My Ivory Throne: The Glossarictionary

I’ve been going through this entire blog checking for spelling errors, adding tags and organising things a bit. Through all that reading, I thought it might be a good idea to add a sort of glossary to the entire website, seeing as I am, as many of my fellow local bloggers, prone to using local lingo and other Singaporean products to emphasise my points.

I know this has been done quite a number of times before, not least famously by the great multi-talented Singaporean ideasmith

Chasing Memories

This is the last blog to expect successful promotion of any product, but I felt the need to do this, if only for the things that it has done to me, for me.

It’s called The Resident Tourist ( Created by one Troy Chin (I-S calls him the Underground Maverick, which cannot be more true), it’s a comic strip drawn and written by someone who isn’t into the comic book genre in the first place.

He was born in the same year I was, and pretty much the same period many of you are. He’s lived the same era we did, and pretty much thinks the same way a lot of us do. I do, anyway. If his comic books are anywhere close to accurate, he’s not currently in any paying job, so I’m heading out to buy his graphic novels, not so much to feed him, but to firstly let him know I share his vision for making this happen, and secondly to keep a part of the memories I’ve had as a child growing up in Singapore in print, for myself, and hopefully the generation ahead of me (that happens to be popping out in another 4 months).

It’s uncanny, to say the least, when I clicked on page after page of Troy’s site, immediately recognising the images he accurately rendered of the places I’ve been, past and present. What’s even more uncanny is the fact that he lives in my area, and seeing the images of the surroundings I see every day depicted with such accuracy in a graphic novel gives me goosebumps.

More importantly, though, is how his stories, whether they form the crux of the novels themselves or stray from it as an aside, are so closely reminiscent of my own childhood and current disposition. To say he is a voice for the fat lot of us 80s’ children in Singapore may be stretching it a bit, but at the very least he has seen the things I have seen, and felt the things I felt. (Crikey, I even look like him right now, but then only because I’ve been too broke to get myself a haircut.)

I’ve since been asking my secondary school friends about our past, particularly about some of the things we experienced in our childhood that Troy has detailed in his books. Not to reminisce, though; to remember, because I had flat out forgot everything until Troy came along.

Perhaps I always wanted to forget. The one thing I do remember is wanting to forget. I didn’t think my childhood was that much of a stunningly good time to begin with. I had my fair share of suffering, school bullies (who travelled in packs), government-employed schoolteachers who put you down like you were nothing, and parents who expected too much of their children, and thought too little of their children’s friends.

I just about succeeded too. I did too good a job of it though. It wasn’t until I hooked up with Terence and Eddie again a year or so back that I started remembering again. And even then when we met up for beer every now and again, I would get lost in their memories of our childhood, because I had already largely forgotten everything, the pretty girls and their names and cup sizes, the good teachers and their lessons that no textbook covered, the friends that taught you everything else, the good times.

Troy Chin gave me a reason to remember. I remember Nintendo and Delta Force, arcades and shooters like G Darius and 1942, bo-tak-cheh gangs, and secret shops that rent Nintendo playing time at $1.50 an hour. I remember the one schoolteacher that made a difference that 100 other schoolteachers combined could never hope to impact on a child’s mind, and primary school boys who stuck together and called each other “friend” because no one else would bother with them. Most importantly, I remember being a Singaporean child fighting for (or against) conformity to the society this country has built around him, fighting against the loneliness of being different, fighting with adulthood, and fighting with the idea that despite everything that this country has represented in the past or in the present, I don’t hate the place.

Thanks to you, I remember everything now. And I never want to forget it again.

Winning 4D – The Parental Edition

Those of you patriotic enough to have followed our Prime Minister’s National Day Rally Speech would have noted with interest the announcement of enhanced maternity package that were to take effect 1st January 2009.

Xander’s supposed to be check out of his hotel 26th December 2008.

Those of you well-adjusted enough to follow the news last night may have also heard a report going along the lines of “maternity package backdated to August 17th 2008“.

It’s kind of like buying 4D, then realising the numbers you bought were the winning numbers for last week, and THEN after 2 days, realising your ticket was actually dated last week.

It must be an interesting time for 2nd-trimester parents-to-be around the island, as it was for us. As my wife and I were sitting in front of the TV in her parent’s home watching the first news report, her brother-in-law kept saying, “Oi, you must tell your baby, lun (?) one week ok? You keep your legs crossed for one week, then you can get more money.”

To explain that the process of going into labour is a little more complicated than spreading your legs and popping the hood would just have diminished the humour of the moment, even though he’s already got a son of his own crawling all over my in-law’s maisonette like a smiling, drooling cichak. But I digress.

For the next couple of days after that, we were working on accepting our fates as not-as-rich-as-parents-who-are-going-to-have-slightly-younger-kids-than-us parents, because we both kind of agreed that Xander should be introduced to the world in the most natural way possible. If this meant he was going to miss the mark and pop his head out on Christmas day while our gynae’s skiing in Switzerland and our car is out of petrol and I have to be the midwife in a home birth of my own son, so be it. (Fortunately our gynae has confirmed she will be around to deliver the baby, and petrol prices have dropped).

Frankly the situation isn’t that hard to accept. The current maternity package already ensured a small amount of security for starting out Xander’s life (at least for the first few months). That plus the fact that our intention for having a kid in the first place was to have a kid; anyway, it never really crossed our minds that there was a maternity package to collect while Xander was being conceived.

And then last night, while I was tidying the study and my wife was in the living room half-listening to the TV and half-reading her Facebook, I heard the words “package” and “backdated” in a news trailer (the concept of a news trailer suddenly seems strange as I type it out; it’s like predicting what will be in the news). I came out of the study and asked her if she heard anything about a package being backdated. “No, not really,” was her reply.

I went back to my work in the study, but then about 30 minutes later, I heard it again. And then the news finally came on, and the full report had answered my question: “The Tays Win 4D with a Backdated Ticket”.

I came out to the living room again, and my wife was looking up at me from the sofa, wide-eyed and hands on her currently occupied serviced mini-apartment of a belly. “So what does that mean?” she asked, not fully aware of what had happened, and even less aware that her baby was slowly taking her brain cells for his own, rendering her slightly more blonde than usual.

I said, “That means we’re getting the enhanced package after all.” She looked at me with the same beautiful wide eyes, and smiled a little. “Oh,” she quipped, and continued smiling as she started patting her belly.


And you think we’re lucky. One of our colleagues just gave birth to a baby girl on August 18th. It’s almost like the government was backdating the new maternity package because of her.

Living In Fear Of My Wife

In my 30 years of life experiencing the paradigm shift of society’s progress in dealing with the gender issue, as well as hearing from friends of their experiences in dealing with the gender issue, I have come to one definite conclusion; that for the most part of this day and age we live in, being a man totally sucks.

I say this based on some stories I have heard, as well as my own recent venture in married life. A friend of mine once related to me how he was in a hospital delivery room bearing witness to the beautiful event of his wife giving birth to their son, only to have his deepest impression of that day be the look of utter hatred he received from his wife as she struggled to squeeze the little tike from herself, seemingly to say to her husband, “What the fuck have you gotten me into? …your stupid bright idea to have a kid – AAAAAUUUUUUUGH!”

Another of my friends, while not in the throes of such marital bliss yet, is contemplating singlehood suicide soon. The problems he’s had to deal with are wide-ranging and far-reaching; from deciding which church to marry them with, to dealing with marriage counselling sessions that sound more like assisted breakup sessions, to realising a few weeks ago that he never thought to ask if the woman he was about to marry actually liked him.

And while he’s been sorting his issues out on his camp, I’ve had to sort out some issues of my own. My lovely wife has recently been in dispute with me over turning off the TV and fan when she went to the shower and I went to bed, while leaving her computer and living room light on.

And I hear a slight “huh?” Don’t worry, it gets complicated.

My idea was that she didn’t have the habit of sleeping early (it was about 11pm), so I decided no one was going to be in the room while she showered and I was going to sleep, so save a bit of electricity and she can turn everything back on when she came out. Her interpretation of that idea was that I was a selfish bastard for turning off the TV and fan without helping her turn off the laptop and light, and not even considering that she couldn’t go to sleep that night because she was having tummy pains and I never even thought to help her massage the pain away when she was complaining about it all day, selfish bastard.

Of course, both our arguments have merits. I was looking out for our utilities bill for 10 minutes, and she was wondering if she was going to have to suffer her labour pains on her own as evidenced by an uncaring, unsupportive husband who was going to sleep without her. To bastardise a quote from George Orwell, all are right, but some are more right than others.

It’s all part of a progression, you see. For all the millenia of patriarchy, we are finally seeing the effects of our sins as the modernity of mindset and culture turns the tables on the men of this world. It began with bra burning in the 60’s, followed by women’s lib in the 80’s, Sensitive New Age Guys and the emergence/acceptance of the woman who would be successful in both career and home in the 90’s, and then suddenly at the turn of the century, men all over the world find themselves paying their dues for the long history of suffering they brought upon their women, their father’s women, their forefather’s women, and just about every living thing that could be gender-categorised as female. Oh karma, how heavy your hand.

I can’t speak for all men, but I do live in fear of scorning my wife in any way, hence my avoidance of adultery at all costs (a secondary principle of mine relating to this has always been, you’ve already got your hands full with one, why add another complication?). But things like this I really find mind-boggling. I mean, I’ve been accused just this morning of not thinking most of the time, and I do admit after seeing what she had to say about it that I am guilty of being a selfish bastard to a certain extent, but who would think that turning off the TV and fan and going to bed would get me an earful of grief and a 24-hour cold shoulder? Who would think that even planning to get married could be such a complicated process? Who would think that having a child would earn you a look from your wife during childbirth that could be compared to a look from someone who thought you killed her entire family?

So This Is What Busy Means.

I’ve never really considered my job as an activity that would actually keep me occupied, though a lot of people who know what I do would vehemently disagree. So when I checked back on this blog and realised it’s been almost a week since I last posted, it dawned on me that this was actually one of the busiest weeks I have had in a long time.

I owe it to a lot of people to explain what I do, most of all to my bosses. Yes, my bosses don’t know what I do. I have unconsciously placed myself in an occupational position where I can no longer define myself in any occupational term, nor can my bosses define what I do.

In an attempt to define my current job scope, let me run through a list of things I have done over the last 3 months. From there one might be able to deduce what I am doing, or find out more about who I am and how I do things, or get completely lost and give up reading this post.

Let’s see. I fixed 2 computers/cash registers that were riddled with viruses, built and set up 2 file servers (1 backup) after the old one in the office died, blocked Internet access at all our retail outlets, created graphics for, ordered, collected and put up some window and wall stickers for two of those outlets, designed and sent out a couple of magazine ads, edited some press releases, sent out some interior images to some international magazine, and developed an e-commerce website, failed and outsourced the development to someone else. I’m currently redesigning that same website, and then I’m being switched to marketing management.

Someone said to me, being able to do everything yourself means never needing to depend on others for help. Well, the grass is always greener on the side that’s never mine. Being known as the guy that knows how to do everything means everyone is depending on you. My onus is that the one thing I don’t know how to do – management and delegation – is my downfall towards a miserable life of work followed by a painful death by exhaustion.

I’ve been running around so much in the daylight hours this week that all I can do when I get home is slump down anywhere soft and literally stop thinking. And because thinking is part of the process of writing, this blog’s been pretty quiet.

All hail the weekend.

How Arse Is Your Luck?

I ask this for comparison, partly to find out if there is anyone out there in my immediate circle that feels my pain, and partly to make myself feel better that I am not alone in the suffering of the cruel twists of fate that regularly befall me.

3 weeks ago (according to my mum), my dad asked me to fix his laser printer, which was giving out blotchy prints. If anyone kept track of what was going on here, one would do well to note 3 weeks ago was when my wife and I were in the final throes of going through a wedding day, and the subsequent weeks to follow saw my wife going through a post-wedding/post-op recovery process, not to mention a whole slew of work to deal with and a heap of bills to pay in the meantime. So imagine my ire when my father kicks up hell about me not performing my technical support duties as a son in front of my entire family including my wife just after the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony. Add to that negativity, my mother calling me to chide me for not adhering to my responsibilities as a son 30 seconds after the National Day Parade ended by “merely” sending my eldest sister’s boyfriend to check my dad’s printer instead of coming personally.

Today, I finally got round to looking at my dad’s printer. I decided cleverly to head out to Sim Lim Square to purchase some toner powder, since my sister mentioned the likeliest problem was simply that the toner run out. I then got to my parent’s place, and realised, in reality the tones drum had broken and tones was leaking out onto the paper like an old man with incontinence.

I head out to Sim Lim Square again to get a tones cartridge (which turns out to cost as much as the printer itself) and head back to my parent’s place to replace the errant cartridge, only to find out the new cartridge is also broken.

Back to Sim Lim Square again to do an exchange, only to be told the cartridge will be sent back to the damn printer company and the issue will need to be investigated, and I was issued a receipt and told it would take one week to get a new one.

One week?!

Somebody please reassure me that my life has not officially hit rock bottom and I should not just go kill myself right now. Please tell me this doesn’t happen all the time and the bad luck fairy is just mucking about with me but she’s done now. Please tell me you’ve had worse days and this is just a small scratch as opposed to all the broken, battered and bruised experiences you’ve had.

I realise at this point that there are children starving in Africa, village people in Thailand who don’t have official identities registered with their governments and women and children in Europe who have to go through a life of war torn suffrage on a daily basis. Forgive me then, when I complain of a rather ridiculously bad day when all this is is bad parent-son communication. Because today I feel like shit, and this is, after all, my ivory throne.

National Day Parade? Cheh.

Newsflash: The National Day Parade may be canceled today, as organisers realise they can’t possibly top what China has done for their Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Phwah. Is all I can say. Phwah.


Note: The original official opening ceremony video got inexplicably pulled out of Youtube a little while after this was written. I thought they were trying to keep the content pristine for their official DVD release. Trippy thought, China worried about copyright…

Turns out they created their own Beijing2008 YouTube channel, put this new video up, and DMCA’d everyone else who put up the same clip on Youtube (except the official Olympics YouTube highlights video, which is what you see above).

Possible Final Theory Question No. 23

His student left 2 hours ago.
His student left 2 hours ago.

Question 23: When your driving instructor falls asleep while you’re on the wheel during your 4th practical driving lesson, it means:

a) he’s not a good instructor.

b) you’re quite a good driver.

c) all the motorists on Singapore roads are good drivers.

d) no motorists on Singapore roads that are good drivers.

It is, of course a trick question, meant to analyse a student driver’s state of mind more than his ability to recognise road regulations.

If you pick answer A, you’re a typical Singaporean who likes to complain and no doubt will call up the driving school to tell on the poor guy.

If you pick answer B, you’re too damn full of yourself.

If you pick answer C, you’re dangerously optimistic about life and should never be granted a driving license.

If you pick answer D, you may have deduced that given the quality of instruction as has prompted the creation of this question, one can safely assume there can be no such thing as a good driver.

FYI, this happened to me just this morning. I reserve my right to withhold the details of the lesson, only because it turned out to be quite a peaceful drive which I wouldn’t mind having more often.

The Little Drummer Boy

I met up with a friend last night who’s leaving Singapore in 11 days to pursue a long-time dream: to perfect the art of rhythmically banging a set of nicely lacquered wooden cylinders bound with tightly wound skins using a pair of sticks in the most complex manner possible. Once in a while he also involves metal plates in the process. And yes, there are educational certifications for this kind of thing.

I would never have thought he’d be able to transcend into jazz drumming. When I first met him, he was an overzealous punk drummer who couldn’t keep time (though to his benefit, he was usually only off a split second). That being said, we had a lot of fun in our day, and still do. We were close enough friends for my mother to think at one point we were bisexual lovers, and I still sometimes wonder if I should have cleared that up properly with my mother.

Today, he’s grown into a fine, dread-locked young man who unfortunately will not be filling the void of talented local drummers here, and only because he’s flying to New York.

The reason why it’s important for me to mention him today is because, as with most friends that go overseas either to study, work or find a girlfriend, I don’t really know if I’ll ever see him again. The thing I find increasingly fascinating about Singapore is that it somewhat reflects that old Hotel California cliche: when you start thinking for yourself, you realise you’ve checked in, but you’ll always want to leave (cue guitar solo).

I had the same feeling when my wife (before she was my wife) left for Canada. It helped that I had gotten over my fear of computers and ICQ was in its prime during that period, but when someone in your life, whether it be someone close or just a mere acquaintance, decides to partake in a semi-permanent life in a land far, far away (herein defined as anything that takes more than 4 hours to get to by plane), there’s always a niggling feeling in you that they might actually not think of coming home at all, ever.

It’s almost like someone is dying, except you’ll probably still get to talk on MSN Messenger once in a while after the person goes.

My wife also mentioned last night that going overseas for an extended period of time can really change a person. She says when one makes that step into the big world and starts to discover what it is really like, one of two things can happen; you either get into the swing of things and assimilate into a new lifestyle that is required of your environment, or you get culture shock and lock yourself up in your room. Either way, you become cynical, jaded, and lose that childlike innocence that everybody likes about you. I’m not sure if that’s gonna happen to this guy, but these days, I’m not sure about a lot of things. I’m cynical that way.

That being said, he is already making changes to his persona in preparation for the Big Apple. He’s got dental work done, and contact lenses; after all, jazz drummers from New York don’t wear braces, and all that flaying around with sticks and metal plates means spectacles are also out of the question. He’s never thought of using, much less buying, a laptop, and last night he asked for advice on buying a Mac, which he somewhat regretted after remembering what I wrote about the topic of advice. And in the days of the little drummer boy and me in school, I’d almost always pay for his lunch because he was mostly broke. Last night he paid for dinner.

I never like admitting I fear change, but I do feel another chapter of my life being relegated into the already-read pages of a book I won’t get a chance to read again.

There is probably a chance we’ll meet again. He still owes me a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Omnibus I lent him in school, not to mention a bunch of CDs I’ve long since forgotten about.

And I want to believe we’ll meet again.

? we’ll be back after the break?

As with any novice blog enthusiast, there comes a time where I can get a little caught up with life and fail to keep my writing up-to-date. I apologise to my very supportive fan base (yes, the two of you, don’t be shy) and promise to get back into the swing of things as soon as life permits.

And hopefully it will permit soon.

In the meantime, it is time for me to fulfill a previous promise of what should be a continuation and suitable finale to my wonderful cross-dressing post. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our wedding album (may require a Facebook account; please feel free to comment on how beautiful we are).