Monday, May 30, 2016

Morning Shower

I love morning showers.

Basically any kinda shower. In fact I make it a point to shower religiously at least three times a day, especially with the rapidly rising temperatures in the tropics these days. Apart from the all-important mainstay of personal hygiene, these would be the few times in the day where I can relax and reflect in relative solitude with little interruption. Some of my best ideas come from just laying my head against the tiles as the water rains over me!

Not to mention there's a gentle, almost innocent sensuality in just touching and enjoying the feel of your skin underneath the lather. Of course it's even better when there's someone else to share with - one of the reasons I keep barging into the shower with Charming Calvin despite his unspoken dissatisfaction with another hulking body cramming up the small space. Nothing sexual unless that's what we're going for but it's just tenderly intimate soaping each other up in the shower.

A highly positive change from my childhood days when I emphatically disliked morning showers! Not only did I have difficulty getting up early in the morning, I didn't actually function as any sort of rational human being till at least the third period in school. So you can imagine how I got dragged into the bathroom in the wee hours of the morning. Still my mother would have expected no less than at least two showers in a day, with the morning one a firm absolute.

Maybe having him around would have kept me sufficiently awake for a shower. 

Which is why my mind boggles when it comes to the patients.

Paul : Do you smell something? 
Nurse : Not really. Why?
Paul : Something stinks. 
Nurse : Oh yes.
Paul : What the hell is it? 
Nurse : It's the patient actually. 
Paul : Really? *sniffs* Oh God, you're right. 
Nurse : She obviously neglected her morning shower before coming. 
Paul : Since the beginning of time? Her stench reminds me of the fish market.  
Nurse : Many of them don't believe in morning showers. They believe themselves clean. 
Paul : They would beg to differ if they could smell themselves. 
Nurse : And they are afraid of catching a chill if they shower in the morning. 
Paul : It's the freaking tropics not winter in China. 

Seriously. Get yourself to a shower.

And before you strenuously defend the recalcitrant patient, the lady was definitely fit enough to cleanse herself meticulously before presenting herself to the hospital. Rather than do so, she apparently wanted to fool us into believing her to be the local homeless hobo. Yes there will one day be a rant about hospital visitors who dress like bedraggled tramps.

Obviously not everyone had my mother who dropkicked us into the bathroom as kids every morning for a thorough clean. After smelling the fetid after-effects of a sweaty equatorial night without the benefits of a morning shower, I can certainly understand why.

Immediately after work, I rang up the matron to order an intense scrub for that patient.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Genius In The Old Age

I've always thought of myself as average.

Specifically when it comes to academic matters. Not unlike many other Asian homes, praise was used sparingly in mine, usually coming off as frankly disquieting since it was that rare. Even my Tiger Mom - though shockingly liberal in many other ways - didn't see much reason to rain accolades and applause for every little bud of victory. Though I could certainly sketch better than just an amateurish stick figure, I knew that I would probably never paint the Sistine Chapel.

Which was fine by me since I only saw it as more reason to strive harder. Kiasu lil me. Definitely wouldn't want to be one of those spoiled brats who assume they're the best in everything.

So back in school there were always classmates way better in certain subjects, always the few who scored just the few marks ahead of me. Easy enough to think of myself as average back then no matter how hard I struggled in school.

How wrong I was though. As students in any institution with some modicum of school spirit, we're generally held to believe that our alma maters are the best but it never occurred to me back then that I was in the best class in one of the better schools in the district, perhaps even in the state. There was indeed a higher number of people behind academically than there were ahead of me.

Not so average after all!

It was only after graduation that I realized what a fallacy it was to think that I was anywhere close to average.

And no, I am not tooting my own horn.

Certainly brought home quite painfully to me when one of my colleagues failed repeatedly to spell the word 'ankle' properly. Really. A-N-K-L-E. Perhaps one of the more basic words we learnt way back in sing-along kindergarten along with hand and foot. Then someone who later insisted that the lunar eclipse was caused by the sun coming between the earth and the moon - which I then announced terrifyingly was clearly the coming of the apocalypse.

Not only those memorable lessons of course but dozens of other elementary examples in many other subjects that show just how terribly our education system has fared in our country. And how much we have all failed the students here.

And then just last week when one of Charming Calvin's high school students found himself apparently stumped by an awfully basic math question. 150 divided by 25. Not only did he not know what was meant by that relatively benign question, he had no idea how to even begin executing long division.

Really. And I used to think I'm lousy at mathematics.

Compared to them, I'm quite the freaking genius.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Losing Heart

I'll admit to having a bit of a soft spot when it comes to Marvel's X-Men. Quite like every other gay boy trope, the essential setup of the much feared mutant abominations hiding clandestinely amongst the rest of a nearly oblivious mankind naturally spoke to me.

Insufferable students? Angsty teenagers? Crappy midterms? Universally reviled for their secret selves? All seemed highly applicable way back when I was a closeted adolescent teen trying to keep relatively inconspicuous in the unforgiving midst of hundreds of rabid straight jocks ready to pounce on the peculiar freaks in an all boys' school.

Why, if only I had telepathic powers to hide my presence from them! Perhaps even influence them for the better; volunteering their time on weekends to repair broken school furniture?

And if possible, have the lithe school athletes do a seductive group striptease in the quad just for me. Maybe some extra co-curriculum time behind the church organ at the school chapel. Well, hey I was a horny teenage boy after all.

Still the X-Men managed to provide a safe refuge from the oppressive reality of high school where a at least there a persecuted minority could finally seek solace in each other under the relative protection of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Relative since the school on Graymalkin Lane always seemed just a hair's breadth from complete decimation every other issue.

But in between demonic villains, crazed geneticists and intergalactic aliens bent on wiping them off the map, the merry mutants still managed to have time for fun. So there were campouts, barbecues, date nights - even the occasional baseball game. Heck, one memorable issue had the new mutants breaking rules just to smuggle in gourmet burgers at midnight. Different from many of the other comic books around then, they were after all, at the heart of it, a family of fearsome freaks.

You believed it when one character claimed kinship and brotherhood to another because they spent literally dozens of issues just to get there. There are even single issues dedicated solely to the soul searching of one particular character. Even their relatively obscure spin off teams such as X-Factor and Excalibur had a strong bond of familial ties tying outwardly dissimilar characters together.

Sadly that was all in the past.

Future's not looking too bright for their counterparts in the books. 

Lately - well at least in the comic book world - it does seem as if the X-Men has been losing heart. From a seemingly solid institution with highly experienced teachers dedicated to helping gifted youngsters, the band of misfits these days seem to have spun off in dozens of disparate directions, most of which spell terrible disaster and extinction from powerful whispers of 'No More Mutants' to sterilizing terrigen clouds. Even worse, most days we don't even care much for any of the new ciphers since they all seem vaguely interchangeable with very little in term of personality, powers or history.

When it comes to such a popular comic book franchise, many obvious conspiracy theories abound of course from surprising editorial misadventures to the more shady business dealings. A tragic end for the students of Xavier who battled mistrust, misjudgement and misapprehension only to perish under the mistakes of a prejudiced pen.

Guess you really can never go home again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Locker Room

Equal rights activists would have us all believe that men and women are all created equal; that we are all unmistakably similar to each other - apart from the obvious whosits and whatsits galore that differentiate the genders. On this I would certainly beg to differ.

A generalization of course but stereotypical males and females aren't the same. Time and again, apart from the handful of unique individuals, it has been proven that they can be as distinctively different as the proverbial Mars and Venus.

Take for example something as simple as the locker room. Chances are very few of us  - yet again apart from a minority - would have the opportunity to appreciate the differences prevalent in both.

Let me take you through the stereotypical men's locker room in the gym. Just like everyone would expect from a den of hairy, fetid men, there's always an inescapable whiff of testosterone-soaked perspiration prevalent in even the cleanest of locker rooms; immediately redolent of sweaty nights in the less than sanitary boy's dormitories. Apart from the dirty socks and shoes stashed in the oddest nooks and crannies, the benches and tables are otherwise almost spartan to the extreme with nary an accessory apart from the rudimentary hair dryers already provided.

Step into our locker room. 

No doubt you would expect pretty much the same from the girls' side of the gym - but you would be heartily mistaken.

Since there was an inexplicable plumbing issue going on on the men's side that needed urgent repairs, I had the select opportunity granted to visit the forbidden other side - with the female private trainer initially checking the rooms out to make sure it was empty of course.

Forget what you've seen in the men's room. Despite the fact that I do occasionally enjoy the hunky fellows stretching and flexing in front of the full-length mirrors ostensibly for my salacious perusal, I might be tempted to defect to the girls' side after this short experience.

Nope, girls aren't boys. Not in the least. Trainers and shoes were all perfectly arranged in rows under the benches. The tables were bedecked with legions of delicate perfumes and deodorants; counters filled to the brim with dozens of gels and shampoos - all of which left the entire locker room smelling like an elegant, high-class boudoir. Colour-coordinated towels were all folded neatly in their place in one corner. It was like an exclusive branch of Sephora had finally opened up here.

Not what I would have expected from the angry, grunting Amazons that frequent the gym!

Monday, May 09, 2016

Nirvana in Fire

As little children reading fairy tales with their all-too-predictable happy endings, we are brought up to expect our kings and queens to be kind, gentle and righteous paragons. Anyone else behaving otherwise would have no choice but to be tragically typecast as the opprobrious villain.

Clearly demarcated pieces of black and white with very few anti heroes in shades of gray. For those keenly following stereotypical Chinese serial dramas, they would find little to complain about since the heroes and villains are clearly marked right from the beginning. Simple enough to pick out the dastardly libertines in a Chinese wuxia since there's a certain pronounced look and behaviour easily discernable to regular viewers from the ever-present devilish sneer to the sharp, dramatically arched eyebrows.

And their heroes are always ever-so-righteous.

Perhaps wonderful on the written text but in real life, most of us would find these exemplary protagonists utterly unbearable. Even more so if these paragons manage to somehow stumble their way to the throne. And I do mean stumble since otherwise it would be quite impossible to achieve that ultimate goal without guile or gumption.

Which is just about the premise for the latest Chinese historical drama Nirvana in Fire 琅琊榜. Something I've been wildly addicted to lately.

Based on the novel with the same name, it tells the story of the terrifyingly brilliant Lin Shu, who under the alias of political strategist Mei Changsu, has come to seek justice for his family after having been treacherously branded as traitors more than a decade ago. To achieve his apparently nefarious goals, he secretly enlists the help of his old allies to revitalize the imperial ambitions of a long neglected prince.

And undeniably crush the sorry pretensions of all other potential adversaries - that coincidentally includes most of the villains involved in the insidious conspiracy years ago. Think of it as another take on the Count of Monte Cristo though like any intricate Chinese puzzlebox, it's far more complex than it first seems.

Rather than focus solely on the unprincipled political maneuverings, the series deals more with the sincere friendship and brotherhood amongst the main protagonists. In fact the near negligible heterosexual romance is almost eclipsed by the sheer number of bromances evidently shown; most importantly the preeminent bond between Mei Changsu and the cherished object of his Machiavellian machinations, Prince Jing.

Despite being seemingly disgusted by the schemes and stratagems of Mei Changsu, the overly principled, self-righteous prince can't help but be intrigued by him - and the rare telling quirks he mysteriously shares with his late best friend, Lin Shu.

Is this the end of a bad bromance?

However like every other Chinese novel or drama series, the morally upright characters all seem hellbent on denigrating the artful schemers - not immediately realizing that without their help, the holier-than-thou do-gooders probably wouldn't be able to achieve their noble aspirations. Fueled mainly by a false sense of honour and loads of senseless impulse, half of them would have witlessly marched to the executioner's axe if not for the timely advice of master strategist Mei Changsu.

And let's be honest, a virtuous, honourable king with little guile or wile likely wouldn't last too long with all the wicked court intrigues. That only happens in fairy tales.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Casa de Borgia

As usual our Madame Borgia isn't happy.

Fortunately at least for this particular instance, I'm not the one in her target range. According to the incredibly efficient servants' rumour mill, it seems the new palace isn't entirely to her liking. Despite hiring the finest astrologers and necromancers to find the location of her new demesne ( not to mention the timing of the move ), Madame Borgia hadn't quite counted on a matter of taste.

Something even the best of feng shui masters can't quite predict from their endless esoteric diagrams. So you can imagine the absolute uproar when she finally alighted from her carriage to find everything in the new palace absolutely insufferable.

Paul : Exactly what does she dislike? The location?
Calvin : She hates that.
Paul : The building?
Calvin : She hates that.
Paul : The doors? The windows? 
Calvin : Hates. 
Paul : Surely not the entire building.
Calvin : She hates the doors. She hates the windows. She hates the rooms. She hates the colours. She hates the garden.
Paul : Wow. 

Turns out it's all hate at the moment. Someone even said she was that close to murderously stabbing all her retainers with her hairpins in a fit of uncontrollable rage.

Paul : Don't see anything wrong with the palace! I like it.
Calvin : You wanna buy it?
Paul : I'm not gonna give you money for it if that's what you mean. 

Doubt you could put it more succinctly. For someone who was absolutely adamant on the move initially, Madame Borgia seems to have made a contrary turnaround. Short of demolishing the entire palace for a new one to be built ( surely never in time for the said auspicious dates! ), there doesn't seem very much else that can be done.

Since her children never could talk her into anything, it was up to me to spin this palace fiasco into something a little more positive. Not that Herculean a task seeing that all Madame Borgia wanted was some constructive advice on her admittedly ambitious interior decorating plans.

I managed to talk her into keeping the shell of the building at the very least. Minus almost everything else.