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"Kathy, would you to accept my BID of marriage?"
In England, a 24-year old woman used QXL
auction site to find a husband who is willing to pay a reserve price of �250,000 to marry her
And she found TWO bidders. Anonymous of course. But, smart lass as she is, she won't meet them until the money is in the bank.
Gee why didn't I think of that?
Unemployed man seeks future employment as live-in lover and house husband. Former toy boy seeks to settle down. Rich 40 year olds need only apply. Adoring young man seeks permanent love nest. Bids start from $1.
Aw ferget it.
Bullied girl commits suicide"Don't worry about me, I have gone up above where I really want to be, no bullies, no school, just happiness."
For some reason or other, this 14-year old girl had no innate ability to deal with conflict. It could have been that she had such loving parents that her home life ill-prepared her for life with people from other walks. Or it could have been the other end of the spectrum where she felt so alienated by her home life that she withdrew and never learned to deal with relationships.
Whatever the reason, she didn't turn to her parents for help.
She felt so alone that she had to end it all in desperation.
She was bitter enough about her situation that she left a note to be read at her own funeral. Part of it rebuked her abusers at school. The quote at the top of this entry was from it.
I recognise the sentiment.
I considered writing similar phrases in half-finished suicide notes when I was growing up. Masked in the "I'm ok", is a subtle accusation against those whom she felt should have looked after her happiness.
I'm still not over that horrible period of my life. I don't think anybody really does get over abuse in childhood. If she'd grown up, she would have ended up scarred or like me, still unable to completely deal with conflict -- often feeling worn down by it and unable to compensate or feeling too paralysed by self-rebuke to take a stand or to focus.
This story comes with great timeliness.
This is a trying period in my life right now when I feel like I'm losing focus when I think about my future. How can I prevent myself getting fired again? is the top question. Followed by: what the hell happened? And: Could I have prevented it?
This is an extremely lonely task. Yet I feel that I can't impinge on anyone else to help me. And then again that somehow feels wrong as well.
Day without underwear!
Hey, you've got A day without internet
so why not A Day Without Underwear
(But I wonder: why did they decide to call it National Commando Day? Don't commandos wear underwear? And more importantly, do I really want to find out? Ewwwww.)
It reminds me of that one girlfriend I had several years ago who absolutely refused to wear underwear and always wore mini-skirts when we went out. She isn't one of my fantasies. This girl actually exists.
She was Indian, had dark skin, long wavy jet black hair and a Jennifer Lopez figure. She was the kind of girl who, whenever we walked into a restaurant, made everyone turn their heads and stare -- including the women.
She was impressed by my accent and the shy slip-of-the-head-to-one-side-thing I do -- kind of like a male-bimbo thing when I want to excite the aggressiveness in girls to come after me, not the other way around.
She was really nice.
Got rid of me after two blissful months and went on to date some old Chinese guy who wore a fistful of garnet rings when she found out I wasn't rich.
But why do guys like the kind of girls who don't wear underwear? (Me included.) Is it because there's faster easier access to the important tittilating parts? Not really. She's still got to hike her skirt up and spread them. And there's no guarantee of that, no matter whether we think she's a slut or not.
For all we know there are perfectly legitimate reasons why some girls don't wear underwear. Discomfort. Crotch rash. Lack of funds to get a pair. Laundry day.
All I know is, men and women have two completely ideas of what women sans lingerie really means. Men think of sex. Women think of sexy. One's a fantasy. The other is a self-perception that might border on self-delusion (except in the case of my ex-girlfriend).
"Not a food additive" - Seen on sack of fertilizer
"Beware of low-flying aircraft" - In front of Empire State Building
"Not to be used as an incendiary device" - On a pair of Nike shoes
"May cause nausea" - My website
(Possible entrants for Michigan Lawsuit Watch's Wacky Warning Labels
This is too much!Kerry Packer
, one of the biggest tycoons in the world accidently finds rubies on his estate
?! Jesus, talk about a Midas touch!
He's the Citizen Kane of Australia, at one time controlling a monopoly of the media in Australia. He also made gazillions in legal gambling in Australia and around Asia. How could fate gift him with something like a ruby mine! For free!
Some law of averages must be broken somewhere. (Grumble. Grumble.)
Death by tennis ball
What are the chances of a bird flying in front of you chasing a moth?
What are the chances of a bird flying in front of you after you hit a tennis ball in its general direction?
What are the chances of the tennis ball hitting the bird?
Astronomical. Yet it happened at the Australian Open
. The game was stopped for an impromptu funeral. The player who hit the bird, and killed it, was devastated, but "bravely played on, ignoring his grief" to win the game.
Afterwards the player said: "I didn't do it deliberately. But at least I saved the moth."
That's the name of a new BBC documentary
which has a black hairdresser and pro-black activist dress up as a white guy and experience life as a white guy. Including going to a pro-white march.
I love BBC documentaries like Panorama. They don't just send journalists out and interview people. They often conduct social experiments which have people from opposite spectrums trading places. Like one time I saw them train people with posh backgrounds to be east-end louts and then interview them and people who met them. Ok, that example had no socially-redeeming value, but watching it was fascinating.
The hairdresser had this to say about an experience at the dog races which black people never go to:
"I initially went as my white self. I approached this massive 15-stone skinhead with tattoos up his arm and I befriended him.
He'd been betting vast sums of money - two grand a race - so I sidled up and said, 'I don't know what I'm doing, can you help me?' He took me through the whole thing and I won about �50 or �60.
A month later I went back as myself and luckily he was there again. So I sidled up to him and said the same thing - and he was really nice to me.
That made me question my own prejudgements. I would never have spoken to that man; I would have just presumed that he'd have some sort of problem with blacks."
Two more weeks
Yee ha! Two more weeks and I can bug out of this job and fly to India. I still haven't applied for the visa yet. I'm just too busy at the office to go down to the embassy. I might have to ask someone for a favour to get it done. I don't know right now exactly how long I'll be gone. But it isn't a major question. It simply depends on how long my money lasts.
With the favourable Ringgit to Rupee currency conversion rate, it looks like several months.
As long as I have a laptop to write about who I meet and what I do, a digital camera that stores up to 800 pictures and some patience, it's going to be great.
The latest cover of Time
magazine. It's not often that Time has a cover that I want to take home, read under the covers then hide under my bed. I bought it for the articles, of course. Ahem.
On board a flight from Scandinavia to New York, a woman had an ordeal she'll never forget
. Neither will the rest of the passengers and the crew.
"The American woman used the toilet, but pushed the flush button before standing up.
To her horror, she realised that the powerful vacuum action had got her in its grip.
Her body was sealed to the seat so firmly that it took airport technicians to free her."
Man prepares to commit suicide live on web
A German man declares that he will kill himself on his birthday on 21 January and will broadcast the event on his website "live and for free
That will be difficult for Kim "Kimble" Schmitz, 27, to carry through because he has just been detained by Thai police
at the request of German authorities and has had his passport "cancelled by the local German embassy".
Kimble is better known as a millionaire start-up investor
, a hacktivist who started the YIHAT hacker group
, an anti-Osama campaigner
, a fugitive fleeing German justice
and a lying empty-promising braggart
(depending on who you ask, of course).
If his suicide promise doesn't already suggest that he's also a pathetic attention-seeker extraodinaire, then his sob declaration
on his website surely will.
Things to do: Kill two fish
Killed two fish yesterday. I put a bar of soap in their aquarium.
Observers (most of whom had never kept fish) kept telling me it was the alkalinity or the acidity of the soap that changed the PH-factor of the water that killed the fish. No it wasn't.
The soap was 'Dove' which is PH-neutral. It's has virtually the same PH as tap water and would not have changed it. It must have been one of the other chemicals in the soap that killed them. If the fish had lived, they would have made a dramatic product demo of the mildness of Dove.
Call me sadistic. Call me stupid. Or maybe I didn't get to pull enough legs off of grasshoppers as a child. But I was confident the fish would live. Damn it.
Back to writing
Some time ago, I was advised to spend more time off the internet and do other things. So I began to do that and to write less in my blog over the last couple of months.
But I ended up spending all the time away just worrying about my job and about work at the office. My work is stressful and it ends up being a 24-hour thing. One of my main functions is ideating for advertising campaigns and ideas don't always come during work hours.
Eventually, I felt less and less inclined to write as my mood took a negative turn.
Since I'll be out of a job soon, it's back to writing again. (And no more of this nonsense of staying-off-the-internet!)
Damn, I'm under-insured
Mike St Lawrence sells Asteroid Insurance
for USD$19.95 that pays $1 per year for 10 million years. Apparently people have actually bought it, playing along with St Lawrence's gag.
But the Texas Department of Insurance is not laughing, as a clipping from a newspaper on St Lawrence's site reports. They're investigating him in case buyers are "misled into thinking they're buying real insurance".
Thank goodness my iBook has DVD playback. I love DVDs for their compact size and for the special features that they incorporate.
I've got three DVDs in my collection. I bought them because they're some of my favourite movies and also because they have director comments on them. They're all pirated of course and cost just USD$4. (The special features don't always work on pirated DVDs so I'm lucky that all the ones I got do.)Titus
- I found the director, Julie Taymor
's, comments very informative on how to take Shakespeare to film. She compares her film version of Titus to the version she produced for her theatre and we're told how she managed to take advantage of the features of film-making (such as the audience-actor intimacy of film). As she spoke, I was impressed with her passion for Shakespeare as well as with her personal insights into the bard's works.The Luzhin Defence
- Marleen Gorris
, the director, was prolific in her scene-by-scene description of the issues, problems and solutions involved in film-making: from the location problems (such as the freezing conditions), working with the actors (especially with John Turturro), the lighting issues, costuming issues. Fortunately she didn't use too much jargon and I found her comments very insightful on making a period film.When Harry Met Sally
- Rob Reiner
, the director, didn't go much into depth with his comments. They were more like bits of trivia rather than insights. For example, he mentions that he met his wife during film-making but doesn't tell the story of how it happened - which I felt would have complemented the how-we-met stories he uses in the film. I also felt he was holding back a lot - he was silent for many of the scenes, preferring to reminisce on his own while enjoying re-viewing his movie.
For some strange reason or other, I started reading this translation of The Persian Wars
by Herodotus. It details years and years of ancient history laced with myths and customs of the world of the ancient Greeks and Persians.
As a child I used to read and collect stories and legends of the Greek gods and heroes like Hercules and Peracles et al. Just like the way I read both the new and the old testaments of the bible (purely for the entertainment value, not for the spiritual). After a while the stories of the ancient world all became a messy blur of umpteenth versions in my mind and so I let them lie.
Then the movie, The English Patient, brought up the histories of Herodotus, a peculiar yet obvious link between age-old romance and ancient tales of violence.
I'll probably never finish reading it. Partly because without a companion manual for comparison and context, the histories quickly become rather confusing.
But I'll enjoy it while I can.
Someone forwarded me this picture of a room in a dilapidated house. I've been trying to search for the source through the only image locator I know
, but failed.
First, click on the image to see a bigger version.
See nothing unusual about it?
Stare at it for about 30 seconds or so. And try not to blink.
Too much work
This week we're swamped. Everyone in my group at the office is getting really testy because two campaigns have arrived on our desks with one week deadlines. Fate is having a loud laugh at me.
(Which is fine, since it only makes her mouth easier to locate when I find a large-enough rock to shove into it.)
It's 10pm now. And I'm still at the office.
After a long day of loads of meetings and fruitless brain-storming sessions, I don't want to leave. Why? Because I'm afraid I won't want to come back here tomorrow morning.
Know what I mean?
The war against terrorism is not yet over. This time, Harvey the mouse must die.
I've been quietly moving stuff out of my cupboards and drawers in the office. No, I don't mean stationery. I mean my personally-owned reference books of which I have loads.
It's a prudent move considering I didn't want to be caught on February 5th with a 24 hour notice of pink-slipping and 5 tonnes of books to cart off.
In the office tradition, I'll also have to write an email addressed to all Kuala Lumpur users of the office network thanking them for working with me and offering a blanket apology for any misunderstandings etc.
I dislike that tradition because it usually succeeds in making the person who is leaving look like a martyr. I'm not a martyr, I wasn't wronged. At least I don't think so.
My leaving won't be a mutual decision because I actually like working here. But it won't do me any good to continue if my superiors have become disatisfied with my performance and have entered the habit of constantly looking over my shoulder to spot any improprieties and wrong-doings. It puts a great deal of pressure on me which I won't be able to manage properly in the long run.
I have little other recourse in a case like this. It's either put up or shut up. And I can't put up for long.
In today's news...
On a flight from New York to Boston, a man attempted to light a fuse connected to a pretzel
If he had been successful, said an FBI expert, he would have sent dangerous crumbs of the confectionary all over the plane.
The man had failed to arouse any suspicion at the airport security station despite being dressed as a Wege's
A spokesperson for the airport said that in the future all pretzels and pretzel-shaped items will be confiscated by airport security.
Yet such assurance does not answer the nagging question on the minds of all the passengers:
Where was Ken Lay
when this happened?
You know what I just realised? I don't blame myself.
Five or six years ago, if something bad happened like if I were to lose my job, I'd sit down and I just wouldn't get up. I would have been thinking 'what's wrong with me?' instead of thinking of ways to resolve things and to move on.
Now I'm going to India.
Of course it does help that I don't have an immediate money problem that has to be taken care of. But still, I think I just got better. And that's a really good sign. At least for me it is.
/action does a victory dance.
Matt the ad agency illustrator
I had this strange conversation with Matt just now.
"Matt, I'd like to find out the status of the storyboard illustration."
"Who is doing it."
"Yes, that's what I'd like to find out. Who is doing it."
"Aren't you doing it?"
"Matt, is Hu is the name of the illustrator?"
Then Matt looks at me like I'd been trying to sell him dog-meat while insisting that it's chicken.
Buying "How to get along with difficult people" by Florence Littauer (1999, Harvest House Publishers, Portland, Oregon) was a mistake. It was yet another example of Good Concept, Poor Execution.
She completely over-powers the book using church analogies, bible quotes and examples featuring personalities you find at church gatherings like "Simon Sermon" and "Sally Spirituals". The impact of the bible quotes, while the sentiments were fine, were completely lost on me.
Furthermore, her personality profiles of the difficult people, while insightful and well-packaged with tables for lists of Weaknesses and Strengths and strategies to make relationships work better with them, were over-simplistic and eventually became over-presumptuous. Her list of traits for the talkative and affable Sanguine personality includes among other things "Memory for colour".
I dropped it into the nearest bin.
Out of a job
My 6-month hiring probation ends on the 6th of February and it is highly unlikely that I'll be asked to stay on.
The problem began when I didn't manage the expectations of my superiors. They expected much more than I was competently able to offer. Second, I didn't project myself with as much confidence as I should have, both in front of the client and among my colleagues. Third, the clincher was that I just didn't get along fabulously with my art director.
Lesson #1: Don't ask for too much money and don't accept if it is offered. I can't handle to responsibilities that it comes with, including project management and team management. While I do know my job inside out, my stress management skills are far below par. I tend to crack under pressure and become indecisive. I also tend to become forgetful under stress (leading to the loss of trust of my superiors in me). I may have to book myself into one of those stress-management courses. But it's going to be difficult -- advertising tends to be a 24-hour job.
Lesson #2: I'm convinced that persuasion is the key to success in advertising. Not just to sell advertising campaign ideas to clients and to peers, but also to sell myself to them. I wasn't able to project that persuasive personality. I just got myself a couple of self-help books like "Secrets of selling yourself" by Philippa Davies (2001, Coronet, London) and "How to get along with difficult people" by Florence Littauer (1999, Harvest House Publishers, Portland, Oregon). The second book was a decision not so much because I work with a lot of difficult people but because I recognise that I am a difficult person and I need to identify those weaknesses. I also need to get out more often.
Lesson #3: I hated that guy. I wrote about it in an earlier entry, a few weeks ago, just before I left for my Thailand holiday. I doubt that there is another art director as equally-matched to me in the low self-esteem department. I shall have to ingratiate myself a bit more with my next art director and win him over.
I don't doubt that I'll be able to find another copywriter job (I have just been offered an account planner job with the Kuala Lumpur office of a British ad agency without my going to see them, which just proves how easy it is in Malaysia to find employment). But I won't take that up until I gain some more confidence. I'm proficient in the technical parts of my job, but that knowledge is pretty useless unless I can sell my campaigns and myself and get along better with people.
In the meantime, I have enough Fuck-You Money to last several months thanks to the lucrative pay package. ("Fuck-You Money" is the name my friend Joan Lau gives to money in the bank that let's her tell everyone "Fuck you" and leave.)
I'll be out of a job next month. Which gives me the opportunity to see more of India instead of just taking the 10 day holiday which I had planned originally. Now, I'll see much more of North India. Tentatively I'll travel from New Delhi to the Ganges in the north then go west as far as Jaisalmer then south to Indore and further to Goa. That's if I can book a ticket to New Delhi at this late date. Currently, I have flight arrangements to Bombay because I'd planned only to see Jaisalmer.
Actually I've been back from Thailand since the 3rd of January. Sorry if I left you with the impression that I wasn't. It was a good (and cheap!) holiday and I'd like to do it again. Asia is a wonderful place for living cheaply. There are places like India, Thailand and Vietnam where you can live and travel very comfortably for under USD$600 per month.
'The Beach' for the middle-aged
When the Thai smile at you (which they often do), they do it with all the respect and courtesy accorded to people who should be in a madhouse.
And why not. I had to travel about a thousand kilometres and 21 hours to get here. Others fly even further and longer. The Thai have no idea why we do it. Their idea of fun tends more to group activities (and no, I don't mean orgies), rather than the isolation of a foreign holiday. They invent reasons like the Thai girls and the hospitality. But for the most part they don't understand the rigours we're escaping from.
The last statistics I saw had the English working on the average 44 hours a week. I'm often in the office till late at night. (But I'm not trying to compare myself to actually hard-working people. I just need to justify my pay-cheque.)
You might say I have less reason to travel all the way to Koh Samui when you consider the obvious and nearer alternatives in Malaysia. Pangkor, Langkawi and Penang. Like Samui, they're nice islands with plenty of sunshine. Samui itself is a refrigerator-shaped island in the Gulf of Siam, 4,000 kilometres south of Bangkok, with cool mountains and hot beaches.
The people look pretty much the same. Dark skinned with a lot of similar features to both the Malay, especially in the south where Thailand borders Malaysia. I took the degree of integration of the two cultures as a sign of Thai hospitality. Many of the Thai in the south speak Malay and many of the buildings have names in Bahasa Melayu, the national language of Malaysia. On the way back, I passed by 'Tuanku Abdul Shah Hospital'.
Toward the north, in the Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai region, the people are much fairer and look very similar to the Chinese, thanks to the immigration of Chinese into the Indo-China region over the past thousand years. In fact, the Thai celebrate Chinese New Year as well, declaring it a national holiday. But then again, the Thai are such jovial people, they'll use any excuse for a party. They literally celabrate three new-years every year. On the calendar new year on January 1, the Chinese New Year in mid-February and Thai new year in mid-April.
I stayed for most of the trip on the south coast of Koh Samui called Ban Thong Krut (Thong Krut village). It's a small quiet beach lined by a few attap and corrugated roof houses surrounded by coconut tree plantations. The bay is protected on both sides with a long east outcropping that acts as a natural breakwater against the northeast monsoon that arrives at the end of the year (ie now). Off Ban Thong Krut are miles of colourful coral reefs around the island of Koh Taen ('No-Dog Island'). As the wind blows, it carries so many bits of dead coral that I am covered white and stiff if I don't take showers often.
It's almost silent here in the sense that I am an urban rat. There's no traffic (only one road leads to Ban Thong Krut). Hardly any people. Only the waves speak, in hushed tones against the sides of the long tail fishing boats moored on the beach. It's the kind of place where the running-joke is: 'Hey Roy, what time is it?' Roy: 'Who cares?'.
I considered it rather fortunate that I managed to find a place like Thong Krut. I'm staying at the T.K. Bungalows, owned and run by a nice young Thai couple, Nu and Nisit. Nu runs the bungalows and the restaurant while Nisit handles the tour operation and the boats. Every day, Nisit sends pick-up trucks to fetch tourists from their hotels all over Koh Samui for snorkeling or fishing trips to Koh Taen while Nu prepares lunch for when they return hungry and wet.
It's a very enterprising set-up, but by no means unusual. All over the island, beach resort owners run similar operations, providing a whole day of activities from Elephant Rides to Water-fall Climbing. Nu and Nisit make most of the money not from the huts (aka 'bungalows') but from the tourists they bring for lunch and snorkeling.
Nisit began the operation several years ago, shortly after the two of them met in Bangkok at university where he completed a diploma in engineering. His father, a Koh Samui coconut farmer had the foresight not to sell his plantation land to developers. The land included the precious beach property on which Nisit began with a small restaurant and a couple of long-tails. Today, Nisit has half the village working for him and he's become somewhat an elder in the community, even at such a young age.
In the bungalows, I met Roy, the 49-year old agriculture specialist from England and avid Manchester United fan who speaks perfect Thai and whom all the villagers call Khun Roy ('Uncle Roy'). Hubert, the 60-year old German ('I am Bavarian!') hot-metal type-setter from a town south of Munich -- a print-shop function that in modern times has been taken over by computers. Claude and Sammy, the two grass-smoking French men who brought their daughters and wives to this island paradise.
Like myself, they discovered T.K. Bungalows in their search to get away from the crowds of Lamai and Chaweng beaches. And they've returned year after year. Roy is a seven year veteran, Hubert has been coming back for nine years, Claude and Sammy are on their fourth visit. They were testimonies to the serenity of Thong Krut beach.
Lamai and Chaweng are beaches on the east coast of Koh Samui. They're wide and beautiful and often quoted in travel websites and travel guides -- which led them to become completely over-touristed. I stayed in Lamai for a few days at the high-priced but very pleasant Galaxy Resort. I dare say there are more English people there (followed in close succession by the Dutch and the Swedes) than there are Thai.
The English come here for parties. They're the kind of people (as Paul Theroux put it) who use party as a verb. I spent two years in Bournemouth with these binge boozers. I've had quite enough, thank you. They drink enough to water the Sahara. And they in turn find it odd that I find it shocking. Overheard in conversations, they have fascinating lists of places they have been to. Burma, Bolivia, South Africa, France. But they're not really travellers as much as they are people-in-search-of-a-party. Years from now, they won't remember much of where they've been except that it was 'wicked' or 'excellent' or the ubiquitous 'cool'.
Ross ('Everyone calls me James') Pendragon, a traveller based in Osaka passed by while I was working on this entry on the beach outside my bungalow. He inquired about my trip here. I told him I'm writing a travellogue. But that's not the only reason. I didn't come here to participate in any of the very popular full moon parties (one long night of binge boozing, house music and drugs held every couple of weeks in either Samui or one of the neighbouring islands). I am not in search of anything like the meaning of life. A little peace and quiet sure wouldn't hurt.
As I write this, a monkey and a monkey-handler gather coconuts from the trees outside my hut; two fishermen bring in a long-tail while their partners mend their nets and cages; Nisit, the owner of Thong Krut Bungalows sweeps the beach with a rake for carelessly discarded man-made garbage like cigarette butts and plastic bags; a fishing-eagle dives into the bay for a catch; apart from my typing, that's as industrious as it gets.
I get up every morning at seven o'clock. Not because the sun is already shining into my eyes. My body just does it. Quite willingly too. I have never felt sleepy or tired since I've been on Koh Samui. I feel energised. Relaxed, even.
That just left-sunbathing. Looking for rainbows. Swimming (or as the way I do it: Trying Not To Drown). Playing with the local dogs, Fuchi and Pai. Eating Kaoh Ots (oatmeal with milk and bananas). Staring at the sea. Reading. Shopping for souvenirs in Nathon. Looking for seashells. Incessantly applying sun lotion. Hoping for sun. Avoiding falling coconuts. Walking on the beach from end to end. Waiting for the sunset. Exercising. Making fun of the tourists. Guessing their nationalities.
Like the boys and girls of the movie 'The Beach', Roy, Hubert, Claude, Sammy and myself, formed a paradise community for seclusion. In addition, for peace and quiet. And unlike the movie characters, we felt safe in the fact that we always had jobs and somewhere else to go after Thong Krut.
But the true test of a successful holiday for me isn't so much what I get out of it. It's the feeling that at the end of it, I wanted to return.
I've already started planning to build a house on the beach.