Sunday, 22 April 2007

One of The Better Days

I found a bean sprout growing out a kitchen sink's drainage outlet on Friday night. Either the sister has developed a sense of humour, or it's the long-neglected grease-trap, crying out for some care and attention. The creepiness factor only added to the sense of foreboding that hovers above those who have to work weekends.

Later, after divulging my plans for the next day during an on-line chat, the FunnyBunny pointed out a glaring inconsistency in my declaration of misanthropy. The plan was to work half a day before speeding off to a sort-of social event at Ikano's Popular Bookstore, the scene of a previous engagement involving literature.

But when I arrived at the office, my colleagues were a no-show. I should be happy, but I wasn't (because nobody told me of any postponements). After waiting for an hour, I choked down an inferior pasta dish at a food court and left for the venue. I arrived early, so I killed some time by window shopping. A pre-event surprise was bumping into Ruhayat X on the escalator.

It was raining mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers when it was almost time for the launch.

Unlike her previous launch, they made it official by roping in sponsors and a real Member of Parliament. There were door gifts for early birds, courtesy of the sponsors and (gasp) gifts for some (choke) pop-quiz. One notable presence was Advertlets, which was recently embroiled in a minor controversy. And there was the author herself.

I've never seen Yvonne look prettier.

The speeches, while honest and heartfelt, were mostly unscripted. I found myself wincing at certain points due to the loudspeaker. The launch was officiated when the MP and Yvonne signed the poster that commemorated the event.

Among the gifts was a voucher for a free Starbucks beverage. With that in hand, we followed Yvonne down to the Starbucks outlet to pick a drink of our choice after the event was over.

The local representative for Starbucks for the launch was pretty too. We talked briefly about coffee, Yvonne, blogs - and nothing else.

Chats with Yvonne still involved paper and pen; she couldn't equip the implant that allowed her to partially hear sounds. I also had to adjust my font size when she found my awful handwriting too small to read. There was talk about blogs, naturally, and her work. She also expressed admiration for Lillian Chan, saying that she could never find the courage to be so forthright in her own blog.

In reply I wryly scrawled, "Second childhood, maybe?"

It was good to see her again.

I stayed around longer than I should have, and I wondered why until I was asked to help carry stuff from the Popular Bookstore office down to the parking lots - across the street at The Curve (I previously played porter after the end of her charity concert. Coincidence?) With my trembling arms manoeuvring my inhaler after the task was done, I began wondering about other things, like which deity did I unintentionally offend this time; who the heck drinks strawberry-flavoured milk nowadays; and why is Marigold still selling it?

On the other hand, I finally got to see what's behind one of those "For Staff Only" doors, so I'm not complaining. Thank you, Yvonne and Cordelia. You've made my day.

I rounded up the day by going over to the Curve and got a newer, sturdier backpack, plus a nice dinner at Café 1920. The pasta was much better, although their idea of a "main course" portion was my idea of a starter portion. I think I may have spoiled it a bit by adding too much parmesan.

There was some grocery shopping before returning home. Upon entering the house, I spotted the sister and her boyfriend in the midst of wrapping something - a picture frame perhaps? - until I got a closer look.

"Oh no," I said as it dawned on me. "Tell me that's not a-"

"Yes it is," they answered almost in unison.

They were, in the living room, wrapping layers of newspaper around the manhole cover to their new house. Someone suggested they take care of it until they finally moved in.

I suddenly remembered why. "Oh yes," I said, "they used to steal those to sell as scrap."

The sister looked up. "What do you mean, 'used to'?"

"They'd even brave electrocution to steal live copper wires," her boyfriend added. "Lots of them have died."

"Well, if they're so brave maybe they should have a go at Fear Factor," I suggested, placing my shopping on the table.

"Ooh, I see you bought a new bag from TearProof," the sister noted. I should note that all it took was one glance. "Oh look, it's also a High Sierra brand," she told her boyfriend. "XYZ has a bag like this."

The casualness of her observation blindsided me. "How the..."

"Trust me; I recognise all the shopping bags that come out of every shop in MidValley." Yes, there is a TearProof outlet there too, but that's not the point.

"I recognise all the shopping bags that come out of every shop in MidValley."

I found that deeply unsettling. Her boyfriend, however, looked rather amused.

I'll see better days, someone once comforted me. This was definitely one of those.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Swordfish At Our Shores

Thailand is in trouble. Its king is apparently so ill he can't even defend his own royal dignity from infantile YouTube pranksters. That sacred duty is left to the junta, who have firewalled the site out of the Kingdom of Smiles until every last offensive clip is removed.

It is a desperate and futile gesture, but don't laugh just yet.

A similar phenomenon is already brewing here.

The perverse penetrative power of the Web has been rattling the nerves of our political masters, to the point where they start rambling incoherently. Just how would camwhores, cat lovers, avid readers and foodie adventurers threaten the fragile social fabric of ours? Putting high school and college students through red tape hell because of their virtual soapboxes? Muzzle the voices of concerned citizens who are now finding new ways to air their heartfelt, genuine grievances?

(OK, there is at least one blog, the One-That-Shouldn't-Be-Named, who is unaware that his holier-than-thou attitude makes him an even bigger jackass than he already is. I'm exercising mercy by not giving him any more publicity; his head might swell and explode, and I'm sure nothing good comes from that.)

Now, soldiers are not required to be intelligent, so we could excuse the Thai military for thinking that theirs is a brilliant idea. The same can't really be said about our government.

Fogeys of my generation remember an old fable about Singapore (or Temasek) and the Storm of Swordfish that swept the island. Bereft of sound ideas, court officials suggested lining the shores with men to stem the scaly tide, which of course, led to even more casualties. Then a boy came up with a more sensible solution: banana trunks. The storm soon passed, and lives were saved.

Alas, there would be no happy ending. The court officials, fearing for their positions, petitioned the king to kill the boy for what was nothing more than a suggestion borne out of common sense. Lots of flowery words were used, like the one from an English exercise book I read, which goes, " is said, that a child should be a pupil, and not a teacher to kings..." - an allusion that a child that is smarter than his elders violates all sense of propriety. Being an idiot himself, the king succumbed to the machinations of his court, and had the boy killed.

(Just when I thought I was the only one, here's another who managed to connect the dots.)

The Internet isn't just one big grapevine; it's also a massive storage vat. Any dirt that finds its way around the Web will be available for all to see, and will remain so for a very long time. When you're a ranking official on the take, it's a real cause for concern. And there seem to be a lot of those popping up lately, since this country got wired.

So, could we be faulted for receiving the vibes we're getting from the current quivering of our politicians' nerves?

Here's another politician who thinks he's got it all figured out. It's not related to the current issue, but I can't help but see some parallels. He obviously hasn't seen the Gen-Y wave yet. They could teach some kings a thing or two.