Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Guess it's appropriate that I timed this post for today since I'm here to talk about the origin of superstition - and what better time than to speak of it during spooky Halloween.

I know... I know... With the shockingly rapid development of science and its many eager advocates ready to debunk the entire tome of ancient superstitions, it's easy to decry such unsubstantiated beliefs as so much hogwash. The unlucky number 13. The black cat. The rabbit's foot.

Yet such simple superstitions began centuries ago as a way for our unworldly ancestors to explain mysterious circumstances or events with the little knowledge that they had. Trip over a black cat. Stumble onto a bad encounter. Simply no other way to explain such ill fortune, is there?

Which brings us to Charming Calvin's revolting mirror - or what I shall henceforth term the Borgia Mirror on account of his venerable mother. And her inexplicable fear of mirrors. Suffice to say, Madame Borgia expended all her considerable efforts to rid Pemberley of said mirror, even resorting to such shameful tactics as a cowardly swoon!

Finally she even took it upon herself to have the ill-fated mirror surreptitiously carted out in the dead of night and summarily disposed off. Rumour would have it that Madame Borgia personally lit the sacrificial pyre herself while muttering words of unholy scripture under her breath. All much to the disgust of her disapproving son.

A week after the mirror was reduced to relatively benign ashes, Calvin's team mysteriously lost a significant contract.

Two weeks later, he had his weekend trip inadvertently cancelled.

Then just yesterday he woke up with a horrible sprain on the neck.

Shit! Now my neck too?!

Coincidence? Charming Calvin obviously thinks not - and attributes the string of misfortunes to the infelicitous absence of the mirror.

Calvin : I think that mirror actually brought me luck. Without it, I seem to be afflicted with all sorts of unaccountable misfortune.
Paul : It could be coincidence.
Calvin : It's definitely the mirror. Pretty sure it must have deflected evil away!
Paul : Doesn't seem to have worked on me.
Calvin : Maybe it's not that powerful.
Paul : So you will get another?
Calvin : Certainly I will. An even larger, more imposing one to break the Pemberley Jinx

Guess we haven't heard the end of the Borgia Mirror yet.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Muay Thai

One of my friends - Jaunty Jared in fact - is one of the most peaceable men I know. Though he does have the extremely rare, fleeting moments of seething pique over seemingly trivial issues, our surprisingly zen fellow probably wouldn't hurt a fly. And yet he is a trained exponent of muay thai, the Thai art of kickboxing.

Me, I find myself with vengeful thoughts of exterminating half the human race right before a hearty breakfast. And yet I find myself purging myself of such genocidal bile with a bit of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.

A tall drink of water...

So on impulse I have decided to take up kickboxing. Might as well channel all that crazed aggression somewhere before I run crazy amok down the streets. Which is why I approached the local muay thai instructor here, our very own booming baritone-voiced Kick-ass Ken.

Ken : You want to take up kickboxing?
Paul : Think of me as Kungfu Panda.
Ken : Huh?
Paul : Utterly clumsy.
Ken : No worries. We all start as beginners.
Paul : You haven't seem me stumble yet.

Seriously. My voice dropped several octaves while we were talking.

So yeah, I'll see how it goes. Don't know exactly how long I'll last. Chances are Ken will throw up his hands in patent disbelief wondering how anyone could possibly be as uncoordinated as I am - before giving me the final round kick of rejection sending me flying out of the windows.

As his new apprentice, I certainly don't mind performing wax on, wax off on his sculpted abs.

BTW did I mention I've seen him in the showers almost naked?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Answer Me 1997

Contrary to popular expectation, I actually hated school.

At least while I was in it. Not the model student everyone thinks I was. Certainly a near Herculean task for my poor mother to drag me growling, groaning and griping out of my den at some ungodly hour of the morning to head to school. Even worse to have me frowning at the breakfast table mumbling heathenish curses in a dozen unrecognizable languages over the endlessly trivial piles of homework dumped on the pitiable students. Repeated mutters about blood sacrifice must have worried her a little.

By then she must have guessed at the hours I spent staring at the languidly ticking clock waiting for the interminable hours trapped in the gaol called school to be over. The brief freedom of recess was the only respite I had in those days, that and the fleeting seconds in between classroom periods. Or when the regular teacher was otherwise unavailable for the duration due to training courses, seasonal illnesses or ... unforeseen calamities induced by the rare blood sacrifice *cough* hit by a runaway bus.

Yes, I wasn't all that big a fan of school. So it must be creeping senility that has me looking back reminiscing and actually finding those horrible years of schooling almost ...dare I say it... pleasant.

High school antics before the days of facebook, cellphones and broadband

Or it could be my recent viewings of Answer Me 1997 that has me smiling at high school memories.

My ISO : You always get maudlin close to your birthday.
Paul : Yeah yeah old age creeping up.
My ISO : So any ideas on what to get you?
Paul : You know I like surprises.
My ISO : Liar.
Paul : Good surprises I mean.
My ISO : Hmm.
Paul : Maybe you could watch Answer Me 1997 with me.
My ISO : A Korean drama? That's torture.
Paul : And the perfect gift.
My ISO : Revenge, I knew it.
Paul : At least there's no blood sacrifice involved.
My ISO : That I know of!

Ah high school.

Answer Me 1997 is basically a refreshing drama series about friends in their thirties reminiscing about their schooldays during their high school reunion. The good old days when everything seemed so crazy godawful important despite how insignificant it may seem now, so much so I can barely recall half the things I used to get so wildly passionate about. From local pop stars to the school dreamboat. From Dance Dance Revolution to the Tamagotchi.

In retrospect, almost everything gains that nostalgic sepia tone of halcyon days, even the once dreaded classroom bully. Hell, even the loathsome bouncing buzz of the dial-up internet sounds almost soothing with the passing of age.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nine Yin Manual

For readers of martial arts novels - and ardent followers of the wuxia television serials, an amusing literary trope frequently used would be the misinterpretation of ancient manuals, usually born out of duplicity, resulting in dementia, dismemberment or death.

Such as the infamously coveted Nine Yin Manual 九阴真经 from the peerless Condor Heroes Trilogy. Misinterpretation of the scrolls and scriptures coupled with astute revision successfully turns one of the main villains quite certifiably insane. Blame it on the yin yang going out of whack.

Certainly not for the faint of heart.

Which is why martial arts manuals shouldn't be taken lightly. A valuable lesson ill-received by an obstinate Charming Calvin who undertook the Nine Yin Manual desperately hoping to reduce his rising cholesterol levels. After a hard day's work, he would make his way to a faraway hidden temple to recite the sublime verses and practice the moves he learnt. Thought he would have learnt from his broken toe that aggressive martial arts just doesn't mesh well with his phlegmatic nature.

Calvin : Might as well down another cup of wine if nothing else is working!

So after months of endless repeated routines such as the Rhino-Stomp Body Pump and Lotus Blossom Body Jams, Calvin decided to put his burgeoning skills to the test. 

Calvin : OMG I think the cholesterol levels are getting worse.
Paul : Alarming you mean. 
Calvin : But how can this be! I have been practising my kungfu religiously!  
Paul : Probably read the manuals wrongly. Or had it misinterpreted. 
Calvin : It can't be!
Paul : Maybe your wicked enemies have been sabotaging your attempts!
Calvin : This is not a wuxia movie!

That's what he thinks. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Up the Garden Path or Down the Wedding Aisle

It was just this morning that an unsuspecting Shameless Shalom baldly confirmed one of my worst fears. The imminent return of that virtually forgotten spectre had me inadvertently choking on an excellent piece of breakfast hash browns.

Terrifying monstrosity from my past that came up barely to my shoulders, all of five feet on her bare soles. All awkward angles, bony bits and graceless grace! Knew it wouldn't be too long before Graceless Grace returned to haunt me.

And it was all because of that aborted wedding pact.

There was always something I always half-suspected, a little something more sincere than just mere joshing banter when Grace kept bringing up the topic of our wedding pact. Perhaps she seemed just a little too keen on the subject of mock matrimony.

Paul : Waitaminute, what do you mean she doesn't know I'm gay! Look at the bowtie dammit.
Shalom : Just saying she probably needs a bigger sign.
Paul : What! A pink feather boa?

Despite thinking that my suspicions were wholly imaginary ( not to mention disconcertingly conceited ), it made me uneasy enough that I stayed several feet back from one of my cherished friends. On the wild half-chance that I might be correct in my immodest assumptions.

Shalom : You know what's the first thing we all talked about when you came out of the closet?
Paul : What you mean is you kicked me out.
Shalom : I just couldn't stand the endless questions. 
Paul : What about it? 
Shalom : We immediately thought about Graceless Grace and how you're leading her up the garden path.
Paul : Rather than down the wedding aisle?
Shalom : Something like that, yes. 
Paul : So you think that Grace might have some ... intentions when it comes to me?
Shalom : Something like that, yes.
Paul : I was hoping to be wrong. 
Shalom : You're not wrong.
Paul : I've actually tried to tell Grace dozens of times but she just won't listen. 
Shalom : Give her more hints. 
Paul : I couldn't possibly be gayer. Should I tattoo 'homo' to my forehead? 
Shalom : That might work.

Hmm. Ingenuous heroine falling for the defrauding homo, probably not the first time it has happened. Certainly gratifying fodder for our endlessly repeated primetime rom-coms.

Guess it's time to nip in the bud any hope of connubial bliss that Graceless Grace might have cherished. But how do you bring it up without sounding like an egotistical bastard?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

National Coming Out Day

Despite what you might hear from our hysterical news media, generally guys are straight from the get go. Though the headline-hungry honchos might claim that almost everyone's turning gay these days, homosexuality isn't actually infectious.

Heterosexuality is still very much the norm. Hence the act of coming out to friends and family; a significant event fraught with emotional and spiritual anguish in every gay man's life. Not only is it a crucial life choice to make but only a fortunate few find themselves in a position to do so without fear of acrimony or hostility.

Though said often enough that it has turned into a schmaltzy cliche, I would willingly attest to the fact that the act of coming out has truly lifted a wearisome burden from my shoulders. No second-guessing myself, no switching pronouns. No more hiding, no more pretending. Basically it's about being honest, not only with ourselves but with the people that we care about.

But there's only so much coming out we can take before it gets a tad burdensome. Unfortunately having the deplorable ( and entirely slanderous! ) homosexual guidelines readily available doesn't mean coming out hasn't become a regular necessity.

But is there actually a suitable time and place to proclaim our aberrant sexuality? Can't very well make the gay song-and-dance announcement moments after the obligatory meet-and-greet handshake. Can't very well say hello, I'm gay in between dinner courses. Perhaps one day proper etiquette would recommend proclaiming it after a fabulous dessert!

Paul : BTW I'm gay.
Friend : I know. You told me last week.
Paul : Shit. I did?
Friend : And I already guessed before. 

Honestly there's hardly ever a good time - so I'll readily admit to missing out more than a few friends in the irksome process of coming out. Fortunately Shameless Shalom has taken it upon herself to act as my avid spokesperson.

Tina : So tell me, is Paul still single? Is he seeing anyone? 
Shalom : Is this like the hundredth time you're asking?
Tina : Not really. But is he? 
Shalom : Well it's the hundredth time I'm getting the question but..
Tina : Is he seeing that girl?
Shalom : No he isn't.
Tina : So he is seeing some other girl?
Shalom : No he isn't.
Tina : So he is single? 
Shalom : No he isn't.
Tina : So what?
Shalom : Aiyo he's gay! He's gay! 

No longer do I have to shoulder the particular burden of gay notification. If anyone has any impertinent queries about my sexuality, I can now refer them to an ever-accomodating Shalom - who is now officially anointed as the Keeper of My BTW I'm Gay Cards.

A timely blog post especially with National Coming Out Day just a few days past  - an annual observation to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement. Wonder if they have booths selling little pink closet ornaments with doors flinging merrily open at the touch of a button followed by the thumpa thumpa beats of a suitable gay torch song such as YMCA or We Are Family .

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son,
the jaws that bite and claws that scratch
Beware the jubjub bird
and shun the frumious bandersnatch."

Fear what lies beyond the looking glass for things never look quite the same.

No doubt a frightfully frightening little Victorian novel that played quite a large part in Madame Borgia's tormented girlhood. Always wondering if something otherworldly and sinister remained waiting on the other side. Or perhaps the fear that her eternal soul be forever caught in the twisted imperfect reflections. Whatever the reason - ever since then, mirrors, no matter how small or insignificant, even the slightest shard of glass, brings a barely concealed shudder from the redoubtable Madame Borgia.


Something Charming Calvin conveniently forgot about his sainted mother. Since during the original renovation of Pemberley, a relatively sizeable mirror was placed right in front of the main entrance. Large as life to her, bold and bright with a border of dazzling white. Didn't take but a brief dramatic minute for a horrified Madame Borgia to stare aghast at her lifelong nemesis, let out a faint unrestrained shriek before falling heedless to the unforgiving tiles at the sight of it.

Hartshorn and rose water was needed to revive her. Citing fabricated feng shui reasons for the immediate removal of the offending object, her dutiful son Charming Calvin had no choice but to comply with her shamelessly distraught requests - lest she fall into an agitated swoon again.

The son finds the way to defeat his mother. 

It was then that I began to hear whispered tales of Madame Borgia furtively plastering up mirrors around the family compound to hide them all from view. Even mirrored reflections in still pools of water were deemed unholy to her eyes. Rumours of latent vampirism and black magic rumbled amongst the fearful servants.

Unbeknownst to most, the object of her scorn - now known to all as Calvin's Disobliging Mirror - remained quietly ensconced in a darkened corner of Pemberley away from the prying eyes of all, especially the all-knowing ones of Madame Borgia. I started thinking of having it subsequently restored to the powder room.

But to no avail.

Calvin : In her near deranged search throughout the apartments, my mother finally found the mirror. 
Paul : Wasn't it already placed face down on the floor in the store room with a multitude of religious talismans at guard?
Calvin : That didn't stop her from finding it.
Paul : Shades of Alice. Told you she would have sensed the supernatural aura. 
Calvin : While I was away, she had it immediately dragged out to the recycling centre for disposal. 
Paul : Never suffer a mirror to live. 
Calvin : I shall purchase an even larger one, one so large that she wouldn't be able to move it.

Obviously her son doesn't share her fear of mirrors.

And now I have found her secret weakness. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Day-Time

Popular belief maintains that keeping a pet is good training for having a baby in the future. Though a child is something I would want in the near future ( willing surrogates anyone? ), I don't see why I'd have to attempt the amateur route first.

Something Mercurial Marshall obviously failed to realize when he first adopted his newborn puppy. Hoping for a proper guard dog for his cosy cottage, Marshall received an unanticipated lesson in dog-parenting instead. With his little dog perpetually in tow, he is beginning to realize that his footloose fancy-free bachelor days would be at an end.

I said no, you're not coming to dinner with me!

Especially when it comes to spontaneous weekend escapades. Flighty caprice simply isn't the best trait for potential daddy-wannabes.

Which sadly left Marshall in a quandary when he needed to leave for his... irregular extracurricular activities.

Being such a frugal fellow, Marshall only briefly entertained the thought of a canine hotel before laying his hopes on his friends. Unfortunately he had me as one of his mates. Not only is my disaffection for animals quite patently obvious, there is also my peculiar penchant for exotic meats - with canine flesh being somewhere on the top of my list.

Marshall : Could you babysit my puppy for a week?
Paul : Not a problem. 
Marshall : Thanks. 
Paul : Remind me to get coal for the barbecue pit though. 
Marshall : Huh?
Paul : Probably tough, stringy meat. Would need to marinade for long I bet. 
Marshall : Umm.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bowtie Stories

Hipsters and hobos alike have always decried the class-conscious tie, habitually predicting the coming apocalypse for that absurdly expensive 12-inch strip of fabric that smacks of prejudice, pretension and pomposity. Eager to appear egalitarian and non-comformist, men everywhere are anxious about wearing them: would it make you look stuffy, old-fashioned, aged, if you wear one?

Don't have much of a choice for me since a tie is practically part of my work uniform. And one that I love. Would feel almost naked marching out to work without that sobering knot at my neck.

In fact, I wonder what the tie rebels would think if they knew that I have even developed a taste for smart bowties. Yes, I can sense a growing grimace from the readers - and I truly understand the apparent distaste. Before I used to imagine time-worn bowties purely the preserve of cherubic choir boys, crazed clinicians and crusty college dons. Hardly anyone above the age of consent with an aspiration to be fashion forward would deign to tie a bow on their necks surely.

But even the snazziest tie ensemble starts to turn stale after a while. With everyone else upping their game dressing in a more sophisticated preppy fashion, how else could I not follow?

Yum, makes me wanna tear the tie off. 
Pity there's not enough fabric to tie him to the bed. 

And hell, it does make you look dapper.

So these days, my dresser drawer has a couple of avant garde bowties mixed in with the more orthodox army of ties. Purchased half a dozen on the cheap in Seoul - from the pink polka dots to the green tartan stripes - where unsurprisingly conservative bowties are all the fad. Hard to blame them when pretty boys such as Choi Siwon look so irresistibly fetching in them.

Though I have a couple of traditional tie-it-yourself bows, most days I have to depend on the pre-tied bowties. Oh the shame! Yes, it's the lazy way but I can't very well knot one perfectly while I scramble off for a medical emergency.

Try to knot one, certainly not as easy as it looks. Hell, it takes a lotta practice :) Don't make it too perfect though, it always looks better just a tad off-kilter.