just wait. Squandering that precious hour every day just to keep the man company on his gym time seems faintly ridiculous - and almost enough to make me want to throttle the dimwitted girl for it.

Couldn't she at least take up a spin class?


Monday, December 12, 2016

Crass, Crude & Coarse

One would think it odd that I have become quite the arbiter of taste and etiquette amongst my peers. These days I seem to be the only one who gripes often about the sad lack of social graces in the people we meet. Seems more than a boorish few would benefit from a term or two in a select finishing school to polish off some of their rough edges.

Just terribly ironic since I used to thoroughly enjoy flouting social conventions. Back then, rules and regulations, deportment and decorum - all of that seemed so decidedly fuddy-duddy Victorian - but that didn't stop our tenacious martinets from drumming it relentlessly into our thick skulls. Learn it we did though we never truly saw the worth of it then.

Until recently when I hear of tightfisted colleagues insisting on going dutch during dates. Or when I see shameless friends consider ditching a party when something better comes along. Exactly what is being taught to our artless youngsters these days?

But even all those minor little social faux pas can hardly compare to what just happened today.

Tim : I'm sure you've received the invitation to my grand soiree this weekend? 
Paul : Yes. And I have returned the RSVP as well. 
Tim : Thing is... I've decided to disinvite someone. 
Paul : What has he done? Unless it's something monumentally wrong...
Tim : I just changed my mind. 
Paul : Gracious, you simply can't.
Tim : Why not? 
Paul : You can't just disinvite someone when they've already replied with a yes to the party. 
Tim : Well I will. I'll just tell him there aren't enough seats for dinner.
Paul : Unceremonious indeed!

Picture me with hands to my face doing the Scream Edward Munch style and you'll know how I feel.

You cannot do such an unconscionable thing!

Inviting a guest and then subsequently rescinding the invitation? Without a doubt one of the worst breaches of social etiquette ever. Such a social blunder would probably have a swooning Miss Manners immediately taking to her bed with smelling salts. Hearing of such an inelegant brush-off has made me feel quite uncharacteristically faint myself.

It's simple and you don't need Emily Post to lend a hand. Yes, you can disinvite a guest but you shouldn't. Not unless you'd prefer the unsavoury reputation of a loutish barbarian.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Breaking Bad

There are certain rules you learn growing up; little dos and don'ts that get written up in your own black book of etiquette. Though they might not fit squarely into the prescribed Miss Manners archive, they do generally help guide our behaviour navigating through treacherous social occasions while avoiding the dreaded faux pas.

Recent events however have made me wonder whether my ideas have become quite a tad stodgy especially since most Millenials tend to treat the values I hold dear as antiquated Victorian oddities. For instance arriving at a social gathering utterly emptyhanded, not even a bouquet or bottle to show. Oh how I would have goggled in the not so recent past but nowadays I've gotten almost inured to the bitter fact that some young'uns don't even believe in birthday presents any longer.

Just like the fact that returning an RSVP seems almost shockingly passe. Organizing events while trying to keep a proper head count really does seem impossible when hardly anyone ever replies with the RSVP. On the final day itself, everyone - and several random uninvited guests - tend to just turn up with little warning beforehand.

Good gracious indeed. Do they think we're hosting a drunken kegger where twenty more wouldn't make much of a different to the distasteful mess on the lawn?

Seriously the millennials do set such a low bar for a party these days. 

And then someone asks if it's alright to skip a party to attend another. Really.

David : I think I'll have to miss the party. 
Paul : You already told the host you would make it. 
David : But something just came up. 
Paul : Other than death or disability, you do not skip a party. Prior commitments trump newer ones.
David : I have an old friend coming over. 
Paul : Then you bloody well bring him but you do not ditch the party. 

Short of death or disability like I said of course. I mean, having mangled zombies as guests would certainly ruin most parties.

How is this something teachable? Something has certainly gone wrong when these seemingly simple social mores are judged to be quite extraordinary. Forsaking a prior commitment to attend something better when it comes along is just not done. Honouring a commitment made isn't just a matter of respecting rigid social conventions but also a sign of respect for the host who has organized the party in question.

At the very least make a polite appearance.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Kumbayas

I guess it's time to talk about the Kumbayas.

Though Kitty Kat's time at her workplace has come to a close, it has certainly influenced many of our late night discussions over coffee and cake. For she actually chose to enter the hitherto unexplored realm of kumbaya hipster start-up that miraculously achieves decisions based on a conciliatory group consensus with mandatory shared hugs, frequent backpats and regular group singing over an office campfire.

With the ubiquitous ukulele in hand of course.

No doubt you've seen many of her impassioned colleagues - these affluent millennials huddled around artisanal coffeehouses sipping their hastily deconstructed caffeine concoctions in pseudoscientific glass beakers. For someone relatively seasoned in the intensely aggressive working culture of medicine, these modern day urban hipsters seem almost implacably alien to me.


Obviously such a hip upstart of a company comes with only a mere handful on their board above the impossibly decrepit age of thirty; with the majority only having a couple of years under their belt before being voluntarily propelled into lofty positions they are utterly unprepared for. Curious executive decisions that nonetheless give rise to some unusual work conundrums.

Imagine a human resource manager barely out of university finding himself incapable of writing up a feasible exit strategy for the underperforming employees. In fact the little milksop balked at the very idea of firing an incompetent point blank; resorting to such sadly wishy-washy methods as offering cordial suggestions instead. Apparently tough love would cause these fragile hothouse blooms to shrivel, wither and die.

Seemingly not content with filling the ranks of the company with incapables impossible to dismiss, the ineffectual manager then next decided to come up with intriguing proposals at work.

Kat : Now we have to deal with key performance indicators like Integrity and -
Paul : Stop. How the hell do you score Integrity? Does it rise year by year? Could it remain the same? 
Kat : We have no idea. There's also a Sense of Possibility.
Paul : I can't even possibly see sense of that. 
Kat : Yes.
Paul : Honestly the more sense of possibility you have the less sense of reality you have. Half the asylum patients would score really high on sense of possibility - in fact they would flap their wings to fly out of a towering skyscraper. Is that what they prefer? 
Kat : Obviously.

Really. Bringing up such tedious bureaucratic paperwork for a fledgling startup with members fewer than the principal characters of War and Peace. Offering other constructive feedback to subtly alter his proposals is only seen as a monstrous act of aggression, apparently creating an unhealthy work environment.

Manager : I sense some hostility in the room. Perhaps we need to talk about this before we proceed.
Paul : It's already past working hours and we haven't made a single decision even after a three hour meeting.
Manager : Could I offer you some feedback on what you just said-
Paul : There's going to be a knife feedback in your chest if you keep telling me that. 

Thankfully I have little of such nonsense at work to bother me since I would have gladly disemboweled him! Clearly Dilbert drew inspiration from just such passive aggressive millennial managers. Or perhaps I could be impugning the reputations of the millennials and it's just this particular group of hipsters.

You can see why we spend several evenings laughing over such ludicrous work shenanigans. Although it has me starting to wonder if the human resource manager has nefarious plans to sink the entire kumbaya hipster startup.

Monday, November 21, 2016

First Dates

“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.” 
Indeed the redoubtable Miss Emma Woodhouse would balk at the unseemly vagaries of modern dating where young men seem to think that feminism has somehow excused them from chivalrous behaviour.

Even back then there were few workshops on how to be a gentleman. No brilliantly erudite Professor Higgins to guide us along the way. Certain acceptable habits and manners you tend to pick up as you stumble along through keen observation of the current societal mores and the occasional pointers from the elders. Not to mention the rare wallop across the back of the head when you undoubtedly slip up.

During the rare lapses between rigorous studies in school, we were fortunate enough to receive the infrequent words of advice from our teachers. Since I came from an all boys' school, the ratio of male teachers tended to be a little higher than usual which explains the intermittent class on Mr Manners. Frequently several decades older than us, these venerable preceptors hailed from an era far more genteel than ours and were equally eager to share on manly topics from crickets to condoms. There were no tedious hour-long lectures on proper dining etiquette or stylish collar arrangements but we certainly learned when irretrievable social faux pas were being committed. 

Just amazing certain things remain doubtful till now. For instance, who pays on the first date?

Well I might make an exception for Chris Evans.
Honestly it has never occurred to me not to foot the bill on the very first date especially if I'm doing the asking. Never knew there was even such a controversy till recently when the Dogmatic Duennas made their debut in the marriage market. So far the dating pool seems to be full of the cheap, crude and the crass with few true gentlemen to be seen. 

Mabel : He offered to split the bill at the end. 
Paul : What? On a first date? 
Mabel : Yes. 
Paul : If a gentleman were to ask a lady out and then insist on splitting the bill, she should head home immediately. And never receive his invitation again. 
Mabel : But it's common these days. 
Paul : You mean the men are common these days. I certainly never lowered myself to such standards. 

Even with raging female empowerment these days, the offer to wine and dine a lady should still be made. Whether to concede would be up to the lady in question. However immediately insisting on going Dutch is just so crass. Exactly what have they been teaching in schools to boys these days?


Make no mistake, I meant the first date. After that, the lack of gesture to contribute to the subsequent dates would be questionable indeed. Ladies, take note.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Wings of the Dove

Tourist : Well I swear I ain't cheap!
Paul : I totally believe you. 
Tourist : But over here, it's like everything's helluva overpriced. Swear it must be the most expensive city in Europe. 
Paul : And you've got the almighty dollar on your side. 

Even the Americans are waving their flags in surrender. Now imagine if you've only got the heartbreakingly miserable ringgit on your side.

Frequently you hear rabid raves and rhapsodies written about the unequaled splendours of La Serenissima yet you rarely get wind of the very, very few who cry a simpering rebuttal. That's because like with any reigning debutante of the season, most of the swooning devotees caught under the mesmerizing spell of Venice are frequently in possession of a handsome fortune themselves.

The poor don't last long in Venice. 
For the poor and hungry would find themselves quite sadly dispossessed on these shores. Not for nothing is Venice dubbed the rich man's playground. With the ever-increasing rents on the pitifully small acreage of sandbanks and shoals, is it any wonder that everything here costs a pretty penny?

Or at least several pennies more in comparison with dry land.

Not very friendly for the budget travelers for sure.

Even when it comes to a place to rest. Setting aside the obviously sky-high prices for the minuscule bedsits, there are also the canteens and the cafes that not only charge exorbitantly for their food and drinks but also impose a heavy levy on dining in. Perhaps one of the few places in the world that extorts an excessive price for service and a seat, again several pennies more than the usual.

Which explains why most locals would be found standing around the streets with takeaway snacks in hand.

Something that evidently frustrates our somnolent Charming Calvin who immediately loathed the entire archipelago at length. Fortunately for his rapidly depleting humour, we came to realize the Chinese restaurants charge the same flat rates regardless of table service - bless the ever-ubiquitous Chinese! Mollified by the familiar fried rice on offer, he started thinking the place quite tolerable in fact.

Until several hours later when we found something that made him cast up his hands in horror - as needless to say the public toilets cost a bomb as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Life in Venice

It's evident the moment you step out of the rather spartan Santa Lucia train station that there's nowhere else in the world quite like Venice. Water, water everywhere indeed. Immediately there's a sudden awareness regarding the startling lack of paved streets around; even more so the improbably paucity of any vehicles with wheels.

Well apart from the wheeled luggage bags attached to the the thousands of dumbfounded tourists streaming out from the main terminus to the breathtaking wonders of La Serenissima.

Another thing that struck me were the multiple signages around the train station. Rather than the usual automobile signs for taxis and buses, over here in Venice the large signboards had little ship logos to signify the traghetti and the vaporetti. Certainly a different world from what we're all used to as we lugged our cumbersome suitcases onto the bobbing landing platforms to catch the public transport on the waterways - the ubiquitous vaporetto which is basically a waterbus.

Of course there's always the world-famous gondolas available for a ride but that costs almost its weight in gold. 

Unlike our usual Italian medieval towns with narrow alleys that nevertheless have to be sufficiently wide enough to make room for the odd horse and wagon, Venice obviously needs have no qualms to accommodate such common roadway frivolities. Hence the disquietingly cramped quarters at every turn - some corridors just wide enough to fit our shoulders with barely enough for our baggage - as we made our way through the bewildering labyrinth of passageways with the limited directions available to our secluded hotel.

Which also had me wondering why there just aren't more deaths in Venice; what with the terrifyingly treacherous corners and dark crossings - talk about perfectly set for a murderous assassin to lie in wait for his or her victim.

Dizzily twisting left and right amongst nondescript buildings had taken its toll and it was with more than a sigh of relief that we dropped our bags on the doorstep of our little palazzo that overlooked a tiny patch of grass hosting one plucky little tree. Hard to find all that much real estate in a city made up from shifty islands of mud and muck.



Monday, October 31, 2016

Under the Tuscan Sun

As awful a traveller as I am in the air, I can't really claim to be all that much better on land since severe carsickness assails my battered senses the moment I'm dragged away from the driver's seat. So it's only fair to say that despite the beautiful, sweeping landscapes provided by the famed hills and vales of Tuscany, I found myself resolutely shutting my eyes as much as possible.

Moreover the famed hills and vales didn't prove at all conducive to the civil engineering of straight, perfectly smooth highways which is how I found myself desperately groggy as we found ourselves jolted on a bus all the way through the winding, undulating roads of rural Tuscany.

Maybe I was meant to ride on horseback!

Nevertheless - which speaks very much for the phenomenal vistas provided - I would still recommend getting on that rattling bus.

Though perhaps with a little less consumption of the Chianti.

Which was unfortunately inevitable with a tour around the region since the world famous vineyards abound in this very area. So despite booking a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano, somehow a brief detour to the vineyards had to be slotted in for the shameless lushes. Being less than a noted connoisseur of wine, obviously it was a horrifying experience to have endless glasses of wine pressed into my shaky hands for a review.

Happily by the time we made it to San Gimignano, the groggy effects of my incipient alcoholism had started wearing off; otherwise I would undoubtedly have clumsily tumbled down the steep steps heading up to the hilly fortress town. The added prize of the best gelato ever at the main piazza turned out to be the ideal panacea for my subsiding headache. Built on a precarious ridge of a hill, the soaring towers of San Gimignano served as the perfect introduction to the walled hill towns of Tuscany - and certainly explained the amazing glutes much prized by the Italian artists.

All that endless hiking up and down certainly helped!


Far larger than most of the smaller hill towns and on thankfully far more manageable terrain, Siena certainly caught my eye with its medieval splendour spread around the peculiarly shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. Quaint stores peddling souvenirs from pottery to sweetmeats proliferate in the town centre; one of the reasons I found Siena absolutely charming and worthy of a second visit! Unfortunately there was barely any time to haggle a decent bargain since the tour bus kept hankering to leave before dark.

Fortunately I managed to snag some panforte and a couple of terracotta plates to add to my stash before hopping into the bus. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Breakfast with Vasari

Certainly a sight better than the unappetizing thought of Tea with Mussolini.

Which is how we ended up one early morning wandering around the beautifully frescoed courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio in wait. Rather than labour through endless hikes through the bewildering maze of a medieval fortress-palace, I thought it would be easier to avail ourselves of the modern facilities at hand. And who else better to show us around than the famous architect Giorgio Vasari instead?


Or rather a terribly well-versed impersonator.

Though it would be quite impossible to convince him otherwise since Vasari was obviously a dedicated method actor. Marvelling over the newfangled contraptions around our necks and our palms - what we now call cameras and cellphones, he welcomed us magnanimously into the forbidding fortress-palace of his gracious benefactors, the Medicis.

Undoubtedly one of the leading families of the Renaissance, the Medici family was a wealthy banking family that consolidated and wielded great political and social influence from the 15th to 18th centuries, initially beginning Florence and then expanding to rule Tuscany in time. One of the greatest legacies of the illustrious family is their patronage of arts, education, and architecture which gave us such legends as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Vasari was quick to lend praise to his masters for having such great foresight to support these artists. Even quicker to apologize for his inadequate skills in refurbishing the Palazzo Vecchio from a medieval fortress to an enchanting palazzo suitable for his newly ennobled masters, the Medicis. The hours went by quickly as we were introduced to the various Italian art treasures in the palazzo, and later the Uffizi gallery, from the magnificent sculptures to the awe-inspiring paintings.

Wow, that guy's kinda hot. 

Though of course I've always been more enamoured with marble statues. Perhaps it's the swarthy, virile Italian men that the artists all drew inspiration from but somehow the male statues generally had the most shockingly enviable glutes. Perfectly spherical, thickly muscled, amazingly smooth and as tantalizingly mouthwatering as any that walked the cobbled streets of Florence. Certainly lends credence to the idea that Florence had been a beguiling hotbed of homosexuality during the Renaissance.

But that wasn't all that drew my gaze as I kept looking up to the ceilings where the decorative painters of the Renaissance had conspired to produce something quite uniquely Italian.

That had come to be known, surprisingly enough, as grotesques.


Something we were later tempted to try for ourselves though our poor attempts at making our own decorative frescoes would have been scoffed at by the scrupulous Vasari himself! Turns out it isn't that easy painting hastily with a brush as the lime plaster concoction sets!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Room with A View

Perhaps we skip the harrowing journey that I endured as we made our way through several hundreds of kilometres to our destination.

Never a great traveller as I have reiterated before but I've yet to medicate myself in fear of appearing before the approaching immigrations officer as inebriated, incoherent or worse, insensible. Add that to a dizzying train journey from the sadly blighted environs of Bologna to our final destination of Florence - and you can imagine me desperately stumbling out from the Santa Maria Novella Station seeking salvation on the steady, thankfully unmoving ground.

Despite emerging from the dullness of the station into a dismal, unprepossessing section of the city, the late afternoon sun was already painting the staid brownstones of Florence in vivid reds and yellows. Balm enough to force my throbbing headache into a retreat - and more than enough for me to seek out the surprisingly friendly tourist information office. 

Directions were given and soon we had our bags, our maps and our taxi driver. Unquestionably an unforgettable taxi ride from the station as we - seemingly purposefully - were driven past the many sights and attractions of the city from the dazzling Duomo to the sombre Palazzo Vecchio on our way to the hotel on the other side of town. Interesting vignettes of life on the streets gave us a tantalizing preview of what was to come with backpackers huddled together in the endless queues up the Campanile to several teenagers slurping their gelato in the brisk autumn breeze. 

Presumably not everyone's quite as impressed with the view but I certainly was!

Whatever aches and pains that ailed me during the interminable flight were forgotten when I caught sight of the unmistakable beauty of David perched on the Piazzale Michaelangelo high above the city. 

Certainly would be hard to beat all the amazing displays we'd seen but our room managed to amaze us with one more view. Raising our heads to the ceiling, we found an amusingly aged fresco of flora and fauna right above the beds. 

It was enough to make me drop my bags and insist on rushing out to take in the sights again. 



Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Scandal of Ankles

I would readily admit that it has been a while since I was in school. So much so that when I drive past a secondary school and see the odd surprisingly virile, hot-looking kadult in their whites and greens, I have to forcibly remind myself that they are generally young enough to be my biological offspring. Relative infants really! That's really how long it has been.

Easy enough to separate the men from the boys back when I was in school. Ordinarily the lower secondary juveniles wore olive green shorts while the older boys had longer slacks. Almost a point of pride for us all when we mark the simple transition from boyhood to manhood with the simple sartorial switch.

At least in my all boys' school.

We're no longer kids, man!

Well, that's how I remember it to a certain extent. These days however, with the corrupting conservatism creeping across the country, even the younger kids are shamefully starting to cover up. Not only are the junior schoolboys starting to wear slacks in primary school, apparently their previously short shirt sleeves are growing progressively longer as well.

Talk about highly impractical in our sweltering tropical weather.

Vague signs of the incipient religious extremism in our country rankles of course so I initially ranted about it to my friend Shameless Shalom before she decided to point out something.

Shalom : I hear you. 
Paul : Yes? And you agree? 
Shalom : Yes, I do. There's a creeping conservatism for sure - but I've never seen you in shorts!
Paul : Of course I do! I wore them back in lower secondary. 
Shalom : I find this hard to believe. 
Paul : I do wear them!
Shalom : I don't even think you have ankles.
Paul : Like what?!
Shalom : Well I've never seen them!

Really. Apparently in my modest bid to raise the bar for sartorial flair here, that has led to my friends assuming I don't have knees and ankles under my perfectly creased slacks.




Friday, September 30, 2016

One Step Forward

And two steps back.

Well at least that's the eerie feeling I get sometimes when it comes to the byzantine Borgias. Just when you complacently think you've got them all figured out, these perplexing provincials abruptly snatch the Oriental rug from beneath you... just because they can.

Although cordial invitations to their family events have been regularly delivered to Netherfield for my perusal, it didn't actually occur to me that I was part of a select coterie of acquaintances. Foolish move on my part of course. Even Charming Calvin would have thought so. So when I replied in the affirmative for a weekend dinner with his family, I naturally assumed that the convivial occasion would be open to all.

Madame : Pray tell who is this paltry creature that you have brought before us. 

Since Diffident David happened to be in our esteemed company, we naturally included him in the invitation since I couldn't see how I could get out of the event without bringing him along. After all, David had been dragged along to one of the previous Borgia family soirees so he wasn't a complete unknown to her. Surely I wasn't expected to peremptorily eject the hapless fellow from the moving carriage.

Though I could clearly see Madame Borgia did. Rather than have him spoil the sanctity of her soiree, perhaps better to have him viciously crushed under the very wheels of my carriage. However once milady came to the appalling realization that a relative stranger had been added to the party, she immediately rescinded the proffered invite! Quelle horreur!

Calvin : Now she would prefer it if we had dinner separately. 
Paul : Separate the two of us? 
Calvin : No, I'm to join your party. They will have their own dinner without us. 
Paul : What a sacrifice!
Calvin : Seems like it is. 
Paul : So it was alright for me to join your family dinner but bring a guest and all's undone?
Calvin : Yes. 

Goodness what has happened to social etiquette! Apparently the Borgias have seen fit to overturn such antiquarian notions of polite society protocol rather than sully their weekly family dinner with an undesirable alien.

David : Perhaps they weren't feeling terribly social this week.
Paul : That's where you're wrong. Obviously they were unfeeling this week. 

Though I was quietly horrified by their shockingly boorish behaviour, still I was somewhat mollified by the fact that at the very least Madame Borgia still counts me as family. Sort of anyway, perhaps that revolting far-flung relative you simply can't get rid of.

Paul : I'm quite flattered that she thought of inviting me. 
Calvin : She probably thinks you're gonna barge in anyhow so she might as well just invite you.
Paul : That's also quite true.

Apparently she knows me well, at least up to a certain point. Such a wanton display of egregious behaviour in my severely judgmental presence would be the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a mad, raging bull. Madame Borgia immediately realized that her abrupt revocation of the invite would have me flinging my hands up in outrage - which is how she later made a sadly fumbling attempt to mollify us with a paltry overture.

Madame Borgia : Well, the friend may come for dinner but he shall have to sit with the servants outside. There's just no place at our select table. 
Paul : ...

Sometimes it's better to remain silent lest words we can't rescind fall heedlessly from our lips.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Stern Uncle

The past week has certainly been quite the ordeal for Charming Calvin - having his unfamiliar niece and nephew thrust upon him for the brief duration followed by his own redoubtable mother then falling prey to the passing scourge of serpentine affliction. Burdened by all these troubles, Calvin has had to man up to deal with them all by himself.

With some little help from the taciturn Benedicta of course.

While Benedicta plays reluctant nurse in the sick room, the children are permitted to roam the family compound under the care of their watchful uncle. As you would have already guessed, Charming Calvin's the sweet, lovable uncle allowing free rein for the kids to do as they well please, spending literal hours glued to their tablets and Wii while slacking the rest of the day off while it's charging.

All the while he's vegetating several feet away gazing with an indulgent eye.

Far different from my more... astringent methods of pre-adolescent childcare.

Paul : You call that a shot? You couldn't hit the side of a barn. 
Niece : I- I am t-trying.
Paul : Try harder! How are you going to guard the portal to hell!
Niece : What portal?
Paul : Don't pretend. Now pick up your bow. 

Staring mindlessly at the telly watching reruns? Wasting their precious time on silly inconsequential games? Lying on the grass for hours doing nothing but inhaling the durian trees?

Certainly not on my watch.

Paul : Bring them out now. 
Calvin : They are sleeping.
Paul : It's just after lunch. 
Calvin : A nap after lunch. 
Paul : Good god. Get them scrubbed and out now!

Taking my cue from the Tiger Mother, it didn't take very long before I set things right for the two kid loafers with hard-hitting gritty personal questions interspersed with mathematical puzzles and language quizzes. Just running short of having workbooks and exercises thrown at them - which I would have if I had any spare.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Trials and Tribulations of Tuition

Really, what is the opposite of disillusionment?

Back in high school, crushed between the insurmountable expectations of our hopeful parents and the contemptible judgement of our sneering peers, we all tend to develop extremely skewed views of our teenage selves. Only with the benefit of some time and distance do we realize that most of our insecurities about ourselves were all for naught.

That - and coming face to face with the acne-ridden distraught teenagers of today.

I used to think that I needed to be more driven, more focused, more ambitious, more... well, everything especially when it came to my academic studies. Even in my already relatively packed co-curricular activities, I kept wondering if I was doing quite enough to buff up my curriculum vitae. Even though short of joining a club or society that miraculously convened on a Sunday evening, I doubt I could find the time!

Looking back, I needn't have worried too much.


How foolish I was. Judging by the sadly mediocre students coming to Charming Calvin for extra tuition, I might be quite as terrifyingly kiasu as Paris Geller.

The students at Gradgrind are quite an interesting lot. Not only are some of them unsure of what subjects they would be taking for the exams, they don't particularly see any need to prepare at all. So what if they are flunking half the subjects in school?

Or if they don't even know the first thing about algebra?

A handful in upper secondary can't even do a simple times table sum without the help of a calculator. For someone whose knowledge of mathematics is already less than stellar, that's really horrifying.

Of course their less than knowledgeable, terribly enabling parents aren't helping much.

Parent : Oh, he will go for tuition classes when he needs them.
Paul : Isn't he flunking most of his subjects? 
Parent : Well I think so. 
Paul : Think so? You don't know how he's doing in school?
Parent : Umm... not great I guess? 
Paul : Interesting.
Parent : He will ask for tuition if he feels like it. Anyway he's headed for college.
Paul : Doesn't mean he can afford to fail. He'll still need a bare minimum to enter.

Seriously I doubt he will ever ask for tuition. And better start scraping together cash for that college trust fund since he's gonna need it! That's even if he manages to get the bare minimal pass - which seems pretty unlikely with the feeble effort he has put in.

Of course if you looked as hot as Pietro Boselli, you would have other options for a career. But even this handsome fellow studied really, really hard!


Look, I know academics isn't for everyone. Burying your head in a tedious textbook for half the evening when you could be out partying drunk with your friends isn't all that easy. Especially when you feel the rewards reaped aren't all that much. But at least give it a college try rather than surrendering so easily to lethargic apathy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Miss Brozone

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good mind always seeks to friendzone any eligible bachelor in a mile radius. 

Perhaps that's the sacred mantra oft-times repeated by the Dogmatic Duennas from the Draconian Domicile since the three seem curiously determined to deter any male suitors from crossing the sacred threshold of their convent. Time and again even the most steadfast supplicants find themselves dumbfounded by the various misandrist stratagems perpetuated against them by one or more of the duennas.

Though sometimes not entirely by design.

Certainly not when it comes to Marvellous Mabel who finds herself discarded upon the proverbial shelf from no apparent fault of her own.

Or at least that's what she would prefer to think! Gifted with many virtues she might be but not when it comes to the craft of courtship. For the most part, Mabel tends to unwittingly repudiate a suitable gentleman just as they've steeled themselves to attempt a bold move. Or find herself inadvertently brozoned by them instead as her vivaciousness easily translates into seeming boyish camaraderie by the men.

Mabel : Do you like me? Like really really like me?
Suitor : Well I don't just buy dinner for anyone. 

Still that surely doesn't compare to the times when Marvellous Mabel seems almost perfectly obtuse to the subtle art of seduction practiced by her hapless swains. 

Paul : You're certainly back early!
Mabel : I'm not sure if he likes me. There might be no interest at all. 
Paul : He asked you out. He watched a movie twice just to see it with you. He bought you dinner. He drove you home and walked around your apartment building several times just to be with you. He tried to kiss you.
Mabel : He's being friendly?
Paul : Friendly. That would have been a goodbye handshake.

How many gentle hints could he have possibly left behind? Short of an inappropriately direct embrace, I doubt any well-meaning gentleman could honourably disclose his intentions.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

The Surgeon's Daughter

Although I wouldn't say medicine is my first calling, I certainly found the wonderful mysteries of it all endlessly fascinating. Being frankly interested in the dust-filled tomes of arcane medical text definitely helped somewhat in my studies back in school; otherwise I swear it would have been utterly tedious. After all, we learn all about the inner workings of the human body and that should be assuredly interesting to all who possess them, I assume?

Apparently I was wrong in making that assumption.

Back in medical school, we had quite a number of legacies, meaning children of surgeons and physicians who we all erroneously figured had a significant leg up when it came to studying medicine. Turns out they weren't all that different from the rest of us wandering lost in the winding shelves of medical journals and textbooks.

In fact I think they might have had a tougher time than the rest of us with all the weighty expectations heaped upon their scrawny shoulders.


Something I definitely confirmed when the surgeon I worked with brought his daughter to work. With the overabundance of medical grads coupled with the serious lack of available posts for them, things aren't looking that bright for new doctors here so it didn't surprise me to see his recently graduated daughter coming by for a tour of duty.

Though I am starting to doubt very much her sincerity.

Perhaps I might be a tad biased but never have I seen so little enthusiasm in a newly minted physician. Ever. So much so that I've dubbed her Apathetic Anna.

At the beginning of our careers - something I presume we all had a hand in choosing, I would have expected at least a reasonable level of zealousness. If you can't even muster up that teensy bit of excitement now, what about twenty miserable years down the line when inevitable apathy sets in? Even I was far more keen - and I was hardly the intense, overachieving Gungho John types way back then.

Paul : Perhaps you would like to close up the surgery? Maybe a few stitches? 
Surgeon : An excellent idea!
Nurse : Yes, try. Here's the needle. 
Anna : Umm. If I must...

Really. We practically had to cattleprod her to do so.

Talk about disinterest. Back in the days, we had house officers lining up just to complete stitches on a freaking dried banana. Not even on a patient. To earn that particular honour, you'd probably have to seriously dismember several of your own kiasu, obsessed colleagues just to get close enough to holding that needle. Everyone was just so psyched to be a doctor their first time out.

Houseman : We get to cut? Really? Really?
Houseman 2 : I wanna do it! Can I?
Medical officer : It's a corpse. Get a grip. 

And we're not even talking about the scalpel yet.

Which I doubt very much Anna would be interested in. Really, you can easily imagine Anna's disturbingly blasé expression as she dully observes the surgeon sketching detailed diagrams of the surgical procedure post-operatively. Short of several jaded socialistas that I know, I doubt anyone could look that dolefully bored.

Maybe she was watching paint dry. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Gradgrind School

Ever since Charming Calvin made the decision to stumble down the arduous path of adolescent education, I have wisely kept my sentiments to myself. Though I'm endlessly supportive of his ambiguous post-dismissal plans, I know first-hand from both my teacher parents just how difficult it is keeping unruly teenagers reluctantly tethered to the millstone of a tedious biology textbook.


Sometimes it's a hellish job and don't let anyone - even our dogged Mark Thackeray - tell you any different.

However I'm glad to see Calvin take up this onerous challenge with a sweet smile. Took me several weeks of him giving weekly classes before I even attempted a peek at his teaching methods.

Granted he had quite a... problematic student to say the least. Occasionally there's a spark of brilliance noticeable in the eyes of those we talk to but tragically so far, I have yet to see anything in his student's painfully blank expression but dull apathy. Of course it doesn't help that Calvin has adopted the intriguingly old school pedagogy much favoured by Mr M'Choakumchild of Gradgrind fame.

Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Do you understand? 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Alright, let's move on. 
Paul : What? It's clear he has no freaking idea what you said. 
Calvin : What is potential energy? 
Student : Uh?

It was sadly apparent from the vacant look in his eyes that very little of what had been said throughout the class had actually registered inside his brain. Honestly medically speaking, I doubt the spoken words had barely triggered his eardrums; certainly none of the vital information had even migrated via neurons to the cerebrum for processing.

Really. The student heard but didn't listen. Nothing short of a sledgehammer would be able to get him to focus.

An apple for teacher? 

And Calvin's didactic methods clearly needed a timely shift.

Far be it for me to exhort at length on the quality of teaching - not even sure if I could better his attempt - but Calvin certainly reminded me of my own pedantic school teachers. Till now I can still recall the Physics schoolmarm muttering repeatedly about potential energy with very little explanation - and there's me at the corner of the science lab doodling caricatures of her sputtering gobbledygook.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Serpent Demon

Much as they always feared - and despite all the various warding precautions and magical defences they had taken years to construct around the seeming impregnable family compound, the deceptive serpent demon had managed to land a terrifyingly weakening blow to the stalwart matriarch. There was a palpable gasp amongst the leading warriors of the clan as they simultaneously turned to her only to see her clutch her bloodied sword arm and stagger backwards. With a startling flash of pure white, the infamous Staff of Baram fell heedlessly from her other hand. 

Even as Sir Calvin rushed forward to catch her fall, he could hear her faltering words through the sheer din of battle. "Cal, call the children..."

Snatching the magical staff to cast a shield of protection around them, Sir Calvin crouched down closer. Surely he could have her wrong. "Mother? What do you mean? Children?" 

"Your niece and nephew. Cal, Cal, they have to know." Her fragile looking hands reached for his and held them resolutely. "Promise me."

At least that's what I presume happened last week at Forteresse de Borgia. After all it was the inauspicious inception of the Hungry Ghost Month whereupon the portals of hell creak open allowing all manner of mystical mayhem to flare up.

So you can imagine what a terribly busy month it would be for the beleaguered Keepers of the Portal. Oh wait, that might still be a secret. Shhh.

Calvin : Shh. Don't let Uncle Paul scare you. He only looks mean.
Nephew : And barks a lot?
Paul : Be careful. I bite as well


As per Madame Borgia's incontrovertible instructions, Charming Calvin has immediately departed for the other side of the Big Puddle to retrieve the precious children mentioned above. His niece and nephew actually. Recently struck down by a debilitating malady, our poor Madame Borgia finds herself somewhat indisposed and in need of perpetual succour.

Though she has repeatedly refused my obscene Western medical practices and opted instead for a more obscure brand of otherworldly regimen consisting of gory blood-letting, dubious concoctions and possibly virgin sacrifices.

Well maybe not the virgins since they are truly impossible to find these days.

No matter the reason whether for familial ties or for nefarious hellish purpose, I'm just glad Charming Calvin has taken this huge step to bring the children into the family fold. Not only will he be accompanying them on this positively dangerous journey all by himself, the children will be coming over without their daunting mother in tow. Progress at the very least!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Head In The Sand

Like it or not, it's been easily more than five years since I crossed over to this side of the Big Puddle. Yes, it does take a while to appreciate the esoteric qualities this little town that could offers but that only means that it has slowly but slyly supplanted quite a few other places I've lived in over the years.

It grows on you, really.

Definitely helped in part by a lovely - though seemingly on perpetual rotation - group of friends.

Without whom, I doubt I would have so easily fit in here - without going stark raving mad for a little while. After the manic madness of the metropolis, it can be quite a serious adjustment to dial life back several notches and watch the minutes tick by. Not only do people move a tad slower over here, they prefer it that way and wouldn't want it any other way.

Much to my disgust of course but I have grown to accept it as part and parcel of the small town life. Doesn't mean I don't still automatically reach out to blare a honk at one of the numerous snaildrivers here but at least these days I try to refrain unless absolutely life-threateningly necessary.

With oil companies rightsizing all over the place, several disgruntled city slickers have found themselves unwillingly uprooted from their urban diaries and peremptorily jettisoned across to this side of the Big Puddle. Imagine their wailing cries of dismay as they are forcibly cannonballed towards what they imagine would be the literal end of civilization away from everything they know; a savage land peopled with beasts, bandits and brigands.

Perhaps they imagined it like this? 

Hard to blame them sometimes since all advertorials about this city seems to focus primarily on the caves and the crevasses, the cliffs and the climbs - with very little attempt made to correct the generally erroneous assumption of primitive barbarism here. It's all about the tropical wilds of Borneo over here - at least according to the tourist posters.

So you can imagine what a rarefied city boy would think. Some would however recover quickly from the ignominious fall, dust themselves off and find that it isn't all as bad as it seems. That's what I did after all.

Of course then again there are a stubborn handful who stick their heads in the sand after landing and absolutely refuse to even peek their heads up. Wallowing in their assumed misery for the entire time they are here rather than try to find some spark of happiness; ever-ready to find any possible avenue of escape available by block-booking weekly flights back to the other side of the Big Puddle.

Paul : How's your day? 
Ostrich : I hate the place. I hate the people. I hate the food. 
Paul : Wow.  Much hate. 

Pathetic. You haven't even given it a chance. Perhaps if you pulled your head out of the sand and looked, then things wouldn't be so sad. It does however explain the consistently full flights to-and-fro during the weekends.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Lemme Take a Selfie

Think nowadays with self-absorbed narcissists enthusiastically displayed 24/7 on blatant instagram / snapchat posts, it would be near impossible to find someone who doesn't know what a selfie actually means. I mean, they even wrote a similarly self-congratulatory egocentric song about it.


Granted after watching that desperately nauseating video, you might think twice about picking up that monopod to snap a selfie. Don't delete that instagram account on impulse though since once you think about it, we have been commemorating ourselves with overly glamorous depictions from time immemorial. Hell, probably ever since that first Greek sculptor decided to carve his muse out of that slab of marble.


All just for the thumbs-up likes.

Me, I'm a huge fan of the phone camera during my travels though selfies really aren't my thing. Seriously why bother smizing with my hand held up high when there are other minions around to help out? And when there aren't any about, surely there are good samaritans who won't mind lifting a finger to snap.

Though I'm sure the more diffident amongst us would feel a tad paiseh nagging a total stranger into lending a hand.

Paul : Oh there's a girl behind you. Just get her to snap a pic.
Calvin : No need la. She could be busy. 
Paul : It won't be a bother. She's not doing anything much, just staring at her coffee cup. 
Calvin : Just take a selfie. 
Paul : How difficult is it to ask? If they say no, they say no. We can find someone else. 

Whereupon I come to the crux of the problem. Is it really so difficult asking for someone's help? Does this go back to the entire incomprehensible dogma of self-sufficiency; all about keeping to ourselves and not bothering others with our inconsequential problems?

Get a grip. It's just a snap of the finger for a selfie. I'm not asking for a blowjob.

Did they just ignore me? Uh, hell to the no, biatches. 

Which is how I accosted and basically strong-armed a gaggle of mean girls into taking pictures for us, much to their consternation.

Calvin : The girl looked quite angry. 
Paul : Well, she didn't want to do it. 
Calvin : Then why did she? 
Paul : She said she was a bit busy and I basically told her that's bullshit. So what choice did she have? 
Calvin : ...

I have to admit I can turn occasionally mental. Apparently she must thought that a sweet, self-effacing fellow with a bowtie would back down from her ornery sneer, not knowing that I've dealt with far meaner girls back in school.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Paiseh

Undoubtedly one of Diffident David's favourite words which he uses quite frequently - and I presume what he usually jabbers to get out of doing something he abhors. Not that being paiseh in any way excuses him from said task.

However what paiseh means - taken from colloquial Hokkien - is something similar to a feeling of shame or embarassment; ostensibly intended to display a humble common man reticence coupled with the desperate avoidance of any socially inappropriate behaviour that might cause severe mortification. Though sometimes paiseh does seem more like a fear of being shamed with the ever humiliating loss of face, a peculiar concept keenly associated with local Chinese culture.

Undoubtedly paiseh is a word I've rarely used when it comes to myself since bashful reticence seems vaguely foolish to me.

And with passing age and senility, what seems socially inappropriate in the past doesn't seem to bother me as much nowadays.

Paiseh. Paiseh. What is there to be paiseh about?!

Not so for David who frequently bandies the word about. Sad to say these days the word paiseh apparently covers a multitude of sins as the timeworn excuse to shirk whatever tiresome duty lays ahead. Lazy to host a friend. Paiseh. Unable to run a bothersome errand. Paiseh. Refuse to talk to a stranger. Paiseh.

David : Oh my friend is here with her entire family. 
Paul : Ask her out for dinner then. 
David : No la. 
Paul : Why not? 
David : Paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell for? 
David : Her parents are around. 
Paul : So?
David : So paiseh lo. 

Really.

Embarassed to ask a friend out for dinner with her family? Surely there aren't all terrifying flesh-eating monsters - since they managed to nurture someone who became a 'friend' - so what's the paiseh all about? After I ranted for a little more than five minutes, I realized that wasn't the worst of it.

The word seems to be quite infectious indeed.

David : Alright I finally asked her for dinner.
Paul : And? 
David : She refused. 
Paul : Why the hell for? 
David : She is paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell. 

Perhaps I might understand trying not to impose on a friend but when the invitation's already being offered?! Wouldn't it be far more embarassing to merely decline? Honestly wanted to knock both their irksome paiseh heads together.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

All About Karenina

Blogs.

Through this particular medium of intimate journaling, I have met and loved quite a lot of people. Since blogging peaked several years back and is now on the slow wane, only a handful of my friends still faithfully maintain their posts considering the severe lack of serious readers these days. Some like Diffident David can't even make it through a particularly lengthy tweet, much less an entire mundane blogpost. Let's not even go to books yet.

I know many would shake their heads in disbelief but really, when was the last time you saw someone pick up a book to read for pleasure? Some kids can even barely finish reading a brief status update.

But I digress. Till now I update my blog every once so often though sometimes not as regularly as I would have liked. Most days I people my writings with close friends and acquaintances that I know, sketching a rough caricature of their characters, personalities and outlooks with some all-too-obviously laughable exaggerations of their everyday foibles, faults and flaws.

Which I love. Don't get me wrong, I don't see idiosyncrasies and imperfections as something to dislike in a person - I take them as part and parcel of who they are.

Yet rather than being incensed at being satirized there are some friends who actually find themselves aggrieved at not being more aggressively lampooned in my posts - despite the fact that their lives are so wildly fascinating that it makes them instantly recognizable just by merely hinting at the place and events.

Maybe it's time to find Karenina!

Such as Curvy Carenina.

Obviously christened as such after Tolstoy's eponymous heroine, Anna Karenina, who finds herself rather helplessly dragged along the relentless locomotive of her fiery love life directly onto the sadly unforgiving tracks. Pretty much gossiped about by the rest of the priggish townspeople who have painted her character in terrifyingly bold shades of scarlet. Fortunately our Carenina has far more wit, considerably more forthrightness and hopefully significantly more resolve which would preclude her from that unfortunate, and ultimately foolish, dive under the wheels of a passing train.

Indeed they bear more than similarities in character since just like the dramatic Russian socialite she's named after, Carenina finds herself the unwitting target of a lustful, affluent aristocrat who's already irrevocably betrothed to another far lesser being.
He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.
Undaunted by any such restrictive societal conventions, Carenina has responded to his frequent exhortations of love by utterly yielding to his highly seductive charms. Speaking of his shockingly accommodating fiancee, our wicked Vronsky dismisses his adulterous intentions easily enough.

Vronsky : There are as many kinds of loves, as there are hearts. 
Carenina : Tell me more. 
Vronsky : You're far more informal, so casual and carefree when it comes to love. Certainly far more than my fiance could ever be who has everything planned out.
Carenina : Every move, every position?
Vronsky : Decidedly so.  

Which obviously makes me wonder. How irrationally formal could this fiancee be? Would she prepare beautifully handwritten invitations for sexual intercourse on gilt-edged cards expecting an equally formal RSVP in return? Place a note on his and her calendars to confirm the expected timing to match?