Bargain Alley @ Kinokuniya, Liang Court: New Books At Super Low Prices

Bargain Alley Kinokuniya Liang Court

Most people don’t know this, but you can get new (as in the condition, not new releases) books at really low prices at Bargain Alley located within the Kinokuniya bookstore at Liang Court. If I’m not mistaken, this has to be the only Kino store with a bargain alley. You’ll find brand new books that may be priced even cheaper than if they were second-hand titles. For instance, you can get the book with the complete works of William Shakespeare at just S$8! It’s nuts, isn’t it? It’s where I go for book bargains when there are no book box sales elsewhere. 😛

At Bargain Alley, you can find the Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, in HARDCOVER, at just S$8. Want to learn a new language? Get the Spanish CD-ROM set that’s also going for $8.

harper lee go set a watchman

Cheap Spanish cdrom set singapore

If you’ve never read Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘Better Than Before’, you can get it for just S$5. I think I spotted 3 copies in total.

Buy better than before by gretchen rubin

And this is not related to Bargain Alley but right outside Kino is a row of gashapon machines. Naturally, I gravitated towards the Sanrio one. I had a 1-in-5 chance of getting the Hello Kitty figurine. And when the capsule rolled out, I saw the red bow in the corner and was ecstatic! 😀 Unlike those UFO catcher machines where prizes are not guaranteed (most of those claws are rigged anyway), these capsule machines will definitely give you a prize. And I like that there are no other random toys included within.

sanrio gashapon machine singapore

If you spot any other Hello Kitty-related Gashapon machines elsewhere, do let me know. 😀

Book Review: ‘Dying To Meet You: Confessions of a Funeral Director’ by Angjolie Mei

Dying To Meet You by Angjolie Mei

While preparing dinner, I began reading this book ‘Dying To Meet You’ by Angjolie Mei and now, before I head to bed, I’m ready to do a review. Proof that the book was ‘unputdownable’. In fact, it got me crying by page 12. What’s up with authors these days? Can’t they make us laugh, or at least laugh till we end up crying? 😀 Very good book, though I’m not so sure about whether locals would buy a book featuring a (quite stunning) coffin on the front and back cover, albeit accompanied by a HOT female who loves salsa (though you won’t know that till you’ve read the book). Though some might think it’s ‘pantang’ to work in this industry or even to be associated with someone working in this line, I think it would be quite a privilege to be friends with a funeral director (Hello Angjolie, we should meet!) because if she’s someone who does her job well, I would think that happy spirits would be hanging around her and probably granting her wishes or something – perhaps something like always having an empty parking lot in a crowded carpark or finding money on the ground, maybe. 😀 What’s there to be ‘pantang’ about?!

I learnt a few things from reading this book, that I didn’t know before:

  1. Islam forbids cremation, so Muslims have to be buried. (You can Google this. I have. It’s considered haram and apparently Muslims cannot witness a cremation or even state their approval of it)
  2. A casket has 4 sides while a coffin has 6. (Again, you may Google for images)
  3. A person’s sense of hearing is the last to go when a person is dying. So feel free to keep talking to your loved one lying on his/her deathbed.
  4. The Ngee Ann City mall is located where a former graveyard used to be.
  5. In Singapore, you may only remain buried for 15 years. (So you might as well be cremated. Just saying.)
  6. Funeral wakes usually last for 3 or 5 or 7 days. Odd numbers because the Chinese believe that good things come in pairs (好事成双) and funerals are considered inauspicious therefore are held over an odd number of days.
  7. The fabric square worn on sleeves of family members of the deceased are worn on the left for males and on the right for females. (Yes, I didn’t know that!)

Ok, now back to the author. Angjolie Mei changed her original name and included ‘Jolie’ because of Angelina Jolie, whose courage and commitment to humanitarian work she admired. Angjolie is the daughter of ‘the Coffin King’, the late Ang Yew Seng. When she was in Primary 5, her best friend died after he was run over by a cement mixer. Hence she now makes it a point to look out for kids at funerals and help them cope. In the book, the author also shares how she helps shield grieving family members from the media, such as when a Japanese lady in a taxi was killed after a crash involving a Ferrari in 2012. I like that. All too often, people handling newsworthy cases (such as lawyers) try to manoeuvre  themselves into the limelight. Of course, I have not met Angjolie and can only trust what I’m getting from the book. We’ll see. 😉

“…the day you stop feeling sadness for the family is the day you lose empathy and compassion, which is needed to work well in the industry”

If I do meet the author one day, I have two questions for her:

  1. Why PINK as a corporate color for your company?
  2. How did you do so well in the financial planning industry when you say your heart wasn’t in it? Qualifying for MDRT for 3 out of 4 years is pretty amazing.

~

Go purchase or borrow a copy of this book. It’ll certainly get you thinking. I remember reviewing another book involving a mortician, ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ by Caitlin Doughty, which is also really good. Strange how funeral directors are such fantastic writers. Or perhaps they just have outstanding co-writers and editors. 😀

p/s: I would love to be cremated (please ensure I am really dead first, ‘cos you know getting burnt to a crisp is irreversible but some people are able to claw themselves out of coffins after being buried). No embalming, please! All those chemicals – yucks! And people touching my body – ARGH!!! I hate being touched when I’m alive. I’ll probably haunt those who dare touch me when I’m dead. Muahaha! And forget about turning my cremains into a diamond – please lah, spend money more sensibly. I don’t mind becoming fertiliser for a plant though. 😀

Book Review: ‘My Lovely Wife: A Memoir of Madness and Hope’ by Mark Lukach

My Lovely Wife by Mark Lukach

This is probably the BEST memoir I’ve ever read in a long time. One that I’d happily stay up all night to read, if not for the fact that in this book you’ll realize that having sleepless nights can lead to frightening consequences. Mark married his college sweetheart, Giulia (pronounced like Julia, as she’s Italian) and life was picture-perfect. Until the stress from her job caused Giulia (aged 27) to have her first psychotic breakdown. The book chronicles the first, second and third episodes, ending in 2014. I think newly-weds and people who are intending to wed should read this book. If you’re a caregiver for a family member living with mental illness, this book’s for you too.

I found this YouTube video of Mark’s TEDx talk. If you’re going to watch it, get some tissues ready. I’ve never watched a 11-min TEDx talk that left me in tears and also had the audience give the guy a standing ovation. This is it:

“…when I got married at 24, I said ‘I’m here, till death do us part, in sickness and in health’. And when you’re 24 and you think you’re invincible, you don’t know what that means. And it’s until the health evaporates, that’s when you really get tested. That’s when the vow really counts.

(Commitment) “It’s about standing by Life’s imperfections, no matter what.”

I can’t help but feel lots respect for this man who stood by his wife through it all. Through the psychosis and the depression that followed, through the delusional outbursts and the suicidal episodes, through the battle with healthcare professionals who’d probably admit they are just experimenting with the various medications to find the right cocktail of drugs that might help, and having to care for not just Giulia but also their little boy, Jonas.

No one gets married expecting that one day, their perfectly healthy spouse (with no prior mental illness) would have to be checked into a psych ward.

“I had lost my wife and gained a lifelong patient.”

So when you utter that vow, or now that you’ve already said it, are you prepared to stand by your spouse, no matter what? I think Mark has set a fine example regarding commitment to those marriage vows. I’m pretty sure there are many other men who would have balked at the idea of living with (and caring for) a loony wife. For Mark, it appears that there’s only Giulia, his “lovely wife”. Read this book ‘My Lovely Wife’ and you’ll gain a whole new understanding of mental illness and what it might entail, bearing in mind that every person has an entirely unique experience of mental illness.

p/s: On a scale of 1 to 5, this book is a perfect 10. 🙂

Times Bookstore is Moving Out of Tampines One: Offers 20% Off Books*

Times tampines 1 moving out sale

Screengrab from Times’ facebook page

I’m guessing this might be the beginning of the end. It would be a real shame if we lose yet more bookstores. Though I suppose this is inevitable. Without the right people, ideas and plans, we might just end up with 1 bookstore chain in the near future – yes, that popular one which parents drag kids to and stock up on assessment books. 😀

After Times’ exit from Tampines One, this bookstore chain will be left with 6 outlets in Singapore: Centrepoint, Cold Storage Jelita, Marina Square, Paragon, Plaza Singapura and Waterway Point.

About two weeks ago, I met two female employees of MPH in Malaysia (who have marcomms roles) and gave them an idea that just came to me while I was looking at the titles they had at their booth. Without bothering to delve further and ask more questions and see how this idea could work for them (not me), they provided immediate objections such as “can’t be done”, “no budget”, “management won’t agree”, etc. But if they had given me 5 more seconds, or shown more enthusiasm, I could have shared with them ideas for how it could be executed with little to no budget (and might even make them money in the process), what steps to take, how to generate a ton of publicity and even how to convince that boss and other people to get on board. The reason I even bothered to speak with them was ‘cos they were attending workshop after workshop to find new ways to revive the book-selling industry. (I think I forgot to ask if MPH had sent them or if they had voluntarily come by. Haha!)

But too bad, too sad. I’m guessing they’ll look for other jobs eventually. Those positions at MPH Malaysia are mere stepping stones for them, it seems. But wouldn’t it be awesome if they could play a part in rejuvenating this (dying) business, make a name for themselves, then move on to another company?

In Singapore, there are a few main reasons why I don’t buy books at bookstores anymore. (It has nothing to do with authors sending me their books for reviews, ok? :P) And I’ll share with you what would make me return…

#1: The lack of people who are PASSIONATE about the business

Seriously. Just walk into any bookstore (Times, Popular, etc) and ask the staff for a book recommendation. You might just give them a heart attack. Some don’t read books, have not heard about best-selling titles (not obscure ones), and always have to rely on “Let me check the system” no matter what question you ask.

Don’t ask me for a book recommendation. I’ll just go on forever, invite you to my home, and make you leave with a handful of books you should read. 😀 It’s true. There was another lady at the same book table in Malaysia who had picked up a copy of a book that I was about to buy as well, we started chatting, and I eventually bought her another book PLUS gave her a copy of my book ‘Blogging For A Living’. And at that point, I didn’t even know her name. Good grief!

#2: Seriously lame marketing efforts

Are we really going to make a beeline for Times just ‘cos they’re dangling a “20% discount” offer? *yawn* Do you not know that you can get books on bookdepository.com at a much lower price, PLUS they deliver worldwide for FREE, with no minimum spending? They even give you a free bookmark with every order, for crying out loud!

The only book sales that can get me out of the house are the Books Box Sale ($50 for an entire carton of books you can handpick yourself, but which, sadly, isn’t happening this year) and the Epigram Books sale ($20 for 10 books you get to choose).

With 20% discount, I’m just going to stay put and watch more episodes of the 2018 Meteor Garden remake ok? 😛

#3: No value-add at all

What’s the difference between buying a book online and buying one from the Times bookstore near my home?

Does the one in the store come with the author’s signature? Does it have a special “limited edition” freebie? Is there an accompanying workshop? Do I get to MEET the author? Do the staff read stories to the kids who visit the store? Are there staff recommendations of books I should get, or which mothers should get, or which children aged 5 to 7 should read?

No. What I’ll get is a grumpy guy (or lady) who asks me if I’m a member, then scans the barcode off my Times app, collects payment and sends me on my way.

~

Sure. Bookstores can bank on assessment books and kids’ titles to be their cash cows for a little longer. But how sustainable this will be in the long run, I’m not sure.

Epigram Books Sale: Final Day!

Epigram Books Sale

Spotted a post on Epigram Books‘ Facebook Page that it’s the last day of their book sale today, so I decided, on a whim, that I’d go check it out. And I found many ‘new’ titles that were not available during my first visit. And this round, I bought 40 books. It’s a really good deal because it’s just $20 for every 10 books, so each item cost me only $2! 😀 But lugging all these home is no joke. Thankfully, I took the MRT trains during off-peak hours. Phew.

Epigram Singapore Book Sale

I think my favorite buy would be the ‘LKY: Political Cartoons’ by Morgan Chua, in hardcover no less! I’ve got two copies and I’ll ‘gift’ them to my pals Samy and Steven. (If you’re reading this, MEET UP WITH ME SOON 😀 ‘cos the postage would probably cost more than the price I paid for the book. Haha!) Also, I have 4 copies of ‘Mdm Kwa: The Life of Mrs Lee Kuan Yew’, also in comic form, by Morgan Chua. My pal Melinda’s definitely gonna get a copy. Who the other 3 will go to, I have not decided yet. 😀

Gosh. I really do LOVE book sales. Some women get a high when they purchase a branded bag. I get ecstatic when I see books at such great discounts. Sometimes I don’t even know who I’m getting some of those titles for, but I’ll just grab them first anyway. 😀 As one of the Epigram NotBooks says, “I am not kiasu. I am Singaporean.”

The usual price of those notbooks is $12.90 (large) but I bought them at $2. *sheds tears of joy*

*And it’s not a spelling error: they really are called NotBooks though they are notebooks, ‘cos they are not books, geddit? 😀

**There’s 20% discount for their online store, till 11.59pm on 1 July. Use code WER7 when you check out. You’re welcome.

Book Review: ‘Butterfly’ by Yusra Mardini

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini

There have been a number of books written about how Syrian girls have fled their homeland because of the war and described their treacherous journeys across the sea towards freedom, peace and hopefully, a better future. In this book, ‘Butterfly’, you’ll read the story of how sisters Yusra and Sara escape Syria and make their way to Germany. The climax is when the inflatable dinghy (built for 8 passengers, but forced to carry 20) starts to sink out at sea after the engine dies. The girls, together with some of the male passengers, get into the water so as to lighten the load and keep the boat and everyone else afloat. *Though a lot of the credit has to go to Sara, Yusra is the one who eventually gets all the fame. I really would love to read Sara’s account of events. 😉

By the age of 12, Yusra has already made it into the national team, swimming for Syria. While the sisters are equally talented at swimming, Sara’s shoulder injuries mean she cannot fulfill her dreams of becoming an Olympian. But Yusra can, and she has.

This book, ‘Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope and Triumph’ is impossibly well-written. I think a lot of the credit has to go to co-writer Josie Le Blond, whom Google tells me is a British freelance journalist in Berlin.

It seems almost incredible how a swimmer in Syria who survived a bomb blast and fled to Germany would eventually landed a Visa commercial, a sponsorship deal with Under Armour, become the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, get named in People magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World (2016) and TIME’s The 30 Most Influential Teens of 2016 too!

Indeed, Yusra’s story grips the imagination such that it even has journalists spinning tales, such as one about how Yusra, with a rope around her waist, pulled a boat with 150 people to safety.

Here are a few thought-provoking parts of the book:

#1: Without Sara, would Yusra even have made it to Germany?

My hunch is that without her more decisive older sis, Yusra would not have made it all the way to Germany. But, of course, this is just my guess.

#2: If war breaks out here in Singapore, would we not be leaving our homeland just like Yusra and Sara did?

Unlike a soldier, I can’t fight. And unlike Yusra and Sara, I’m not even a good swimmer. I hope there are enough planes, buses, boats and motorized sampans to get us all out of Singapore.

#3: Why people would dehumanize or think any lesser of these folks whom we term ‘refugees’. The people at a restaurant in the island of Lesbos refused to sell them water. In Belgrade, hoteliers refused to serve customers with Syrian passports. Smugglers are also out to make a quick buck from helpless Syrian refugees, even keeping large numbers of them prisoner in Hotel Berlin. In Hungary, they are treated like vermin by the police and given food probably unfit for human consumption. They are also treated like animals when they are transported in cages.

#4: Yusra and her family and friends are a different kind of ‘refugee’. While on the run, they are “posting selfies on Instagram and chatting online with friends back home”, checking locations and getting directions.

#5: While some Europeans treated the refugees poorly, the Germans were quite the opposite, giving them a warm welcome. There are donations, housing and even monthly allowances.

#6: At the Rio Olympics, Yusra was part of the Refugee Olympic Team, or ROT for short, which seems quite an unfortunate acronym.

~

“…Steven asks me what I learned on the journey. That’s easy. I learned perspective. Back in Syria I wasted time worrying about petty things. Now I know what real problems are. My eyes have been opened.”

 

“It’s just easier to laugh than to cry. If I cry, I’ll cry alone. But if we laugh, we can do it together.”

~

This book is definitely a very good read. You’ll enjoy it though at the end, you might find yourself wondering, like I did, how much of it is fact and how much of it is embellishment. Unless the author has a phenomenal / photographic memory, it’s unlikely that a person can remember so many details from being on the run (from the war, from the police, from the bad guys, etc). And after the numerous rounds of retelling of the story to so many journalists, it’s not impossible that some things may not be entirely true / accurate anymore.

Book Review: ‘Killing It’ by Camas Davis

killing it book by camas davis

Gosh. I do love the cover of this book.

This book is like the more gung-ho alternative to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Instead of blissing out under a mango tree somewhere in Asia, the author goes to France to learn how to slaughter animals for food. Here’s a quick summary: Camas Davis lost her job as a food journalist for a magazine, and also broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years. She quickly finds herself in the bed of another man, and just as quickly, leaves him behind in Portland, Oregon and goes to France (for 7 weeks) to learn how to become a butcher. (You know, after a decade of working as a food writer, people tend to suddenly want to find out where their food originated from.) Oh, she also uses a credit card she’d found at the back of a filing cabinet to fund her trip. 😉 She later returns to America to start a business that becomes wildly successful. For a good period of time, she also finds herself straddling two relationships: one with a man, and one with a lesbian. That’s messed up in so many ways but she spares us what she calls the “lurid details” of her relationship with Jo.

“…I wanted to live in a world where I was allowed to love both Andrew and Jo in whatever way I wanted to, without consequences.”

 

“For such a long time, I was unwilling to lose one to keep the other.”

 

“I didn’t want to be seen by anyone. I didn’t want my true, disingenuous self to be exposed – the self capable of stringing Jo along for more than a year, the self capable of keeping such an enormous secret from Andrew, the self capable of pretending she was incapable of causing others pain.”

This is something I find very hard to accept. Sure, you can be bisexual, and born this way, and whatever else you want to claim. But being in two relationships at the same time and knowing you are hurting these two people yet you can’t think of anyone else but yourself is just plain selfish. No other way to put it. And the sweet guy still wanted to marry her (eventually). And the lesbian went off to start a family with another woman. (@_@)

It’s interesting how things worked out for Camas.

From getting ousted from her job and requiring unemployment checks for a long time (why doesn’t she have any savings?) to starting the Portland Meat Collective, appearing in ads for a knife company, and also receiving an American Made award from Martha Stewart, she has indeed, as the title suggests, succeeded in “Killing it”.

~

While her private life might be frowned upon by some readers (myself included), I applaud her courage in sharing what she did. More importantly, she’s shared her journey of coming to understand, and appreciate, how food is farmed. The people she has met in France have shown her that it’s possible for farmers to have total control of every stage… such as from seed to sausage. They grow their own crops, which are fed to the pigs they raise, and they kill the animals and make full use of every part, letting nothing go to waste.

After reading the book, I think that eating meat isn’t all that bad (despite what some very vocal vegans will tell you). According to the book, if the animals have had a good life, a good death, a good butcher and a good cook, there’s really nothing else left to be said. In fact, I’ve avoided eating foie gras for a while now, but if I have access to foie gras as it is ‘produced’ like in the book, then yes, I’ll go back to eating and enjoying it.

This book has vivid descriptions of how pigs, chickens and even rabbits are slaughtered. The author, as part of her business, also conducts workshops to teach people how to kill animals for food. If you get squeamish easily, then perhaps you might want to skip certain parts of the book. But I’d highly recommend you get a copy and confront what you’ve been avoiding for a while now if you’re a meat eater and you get your ‘supplies’ from the supermarket. An animal (perhaps bigger and heavier than you are) was (maybe) bred in unthinkable conditions, and slaughtered in what might have been cruel or inhumane ways, but what’s packaged and presented nicely to you in various cuts and forms allows you to not think about what the animal had to go through.

Get this book as it’s certainly food for thought, and it just might influence what you’ll eat or not eat from now on. 🙂

~

“I live my life in abundance. That means I always believe things will work out and they always do. You should try it sometime.” – a woman the author had met.

Why Millennials Are Always Late, And Why It’s Actually YOUR Fault!

Why Millennials Always Late

I’d wanted to title this post “I Threw A Millennial Out Of My Class” but figured it sounded too harsh. The millennial in question is also one who teaches CEOs and bosses about how to handle millennials in the workplace. *cough cough* He even wrote a book about it. Recently, he showed up unannounced at a talk I was conducting. During the self-introduction round, I asked him to share with the class about how we’d previously met to talk about a book review I was (initially) happy to do about his new book on millennials. He proceeded to tell the class how I’d read only half of his book and did not review it.

Gosh that sounded bad. If you follow this blog, you know I LOVE reviewing books.

The reason I could not bring myself to complete reading the book is because of the way I was treated by this millennial who showed up really late for our appointment. How he behaved (first impressions last, remember?) and how he is portrayed within the book were total opposites.

We’d arranged to meet at Suntec City on 23rd March 2017, then he changed the location 2 hours before the meetup:

Author Of Book On Millennials

He did not ask for permission: “Hi Grace, would you mind meeting at Dhoby Ghaut instead of Suntec City?”. And he certainly did not provide a reason for the sudden change, e.g. “I’m so sorry, I forgot that I’m meeting someone else at Dhoby Ghaut right after so I can spend more time chatting with you if we meet at Dhoby Ghaut instead. Would that be alright with you? I really want to hear more about what you do for a living.”

Yes, millennials take things and people for granted.

I arrived at 10.40am, a good twenty minutes before our scheduled appointment time, and at 10.55am, he says he is “reaching”. <- NEVER trust a millennial who tells you he/she is reaching. If they say they’re on the way, you can bet your last dollar that they’re still at home.

At 11.15am, the person who was supposedly “reaching” at around 10.55am reveals he’s at Suntec. He says it was a bad idea to change the location for our meetup, but does not say whose bad idea it was. Certainly not mine. I accommodated the change and I was even EARLY, not just punctual.

Then he tells me to wait a little while longer because he’s “only [a] few stops” away.

Finally, he asks for directions to get to where I am. From the time I arrived till the time he sat down across from me, a good hour has passed.

To add insult to injury, this millennial takes a stack of books out of his backpack and proceeds to hand them to me, and I’m like “woah woah hang on a minute”. I need just ONE copy for a book review, but you want me to take this stack and hand it out to the bosses I meet or do a giveaway? I’m not even carrying a handbag. You expect me to lug this stack of books around the ENTIRE DAY, for the rest of my appointments?! (@_@) It’s not even ‘arms day’ for me at the gym!

I take one copy and the rest is history. When he showed up unannounced at a talk I did last month, I made sure I told the class that I abhor lateness. If you’re late, you’re disrespectful. First impressions last, indeed! I think I’ll still remember how he made me feel ten years from today.

As for him, I think he’ll remember how I “threw” him out of class. Actually, I didn’t ask him to leave. I simply told the class how I waited for an hour, and that resulted in me not really wanting to review the book. And he decided to leave on his own accord, telling everyone he has another appointment to go to. Right.

~

So back to the topic of why millennials are always late, and why it’s YOUR fault, really.

#1: You’ve “trained” your millennial friends to be late

If you have never made a fuss about their punctuality issue, then you’re condoning and encouraging it. If your friend shows up late, says “Eh sorry I’m late. You didn’t have to wait for me. Should have started eating first!”, tell the person that he/she is disrespecting you (and everyone present) by being late, but all of you decided to be respectful and wait for everyone to arrive before tucking in or even ordering the food.

If the person still doesn’t get the point, and start respecting everyone’s time by being early the next time, then you really should consider getting the person out of your life.

Don’t ever say to someone who is late that “it’s fine”. NO, it is NOT fine.

If your spouse has a punctuality issue, YOU take responsibility for ensuring he/she makes the change. Explain, cajole, put in place penalties (buy everyone a round of drinks), encourage the person to do better.

#2: You don’t point out how obnoxious and entitled they are

I’m guilty of this one. A JC schoolmate was late for our girly meetup at Orchard. She’s usually late but what made this particular occasion different was her comment that “I’m worth the wait, right?” gave me such a shock I couldn’t react in time. I remember her words till this day, some 14 years after she had uttered them.

No! Tell these people that they are NOT worth the wait. They are simply disrespectful folks who think they are the life of the party. They think they are being “smart” in showing up late and not having to wait for anyone to arrive (because everyone’s already here) but they are just being horridly disrespectful.

No disrespectful person is ever worth the wait, my friend.

*And no, that girl and I, we aren’t friends anymore. Thank goodness.

#3: You make fun of people who show up early

That friend who shows up early for the wedding dinner reception? You told him/her that it never starts on time and people who show up early seem to be kiasu or gluttons afraid of losing out on the sumptuous food?

When someone says he’s setting off early so that there’s ample buffer time should there be any accidents or unexpected circumstances, you ask why the person would want to reach so early and how he would “kill time” when he’s there way ahead of schedule.

You question your friend’s decision to head to the airport early to check-in, because there’s “nothing to do at the airport, so boring!” I’m sure you’d much rather show up late because of traffic, plead with staff to let you board and race to the boarding gate, right? I’d prefer reaching way ahead of time, leisurely checking in, visiting the duty free stores, getting something to eat, charging my phone, filling my water bottle for the flight, and doing everything that a chill traveler would do.

~

At the end of the day, yes, I do feel bad about “throwing” someone out of my class. I got triggered when the person said I didn’t review his book after taking it. What an accusation. BTW, book reviews are not guaranteed, ok? Just putting it out there first. And I did not ask him to leave the class. He just felt embarrassed probably when I was sharing about how important punctuality is (just as other people were streaming into the class, late).

I’m not sure he even understands how he made me feel with the way he treated me during our first meet-up. I’m sure he’s only just pissed that I told the class he made me wait for an hour. Oh well.

Just in case you think all millennials have a problem with punctuality, think again.

I’m a millennial. And I’m hardly ever late. I also wrote this blogpost myself (no ghost writers!) So if you’re meeting me, and I’m late, please go ahead and ask me for S$50 (or a meal or a free book or whatever) as a penalty. 😀 <- My Number 1 strategy to ensure I’m always on time. 😀

Book Review: ‘Now That It’s Over’ by O Thiam Chin

now that it's over o thiam chin

I totally judge books by their covers and this one features a blurry image of a man(?) covering his face with his hands in what is probably agony (or shame), and the overall impression it gives is hardly attractive. If not for that little circle in the corner with the words “WINNER Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015”, I’m not sure if I’ll pick up this book for a read in the first place. Anyway, I can totally understand how a book needs to be launched really quickly once it wins any sort of prize. So there’s hardly any time to obsess about cover design.

At first, I didn’t really appreciate the title, but after reading the book, I find that it’s a really good title – ‘Now That It’s Over’. Now that the relationship is over, how do you move on? Now that the tsunami is over, how do we pick up the pieces? It gets you thinking about how you’d respond to a situation that is unpleasant or has made you feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under your feet. Do you respond in a positive “let’s move on” manner, or do you think that when ‘this’ is over, there’s nothing else to live for?

The way the author, O Thiam Chin, writes about sex in this book will raise some eyebrows. While the sex between the heterosexual couple seems rather bland, if not entirely boring, the descriptions of homosexual sex acts are shockingly vivid. Please don’t blame me for being kaypoh. I found myself curious about whether the author is gay. Actually, I think I already have the answer. Also, I’m not sure if his depiction of the gay characters in this book as being quite promiscuous (cheating is common) will be appreciated by the community.

There are four main characters: Ai Ling, her husband Wei Xiang, her BFF Cody and his boyfriend Chee Seng. They are in Phuket during the devastating tsunami in 2004. One person doesn’t make it out alive. And one relationship doesn’t survive. Read the book to find out more. 😉 I like how the book toggles from character to character instead of being a rigid, linear narrative. This keeps me guessing who and what is next.

The part I love most is the one about the seagull ripping out the eyeball of the dead woman (Ai Ling)…

“It pokes at the eye, assessing its jelly-like texture. The half-shut eyelid reveals a brown-tinted iris. The seagull regards it for a second, and then in a sudden move, it strikes in sharp, precise thrusts until the eye pops out, restrained only by the optic nerve. Thick dark blood dribbles out of the socket and down the woman’s cheek. The seagull bends and holds the eyeball with the tip of its beak, giving it one last tug, freeing it. The eye catches the sunlight and seems to be taking in the seamless, thriving sea. In the next moment, the seagull jerks back its head and consumes the lifeless object.”

*jaw drop*

I really wonder if seagulls will actually consume human eyeballs but I found an article on the Internet about how seagulls eat the eyeballs of baby fur seals so as to make the blind seals “more vulnerable to further attacks”. (@_@)

The book has been given mixed reviews – check out Goodreads – but I’d rate it pretty well. The author scored C6 for both English and Literature at the ‘O’ Levels! But look at him now. This prize-winning book has made me feel shocked and also squeamish. Love it! Now that it’s over, I’ll go read another award-winning book. 😀

*Also, I really like the mentions about VCDs, Motorola and Nokia phones. Younger millennials probably won’t know what VCDs are. And how awesome Nokia phones once were – the battery life was incredible! Excuse me while I go charge my Samsung phone once again. *sigh*

Book Review: ‘Kampong Boy’ by M Ravi

m ravi kampong boy

[Image from ethosbooks.com.sg]

I truly enjoyed reading this book ‘Kampong Boy’ as it gives so many insights into what makes M Ravi the man he is today. And those personality traits which characterize him as a lawyer today were formed when he was a young boy, so reading about his childhood, family life, and the journey he took to become a lawyer has been rewarding. Why is he against the death penalty? Why is he so stubborn, so persistent when fighting for those clients (pro bono, mind you) ordered to be hanged? If they are involved in the drug trade (whether as a mule or not), why shouldn’t we just hang them as per our laws?

Brought up in a Jalan Kayu kampong, Ravi was one of seven kids in the family. His father was overly fond of alcohol, a spendthrift and had even been to prison three times. To make matters worse, one day the father even robbed his young son of the money meant for school expenses. M Ravi even went to the police station to try and lodge a report but the officers wouldn’t accept it as the accused was his own father.

His family seems to be the stereotypical Indian family full of drama. There was once when Ravi’s parents were fighting and his Dad was choking his Mom. Ravi’s older brother intervened and broke their Dad’s arm! Read the book for the full details.

Ravi’s mother also suffered from depression and she eventually committed suicide. That proved devastating for Ravi, who’d moved out with his mother due to her disagreements with other members of the family. I feel for this lady I’ve never met before – she had her first child taken away from her by absolutely cruel in-laws, and right from the start, she had been forced to leave her sweetheart and marry a man she didn’t love because his parents were rich from winning the lottery. Too bad that this man would squander away those winnings.

As you can probably guess, Ravi discovered he had outstanding oratorical skills and did well in competitions in school. He was also a very determined boy. He camped outside a Tamil teacher’s flat until the latter wrote him a speech for his competition.

He had a slipped disc as a result of the hard work during his time in the Combat Engineering unit while serving NS. He eventually took up the issue with MINDEF and was given $3,000. While in the army, he also went on a hunger strike because the food for vegetarians was deemed unpalatable and not nourishing enough. He eventually got his way and the meals he wanted.

He studied History, Political Science and Sociology in NUS but also went for evening classes to study Law (University of London’s external program). While he was preparing for his Law exams, the Government announced that this degree would no longer be recognized in Singapore. That’s when Ravi decided he’ll go to the University of Cardiff in Wales for 2 years of study. On 31st May 1997, Ravi was called to the Bar. In 2000, he started his own firm.

Ravi’s a really interesting character. He got around the rules and did a firewalk when he was just 13! He’s also a dancer, with a passion for Indian classical dance. He even had a short stint as a TCS newscaster – imagine how differently his life might have turned out if he’d stayed there!

~

Lots of lawyers take up pro bono cases because of the media value – there’s lots of media and public interest in the case, or they are doing it as a show of being concerned about the people so as to pave their way into politics. I know of at least one young lawyer who took up a case and then instructed his clients to meet at a location near the Courts so they could all walk together to the hearing, and the lawyer would be photographed together with his clients for the newspapers. <- He even decided who should stand where. (@_@) *And in this case, it wasn’t even pro bono. They paid him a princely sum for him to get featured in the media. Said lawyer was even extra friendly to journalists during the breaks, chatting with everyone like old friends. Perhaps he should have gone to TCS to be an actor.

Lawyers like Ravi are probably few and far between. He had offered to pay for the funeral expenses of Vignes Mourti and even slept next to the casket together with Mourti’s family because they were so afraid that the body would be taken away to be cremated as per the official instructions and the deceased’s friends and family won’t be able to pay their last respects. [Read the book and find out what happened]

“Some people here feel that a lawyer should never get too closely involved with his clients and their kin, especially in death penalty cases where the stakes are so high. But that’s not how I’m made up. It’s especially in those cases where the stakes are so high and where human pain is at its apex that I get drawn into the life and emotional distress of these clients.” – M Ravi.

And in the death penalty case involving the Nigerian Amara Tochi, Ravi flew around the world to rally support for his client. I’m guessing he might be the only lawyer in Singapore who does such things. I’ve met one other lawyer who admitted that he does all that pro bono work hoping to get into politics. He put it in no uncertain terms that he felt he was deserving of the MP’s paycheque. Thankfully, he won’t be elected into office any time soon.

~

Ravi mentions in the book that his licence to practise law had been suspended for 1 year in October 2006, but fails to explain why. I did a quick Google search and it appears that he had been disrespectful to a judge. Not sure what had happened though I’d certainly love to hear Ravi’s explanation. In all fairness, I think that in the heat of the moment when putting forth an argument in court, certain actions might be deemed rude or disrespectful so I really won’t hold it against the guy. Perhaps in the (near) future, lawyers will be replaced by robots which will obviously not let emotions come into play, seeing as how they have none. 😀 I’m looking forward to such a day! 😀

Though when it happens, we won’t hear of gutsy lawyers such as M Ravi who, during the Falun Gong case, filed a criminal motion against Judge Shumangam. Really, read the book and find out what happened! It’s nothing short of amazing.

While this book has convinced me that activists who are against the death penalty really have a legit cause (e.g. you can easily be caught with drugs placed in your luggage by someone else, and be sentenced to hang even if you are innocent), I’m not so fond of his clients who want a repeal of section 377A of the Penal Code. One of Ravi’s clients had sex in a CityLink mall toilet with another man. They got arrested and were each fined $3,000. And yet they still wanted to “take a stand against 377A”. There’s also been another case of two gay men arrested for having sex in a coffeeshop toilet. Seriously, guys. Sex in a public toilet of all places. And coffeeshop toilets?! Aren’t there more sanitary places to demonstrate your love for each other? (@_@) I’m quite sure they wouldn’t have gotten arrested in the first place (377A or no 377A) if they hadn’t done their hanky panky business in public toilets.

*Ravi also mentioned former NMP Thio Li-Ann’s statement (from a long time ago) about how anal sex is akin to “shoving a straw up your nose to drink”. *cough cough* I actually didn’t know about this statement of hers till I read this book. Ravi, like many others, found that statement offensive. And he has my respect because he isn’t gay (or, at least, that’s what I concluded from reading this book) but would fight for gay rights or human rights in general. Some lawyers out there are fighting for ‘human rights’ but are really, ultimately, just wanting to fight for their own gay rights. In all fairness, I think Singapore offers the middle ground – we’re not as liberal as the West (no gay marriage, etc) but we don’t dish out punitive punishment like some of our neighboring countries where gay men can be publicly caned.

As I’ve written in the previous book review post, about Misdirection by Ning Cai, let’s stop making a fuss about wearing pink or white. Let’s just stick with red and move on already.

~

“While it is an established tradition in many other countries, lawyers here in Singapore are not at all comfortable with activism. But I have made it my mission and my calling card. I feel that all the advantages that have been given to me, and all the sacrifices my family made so that I could become a lawyer, can best be paid back when I involve myself in human rights activism and the cases that come out of this commitment.” – M Ravi