Oops… I did it again. I binge watched nearly 3 seasons of chick flicks … got lost in the show…
The case in point is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a musical series, and here’s a rapid fire about our heroine, Rebecca Bunch:
“She was working hard at a New York job making dough but it made her blue, one day she was crying a lot and so she decided to move to… West Covina, California! Brand-new pals and new career. It happens to be where Josh lives, but that’s not why she’s here…”
Rebecca moves to West Covina, home of her childhood sweetheart- Josh Chan– that cruelly dump her last day of summer camp many years ago. Despite her initial denial, we all know the truth- she’s in West Covina for Josh.
Not long later, she discovers that Josh has a girlfriend- Valentia. However, this plays no deterrence to her affection and constant seduction of Josh. This flagrant dismissal of Valentia as Josh’s girlfriend leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, much like Emily Griffin’s book, Something Borrowed, where the heroine (?) shamelessly steals her best friend’s fiancé. Of course, Emily portrays the best friend as “manipulative”, and the supposing antagonist. But perspective is a powerful fulcrum, and protagonist is just one viewpoint tweak away from antagonist.
Similarly, Valentia is painted as mean, and unappreciative of Josh, as if that somehow justifies Rebecca’s pursuance of a taken man (although it is interesting to note that Rebecca and Valentia eventually become good friends). Some, in the spirit of hedonism, might applaud Rebecca’s pursuit for love and happiness, but I am substantially troubled. I consider Valentia the victim.
Anyway, Rebecca eventually realise the err in her ways, which she express through the song “I’m the villain in my own story”:
But even after her warm for Josh is over, her man-stealing days aren’t. She had a committed relationship with Nathaniel, her boss-turns-enemy-turns-boyfriend-turns-ex-turns-co-boss-turns-F-buddy, that she eventually breaks off for mental health reasons. He gets a new girlfriend, but Rebecca and Nathaniel continue to bone… and bone… and bone for another 8 months. At one point, she even laments that this affair is the healthiest relationship she ever had, an attestation that she harbours no remorse about banging another girl’s man. But does her unstable mental state give her a free pass? I don’t know.
The narrative doesn’t frown on infidelity. I love Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but this element is questionable.
“I’m just a girl in love, I can’t be held responsible for my actions… I have no underlying issues to address, I’m certifiably cute and adorably obsessed… they say love makes you crazy, therefore you can’t call her crazy… when you call her crazy, you’re just calling her in love!”
The feminist factor
Rebecca Bunch is a feminist, there’s no question about that, and the show has an underlying feminism theme.
What? The girl who ditched her lucrative city job, zapped across the country, relocates herself, purely for a guy, is an advocate for female empowerment??
Feminism has been redefined over the years, the by-product when scores of opinionated women roar (I am woman, hear me roar!). Humour my brand of feminism, when I say it’s one’s freedom to choose. The power to marry or not, have kids or not, cook or not, wear yoga pants or not.
To phrase it differently, a woman may say “I choose to be a stay-home mum, not because of society’s definition of woman, but because of my personal decision to concentrate on my family,” which is worlds apart from “women should stay home to clean, cook and care for the kids on pure virtue of their gender”. Also, “I need a man to provide for me” is vastly different from “we have our individual role to play in this relationship, independent from our respective gender”.
Therefore, I support, applaud, even, Rebecca’s right to, yes, bolt across the country, desert her conventionally-defined success, in hopes of reigniting the spark she once shared with her ex-boyfrined from 10 years ago.
On a side note, there is nothing weak or antifeminist about loving someone who doesn’t love you back. I adore how Louise Brealey blunts it out. After backlash on her character, Molly Hooper‘s unrequited love for Sherlock Holmes on Sherlock, she tweets:
“Loving someone after years is not reductive, retrograde, antifeminist or weak. Fight the patriarchy, not me, and read some f****** Chekhov”.
Not that Rebecca is not madly in love with Josh Chan, of course, more like passionately obsessed. But her mental health is not the point here (important issue as it is), rather we emphasise on women’s journey for the sweet spot.
Consistent with a woman’s right to decide, is her journey in search for her individual ideal. We don’t want armies of empty-headed feminine warriors. Instead, we yearnfor platoons of strong, independent women, whose decisions are made from rationalisation, and not directly influenced by society’s expectations. For the ability to think, rationalise and make decisions, are the foundation that will prop up the feminist movement.
And to arrive there, one must journey, search, make mistakes.
To quote Huffington Post, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is doing something far more complicated than simply ironically reclaiming, or accidentally reinforcing, a sexist insult: It’s limning the gap between how far women have come in our ideals and expectations, and how far society has actually progressed. Rebecca is a bad feminist, in the Roxane Gay sense; she holds feminist beliefs, and can easily articulate them, but her entire social self is at war with her ideals. She wants things she knows a feminist “shouldn’t,” and she admires qualities she knows define traditional femininity.” (Or as Holly Bourne calls it- cognitive dissonance)
And one has the right to be a bad feminist, because that is what feminism is all about, once again- the right to choose. And as Roxane Gay said, “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”- Let women think.
What’s a TV show without some solid will-they-won’t-they drama? Behold, the love triangle.
– The love triangle between Rebecca, Josh, and Greg.
“What you wanna do for your birthday, Jo?” I asked my BFF.
I cross my fingers and hope for “get pissed drunk”, although half a can of cider beer does it for her (true story).
Instead she says, “caving!”
And that’s how we ended up in Mulu, Sarawak.
DAY 1- the arrival and botanical heritage trail
We voyaged over a tropical rain forest via an ATR 72 into a plane of viridescent vegetation. The earlier departure into Mulu was significantly delayed due to mist, rendering a visual approach unfeasible. So I sight with relief when our 20 minutes flight conclude seamlessly (from the perspective of a passenger, discounting all possible undisclosed cockpit complications).
At the arrival hall, a nice girl named Diana stood patiently with an A4 paper- “CP LEE & JOANNE LIM” printed in capital letters. Walter from CBS’s Scorpion once said that “there’s an endorphin release you get from seeing your name on a sign at the airport. It’s an indication of forethought.” I concur.
Diana drives for 5 minutes before we arrive at our home base for the next 3 days- Mulu National Park.
We check in at the park’s office where we’re tagged, then presented a map and room keys.
I’m amused by this T-shirt and it’s accompanying note that says “adhere to the park’s regulation… to safeguard you from keeping 120 professional Sarawakian Search & Rescue members busy for days AND you don’t have to print a silly T-shirt!”
Point taken: a T-shirt is a very unflattering place to have your face plastered.
After dumping our baggage, we pull on sensible shoes and venture out for an evening stroll. The sky hints at a chance of rain, and sun sets at 6pm in East Malaysia. Therefore, of the unguided tours, we picked the Botanical Heritage Trail for it’s length (only 1.5km) and proximity- being stuck under the pouring rain in the dark is not on our bucket list.
The entire trail is covered with a wooden pavement. Trees line each side of the track, with limited sunlight exposure. The walk is easy and relaxed, the perfect setting for a poet’s soul; or 2 gossiping 20s girls.
We make a couple of new friends along the way:
DAY 2- CANOPY WALK
Trees, unidentified insects, nasi lemak, and canopy walks- these are the staples of a Malaysian national park.
We set course on the same wooden pavement we sauntered along on Day 1. Here, we encounter a huge tree, probably older than Noah and his ark. Oh, if trees could talk!
After 2.5 km of leisure trekking, we arrive at canopy walk.
I’ve experience numerous canopy walks, the last documented one being this at Taman Negara, Pahang. Yet, the thrill never gets old- suspended from multiple tree trunks, caressing the treetops, like a passageway into a hanging Eden.
LATER DURING DAY 2: ADVENTURE CAVING IN RACER CAVE
Alas, the highly anticipated moment has arrived- tummies full from lunch, we board the little speedboat that will journey us to Racer Cave for our spelunking adventure.
After 20 minutes, we arrive at Racer Cave. Here, we slap on yellow safety helmets, headlamps and strap into safety harnesses. Attached to the harness is a rope, each end equipped with a carabiner.
After a short safety brief, our group advance into the stony unknown with caution. But first, we squeeze through a tight and narrow opening between the rocks. I suck my tummy in, and curse every cheese cake I’ve ever indulged.
Thank goodness, I wedge through uneventfully.
I turn around, and darkness nods. Our headlamps and peeping light through the rock fissures act as sole light sources. In fact, later during the tour, the guide prompts us to switch our headlamps off. As a result, patent blackness envelopes. I couldn’t see an inch ahead of me, and all I could think of was, “is this how David hid from King Saul??”
We climb rocks, sometimes with a rope’s help, mostly freehand. As a lukewarm rock climber, I rate these ascends 5a- doable by any abled body person with basic locomotive functions. The advertised “intermediate level” sounds about right.
At one point, we repel down one and half storey of rocks. A rope permanently looped around a sturdy rock act as anchor while the guide belay us down. As each person reaches the base of the rocks, he/she throws the carabiner back up, and the act is repeated till everybody is safely lowered.
We even get a stingy view of the cave’s namesake- the racer snake. This belt-like reptile binges on bats and birds, we learn. No rats, the guide assures us.
On top of that, we also get a healthy look at the “Mulu Cappuccino”. The guide grabs a handful of what resembles black soil and parades it to our little group. Jo whips out her camera and is about to snap when the guide says with a wink, “it’s bat poop.” HAHA!
We continue to traverse rocks and scale others. I thank God for that yellow miner’s helmet that saved me from concussion at least half a dozen times.
The cave has only one way in and out, which is unfortunate. A route loses its charm once you’ve conquered it. But becoming cavewomen is not the plan, so we backtrack where we entered. This, however, given its declining gradient, proved to be an onerous feat. Indeed, that was exactly what I spat, grip working overtime.”This is an onerous feat!” I declared. “Yes! I did just say that while hanging from a rock for dear life!” I continue loudly to aware the bats of my anguish.
But I didn’t die… which was a relief… phew! What did happen though, was a comical tumble that followed my attempt of leap off the rock like cat woman. Our guide managed the jump effortless, making it look easy.
Mimicking him, I ready myself, knees bent, and sprung off a rock with burning confidence… landing flat in a pile of unidentified brown “fluff”.
And that was the end of my humiliation… not.
Our 2 hours expedition approached the finishing line. Having slip right back through the initial crack, sunlight is beaming on our faces.
After living 2 hours without a ray of sunshine, I’m ecstatic. I quicken my pace down the rocky terrain, arms raised in victory. “We survived!” I proclaim.
I smell the sun… freedom… I feel the wind… I feel…
… the lack of solid ground under my feet?
I’m tripping! I’m falling! I’m rolling…
… Yep, just imagine me in place of that cute cartoon log…
… Once again, the yellow miner’s helmet is my saving grace.
DAY 3: SHOW CAVES- wind cave, LADY CAVE, and clearwater cave.
After 2 hours of navigating through bat poo, and making ladders out of rocks, we still insist on spending Day 3 in more caves. This time, however, we stick to show caves- those with solid, beautifully paved routes and man made lights to lit our paths.
The first show cave on our agenda is the wind cave. It’s name is derived from a spot in the cave where wind blows in at varying velocities.
Mid cave, a crack of sunlight spills into the cave from a hole above:
“Where did the hole come from?” The tour guide asked. “Why, this asteroid, of course!” Then he gestures at this rock:
No, not really, he rights the story. It’s some science-y stuff about rain water. But I prefer the asteroid tale.
Lady Cave is named such due to a stalagmite that cast a womanly shaped shadow. In my honest opinion, though, that conclusion requires quite a lucid imagination.
The Clearwater cave, as its name suggest, has crystal clear water. This cave also have a hefty flight of stairs that overly satisfies my daily cardio requirement. But that climbing wasn’t for nothing, thanks to this rewarding view:
Advance spelunking starts here, we learn. Cavers swim considerable distances in the freezing water:
And then it’s time to ascend more stairs:
After all those dark, dingy caves, it’s time to photosynthesise. So we take a dip in a pond of Clearwater’s chilly water.
(Okay, full disclosure- we city kids sat on the steps leading into the pond for eternity. I said “Jo, we need to stop being the embodiment of city kids”, after which, I took a step down, then spent another 5 minutes shivering from the cold water. We then tried to visually gauge the depth of the water. Jo even attempts a step of faith, then quickly retraces when her feet couldn’t meet the bottom. Only after a couple of Sabahans boldly plunge into the water, do we leave the city on the wooden steps and soak in mother nature.)
“A blatant page-turner… I guarantee you will hate reaching the end.” – Sunday Express
What should a company’s billionaire owner do when ordered by court to pay a grieving widow $41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination that allegedly caused the death of Chad and Pete Baker, husband and son of plaintiff Jeanette Baker.
Not just the death of this father and son pair, we learn. As the story progress, we discover that the fictional Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore of Cary County is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)
In light of that startling revelation, the people of Bowmore, Cary County blame Krane Chemical Corporation. They attribute the abnormal cancer rate to the illegal chemical dumping that polluted their water, and ultimately, killed countless innocent lives.
And we learn that Krane Chemical is indeed guilty on all counts.
“Ratzlaff had a memo under lock and key. It was eight years old and had been prepared under his supervision. It ran for a hundred pages and described in gruesome detail the company’s illegal dumping of toxic waste at the Bowmore plant. It summarised the company’s elaborate efforts to hide the dumping, to dupe the Environmental Protection Agency, and to buy off the politicians at the local, state, and federal level. It recommended a clandestine but effective cleanup of the waste site, at a cost of some $50 million. It begged anyone who read it to stop the dumping.” (Pg 25)
In other words, shameless and calculated abuse- blatant negligence.
And yet, Mr. Trudeau, billionaire owner of Krane Chemical Corporation, vowed that “not a dime of (their) hard-earned profits will ever get into the hands of those trailer park peasants (residents of Bowmore and casualties of the irresponsible chemical dumping).” (Pg 26)
This fictional tale is a reflection of real world events, or so I gather, reestablishing my suspicions about this wicked and crooked world.
THE RICH AND POWERFUL EXPLOIT THE POOR AND HELPLESS
Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs Trudeau’s black Bently to his Central Park penthouse worth $28 million, $38 million if you include the additional interior work.
His trophy wife is perched in her dressing room of the master suite while hairdressers fix her $1000 hairdo.
Draped on her size 2 physique (achieved with a daily routine of an hour with a trainer- $300 per, private yoga- $300 per and nutritionist- $200 per) is a $25,000 Valentino dress. (Pg 33-36)
Oh, and she’s eyeing Abused Imelda, an intriguing piece of “art” that Mr. Trudeau eventually does purchase for $18 million (Pg 63).
In other words, the Trudeaus are not exactly lacking financially.On the other hand, the Paytons- a husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and are at least 4 months behind with rent (Pg 46-47). They own a “battered Ford Taurus with a million miles, at least one low tire, and constant click of a sticking valve” (Pg 19). Life was once financially liberating, but then this Baker case with Krane Chemicals sucked away their BMW, the Jaguar, the credit cards, their house… Eventually they took a bank loan of $400,000 to finance the case.For the Paytons, money is tight, and every dollar matters.And legal battles require money.So when the Paytons manage an impressive win over Krane Chemicals, Trudeau appeals to the Supreme Court, then pull every dirty trick in the book to ensure a heavy tip in his favour.Firstly, he’s aware of the Paytons’ fragile monetary position, that a slight jolt will send them down bankrupt-street. And push, he does, buying over the Paytons’ bank- with his mountain of cash.Next, why take a chance with wild cards like random Supreme Court judges, when you can rig the judicial election, strategically place a friendly judge, then sway the final verdict to your advantage, all for only $8 million.
RELIGION IS A CONVENIENT POLITICAL MANIPULATION TOOL
Ron Fisk is a small town lawyer from Brookhaven, Mississippi. Fits the good Christian mould perfectly, we gather, and ideal choice for Supreme Court judge candidate in conservative Mississippi.
The idea of running for judge is pitched to him by a low profile yet highly effective firm called Troy-Hogan, who are in the business of “reforming courts”.
“… That’s what we do, and we do it very quietly. When our clients need help, we target a supreme court justice who is not particularly friendly, and we take him, or her, out of the picture.” (Pg 117)
In the case of Krane Chemicals, at a price of $8 million, they place in the supreme court a judge that is willing to protect corporate liability at all cost. One that would vote in favour of overturning the $41 million dollar jury verdict, freeing Krane Chemicals of their lawsuit.
They already have a target- Judge Sheila McCarthy. They will replace her on the supreme court with one of their own. All they need now is a candidate.
And an angle of attack- religious values.
Unaware that he was meant as a pawn in a bigger game, Ron bites the bait. “… change the judicial landscape of this country. And if we do that, we can protect the rights of the unborn, restrict the cultural barrage that is consumed by our children, honour the sanctity of marriage, keep homosexuals out of our classrooms, fight off the gun-control advocates, seal our borders, and protect the true American way of life,” (Pg 152). In other words, a series of religious-aligned jargon.
Ron is convinced. He will run for supreme court member to uphold Christian values at the juridical level.
And play the religious cards, he does, with his campaign manager as a conductor. He kicks off his campaign at the pulpit of the church he worships. “I seek to serve on the supreme court because I cherish the values that we share. Values based on the bible and our faith in Christ. The sanctity of the family- man and woman. The sanctity of life… I am frustrated by the erosion of our values. They are under attack by our society, by our depraved culture, and… by our courts. I offer my candidacy as one man’s fight against liberal judges…” (Pg 277)
Of course they advertise his opponent, Judge Sheila McCarthy as a liberal (although she is not).
And the churches rally firmly behind him, completely oblivious to the corporate interest of Ron’s puppet masters.
The Christian support is obvious. At a political rally, his supporters hang huge ‘Save The Family’ banners, an attestation to Ron’s primary selling point.
The event begins with a prayer (religious), followed by gospel songs (also religious), and more sermons (very religious). And repeat. (Pg 421-422)
Pastor Denny Ott (pastor to many of the cancer victims) tries to warn Pastor Ted of the danger of endorsing a political candidate, given their status as a non-profit organisation (church). “Mr. Fisk is being used by a conspiracy of big business interests to stack our supreme court with judges who will protect corporate wrongdoers by limiting their liability,” he writes in a letter. (Pg 414)
Yet, blinded by religious convictions, they are unable to see past the marketed package (Christian judge) to the manipulative forces behind. They are unable to separate church and state.
GOOD DOES NOT ALWAYS OVERCOME EVIL
This book has one certainty- the good and evil.Unlike books that reveal both the light and dark of its characters, John Grisham’s figures belong to either extremes of the good vs. evil spectrum.
The Paytons are good; Mr Trudeau and Krane Chemicals are evil.
Pastor Denny Ott is good; Pastor Ted is evil.
The people of Bowmore are good; The employees of Troy-Hogan are evil.
Other than Ron Fisk, who has pure intentions, but plays devil’s advocate to the evil Trudeau’s cause, the antagonists of the story are obvious.
The Paytons (good) fought with everything they had, putting at stake their finances, their firm, their family, their reputation, in an effort to liberate the oppressed people of Bowmore (good).
But Krane Chemicals (bad) couldn’t care less about the cancer clusters, the dying people, the pain, the suffering… all that matters is money.
And fight justice with money, they do.
Good loses. Evil wins.
Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.
I was reading the news… fine, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and learned that my friend is engaged. Here’s the best part, she proposed!
Darn straight. Welcome, 21st century female empowerment! Why give the guy a chance to mess up the proposal? Also, screw social norms.
The post evoked a chain reaction, and induced a burning question: how would’ve I propose to my husband?
After careful though, I drew up 3 potential proposal (pun intended!) strategies, hopefully each ending with a “yes!”.
THE ONE WITH THE LEGO
On his birthday (need an excuse for the exaggerated set-up), I’ll lure him into the dining room of my condo. The lights are dimmed, because he digs yellow lighting (something about “ambience”). John Legend’s All Of Me is playing in the background, probably on some cheap speaker I snagged somewhere.
The dining table is empty, except for 2 huge gift-wrapped boxes. I sit him down.
“Open this, baby.” I say, inching box number 1 forward.
He tears the wrapper off, face (hopefully) dripping with anticipation.
Underneath is a box of lego- the one he’s been lusting after (one of the many on his list).
Hopefully he’s smitten. It’s hard to tell with boys. One moment they promise you the stars, next they camp in front of a laptop screaming “cover me! cover me!” as if you don’t exist.
Of course he’s eyeing the next box. “This is for you too, baby.” I gesture at the neatly wrapped box. It’s bigger than the other, he notes.
He tears through the paper once again, to find… a plain cardboard box?
He shoots me a puzzled look.
“Go ahead, open the box,” I nudge him.
Inside, lies a huge lego board. On it, arranged with lego blocks are the words: MARRY ME?
At this point of time, I whip out a lego ring, and go down on one knee.
With the best doe-eye look one can muster, I form the words, “we are like two compatible lego bricks, perfect together. I love you, will you marry me?”
THE ONE WITH STAR WARS
Also on his birthday (again, can’t have him suspicious), I bake him a Star Wars themed cake, garnished with an X-wing plane- one of the more aerodynamically-logical aircraft in Star Wars.
I’m dressed as a rebel pilot- probably a Taobao enabled purchase.
This time I balance the cake in both hands. I approach him while (probably) singing an off tune version of Happy Birthday.
After his hearing recovers from my singing and he blows the candles, I say, “look under the X-wing, baby.”
He reaches under the sugar laden cream with one sweeping finger motion, his expression quizzical, till he hits solid.
He pulls out a silver ring with the rebel emblem. Of course its covered in sugary goodness, but I don’t care.
I pry the ring out of his hands, and drop to one knee, thank goodness for the jumpsuit and its knee-abrasion-prevention properties.
“Amazing, you are. In love with you, I am. Marry me, will you?” I pose.
P.S.: A Princess Leiah outfit is not an option due to the impossibility of anatomy accuracy.
THE ONE WITH THE NOTE
“Hey dude!” I call over the thundering roar of whatever game he’s playing.
“For you,” I say, and thrust an envelope into his hands.
He pauses his game… just joking, he never pauses his game.
During his next toilet break, his curiosity gets the better of him. So he rips the envelope open.
There’s a piece of paper and a solid object in the envelope. He turns the stationary upside down, and something hard and metallic drops out with a ping on the floor.
He bends over to retrieve the mystery object to find, to his amazement, a gear ring (his friend got her man one, and he’s been fancying it since).
He glance at the paper in his hand and reads out loud:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
Can’t wait to have sex,
So marry me, will you?
Should he say yes, I present him a neatly wrapped box. In it is lingerie, and a note: “to supplement your wedding gift.”
Fun fact- I can trace my lineage to Princess Ping Yang’s brother, which makes her my great grand aunt, thousand times removed.
And this is how I imagine her- witty and quoting Shakespeare.
I apologize for any feathers I may ruffle with this piece, though indeed that is my intention, but not offensively. Although elements of this writing are (obviously) not 100% historically accurate, the keynotes persist.
I must emphasise that I do, and always have admire China as a nation. So rich in history and talent- fascinating to say the least.
Yet, as I examine the social mechanics that surround me, I must return, to my roots, where it all begin.
P.S.: This is a work of fiction… or is it?
I slam a shot glass on the table; the force sends shock waves up my right arm.
My armpit fats are flapping violently.
I throw my head back, disheveled black curls bouncing. The tequila shoots right through my nasal canal and explodes in my brain like Merdeka fireworks.
“Oooohh, babeh!” I shriek, not unlike a hyena, simultaneously releasing what I hope is a silent burp. A burping hyena.
A few empty shot glasses sit before me in single file.
The bar counter where I’m perched is nearly empty, because what idiot waste away at the bar on a Wednesday night. The bartender looks amused as he places a new batch of shots before me.
“Your shots, ma’am.” He says with an air of professionalism. “That will be RM109.90.”
I fix him with a pointed look. “You!” I wave a finger at his distinctively oriental features. My wedding band is gleaming under the yellow fluorescent light. “Walking embodiment of Chinese male privilege.”
I pause, finger mid-jab…
Then everything went black.
“Babe, wake up. Babe!” Somebody is shaking my shoulders like an Osim massage chair.
The voice’s owner circles around and plops unto the stool next to me.
“Rough day?” she asked. I note her attire of black spaghetti straps and denim shorts.
My head feels heavy. I prop off the bar top with a mighty splurge of strength, not unlike a constipated dump.
I gather enough consciousness to study my new friend. There’s a scar on her left cheek, but not enough to taint her sublime Chinese beauty. Her long black hair flows all the way down her rich blossoms; her voice lined with sweet authority.
“Meiii aii elp youu?” I manage.
She helps herself to my shots. “Ooooff..” She blinks twice, then swirls her head around to face me. I notice a dark penis-looking tattoo on her left wrist.
She follows my stare. “Like it?” she says. “I got it last week. Reminds me of good times.”
“So, pray tell, of the affair that thrust you into this alcoholic rove.” She continues with a powerful gaze. Enchanting, even.
“I fought with my husband.” I say simply.
“Ahh… the opening to every good story ever.” She downs another shot. “How did he screw up? Obviously, it’s his fault.”
I relax a little. All hail the sisterhood. “Our first Chinese new year as a married couple is looming. And we can’t agree on where to spend new years’ eve reunion dinner.”
My fingers grip another shot glass, transferring its contents into my system. “Chinese tradition dictates we grace the male’s home. Obviously. Penis-ownership and all.” I don’t miss a beat. “As we know, the Chinese culture is one big tribute to the patriarchy.”
“He’s like, ‘why can’t we stick to the status quo?’ and all. And I’m, like, ‘I couldn’t care less where we eat. It’s the principle behind the gesture. We can’t allow another generation of gender-dictated policies’.”
I’m hyperventilating. And burping again- not so silently this time. But I don’t care. Rage is bubbling in my stomach, or maybe it’s the gas. It’s all pouring back to me. My friend who cares for her elderly father doesn’t get a cent of inheritance, while her useless brother gets all the land, on pure virtue of cock-entitlement. The other friend who slaves like Cinderella so her brothers can laze around like the douchebags they are, except Cinderella is a brainless masochist, while my friend has the misfortune of a vagina.
I’m seething with fury.
A balding uncle is eyeing me curiously. He’s either illiterate or a blatant jerk, judging by the cigarette in his mouth despite the striking “no smoking” sign.
My verbal diarrhea does not halt. “New years’ eve dinner seems minute, pick your battles and all. But these are the foundation to more palpable sexism. Rid the base, rid the peak, and rid the patriarchy.” I spit with fervor.
My new friend widens her eyes at me, a smile plastered on her lips.
She raises a shot glass. “Cheers babe. Death to misogynist.”
“Cheers.” I shadow her actions, chugging the glass down my throat.
A shot of adrenaline rockets through my body… and all went pitch black again.
I open my eyes, and then close them quickly again. Sun is beating down, right through my eyelids and cornea.
“Arghh… my pancreas.” I moan, still lying flat on what appears to be grass, flapping my arms like some pathetic grass angel.
I hear a snort to my right. “Babe, sit up. Check this out.” It’s spaghetti-straps-with-scar girl. She’s sitting with her knees to her chest.
“Where are we? What…” I begin.
“Sshhh…” she interrupts. “Look!”
I drag myself up and discover we are perched on… a hill? Below us sits a city, a prominent pagoda in sight. China? Despite our beaming sun, the city is covered in darkness.
I’m about to crack some Kungfu Panda related joke when a girl sprints out through the huge city gates. She’s clad in a ruqun and white shawl, running like her life depends on it. In fact, she looks like Mulan at the 100m event of the Olympics, with the skirt pulled right up to her boobs.
Her hair flowing behind her, she’s running and running. She’s a good 3km or so out of the city before she slows into a brisk walk.
“She’s fleeing from Imperial assassins,” scarred-face chick commentates. “Her father and husband are heading a rebellion to overthrow the emperor. The emperor is a dick head and medical wonder- born without a brain. He poisoned his dad for the throne, then aspired genocide through attempts to expand the great wall and great canal. And you’ll think a nincompoop of that magnitude would lose interest and switch goals, but no, he gathers an army to invade Korea and Vietnam, and we all know how that went. ”
She continues. “Along comes her dad, who rose through ranks from peasant to general, pretty kickass story. Emperor Moron sends him on a series of dimwit missions, and he doesn’t even complain. In fact, he’s so freaking legit that the enemies submit to a peace treaty with him- they won’t attack Chinese land as long as her dad is in charge. Problem is, Emperor gong-gong decides its…” she rolls her eyes and raises her fingers in air quotes, “a threat to national security or some crap along those lines, and orders his execution. Hence, rebellion.”
“Wow…” I manage. Our hill has mysteriously trailed the general’s daughter.
“A few days later, she arrives at her home province.” The landscape before us fades, only to be replaced by a village, acres of sweet land and yummy topless men.
“The saga unfolds.” My raconteur gaze into the distance. “Our heroine sells her family home and land for monies, which she uses to purchase weapons, equipment and tonnes of other badass shit.” I watch as Mulan in the white shawl makes numerous exchanges. House. Land. Money. Bazooka. AK-47.
Next, she gathers every Tom, Dick and Harry Lee, Wong and Tan to aid her strive.
“Babe, keep in mind that this is the year 617, when men wore their egos like hair gel. The patriarchy then make 2017’s look like kindergarten play.”
The general’s daughter chick is so hardcore, she shaves her head and whips her homie peasants into shape, then proceeds to offer the surrounding warlord tribes 3 options: (1) bandit leader gets officer commission in her army, (2) gets bribed with food or money, or (3) get a serious ass-whooping in battle.
They usually say yes to army-membership. Soon, the army grows to an impressive 70,000.
My companion’s face grows serious. She stretches her feet and arms out in front of her. We’re still sitting on the grassy hill as battle after battle, negotiation after negotiation flash before us.
“Not long after, she joins forces with her dad. Together, they beat the macam-yes Sui army into sorry, rotting pulps. Papa claims the throne, declaring himself Emperor Gaozu, first emperor of the Tang Dynasty.”
I pause, and my gaze falls on her penis-tattoo, then the bald newly-crowned princess at the foot of our enchanted hill. A wave of revelation traverse through me.
“You are her, with hair. You are Princess Ping Yang, daughter of General Li Yuan, aka Emperor Gaozu.” I point at her tattoo. “That’s the Tang Dynasty, which you helped forge, because only a badass feminist like you can form an empire shaped like a giant male organ.”
She smiles good-naturedly and folds her legs. “The tale progress,” she says slowly. “As you know, I died 2 years later at 23 years old.”
The scene before us transforms into a throne/ administration room. Emperor Gaozu is sitting on his throne with a determined look etched on his face.
“… But she’s a girl. With a V-jay-jay. How can we allow this??” Says the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen.
“… Does she have Y- chromosomes? Huh? Huh?” I take it back, this one’s uglier.
“Wú huáng, wàn suì, wàn suì, wàn wàn suì! Your majesty, we simply CANNOT allow this! Our customs and traditions simply disallows martial music at a woman’s funeral! ” This one looks like the offspring of an Orang Utan and Frankenstein’s monster, except deformed.
I’m watching with dropped jaw. “What’s their problem? You rallied the rebellion troops and helped form the empire! What’s their contribution? Other than comical relief with their faces?”
She sniggers. “The lizard-looking one had the audacity to harass my handmaiden? Pinched her ass. Male chauvinist pig.”
“Jerk,” I agree, leaning over our magic hill for a closer look.
“We value her contributions, and are eternally grateful. However, we cannot discount the fact that she’s a woman!” Lizard man is still talking.
I’m about to launch a chain of choice words when the emperor raises his hand. Silence follows.
“The princess personally beat the battle drums and aided my ascend to power. There WILL be martial music.” He relays with authority.
There may be hope yet.
I blinked, and the bar shimmers into sight. Princess Ping Yang is still perched on the bar stool next to me.
She has a shot glass in her clasp. “Cheers, babe,” she says, a twinkle in her eye.
I mirror her move. “Cheers, princess.”
We down the shots simultaneously.
And the bar plunge into darkness, again.
I snap my eyes open. We are back on the sunny little hill.
I study the view before me. I know a modern Chinese village when I see one.
“It’s the year 2017. Look through that window.” Princess Ping Yang gestures.
I obediently trace her pointer. A family sits around a table for dinner… it IS a family?
“The man is entertaining guest, the elderly couple. Miss his wife?” Her focus shifts and I follow. “She’s in the kitchen. She doesn’t have the ‘right’ to dine with guest at the table.” I’m horrified.
The panorama changes. A similar scene unravels. “Same shit, different home.”
And another. And another. Gosh… another?
Suddenly, we arrive at an unexpected scene. The husband, wife, and three guests are seated at the dining table, chatting and being merry. I’m so surprised I gasp aloud.
“That’s Li Xiaomin. She’s an elementary school teacher. She is this village’s only married woman who eats at the table with guest.” Princess Ping Yang relates. “She also earns 1000 yuan in monthly wage, way higher than the village’s average of 170 yuan. In northern rural China, a woman’s status is directly proportionate to her earnings.”
“The sexism in this village might seem like the exception and not the rule, and while the law may dictate that each child share equal inheritance, misogynist dies hard.”
She tilts her head and gathers her hair behind each ear. “For exactly this reason, girls must be educated, to raise the female status, everywhere. On top of improved status, education brings forth urbanisation, which entails independence and equality.”
“Every revolution begins with a tiny change- our individual role to play.”
We are at the bar again.
“So, I should NOT oblige social norms, shut up, and follow my husband to his parents’ home?” I asked confused.
“Not exactly, I suggest you give the situation serious thought, fully informed. There is no handbook for feminism. Instead, we strive for generations of thinking woman. Woman who understand the ultimate goal- female empowerment. We must right the system, but be cautious not to, in the process, lose our soul.”
I rest my chin on my palm and pout.
She winks. “I’ll leave you with that for now,” and raises yet another shot glass. “Parting is such sweet sorrow that I say goodnight till it be morrow.”
I clank my glass against hers with a grin. “Goodnight! Goodnight!”
And darkness envelopes me. Again.
“Baby, you okay?” A deep voice meets my ear.
I wrestle my torso off the bar top. Where Princess Ping Yang was, now sits my husband.
“I’m fine.” My voice is coarse. I eye his expression- slightly concerned, yet brimming with purpose.
He holds up a 50 cent coin, turns it so I glimpse the Bunga Raya and Wau at alternate intervals. “I have a solution. I’m going to flip this coin. Heads, we spend new year’s eve at your parents. Tails, mine.”
I grip his hand just as he’s about to toss the coin into the air. “And then next year, we alternate.”
He shoots me that smile that turns my insides to agar-agar.
The coin leaps into the air, lands on the bar counter, and spins for a few seconds.
Then it settles- flat and stationary.
We bend over to determine the verdict.
Slowly, our gaze raise and meets. Smiles escape the corner of our lips.
“Amorous congress?” He asked.
Then we beeline for the toilet.
P.S.: I am thankful that my parents raised my siblings and I strictly equal, regardless of gender. Some close to me will argue that I was raised as a boy, a claim with gravity given that (as far as I remember) the most feminine purchase my father has made for me are sanitary pads. However, many around me do not share that good fortune. I may not change the system, but I hope to do my part, because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record- every revolution begins with a tiny change.
P.S.: 50% of this piece was written at 34,000 feet above MSL, the remainder in a hungover blaze.
What’s Christmas? What are the elements of Christmas? Here, I break down my understanding of the season of noels- a point in every letter.
C – carols
Nothing charge endorphins like that of Christmas carols over blasting Bose speakers
H – holiday
“Holiday” is not dictated by one’s employer. “Holiday” is a state of mind. My company can steal my Christmas, but they can NOT steal my Christmas spirit.
R – run for no man’s land
My liver’s endeavour this season of giving.
I – intense humidity
No eggnog, roasting chestnuts, evergreen spruces, or falling snow. But we Malaysians have our heat. I’m dreaming of a humid Christmas.
S – Santa Claus
Apocryphal fable. Unless you subscribe to the logic of a speeding sleigh at 650 miles per hour, which is 3000 times the speed of sound or 23 times the speed of a Ulysses space probe (the fastest man made vehicle).
T – tree
If I say my plastic tree branch, erected in a juice bottle, garnished with earrings, is a Christmas tree, then the heck it is.
M – mistletoe
Where can I find one? To felicitously embellish my make-out hut, aka couch potato haven (my sofa).
A – aliment
Nosh that consist of the main Christmas food groups- fats, sugar, cholesterol and alcohol.
S – Son of Man
No, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th (try June-ish, or so the experts say).
So we celebrate His generic birthday. But is HE generic too? I mean, I rant about the unsubstantiality of Santa Claus (refer to point “S”); but am I hypocritically celebrating another fictional character?
Rather than indulge the emotional whirlwind many Christians spiral into, I decided I like facts.
Here goes, although He wasn’t born amongst mistletoes and falling snow, non biblical data suggest that Jesus existed. (Because of course the bible is bias in this context- every rationalisation should begin from a plane of congruous underlying assumptions).
“Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome….”
Wrote Roman historian Tacitus on Emperor Nero’s bid to “tai chi” blame to the Christians for the engulfing fire that ruined Rome in A.D. 64.
The “extreme penalty” of “Christus” is believed to be Jesus’ crucifixion during the reign of Pontius Pilatus; and “mischievous superstition checked”- His resurection.
I like the use of “mischievous superstition”. I have a mischievous superstition about drivers who switch lanes without using the turn signal.
“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food – but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
This could be a slight stretch, or perhaps its gravity is lost in english translation. You be the judge.
In a letter from Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan, he wrote about the Christians, seeking advice on how they should be dealt with legally.
He mentions their worship to Christ, “as a god”. Historians believe the expressed message is, “they worship this man as if he were a god”, which indicates the actual blood-and-flesh existence of a man named Jesus Christ.
Of course, “as a god” could hold other meanings. But I’m inclined towards the man-God theory.
“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats…. He was the Christ. When Pilate …condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared … restored to life…. And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.”
Jewish historian, Josephus wrote in his book, Jewish Antiquities, a portion called Testimonium Flavianum. There are conflicting views on this passage. Because of its tune, some scholars think a Christian edited it. But even after disregarding the chilli sauce and pepper, the skeleton remains- that there lived a man named Jesus. (Remember that our question under focus here is did Jesus truly exist, discounting the accompanying theologies)
“Being therefore this kind of person… Ananus, thinking that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus had died and Albinus was still on his way, called a meeting… of judges and brought into it the brother of Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah … James by name, and some others. He made the accusation that they had transgressed the law, and he handed them over to be stoned.”
Another portion of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities mentions Jesus. The focus of this passage is not Jesus, though, but His brother, James.
During that time, there were like, a million men named James. To specify the James in question, Josephus relates him to Jesus. But since there were 2 million Jesus’ at the time, he goes one step further, and labels Him “Jesus-who-is-called-Messiah”- synonym to the Jesus of the bible.
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald … cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”
The Babylonian Talmud is a collection of Jewish rabbinical writings compiled approximately between A.D. 70-500.
“Yeshu” is Jesus in Hebrew, and “hanged” refers to the hanging off a giant “T”- crucification.
The “stoning” in question, is what the jewish leaders were planning to do before Roman involvement. And the “sorcery” is that the perspective of Jesus’ accusers. However, the stoning and sorcery are irrelevant given that our issue at hand is “did Jesus really exist?”, and eye witness accounts once again implies so.
“The Christians … worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”
This passage, on the other hand, is no eye witness. However, the Lucian of Samosata, Greek satirist is believed to have gather his sources on Jesus from that other than the new testament, hence its status as evidence of Jesus’ existence.
I try to base my faith on facts and evidence. I work extensively to NOT be a Pocahontas Christian (everything has a spirit, has a life, has a name). However, the emotional whirlwind I mentioned? Guilty at times.
Because, what is a relationship without sentiment? I possess head knowledge that my husband is a good man; sweet, sexy, and talented in bed responsible. But our relationship won’t BE a relationship without my fervour for him.
In the same way, I know Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. I know He was born (not on December 25), and crucified for my sins. But my relationship with Him stems from more than knowledge. It sprouts from the warm of His love for me- my best friend, heavenly father and 24/7 counsellor.
“I have bad news,” my assigned partner in crime FO thrust a print-clustered A4 paper before me. “We expect a foggy visibility of 800m in Dhaka, precisely our minimum for the ILS Runway 14”.
I groan, inward and outwardly at my harbinger of gloom.
“First and second alternate weather conditions are flimsily marginal too,” he continues. Hello, incessant bedevilment.
“But fret not, I’m optimistic about our landing chances.” He has a glint in his eye.
I pair my widened sepet eyes with a lopsided grin. “That’s the spirit.” I concur. “Optimism is the grease for our system.”
“Huh?” He’s confused.
“Blah blah blah. Words fail me today.” I pause. “Optimism is the grease that oil our happiness.”
I’m determined to have an uneventful fright. I mean, an uneventful FLIGHT. Gee, my words are a legit flop today.
I utilise the ACARS for constant weather updates throughout the flight- in between dialectics regarding the institute of marriage.
The METAR denotes a current conservative 2500 meters visibility. Sweet!
But the TAF suggest an imminent dip in RVR (runway visual range) to 800m, and eventually 500m. Don’t cry for me, Argentina.
earn your money
“This is Dhaka automatic terminal information India, time 1730… Runway 14 in use… visibility 2400 m...” the automated voice rings clear over our VHF radio. Yes! Hold your tears, Argentina.
We arrive overhead DAC VOR, and make a gradual turn outbound for a full letdown. Fog hug us like an oversized teddy bear, the glare from our exterior lights bounce off the thickening fog like a tennis balls against a practice wall.
Our inbound turn resembles a giant fishing hook. I activate the approach phase in hopes of a tighter bank.
We achieve a sleek curve towards the runway track… and strain our ocular capabilities in search for a passage back to solid ground- the runway.
The NOTAMS indicate that the centreline lights are unserviceable. I spent a fleeting minute worrying about the impact this possible deterioration of airport lighting system might have on the runway visualness.
Lo and behold, my qualms are in vain. Despite the lack of centreline lights, the runway beam at us with the intensity of a pre-election political rally; like well lit Genting Highlands on a cloudless night- impossible to miss.
Landing was uneventful. therefore the takeoff will be a piece of cake, right?
The mist thickens around us at a perceptible pace. Our naked eyes note the air density shift, like God dump a healthy portion of Xanthan gum into the atmosphere.
The air traffic controller confirms our suspicions.
“Current RVR 1200 meters,” he tells some guy.
1200m visibility drop in, like, 15 minutes? Me no likey.
I grunt. “Let’s get the bird out of here.” I said.
Except, I didn’t say “bird”.
at the threshold of runway 14
The white edge lights line the runway’s fringe. We count 16 on each side. With a distance of 60 meters between each light, quick maths indicate nearly 1000 meters of RVR (confession- I used a calculator. My lack of mental arithmetic ability is apparent, in spite of Chinese stereotypes).
I advance the thrust levers and the engines spur to life. The fog envelopes our speeding aircraft as she race down the runway and into the blurry muddle.
As I rotate, we charge into another mass of dense vapour.
And we climb, and we climb…
… and we climb… penetrating the sitting fog, bursting into the clear night sky.
Who knew romantic endeavours of the emotionally stunted could be so strangely entertaining.
“People only let you down,” says Happy. “You put a quarter-inch wrench on a quarter-inch bolt, it works. Tools don’t let you down.” Toby replies, “spending your life scared to connect to anyone isn’t any way to live.” (S1E2)
The couple go way back as friends. They regularly make bets, mostly at Slyvester’s expense; or exchange witty banter, at mutual expense.
Toby’s affection for Happy is painfully patent. When former colleague turned psychotic enemy- Mark Collins takes a swipe at Happy for a supposing mistake, Toby jumps in like the freaking Calvary in a fedora. “Hey, Collins, you lay off her or we have an issue.” Dayyuum, sister. (S1E5)
Towards the end of that episode, Walter (head genius) playfully tease her. “Toby going after Collins to protect your honour… what was that all about?” She shrug and responds. “The shrinks’ crazier than all of us. What a surprise.”
But her silent afterthought suggest more. She steals a peep across the room where Toby is reading two books simultaneously- because, genius, duh- and he catches her eye. They share a wordless tender moment, free of intellectual jargon and facetious insults.
The inappropriate wisecracks doesn’t stop though- “Dear Lord, thank you for this gift.” Gift: Happy’s ass. (S1E9)
Nor does his thoughtful yet arguably misguided tactics to please Happy- like hacking into social services for her family records, painful nerve that it is to her. (S1E7)
will toby grow a pair and ask happy out?
Then he finally musters the courage to ask her out. He scores 2 tickets to a monster truck show, because where else would you take a machine-obsessed mechanical whizz?
But Freudian displacement, a.k.a. being a first class chicken render the dude a tad bit slow. As he turns away to retrieve the prized ducats, Happy is distracted by the shiny new musician- Peyton Temple.
“Can I ask you something crazy… you’ve got plans tonight?” Peyton fix Happy with hopeful eyes. An eavesdropping Toby is evidently dejected.
“Are you into drag races?” Happy ask cautiously. “… There’s a rally in Pomona…”
“Wanna go?” ask Peyton.
“Yeah, why not?”
You know what they say, Toby? Chics dig musicians. (S1E8)
declaration of love
But ego maniac psychiatrists don’t give up.
-Because Season 1 Episode 10 brings Toby’s first vocal declaration of his feelings for Happy.
During a mission, they are separated from the group with no food, water, or idea where they are. Happy injures her leg during a tumble into strategically-located ravine.
Toby finally convince her to let him check out her injury, being a M.D. and all (note: psychiatrists, not to be confused with psychologist, ARE medical doctors).
He pulls off her boot and gives her feet a worried look. This is the realest we’ve seen Toby to date. He even ignores Happy’s foot fetish remark.
“…Why are you a shrink?” Asked Happy.
“If you must know, my mother was nuts. She was clinically bipolar. And I watched my dad struggle to manage her illness, so I became a shrink to try to help them both.” Toby replies quietly.
And then, because he’s Toby, adds, “Geez, Happy, you know that there are whole sections of the internet that would pay top dollar for a peek at those toes.”
Appalled, Happy spits, “Why do you do that? As soon as you become human, you switch to wise-ass.”
Eyes still focused on dressing her wound, Toby says, “it’s a textbook defence mechanism to hide how I feel.” He finally raises his gaze to meet hers, but only for a second. “…Especially around you… I say stupid things to hide feelings that you already know I have. And we got no food, water, or idea where we are, so if we’re gonna die, I might as well say some stuff, so there.”
My shipping heart is palpitating like crazy!
But because this is clever television, the heartstring-manipulation ends there, but not before the episode finale:
And Toby always has a felicitous reply:
How does happy feel about toby?
As the series progress, we note that Toby’s feelings are finally requited, or is it? When Slyvester gets seriously injured during a case, Toby is unfocused and distracted. He rushes out the garage in a flush of frustration… with Happy on his heels. (S1E11)
She is genuinely concerned… But no romantic development…
… Until Season 1 Episode 16. While offering Ralph romantic advice (because 10 year olds need those), Toby says “… some girls don’t know a good thing when it’s right in front of them, no matter how many times it has been offered.” How convenient that Happy happens to be working right there.
She shoots him a sidewards glance, holding some form of handheld metal structure over a bunsen burner. A burst of flame, followed by a cloud of smoke shoots up.
“Maybe she doesn’t want to jeopardise your friendship. Maybe she’s never had a best friend like you before and that probably means a lot to her… You just have to be patient.” She delivers another look in Toby’s direction.
Obviously we’re not talking about Ralph anymore. Poor Ralph.
They decide to seal the deal for Ralph in the romance department by displaying a radiant show of fireworks for his special lady. And as we all know, when there is pyrotechnics, there is brewing love.
Yup, that happened! Oooooooo…
Just as Toby leans in to steal a smooch from his special lady, they are interrupted by upset lady teacher screaming about the danger of fireworks on school grounds. Rude!
But then 2 episodes, later…
“Doc! Come here a minute,” calls Happy.
He saunters over. “What’s up?”…
… She grabs him…
… THEN PLANTS ON HIM A GINORMOUS SNOG!!
Oh, be still my fluttering heart! (S1E18)
ask her out already, will you?
So what do you do after a beautiful woman kisses you?
Ask her out, abuden.
Happy bets she can fly her paper airplane “down the telephone wires, straight at ground level, across the street, and through a window.” (S1E19)
So the gambling addict (Toby) says, “you’re on. If I win, dinner date. If you win, I’ll do your laundry for a month.” Win-win for you, huh, Toby?
Happy will win. I can see it in her eyes. The paper plane drifts down the balcony, rides the breeze, across the street…
… Where a truck materialises out of nowhere and giveth her flight path an abrupt end.
“… We be dating…” Toby says with raised eyebrows.
But the end of the episode brings a new wager. Toby says,”If I win, you take me to dinner. And if (you win), I take you.”
Happy toss the paper airplane across the road, and neither of them even looked.
So the dinner date is set in stone. Dream come true for Toby, right?
Then he HAD to oversleep and miss the date. (S1E20)
To do list after standing up a girl with abandonment issues:
Bring her “wrench” bouquet and box of “nuts”
Grovel on repeat
Things to expect after standing up a girl with abandonment issues:
Forgiveness Eternal rage
Well, hell hath no furry like a woman’s wrath.
But love stricken shrinks don’t give up, do they?
No, they don’t. They persist through snarky swipes and blatant rejection.
And then in Season 2, we hear a name drop- Chet.
Happy chatting on the phone with Chet.
Happy going to the club to meet with Chet.
Happy ridding into the garage on the back of a motorcycle with Chet.
Happy sure is spending a chunky amount of time with Chet.
Toby drown his pain in bouts of physically punishing boxing routines. That is, punishing to watch.
To be fair, he’s not that bad. Yours truly has been on the receiving end of numerous jabs. That ringing that last for ages, the inability to open one’s mouth past a conservative 30 degrees, the inner lip cuts from, you know, boxing with teeth braces.
I learnt my lessons- keep hands up. Toby learnt his lesson too…
… that the “more manly, less academic” strategy doesn’t work with Happy?
But first, he is determined to trail her to a club. Because “I just needs to see Happy happy with Chet, and then… I can move on.” (S2E8)
I’m gearing myself up for another boxing match. This time, Toby vs. Chet, when they (Toby, Walter, Sylvester and Cabe) walk into… a comedy club? And this…
What?! That was actually more painful to watch than Toby’s boxing match.
But his black eye from earlier that day gives him clarity, because he says “Chet isn’t her boyfriend. He’s her comedy coach… You know, all this time, Happy and I were doing the same thing. We were subconsciously replacing the risk our relationship represented. I got into a ring, where I had no business being. And Happy, the world’s unfunniest person, tried to make strangers laugh. We were replacing what we lost when we lost each other. That excitement of risk. This means that deep inside her there is a seedling of regret”.
And give her space, he does. Finally. Imagine my surprise.
But the feelings game is still strong
In Season 2 Episode 12, they share a dance so sweet, my heart melted, and I had to gather the liquified remains in a glass jar.
During an assignment, the team returns to college, where Toby is determined to have the ultimate college experience this time. But, as usual, events go south, leaving him disappointed.
So Happy beefs up some tunes from her car, and tells him, “you can check one thing off your college bucket list… the dance.” They link hands, and after a couple of awkward-ish steps, she leans against his shoulders.
“What are you doing?” He’s pleasantly surprised.
“Letting my guard down.”
Things are really starting to pick up pace here. In the very next episode (S2E13), Happy nearly drowns. Toby wants to jump in after her, but Cabe “don’t be an idiot” him. When they finally pull her suffocated and shivering body from the water, Toby is stricken with worry. There, soaking wet, they share wordless-tender-moment 2.0.
But the best is yet to come, guys, because after 17 whole episodes, they finally share steamy kiss, part 2!
“plausible deniability” ends now
The team is roped into a mission in the heart of Antartica (S2E14). Fix antenna, connect to satellite and get out of there in 2 minutes, right? Wrong.
And the wrong turns wrong-er when Happy is separated from the group in the mother of blizzards.
Guess what did Toby do? Correct- he advanced like a mad man into the -40 degrees cold and dancing ice in search for the love of his life.
“Happy!” he calls. “Happy!”
“Toby! Doc!” she screams. No answer. But yes- ravine that she tumbles into like a snooker ball into billiard table hole.
In a fit of rage, she throws her “saying yes to life” book by Quincy Berkstead (Toby’s nemesis) out of the hole. As probability have it, Toby stumbles upon the strangely dry reading material, which lead him to the popsicle-equivalent happy, sitting there unconscious and motionless.
He jumps down the ravine like bat man minus the grace.
In an attempt to warm her up, he makes history- by getting naked with Happy Quinn in a sleeping bag.
so what do we know so far?
We know that Toby is head over heels in love with Happy. No points for that answer.
We know that he will do anything for her, which includes, but is not limited to, defending her against a crazy lunatic, voluntarily getting sucked into a turbine despite the 100% chance of being cut to pieces, and freezing to death in Antartica.
We also know that Happy is falling for Toby. Wait… what?
Yup, right out of the horse’s mouth. (S2E15)
We know that he launched into a series of petty fights with Walter, which landed the duo in “couples therapy” (S2E17).
We know that Walter showed up at Toby’s doorstep to apologise.
We know Toby admitted to his tendency to self-destruct when the going is smooth for him. “… I’ve never been happier in my life, I don’t know how to handle that, so I become a pain in the tuchas.”
We know the two made up.
We know Toby turned down Walter’s offer to hang out at Kovelsky’s on account of needing rest.
We know that as he closed the door of his apartment, a feminine voice said, “Really doc? You’ve really never been happier?”- Happy! Actually, Happy in a bathrobe, in what is clearly post coitus bliss.
He walks over to her, huge smile plastered across his face. “God as my witness, I’m not gonna do anything to ruin this.”
Gentle acoustic melody plays as they wrap their arms around each other and engage in a sweet lip-lock.
We know that IT finally happened.
We know that Quintis (Quinn and Curtis) has come to pass!
I zip my maroon dress- spoil from the boutique’s discount rack. With an afterthought, I line my sepek-eyes with a touch of pencil eye-liner; and my lips, a splash of lipstick. Our pal considers the place “atas”, so err on the side of caution, or risk looking like the jakuns we are. Make a reservation, he says. So I did.
The nice lady on the line is thorough. Clearly she does this a lot. We will only hold the table for 15 minutes, she informs me.
So we make every effort to arrive at exactly 7pm, our reservation time. A row of classy looking shop lots greet us. Parking is easy- rich people don’t drive?
Christmas music plays in the background of Lucky Bo. I take a moment to admire a Christmas tree and its ornaments.
We are led to a table near the back of the restaurant.
Cutlery is arranged on the table according to, er, sequence of utility?
Raised in a middle-class family that refused to pay 50 sens for pisang goreng, I felt like a deer in a kampung– completely out of place and every bit inadequate.
My insecurities kicks up a rung when a couple of tai-tais make their way to a neighbouring table, shopping bags in the hands of… their driver. I’m considerably perceptive, so a chauffeur of the rich upper-class is discernible.
But, alas, the nice waitress in denim is waiting for our order, so it’s time to sham confidence.
This, this, this, this… We randomly point at items on the menu. Thank God I reserved the Tomahawk steak via phone. “The 1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3, Tomahawk Steak,” she said.
“Okay,” I replied, as if I consume numerically rated grub everyday. The truth is, only time my meal had a number in it was the McDonald’s 6 chicken nugget set.
They serve us sky juice- “warm, room-temperature, or iced, ma’am?”- for free! On an unrelated note, I once launched a spirited campaign of boycott-eateries-that-charge-for-plain-water.
But that was 21 years old air-conditioned-restaurants-are-a-ruse Chow Ping. Today, I am 27 years old Marble-3-Tomahawk-Steak Chow Ping.
The complimentary bread, drinks, and appetisers came. We chomp them down.
But all that pale in light of the evening’s main star- our medium 1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak.
The steak is served- sizzling, alluring, and sitting on the serving block like Zeus on his Olympian throne. It might be the trance, but I promise you the air around it fizzled, like the surrounding oxygen is ad hoc to the existence of that slab of royalty.
So we let our Gen-Y instincts take the reigns, and instantly whip out our phones to capture this moment that will survive for lifetimes to come. The waitress waits patiently as we feed our cameras. Later, Broady remarked that the wait staff probably have personal records: longest camera-induced waiting time.
After what she probably deem as ages, we let her slice the steak up into pieces. The smallest, fat laden piece, she takes with her to spin up a plate of scrumptious Char Kuey Teow (of which, I grade 9.99 out of 10!).
But let us not get distracted from the star of the moment. I sliced my steak- fork in my right hand, knife in the left, because, who cares?
I bite. I wait. I taste. I sigh.
Savoury juice fills my mouth, indulging every taste bud, teasing every sensory nerve.
Are those… angels singing?
The fat- it melts!
Did somebody just compact heaven and put it in my mouth?
I redefine taste-gasm.
Life- never the same again.
All that cholesterol and the 600 bucks bill? Totally. Worth. It.*
*21 years old air-conditioned-restaurants-are-a-ruse Chow Ping might beg to differ though.
One score and seven years ago, my parents brought forth onto this Earth a new life, conceived in honeymoon bliss, dedicated to the proposition that one should never underestimate the fertility of a Wong woman.
I grace *curtsy* this planet at approximately 4pm Petaling Jaya time, screaming, kicking and totally rocking the botak look.
27 years later, an organised whim lands me on the metropolis of Singapore, sweating buckets and lugging a backpack through the intriguing streets of Geylang. But the toil quickly ends when we locate our cozy Airbnb layover lair, tuck into an “exotic” looking apartment.
A nap is in order, but play no hindrance to dinner plans.
Because Mr. Google recommended it and every birthday girl needs a drink, we hop onto a Uber for Chijmes.
In a nutshell, love the place, love the ambience, love the buzz, love the lights.
In particular, love the concourse with the lush carpet grass and bean bags strewn around for tipsy drinkers or stargazing couples.
But loitering on oversized batu serembans will have to wait, because if the intense churning in my stomach is any indication, dinner beckons.
Of the many restaurants available, we picked Prive, because a crowd equals scrumptious nosh, right? Or perhaps we fell prey to the sheep effect.
Either way, we score a table. The first one offered was round with the diameter of two regular pizzas. After making it clear that that won’t work, the manager led us to a more reasonably sized rectangular table, so kudos to their service.
The ambience is pretty. Warm white (marry a guy from a lighting business family and learn terms like that) light bulbs hang around like vines, emitting the perfect amount of shine for an ideal culinary experience.
We waste no time ordering…
… And blow less time shovelling food down our throats.
I would comment on the quality of food, but my ravenous state at the moment disqualifies me as a reliable food critic.
Universal studio singapore
There is a formula to The Perfect Theme Park Experience (T.P.T.P.E).
Limited crowd + Good Weather = T.P.T.P.E
Despite being a weekday, there was a notable crowd. Perhaps, we have the school holiday to thank for that. Fortunately, waits were consistently 20 minutes or less, so yippee-yay-yay!
However, Singapore is always synonym with a chance of rain. Yet, the sun shone like the ball of fire it is as we stepped past the giant rotating globe, under the freshly displayed Christmas decorations and into the park.
In fact, we managed to squeeze in a heathy helping of thrill rides and “family-friendly” ones before black clouds taunt us overhead followed by the promised bout of pouring tropical rain.
Speaking of thrill rides, here’s a quote to chew on:
The standard of a theme park lies in the quality of its thrill rides. ~ Chow Ping, self-proclaimed theme park expert
Therefore, bear with me as I dissect the lone thrill ride(s) of Universal Studio Singapore.
Battlestar Galactica: HUMAN vs. CYCLON is a two part roller coaster. Based on TV series Battlestar Galactica, choose if you want your feet tugged safely within the vehicle (human), or dangle with a chance of amputation (cyclone).
Obviously, we rode both. And here’s the expert’s (me) verdict:
Note: Score is rated from a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being atrocious; 10- orgasm-worthy.
First impression: 7
G force sensation: 5
Duration of ride: 4
Pee in pants factor: 5.5
Average score: 5.9
First impression: 8
G force sensation: 6
Duration of ride: 4
Pee in pants factor: 6.5
Average score: 5.9
One second thought, allow me to modify the aforementioned formula.
Limited crowd + Good Weather + Great Company = T.P.T.P.E