Monday, 30 April 2012

Malaysia's minimum wage

The current updated minimum wage was released. RM4.33 per hour for Penisular Malaysia..... EXTREMELY LOW for this era. I know other countries have minimum wages way higher than ours. One bowl of noodle is already RM5 above. If we want the ones below RM5, its probably plain soup with very little noodles.... The cost of living is increasing drastically but our country's minimum wage is still considered pittance. How can there be growth with just RM4.33 per hour??? Its not even encouraging to the young ones to make the effort to work their butt off as part-timers with that kind of pay. It is rather embarassing to know that my country could only increase the minimum wage to rm4.33 per hour....

Sunday, 29 April 2012


Another weird wonder we found just around the corner from our house, this gutted building at Frakkastígur 16, just below Kaffismiðja Íslands and the corner shop Drekinn and where the music and instruments store Rín* lived for forty years before moving to Brautarholt in 2004, has become a canvas for street artists while its future is being decided. You can play around with this interactive map of Reykjavik to find the streets mentioned in this post...

I found some interesting info on this location: the property just below it takes an L-shaped turn up to Njálsgata, and is where the Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímson brewery used to be. I remember very well being able to smell the almost too-rich aroma of a new batch of Malt Extrakt being brewed there before they moved out to Grjótháls. In the corner crook created by the fairly new apartment complex built on the site of the old brewery (btw, the 1100 square meter site was bought by the City for a sweet 37 million krónur back in 2000...good god how times have changed! That amount might buy you an average three bedroom apartment a tenth that size today) sits the Drekinn house built in 1905, a blue cement building from 1943, and this now-rundown structure. It seems its owners have requested permission to tear down at least six times since 2006, though it looks like the local building preservation society has had a hand in making sure that didn't happen, and there seems to have been a co-owner of the lot that also refused to agree on demolition. Ultimately, I'm sure it was the bank crash that set any grand real estate intentions on ear, seeing as the last specific mention I could find was an August 2008 photo report of abandoned houses in the midtown area by the Prevention Department of the Capital District Fire and Rescue Service, when there was still enough money floating around to bitch and squabble over who would get what share of the prosperity pie. Sigh.

The picture below is one I took last fall of some nice visitors who stopped to snap a classic shot of the Drekinn shop.

And here below? Just some nuns, and just for fun : )

*Some of the links in this post are in Icelandic...sorry I wasn't able to find anything in English with the same info, but now you've got more material to practice your language learning with! 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Burger lab

My burger experience rankings. Click on links to read more:
Sixth place: Chilli's Cheeseburger, KLCC/Midvalley

My cravings for a good, juicy beef burger is so strong right now that I started digging my fridge and eating whatever snacks that can curb my cravings for a burger!

Beef burgers at Chilli's was always my favourite because the huge portion served was always satisfying. But then, TF introduced me to Carl's Jr burger and I must admit, it was a better deal than Chilli's burgers. Then there was the German Deli burger at Ampang Jaya, which made me salivate looking at the pictures. But, the although the beef patties were huge, I didn't really enjoy the overpowering beef flavour it had. I'd like to believe that my distaste for strong smelling/tasting beef was because when I was much much younger, I was religiously told I was not allowed to eat beef. Hence, there was a time in standard 1 and 2 where I had to be that 'special' student to habitually inform the teacher that I can't eat beef during lunch breaks in school. Of course, its just my theory. I'm not 100% sure if that is tge reason. Standard 3 came and Hard Rock Cafe's beef burgers grew on me slowly. I started off only being able to swallow a quarter of the burger while my sister ate the rest of my burger wuth ease. Then, with many more visits to Hard Rock Cafe and Chilli's over the years, I finally manage to have a burger all to myself. Even now, if I were to be at a Western restaurant (eg: The Ship), and was given a choice between beef or lamb, my tastebuds will always choose lamb over beef. Its no wonder those Arabic lamb meals to me, are to die for.

Recently I tried this place called Burger Lab at Publika. They didn't have much choices on their menu. This was because they were not officially opened yet. It was by invitation only as they wanted people to try and give their opinions on the burger. The burgers were served at a shop called The Red Beanbag. I had their cheese beef burger which had really good beef patty. It came with french fries as I ordered the set meal and refillable soda. TF had mushroom burger(called ooey gooey) and he loved it much. For him to love a burger means it was really good as he is a beef food specialist. But, according to him, for the price paid for this burger, Carl's jr is still more worth it and satisfying.

Across from Burger Lab there was another burger place called Fat Boys. It looked good but I read a few blog reviews and some were not impressed by it. So, it sorts of delays my interest in trying that place.

My mum finally tried the much publicised Kaw Kaw burger. They now not only have a branche in Wangsa Maju, but they do have one at Taman Dagang. My mum went to the Taman Dagang one since it was opened by my ex-schoolmate. The wait was long, as expected. It costs rm8.50 for the burger. But, accordin to my mum, it was really good and worth it. Now that, I will try someday real soon!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Mad King Ludwig

I like to bore people regularly with pictures of my study tours with young Americans around Europe.  It seems that King Ludwig II of Bavaria (or Mad King Ludwig as he's sometimes called) and his castles provoked some interest, so this blog is dedicated to him: a Queen amongst Kings.  Also the 125th anniversary of finding him face down in shallow water in Lake Starnberg was last summer, so he deserves a blog on that basis too.

Variously called "Mad, Swan or Fairy Tale King"
Ludwig II was born in the mid 1800s.  He came from a somewhat eccentric family: the Royal Wittelsbach dynasty of Bavaria, who ruled over the country without a break from 1180 to 1918.  During this time they frequently married their close blood relatives: Christmas must have been an absolute nightmare: what to put on the card - dear erm Mother/Aunty/Cousin etc.?  As I tell my groups, anyone who has been to West Virginia will be familiar with the effects of such habits: the family were just a tad eccentric after several centuries of it.  Ludwig's grandfather, Ludwig I, had caused a revolution by shacking up with an exotic dancer called Lola Montez (real name Eliza Gilbert of County Sligo in Ireland) whose party piece was a dance where she looked for a spider in her knickers. The elderly King apparently liked to lick her toes: the good conservative burghers of Munich were having none of that

Young Ludwig grew up very distant from his parents, although he did like his toe-licking Grandpa.  He apparently referred to his Prussian mother as my "predecessor's consort".  He was born in a time at the dawn of the modern era: railways were crossing the continent, iron clad warships were coming on the scene, Facebook and MySpace were still popular.  Ludwig instead spent his childhood days dreaming of a time of knights, courtly legends, castles and a long gone era.  He spent most of his youth in a castle in the Bavarian Alps riding and reading poetry with his young aide de camp, Paul von Thurn und Taxis.  Ahem, more of that later.

On the Throne and his Failed Engagement

Just after turning 18, the dashing Crown Prince Ludwig was thrust into kingship.  His father died suddenly and he ascended the throne in 1864.  His reign got off to a bit of a crap start when he backed Austria in a war against Prussia.  Everyone knows Austria always lost any war it *ever* got involved in; moreover you never pick a fight with a Prussian brandishing a currywurst and a pointed helmet.  Ludwig backed away from public affairs and instead lost himself in the music of Richard Wagner.  They were a perfect match: the schmaltzy, over the top romantic story lines of Wagner's operas were clangy music to the young king's ears.  The people of Munich disliked Wagner and Ludwig disliked them back in turn. He backed the composer and it is quite likely that without his generous patronage that many of his works would never have been written.

The Pumpkin Wedding Coach. Oh My.

Ludwig became engaged to his cousin (*surprise*) in 1867 at the age of 21.  He broke the engagement off nine months later claiming if "this is how much the wedding coach was, how much will the bride cost me?"  I think any reasonable person looking at the splendid golden pumpkin coach (his personal design) <might> guess that someone with these tastes wasn't that into marrying a young lady.  In a fit of pique, Ludwig personally supervised the smashing of all the Nymphenburg souvenir porcelain plates that had been produced for the occasion.  Ooooh, bitter.  From that point Ludwig hung round with a series of young men, apparently tormented in his conscience between his Roman Catholic faith and his liking of Glee.

Vain, beautiful Sisi: only pictures of her as a young woman exist
His only really close friendship was with his gorgeous other cousin, the stunning Empress Sisi of Austria.  She was the Princess Diana of her age: trapped in a loveless marriage, she suffered from an eating disorder, refused to be photographed after the age of 30 and ended up being stabbed on a boat on Lake Geneva by an Italian anarchist.  She has been merchandised to death and back by the tourism industry of Vienna in recent years.

Despite being all sniffy about the people of Munich, Ludwig was tremendously popular with the ordinary folk of Bavaria.  He would stop and talk to farm workers, stable hands and labourers (oh yes) and is still known as "Unser Kini" which I'm told means "Our dear King" in that odd throat disease called Bavarian German.  He also liked going to the theatre (mainly he insisted on private performances) and took a keen interest in the careers of the actors.  Here's one of them: a comely young Hungarian actor called Josef Kainz, the son of a railway worker. 

A picture of the two on a private holiday together in Switzerland caused an absolute scandal because of 23 year old Josef's casual hand on the royal shoulder.  It was (no joke) effectively photoshopped out of a modified version.  The King had by this stage lost his youthful looks and clearly been at the Bier and the Pretzels.

The modified "decent" version of the photograph
As one of my followers so perfectly put it:

The Royal Castles

Of course the reason  Ludwig is so well known are his castles.  Linderhof was his first.  It cost 8.5 million Gold Marks, or roughly £42 million in Victorian money: bear in mind a house in suburban London cost around £300 at this time.  Let's say Linderhof is quite flamboyant.  It's the palace he lived in most: a perfect little bling Rococo gem surrounded by the Alps.  One of the most expensive features was an artificial Venus grotto he had built in the hillside, which was accessed by a giant fake rock that split open (as in Ali Baba and "Open Sesame").  Once inside the King could sit in his giant sea shell, feeding his pet swans and listening to Wagner's Operas from his private orchestras, who were conveniently hidden from view.

Linderhof Castle: the King's main real home
Another feature of the park was the Moorish pavilion where the King would dress up like the Sultan of Turkey and sit round on cushions wearing slippers and robes.  Linderhof feels like it belongs to Ludwig: less lonely, more homely and less artificial than his other creations.  His bedroom here had heavy black out curtains and a giant blue ball at the end of his bed.  He liked to sleep during the day and be comforted by the appearance of moon light.  The whole place occurs as utterly bat-shit crazy, but that's its whole charm.

Giant Sea Shell and Artifical Lake/ Grotto

Next came Neuschwanstein: the one on every bloody tourism poster ever put out by the German Tourist Board.  It's hugely famous: it was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Walt Disney copied it for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland, Tchaikovsky was apparently inspired to write Swan Lake after a visit (the swan was the King's favourite animal and there are swans everywhere in the castle including a beak for his private wash basin).  The castle is Neo-Romanesque: he was inspired by the real thing of the Wartburg near Eisenach and had a copy of this 600 year old style built on on a hill, which was a massive engineering feat.  The plans were drawn up by a stage designer, not an architect.

It *really* does look exactly like this. Amazing.
The King's bedroom is worthy of note: his bed represents the cathedrals of Germany.  14 carpenters worked for 4 years on this piece of furniture alone.  Off the bedroom is another artifical grotto.  The whole place had central heating, running water and an early iPhone 1, which was connected to the Post Office in the nearby town of Füssen.  The castle was completed on the outside, but only part finished inside.  The interior feels dark, museum like and sad to me.  He spent 172 days here in total: a little under 6 months.

The King's Bedroom. Check out the Bed.
Last was Herrenchiemsee: a copy of the baroque palace of Versailles.  The King worshipped Louis XIV of France and the fact he was an absolute monarch, not constrained by constitutions and parliaments.  This place is actually weird: it is set on a stunning island in the middle of the Chiemsee lake (also called the Bavarian Ocean).  It is an actual copy of the central part of Versailles (there were plans for the side wings, but one partially erected one was torn down after the King's death) - except for example the breathtaking Hall of Mirrors is longer than the one at the original.

Herrenchiemsee: more impressive inside than Versailles
The strange thing that I think many visitors do not understand is that all of the formal rooms (exact copies of Versailles, down to the artwork) were never intended to be used.  The priceless King's formal bedroom with the massive sun above the bed was not meant to be slept in by anyone.  It was all just a homage: a shrine to a King of France who had lived 200 years before.  There were also private rooms: they included a "magic table" (as at Linderhof) where food could be set out on a table in the kitchen and the entire thing wound up through the ceiling to the dining room above, so the King would not have to be disturbed by servants during his meal.  The King spent just 10 days here in the autumn of 1885.

Herrenchiemsee Hall of Mirrors: for the King's Private Use
I should probably quickly just mention that there were plans for a 4th castle: Falkenstein (it was never built) and the King also had a fantastic Winter Garden or Conservatory shoved on the roof of the existing Residenz (Winter Palace) in Munich.  It was over 200 feet long, had a painted copy of the Himalayas, and Indian bamboo fishing hut, a Moorish pavilion and a huge artificial lake.  Unfortunately it leaked and almost took the ceiling down on the whole palace.  It was dismantled in 1897 and the whole palace was in any case levelled by carpet bombing by the RAF during WW2.

An Untimely End

The King paid for all of his fantastic projects from his own money.  His family was tremendously rich, and it is often pointed out what a Keynesian stimulus type effect his expenditure had: there was massive of work generated for years.  By the end of his life he was 14 million marks in debt, however, and was reduced to asking for loans from fellow monarchs.  His ministers feared Bavaria was becoming a laughing stock with its eccentric castle building "fairy tale" monarch.  He had also "sold out" Bavaria by agreeing in 1870 to its becoming part of the new German Empire under the rule of his uncle, William, the King of Prussia, and now Kaiser of the whole of unified Germany.

A plot was hatched.  Servants were interviewed and bribed for evidence of the King's alleged insanity.  His younger brother was seriously barking mad (possibly as a result of late stage Syphilis) and facts were scraped together.  The Imperial Chancellor Bismarck dismissed them as "tittle-tattle" and "rakings from the King's waste basket and cupboards" but a panel of 4 psychiatrists ruled the King as unfit to rule.  Not one of them actually examined him, and the basis of their findings is open to serious criticism.

A commission arrived at Neuschwanstein and in true Ludwig style it was driven away by an angry Baroness friend of his at the castle gates, with the suitably Teutonic use of her umbrella.  They tried again and on 12 June 1886 went into the King's bedroom, where they informed the 40 year old Ludwig that he was no longer King.  He was moved to another castle on Lake Starnberg, where he died a day later.

Lying In State in Munich
To this date no one knows what happened.  His body was found floating in shallow water (he was an excellent swimmer) along with his personal doctor - who had heavy wounds to his head and signs of strangulation.  There are at least 5 plausible theories running from suicide to murder.  His body was returned to the place he disliked the most: Munich, and there it lies to this day in the Michaelskirche (it's close to the big H&M in the main shopping street if you want to visit).

What A Legacy

POOR Ludwig.  I really genuinely feel sorry for him.  He was a tragic, mixed up, unhappy character.  He had a life of utter luxury, sure, but this was hardly unusual for a monarch of his time.  He spent a shed load of money, none of it from the State, and created work.  He left a legacy of 3 castles (they were opened in August 1886 to the public and have raked in gazillions in tourist revenue for Germany since then) and a still unsolved mystery.  He is still Bavaria's most popular monarch: a man who tried very hard to keep his country out of war and who was a friend to the ordinary man - if he was 25, dressed in Lederhosen and had nice arms, especially.  Ahem, who can blame him?

I first visited Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee in 1981 with my parents.  I've since been back literally dozens of times with groups and enjoy each and every visit.  We call their builder Mad King Ludwig, yet we don't know if he was actually mad, or just theatrical and very eccentric.  He harmed no-one, yet we do not apply the label to Mad Hitler or Mad Stalin, both of whom undoubtedly deserve it far more.  Truly he was a Queen amongst Kings and for his utter fabulousness and heinous crimes against taste he deserves acknowledgement.  125 years dead: rest his big old Bavarian soul.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pisang goreng

Malaysia's new food fad- Banana Fritters with cheese and brown sugar!

The shop is located opposite Tar college. I could see the cheese but I couldnt really taste the cheesiness of it. But, the banana fritter was fabulous. It was not the soggy kind usually sold elsewhere and the batter was thin and crispy. It is to die for! I'd go back for more not for the cheese, but for their banana fritters.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ginza cafe at Tokyo Street, Pavillion

I have been told that Ginza Cafe serves one of the best coffee. Besides that, their coffee comes with foam drawings on the surface of the coffee such as Hello Kitty, pig, dog, donald duck etc.

Pastries sold there were famous. It is a tad bit better than The Loaf. I was having lunch there one afternoon, and the lady seated next to mine requested for the waiter to save two slices of cheesecake for her. She told her friend that its fast-selling. I didn't have room for cheesecake as I had a taste of black sesame bun and bbq chicken bread. I also had chicken teriyaki, which is currently on offer at rm19.95 on every thursdays. Really good, tasty chicken teriyaki. I do wish they served more french fries with it. The thought of it makes me crave for more now!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bisexuals, Unicorns and Nice Tories: Fact of Fiction?

Apparently lots is said about bisexuals and bisexuality from a straight perspective, but not that much from a gay one.  Therefore in the interests of throwing out uninformed perspectives and generalisations into the blogosphere, here goes with some of mine!

Kinsey Scale

The best place I think we can start with a discussion on sexuality is the Kinsey Scale.  Yes, it's ancient (1948), yes I'm sure you've heard of it, yes it's been refined subsequently to include biological sex, gender identity, asexuality and the fact that sexual identity may change throughout a lifetime.  Its strength though is that it's very easily understood.  Here it is: the idea is we all fall somewhere between the two poles of 0 for complete heterosexuality and the 6 of complete homosexuality.

Kinsey shocked conservative post-War America by his findings that 11.6% of men were 3 (perfectly bisexual) from the age of 20 to 35.  He also found that 10% of men in the 16 to 55 age range were 5 or 6 (pretty much completely gay) for at least 3 years.  The figures for women were slightly lower, but still significant.  These numbers have been the subject of lots of debate since then: the fact is no one really knows what is going on in your own head (and in your bedroom) except you, and it is notoriously difficult to get honest straightforward answers on this subject.

Societal Pressures

The Kinsey scale has always seemed quite logical and reasonable to me.  One refinement I'd add is that societal pressures add hugely to whether you will react freely to where you are on the scale.  It's surely pretty obvious that if you are in ancient Greece and some fine semi-naked youth happens to stroll through your back garden of an afternoon, even if a "1" you'd be far more likely to indulge in some neighbourly interaction, than if you live in a society where same sex acts are strictly taboo.  Similarly you'd have to be a 5 or even a 6 if you lived in a country like Victorian Britain or one of the 7 countries in the world in 2012 that terrifyingly still have the death penalty for gay sex.

Hullo Comely Greek Youth. Cup of tea?
Even in a liberal European country today you may of course be a 4 or 5, but your personal upbringing and in particular teachings based on faith will have an effect on the actual expression of your feelings.  Self-loathing religious gays and married "ex-gays" aren't unfortunately as rare as, say, unicorns.

Polarising Attitudes to Sexuality

So far, straightforward?   Now some thoughts on attitudes to bisexuality.  If we're essentially all somewhere on the scale between 0 and 6, we do live in a society where having sex of any consenting adult of our choice is not punishable by law, and Kinsey's numerical findings are even half way accurate, why is bisexuality relatively so little spoken about? Why do some people (particularly within the gay world) actually doubt it exists?

A big factor in this has to be that fact that that human beings seem desperately attracted to polarisation and seeing things in black and white.  Both straight and gay worlds occur to me as being incredibly binary: you either like the opposite sex or you like the same sex.  Our wider (overwhelmingly straight) society has even come to accept homosexuality from a social and legal perspective as long as you fit neatly into one of the two boxes*.

I went through such a lot of personal soul-searching and absurd angst in admitting to myself I was attracted to men, that once I was over this massive hurdle I fell squarely into the "gay camp" and haven't really ever questioned this since.  If I'm asked where I fit on the scale I'd say I'm a 5.8 or a 5.9: the extent of my sexual experience with women is twice half-heartedly snogging girls in my early 20s.  In gay terms that makes me a "Platinum Gay" apparently.

The Bavarian Balcony. Zounds.
I do wonder though.  What if society did not have this polarising characteristic: would I actually view where I am on the scale differently?  When I look at an image like this, I would be lying if I didn't say I find her incredibly attractive.  Yes, my interest in things Blond(e), Bier and Bavarian related may be a factor in this, but wow.  She is gorgeous... mesmerically so.  Is there space for me as a gay man to fancy a woman like this?  I know plenty of gays who would come out with quite misogynist comments when faced with the idea.  Frankly I'd be a bit scared as I'm much more familiar with "what to do" with men in bed, but I'm pretty sure I could actually get over that with her.  I'm just so clear in my head that I'm gay I don't really think about such things.

Having reflected on this I do think we are all (gay and straight) drawn so strongly to the ends of the scale by society that anything in between is really very challenging to us.  If a straight man finds another man sexually attractive, is his power of denial sufficiently strong that he won't even consciously register the thought?  How many straight women reading this actually find her sexually attractive and might react on this if we didn't label ourselves so clearly into one of the two camps?  There is a lot more to the concept of sexual attraction than simply choosing a number, when society's pressures may be putting a lot more pressure on us than we even possibly realise.

Misconceptions about Bisexuality

Extending this thought it's fair to say that bisexuality seems to make quite people a bit uneasy.  The binary way we look at ourselves means that the wide middle spectrum is marginalised and ignored.  A lack of acceptance and discussion leads to all sorts of misconceptions.

Fuck Yeah Bisexual Dolphin: Superb!
 For gays one of the powerful misconceptions is that it is a "passing phase" and therefore doesn't really exist.  When I "came out" I did something I think a lot of young gay people did: I lied.  I told my friends that I was bisexual.  It somehow seemed less shocking and perhaps more acceptable to say that I *did* fancy women, but also "I liked guys".  The power of self-denial is such I may even have believed it myself for a short time.  After some amount of time the theoretical "bisexuality" dropped away and I related to myself openly as gay.  The above type of thing really can't help if gay people project their own experiences of having lied about their feelings onto bisexuals who are genuinely attracted to both sexes.  Straight friends who have heard the lie from a gay friend are also likely to take on board the idea bisexuality is either a passing phase or doesn't properly exist.  It clearly does exist and I know some very "real life" bisexuals.

There seem to be people convinced by the idea that if a bisexual is attracted (physically and emotionally) to both sexes they must want or need somehow to alternate between the two in relationships and can not be happy or fulfilled just being with one.  I have never really understood why this should be the case.  You might be a man who finds blonde women extremely attractive and end up in a relationship with a brunette.  Does this mean you cannot be satisfied sexually because you constantly crave blonde women?  Yes you might still fancy them, but that really does not mean you have to go out and bed them on the side to be happy.  You make a choice, you are attracted to the person sufficiently to want to be with them, and you just get on with that.  Think this through.  If a bisexual woman meets a man and has even a life-long relationship with him, why does that make her any less bisexual and why will it affect her happiness?  She will still continue to find women attractive, but assuming the couple has agreed on a monogamous relationship and it satisfies them emotionally and sexually there is no reason she will be unhappy or unfulfilled more or less than any other relationship. 

Some look for the next thing to come along: plenty don't

Following on from this you have the promiscuity argument.  Why on earth bisexuals should inherently be any more or less promiscuous than people elsewhere on the scale is beyond me.   You might say "well there's more choice".  Yes they may fancy more people because there are two genders to take into account, but so what?  I see plenty of men on a trip to Norwich I fancy, it doesn't mean they will sleep with me as almost all of them will identify as heterosexual.  It should be straight people who are the most promiscuous by rights as there are more straight people "in the pool" who would be available for sex.  The meeting, dating, and being together process for bisexuals has to be just the same as for any other group - unless society's unease about someone's bisexual identity comes in and it actually makes it more difficult.

The last thing to mention is that sexual attraction and emotional attraction are clearly intricately linked, but there is a big difference.  People are capable of engaging in sexual activity with someone of whatever sex, but the key reason I see myself as being gay is that I am emotionally/ romantically attracted to men.  It is however of course perfectly possible that anyone anywhere on the scale will meet and fall in love with someone of a gender opposite to those they have dated before and form a lasting bond.  The physical attraction is a large part of it: the emotional attraction is what creates unions.

Unicorns and Nice Tories

I'm not sure if anything above has actually said anything even vaguely original or perceptive, but I have quite enjoyed writing it.  I'd better deal briefly with the other subjects of the blog post.  Well, unicorns exist.  Of course they do: the Bible mentions them 9 times in 5 different books.

A perfectly reasonable explanation
As Dr Elizabeth Mitchell says here, to think of the biblical unicorn as a fantasy animal is to demean God’s Word, "which is true in every detail".  The reference in her view could in fact be a creature with one horn, such as a rhino (a slender one, who has been on a treadmill as above?), or even with two horns (i.e somewhat puzzlingly in fact a "duocorn").  This latter definition of course handily covers anything from a giraffe to a walrus.

It would seem however that Noah forgot the unicorns who were off playing in a field when he called the animals onto the Arc (remember, this all has to be taken literally).  I find this quite upsetting and a little bit unreasonable of both him and the guy behind the whole "flooding the entire world to teach them a lesson" plan.

Now, Nice Tories?  Does the Bible mention them?  Of course not.  Don't be silly: they don't exist and you shouldn't believe in fairy tales.  Proof of the existence of 2 out of 3 things isn't bad though ;-)

* (and unless you're expecting marriage equality and talking to a traditionalist Christian of course).

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bookworm child

"Can we read a storybook after this?"
"Sure. Do you want me to read it?"
"No, I will read it to you!"


Thank you to those of you who commented on the previous post. I've fully absorbed the overall message that more photos is a good thing, and I'll try to do my best to satisfy your image cravings. I'm keeping this post short, though, and presenting a dramatic color juxtaposition I encountered last Friday night, which turned out to be one of those most enjoyable long, long evenings that make you very glad to live in such an alive and bursting little city.

I'm sharing this ubiquitous image of our famous Hallgrímskirkja (which I've decided is our own personal sacred pyramid) because it is so very blue, and because soon enough we won't even have this azure twilight to swim in; as the sun rises and rises in the sky and the leaves fill out on the trees, the street lamps will stay unlit and we'll, for a few summer months, forget what evening, and especially night, look like. And after the long slow, cold winter we've had, that will be very welcomed for sure.

The photo below was chosen for, of course, its absolute rouge and also as a permanent reminder of this night in particular, partially soundtracked by our own neo-psychedelic indie wonder, Singapore Sling. It was, just honestly, a Friday the 13th to remember forever. If you were there, you'll know what I mean ~°~

Monday, 16 April 2012

Exotic food @ Puchong Lim restaurant

TF and his family decided to go a Puchong Lim restaurant for lunch last Sunday. I tagged along. Unfortunately, I wasnt told where we were going, what we were eating and it was all because they spoke in hakka....... (they know i have no knowledge of hakka).

We arrived at this restaurant - no aircond, open air with a cheaply built rooftop, stray dogs around, a kitchen visible to the diners....

The food they ordered arrived and it was three claypot bowls of meat covered in dark sauce...... I asked TF what is it and he says, "different parts of the pig." Fyi, i do not even eat the pig's leg and here he is telling me its pork when all i see is plenty of bones in the claypot and skin... All covered in dark sauce. Taste wise was ok, but i couldnt bring myself to eat something when i dont know which part of the animal i am eating. So, i stuffed myself with rice and take teeny bits of meat.

TF also ordered a bowl of soup which he then told me it was 'shredded chicken' soup......

At the end of the meal, all was revealed that in the claypot, it was monkey meat, waterfish turtle and another animal which lives in the tree. The bowl of soup was snake!!!

Aih........ Terrifyingly disgusting to know people enjoy eating those animals. The restaurant has been there for more than 25 years and its always packed with 'evil' customers.

Its not even cheap to eat there. Bla blah blahhhh vomit!

Thursday, 12 April 2012


I chaperoned for a field trip with a bunch of 6 year olds to FRIM. If it were a normal malaysian pre-school, I doubt very much that parents would allow their kids to go for this sort of school trips. But, this bunch of ISKL pre-schoolers had to brave through the FRIM jungle and hiked the slippery slopes while watching out as to not trip on roots etc. Mosquitos were a real nuisance. Once I came out of the car, I had ten mosquito bites almost immediately. I thought the mosquitoes would have gone for the younger bloods surrrounding me, but I was the first to 'donate' blood. Such a horrible feeling to be bitten. I applied so much mopiko and used so many mosquito patches and mosquito repellent.

I must recommend mosquito patches to everyone. Thosw patches really work wonders. Of course, putting more
Patch was better. I 'forgot' to put on my bum, so i even had a mosquito bite on my bum. Wearing long pants also did not deter those hungry mosquitos from attacking me...... Now you know why i detest hiking trips and i would usually say no to camping/ jungle trips.

Once in the jungle, the poor little kids were also victims of the mosquitos. I felt real pity for the kids who had to stop halfway through just to scratch.

Aside from the mosquitos, the weather was really good for hiking. It was my first trip to FRIM so it was interesting to know about the 50 something year old trees in the forest reserve. We had a tour guide. But he was talking about silica and kulim tree and other things which obviously didnt catch the attention of 6 year olds. We also saw a huge fish...... I forgot the name.

After snack time, it was time to play at the waterfalls. FRIM is the closest place to KL where you will find a waterfall i guess.

Kids are adorable but taking care of too many is a handful.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Who would choose to be gay?

It's odd that in 51 blog posts to date, actually hardly any I have written actually relate to being gay - until recently.  I did write something on "Coming Out" which I hope may have helped a few people along the way and did have some kind feedback on it - but most other blogs have been on all manner of other things.

Anyone's sexuality is an inherently big part of their make up, but it's something you think about intensely as a teenager and then most people just come to accept where they are and who they are.  I certainly have since being there and have just got on with my life and all the various great, challenging and mundane things that are thrown up in the course of the years.

Sexuality in Focus

Then recently up pops the polarising rhetoric of the anti-equality lobby on the subject of same-sex marriage.  For the first time in years, perhaps decades, I'm faced with a group of people on Twitter expressing a whole range of delightful views such as this:

Homosexuality is an "intrinsic disorder" according to the above person's (Roman Catholic) faith and this is passed off not as belief, but as fact. She "knows" this to be the case.  Allegedly she's a liberal Catholic who is not at all homophobic, this comment is misconstrued by non-believers, and everyone is disordered so it's okay to say it.

Interestingly this link went to a blog that only contained one reason why same-sex would allegedly harm children, but let's not let facts get in the way.  From there one could at least access more homophobic drivel if one really wanted to.

And then we have this type of thing, which goes beyond merely offensive and into the realms of utter brain dead territory.  Yes, we all know that a same-sex couple is equal to a romantic and sexual relationship with an animal, or incest, thanks for this.

So There Are Twats Around

Yes there are.  What of it?  Of course I would not in my ordinary life be exposed to what I think are this range of ignorant and hateful views.  Twitter has many strengths but it also makes you realise there are a whole load of people out there you would rather not have in your consciousness.  Reading some of the timelines of such individuals makes you want to reach for the mind-bleach.  I just don't surround myself with people like this from day to day.

It is easy to dismiss them or mock them.  I do worry, however, what message they are sending out to (specifically young) people struggling with their sexualities, comparing their sexual make-up with wanting to screw an animal.  All the time they maintain they are not bigoted, they are not homophobic and they are in fact just upholding loving Christian values.  There are masses of Christians in this country, including Catholics, who would find their statements abhorrent, and once again it's dangerous but easy to see them as representative.  They are not.

Then I came across this blog.  Do please click on it and read it.  It's by the Chief Features editor of the Catholic Herald, Milo Yiannopolous, a gay 20-something man with over 10,000 followers on Twitter. The blog is full of self-loathing, a depiction of the gay world as "repugnant", "alienating", "self-destructing", "degrading" and contains the breathtaking line "it's wrong to expose an innocent child to the possibility of gay influence".  It compares having a gay child to wishing it were disabled.

You cannot but feel complete pity for Milo until you see his unnecessary dragging of Chris Bryant MP's picture from Grindr into matters, and his comment about "where would fat girls be without gay men" at the end. 

Milo contradicts himself in this and another blog about whether homosexuality is a choice or not; in one he says it is, in the other he says no-one would choose it.  I can only talk of my own experience and belief here, but I know that homosexuality for me is as natural as being right or left handed.  Whatever the societal pressures that make us more or less likely to act upon it (if you face the death-penalty, you're more likely to lead a life of misery denying yourself in a straight relationship etc) - it is simply how you are.

The Flip Side: this is Important

However, all of this "debate" in the context of the same-sex marriage debate has made me acutely aware that I am gay, and for some people this is a key defining element of a person's identity - to the extent that they would seek to deny me civic rights on the basis of it.  I also thought about the question, would I, at 40 years old, having been through my life to date, actually choose to be gay if I had had the choice?  The answer is a resounding yes.

Going through the process of realising I was "different" to our heteronormative world caused me to reflect, challenge myself, gain self-confidence and grow as a person.  This was huge to me: I don't believe life is about just material comfort or success: it is for me a process of learning, of growing, of developing.  Being a gay teen in the 80s in a suburban bungalow certainly gave me this opportunity.  It gives you a very personal understanding of what it means not to be in a majority group, which (one would hope) leads to greater tolerance and understanding of others.  I think it did me in any case.

I have been able to create a life for myself without the parametres of the expectation I would marry and have children.  Of course straight people can do this too, but they are often looked at with some amount of bewilderment and/or condescension by their peers if they hit 40 and have not reproduced.  As a gay man I have far more freedom and can much more do what I like with my life: I left a career in the City because I felt like it, moved to the countryside on pretty much a whim, have the freedom to travel and do much more as I please.  I've lived in 11 countries and travelled to 63.  I live for travel.  I have created a wonderful set of living circumstances and can suit myself.  I don't have a partner to support, kids at school, or a whole set of other responsibilities.  If I decided I really wanted to move to Munich next month, I could arrange it.  I take young Americans on educational tours of Europe for fun: how could I possibly be doing this if I had a family?  It is such a valuable job that literally can change young people's lives and I adore it.  I'd always wanted to be a teacher and this gives a way of expressing this.

[I should not that of course I could equally have decided to have kids: many gay people do, but I was simply freed from the automatic expectation that I would do so, and if I did not, there was something "wrong" with me.]

Am I selfish?  Yes, we are selfish creatures to a major extent.  My left of centre views on social justice and opportunity are to a large extent based on selfishness: I think that I benefit very much from living in a society where people are educated, cared for and valued, both in direct and indirect ways.  I'd also argue having children can be an incredibly selfish act: but even if it is, so what?  If it makes you happy and gives you a sense of worth, great, do it.  Just don't think that if people don't they're any less happy than you are by definition.

Have I experienced discrimination or bullying for being gay?  In a word, no.  I may be lucky (there are still plenty of instances of homophobic aggression, abuse and attacks in this country today) - but having some idiot shouting something once to me from afar in Surrey Quays in 1997 is the only example I can think of.  A partner at my law firm also said something behind my back once about queers, I went and saw him, we discussed it, he apologised and that was that.  I've had far more sneeriness about being half-German or vegetarian than being gay, and that I can very easily laugh off.

I do not see myself in Milo's description of the "gay world".  There is no denying that are elements of urban gay life that centre on drug taking and self-destructive behaviour.  I lived in Central London for six years and my entire exposure to drugs would actually make you giggle.  On the other hand I know of lots of (straight) lawyers who can't live without their regular hit of Colombian Marching Powder.  Sure, I went out, got drunk, had a lot of great nights out - but that was a phase I went through after a five year relationship and I've zero regrets about it.  I now live in rural Suffolk in a beautiful 550 year old cottage and the extent of my day to day social life is watching a Wonder Woman DVD cuddling the dog.  I *love* it.  The "gay world" encompasses as many aspects as the "straight world" does.  There are gay people living up and down the country, some single, many in relationships, who do not in any way fit in with the negative depiction that inhabits his head.

My Beautiful Little Home

Critically, the depiction of gay people leading "sad, lonely" lives is so far from my experience.  My life is full of love.  I have a set of friends whom I consider as family, my real family who adore me, and so much contact with people I sometimes really just love the thought of being on my own in quiet.  Even then, I spend most of my time on Twitter with more people I really like.  Every time I go down to London I actually get a bit stressed trying to fit in all the wonderful people I care about and want to see.  I am single and very happy being so: I go on dates when I fancy it and am lucky enough to still be able to flirt and get the attention of the type of guys I fancy.  Dating can be ace: the excitement, the fun, the expectation.  How many straight people of my age miss this?  I bet quite a few.  If someone significant comes along, wonderful - if he doesn't, wonderful.  Life is what we make it, and I'm certainly not sad and lonely for being a single 40 year old gay man.


In a strange way I'd therefore like to thank the motley little crew on Twitter who are so intent on discriminating against gay people by seeking to deny them marriage equality based on their faith.  They have made me realise that 20 years after coming out I have created a life I'm incredibly happy with, I'm quite proud of, and that the poisonous description of gay life that Milo has created in his head is a million miles from me.  You can't choose your sexuality, but you can choose your religious beliefs.  My question is actually why on earth anyone would choose this version of his faith if the result is the self-hatred he appears to display.  I wouldn't.

If you are young and gay, celebrate and embrace it.  The world is your oyster.  There are many things in this world worse than being a lesbian or a gay man in Britain in 2012.  It actually has many, many upsides.  Happiness comes from within and there is no reason you can't be absolutely happy, fulfilled and have a wonderful life if you happen to be attracted to people of the same sex.  If I were 14 again and *had* the choice, I would choose this path again.

Monday, 9 April 2012


These three little letters seem to evoke quite a reaction at times, so I thought I'd explore this a bit with some observations on their use on Twitter and the Internet.

What does it MEAN?

The first thing to note is the meaning of "lol" seemed to be vying between two camps for some time.  It is now most definitely settled as an abbreviation for "laugh out loud".  Its rival, "lots of love" now seems reserved for those who use the Internet and "text speak" less...

I'm sure we've all heard the urban legend of the mother who texts her son to say something along the lines of "Your Grandmother just died, lol Mum".  A quick search reveals about 2,746,728 people trying to pass this off as original and actually having happened to them.  It smacks of being just a *tad* fabricated and I rather prefer this little spin on the original:

However, just in case anyone born before or around 1872 is reading this blog, PLEASE NEVER USE LOL TO MEAN LOTS OF LOVE.  That includes you, Mutti.


Language purists hate "lol".  They say it's vacuous, it's sloppy and if we are to believe the Daily Mail [warning, clicking the link will quite possibly give you cancer] it is even putting the future of English at risk! On the one hand, clearly if the likes of the Daily Mail hate it, this is a darn fine reason to use it at every opportunity. Lol.

What I think people are missing here though is that "lol" can indeed be vacuous, but as with all language it depends on context and usage.  My perception is that when someone shoves "lol" at the end of a sentence of their own to signify that it is supposed to be funny, that often does make them look quite vapid.  It is particularly bad if the sentence is inherently really not funny.  An example I have seen on a dating site went something like this:

I'm looking for a guy who is intelligent and nice lol

Erm, yeah, what is possibly funny about that, other than the fact you come across as being about as bright as Brunswick (below), who could quite easily get a part time job as one of those nodding dogs in a car?  The usage actually evokes the entirely separate word "lolling" in the sense of hanging or drooping, a little how I imagine the mouth of the user.

I *AM* bright, honest, lol.

So when is it OKAY?

Well I personally think the use of "lol" as a signifier of amusement in relation to something said by someone else it is absolutely fine.. and in fact perhaps indispensable.  It is really a modern day signifier of a little grin or a chuckle.  Of course no one is actually laughing out loud: "lol" has suffered from over-use inflation and we need to use a much stronger term for that.  It is just a way of saying I found what you said funny, or this made me smile.

Part of the problem is that we don't have an emoticon for a laugh.  We do have a whole range available to us, but as yet, I have yet to see one that signifies a person laughing.  It's difficult to imagine how one would look.

:)  Smile
:(  Sad face
:D  Big grin
:o  Astonishment
:o))  Jaw dropping
:p  Stick out tongue
o_O  Staring at someone
 \o/  Huzzah (arms up in the air)

I love the \o/ emoticon and do it real life regularly
However, there just isn't a laughing emoticon.  Therefore we have to use something.  LOL-Haters don't seem to object to "haha" or "hehe" or "teehee" - I really don't understand why they are any more or less acceptable than "lol" to be honest.  Personally I would say a lower case "lol" on its own, just with nothing else can still appear as vacuous in a response - I'd say that adding something with it lessens this, e.g

I poured orange juice on my cornflakes this morning

Response A) "lol"
Response B) "lol - you big twit!"

I am not sure why, but the second just has a bit more weight about it and is less likely to be seen as an utterance of Brunswick.

Degrees of LOL

If "lol" doesn't actually mean you are laughing out loud, how can you signify that you found something really funny and approached this level of amusement, beyond the stage of a mere smile or a chuckle?  Well of course there are other splendid abbreviations at our disposal, mainly invented by 13 year olds and adopted with great enthusiasm by the likes of me.  A vague hierarchy is, I would suggest, something like this:

lol  a smile or chuckle
LOL stronger and verging on a vocalised chuckle (Of course the use of capitals indicates an emphasised version of any of the below)
pmsl  "piss myself laughing" (highly unlikely to be literal, fear not)
rofl  "roll on floor laughing" (again, permit us some hyperbole, please)
lmao  "laugh my arse off" (contact A&E if this happens in real life)
lmfao "laugh my f*cking arse off"  (the mind boggles: will there be baby arses?)
lmfaooooo reserved soley for the use of @SteMcCormick (no, I don't know what it means either, but he seems to like it)
lolololololooooo you may add as many letters as you like to signify your amusement: it's just added emphasis
Bahahahahaahaa (or a variant): gays seem to use rather this a lot. It first struck me as being quite sheep-like. I have therefore now (appropriately) adopted its usage myself.

There is - as you see - a whole wonderful/ murderous (delete as appropriate) range of ways of expressing your amusement.  "Actual LOL" also remains however probably the best way of saying you did what "lol" is supposed to signify.

Does any of this matter?

Of course it bloody doesn't.  If you don't like "lol", don't use it: simples.  If you do, lol away.  If it offends your sensibilities, however, you may well be disappointed with people on Twitter.  I have previously blogged on the playfulness of the language used in tweets.  Twitter is, like it or not, in large part informal, fun and a place where many people let their hair down.  Language changes, evolves, and the reality is that "lol" seems here to stay.  If you want to judge me for using it, feel free.  I'll just lol back.  I won't be using "lol" in a work letter, but then the beauty of language is the fact that we employ different vocabulary, rules and styles when we communicate in different contexts.

Oh and one final thing by the way, the OED has now officially accepted its usage. So there!! \o/

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Gym- A Malaysian neccessity

Living in Malaysia makes the gym a real neccessity because theres JUST TOO MUCH good food in this country. Even if you do not cook at home, you can easily find good, glorious, delicious food almost everywhere. Some good food are cheap too. I, for one, have scrumptious meals daily at home and outside. Too scrumptious to rejected lol. Hard to resist the food cooked by chefs in my family ;)

Therefore, a gym really comes in handy. Eventhough there are times when gym feels like torture camp or I just dont have the time to gym daily, at least i know i do gym and it wont allow me to be a fatty fatty fatty person who gobbles food like a glutton and does not gym at all.

Building a discipline to follow a scheduled gym routine is not easy. I just want to cheat sometimes. Sleep on the gym chair also can :p