Thursday, December 30, 2010

Phoebe, Lover of Animals

"Molly Molly Makeout
Any time, any guy oh oh
Just watch your back
You won't know what to do
Molly might make out with you"

Molly Makeout (2009) by The Friday Night Boys

Once upon a time, there's a girl called Phoebe,
And she loooves all creatures, big or bitty.
One day, she decided to go on a looong nature saunter,
To touch every animal she would perchance encounter.

She played with a pussy cat,
And gave its dainty little head a pat.

I know that "petting the kitty" is a euphemistic phrase for something, but I can't seem to remember what it is now.

Next, she diddled a doggy, posh and poised,
"Oh, what a beautiful bitch," she voiced.

Or possibly feeling for the carotid pulse, I don't know.

Then, she preyed upon a pillbug just for kicks,
With glee, she buggered bugged it with a prick stick.


After that, she came across an untended kid,
And merrily molested the minor, she did.

She did technically grope a kid's backside. So, it's bestiality AND paedophilia, at the same time.

She tried to despoil a simian child but she was resisted,
"Stay away from ouah baybeh!" the monkey parents insisted.

"Snuggle close, honey. Mommy and Daddy will protect you from the big human pervert."

"A puppy!" cried Phoebe, who finally found her favourite item,
"You, tenderest of morsels, shall be my latest victim!"

That look on Phoebe's face says it all.

But the brave little pup would stand for none of it,
And right into her digits it righteously bit.

*om nom nom* "AAAHHH!!! LEGGO LEGGO!!!"

And Phoebe cried wee wee wee,
All the way back to Ooty.

The end.

Tune in next time for my version of the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

The Gruffs! They like it ruff!

Minstrel in a pinch,
k0k s3n w4i

Friday, December 24, 2010

He's Gay and He's Okay... For Now

"If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door."

Harvey Milk

He was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
He died with two bullets in his head.

Today, one of my consultants asked me conversationally if I celebrate Christmas. I said no, and immediately dreaded his next question. He asked what religion I subscribe to.

"I'm an atheist," I said and I saw that brief 'excusez-moi?' expression flashed across his face in response. Happens every time like clockwork. It's not that I am ashamed of my lack of faith - I merely dislike the social stigma of being godless. Sometimes, I feel that my mere existence is at best an enigma to religious people and at worst, an automatic affront to their beliefs.

"So um, is it because of your parents?" He tried not to miss a beat.

I would have liked to point out that his question seemed bizarre to me and that atheists are usually atheists in spite of their parents, but all I said was, "I make my own decisions about these things."

The subject was immediately dropped after that, natch.

If admitting that one is an atheist can be awkward to a hardcore atheist like me, imagine outing oneself as a homosexual. Now, imagine a guy from a culturally Malay Muslim background recording a YouTube confession that he's gay,

The title "Saya Gay, Saya Okay" means "I'm Gay, I'm Okay" in Malay, for my non-Malaysian readers.

This is Azwan Ismail's submission to the It Gets Better Project, an amazing worldwide campaign started in response to the recent slew of suicides of gay teens who were drove to the edge from bullying - to reach out to homosexual teens and tell them that the torment, ostracism and heartbreak they face now will someday go away. He came out, at great personal cost to his reputation and risk to his life, to give a singular testimonial on being a homosexual in a culturally homophobic and predominantly Islamic country - all to share his experience with teenagers who are in his exact same situation. He gave a face to all the faceless young people who hid away because our society hates they way they love. He gave a voice to the mute gay Malay men and women in our country who are too afraid to speak, and too intimidated to ask to be treated like the human beings they are.

He is my hero. One day, he might be everyone's.

And I'm not making it up when I said he risked his life by recording his three-minute video. He had since received many death threats by Malay Muslims outraged by his confession of the difficulties he faced coming to terms with his own sexuality. That's what too many religious people do, you see - threaten to murder what they don't like. Wait, let me emphasise that: they want to KILL HIM. Yes, gays are depraved animals for falling in love with someone they shouldn't. Atheists are immoral for standing up for equal rights for gay people. But yet hateful religious thugs are apparently the righteous ones beloved by God for clamouring to shed the blood of someone who happens to be different. What the fuck, one wonders, is wrong with our country?

Then, there are the sanctimonious cunts who claim that Azwan is "insulting" Islam by being born a homosexual and having the stones to come out of the closet. The degree of self-entitlement of these self-important jackasses is frankly, quite astounding. If Allah has beef with Azwan, I'm sure the He is more than capable of dealing with him when the time comes - if it ever comes. And did they even ask Azwan if he personally believe in the teachings of Islam? I'm sure they didn't, and in Malaysia where apostasy is both criminalised and demonised, he couldn't renounce his affiliation with the incredible Religion of Peace™ even if he wanted to anyway. If he claims to be an apostate, they can easily take that as an "insult" to Islam too (we know there were precedents for this). From the get go, he was given no freedom of religion and no freedom of sexuality. He's between a rock and a hard place, both promising potential repercussions from our primitive laws. Speaking of our legal system, I'm kind of at risk right now too for violating some stupid blasphemy laws. Welcome, ladies and gents, to Malaysia.

Sure, it's an incredible display of his lack of self-preservation but he what he did were also done out of incredible personal courage. What I fear is that he might be martyred for it. As a member of the medical fraternity, I find that it is my duty to speak out against discrimination of any stripe. No one person's dignity and right to life should be compromised by his ethnicity, creed, social status or sexuality and I urge everyone to help spread word of Azwan's message and of his plight. Tell a friend. Write something.

He had hurt no one by being who he is, and if his only crime is to love, then it's a crime that's not happening as much as the world needs it to. I hope you're right Azwan, for your sake, that it really does get better in Malaysia.

Addendum: it seems that the video had been removed from YouTube. I wonder if the decision was voluntary, indirectly influenced by the backlash of the Muslims or directly insisted upon by the governmental officials.

Some other great blog posts on this:

From a fellow Malaysian atheist: Azwan Ismail is Gay. And He is (Probably Not Going to be) Okay.

From a moderate Malay Muslim's perspective who made a good case that the people are really more outraged by his outing rather than his sexual orientation: Who is Azwan Ismail and why are some people saying terrible things about him?

From an atheist attorney: If Religious Bigots Threaten You Because You’re Gay, You Might Be Eligible For Asylum.

On the side of human rights,
k0k s3n w4i

Church Versus Hospital

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Steven Weinberg

This is an update to this news piece I blogged about in May.

To recapitulate, it was about a young expectant mother facing death from Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH) complicating her 11-week pregnancy. She must either abort the the unborn child or face almost certain death of both herself and her fetus. The ethics committee of the St. Joe Hospital convened and decided on the lesser of the two evils - and Sister Margaret McBride, who was on the committee, was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church for her role in the lifesaving decision.

Remember that in a non-Catholic Hospital, there wouldn't be any quibble about whether the pregnancy should be terminated at all. The dictum is if a pregnant woman's life is at peril, the automatic ethical and moral course of action is to jettison the products of pregnancy. This is repeatedly hammered into me in med school. No medieval dogma cooked up by a criminal organisation of cross-dressing wankers should fucking come into the picture.

Now, the Bishop of the Phoenix Diocese (who excommed the nun who happened to have got her head screwed on right) stripped the entire hospital of its Catholic affliliation affliction for doing what hospitals do i.e. save lives.

"I like to wear dresses and make young boys wear dresses too." - Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted.

Here's what the cock-gobbling bishop had to say in this excerpt of the news article,

In a letter written last month to the president of Catholic Healthcare West, the parent company of St. Joseph's Hospital, Olmstead said he wanted more oversight of the hospital to make sure it complies with Catholic healthcare rules. He also wants to educate medical staff about those rules. In addition, he wants acknowledgment that he was right and the hospital was wrong in its interpretation of the church's directive on "indirect abortions."

"There cannot be a tie in this debate," Olmsted wrote. "Until this point in time, you have not acknowledged my authority to settle this question."

This megalomaniacal motherfucker is a nasty piece of work, but he's just a symptom of the greater rotten core of the entire Roman Catholic Church which is pathologically obsessed with being recognised as the authority for morality - when they clearly aren't. No, I'm not buying that simple-minded platitude that religion universally teaches good and that only a few bad apples are stinking up the barrel. Bishop Olmsted is merely carrying out the "directives" of his mother church and the fact that the Pope and the Vatican did not swing its gigantic crosier and smite this disgusting human shit-stain off the face of the earth makes them complicit in this entire sorry debacle - not that I really need any more convincing that Catholicism has no redeeming feature whatsoever.

If I work at St. Joe's, I'd wear the Church's disapproval as a badge of honour, but that's just me. I happen to have a conscience.

Loves Cock
I thought the picture was missing some things, so I added them.

Anyway, here's what the hospital had to say in this press release on their website to Bishop Fuckhead,

"Though we are deeply disappointed, we will be steadfast in fulfilling our mission," said Linda Hunt, President of St. Joseph’s. "St. Joseph’s hospital will remain faithful to our mission of care, as we have for the last 115 years. Our caregivers deliver extraordinary medical care and share an unmatched commitment to the wellbeing of the communities they serve. Nothing has or will change in that regard."

"Consistent with our values of dignity and justice, if we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case," said Hunt. "We continue to stand by the decision, which was made in collaboration with the patient, her family, her caregivers, and our Ethics Committee. Morally, ethically, and legally we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save."

Take that, you dogmatic sons-of-bitches.

Wants religion out of medical ethics,
k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Topography of Tea

"If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty."

Japanese Proverb

I'm incredibly unavailable at present and have not the time to inundate you with my customary volume of words, so I'll just throw out a bunch of pictures your way. But if that old chestnut rings true, then these eight pictures are worth a grand total of eight-thousand words.

An eternity of tea and sky. That's the Coimbatore Plains waaay down there, by the way.

Anyhow, I think I'll still need to fill you in on the context of these photographs - so that's what I'll do.

During our super-relaxing week at Ooty, I decided to yank the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ out of her blissful vacationer's stupor by convincing her to go on a day trip to the neighboring hamlet of Coonoor. There, we rode a tiny bus 12 kilometres out into the semi-wilderness of the Nilgiri mountains where we got off our ride - just like that - in the middle of nowhere with not even a bus-stop in sight. At this point, she had no choice but to trek uphill all the way back to Coonoor with me. If you thought that that sounds incredibly similar to what I put her through at Maxwell Hill - well, I'm just consistently psychotic that way.

On the upside, these are some of the mind-blowing landscapes we got out of it,

Dig the contours.

It was fortuitous that on our grueling awesome walk, we remained mostly in the midst of mist and under the gargantuan shadows of some seriously low-flying clouds - the combination of which really produced some excellent, otherworldly shots.

This one is my favourite,

It's almost like we're on a floating island. Or a really small planet.

I'll stop writing for now. Enjoy the rest.

Sunshine looks best in little patches.

The Cameron Highlands got nothing on this place, I tell you.

Anyway, the real reason I dragged Phoebe all the way out here was actually to visit a popular view point called the Dolphin's Nose,

Which is a fancy name for this bit of rock which hangs over a precipice.

And here's Phoebe being on the "nose", so to speak.

Look into the photograph below and check out the spectacular Catherine Falls on the far side of the mountain,

The bluish mist is apparently what gave the mountain range its name: Nilgiri. It literally means "Blue Mountain".

So, how do you like them apples?

Chief photographic officer,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jesus Christ! On a Stick!

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

Exodus 20:4

One of the many doodads I keep on my desk (alongside my Rottweiler bobblehead and a framed photograph of the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ being bitten by a dog) is my graven idol of everyone's favourite Nazerene, Jesus H. Christ,

So, that's how he walked on water! He's made of wood!

I spotted the 13-centimetre-high likeness of the King of Kings a couple of years ago in a souvenir shop in Ooty and something immediately went click in my head. "I MUST HAVE EET," I told the girlfriend in no uncertain terms. There was no deliberation - I was so consumed by pure, undiluted want that I made the purchase on the spot. There were larger versions of the same effigy for sale but regrettably, I couldn't possibly tote a foot-long Jesus wherever I go for the remainder of my backpacking trip. That would be daft, but a pocket-sized figurine of the Saviour? How could I possibly resist?!

For the rest of our sojourn through the Tamil highlands, I installed the Effijesus Holychristick™ in the most prominent spot of every guesthouse or hotel room we checked in so I could properly worship it with the most shamanistic pomp and ceremony imaginable, much to Phoebe's chagrin. Perhaps it had something to do with my insisting that she was beset by demons and made it my career to exorcise her by waving the Lord in her face every chance I got. I have to admit that that can annoy a girl some.

You can see why I call her the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™.

Jesus Christ on a Stick
After a while, I started using the phrase "Jesus Christ on a stick!" as an oath - and it stuck.

I have no idea why I like the statuette so much. Maybe it's because of how much Jesus resembles Poseidon. Or maybe it's the halo and crown of thorns combo which looked like a Native American feathered headdress more than anything else. It's terribly cute, for damn sure, especially when you take stock of its endearingly huge and deformed head, barrel torso and stumpy limbs.

All together, it collided into a perfect, serendipitous union of kitsch and abomination. What's not to love? Plus, I'm already an atheist and an inveterate blasphemer. I figure the next logical step for me to take is to be an idolator as well.

P.S. Take your grievances, if you have any, to the artisan who carved this. This is a fan-based parody. Yes, I'm a fan of the Bible (I wouldn't read it so often otherwise). However, I'm not a fan of the religion which thinks it's all real.

An iconolatric infidel,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scooting About Snooty Ooty

"L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you can adore"

L-O-V-E (1965) by Nat King Cole

I hate to inflict my travel stories onto you so I'll try to keep this short and sweet.

Welcome to Ooty.

Picture this: a colonial hill station established during the time of the British Raj tucked away in the Blue Mountains of the Deccan Plateau at about 7500-feet above sea level where backwater Hindustan collided colourfully with English quaint. The temperature barely kisses 20 ºC at its most summery times but drops frequently below 10 ºC at its chilliest. Tea, pony rides and homemade chocolates seem to make up the preponderance of Ooty's industries. Purveyors of knickknacks, teahouses and cafés line the town's narrow streets and alleys, hostile to any vehicle bigger than a bicycle. It's a pedestrians' world, Ooty is. The clock is set about 50 years back in time hereabouts and the people are still ruled by the dictates of bus and train schedules. We planned to spend 4 days there. We liked it so much we stayed for a week.

A week in Ooty with my favourite backpacking partner in the whole wide world - imagine that. Sigh. Anyway, Snooty Ooty is a sort of endearing nickname the locals have for this highland province. It's short for Ootacamund but on paper, it has the official ultra-Indian name of Udhagamandalam.

Now, I'll just go right into the pictures. This is the guesthouse we lodged in. It's a homestay with a beautiful garden run by an elderly lady. I remember the huge, comfy beds and warm, hand-sewn quilts,

See if you can spot Phoeb's butt in 5 seconds or less.

And this is the lake the guesthouse overlooks,

Pretty kick-ass view, huh?

This is the chic little café where we had most of our meals and nursed many hot beverages.

Beware of mice, roaches and babies.

There was no shortage of diversity when it comes to eatables. You can easily find Western, Indian and even Chinese cuisines in Ooty,

Check out how freakishly long the grains of Basmati rice are!

This is the road to St. Stephen's Church. That is a pony's ass.

Phoebe, waiting for a bus at the outskirts of town.

One of the things I like most about Ooty is how beautiful flowers seem to grow just about everywhere,

Did you know that flowers are essentially plant gonads? Still think they are romantic?

Looking at them just makes me happy.

Are you bored yet?


With my final exam looming ominously in the very visible future like the sword of Damocles, I feel slightly embattled. I have this feeling that I am not living the way I'm meant to. There's nothing I'd like to do more than to just go away to someplace like Ooty to rest, relax and recuperate for a month or two, you know what I mean? But alas, life isn't so obliging at the moment.

There's a very Wonderland feel about it, don't you think?

Needs a vacation, stat,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Surprisingly, I Didn't Burst into Flames

"I like the silence of a church, before the service begins better than any preaching."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Yes, that's me on the pulpit, preaching about that time Jesus lost his temper at a fig tree. No, seriously. It's in Matthew 21:18-19 and it's hilarious.

And this is the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™ halfway up the belfry,


I suppose some backstory is necessary here: these were photographs taken two years ago when Phoebs and I were gallivanting across the highlands of Tamil Nadu in my last weeks in India - and we sightsaw the 180-year-old gothic St. Stephen's during our week in Ooty because I have a thing for old places of worship, ironically enough. Phoebs (worst Presbyterian in the world) practically made it her life's mission to wriggle out of going to church whenever she can. I believe it's years since she set foot in one.

This was probably the only instance in recorded history that an atheist had to drag a Christian into a house of God.


Most churches, temples and mosques are designed to evoke an atmosphere of magnificence and immensity which reduces their visitors to insignificance; to force the presence of a nebulous something far greater than the mortal mind can contain. It's testified by the superhuman passion in the craft and built into the solemn high-flying ceilings. I am not immune. My sense of the numinous is very much alive and beating.

However, no matter how swept away I am by the sheer experience of being immured in the trappings of religious grandeur, I recognise that it's the architecture - not the purported in-house holy spooks - which moved me. That sensation is not specific to any one faith. In fact, it's not even an exclusive commodity of worship houses. Consider Dubai's Burj Al Arab, the Guggenheim in Bilbao Spain and pretty much anything designed by Rem Koolhaas. They are modern, secular monuments, but no less transcendental.


In between services, antique, ornate churches are also excellent places to read or think. Each is an era lost, frozen within its cloisters. They are sort of like little train-stops in time which makes you feel it's okay step off and allow the rest of the world to whoosh by while you watch.


By the way, here's some stained glass windows. Everybody loves stained glass windows, right? Enjoy.




P.S. Remember, the pictures' captions are in the hovertext.

A churchgoer of sorts,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Right Sight

"The right half of the brain controls the left half of the body. This means that only left handed people are in their right mind."


Just like how a person is usually either right or left-handed, are you aware that one of your eyes tends to be more dominant when compared to the other? It's usually referred to as "eyedness" or ocular dominance and there is no shortage of ways to determine which one of your peepers is the boss. If you don't know how to, you're in luck because I am going to teach you. I present to you, the Miles test - one so easy you can do it right where you are!

Okay, okay. First, extend both your arms in front of you and make a window using your thumb and fingers like so,

Hand Window

Next, look through the window with both eyes open at a distant stationary object like a doorknob, the face of a clock or a photograph on your desk. If you like, you can simply lean back and focus on this kitten here in the centre of this picture,

A Kitty in Hand

Remember to keep both eyes open when you're positioning the object. This is crucial.

When you're ready, close one of your eyes. Then, switch eyes. Do it several more times and you'll see the kitty blinking in and out of the frame. Here's how to interpret your findings,

  • If you see the kitty when your right eye is open, it means your right eye is dominant.
  • If you see the kitty when your left eye is open, it means you are an ocular lefty.

In normal binocular vision, there is an effect of parallax due to the fact that both your eyes are situated on either sides of your face, resulting in two viewpoints and causing binocular rivalry. So, in order to maintain an accurate sense of the positions of the things you see, your brain tends to favour the visual input through one eye over the other. This is probably not very important unless you are into archery, firearms or spying at women in the showers through peepholes.

Studies showed that about two-thirds of people are right-eyed, while right-handed folks outnumber southpaws eight-to-one. What it means is just because you are right-handed doesn't mean you're right-eyed. Take me, for example: I'm right-handed but my dominant eye is the left one, but this might have something to do with the fact that I initially started out sinister back when I was a wee toddler, but my mother (who attended a convent school) forced me to switch to holding a pen with my right. I ended having a rather mixed-bag of hand-preferences. I write and use chopsticks with my right but handle scissors, racquets and swords with my left. My knife and fork hands are also reversed. I can still write with my left if I'm forced to (like when I get writer's cramp), but I do so at a slightly more hesitant speed.

One of the reasons suggested for the great disparity between dexters and sinisters in the world are our cultural predilections to denigrate left-handed people for completely wacky, superstitious reasons. I should know; I was a victim. The Catholic Church in particular, in their psychotic quest for holiness and purity, insisted that the left side is intrinsically evil, sinful and diabolical. We have all heard of how schoolteachers and nuns in Catholic schools would rap left-handed children on the knuckles in order to bully them into switching paws. I swear I'll punch out the next nun I catch doing that. WITH MY LEFT FIST OF SATAN. KAPOW!

P.S. Yes, I can turn any subject into a diatribe against religion.

P.P.S. To bring up something tangentially related to this post, I read an article in an old issue of the Scientific American about how when people turn their heads to kiss (to get the nose out of the way, duh), they tend to do so on one side. Here's an article about the original published study in Nature back in 2003. Like eye dominance, there are twice as many right-turners as there are left ones (I'm in the minority again). Now, I wonder if it's awkward for someone who prefers to turn left to snog someone who prefers right. Only one way to find out: TO THE LABORATORY!

A sinister mister,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Dinner for One

"Is it just me or is everyone
Hiding out between the lights?
Where will we be when we come undone?
Just a simple meeting of the minds
Singing we’ll fight fire with fire
Fire with fire
Fire with fire"

Fire With Fire (2010) by Scissor Sisters

The above has no relation to this post. It's just my latest earworm.

I spend a great deal of my time alone, and my adeptness at self-entertainment certainly makes it an easy lifestyle to perpetuate. I am not so arrogant as to think I can carry out a friendless existence, but I do believe my demand for companionship is lower than most. Phoebe is pretty much all I need - a lover, a confidant and family all in one person. A man is not an island, but he can damn well be a peninsula.

I find myself eating alone on my own ninety-nine out of a hundred times. I also watch a monster share of films at the cinema solo. I do this because I find it a hassle to call my friends up and make dates. I have little patience with the liberties they take with punctuality. I dislike having to sync my time and activities to other people's. I hate having to democratically decide where the group should eat or what movie the group should catch. These are the excuses, justifications and apologies I make for being such a loner. They are not the reasons.

I discovered the reason not one week ago, outside a McDonald's. I had a craving for a cone of McD's soft serve and I had plans to read a little there. I ran into a colleague and friend making an order at at the drive-through window and he asked - shouting from thirty feet away - if I was going to eat there. I assumed that he wanted to join me. Maybe that's not the case. Maybe I misread the situation but that's not important. What's important was what I thought his intentions were and more importantly, how I responded.

," I lied, "I'm only picking up a takeaway."

Sometimes, I'm alone. Sometimes, the reason is because I want to be. Sometimes can be a lot of the time.

I am not antisocial, really.

Sky on Fire

On Friday, I had dinner at the new San Francisco Steakhouse which opened at the Malacca Club building in Melaka Raya. I was accompanied by Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union and a recording of a podcast review of The Social Network (one of the best motion pictures of the year, if you ask me). Phoebe was a speed-dial away. If necessary, I could even retreat into my thoughts for hours on end because I am, in my personal opinion, such an interesting fellow.

My ego is so massive that it has its own gravitational field and Earth is in orbit around it. See what I did there? Wordplay! I think the world revolves around me, geddit? Why are you groaning?

San Francisco Steakhouse

The place was nice. I like the high ceiling and I do so approve of the waitresses' miniskirts. I had a soup and a lamb main. Both were serviceable, if a bit underwhelming. For how much I coughed up, I expected rainbows, supernovae and gay unicorns to explode on my plebeian palate.

Lamb to the Slaughter

Throughout my meal, a preschooler from the neighboring table repeatedly accosted my person. She would leap off her chair, run to my side and wave a piece of chip in my face before scurrying back to her seat, giggling maniacally. I could not understand what drew the brat's attention on me. Was it my gravitational field (ha!)? Or was it because kids, like most predators, prefer to take on prey animals which are separated from its herd? The waving of potato seemed to be some sort of combat challenge to me. Inigo Montoya, is that you? Nope, her Dad's right there, alive and watching a footie game on telly. Restrain your daughter, male parent.

I don't like kids. The feeling, unfortunately, is rarely mutual. I tried projecting my disdain of children through my eyes at her but that only drove her into hysterics. I also couldn't punt her out of my sight because her sire might take umbrage at such an energetic gesture of discouragement applied to his spawn. And would you believe they have laws against kicking children, even when they menace you with a tuberous shiv?

Anyway, here's a picture of the toothy miss,

Toothy Fairy

Look at her! Take inventory of the murder eyes and her impressive set of gnashers. Bet you'll never meet another blackguard so unhinged and bloodthirsty in your life.

P.S. I am currently in the middle of a Paediatric posting. Save me.

Professional child-hater,
k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Greek to Me

Yesterday, when talking over the phone with the girlfriend,

Phoebs: One of my classmates just got himself an S-Class!

Me: What's an ass class?

And Phoebe had to spend the next 5 minutes explaining to me the different classes of Mercedes-Benzes there are - which I must say sounded a lot less exciting compared to what I initially had in mind.

To me, cars are a little like those Korean popstars and actors which Phoebe want to have half-Korean babies with; I'm aware that there are differences between them (which I have great difficulty discerning) and I certainly don't remember their names. I am probably one of the few guys in existence who would honestly be unimpressed by whatever car you care to drive due to the sheer gaping void in my knowledge of automobile brands and prestiges. Unless your car can transform into an giant alien robot and defend the right of all sentient beings. In which case it's awesome.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So, an Atheist Walks Into a Christian House Party...

"I hear they’ll hang you upside down
Stretched across two boards
For hearing distant voices
And crossing to the Lord"

Far Far Away (2001) by Five Iron Frenzy

It's my favourite song from the only Christian band I ever liked.
That's because their lyrics aren't unimaginative, repetitive declarations of undying man-love for Jesus.

Being one of the few openly irreligious and unrepentant members of my immediate and narrow social circle, I frequently received (note past tense) invitations to participate in the bizarre rituals of my friends' faith in their houses of worship and to attend the holy soirees of their god-blessed communities. I have always maintained a respectful comportment and a constant smile on these occasions. The human smile is universally hardwired into the brainworks of our species. It transcends cultures and epochs. If you smile at a two months old baby, the little mannikin would smile back at you without ever needing to be told how to do it or what it means. By smiling, I try to non-verbally convey that I, the atheist who walk amongst you, have come in peace.

Hold tongue and hold smile; those are the same watchwords I observed when I was invited to a pastor's house party this one time by my Christian friends and colleagues. I surmised that the two essential ingredients for a good party - alcohol and good music - would not be on the table, and I was right. There were great food though. My memory's a little fuzzy but I think I originally joined them for a dinner outing but hey, surprise free dinner is even better! It's meeting a whole church-load of new people I had objections to. And don't get me wrong, I find it uncomfortable to meet more than one stranger at a time, regardless of circumstances. It doesn't matter whether it's a cell group or an atheist conference.

Prayer would most certainly be on the itinerary and sure enough, there were some. When they clasp their hands together and close their eyes in prayer or grace, I close my eyes too. I don't pray, of course. It's just that I find it really disconcerting to watch everyone around me whisper to some invisible sky person I can't see. All at the same time.

After I was fed and watered, I was expected to participate in some ice-breaking games. Without going into the details, it involved socking people with a rolled-up newspaper club and learning the names of every other guest in the premises. Fat lot of good it did because I can't recall a single name or face a couple of hours afterward. There was a general atmosphere of warm acceptance which some people find magnetic. I believe that one of the biggest draws of religion is a sense of belonging and community, and I've heard of atheists who attend church functions for the social aspects exclusively. I, on the other hand, am usually wooed by the vittles.

As the god-sanctioned festivities winded down, the pastor handed xeroxed copies of a survey to everybody. I like participating in surveys. I read one question and it asked: "What is your goal in life?"

"To labour for the eventual demise of superstitions and organised religion everywhere."

I sneaked peeks at the answers of several persons nearby to see if I could use any of theirs. The few I saw were,

"My dream in life is to be a missionary and spread the love and joy of the gospels of Jes..."

"All I want to accomplish is to fulfill the special purpose He lovingly created me for..."

"I want to serve and love Jesus Christ more and more with every passing second of my lif..."

Wow. Their minds work so differently from mine on such a fundamentally alien level that I felt like I had dropped through a wormhole into another dimension. There's no way I can un-see that brief glimpse into the eldritch hive herd mind of Jesus' flock. It's like that one time when two of my heathen friends were invited to a Planetshakers concert and returned to tell me how spooked they were when the sea of people they were swimming in all threw up their hands and wept and moaned ecstatically. Some even fell to the floor in writhing, orgasmic convulsions. The pair are now convinced that some unspeakable evil was at work that night. I guess that's how attempts at evangelising affect people: the targets either get infected/assimilated or develop a strong, lifelong, aversive immunity against Christianity. Proselytisers, take note! Don't show people the really weird stuff too quickly! Keep up the facade of normalcy and sanity for as long as you can!

Anyway to return to my story, I wrote a pretty generic, Jesus-less answer which I'm certain would stick out like a herpetic rash when the pastor reads it later. Onward to the next question!

"When you finally meet God in heaven, what's the one question you would ask him?"

Oh-kay. I don't think this survey was designed with people like me in mind at all.

I wrote, "Holy crap, what am I doing in heaven?" and immediately crossed that out.

"You're real?! Whoa..." Nope. That's not going to work either. I wish I wasn't using a pen.

I eventually settled on "How are you, sir?" Seems like a polite thing to ask the first time you meet someone, right? At that, I handed in my piece (there were only two questions) and left with my friends.

I have not been invited back since.

P.S. On hindsight, I should have written, "Ho ho ho, wouldn't you like to know how I, an avowed ATHEIST, bypassed your security and got into heaven, Mr God?"

Thinks that wool itches,
k0k s3n w4i

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rapunzel: A Tangled Tale: A Review

"This is the story of how I died."

Flynn Rider, Tangled (2010)

Yes, they pulled an American Beauty.

It's a testament to the timeless charm of Walt Disney's name and the kingdom he wrought that my screening of Rapunzel played to an almost full house on a Thursday at 3:50 pm in the afternoon to a mostly adult and teen crowd. Yes, I shall refer to Disney Studio's latest entry - the 50th animated feature in their Walt Disney's Animated Classics series, by the way - by its rightful title for the rest of this write-up. All things in the cosmos by their proper names, I say. Besides, no one I know actually calls it ugh, Tangled. That made me vomit in my mouth a little. Did you know that the effort at re-branding was to downplay the fairytale, Disney-princessy aspects of the film in hopes of baiting more boys into seeing it? And the uh, like totally radical promotion angle was purposed to draw in the Hannah Montana slash High School Musical teens and preteens? Epic marketing fail.


Fortunately, none of the marketing ploys accurately represented
Rapunzel. It's not a teen romance comedy. It's not filled with pop-songs - it's actually a traditional musical in the vein of the Disney greats. And Rapunzel's hair is not prehensile.

Rapunzel is suppose to be Disney's last fairytale-based film in the foreseeable future, so this might be the last one we'll ever get from the Magic Kingdom. While I don't think it's comparable to the truly beloved classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, I consider it a memorable entry into the canon. I certainly liked it better than last year's The Princess and the Frog. Before you ask, I'll say yes. Yes, they had taken liberties with the original Grimm Brothers' story the same way they did with most of their other adaptations (did you know in the original Hans Christian Andersen's tale, the Little Mermaid lost her prince to a rival princess, attempted to murder him and ultimately turned into foam at sea?). There's even a word for what they do. It's "Disneyfication". Considering that the original Rapunzel lore had the eponymous magnificently-tressed heroine knocked up and the prince had his eyes put out gorily by thorns, it's an understandable undertaking.

So, in Disney's Rapunzel, Rapunzel's mother was a queen instead of some serf's wife and instead of a pregnant woman's weird craving for some witch-grown vegetables kicking off the whole shebang, the pregnant queen was ill and needed a magical flower which was magically created by a sunbeam hitting the ground - and whoever sings a song to it can activate it's miraculous healing powerz. Okay, you get the idea. It's pretty much a whole different story with a scattering of little nods to the original in it. The central plot deals with Rapunzel, who had been "grounded like... FOREVER" wanting to go out and see the outside world. Mother Gothel, Rapunzel's captor and ersatz mother, did not let her. There are shades of an underlying theme about overprotective parenthood which I wished had been explored further; we would have ended up with a far more complex and interesting villain. What if the witch really started loving Rapunzel as if she's her real daughter? A missed opportunity if there ever was one.

In the opening narration, Flynn Rider (the roguishly handsome thief who replaced the prince character) told us that this is a story of how he died. Since this is a Disney flick, I safely assumed that that will not be a permanent deal. In fact, after picking up a few more plot points in the first um, ten minutes of the film, you can pretty much triangulate how everything will resolve into a beautiful happily ever after. You can assume that Rapunzel will escape the tower forever, that she will be reunited with her real and royal parents, and that she will marry Flynn. That's the hazard of watching a Disney film, I suppose - but an assumption, as Samuel L. Jackson will tell you, makes an ass out of you and umption. The plot turned out to be just ever so slightly more interesting than what I assumed. There's a very, very brief point in the film when I was (gasp) actually unsure of how it will end, and that's more than what I can say for every single Disney film I have watched before now.


Rapunzel is in my opinion, the most attractive of all the Disney princesses thus far. Maybe it's her sunny, perky, almost goofy disposition, her huge green eyes and her adorable slight overbite. Maybe it's her barely-there smattering of freckles on her nose, visible in a precious few closeups. Maybe, it's 'cause she's voiced by Mandy Moore, whom I am inexplicably fond of. I don't know. But what I do know is that her divine mile-long golden locks were gorgeously animated. And she's funny. Did I mention she's funny? The first few minutes after she escaped from her tower were some of the funniest scenes I'd ever seen in a film in many years.

And Flynn Rider is designed to get the oestrogen pumping. No, I'm serious. He's literally designed with that purpose in mind. I read that the artists had all the staff members list all the celebrities which they thought were hunkiest and pretty much made a composite out of their answers. He gets the best, most hilarious lines. He has a lady-killing smoulder. He buckles swashes. He has a cute goatee. I haven't talked to my girlfriend yet - she just saw the film - but I suspect that she's already so in love with Flynn that she's practically pregnant with his twins.

The best thing about Rapunzel is the animation, hands down. Of all the animated film which debuted this year, I think it looked best. When they talked about non-gimmicky 3D which adds depth to the viewing experience, I'm sure Rapunzel is close to what they had in mind. The scenery design was breathtaking and I swear I've never seen colours so alive, so lush. The scene with a million Kongming lanterns taking flight into the night sky over the city by the lake which they spent the better part of the film building up to - that was magical. There's no better word for it. While I was watching it, I found myself holding my breath while my skin raised goose pimples from the sheer chill of being blown away.

Would I call Rapunzel Disney's return to form after more than a decade's drought of wonders? Yes, I dare think I do.

P.S. Oh dear, I can't believe I didn't talk about the songs! They were pretty forgettable. The villain song, Mother Knows Best was pretty good though, and the reprise was electrifying. And so was Rapunzel's little magic song.

P.P.S. Ron Perlman!

P.P.P.S. My thoughts on spoilery stuff here. Highlight within brackets to illuminate: [I just knew that Rapunzel's hair would be cut at some point, but the circumstances surrounding that event caught me completely by surprise and the implication of Flynn's act was genuinely touching. Good show. Immediately after that, I had a split second doubt that Flynn would survive - I couldn't see how. Cue deus ex machina magical healing tears. This bit apparently came from the original fairytale though. And I really dug how Rapunzel looked with short, brown hair.]

Climbed the golden stair,
k0k s3n w4i

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pixar Says "It Gets Better"

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

Leviticus 18:22

"And Lot! (Remember) when he said unto his folk: Will ye commit abomination such as no creature ever did before you? Lo! ye come with lust unto men instead of women. Nay, but ye are wanton folk."

7:80-81, Al-Qur'an

The Qur'an seems to have nothing against lesbians though. Progress!

Continuing in their grand tradition of reaching out and touching hearts, Pixar had recently jumped aboard the "It Gets Better" campaign which aims to reach out to homosexual children and teenagers who face social ostracization and cruel bullying for being who they are.

You might need a tissue.

Unlike other bullied children, they usually cannot even count on the support of their own family members who would torment them just as badly as (if not worse) than their schoolyard harassers. It's understandable why a disproportionately large percentage of homosexual kids contemplated, attempted and committed suicide. This is tragic. This is why I work so hard to discredit religion and the sanctimonious bastards who hide behind the skirts of fictional gods to persecute people who are just different. This is why I speak up - to show everyone that not all straight people are evil, selfish, bigots who cannot understand that you can't stop a gay person from loving a member of the same sex anymore than they can stop themselves from falling for a member of the opposite gender.

The only way Pixar can top this is if they make a movie about the struggles of a gay teen. I believe that one day, it will happen. One day, it'll be okay for all of us to be equals.

In Pixar he trusts,
k0k s3n w4i

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stephen Tobolowsky and His Fantastic Files

"There are two requirements that make it workable. One is that all the stories have to be true. And two, that all the stories have to have happened to the teller, to me."

Stephen Tobolowsky

I am a self-admitted entertainment junkie and in my lifelong quest to elude boredom, I have turned into a glutton for amusement and my appetite runs the gamut of media forms. In between sleeping, meals and my obligatory rites of personal hygiene, I am always watching, reading or listening to something. And one of the ever-present hazards of being my girlfriend is that she would be pestered almost daily to check out this movie or TV series or that book or song - whichever thing it is that got my passion ripping its shirt apart at the moment. It's no fun being excited about something on your lonesome, let me tell you.

Last year, I discovered the joy of podcasts. They are basically digital media files (usually audio) released on an episodic basis which you can download and listen at your leisure on your computer or MP3 player. This is why I think radio and television with their scheduled programming will be made obsolete soon (haven't watched telly in half a decade now, on my part). We are a generation of instant gratification. The world revolves around us, us, us, got it? Another thing you should know about podcasts is that they are almost always available for free. Anyhow, it didn't take me long to discover The Tobolowsky Files, described in its website as "a series of short stories about life, love, and the entertainment industry as told by legendary character actor, Stephen Tobolowsky." It quickly became one of my favourite things.

So, who is Stephen Tobolowsky? Movie fans will know him mainly as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day and Sammy Jankis ("Remember Sammy Jankis") in Memento. To TV enthusiasts, he's Bob Bishop (the guy with the Midas touch) in Heroes and Sandy Ryerson (paedophilic former director of the Glee club) in Glee. He's that C-list actor you can probably recognise on sight but couldn't place a name on.


The man has a hypnotic voice, a magical way with words and fantastic life stories. He can talk about anything and I would lap it up. I even enjoyed the episodes in which he spoke on matters of faith - like that time he made a bet with some guy in a bar that he could prove that God exists or his interpretation of Joseph's story from his Huge White Family Bible™. This is high praise indeed coming from an angry atheist like me. However, it's his time as a theatre major in the SMU, the difficult start he had in pursuit of his acting career, the behind-the-scenes anecdotes on the set of Memento, Groundhog Day and Mississippi Burning, and his love life with Pulitzer-winning dramatist, Beth Henley and his wife, actress Ann Hearn that I enjoy listening about most. And it's not just me. The podcast received so much attention that it was soon syndicated by several radio stations and scored the man a book deal.

Now, everyone would have interesting stories to tell once they have lived long enough, but it takes a gift to turn them into something which means more than the sum of its parts. Stephen Tobolowsky had made me laugh and cry - often in public on my own, I am unashamed to admit - and most importantly, he is an inspiration to me. To borrow the word he used to describe his mother in a heartbreaking episode he recorded to commemorate her birthday; he is an alchemist.


I can go on, but instead of continuing this as a review, I would like to give a testimonial instead. If there's anything I learnt from Mr Tobolowsky, it's that the best way to convince anyone of anything is through a tale well-told.

Now, I had been trying to get the girlfriend to listen to the Tobolowsky Files for months, but it is nigh impossible to get her to do anything once she has made up her mind not to. But I am no defeatist myself. Our relationship dynamic is one modelled between an immovable object and an unstoppable force - but dating long-distance managed to keep us out of collision course most of the time, thankfully. One afternoon in the recent month of September, while I was on vacation and staying in her apartment in Butterworth, I managed to jam the buds of my MP3 player's headphones into her ears just as she was sinking into her siesta, too enervated to resist. Playing on it was one of my favourite episodes of the Tobolowsky Files. It's titled It's Not My Dog.

When I checked up on her about an hour later, I found her with her face buried in her pillow. "Asleep," I thought and felt kind of thwarted. She still had the headphones on though - was probably too lazy to pull them out. Then I heard a sob. And another. I turned her over and found that her eyes were red and puffy. She was crying! I knew that this particular episode can really stir up some emotions, but wow.

"So, um, how's the podcast?" I asked sheepishly.

"I hate it," she said between sniffles. "I hate Stephen Tobolowsky."

P.S. Here's the first episode. You're welcome.

Bringing the joy of Tobo to everyone,
k0k s3n w4i