Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Brokeback Mountain buzz

In the midst of the year-end festivities, I didn’t realize that Brokeback Mountain (BBM) has generated such a level of publicity and excitement till I read this.

With BBM having won the Golden Lion award at the Venice File Festival in September, critics from Boston, New York and Los Angeles have also named it the best film of the year.

Of course, the indicator awards to the Oscars, the Golden Globes has BBM nominated in seven categories, leading the rest of the pack. Categories in which it has been nominated include Best Film (Drama), Best Director and Best Actor in a Drama (Heath Ledger).

All these accolades are from the critics. What about the man on the street?

Apparently, the movie is expanded to being shown in Texas and Wyoming, where the film was shot in and where the population is not exactly “gay-friendly” and is generally downright conservative.

I can’t put in words how excited I am that the film is having such an impact on the audience and potential audience. Some of the comments on the film (taken from Yawning Bread):

First off, I am writing this story from a heterosexual point of view. I attended the screening in Los Angeles with my girlfriend. As the story unfolded, I found myself more and more intrigued with the story, especially Heath's character. In addition, every scene looks like a postcard, speaking straight to you with so much emotion and heart. When the movie concluded, I must admit that I did feel a lot of pain for Ennis Del Mar. You can only wonder what could have happened? How will he live out the rest of his life? My girlfriend could not control her emotions, and could not stop crying long after the film was over. She claims this as "the greatest love story and poignant love story ever told, with so much honesty and truth being portrayed among the characters". This is why I decided to share my story, because it has such a profound effect in everyone, including straight male audiences. It's not to be missed. -- Roger, Culver City, California, USA

I plan on seeing this movie. I know it will remind me of my husband and his best friend of many years. If you think it is tough on one of the men involved in this kind of romance, I can tell you it is hell on earth for one of their wives. I don't know if they have expressed their love physically and will probably never find out, but it has been obvious to me for many years that they are in love with each other. For any of you men out there who are in this situation, I urge you to leave your wives for the other man. It is actually the kinder thing to do, as those of us who are the wives, are suffering also. It is better not to live your life with a lie. -- Anonymous, USA

I wanted to see this movie for several reasons. Obviously I was curious about the tension involved in a love seen between two heterosexual actors, one of whom has a real life girlfriend sharing many scenes with him. But also I just wanted to see a different kind of love story. But the thing is, after watching the film, I realized that there is no "different" kind of love story. Love is love. The only thing that differs is people and circumstances. As a heterosexual female I have certainly experienced the feeling of being in a relationship that was doomed never to evolve or last for whatever reasons, but which I could not give up immediately solely because of those reasons although perhaps I should have. That feeling was captured perfectly in this movie. There is always one person who feels they cannot live without the other. The other is always resigned to try the more mainstream path to avoid shame and inner turmoil. It always ends in tears. -- Zenzile, Bronx, New York, USA

All these seem very positive, don’t you think? Though obviously you can argue that these people are already ambivalent or somewhat gay-friendly in the first place. Thus, it's not like it's a big deal that they would watch the movie and end up enjoying it.

Yup, the people who would get the most good and where the movie would be an eye-opener for them are those bigots and homophobes.

People like this:
They shouldnt be allowed to put stuff like that in movies. I'm not going to pay to see two guys do each other; that is sick. I wounder why those two actors would want to do that. Me I wouldnt. And why would you put a movie like that over the hoildays. I personally don't even want to see this movie because it is really disgusting and disturbing. So why do people see because they're weird. – BlackHawk324, posted on the IMDB Boards

OK, I guess I'm going to have to repeat this again for the umpteenth time. There is no such thing as a "scared" homophobe! Men who are not comfortable with homosexuality are not frightened of homosexuals, they are disgusted by them. I for one do not relish watching a movie about two cowboys making out! I'm sorry, but it is not because I am scared of homosexuality; I am repulsed by it. I hope this movie makes nothing at the box office. Nothing! But of course, it will be praised by limp-wristed critics and Hollywood gay-backers because it "dares to show the gay lifestyle without shame, dares to shake up the status quo, and dares to flaunt homosexuality in front of the average moral theatre-goer". What a crock of sh*t. –jerryip54, posted on the IMDB Boards

About the last bit there, perhaps he should go to Jay’s blog and realize how he and the rest of the straight population “flaunts” their heterosexuality.

But the point to all these is the buzz it has generated. Even people who have only watched the trailer are excited to watch it. And these are not just Americans, but people from all around the world.

A lot of people who are connected to the Internet or who are even remotely aware of news and current events, would have known about BBM, or rather, the movie about “two gay cowboys.” (Though Alex Au did correctly point out that they were not cowboys. In the movie, they do not herd cattle. They herd sheep, and that makes them shepherds.)

Singaporeans have the opportunity of watching it in February 2006. The rest of us in Malaysia would never get to see it on the big screen. Click here for the trailer .

To be cynical, perhaps I am being hopeful and optimistic over nothing. There would still be people who would dismiss it as being a gay movie and thus has nothing to do with them (but who would happily go watch movies about violent rape and with excessive violence). Or those who think that if they were seen coming out of the cinema showing BBM, they would be thought of as being homosexual. Or that watching that movie would turn them gay.

Ridiculous as all those opinions may sound, unbelievably, there are many people who think exactly like that.

It is indeed refreshing and long overdue. It's completely threatening to those that have notions of what masculinity is and isn't and how being gay plays into that. - Jamessemaj12

Someone commented that this movie “frightens” the mainstream because the protagonists aren’t what they are used to see on Queer Eye or the other movies with gay characters, namely they are masculine and not feminine at all.

It is scary to some that they can’t say anymore that “Oh, he’s such a sissy he must be gay.” or “He’s so manly he can’t possibly be gay.”

Because now, that totally manly guy who sat across him at the other table, or any guy at all, could be gay.

Which scares the shit out of them.

All I can say is - Deal with it.

I am hopeful that at the very least, the movie would make people think. Think about their preconceived ideas of homosexuality. Look beyond the gay theme and realise that basically, they were just two people deeply in love.

Annie Proulx, the author, hopes the film provokes conversations, "that it's going to awaken in people an empathy for diversity, for each other and the larger world. I'm really hoping that the idea of tolerance will come through discussions about the film."

So do I.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Stay back from my backside

Overheard during my colleagues’ visit to my house on Friday.

PL: I used to have piles before. Damn painful when I need to go toilet. You see, when I am studying, I don’t like to go and do other things. Even when nature calls, I will still sit there at the table.
JS: No wonder la you have piles.
PL: Yeah. So I went to see the doctor. You know what he did? He put one finger in my asshole. Quite deep some more. I was like Wahhhh ….

At this point, I was smirking.

JS: How did you feel?
Me (thinking): You had a hard on?
PL: Pain lar of course. Damn pain you know. You try putting a finger and see what it feels like.
JS: Oh no no no … no need … I don’t want anybody to go near there ….

I was like, what the fuck? That wasn’t the answer I expected. Probably it was painful because of the piles. If he was healthy and all, I am certain the answer would be quite different.

Anyway, straight people and their extreme phobia (paranoia?) of other people doing things to their butts. With that kind of attitude, they clearly are missing out on something good and don't know it. They keep thinking that they can only feel good with that dangly organ in front and completely ignore the pleasure they can get from behind.

Which is the male G-spot, i.e. the prostate.

I do realize that even if they do know, they are not gonna openly admit it.

Silly straight boys. And their equally silly ideas of masculinity.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Derek, how are you doing?

Thank you again for all the well wishes of speedy recovery and take care. I am doing fine. I eally appreciate the concern shown to me for the past few days from all you.

*muacks muacks*

Just a short update here on how I am doing.

Three days ago
I walked really slow, like an elderly gentleman. Pain was less than the day after the operation, but I was still on painkillers.

When I slept, I had to lie flat on my back. I couldn’t lie on my sides at all, without feeling discomfort.

When it came to getting out of bed, I had quite a difficult time too. I had to get into a sitting position first using my elbows, and then put my feet on the floor. This, in usual circumstances would be extremely easy, took more than ten seconds to accomplish.

No stretching for me after waking up. I can only swing my arms, slowly. Like I was doing tai chi.

I couldn’t wear tight fitting pants. A sarong would be an obvious choice, but I don’t have any. So I am wearing extremely loose pants.

Well, not that loose anyway, till it can come off easily with just a tug.

I walk at a faster pace now, perhaps 80% of my usual speed. I have stopped taking painkillers.

Though the pain in my right testicles is still excruciating at times. The pain comes and goes.

It usually comes when I am standing up or walking after sitting for a while. And then it goes away till I rest my butt on a seat again and get up.

I can sleep well now. Or at least, yesterday night. Nevertheless, I didn’t get much sleep the night before. This was due to the sharp ache in my balls almost the entire night.

Getting out of bed takes mere seconds. I can swing my arms now. And even squat a little to get the blood flowing in my legs.

So basically, I think I am recovering quite well. But of course, I will still be spending Christmas Eve at home.

To all my readers, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas! Sha la la la ……

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Derek's hospital stay

*edited, with picture

Saturday, 17th December

Three hours later, I came to. It was after seven. I was feeling extremely drowsy. Tried to open my eyes, but my eyelids felt so heavy. Was shivering a little from the cold too.

I could hear clearly the voices around me. The nurses were talking softly to another patient next to me, telling her that her operation went well and that she would be fine.

My abdomen hurt. Just above the groin area.

I tried to get the nurses attention by moaning. By turning my head left and right. I could barely open my eyes for more than a second.

Finally, I mumbled, “Cold.” Only then did someone gave me an extra blanket.

Later, as I was pushed out of the room, my head has cleared up a bit. I saw my family waiting outside. They followed me as I was brought back to my ward.

I felt numb and weak all over. The nurses asked whether I could get back into the bed. Obviously I couldn't. Thus, they had to carry me, slowly and gently, back to the bed.

By now, I could speak and knew what I was talking about. My family was around me and we talked for a while. They left a while later, after having said, “Just rest. We’ll come see you tomorrow.”

I began to feel increasing pain at my lower abdomen. The anesthetic must be wearing off. Not long after, I fell asleep.

I woke up at about ten. I was hungry, but the pain was stronger and it overwhelmed the former. The nurse came in to give me an antibiotic jab.

I was told that if I was hungry, they could heat up some porridge for me. If the pain become unbearable, I could request for painkillers.

No, I said that I wasn't hungry yet. And I drifted into slumber once more.

Close to midnight, I was awake again. I felt a little better. I have had enough of sleeping for the time being and took out my book to read.

I was quite absorbed in the book till a nurse came in and I was interrupted. She asked if I would like some Milo as I shouldn’t be eating food yet.

Hmmm ... I was receiving conflicting messages here. Didn’t another nurse earlier wanted to bring me porridge, which never come?

I said OK.

After I have finished my Milo, I returned to sleep.

Less than hour later, I was awaken as another nurse came in to take my blood pressure and temperature.

Throughout the night, I was intermittently awake. And the pain was persistent and keenly felt.

Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer; I couldn't have my rest. I requested for the painkiller.

To my shock, it didn’t come orally. I had to take it up the ass.

In that period, the nurse came in check on my vitals one more time. Or twice. Can’t really remember.

Warning: Vivid description follows. Might be too much information for some of you.

By then, I had taken a look at my bandage. It was just above my groin area and went up 8 centimeters, at a 45 degrees angle.

And my bush had to be shaved to make way. Heh, I felt like a porn star. ;P

Anyway, the whole area hurt. The surrounding skin was red and it extended till my stomach. It felt painful to the touch.

The doctor also removed something that measured about 5cm, called a hyrdrocele (a collection of fluid in the scrotum that surrounds the testicle).

The hydrocele, which measured about 5 cm

Thus, my balls hurt as well. Just the right one. It has turned a shade of purple black. This was due to the surgery affecting some of the nerves, which lead into the testicle.

When morning came, I was assured by the doctor that the bruised testicle was nothing to worry about. I had my doubts, as my genitals was still feeling numb and unresponsive ...

It was also quite difficult for me to pee.

Did I just reveal things I shouldn’t? Oh what the heck, these are just human anatomy and bodily functions. ;P

End of description.

When it was a third into Sunday, a male nurse brought breakfast, which consisted of porridge (hopefully it wasn’t the one promised last night) and two slices of bread.

I just had the bread and a cup of Milo.

Later at ten, I was discharged.

In short, what I can say about my hospital stay was that it was utterly boring. Though it was comfortable and the nurses were warm and friendly, I don’t think I could stand another night in the hospital (the doctor did suggest for me to stay another night if I wanted to).

I stayed in a four-bedded room, which is a misnomer really, as it only had two beds. The hospital has two bedded rooms, which cost about 50% more.

The difference between the two rooms? The latter has a television and a phone. Comfort, hygiene and service wise, they are the same.

I sure hope I won’t be seeing the insides of a ward anytime soon, looking at the ceiling from the bed.

The doctor gave me three weeks of medical leave, which I think is quite excessive. But who am I to argue with the doctor anyway? ;P

Monday, December 19, 2005

Derek's first ever surgery

With so many things happening recently, I don’t even have time to stop and think.

After the hectic weekend to Banting and Ipoh last weekend, I was back at work on Wednesday.

Thankfully, work has somewhat slowed down towards the end of the year. As such, I decided to do something about a persistent problem that I have, an inguinal hernia.

Time for some medical lessons, boys and girls.

Inguinial hernia: protrusions of abdominal cavity contents through an area of the abdominal wall, commonly referred to as the groin, and known in anatomic language as the inguinal area or the myopectineal orifice.

They are very common and their repair is one of the most frequently performed surgical operations. They usually arise as a consequence of the descent of the testis from the abdomen into the scrotum during early fetal life, and are therefore far more commonly seen in men than women. They present as painless bulges in the groin area that can become more prominent when coughing, straining, or standing up.

The most recent one happened when I was in Singapore. I was shopping at Orchard Road and the hernia occured. Which was why I had to take a cab home to lie down.

Anyway, I went to the family doctor on Thursday and he wrote a letter to a surgeon to perform the surgery.

There I was at the surgeon’s office on Friday afternoon. He took one look and he asked me to strip.

Now, I have never stripped completely even in front of my doctor before - I always have a piece of clothing on me.

There was also a female nurse in the room. Anyway I did strip. A little hesitantly at first.

Then I thought. What the heck? It’s not like I have not strip in front of a stranger before.

After he did all the necessary check-up and all, he asked when do I want the surgery done. The receptionist had told me that he will be on holiday starting next Wednesday.

I wanted Monday, because I have plans to attend YTL’s 50th anniversary celebration at KLPAC on Saturday. There was going to be a performance by Russell Watson and the Adelaide Philharmonic Orchestra.

On Sunday, I had made plans to watch the Queer Film Fest.

Thus naturally, I wanted Monday. There was only an afternoon slot left. He suggested the next day (Saturday) and to take whatever free slot that was available.

As such, without being psychologically prepared and informing all my friends of my surgery, I found myself admitted in the hospital at ten in the morning the next day.

The surgery was scheduled for half past four in the afternoon. Of course, I had to fast from the time of admission to surgery.

My family was with me for a while. They decided to come back later at about three before I was brought to the operating theatre.

In the meantime, I was bored. Nothing much to do in the ward except to sleep. I did manage to read a few pages of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman in that time.

Unexpectedly, a male and female nurse came into the room at half past two and told me to put on the hospital gown and get ready to be wheeled to the operation theatre. I was hurried and I was like OMG, OMG. So soon ar? But I haven’t made my final phone call to inform my parents.

They required that I leave all my valuables in an envelope for safekeeping. Immediately after I passed my mobile phone to them, I was rolled to the lift which would take me to the operating theatre three floors below.

When I was on the bed, being pushed to the lift, I was smiling to myself. You know all those medical shows like ER or whatever show that has someone being frantically pushed to the OT? I felt like that, with me looking up at the ceiling, interspaced by fluorescent lights.

The feeling was surreal.

Even though my operation was supposedly brought forward a little, it turned out that the operation before me had some complications and thus was taking up more time. I ended spending about an hour at the waiting bay.

While I was lying there, bored, an anesthethst came over and attached a drip on me. She said I must be shivering as I haven't had food for the past six hours.

Which I was. I was feeling kinda hungry.

Half an hour later, I was pushed into the operating theatre ...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ipoh and Taiping

I was in Ipoh last Sunday for my cousin’s wedding.

I have no idea why my dad wanted to go for the wedding dinner in Ipoh, as my cousin would organize one in KL this weekend anyway.

Probably he wanted to opportunity to meet up with his sisters and brothers and relatives. Which doesn’t make sense either as he is not close to any of them.

Well, except maybe just one.

Since most of my relatives on dad’s side are in Ipoh, I am not really chummy to any of my cousins. In addition, they are at least five years older than I am.

I do have cousins of similar age to me. But they are all girls. And my dad isn’t close to their parents.

Which basically means that I don’t really have cousins.

Anyway, there we were at the dinner. Thankfully, there weren’t many annoying marriage questions directed at me. Just a simple “Do you have a girlfriend yet?”

In family gatherings, no, in any gatherings with my dad around, he would always answer questions intended for me.

I have gotten used to it. Hence, in such gatherings, I would seem like a quiet boy. Or indifferent.


My dad answered no for me. The relatives chipped in, “He’s what, 24? Nowadays where got people marry so early one. No need to hurry. Wait till thirty. Thirty is a good age to marry.”

I very nearly rolled my eyes. At the absurdity of that statement.

So anyway, the marriage issue was neatly wrapped up.

The food was OK. I have learnt to control my appetite, so that my waist is under control too. ;P

On Monday, we drove up to Taiping to check out the Taiping Zoo.

Yeah, I know. First, it was the Night Safari in Singapore and less than two weeks later, I was at another animal enclave.

No, I don’t have a thing for animals. Unlike another goddamned fabulous blogger (in his own words).

We were there because my family wanted to check out the place, as my brother might be doing his industrial training here.

And no, I don’t think he has a thing for animals either.

Taiping Zoo is OK. A bit rundown and not well-maintained. As proof of how terribly it was maintained, there were rats in the cages, eating from the same food bowl of the animals.

Not only that, some cages were overgrown with plants and without animals inside.

It's basically like any other zoo in Malaysia - lethargic animals in enclosures which are mostly to small for them. Not much landscaping done either.

Surprisingly, there were quite a number of visitors. Mostly kids with their parents. My brother even said that the zoo is profitable, unlike the one in KL.

From the look of things, I found that hard to believe.

After that, we had lunch in the town of Taiping and returned to Ipoh.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Food trip to Banting

On Saturday, my friends and I went to Banting to celebrate KY’s birthday. We went all the way there to try the famous hak yi kai (beggar chicken). Why it is called as such is because it is cooked in a pile of charcoal.

How did it get its name? I didn’t know there is a story (come to think of it, everything has a origins story!) behind it until my brother told me.

Back in the olden days, there was a beggar who stole a chicken. The townspeople gave chase and managed to trap him inside a house. The beggar, not knowing what to do, decided to wrap that chicken in cloth and buried it under the house.

Somehow, he managed to escape from the house without being detected by the mob gathered outside demanding the release of the chicken.

The townspeople must be crazy over chickens, because they decided that if they couldn’t have their chicken, then no one can have it.

Or maybe they were just being selfish. So they decided to burn the house down.

For goodness sakes, it was only a goddamned chicken! Burn down a house for a chicken – I really can’t see the sense in that.

Anyway, the house was burned down and the mob left. The beggar returned later and dug through the debris (and soil) to recover his chicken.

Lo and behold, the chicken was found and it tasted absolutely delicious and heavenly! Word of mouth spread about this new way of cooking chicken and it caught on. And became famous.

Of course, no one would burn down a house just to cook a chicken. Hence, the next best thing is to simulate a burning house or a very hot environment – cover the cock in hot charcoal.

We took pictures of the food. These are the other four dishes we had.

And this is the main attraction – beggar chicken.

It is actually herbal chicken. But cooked ala beggar style. Yummy!

The other dishes were good as well. Not spectacular, but they were full of flavour. We over-ordered, as we had difficulty finishing the food. But we managed to finally.

Price was a tad expensive. The chicken was RM43.

But OK-lar.

My friends and I had been talking about trying it since three years ago. Now I can finally say that I have!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Singapore Trip Part IV

Wednesday, 30th November

I had arranged to meet Takashi for lunch. As I was not that familiar with Orchard Road yet, we agreed to meet at Takashimaya.

Interestingly, Takashi is Malaysian and he moved to Singapore to work only in August this year. I have never met him before, so I am sure you can imagine the peculiarity of two Malaysians meeting for the very first time in Singapore.

He brought me to Lucky Plaza. He had chicken rice and I had wan tan mee.

As he had to go to Bugis for work later, we took a stroll along Orchard Road after lunch. He brought me to The Heeran, where apparently a lot of the employees there are our brothers.

Not surprisingly, there is a New Urban Male store there too. Although the shirts there are nice and of good material, the prices aren’t friendly to the pocket. A long sleeve shirt costs about SGD100.

At half past one, S came to join us. He has such envious work days – only four days in a week.

P and I had to go home as I wasn’t feeling so well. I was feeling nauseas and my stomach was aching. Hence, we took a cab home.

After resting for an hour, I was feeling better and we proceeded with original plan of going to the Night Safari. There was a third person with us – P’s niece. She hasn’t been there before and she likes animal a lot, so we brought her along as well.

Of all the tourist attractions in Singapore, I feel that the Night Safari is not to be missed. The décor and setting was excellent, ala Survivor with a lot torches and palm trees.

The first thing that we did was to go for the Animal Show. Nothing spectacular, just a Mat Salleh (Caucasian) making jokes and exaggerated drama to make the audience laugh.

After that, we took the tram and were shown the various animals that they have. Most of them are in encircled in low wooden fencing with a lot of space to roam. In addition, it’s not just one or two animals in a space the size of a half a football field, but there are usually half a dozen to a dozen.

What made the whole thing interesting was that the animals are active. I have not been to the National Zoo in Kuala Lumpur since I was in Standard Six, but I remembered that the animals were few in one enclosure (the most was three) and they were just lazing around.

Fine, one might argue that the animals at the Night Safari might be nocturnal, which is why they are active and prowling about. Still, I believe leopards and deers are not really nocturnal, are they? Tigers and lions definitely do not always hunt at night.

But all those were not lying almost motionless, with the only signs of them being alive their flicking tails. They were actually roaming in their open spaces.

Twenty minutes into the tram ride, we had to get down and explore the treks. They had the Leopard Trail and etc. There was even a cage with bats flying about, in which one can enter. A sign clearly says “Those with a fear of bats are not encouraged to enter”.

In the enclosure, bats were flying from one tree to another to eat the fruits. They are fruit bats and not blood-sucking ones. One flew above my head and instinctively I ducked, even though, logically, they wouldn’t hit me. This is because bats have very good ultrasonic ears to avoid hitting into objects, even though they are blind.

After that, we took the tram back to the main entrance after traversing the Himalayan mountains, the African savanna, the jungles of South America, etc.

The next morning, which was my last day in Singapore, P and I went to Queensway. I had actually wanted to get an amphibious shoe but then thought the better of it. I mean, how often would I be wearing them anyway?

As such, I decided to get something else instead. A pair of Adidas shoes for casual wear. A nice black pair, made of leather, with three white stripes on the sides. Really comfy too.

Took the 4 p.m. bus and surprisingly, I arrived back in PJ at 8.30 p.m. And no, the bus wasn’t speeding.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Singapore Trip Part III

Tuesday, 29th November

The only attraction I wanted to visit in Sentosa was The Underwater World. The others, like Fort Siloso, the beach, Carlsberg Sky Tower, Images of Singapore, Volcano Land (pre-historic exhibition with dinosaurs and all) – I think those were pretty ordinary.

At the entrance to the Underwater World, there is a pond with turtles, fishes and some sort of ray.

There were many marine creatures swimming in the aquarium – crabs, sharks, manta rays, starfishes, etc.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Some sort of rays. They are not shadows. This was taken under bright sunlight, hence the slightly overexposed effect.

Turtles. After learning how to take clear pictures in bright light.

Some species of fish.

It is called angel fish, for obvious reasons. It's actually very small; measures less than an inch.

Doesn't it look like an alien or something out of a horror movie? It is actually a Japanese giant spider crab.

Something that looks like a seahorse, but is not.

These are real shark eggs at various ages. Look carefully at "After 9 weeks". The baby shark inside has grown and the yolk has shrunk.

One of the most recognisable fish, after the release of the movie Finding Nemo. Tthe clown fish, swimming in anemone.

After that, P and I went to the Dolphin Lagoon to watch the pink dolphins perform. Unfortunately, the two dolphins were not wholly pink; just the edge of their fins and their bellies are pink.

Before the dolphin show started, the MC had some plastic bottles strewn on the beach. Two tiny furry animals (couldn’t see what they were from my seats) appeared and then picked them up and threw them into a waste basket.

And then surprise, surprise. The MC then went on to expound that even animals hate garbage and that everyone should keep the environment clean.

Yup, the city-state just lived up to its reputation of being staid and sober.

After that we left Sentosa and proceeded to Beach Road to get my ticket home. As it turned out, a lot of Friday tickets were sold out.

Thus, I decided to get a Thursday ticket.

We headed home to get ready. Our plan for the evening was to attend a choir rehearsal, as P couldn’t make it for the actual performance on Friday. Obviously, neither can I.

The rehearsal was at eight. As we had quite a lot of time to spare, P and I visited the National Arts Museum. There was an exhibition by the Chinese Nobel Laureate in Literature, Gao Xingjian. His art work are mostly black and white, as he painted using ink.

Not long after, we proceeded to the rehearsal place. Actually, P was the one who got invited by W. Inadvertently, I got invited too.

W plays the piano and sings too. The singing group that he is in is known as the Singapore Men’s Chorus, which was formed in early 2005. Last Friday’s (2nd December) performance was their very first.

The theme of the performance was “Mad about Musicals”. The rehearsal kicked off with a song from Rent (Seasons of Love) followed by songs from Les Miserables, Chicago, The King and I, etc.

I have no professional training in singing (imagine a very bad William Hung imitation), or in music for that matter, but to me, they sounded excellent. It was pleasant to the ears and I thoroughly enjoy the performance.

It was energetic, fun and well-coordinated. I would love to catch the actual performance if I were still in Singapore.

I could tell that the conductor knows his stuff well. Apparently, he has many years of experience and even sings in an a capella group.

The rehearsal ended about ten but it was raining cats and dogs. Considering the fact that it is currently the wet season, this was the first time that it rained heavily in my three days here.

We proceeded to Kopitiam, which is a food court located nearby. I sat at a table with P and W and three other people – M, K and Y. The last three turned out to be Malaysians who are working in Singapore.

I so hope that they don’t read my blog. From where I was sitting during the rehearsal, I was snapping pictures of M. Not sure whether he noticed me doing that from the stage.

At the table, I didn’t get to talk to him because K was sitting between us. However, Y was sitting in front of me and he is quite cute too.

He didn’t catch my eye earlier, till P pointed out to me. And I have to agree he is charming. Oh, he has a very powerful voice too. In addition, he plays the flute. And very well too. *Ahem*

We talked and joked and laughed. Unfortunately, when it was time to go, I forgot to ask Y for his number. When I remembered later, I immediately asked W, but he didn’t have it.

Which might not be a bad thing after all. Now, I have a reason to go to Singapore again. Soon. ;P

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Singapore Trip Part II

Pardon me if I seem to be gushing over Singapore. What to do, haven’t been out of the country much. The last time I was in Singapore was when I was seven.

One can’t help but compare. In this case, it is between KL and Singapore.

For someone like me who uses the public transportation, Singapore’s one is like paradise. Frequent buses, common ticketing (EZlink prepaid card), notices put up at bus stops which show bus routes – basically a seamless system.

No such thing as alighting at a station, getting out the station, crossing the street to another rail system. Heck, the bus stops are right in front of the stations.

Of course, the system isn’t perfect. Still, it is like ten times better than what we have here. I have not waited longer than 20 minutes for a bus in Singapore, whereas waiting for 30 to 45 minutes is pretty common in KL.

My second day in Singapore was spent at the shopping malls. We visited Suntec City, Citylink and Raffles City. I bought a couple of Polo tees and a pair of pants for myself. I also bought a book for P’s niece.

At about four, we proceeded to the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, their performing arts center which overlooks Marina Bay. The two buildings, which are also called The Durian locally because of its spiky and pointed roof, do not look as nice when captured on film.

At least, not on my camera. Check out the those on Visit Singapore’s website though.

There were an exhibition going on. Something about Asia being traditional and modern at the same time. Of how colourful and diverse our societies are.

There was also a very interesting giant elephant balloon.

After that, we crossed the bridge to the other side of the river where Merlion Park is.

I think it's pretty self-explanatory why it is called Merlion Park. Though it is not actually a park. Just the Merlion and some food stalls around it.

Earlier, I had made dinner plans with a Form Six friend of mine, SM, who is currently pursuing her Masters at National University of Singapore (NUS). We agreed to meet up at Holland Village.

We had dinner at this place called Essential Brew, where its trademark is that tea leaves are infused or added into the dishes.

I haven’t met SM for more than two years. Of course, conversation revolved around her life in Singapore and comparisons with Malaysia.

She said that the food in Singapore is bland, people there are really competitive and would not think twice about stabbing you in the back, there’s no place to hang out at night (i.e. no mamak), shopping malls close at 9.30 p.m..

Nevertheless, there are good points too. One that I can remember clearly was “When you see a policeman in Malaysia, you get scared. When you see one in Singapore, it’s OK.”

Which was what I noticed too. Crime in Singapore is less than 400 for every 100,000 people, which is one of the lowest in the world.

I see people jogging on the streets at almost all times of the day – even after 10 in the evening.

One can also walk the streets alone at night after midnight and yet feel safe as streets are well lit. I don’t think many countries can boast of that.

We finished dinner at about nine. It was great seeing her again after all this while, as she is still as bubbly as ever.

I went back to P’s place after that and got a good night’s sleep. We planned to go to Sentosa the next day.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Singapore Trip Part I

I am uncertain whether my absense was noticed, but I was in Singapore from the 24th (Saturday) till 29th (Thursday).

Currently, I am suffering from PHS – Post Holiday Syndrome. Surely you know that feeling of looking-back-at-and-missing-all-the-fun-and-stress-free-

I travelled with Aeroline. I took the 3.30 p.m. coach and I was really unlucky. Firstly, it was a working Saturday and the traffic in KL was terrible. In addition, there was an overturned lorry on the North-South highway. I finally reached Singapore at 10; one and a half hour later than scheduled.

At the price that they charge, I was disappointed that the coach’s seats were quite uncomfortable. Perhaps it was just me.

And they don’t serve dinner either! They served some titbits and tea at 4 p.m. and nothing else.


On Sunday, it was the finals of the 23rd Singapore River Regatta. It was held at Boat Quay and I was there at 11 a.m.

The reason was my friend, P, who was also my host during the duration of my stay, qualified for the finals and thus his team would be competing.

As expected, there were plenty of boys around. There were secondary school, junior colleges and universities students. There were also grown-ups in the corporate and community centers categories.

There were girls too. Most of them were very butch. After all, dragon boat rowing is not for the average female.

They even had a breast cancer survivors’ category. There were a couple of ang-moh (Caucasian) teams – the Singapore Canadian Association and another one which I couldn’t remember.

So basically almost all types of preferences were covered; whether one wants their boys tall, fat, buffed, thin, young-looking, mature, white, Asian, etc.

Now, all Singaporeans males above 18 have to go undergo National Service, which is two years long. Hence, they generally have really toned bodies.

Consider too the fact that they are dragon boat rowers. Which means they have healthy tans too.

Tall and tanned.

Needless to say, I had a field day ogling at them. Especially the shirtless ones.

As P’s race was scheduled at 2.30 p.m., I had plenty of time to do a little sightseeing. Not just the boys. I actually meant the surrounding buildings and environment.

Moreover, I have not watched any dragon boat races before. I took in the many sights and sounds, the cheering and clapping, the adrenalin and excitement, the camaraderie and teamwork.

The event also provided many opportunities for photo-taking.

Here are some pictures I have taken.

Rowers getting ready with the oars held horizontally.

All set and ready to go!

Boat number 5 seemed to be heading for a victory.

P’s team got second place. And team that they lost to was NUM (New Urban Male). It’s a brand that sells men’s clothes. Wingedman has mentioned about them before.

They even have a website. Not surprisingly, they have their winning team's picture shown prominently.

It was a bit ironic as P’s team beat them in the semi-finals but lost to them in the finals.

Still, it was an improvement for his team, as they got the bronze last year.

The whole thing ended at about seven with the prize giving ceremony.

Later that night, P and I went to Happy. The name itself is so obvious that I don’t think I even need to explain.

We were there at about half past eleven.

When I entered, my first impression was that it was similar to Frangi. Cute guys aplenty.

Or at least, most of them looked cute in the dark.

Yup, lighting was almost non-existent. The only place that was sufficiently-lit was the bar.

Anyway, P’s friends came half an hour later and I was duly introduced to D, M and W. S was there too.

Besides the lack of light, there were a lot of smoke from those smoke-churning gadgets and cigarettes.

We drank very watered-down vodka lime, as I try to look around for the cute guys. Clearly, that was difficult to do.

S asked whether I found anyone cute.

Me: Very hard to see the faces la. So dark.
S: But you gotta admit that almost everybody here has nice bodies.
Me: Well, true.
S: Which you don’t see a lot of in the KL.
Me: ….
S: I like men with good bodies. Face not so much.
Me: I go for faces. But I find many of them to be too bulky and muscular. Like those in body-building. I prefer those swimmer types. Toned, not bulging muscles.

S himself has quite a nice body. Not too bulky. When he said that he goes for someone with a beautiful body, it struck me that people with great bodies would most probably expect the same of the other person. I mean, how could someone with a "perfect" body settle for anything less?

As such, there was only one thing left to do. Dance.

Honestly, I didn’t found the music to be that danceable. Very techno. Beats that, to me, sounded jerky. With a lot of thumping and not much of a rhythm.

There was someone who took off his shirt and dancing on the platform. S cheekily pulled me close to him to dance.

Sigh. Though I was about a foot away, I only caught glimpses in those flashing lights and swirling smoke. But the body looked fantastic.

S noticed another person dancing next to the shirtless one. He was dressed and S shouted over the music to me, “Look at that guy. He’s just waiting for someone to rip that shirt off.”

Next thing I knew, he did exactly that. Or at least, he tried.

But of course, S had asked him first. The guy seemed reluctant and kept his shirt on. ;P

I spent about 20 minutes on the dance floor. After that, I gave up.

I was told there was a raid last Sunday. I know another one was unlikely. People were still coming in as they thought so too.

Which might be exactly what the authorities were expecting. Better not take my chances.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Red Carnival

I have been away for almost a week. Will update on what has happened soon.

Meanwhile, as part of World AIDS Day celebration worldwide - this year's theme "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise" - and to create more awareness, PT Foundation will have something going on this weekend.

You can find more information about it below.

PT Foundation public event of the year is on this weekend at Sungai Wang Plaza in Kuala Lumpur - The Red Carnival.

The Red Carnival kicks off at Fiesta Street, Sungai Wang from 1 pm till 7pm, and continues the next day (Sunday 4 Dec) for the same time duration.

The Red Carnival is organized by PT Foundation to generate HIV/AIDS awareness among the young people of Kuala Lumpur, and to raise funds for HIV/AIDS programmes.

Unlike conventional campaigns, the Red Carnival showcases the vibrancy and energy of KLites via the performing arts - dances, skits, bands, all forms of street theatre, DJs and celebrity appearances. Volunteers in stunning bunny costumes will distribute Red Ribbons and HIV/AIDS information to remind us all that HIV/AIDS is everyone's concern, and we all need to take personal responsibility to fight HIV/AIDS.

The Red Carnival is a collaborative effort involving NGOs, the retail and corporate sector, the entertainment fraternity, celebrities and the media.

Partners in collaboration are Malaysian AIDS Council, United Nations in Malaysia and the Ministry Of Health. Official media include RedFM and 98.8 radio stations and TV3 and 8TV.

Both RedFM and 988 has been providing generous publicity on this event. One of the highlights that they have been promoting for us is Malaysian Idol Daniel crooning 2 songs on the PTF stage. Other attractions are Philippine singer Ina Fabregas, the Brazilian Capoeria troupe, Jude Benjamin's Team All Stars, RedFM DJs Tim, Terry, Chris, etc.

We look forward to seeing you at the Carnival. Now is the best time to show that gay men is very much part of a caring society despite all the horrible things as reported in the gutter press.

Stop AIDS. Make a promise today to make a difference.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Exciting events coming up

I am helping a friend to post this here.

Dear Friends,

Please come support PT Foundation’s Community Fund-Raiser of the Year – the East Is Red Carnival:

Date: Sunday 27 November
Venue: twelveSI on Jalan Sultan Ismail (opposite Shangri-la Hotel)

Time & Program:

4pm – 7pm: The Courtyard @ twelveSI
Featuring Mardi Gras performances, Chef Wan, ‘Fantasy’ Fashion Show by FAME Entertainment, Charm All Star Cheerleaders, PTF Bunny Boys. Plenty more surprises in store!

6pm: Gerai the Café @ twelveSI
Buffet Dinner in aid of PT Foundation at only RM25.00

7pm – 3 am: Atmosphere the Club
Featuring DJs Bobby B, Fendie, and Louis

Admission by a door donation of RM35.00 per person. Every ringgit goes to PT Foundation for HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Programmes.

East-Is-Red is part of PT Foundation’s World AIDS Campaign to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS and fund-raise for PT Foundation. It is produced by twelveSI and organized by KLiQ. PT Foundation is very appreciative of twelveSI and KLiQ for their generosity and sincerity in staging this event.

PT Foundation is in dire and urgent need for funding as we are very short of funding assistance this year. So please come support us and have a good time in the process.

Event details at PT Foundation and at KLIQ.

See you there.


Another upcoming event is the Red Carnival @ Fiesta Street, Sungai wang Plaza. This
is a public event with street stage performances from 12 noon to 7pm on the 3rd (Saturday) & 4th (Sunday) of December. Bunny ambassadors dish out red ribbons, wrist bands, balloons for a donation. The event is supported by RedFM, 988, TV3, and 8TV.

Ms Malaysia / World finalists, Malaysian Idol Daniel and a string of celebrities are expected to show up.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I watched an early screening of Zathura yesterday with Chris at KLCC.

As it was free seating, I went in first while Chris queued up for drinks and popcorn. The movie was supposed to be in cinema hall 10, but when I got near the hall, someone with a hailer said that Zathura was going to be shown in hall 11 and would start soon.

I immediately went out to tell Chris. After he got the popcorn, we proceeded to hall 11.

We had a strange feeling as we entered the hall. I noticed that other people were holding yellow tickets, while we had tickets which were postcard-size with the poster of Zathura on it.

That’s strange. Perhaps the organizer gave two different kinds of tickets.

And then there was the guy with the hailer, conducting a lucky draw at the front. The prizes weren’t Zathura merchandise, but some other stuff which I had no idea what.

We then realized that we were in the wrong hall. The same movie was to be shown in two halls. The hall that we were in was for Ragnorak winners. Whereas the one which we got were tickets from Light and Easy (a radio channel) and the winners were in hall 10.

Whatever. We were comfortable in our seats and were reluctant to move.

Nevertheless, I went to check out the other hall and told Chris to stay put. The other cinema was almost full and there were only a few seats left.

But they were a mere two rows from the screen.

No way, Jose that I was going to take a seat in this hall. Besides, hall 10 is the smaller one.

The bigger, the better ma.

I quickly returned to Chris and told him that we were staying put. We had great seats and we’re not giving them up!

Before you start thinking that we’re mean bitches to deny other people their seats, let me point out that it was also free seating in this hall. The movie was about to start and there were many empty seats.

Of course we were a bit uneasy whenever someone came in. An unfounded fear that we would be kicked out of the hall.

We told ourselves that when the movie starts, it would be OK.

But it was amazingly irritating that people were still coming in ten minutes into the movie, even though the movie had started at least twenty minutes late.

And this extremely late family of four was the one who asked us what were our seat numbers. Just as I was about to ignore answer them, someone came up to them and suggested that they sit at the other side of the cinema.


Finally, we get to enjoy the movie.

The movie was enjoyable; very much similar to Jumanji – two kids found a strange board game, they started playing, weird and dangerous things start to happen, someone who played the game earlier but stuck in the game showed up, the new guy helped the kids defeat the dangerous creatures and the only way to end was to finish the game.

In the midst of all, there was a moral lesson to be learnt.

The two leading kids (one ten year-old and the other six and three quarters) were good and convincing in their roles. When they were just playing kids and be themselves, that was cute. When they argued and bickered with their whining voices, that was really annoying.

Their antics were funny too.

Not much bones to pick as it is basically a feel-good and fun movie with enough doses of adventure and excitement. Though the ending was a bit perplexing.

I rate it a 3 out of 5.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Harry Potter and Gobbledygook

I watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on Thursday.

By now, I am certain most of you would have already watched it.

Nevertheless, I would stick to general observations anyway.

Bringing a 700-over-page book to the large screen is a monumental task. The director, Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) managed to do so, but barely.

The book was fast-paced and exciting, with the Triwizard Tournament and Harry’s dreams of Voldemort as the main themes in the fourth year at Hogwarts. There were also other events which took place like the Yule Ball, Harry having crushes, Rita Skeeter, etc.

Understandably, none of the above could be fleshed out sufficiently. The initial idea of filming Goblet of Fire as a two-parter was discarded.

In hindsight, that may have been a better idea.

In addition, Dumbledore was, to put it bluntly, played poorly and out of character by Michael Gambon. Richard Harris is sorely missed. He definitely embodied the spirit and personality of a good headmaster, caring about Harry’s welfare and safety with a gentle sparkle in his eyes.

Gambon just doesn’t have that charisma and persona.

I also feel that the Triwizard competition was not fully taken advantage of. I would have loved to see any one of Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour achieved the golden egg task. As it is, only Harry’s was shown.

Oh well.


Last Friday, I was having a conversation with some Muslim colleagues about the hottest wedding of the year.

According to them, the Quran only mentions that when someone is born a khunsa (hermaphrodite or intersex), that person can then choose which sex he or she wants to be.

In all other circumstances, one must stick with the body one is given by God and no alterations may be made to the physical body.

To me, that is not a sex change. That is merely a choice between two sexes. Heck, even choice is the wrong word, as his or her sexuality would have already been wired into the brain.

“Oh shit, I have a dick and a pussy. Which one should I be? Shall I become male or female? Arrgh, so confusing …”

I believe that the above is unlikely to happen.

Taken from wikipedia:
Some research has been done that indicates that gender identity is fixed in early childhood and is thereafter static. This research has generally proceeded by asking transsexuals when they first realized that the gender role that society attempted to place upon them did not match the gender identity that they found in themselves and the gender role that they chose to live out. These studies estimate the age at which gender identity is formed at around 2-3.

That study has been questioned for being biased. Though the ages may be a bit young, I do think that awareness of one’s gender identity is natural and not a learnt process. It’s not something that one consciously decides on.

For more information on gender identity, please go here.

Back to the conversation.

As only khunsa is stated in the Quran, they believe that God wouldn’t create someone who is misaligned in their outward physiology and gender identity.

Of course they are mistaken and I point them here.

It’s an article about Iran allowing a transsexual to have a sex-change operation because sexual ambiguity made it impossible for her to carry out her religious duties properly.

That woman is Maryam Molkara. She said:

"I told him (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) I had always had the feeling that I was a woman," she says. "I wrote that my mother had told me that even at the age of two, she had found me in front of the mirror putting chalk on my face the same way a woman puts on her make-up. He wrote back, saying that I should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman."

If a doctor in Iran can be broad-minded and understands that “Transsexuals aren't homosexuals. Unlike homosexuals, they suffer from a separation of body and soul where they believe their own body doesn't belong to them.” [Taken from the same article.]

Indeed, Islamic scholars are still trying to reconcile the fatwa with religious thinking. Hojatolislam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, a cleric based in the holy city of Qom, is writing a PhD thesis on transsexuality. "The basic humanity of the person is preserved," is his conclusion. "The change is simply of characteristics."

Which I believe is what matters. The substance and meaning of being human, such as dignity, love and respect, should override superficiality and forms like gender in the identification card.

All these talk about gender identity, same-sex marriage, trangenderism, etc miss one truly important point. The two people who got married are just that - two people who deserve to live a life they want and be treated equal, just like everyone else.

Is what is written in a book so important and powerful, that we let it do the thinking for us? That we should abandon our sense of compassion, empathy and love for another fellow human being?

I sincerely hope not. Though I do realise that often, common sense isn't that common ...

[Gobbledygook: In J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, Gobbledygook is the language spoken by goblins. Also used to describe nonsensical language.]

Thursday, November 17, 2005


One of the good things from the so-called “Wedding of the Year” is the publicity.

Though some opined that they should have done it quietly and not generate so much attention.

But what is so wrong about two people in love getting married? Why are people so set in their thinking that they can’t bear to see two people who are different from them, pursue the same goals and path to happiness?

It took Joshua Beh six proposals to get her hand in marriage, because Jessie she was “Terrified of ruining his life, she rejected his proposals - even though it broke her heart. There was nothing Miss Zhong would have liked more than to be married to her boyfriend of two years, but her love for him stopped her from saying yes.” [Taken from here.]

Besides that, it really incensed me that some people are calling this a same-sex marriage. They believe that Jessie was born a woman and thus she is a woman. A pastor even called her "half-half".

Taken from Bernama:
Asked on their sex life, Chung, who described her sex life as "fantastic" said they were satisfied living as husband and wife.

On whether they would have "children", she said that they have no plans yet at the moment.

Perhaps Bernama has its own "ideas" about sex, that it is somehow "different" from normal sex. Why, their "clever" minds even think that their children will be "special".

These woefully uninformed people are clearly unaware of intersex or hermaphrodites and all sorts of other genetic variations like Turner syndrome and triple-X syndrome.

It all comes down to two things actually. Fear of the unknown. Fear of things that are not in black or white. So much fear that one can’t even think straight and act insensitively and inhumanely.

Surely you would also have noticed that the ones who are objecting are mostly males? Yes, that’s the second thing – the perception that a patriarchal society is being threatened.

How? No idea.

Probably husbands who are already married would want to marry their best male friend and that some women perfectly happy with who they are would want to have a sex change.

The Malaysia government clearly state that they can’t change the gender in one’s IC (identification card) because it’s based on the genetic and biological sex at birth.

It’s silly, really.

People change all the time. When one applies for IC at the age of 12, a picture is taken. Why require people to change their IC when they’re 18?

I still look like the same. I still have similar features – small eyes, sharp nose, wear glasses, etc.

For the simple reason that the IC should reflect the person currently, your present physical aspects and not someone 10 or 20 years ago.

That’s the logical part. The other part is political and religious of course. If the government were to allow the change in gender on the IC, it would imply that the they support transsexualism, or at the very least, is OK about it.

It is also a disturbing fact that society in general can’t distinguish between transgenderism, homosexuality, bestility and bisexuality.

This was apparent when Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said "to make a thorough study of the problems and issues affecting the transgender group, such as homosexuality, bisexuality and same-sex marriage."

Furthermore, a lot of people still think that homosexuality and transgenderism is a Western import. Thus they used the all too familiar argument of “This is against our Asian culture and values.”

Yeah, and so are automobiles, mobile phones, decent toilet facilities, kissing, using forks and spoons and shopping malls. Aren’t those things foreign too?

Moreover, what are Asian culture and values anyway? Bound feet, women not looking directly at men when talking, polygamy, arranged marriage, young girls stop schooling when they are twelve, no holding hands between couples, etc?

Are Asian values synonym with good and Western culture bad? How does one separate what is Eastern and Western anyway, when many things are getting homogenous and practiced in a lot of countries?

We all know that homosexuals and transgenders have existed since the Greeks and ancient Chinese dynasties.

Coincidentally, this issue is brought up on Fridae, where Alex Au said that Asian countries should document our own queer history.

That if we were asked to prove “that homosexuality didn't come to Singapore – or Cambodia, Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand or whichever country you're in – from the West. He wants you to prove that the first documented case of homosexuality in his country occurred before the farangs (Thai for westerner or Caucasian), gweilos (Hong Kong/Cantonese term which literally means foreign devil), mat sallehs (Malay term to mean westerner or Caucasian) and angmohs (Hokkien term which literally means red hair) showed up at the Nation party.

And frankly, most of us would have a hard time doing so.

What do we know, for example, of homosexually-inclined people of our own Asian country who lived two generations before us? What was it like to be homosexual in Shandong in the 1920s? In Malaya in the 1940s? In Vietnam in the 1960s?

They left little record of their lives. What thoughts filled their private moments? Where did they meet? What did they themselves think of their deepest longings? For answers, we generally have but blank pages.

The absence of history however, is not without consequence. We shouldn't be surprised that many people go around thinking that homosexuality never existed in our local cultures until imported from the West, and on that presumption accuse us of being misguided and see homosexuality as a threat to traditional culture.

Being queer is definitely not some foreign, decadent culture from the West. It has always been around, but with very little visibility in the past, if at all.

People of all levels of society has missed the forest for the trees. It all boils down to this actually – two people who are happily in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Everything else should be secondary.

Is that not too much to ask? Apparently, it is.

[In case you were wondering, there is no typo or spelling error in the title.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One happy woman - Part III

As I have posted news reports on this earlier, it only makes sense that I continue doing so.

I believe most major dailies covered the wedding of Jessie Chung and her fiancé, which took place on Sunday.

Chung is no celebrity but her wedding to Beh, an accountant, is the talk of the town and has attracted hordes of pressmen here and from Singapore.

The high-profile wedding is believed to be the first of its kind in the country – the stunning bride was born a male here more than 30 years ago.

Chung, whose original name was Jeffrey, underwent three major operations to become a woman three years ago.

To look at it in a positive light, I suppose the publicity generated is good in bringing visibility to the marginalized members of society. To raise the fact that marriage is a covenant of love for everyone, and is not the exclusive right of straight couples.

However, a lot of other people do not share my view on marriage, of course. We have to realise that a wedding is not a sign of acceptance or even tolerance from the public. Far from it.

This was aptly proven when the Home Affairs Ministry and National Evangelical Christian Fellowship's views were published yesterday.

The Minister said that “Malaysian laws do not allow its citizens to change their gender in their identity cards despite having gone through a sex operation.”

In addition, the Marriage and Divorce Reform Act 1976 does not allow marriages between two people of the same sex, even if one of them has undergone a sex change operation.

What the Christian guy said was typical: "It’s clearly stated in the Bible. There is no such thing as creation of half-half. Therefore, biologically and genetically, there is only male and female."

Clearly, he has no knowledge whatsoever about the intricacies of sexuality and sexual identity. Furthermore, he is clearly ignorant of the fact that the brain is the largest sexual organ. And definitely more indicative of sexual identity than visible sexual organs.

In another related news report today:

The help of local universities and experts will be sought to conduct research on transgender issues to enable the Government to deal with issues affecting this group of people.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the time was right to make a thorough study of the problems and issues affecting the transgender group, such as homosexuality, bisexuality and same-sex marriage.

She said it was important to first understand why people resorted to sex change or were attracted to the same sex.

Research papers on transgender issues done overseas would be studied, she added.

Shahrizat said such matters could not be swept under the carpet and while the ministry was prepared to assist any marginalised group.

“It also has great social impact and, personally, I believe we should not punish or discriminate against anybody,” she said.

Is this good or bad? I applaud the logical approach that Women, Family and Community Development Minister is taking, i.e. that there has to be an underlying cause for such things and that she is interested to know why.

At least, she is not judgmental and did not take a religious point of view. Moreover, she is willing to learn and explore the issue and not stick with conventional stereotypes and prejudices.

Obviously, she wouldn't need to spend as much money and resource on the study if she had done a little reading and thinking of her own. Based on the all available information and research done worldwide, and if she was really fair, she is likely to come to the conclusion that homosexuality is very much genetically-caused.

An example of being religion-biased and yet failing to see it for yourself is this interview with a Singaporean minister:
As a Christian, do your religious beliefs affect you in your decision making?
You have to make decisions according to policies, what is right for Singapore, and Singapore is secular.

But as a mature religious person, your values are internalised. That's how you act, speak, present yourself. But you don't think, oh, as a Christian, what should this policy be?

At temples for instance, I attend festivals and so on, just that I don't hold joss sticks.

You said gay sex is 'not natural'. Is that something that comes out of your religious beliefs?
Yes, could be. Well, I won't attribute it directly. I look at it more as a family bedrock thing, that a family is based on a man and a woman. I think all the main religions in Singapore believe it's how we are made.

Anyway, from what I know, a UM researcher has already approach PT Foundation to arrange a meeting with a group of gays. The meeting took place a couple of months ago and those who volunteered to be interviewed fall into a specific demographic – 18 to 45 years old and speaks Chinese.

The rationale for the criteria of the participants was questioned. Apparently, the researchers have also done a discussion with English speaking participants and they intend to conduct a few more group discussions with different ethnic groups and different age groups.

It all seems promising, yet somewhat scary, doesn’t it? But I am withholding judgment and keeping my fingers crossed. Let’s just wait for the results of the study to be published, if ever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Gua Tempurung - Part II

At first we had to cross a tiny stream. Water level: ankle-high. Then we had to wade through in knee-high levels. We also had to slide down a slope of about 30 feet, which was pretty scary to me. Not because of the height though, it was more of the lack of control – there are no ledges to hold or to step on. There was also minimal friction.

Thus, I literally slide down with legs obscenely wide open my legs and arms scratched a little and suffering very minor scratches.

After this harrowing butt-painful slide-down, we had descend into a lower chamber through a hole in the ground, which measures about 2 by 2 feet.

That was no sweat though. Merely had to go down carefully, as the bottom was less than 10 feet deep.

Following that, it was time when we got wet. We had to lie flat on our bellies with water around the neck level and stalactites right above our heads. The water was strongly pushing us forward and we had to hold onto something (the stalactites themselves or the rocks on the ground) to keep from being swept onward too fast and hitting the rocks/stalactites/the person in front of us.

We had to do that two times - the half-swimming-half-crawling-on-elbows-
ala-army part. To a certain extent, it is perilous and definitely adrenaline-inducing.

The rock formations here are different. As we had to move through tunnels that are a little smaller than the average height of a Malaysian, I was able to see clearly the low ceiling. It looks very much like corals, except that they hang upside down and not as colourful. Or rather, just grey and more grey.

There is a particular boulder that looks somewhat like brain coral, but the raised lines on it are horizontal instead of angled. To me, it was strange because water is running on top of it - I would have expected it to be smooth as a baby’s bottom.

During the trip, a couple of unfortunate things happened. One was when someone lost his wallet in the torrents. We immediately started searching for it, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Lady Luck must have been our side though, as it was eventually found.

Another incident was when one of us hit his head on a stalactite when he tried to avoid crashing into someone who was in front of him. As I said, the current was really strong and there aren’t much room to manouver.

Actually, the other person was a girl, who was there with her boyfriend and we all shared the same guide. The couple was from Singapore and they were there with their Ipoh friend.

Hmmph ... girls.

Anyway, the injury looked worse that it actually was, as blood-coloured water flowed from his skull and it stained his white shirt.

Yes, it wasn’t a pretty sight. But really, it wasn’t as bad as it appeared.

The whole caving thing took us about four hours. It certainly didn’t feel that long.

We emerged from the cave through an exit that doesn’t look like a cave mouth at all – it looks more like a huge sewage drain, with black metal grills to match and pipes that run parallel with the tunnel.


At that moment, I felt like I was in a movie, a hero coming out unscathed and victorious from an intense showdown in the sewers. Of course, there wasn’t the usual massive explosion behind me as I strutted out. ;P

After changing out of our wet clothes, we headed to Ipoh for some yummylicious food. We went to the famous corner shop (I can't remember the shop's name) which sells hor fun and other things like popiah, chee cheong fun and sotong kangkung.

On the way back to Peejay, we stopped at Tapah rest stop to buy fruits. Finally, we arrived back here at a quarter past seven.

I would love to post up some pictures, but I was cautioned earlier that we would get wet and obviously I wouldn’t want my camera to be damaged. Besides, I expected the caves to be dim and thus difficult to take pictures.

To sum up, I had an excellent time. I was expecting the cave to smell of guano and dirty with droppings everywhere (that was how some of my friends described caves would be like), but that was not the case.

There were bats, but they were so high up and our flashlights shone only weakly on them. Anyway, bats are blind, so there weren’t any scenes of a group of bats flying towards us when we shone our torchlights on them.

I really don’t mind doing it again. It was a refreshing change from the usual jungle trekking and hiking; from the open-air with lush greenery to an enclosure’s dark and monotonic grey surroundings.

We couldn’t stop talking about it on our journey back. That was how amazing the experience was.

This writer’s experience was made more enjoyable with scintillating and extremely stimulating conversation I had with someone. *grin*

This trip was proudly organised by LPG Adventurer, the largest gay community in the Klang Valley.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gua Tempurung - Part I

I had so much fun yesterday. It was our monthly outing and this time, it was to Gua Tempurung (literally means Hunk Husk Cave), near Gopeng, Perak.

As usual, we met at Kelana Jaya LRT first and we departed at 8.15 a.m., a little later than planned, due to me turning up a bit late. Darn those non-peak-period-trains-schedule-to-arrive-every-eleven-minutes practise.

There were nineteen of us in five cars, down from twenty seven who signed up initially. Which, I feel, was too bad for them. They sure missed a hell lot of fun.

The two-hour journey didn’t feel long at all, as we had a lot to talk and laugh about in the car. A little past ten and we arrived at Gua Tempurung.

We entered the cave after paying a fee of RM20 each. A bit unfortunate for us, as we got a guide who speaks Cantonese.

Now, everyone knows that my Cantonese is terrible barely passable, because my vocabulary is very limited. Furthermore, yesterday was only his third day on the job.

When we entered the cave, he explained that Gua Tempurung is named as such because of the smooth white surfaces of the cave. Which was not a lot actually; they could only be seen at the entrance.

The cave is made of limestone, with all sorts of shapes and lengths of stalactites and stalagmites. The guide then began to point out shapes and forms on the walls and ceilings which resemble familiar things, for example the face of a ghost, Kun Yum (Chinese Goddess of Mercy), monkey, horse, seahorse, a pregnant woman, drumstick, etc.

To me, it was interesting at first. But then it got tiresome. I was more interested in the scientific and technical aspects of the cave, like how it was formed, how did the cave changed after it became a tourist attraction, how they built the metal pathway, etc.

To be fair, he did mention a few of those. Like where the old trek was and how difficult it was to explore the cave then before the current pathway was built. Like how old is the rock that is about a hundred feet high, seemingly barely supported at the bottom by an adjoining one – 560,000 years old, according to an expert.

And he did explain a little about the history of the cave, of how the communists used it as a hiding place during and after the Japanese invasion. There were writings on the walls, supposedly codes about how to move about in the cave (one can get lost pretty easily back then, without the many halogen bulbs that are installed now).

The reason that oh-look-at-that-protrusion-that-look-like-breasts-and-it-even-has-
nipples turned quickly into something annoying, was because they can look like anything, with a bit of imagination. It’s like clouds – they can look like anything with a little suggestive ideas.

As such, I stopped listening and instead look at the formations myself.

After a while, it all looked the same. There are some parts of the cave where there is water dripping from the ceiling and water running – beautiful sights of nature, carving something wonderful out of a slab of nondescript stone.

Of course I won’t be able to see the final product, unless I get to live for a half a million years.

Actually, there are two parts of the tour, one dry and one wet. The *ahem* less adventurous visitors can settle for the dry part where it is well lit and not very interesting and the caverns are huge and one can walk upright. The latter part is the opposite; smaller spaces where one has to squat, crawl, slide or lie flat on the ground, and a few times, all of the above but in water.

Which is what made the trip tremendously fun.

Heh. The off-the-beaten-track requires agility and flexibility, courage and cooperation.

Ok, that was a bit of exaggeration. But it certainly did entail more physical work than the dry part, which was, well ... literally and figuratively dry.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Real Rosa Parks

I find this article extremely interesting and inspiring.

Rosa Parks passed away recently and her death was extensively reported even days after. Not surprising, as she was that black lady who refused to give up her seat in a bus to white man, got arrested and thus the whole civil rights movement was galvanized to fight for justice and ultimately, racial equality.

Though of course how true is the latter can actually be questioned today, after Hurricane Katrina has unveiled the reality of racial disparity, economic, education and social-wise.

Just hear what was recently said by William Bennett, education secretary under Ronald Reagen, "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose; you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Back to the article. The point which the author tried to get across is that any one can be a hero. That any one can make a difference. That so-called “saints” and “social activists” are people like you and me; they were not given an extra spoonful of compassion and justice than the rest of us. That in spite of one’s imperfection, one can indeed do great things that affect society.

For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

I tried to make the article shorter, but I couldn’t delete any paragraphs without somehow altering its impact. Thus, I feel it’s best if the whole article is read in full.

The Real Rosa Parks

by Paul Rogat Loeb

We learn much from how we present our heroes. A few years ago, on Martin Luther King. Day, I was interviewed on CNN. So was Rosa Parks, by phone from Los Angeles. “We’re very honored to have her,” said the host. “Rosa Parks was the woman who wouldn’t go to the back of the bus. She wouldn’t get up and give her seat in the white section to a white person. That set in motion the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery. It earned Rosa Parks the title of ‘mother of the Civil Rights movement.’”

I was excited to hear Parks’s voice and to be part of the same show. Then it occurred to me that the host’s description--the story’s standard rendition and one repeated even in many of her obituaries--stripped the Montgomery boycott of all of its context. Before refusing to give up her bus seat, Parks had been active for twelve years in the local NAACP chapter, serving as its secretary. The summer before her arrest, she’d had attended a ten-day training session at Tennessee’s labor and civil rights organizing school, the Highlander Center, where she’d met an older generation of civil rights activists, like South Carolina teacher Septima Clark, and discussed the recent Supreme Court decision banning “separate-but-equal” schools.

During this period of involvement and education, Parks had become familiar with previous challenges to segregation: Another Montgomery bus boycott, fifty years earlier, successfully eased some restrictions; a bus boycott in Baton Rouge won limited gains two years before Parks was arrested; and the previous spring, a young Montgomery woman had also refused to move to the back of the bus, causing the NAACP to consider a legal challenge until it turned out that she was unmarried and pregnant, and therefore a poor symbol for a campaign.

In short, Rosa Parks didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision. She didn’t single-handedly give birth to the civil rights efforts, but she was part of an existing movement for change, at a time when success was far from certain. We all know Parks’s name, but few of us know about Montgomery NAACP head E.D. Nixon, who served as one of her mentors and first got Martin Luther King involved. Nixon carried people’s suitcases on the trains, and was active in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the union founded by legendary civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph. He played a key role in the campaign.

No one talks of him, any more than they talk of JoAnn Robinson, who taught nearby at an underfunded and segregated Black college and whose Women’s Political Council distributed the initial leaflets following Parks’s arrest. Without the often lonely work of people like Nixon, Randolph, and Robinson, Parks would likely have never taken her stand, and if she had, it would never have had the same impact.

This in no way diminishes the power and historical importance of Parks’s refusal to give up her seat. But it reminds us that this tremendously consequential act, along with everything that followed, depended on all the humble and frustrating work that Parks and others undertook earlier on. It also reminds us that Parks’s initial step of getting involved was just as courageous and critical as the stand on the bus that all of us have heard about.

People like Parks shape our models of social commitment. Yet from responses to talks I’ve given throughout the country, most citizens do not know the full story of her involvement. And the conventional stripped-down retelling creates a standard so impossible to meet, it may actually make it harder for us to get involved, inadvertently removing away Parks’s most powerful lessons of hope.

This conventional portrayal suggests that social activists come out of hnowhere, to suddenly take dramatic stands. It implies that we act with the greatest impact when we act alone, at least initially. And that change occurs instantly, as opposed to building on a series of often-invisible actions.

The myth of Parks as lone activist reinforces a notion that anyone who takes a committed public stand, or at least an effective one, has to be a larger-than-life figure--someone with more time, energy, courage, vision, or knowledge than any normal person could ever possess. This belief pervades our society, in part because the media tends not to represent historical change as the work of ordinary human beings, which it almost always is.

Once we enshrine our heroes on pedestals, it becomes hard for mere mortals to measure up in our eyes. However individuals speak out, we’re tempted to dismiss their motives, knowledge, and tactics as insufficiently grand or heroic. We fault them for not being in command of every fact and figure, or being able to answer every question put to them. We fault ourselves as well, for not knowing every detail, or for harboring uncertainties and doubts. We find it hard to imagine that ordinary human beings with ordinary flaws might make a critical difference in worthy social causes.

Yet those who act have their own imperfections, and ample reasons to hold back. “I think it does us all a disservice,” says a young African-American activist in Atlanta named Sonya Tinsley, “when people who work for social change are presented as saints--so much more noble than the rest of us. We get a false sense that from the moment they were born they were called to act, never had doubts, were bathed in a circle of light. But I’m much more inspired learning how people succeeded despite their failings and uncertainties. It’s a much less intimidating image. It makes me feel like I have a shot at changing things too.”

Sonya had recently attended a talk given by one of Martin Luther King’s Morehouse professors, in which he mentioned how much King had struggled when he first came to college, getting only a ‘C,’ for example, in his first philosophy course. “I found that very inspiring, when I heard it,” Sonya said, “given all that King achieved. It made me feel that just about anything was possible.”

Our culture’s misreading of the Rosa Parks story speaks to a more general collective amnesia, where we forget the examples that might most inspire our courage, hope, and conscience. Apart from obvious times of military conflict, most of us know next to nothing of the many battles ordinary men and women fought to preserve freedom, expand the sphere of democracy, and create a more just society.

Of the abolitionist and civil rights movements, we at best recall a few key leaders--and often misread their actual stories. We know even less about the turn-of-the-century populists who challenged entrenched economic interests and fought for a “cooperative commonwealth.” Who these days can describe the union movements that ended 80-hour work weeks at near-starvation wages? Who knows the origin of the social security system, now threatened by systematic attempts to privatize it? How did the women’s suffrage movement spread to hundreds of communities, and gather enough strength to prevail?

As memories of these events disappear, we lose the knowledge of mechanisms that grassroots social movements have used successfully in the past to shift public sentiment and challenge entrenched institutional power. Equally lost are the means by which their participants managed to keep on and eventually prevail in circumstances at least as harsh as those we face today.

Think again about the different ways one can frame Rosa Parks’s historic action. In the prevailing myth, Parks decides to act almost on a whim, in isolation. She’s a virgin to politics, a holy innocent. The lesson seems to be that if any of us suddenly got the urge to do something equally heroic, that would be great. Of course most of us don’t, so we wait our entire lives to find the ideal moment.

Parks’s real story conveys a far more empowering moral. She begins with seemingly modest steps. She goes to a meeting, and then another, helping build the community that in turn supported her path. Hesitant at first, she gains confidence as she speaks out. She keeps on despite a profoundly uncertain context, as she and others act as best they can to challenge deeply entrenched injustices, with little certainty of results.

Had she and others given up after her tenth or eleventh year of commitment, we might never have heard of Montgomery. Parks also reminds us that even in a seemingly losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third, who may then go on to change the world, or at least a small corner of it.

Rosa Parks’s husband Raymond convinced her to attend her first NAACP meeting, the initial step on a path that brought her to that fateful day on the bus in Montgomery. But who got Raymond Parks involved? And why did that person take the trouble to do so? What experiences shaped their outlook, forged their convictions? The links in any chain of influence are too numerous, too complex to trace. But being aware that such chains exist, that we can choose to join them, and that lasting change doesn’t occur in their absence, is one of the primary ways to sustain hope, especially when our actions seem too insignificant to amount to anything.

Finally, Parks’s journey suggests that change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers, and her predecessors. Other times they may bear modest fruits. And at times they will trigger a miraculous outpouring of courage and heart--as happened with her arrest and all that followed. For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to shape history.

Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of fall 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association, and winner of the Nautilus Award for best social change book of the year. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time.