Friday, 21 December 2012

How many more...

The Executive Vice President of America's National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, held a press conference today, if you could call it that, considering that he gave a prepared speech and refused to take any questions. Mr LaPierre's speech was the first official response to last week's school-shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut from the powerful firearms lobbying group.

He argues that the media should be blamed for this, with their violent films, television and video games. This may be true. However, there was no doubt that this speech was a disingenuous attempt to point the finger elsewhere. It blows my mind to think that there are actually people out there who agrees with Mr LaPierre when he says that this would not have happened had Sandy Hook Elementary School had armed guards and thus, the answer to our problems is more guns, not less. Really? So, the fact that there were armed guards at Columbine is moot? What about the fact that the person that Adam Lanza killed first, his own mother, had a fairly big gun collection? That didn't save her life.

There is no doubt that mental illness played a part in all of this. People with that kind of capacity suffer from a type of emotional detachment that allows them to commit such heinous crimes. What guns allow is the facilitation and manifestation of these people's violent fantasies. Sure, even without guns, people who want to hurt and kill will come up with other ways to hurt and kill but we should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry out their plans with easy access to firearms. People need to make a change in the world. What would you rather be - to feel more secured through the possession of guns or to feel safer knowing that nobody owns one?

Monday, 10 December 2012

'Amour' is the word...

Today, I took my last exam for the year and it was a nice feeling to be able to breathe again. Whether or not I have passed these two exams that I took this month is for me to worry about another day. The results will come out in February so for now, I will just enjoy the lightness of being that I feel. I decided to celebrate by taking myself to the cinema. What better way to relax and to indulge than seeing a really wonderful movie that will help me to gain some perspective and remove me for my mundane anxieties.

I had been wanting to see Austrian auteur Michael Haneke's 'Amour' for a while now, ever since it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes back in May. The movie awards season has begun and already, the movie has been stacking up on awards. Emmanuelle Riva, the lead actress, has been singled out for her sublime portrait of the distaff half of an elderly couple living in Paris. We initially see her still vital and enjoying her comfortable life with her loving husband but as the movie progress, we witness her character succumb to old age and the emotional toils of this on her devoted and devastated husband. However, the movie is not simply about the inevitable physical decline that we all face should we be lucky enough to reach a certain age but rather, the movie lives up to its title in the way that we see two elderly people who have been in love for a very long time and continue to be in love with each other right up til the end.

Needless to say, the movie moved to tears on more than one occasion. I knew that I would be affected by this film and I think that that might have been why I was so drawn to this movie. I wanted to be overwhelmed and I wanted release; an experience that would remove me from my immediate circumstances.

There is a lot of Oscar buzz for Madame Riva. She has already won best actress awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critic and the European Film Awards. If she gets nominated for an Academy Award next month, she will become the oldest acting nominee ever, at the age of 85. This is all very exciting, especially considering her long, glorious career. After all, she was the leading lady of the 1959 French New Wave classic 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour'. For her to be nominated in over five decades after starring in that cinematic landmark would be a real testament to the view that talent cannot be withered by age. Similarly, the movie's male lead is Jean-Louis Trintignant, the star of such classics as 'And God Created Woman' and 'A Man and A Woman', gives a phenomenal performance that is equally worthy of award recognition. Emotionally rich and intelligent drama does not get much better than this - c'est magnifique!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Queen of Silom Soi 2

Today, my mother and I had the pleasure of going out to lunch with my dear aunt Pah Maliwan and her friend Pah Naruhnee. I have known Pah Naruhnee ever since I was little as she has been best friends with my aunt for decades and I have always known that she was the landlord of a small commercial area in central Bangkok but it was always very vague to me. We dined at Grand San Yord, which is famous in Bangkok for its tender and sweet roast duck, and being the Ah Mahs that they are, both aunties told me to finish the last prawn dumpling.

Pah Naruhnee said 'Eat this and you'll end up with a beautiful wife', to which I replied 'But I don't want a beautiful wife'. Without missing a beat, Pah Maliwan said 'Eat this and you'll end up with a handsome husband'. While I have never really discussed my sexuality with older relatives so much, it has been an open secret for a while now but in that moment, for my mother's elder sister, a woman that I have always been very fond of, to acknowledge, without making a big deal out of it, this part of my identity...well, it really moved me. It confirmed what I have long believed to be true; that my relatives in Bangkok love and accept me unconditionally, just as I am.

After lunch, my mother and I dropped off both aunties. Pah Maliwan was going to her Private Members Club to meet up with my cousins while Pah Naruhnee was heading home. My mother drove us to Silom and as we went past Bangkok's infamous Patpong district, I realised that we were approaching the hub of gay nightlife in Bangkok, Silom Soi 2-4, which turned out to be Pah Naruhnee's turf! She is the landlady for all the bars and clubs patronized by any gay person who has ever lived in or visited Bangkok, locals and expats. As we pulled away, I commented to my mother and aunt that these two alleys owned by their friend are full of bars and clubs. Both of them casually replied, that's correct, gay bars! Good times! Think I might have to visit Pah Naruhnee's hood before I leave Bangkok in a few days. It won't be my first time there and certainly won't be my last!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Madonna goes Gangnam!

Oh, my lord - can Psy's 'Gangnam Style' get any bigger? The answer is yes, apparently! Jumping on the dance pop sensation's bandwagon a few months after it became a viral sensation (the tally for views of the official music video currently stands at over 722 million views and rising!), Madonna had the K-Pop phenom make a surprise appearance at last night's performance of her 'MDNA' tour at Madison Square Garden and it was fucking awesome! Man, all we got at the London Hyde Park show that I went to four months ago was a bit of rain and one half of LMFAO...shaaaaaaaame!!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Allahu Akbar - Obama wins re-election!!!

I woke up in the middle of the night to check the latest news on the US presidential election. This outcome is so sweet, especially after such a tight race in the popular vote. What is disturbing, but not surprising, to me is that Romney even won as many Electoral College votes as he did! Do the majority of the people who voted for him not realise that he will not look out for their interests? To reference and paraphrase James Carville's strategy for Bill Clinton's campaign back in 1992, 'It's the economy, stupid' and the only economic interests that a victorious Mitt Romney would have served are those of people like himself, the so-called 1 percent. All of these Republicans talking a lot of ignorant bullshit about how they are worried about the state of the economy, unemployment, Obama's 'communist' values (like they know what communism truly is) need to wake the fuck up and re-educate themselves...but that can wait until tomorrow; tonight is the night for all to unite and celebrate the democratic process!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Knee-deep in history

This year, I have taken several day trips, for work, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Canterbury in Southeastern England. Today was probably my last trip there so I was determined to make the most of it. On previous trips, I would get so busy and snowed under with work that I wouldn't get a chance to visit its most famous attraction - Canterbury Cathedral, home of the head of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have been aware of the significance of this monument ever since high school, when I studied Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales', which is a series of fables told by various characters, all making their pilgrimage from Southwark to the crypt of Thomas Becket, arguably one of the most famous martyrs in the British history, for the way he clashed with Henry II and his murder at the hands of the king's knights.

My colleague in our Canterbury branch Michelle decided to accompany me there. We told them that we worked in the old city centre and that got us free passes. I wonder if this is not simply out of the goodness of the Church's heart but because we already pay so much in another way that free admission was the least of privileges that they could have rewarded us. After all, the Church is probably our landlord, as there are underground tunnels that connect the Cathedral to all the buildings in the vicinity, including our office. It was genuinely eerie when Michelle and I went to visit the crypt of Thomas Becket, known as the matyrdom, where he fell at the swords of the king's knights. All sounds terribly Da Vinci Code, doesn't it?

It might seem like an obvious realisation that I live in a country with such a rich history and it is all around me. I don't even have to go looking for it. I just have to stop, take a moment, observe and absorb it. Amazing!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A call to paradise?

Yesterday, I was invited to my cousin's wedding in Mauritius in May. When I say invited, I mean, she messaged me on Facebook to tell me about it. Seriously, I hope that we haven't evolved in this digital age to the point where a message on a social networking site constitutes as a legitimate wedding invitation. My cousin is from my mother's side of the family so, like me, she is of Chinese Thai descent. It's terribly exciting that she has met a person that she wants to share the rest of her life with and even more exciting that he is from a totally different part of the world and of a different cultural background (he is Muslim and of South Asian descent). 

I have never been to Mauritius before and while it is not at the top of my list of dream destinations, I am seriously considering going to this wedding. Obviously, it would be lovely if i could go just to show my support for my cousin. Plus, this island state is a fantastic tourist  destination. It is commonly known as the jewel of the Indian Ocean, with its idyllic, unspoilt beaches, developed economy, cultural diversity and political stability.

However, what draws me to Mauritius above all else is the fact that this was home to the now extinct Raphus cucullatus, more commonly known as the dodo bird. It's strange, I know, but it makes me believe that there is something strange and special to be experienced there...hmmm, it was probably that line of thinking, on the part of 16th century European settlers, that got dodo birds in trouble! It is believed that these almost mythical creatures became extinct once explorers reached the shores of Mauritius, bringing with them cats and dogs, not to mention rats, because they were a flightless bird. Evolution led them to become flightless due to the abundance of food on the island and the lack of predators for a long time. Once predators arrived on the island, they were unable to fly away from danger. The lesson I take from this is that you should never get too comfortable, even if you are living in paradise!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Change is growth and growth is great...

Believe it or not, it has been a year since my last blog entry. I feel really sad that I have neglected my beloved blog for so long. This blog has been such a wonderful outlet for me to express myself and it's about time that I return to it. 

A lot has happened in the past year and while I don't want to turn this blog into some sort of online journal, I have to say that I am grateful for all the changes that have occurred in that time. Change is growth and growth is great. In the past year, I changed jobs and finally got myself on a career trajectory with really exciting prospects. I am a student again, for the first time in years, and as difficult as it is to balance my studies for my professional qualification while working full-time in a very demanding job, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. 

I moved to a different part of London. After being an SE1 boy for over four years, I am now a SW11 boy and it has been, and still is, a bit of an adjustment. London is such a vast city that there is an infinite supply of new experiences to be had in this city. 

I got to see more of Europe, which is something that I have always wanted to do. I traveled to some awesome cities I hadn't been to before. Barcelona was beautiful. Istanbul was intoxicating. Berlin was seductive. Lisbon was mesmerizing. The best part of it is that there are still so many great destinations that await me...I'm thinking that 2013 might be the year to venture a bit furtur...I'm thinking, Cape Town, Tel Aviv or Rio! 

I let go of some heavy emotional baggage and officially moved on from the most significant relationship of my life thus far. It took a long time to get to that point...but time heals all wounds.

The most exciting thing that has happened this year, though, is finding out that I am going to become an uncle for the first time. My future niece/nephew will arrive at the beginning of next year. In a Chandler Bing intonation, could I be any more excited?

Soooooo much change that even I'm surprised as I recall all of these leaps forward. 2012 has been so challenging but so rewarding...and we still have another 10 weeks to go!