Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Gradgrind School

Ever since Charming Calvin made the decision to stumble down the arduous path of adolescent education, I have wisely kept my sentiments to myself. Though I'm endlessly supportive of his ambiguous post-dismissal plans, I know first-hand from both my teacher parents just how difficult it is keeping unruly teenagers reluctantly tethered to the millstone of a tedious biology textbook.


Sometimes it's a hellish job and don't let anyone - even our dogged Mark Thackeray - tell you any different.

However I'm glad to see Calvin take up this onerous challenge with a sweet smile. Took me several weeks of him giving weekly classes before I even attempted a peek at his teaching methods.

Granted he had quite a... problematic student to say the least. Occasionally there's a spark of brilliance noticeable in the eyes of those we talk to but tragically so far, I have yet to see anything in his student's painfully blank expression but dull apathy. Of course it doesn't help that Calvin has adopted the intriguingly old school pedagogy much favoured by Mr M'Choakumchild of Gradgrind fame.

Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Potential energy is the stored energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Do you understand? 
Student : Uh. 
Calvin : Alright, let's move on. 
Paul : What? It's clear he has no freaking idea what you said. 
Calvin : What is potential energy? 
Student : Uh?

It was sadly apparent from the vacant look in his eyes that very little of what had been said throughout the class had actually registered inside his brain. Honestly medically speaking, I doubt the spoken words had barely triggered his eardrums; certainly none of the vital information had even migrated via neurons to the cerebrum for processing.

Really. The student heard but didn't listen. Nothing short of a sledgehammer would be able to get him to focus.

An apple for teacher? 

And Calvin's didactic methods clearly needed a timely shift.

Far be it for me to exhort at length on the quality of teaching - not even sure if I could better his attempt - but Calvin certainly reminded me of my own pedantic school teachers. Till now I can still recall the Physics schoolmarm muttering repeatedly about potential energy with very little explanation - and there's me at the corner of the science lab doodling caricatures of her sputtering gobbledygook.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Serpent Demon

Much as they always feared - and despite all the various warding precautions and magical defences they had taken years to construct around the seeming impregnable family compound, the deceptive serpent demon had managed to land a terrifyingly weakening blow to the stalwart matriarch. There was a palpable gasp amongst the leading warriors of the clan as they simultaneously turned to her only to see her clutch her bloodied sword arm and stagger backwards. With a startling flash of pure white, the infamous Staff of Baram fell heedlessly from her other hand. 

Even as Sir Calvin rushed forward to catch her fall, he could hear her faltering words through the sheer din of battle. "Cal, call the children..."

Snatching the magical staff to cast a shield of protection around them, Sir Calvin crouched down closer. Surely he could have her wrong. "Mother? What do you mean? Children?" 

"Your niece and nephew. Cal, Cal, they have to know." Her fragile looking hands reached for his and held them resolutely. "Promise me."

At least that's what I presume happened last week at Forteresse de Borgia. After all it was the inauspicious inception of the Hungry Ghost Month whereupon the portals of hell creak open allowing all manner of mystical mayhem to flare up.

So you can imagine what a terribly busy month it would be for the beleaguered Keepers of the Portal. Oh wait, that might still be a secret. Shhh.

Calvin : Shh. Don't let Uncle Paul scare you. He only looks mean.
Nephew : And barks a lot?
Paul : Be careful. I bite as well


As per Madame Borgia's incontrovertible instructions, Charming Calvin has immediately departed for the other side of the Big Puddle to retrieve the precious children mentioned above. His niece and nephew actually. Recently struck down by a debilitating malady, our poor Madame Borgia finds herself somewhat indisposed and in need of perpetual succour.

Though she has repeatedly refused my obscene Western medical practices and opted instead for a more obscure brand of otherworldly regimen consisting of gory blood-letting, dubious concoctions and possibly virgin sacrifices.

Well maybe not the virgins since they are truly impossible to find these days.

No matter the reason whether for familial ties or for nefarious hellish purpose, I'm just glad Charming Calvin has taken this huge step to bring the children into the family fold. Not only will he be accompanying them on this positively dangerous journey all by himself, the children will be coming over without their daunting mother in tow. Progress at the very least!

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Head In The Sand

Like it or not, it's been easily more than five years since I crossed over to this side of the Big Puddle. Yes, it does take a while to appreciate the esoteric qualities this little town that could offers but that only means that it has slowly but slyly supplanted quite a few other places I've lived in over the years.

It grows on you, really.

Definitely helped in part by a lovely - though seemingly on perpetual rotation - group of friends.

Without whom, I doubt I would have so easily fit in here - without going stark raving mad for a little while. After the manic madness of the metropolis, it can be quite a serious adjustment to dial life back several notches and watch the minutes tick by. Not only do people move a tad slower over here, they prefer it that way and wouldn't want it any other way.

Much to my disgust of course but I have grown to accept it as part and parcel of the small town life. Doesn't mean I don't still automatically reach out to blare a honk at one of the numerous snaildrivers here but at least these days I try to refrain unless absolutely life-threateningly necessary.

With oil companies rightsizing all over the place, several disgruntled city slickers have found themselves unwillingly uprooted from their urban diaries and peremptorily jettisoned across to this side of the Big Puddle. Imagine their wailing cries of dismay as they are forcibly cannonballed towards what they imagine would be the literal end of civilization away from everything they know; a savage land peopled with beasts, bandits and brigands.

Perhaps they imagined it like this? 

Hard to blame them sometimes since all advertorials about this city seems to focus primarily on the caves and the crevasses, the cliffs and the climbs - with very little attempt made to correct the generally erroneous assumption of primitive barbarism here. It's all about the tropical wilds of Borneo over here - at least according to the tourist posters.

So you can imagine what a rarefied city boy would think. Some would however recover quickly from the ignominious fall, dust themselves off and find that it isn't all as bad as it seems. That's what I did after all.

Of course then again there are a stubborn handful who stick their heads in the sand after landing and absolutely refuse to even peek their heads up. Wallowing in their assumed misery for the entire time they are here rather than try to find some spark of happiness; ever-ready to find any possible avenue of escape available by block-booking weekly flights back to the other side of the Big Puddle.

Paul : How's your day? 
Ostrich : I hate the place. I hate the people. I hate the food. 
Paul : Wow.  Much hate. 

Pathetic. You haven't even given it a chance. Perhaps if you pulled your head out of the sand and looked, then things wouldn't be so sad. It does however explain the consistently full flights to-and-fro during the weekends.


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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Lemme Take a Selfie

Think nowadays with self-absorbed narcissists enthusiastically displayed 24/7 on blatant instagram / snapchat posts, it would be near impossible to find someone who doesn't know what a selfie actually means. I mean, they even wrote a similarly self-congratulatory egocentric song about it.


Granted after watching that desperately nauseating video, you might think twice about picking up that monopod to snap a selfie. Don't delete that instagram account on impulse though since once you think about it, we have been commemorating ourselves with overly glamorous depictions from time immemorial. Hell, probably ever since that first Greek sculptor decided to carve his muse out of that slab of marble.


All just for the thumbs-up likes.

Me, I'm a huge fan of the phone camera during my travels though selfies really aren't my thing. Seriously why bother smizing with my hand held up high when there are other minions around to help out? And when there aren't any about, surely there are good samaritans who won't mind lifting a finger to snap.

Though I'm sure the more diffident amongst us would feel a tad paiseh nagging a total stranger into lending a hand.

Paul : Oh there's a girl behind you. Just get her to snap a pic.
Calvin : No need la. She could be busy. 
Paul : It won't be a bother. She's not doing anything much, just staring at her coffee cup. 
Calvin : Just take a selfie. 
Paul : How difficult is it to ask? If they say no, they say no. We can find someone else. 

Whereupon I come to the crux of the problem. Is it really so difficult asking for someone's help? Does this go back to the entire incomprehensible dogma of self-sufficiency; all about keeping to ourselves and not bothering others with our inconsequential problems?

Get a grip. It's just a snap of the finger for a selfie. I'm not asking for a blowjob.

Did they just ignore me? Uh, hell to the no, biatches. 

Which is how I accosted and basically strong-armed a gaggle of mean girls into taking pictures for us, much to their consternation.

Calvin : The girl looked quite angry. 
Paul : Well, she didn't want to do it. 
Calvin : Then why did she? 
Paul : She said she was a bit busy and I basically told her that's bullshit. So what choice did she have? 
Calvin : ...

I have to admit I can turn occasionally mental. Apparently she must thought that a sweet, self-effacing fellow with a bowtie would back down from her ornery sneer, not knowing that I've dealt with far meaner girls back in school.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Paiseh

Undoubtedly one of Diffident David's favourite words which he uses quite frequently - and I presume what he usually jabbers to get out of doing something he abhors. Not that being paiseh in any way excuses him from said task.

However what paiseh means - taken from colloquial Hokkien - is something similar to a feeling of shame or embarassment; ostensibly intended to display a humble common man reticence coupled with the desperate avoidance of any socially inappropriate behaviour that might cause severe mortification. Though sometimes paiseh does seem more like a fear of being shamed with the ever humiliating loss of face, a peculiar concept keenly associated with local Chinese culture.

Undoubtedly paiseh is a word I've rarely used when it comes to myself since bashful reticence seems vaguely foolish to me.

And with passing age and senility, what seems socially inappropriate in the past doesn't seem to bother me as much nowadays.

Paiseh. Paiseh. What is there to be paiseh about?!

Not so for David who frequently bandies the word about. Sad to say these days the word paiseh apparently covers a multitude of sins as the timeworn excuse to shirk whatever tiresome duty lays ahead. Lazy to host a friend. Paiseh. Unable to run a bothersome errand. Paiseh. Refuse to talk to a stranger. Paiseh.

David : Oh my friend is here with her entire family. 
Paul : Ask her out for dinner then. 
David : No la. 
Paul : Why not? 
David : Paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell for? 
David : Her parents are around. 
Paul : So?
David : So paiseh lo. 

Really.

Embarassed to ask a friend out for dinner with her family? Surely there aren't all terrifying flesh-eating monsters - since they managed to nurture someone who became a 'friend' - so what's the paiseh all about? After I ranted for a little more than five minutes, I realized that wasn't the worst of it.

The word seems to be quite infectious indeed.

David : Alright I finally asked her for dinner.
Paul : And? 
David : She refused. 
Paul : Why the hell for? 
David : She is paiseh. 
Paul : What the hell. 

Perhaps I might understand trying not to impose on a friend but when the invitation's already being offered?! Wouldn't it be far more embarassing to merely decline? Honestly wanted to knock both their irksome paiseh heads together.

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