Saturday, January 29

birth month

Feels like I've been counting down to my birthday for the past month.

The festivities intensified with last weekend's Crossdressing Pajama Party, and I indulged some more today.

Will be off work for five days, and the birthday break started well with a facial in the late morning. My facialist -- is there such a word? -- said my skin seemed smoother, so hooray!

Next stop was to get more MAC concealer -- still need lots of it before I can face the world, despite supposedly smoother skin -- and as I was queueing to pay, the girl in front of me commented that the beads-brooch combi I was wearing was very unusual. I took that to be a compliment, of course, so hooray again!

Shopped till I almost dropped the rest of the day, now that my self-imposed-shopping-abstinence-in-remembrance-of-tsunami-victims period was over.

When I couldn't walk any further, I limped to the over-publicised Latitude cafe, took off my shoes and read The Time Traveller's Wife until a friend snuck out from work to join me.

Came home, slept for a while with Chinese MTV in the background, woken up by Jay Chou video, mmmmmmmm...

After that, met up with some friends at this glorious chill-out place, The Villa Bali. Little wooden huts, a few mosquitoes, some white wine, great entertainment from two gay boys... and only five minutes away from my place on foot. What a discovery!

Plans for the rest of my break include sewing class, dinner with family, SpongeBob SquarePants movie premiere om Sentosa, reading, more sewing class, dinner with girl friends, haircut and watching lots of daytime TV.

I'm so self-indulgent, I would make a perfect taitai.

Monday, January 24

post party slump

Under much duress, I'm hereby updating my blog on the much-anticipated Crossdressing Pajama Party on Saturday. Too depressed to work now that it's over and I got nothing to look forward to...except turning 30 in less than a week's time...

Guest of honour: Taufik [But no Sly! Pout!]
Guests of dishonour: Boys who put on nighties but kept their jeans on underneath
Alcohol consumption: Frightening [Where did all the lychee martinis go? I only remember having one!]
Casualties: One down [Three cups of vomit and one ruined cushion]
Birthday cake: Lana [So drunk that I forgot to eat! Guess you can't have your cake and eat it too, hardy har har]
Number of complaints from neighbours: None [Yippee, we can hold more parties! Thick walls = Good sound insulation]
Number of incriminating photos: Too many [Coming up soon...gulp!]

I'm blaming the champagne for my misbehaviour, which I've conveniently wiped out from my memory...I didn't smoke, I didn't hold some cutie's hand, I didn't accuse anyone of smoking pot, I didn't try to undo someone's belt, I didn't fall asleep at my own party.

Monday, January 17

nebulous night things

Two nights ago, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a tuneless whistling which seemed to be coming from outside my window. I wasn't particularly frightened, though I thought of SMS-ing my sis to wake her up and make her listen to it too. You know, just to make sure I wasn't hearing things, like last week, when there were bells ringing from upstairs, but no one else heard it.

Last night, I was once again woken up by someone covering my blanket over me. Even in my drowsy state, I was creeped out because this someone was standing on the side of my bed which is flush against the window. I tried to scream, reach for my phone beside my bed, twist my toes, anything... but the only sound I managed to make was a thin screeching wail which was too sonic pitched to do any good.

Friday, January 14

happy birthday, my lurve

These accounts of drunken debauchery end up sounding the same after a while -- apple shooters are not our friends anymore -- but Friday night's episode had a slightly different ending.

At 5am, we were sitting on the curb, cradling a tilam in our laps. It made quite a comfy headrest for our spinning heads.

survey revisited

Had an impromptu sushi lunch with one of my survey respondents [see previous entry].

Him: You are too picky lah.
Me: I'm not! I'm not! I'm not!
Him: I got Ah Beng friends, introduce to you, want?
Me: Dowan! Dowan! Dowan!
Him: And you say you not picky...
Me: There's a difference between picky and having standards.
Him: You're picky!
Me: I need to marry a rich man. A rich husband would solve all of my problems.
Him: And why would a rich man need someone like you?
Me: Ummmmmmm...I'm cute? I'm intelligent? I'm funny? I'm shameless?

Thursday, January 13

survey results

It seems like ages ago, or it may have just been yesterday, but I was conducting a survey among my friends. I just found the notepad on which I had scribbled the results.

There was only one question in this pathetic survey: "In your opinion, why am I still single?"

KT: "You're too introverted."

AL: "You're not trying hard enough."

KH: "You're not meeting enough people."

DO: "You haven't met the right guy. Or are you secretly lesbian?"

GT: "There's no one that you like."

CC: "There are no good men left."

TPL: "You appear very self-sufficient."

LG: "You hang around the same people, so you don't meet people."

MF: "You need to widen your circle. Consider divorced men?"

Since the survey was done, two of the respondents have gotten married -- one secretly, the other shotgun -- while another has a new man in her life.

People all around me are falling in love, out of love, getting married, breaking up, getting divorced, having a dog, having a kid.

Me? The constant single. And the survey hasn't helped one bit.

Wednesday, January 12

wish you weren't here

Saw this really "good" photo of a ravaged street in Banda Aceh, with what looked like a limb hanging from a barren tree in the foreground.

You can't help but take a closer look. It is actually a damaged mannequin that had been swept from a shop window and deposited there, but somehow it drives home the message more subtly than if had indeed been a body part.

Morbid as it sounds, I think postcards from warzones and disaster areas can be quite impactful. And sell rather well too.

As I was walking past one photog who had just returned from assignment in said disaster zone, it was on the tip of my tongue to ask: "So how was Phuket?"

But decided it sounded too much like he went on vacation there, when it was anything but.

Anyway, my fave photog also came back yesterday and was regaling me -- in his usual goofy manner -- with stories of sleeping in tents filled with Milo water [ie. mud] and newly orphaned kids playing in refugee camps ["See? No parents but still so happy."]

Then, suddenly very serious, he said: "And this is the picture you never saw..."

While they were driving through the totally destroyed town, they went past a woman sitting on the curb with her head in her hands and one lonely battered suitcase beside her.

As they trundled past, he grappled with asking the driver to stop for him to shoot a photo.

He decided, in the end, to leave her to grief in private.

Friday, January 7

how lei

C: Yes yes, I love Tong Lei by Stef Sun too!!! Sigh, when will we ever find?

Me: Sigh sigh sigh

C: We are in that horrible in-between category. We are neither gorgeous enough for some guy to grab like a prize, nor are we docile plain Janes who will satiate a guy's ego by never rocking the boat. We just have to wait for the alchemy of the tonglei, if that happens.

Me: Basically we're looking for a not so good looking guy who isn't looking for a xiao nu ren type of girl.

C: Ya lor. A not so good looking guy who is satisfied with having found a good friend whom he finds entirely agreeable shagging. I think every single word of this formulation is important, especially "satisfied" -- as opposed to someone with roving eye and commitment issues.

Me: You have just discounted half the male population with that last part.

C: Ya lor. Depressing init

C: Sigh... There's a package out there that men go for, you just have to fall into that. Average height to tall, slim, some curves, clear skin, proportionate features, okay dresser, non-embarrassing communication skills... ok now I am depressing myself. I have to stop.

C: What the heck since I am almost there shall go full throttle into self-pitying mode. I am too short, too small, I slouch, my features are irregular, my skin is oily and my hair is too thin... hahahahahahaha

belated pix

New Year's Eve with the Eiffel Tower

Romantic dinner for two on the cable car

Cable car dinner part deux

Thursday, January 6

same species

I have favourite songs of the moment according to my mood. Currently, it's Stefanie Sun's Tong Lei on constant repeat mode.

Wind, it blew and then it stopped/I suddenly thought of someone
Day, it was bright and then it grew dark/I grew older by a few years
Heart, warmed and then disheartened
The world, sometimes can be so lonely/Longing for someone feels the same

Somehow, Chinese song lyrics sound maudlin and superficial when translated, even if they are meaningful and poetic in the first place. Could it be the Yoda grammar?

ha ha ha

In Africa, there is a river called Limpopo.

In Nepal [or is it Tibet? Or Inner Mongolia?], there is a mountain pass [or is it village?] called Zingzingla.

In Singapore, there is a [perhaps fictitious] bar called Simpopo.

Wednesday, January 5

give till it hurts

If it doesn't hurt, you haven't given enough.

Every month, a small amount is deducted from my salary for Comm Chest, but it is so miniscule and so unobstrusively done that it is painless. The tsunami has made me wanna do more.

Read that the F1 guy Schumacher donated $10m out of the $80m he made last year. That is in US dollars and about 1/8 of his salary.

Assuming I made $40,000 last year -- which I must qualify that I didn't -- that means my donation works out to be $5,000.

The Guardian has a biting indictment of corporate donations:

Another wave of miserliness from Britain's super-rich
Corporate donations to the tsunami appeal are stunningly stingy

Jonathan Freedland
Wednesday January 5, 2005

Most television programmers like to aim for a balance of light and shade, but the editors of the news bulletins over the holiday period have not really had that option. Instead, and for each evening since Boxing Day, the TV news has been a glimpse of hell. Report after report, from Indonesia or Sri Lanka or some flyspeck island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has brought some new horror. Not the pictures of the mangled buildings and upended ships; it is surprising how quickly we have become inured to those. But the stories - of orphaned children, of babies snatched from their mother's arms, of fathers washed out to sea - seem only to get worse, taking us ever deeper into the calamity.

All that the bulletins have had to lighten the gloom is a related story: the British reaction to the disaster. On this the media have spoken with one voice, lauding the great British public for a generosity that has made us among the most openhanded nations in the world.

The scale of British giving has been moving, especially acts of kindness by those with least to spare: cleaners or pensioners or the unemployed donating sums that either took a week to earn or were a week's keep. People have drawn a legitimate pride in this and in the public's outpacing of government, whose earliest pledge of £1m looked so paltry.

Ministers increased that to £50m and yesterday hinted there would be more if needed. That is welcome, but hardly overwhelming. Others have pointed out the contrast between that contribution, even if it rises to, say, £100m, and the £6bn the UK government found so readily for the war on Iraq. But one need not look so far. The cost of the new national identity card scheme, for example, bringing food and shelter to no one, is estimated at £3.1bn. Next to sums like that, £50m or £100m is, to use a grimly appropriate phrase, a drop in the ocean.

But the government is doing plenty of other things, lending military assistance to stricken countries as well as deploying staff in London and around the world. No, anger, if we feel it, should be directed at the third lead player in public life: not citizens or government, but big business.

Corporate Britain was quick to realise it needed to stand with the public mood and publicise its concern. The major companies doubtless feel proud of their generosity. They shouldn't. They should be ashamed.

Vodafone announced it would be giving £1m and matching all staff donations. A million pounds is a lot of money to you and me, but not to Vodafone, to which it is pocket change. The company's annual profit, registered last May, was £10bn. That means the company made substantially more than a million pounds an hour. Yet that is all they gave - less than an hour's profit. It is less than they gave their new boss, Arun Sarin, for his annual bonus.

Put another way, Vodafone has given a mere one tenthousandth of its annual profit. (Not its total revenue, mind, which would be a larger figure, just its profit.) Think of your own annual income, after you've paid off all your expenses. Now work out what one ten-thousandth of that sum would be. If you had given just that amount to the tsunami appeal, would that be enough? Would you announce it with pride?

Or look at one of the early givers and publicity seekers: the Premiership. It gave the same Vodafone figure, £1m. The Premiership is made up of 20 clubs, so that would have set back each team a grand total of £50,000. That is what Manchester United pays Wayne Rooney for four and a half days' work.

That club alone is worth £700m; its annual profit is £47m. Maybe the Man U players did the maths and felt guilty but, if they did, it was not nearly guilty enough. Between them they raised another £50,000. When you think that Rio Ferdinand earns £80,000 a week, that is scarcely an impressive total from an entire squad. They could each have sold off a couple of diamond ear studs and raised more than that.

The rollcall of shame continues. BP gave a healthy looking £1.6m: fine, until you realise the oil giant's expected profits for 2004 weigh in at £9bn.

Abbey National's trading profit from its core businesses topped the billionpound mark in 2004, even if the company made an overall loss. Times must be tough, though, because when it dipped in its corporate pocket it found just £25,000. I've done the sums: on my comfortable Guardian salary, that's the equivalent of me giving less than two quid.

Tesco is proud that it has sent food, water and hygiene products to Thailand and Sri Lanka - but it's still a shock that, with annual profits of £1.7bn, it only managed to give an anaemic £100,000.

Philip Green, the BHS boss, is a famously generous man, giving serious sums to charity. But even his £100,000 in cash and £1m worth of clothes looks like less of a sacrifice when one notes that his Arcadia group paid him a dividend of £460m last year - and that he spent £5m on a toga party to mark his 50th birthday two years ago.

None of this should really come as a surprise. Battlehardened viewers of Children in Need and Comic Relief will have noted the corporate givers' eagerness to grab free publicity - handing over a cheque on TV - combined with their stunning levels of stinginess. The sums they give are the coppers down their sofa, the lint in their pockets - and we are expected to be grateful.

The problem is not just rich companies, but rich individuals. According to the Charities Aid Foundation, the wealthiest 10% of UK income earners give just 0.7% of their household expenditure to charity, while the poorest 10% allocate 3% of theirs.

What explains this institutional miserliness at the very top of Britain's wealth tree? Historically, the argument was always that Britain was so heavily taxed, the rich did their bit by paying whacking sums into the national exchequer. In the US, by contrast, the ultra-affluent knew they were barely taxed so they made up for it with personal and dynastic philanthropy: think Carnegie, Mellon and Rockefeller.

But that logic no longer applies. Today's British companies enjoy some of the lowest tax rates outside America. Now they have the best of both worlds: low tax and no guilty expectation of philanthropy. They can keep almost all their money to themselves.

Unless we, their customers, say otherwise. This last week has seen a rare and stirring demonstration of people power. Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do - or we will take it off you in tax. Either way, it's time to start paying.

Tuesday, January 4

four days into 2005

In a quiet moment in the busy work day, I was suddenly struck by a thought so heart-stopping that I had to close my eyes for a moment to absorb it.

Things going to turn out either very good or very bad. I'll keep you updated on which way it goes.

Saturday, January 1

running out of time

It was a New Year's Eve of parallels, sort of.

We decided to go back in time to Over Time, arguably the best Japanese drama serial starring the swoon-worthy Takashi Sorimachi as a photographer living in a house with three women hurtling towards to age of 30. [OK, the plot sounds dem lame, but it has a good soundtrack and some very good lines. But I can't think of any now.]

The show kicked off with a New Year's Eve countdown. So very apt.

The housemates constantly had steamboat for dinner. So we had shabu shabu too while we watched.

They also played the Game of Life all the time, probably an obvious metaphor for, erm, life itself? So we dug out the boardgame and played too.

In the show, Tokyo Tower -- itself a copy of the Eiffel Tower -- cropped up all the time. So we posed for photos with a wine bottle which was happened to be shaped like the Eiffel Tower.

Even though we had to fast-forward and race through the 12 episodes, it was a good start to 2005. Happy New Year!