The Appeal: Ugly Tentacles of Corporate Tyranny

    “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 a total of 41 million in damages? Why, buy over the juridical system, of course.
Meme caption: www.memes.com

The jury finds Krane Chemical Corporation guilty of water contamination, contamination that 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 book progress, we discover that the fictional Bowmore of Cary County is cleverly nicknamed “Cancer County”, and not for lack of substantiation. In fact, the cancer rate in Bowmore is 15 times the national average. (Pg 32)

And the people of Bowmore blame Krane Chemical Corporation for illegal chemical dumping, polluting their water, and ultimately, killing 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 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

Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org
    Mr. Trudeau’s driver, Toliver, chauffeurs him with his 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, a hour of private yoga- $300 per and an hour with a 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- the husband and wife lawyer team that dare sue Krane Chemical Corporation- live in a 3 bedroom apartment of an old complex, and 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.

Money talks.

Photo credit: www.dreamstime.com

 

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- 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)

Photo credit: www.dailyherald.com

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.

Picture credit: www.reddit.com

 

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.

And succeed.

Good loses. Evil wins.

    Mr. Trudeau gets his wish. Not a cent is paid to lawyer or plaintiff.

I Wish I Proposed To My Husband

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.

Photo credit: www.attachmentmumy.com

“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.

He does.

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.

Photo credit: www.inglele.wordpress.com

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.

Photo credit: www.forum.rebellegion.com

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.

Photo credit: www.aliexpress.com

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).

Photo credit: www.thisiswhyimbroke.com

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.”

Ghost of Chinese Past

Writer’s note:

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?


Photo credit: www.genstockphoto.com

BHAM!!

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.


Photo credit: www.alamy.com

“Babe, wake up. Babe!” Somebody is shaking my shoulders like an Osim massage chair.

I grunt.

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.


Photo credit: www.youtube.com

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.

Ancient China?

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.

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

“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.

Photo credit: www.badassoftheweek.com

They usually say yes to army-membership. Soon, the army grows to an impressive 70,000.

I’m engrossed.

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 penis.”

Picture caption: www.badassoftheweek.com

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.


Photo credit: www.timeout.com

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.


Photo credit: www.gettyimages.com

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!”

We down.

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.

Photo credit: www.mnfaj.blogspot.my

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.

“You bet.”

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.


References:

Princess Ping Yang

Rural North China

 

What’s In a C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S

P.S.: 50% of this piece was written at 34,000 feet above MSL, the remainder in a hungover blaze.

It is evergreen (man made), and could have paganism roots. Hence, Christmas tree. The end.

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).

Tacitus

“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.

Pliny the Younger

“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.

Josephus

“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)

Josephus again

“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.

Babylonian Talmud

“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.

Lucian

“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.

Well…

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.

Happy generic birthday, Jesus! Cheers!

Optimism is The Grease That Oils Our Happiness

Cartoon credit: www.cartoonstock.com

“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.”

Photo credit: www.shutterstock.com

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.

Abracadabra!

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?

Um, hopefully?

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.

Cartoon credit: www.cartoonstock.com

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.

Buh-bye, frog. Um, FOG. 

Quintis: A Scorpion Love Story

P.S: Based on CBS’s Scorpion.

P.P.S: Brimming with spoilers.

P.P.P.S: Consider yourself warned!

Photo credit: www.pinterest.com

Like soya and cincau.

Roti and dhal.

Chocolate and peanut butter.

Behaviourist and mechanical prodigy.

Toby and Happy.

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.

Swoon-ville, guys!

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tunblr.com

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)

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tumblr.com
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:

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tumblr.com

And Toby always has a felicitous reply:

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tumblr.com
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.

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tumblr.com

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.

Photo credit: www.happy-x-toby.tumblr.com

Yup, that happened! Oooooooo…

Followed by…

Photo credit: www.spoitlertv.com

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?

Photo credit: www.spoilertv.siteblogs.com

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.

Photo caption: www.weheartit.com

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.

Imma dying!

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:

  1. Bring her “wrench” bouquet and box of “nuts”
  2. Grovel
  3. Grovel on repeat

Things to expect after standing up a girl with abandonment issues:

  1. 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.

Gif credit: www.scorpionedit.tumblr.com

Toby drown his pain in bouts of physically punishing boxing routines. That is, punishing to watch.

OOOfff….

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”.

Gif credit: www.sporpionedit.tumblr.com

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.”

Screams!

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.

Not good.

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.

Oooolalahh..

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!

Lucky Bo: Totally-Worth-It Cholesterol-ville

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?

Photo credit: www.walauwei.com

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.

Bread, duh. Because I eat at places that serve you complimentary baked goods with vinegar all the time. Not.
Tuaktail. I sanction this drink.
Mushroom soup. Each spoonful cost, like, RM1.
Grilled cheesy portobello mushroom

But all that pale in light of the evening’s main star- our medium 1.2-1.3 kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak.

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.

Tomahawk steak again
Char kuey teow. Cooked from the oil of our 1.2-1.3kg, Marble 3 Tomahawk steak. (that’s starting to roll off my tongue)

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.

Turning 27 On The Metropolitan Island of Singapore

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.

chijmes

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…

Classic Wagyu Beef Burger
Fisherman’s Catch Pizza
Mango Mojito

… 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

 

Photo credit: www.lokopoko.travel

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.

Human

Photo credit: www.wikipedia.org

First impression: 7

G force sensation: 5

Turns: 8

Duration of ride: 4

Pee in pants factor: 5.5

Average score: 5.9

Cyclon

Photo credit: www.dejiki.com

First impression: 8

G force sensation: 6

Turns: 5

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

 

And the company was awesome.

 

It Only Happens In The Movies: Love- A Feeling Or A Choice?

Photo credit: www.usborne.com

P.S.: Contains spoilers, fury, blatant honesty and slight profanity.

P.P.S.: If you’re here but resent my rambling, note only this: READ. THE. BOOK.

the book

I’m a chick lit junkie. Despite my resident identity as a feminist, I swoon like a fan girl at the cliches: (1) the rain kiss. (2) The airport kiss (3) The I-screwed-up kiss. And my personal favourite, (4)  the will-they-won’t-they-they-will! kiss.

I was genuinely upset finishing It Only Happens In The Movies. Not at the ending, because that was marvellous on multiple tiers.

Despite his (male love interest) Hollywood-worthy grand apology (for cheating on her), Audrey walks away. She made a choice. She can NOT be with somebody who could hurt her the way he did. The couple does NOT end up together.

And yet, it was a happy ending. Once again, Holly Bourne hits home with a pleasantly felicious finale.

No, the sorrow came latched onto the anticlimactic surge that ensue the flip of the last page; because with that bolded “THE END” concludes my journey with Audrey Winters.

The journey that had me laughing, hurting and fuming to various degrees.

Yet, I have an ugly confession: I wish Audrey’s father a gnarlier fate.

In fact, I wish I could put him in a body suit of red ants, tie him with up with ropes soaked in rat’s urine, then dye his hair green, place him in front of a starving horse, and watch as said horse take big chunks off his grassy-looking locks. I will then gift him nose hair extensions and coat his feet with black tar so every heavy-footed step he takes brings a risk of tripping over his flowing nose hair.

I cruised through the book brimming with anger at that fictional character that is a perfect personification of so many real life men in our world today.

In fewer words, I’m legit pissed at Audrey’s dad and his bitchy new wife, Jessie.

After years and years of marriage, Audrey’s ass hole dad leaves her mom for a wife “upgrade”. He discards them like yesterday’s rubbish. During the first half of the book, he convince Audrey that one “couldn’t help falling in love”. Apparently, “it’s not something you have control over” (Bourne, 2017, p131). Later, he adds salt to the wound by selling the house they live in, only because his bitchy new wife demands so.

Towards the end, Audrey’s mom end up in the hospital. In a flight of rage, she marches over to the house of the man that calls himself her dad yet really is nothing more than a sperm donor her dad’s house.

I’m cheering her on with every fibre in my being. Go, Audrey, go!

She starts by yelling at bitchy new wife. “Are you happy now, you HOME WRECKING WHORE?” (Bourne, 2017, p360)

Yes! Finally! I’ve waited 360 pages for this moment!

Bitchy New wife has the audacity to say “isn’t she (Audrey’s mum) pathetic? Hasn’t she let herself go? I’ll never let myself get like that. No wonder he left her.”

Sperm donor Audrey’s dad walks out and interrupts. So Audrey says, “I’M NOT TALKING TO YOU, I’M TALKING TO YOUR SLUT OF A WIFE.”

DOUBLE YES!!

Bitchy New wife just stands there, “vacant, placid, and passive”. Apparently how sperm donor Audrey’s dad likes his women. (Bourne, 2017, p361)

The exchange continues, and then my favourite part. “…How can you love her, dad? A woman who doesn’t mind breaking up a marriage? Who then tries to strip that family for everything she can get?” (Bourne, 2017, p362)

BINGO.

… “I’M STILL YOUR DAUGHTER, DAD, DON’T TAKE THE HOUSE. DON’T DO THIS. DON’T CHOOSE THAT BITCH OVER US.” (Bourne, 2017, p363)

And then sperm donor says, “Don’t ask me to choose between you and Jessie. Because I’ll choose her.”

He chose.

He could sell his affair as an eclipse of the heart- because love is a feeling- and “you can’t help your feelings” (Bourne, 2017, p315). Here’s news, old man: you sure as rain can “choose what to do about them”.

And “he chose. He chose to let them overwhelm him. He chose to leave (Audrey’s) Mum. He chose to leave (Audrey and her brother Dougie)”. (Bourne, 2017, p315)

He choose to forsake his marriage. To pull the rug that is stability from under two teenagers. Because, love is “a feeling and not a choice”.

on love as a choice and “the one”

Despite my love for ships and chick lit, I consider myself relatively realistic about love. I’ve never subscribed to the Disney version of relationships.

My first boyfriend donned a suit and ran through a mall with a bouquet of flowers for me. Obviously, I was touched, but “touched” summed it all. From my point of view, gestures like that were reserved for the big screen (or iPad screen)- and extremely awkward to live in real life. I know “awkward” was 90% of my inner turmoil when he scampered into TGIF, panting like a mad dog, flowers missing a petal or two. A scene like this would pen out perfectly in a Reese Witherspoon movie with I’ve Had The Time of My Life blasting in the background. But in reality, he looked so out of place in the penguin suit, I had to feign captivation.

In fact, on a later date when I received a loooong out of the blue sms (no WhatsApp then) informing me that he won’t always manage such over the top gestures- no doubt the aftereffect of his overthinking, I secretly sighted with relief. What, no more pretending to love every moment of slow dancing with you while hundreds of people stare and snicker behind our backs?

I now realise that he moulded our time to fit some cooked up fantasy, making assumptions about my love languages- forgivable since it was, after all, young love.

Yet, history repeats itself in the love language department when a later boyfriend march on with blatant disregard for mine. Ironically, one of the first things he said when we started dating was, “我知道女孩子要的是什么” (loose translation: I understand every woman’s desire).

He went on to carry all 6 shopping bags, leaving me none, despite my constant pleas- “just give me something to carry”.

“你的责任是牵我的手。” (Translation: your sole duty is to hold my hand), he replied.

Meme credit: www.pinterest.com

Sorry, was the eye roll too obvious? Oh, I didn’t mean to shoot that boogie in an attempt to mute my snort either, I apologise.

And after a bad breakup, he tried to win me back by cleaning my apartment- completely against my will. “Don’t do it,” I said. “I’ll clean myself.”

If he knew the first thing about me, he’ll know NOT to carry all 6 bags and NOT to clean my apartment- because it makes me feel useless.

And if you want good in my books, you do NOT make me feel useless.

So what he really did, was seal his fate and proved to me that he’s NOT the one.

Which is also how I realised that Dickson was the one (do you believe in the one?). At the yardstick 2 years mark- for the sake of a tangible timeline- he knew NOT allow me any feeling of uselessness.

With regard the one, I once grasp fervently to the notion that love is a choice and not a feeling. The one is a myth fit for fairytales, I insisted. Feelings fade, but a choice endures. When I was young, mama said: “don’t fall in love. Instead, grow in love- for you may fall out of love, yet to grow out of love is an improbable feat.”

When stuck in a love triangle with that mindset, I played the familiar cards- opting choice over feeling. Today, I readily admit there were more feelings for the guy I didn’t choose (Guy 1), not because I discerned him to be the one. Rather, he (Guy 1) hit the right buttons in degrees that exceed the guy I did choose (Guy 2). He (Guy 1) fed my narcissistic complex with words and ego-boosting praises: my love language. On the other hand, “chosen guy” (Guy 2) insisted on “chivalry acts” like opening car doors, completely oblivious to the dreaded feeling of uselessness it cause me.

Yet, I picked him (Guy 2). The guy who looked better on paper- because I convinced myself that love is a choice and not a feeling. So choose the one with better terms, right?- A blunder of epic proportions.

As events have it, neither guy was right for me- my greatest mistake is the failure to recognise it. Turns out, there IS a limit when choosing to love a guy whose core personality disgust you.

Then I met Dickson.

And I didn’t need a conscious effort to fall in love, because I just did.

But despite my exciting depiction of our relationship, there ARE boring days. Here’s a snippet from my wedding speech:

Racing heartbeats, sweaty palms… I remember this warm fuzzy feeling that saturated me. I won’t lie: I fell in love. Over time, the excitement reduced, but in its place: familiarity, security and comfort. Infatuation became deliberate love. The initial high kicks in every now and then, but other than that, boring monotonous love. And I surprised myself: I adore this boring monotonous love. I WANT boring monotonous love.

Is my want for boring monotonous love with him a testament that he is the one?

I don’t know.

What I do know, is the ease in which our conversations flow; that natural sync. The mutual familiarity with body language, and how effortless we read between the other’s lines.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a previous post said “I once described our chemistry as proteins that fit perfectly with specific substrates. These proteins are called enzymes. We are enzyme and substrate. The key and lock fit perfectly. The two jigsaw puzzle pieces are apt”. Like the slices fell into place and everything just made sense.

There is a difference between a clash in opinions vs. personality. I may not agree with all his opinions, but I have zero issue with his character*. It is my personal theory that to qualify as the one, harmonious personalities are required, opinions and interest being secondary.

*I understand the difference between personality and character too. But in this context, I refer to the traits that makes him, him.

Of course, there is no perfect the one. When two individuals merge lives into one, work is inevitable- a controlled variable. The independent variable is the suitability of characters; and the dependant variable? – The amount of work required for a successful** relationship.

**Success is subjective, but for the sake of this relationship- a functional and relatively happy union.

SO MOVIES- YAY OR NAY?

The theme of the book is that movies are not realistic.

For a school project, Audrey interviews Jane, a relationship counsellor about her views on romance films.

The problem with romance films, she explained, is that they always finish premature. Drag it on and you will see the fights, the discontent, the jealousy, the unfaithfulness.

“The movie either ends when the couple gets together, or someone dies before you can see the relationship develop. So you only see this perfect idea of this couple. You don’t see the niggles that can become cracks and how those can become giant crevices over time” (Bourne, 2017, p312). At this point, I figured out why show ratings drop when popular ships finally transpire.

And then she addresses the trillion dollar question: is love a feeling or a choice?

“A feeling,” says Audrey- spoken like a woman in love.

Then Jane replies, “… ask any couple who’ve been married a few decades the same question? They all say it’s a choice. Every last one of them.”

“… They get up every single morning and make a conscious decision to stay with the person they’re with. On the good days, that choice is easier. On the bad days, they really have to fight the feeling in them to make the opposite choice. To leave. To find someone else. To walk away***.” (Bourne, 2017, p314)

Photo credit: www.lifehack.org

*** In Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed (sequel to famed Eat, Pray, Love), she presented an analogy of Greeks vs Romans. “The perfect Greek lover is erotic; the perfect Hebrew lover is faithful. Passion is Greek; fidelity is Hebrew” (Gilbert, 2010, p306). A Greek remains in a marriage for love, a Hebrew stays out of duty and religious/moral convictions. With that in mind, 2 people remaining in marriage might not be a sufficient datum as to the health of their relationship.

20 years old Chow Ping insisted that love is a choice. 27 years old Chow Ping says, love is a Kit Kat ice cream. Eat through the sweet, fluffy joy to meet the cold hard centre- the Kit Kat chocolate wafer. Yet, the chocolate wafer’s texture does nothing to cheat its taste- more sweetness.

Different textures, same sweetness.

Love- a choice AND a feeling- both equally sweet.

Photo credit: www.osem.co.il

Reference:

Bourne, H. (2017). It only happens in the movies. London, UK: Usborne Publishing Ltd.

Gilbert, E. (2010). New York, NY: Penguin Group.

My Husband is Allergic to Vegetables

Monitoring my husband’s diet is a full time job. He’ll convince me potato chips and tim tams are vegetables if he could.

Photo credit: www.pinterest.com

Here are among his many come backs when probed about his vegetable intake:


“I had bak kut teh. Teh is tea. Tea is green. Green equals vege. The end.”


“Didn’t you see the leaf and caramelised onion in my burger? And fries on the side?”


“I can neither confirm nor deny that my fruit and vegetable portions today suffice.”


“I had curry WITH potatoes. Potatoes equal plants which are vegetables. Quota satisfied!”


“Roti telur bawang has bawang (onion), okay? Duh, balanced diet.”


“I had nasi lemak. Everybody knows nasi lemak has timun (cucumber).”


“Spring onion in my Cili pan mee. Aha!”


“I’ve trained my body. Unlike yours, it’s not dependant on fruits and vegetables.”


“Didn’t you see my Chatime grass jelly milk tea? Jelly made of grass! If that isn’t vege, then what is?”


“Its an illuminati ploy. They feed the masses fake information about vegetables needs, then monopolise the market!”


The one and only time he orders a burger with a single leaf- and me, a veggieless one- he gloats about every freaking day.


Upon coming home from work, I remark, “you were supposed to eat the apple in the fridge.”

To which he replies, “fine, I’m not going to lie…”

He takes a deep breath, and address me with a pointed look.

“… The apple reproduced.”


And then we did body shots- with veggie juice.

One of which involves a handstand, another- stupendous balancing, and finally- substantial licking.

Veggie Juice Shot

Peculiarly, he had no come back.