Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Life Imitates Fiction

Some things are so surreal they belong in Hollywood. Or manga-dom.

"Guess who are the people who will be working under me," Sister #2 chirped. She's been promoted to Assistant Manager, but the post means going back to Penang - and when Sister #1 moves out before this year's end, I'm without enough people to rent the house I'm living in - a more private crypt with our own ASTRO feed.

Then she points to the framed acrylic black-and-white portrait of a wedding couple she painstakingly painted last year as a gift, and delivers the punchline. "Sales manager," she booms, pointing at the bride, and, "sales director!" with a finger trained on the groom. Cue evil laughter.

Now who wouldn't like a boss like that?

Sunday, 25 February 2007

What, Over Already?

I'm back - and still feeling jet-lagged.

Saturday, 17 February - Chinese New Year's Eve
In an effort to beat the last-minute Chinese New Year traffic, Sister #1 decided to leave at 4am. For a while, things went smoothly. Then we reached the stretch near Rawang, where the number of tail-lights more than compensated for the missing street lamps. An accident involving two express buses also complicated things.

"Say, where's your Samy Vellu voodoo doll?" I asked Sister #1. She keeps quiet.

Oh, it's as if you don't have one.

It was pretty much the same as we approached Ipoh, too. And there was another accident. Earlier on, there had been ads on the radio from the Transport Minister, a police chief and the Deputy Prime Minister pleading the public to drive safely. Personally, I think they might have had better results if they'd used celebrities.

Thursday, 22 February
While checking the parts of my scalp affected by neurodermatitis, Mom found white hairs (note the plural).

If not for this DefCon II-level alert, I wouldn't have believed I had a biological clock.

So that pretty much sums up my holidays. How was yours?

Thursday, 8 February 2007

The Night Text Came Alive

The Information Ministry is cutting back on TV ads that feature Pan-Asian actors and models for some obscure reason. Some of those Pan-Asians cried discrimination; supporters hailed equality. WildGuy, a friend and a typical Pan-Asian Adonis, might be interested in stirring that pot.

It was a disappointing day at work. Then I was out late because of an event. During the intermission, when I just, just had to go, all the public washrooms were closed. There was an encounter with a flooded washroom with an overflowing drainage outlet. When I came back there were even more mosquitoes at the venue.

It was really late when it ended. To get home, I allowed myself to be fleeced by one of the local cabbies, who, I swear, grow fangs, sprout leathery wings and develop an unhealthy fetish for velvet-lined capes after sunset.

But it was worth it.

At first I didn't really want to attend the international readings event (artfully dubbed Night of The Living Text) because of the ungodly starting time of 8:30pm, which is - coincidentally - around the same time I get off work nowadays. In the end however, curiosity triumphed, as it often does in my life.

It turned out to be quite an adventure.

Finding the venue wasn't as difficult as climbing the stairs. The elevator, disguised as a bar entrance, was as temperamental as its camouflage was deceptive. I found myself looking at a white-washed and spaciously empty art gallery, vaguely partitioned into three areas.

On the left, a Malay man (whom I later learned was Hishammuddin Rais) whose appearance I normally associated with intellectual rebels was giving an audience of a similar bent a lecture on philosophy. The gallery in the centre was empty, save the framed black-and-white photos lining the walls. I veered off to the right.

The emcee, Sharon Bakar, was already there. Later, Jordan MacVay and the missus arrived. I noticed right away that there weren't enough chairs. Since there was still time before the event, I took a trip downstairs for a potty break. Someone was smoking there and had completely corrupted the air with his toxic effluents. I resisted the urge to drown him in one of the commodes (he was going to die early, anyway).

But enough about me. Here are the highlights of the event.

  • Roger Robinson, a native of Trinidad who resides in London, gave a masterful performance as he narrated the story about a kung-fu-obsessed Trinidad boy, gambling with numbers (has anybody told him that we have something similar?), and Sharon, a girl who was nicknamed "Virgin Island" because of her hard-to-get attitude. Two rounds of laughter from the audience and Roger's apology couldn't even clue me in on the joke. Not right away, at least.
  • An atypical English language professor introduced the second reader, a fellow Penangite called Tan Twan Eng, to the audience. He also - predictably, as it is at such events - flogged his first book, The Gift of Rain. He read an excerpt of the opening chapter from the book as a teaser.
  • Kam Raslan, who looked like Harry Potter gone Kerouac on that night, read some tasty bits from a chapter in his new novel that might raise some hackles among the Malay gentry. By now I knew enough to conclude that book-flogging is a recurring theme at readings.
  • The Filipino playwright Isagani Cruz was very much the stage actress he was portraying through a monologue. Amid subtle messages about the good old days and encroaching modernity, he found time to poke fun at himself. I liked that.
  • Ke Hua Chen, the eye doctor-slash-poet from Taipei dispensed some good advice before he read his piece. A temporary technical glitch prevented us from listening to a recorded track of the same poem, with a musical accompaniment, which made a moving piece even more so.
  • Our favourite bookaholic had a new nickname.

Not that the others were boring. Everyone was great that night, and I'm sure there are others who will write about it. Work has been awful and I'm practically worn out every night for the past two weeks. But I'll get my bite back, someday.