Wednesday, 28 December 2011


“Choose Your God”. It’s a mysterious advertisement that sneaked in without invitation; a not so random combination of coloured pixels that spreads onto my laptop screen with the pretention of an ostentatious artwork of a never-to-be-discovered genius. It’s endless and tiring, how numerous commercial messages fight for our attention these days. No matter where we surf to or browse through, no matter what we listen to or look at, there are countless virtual crooks hiding in cyberspace, setting up an ambush and patiently waiting to spoil our online broth with their verbal and visual harassment.
It’s frightening also, at times, when the nature of those advertisements as if by miracle seems to match with the contents of the e-mail you just received, or the blog you are reading… ;-)

That always reminds me of a popular picture frame that left a lasting impression on me when I was a little boy. It hang at my grandma’s house, where it was strategically positioned on the living room wall: a triangle that contained a stern, human eye squeezed in between its three sides, and then the chilly sentence: “God is watching you – don’t curse here”. No doubt that scared the hell out of me back then. I hardly dared to utter a word when my grandma asked me if I wanted a glass of lemonade. I didn't trust him, that god of hers, and even when I did not nervously peek at that hollow eye from the corner of my own eye, I felt it was staring at me all the time, ever-present.  I sincerely believed that there was a tiny camera hidden in there, oblivious that such cameras would only  be invented two decades later. At that innocent age, our fantasy toys with us as if it’s a playful dog and we are a softball; we tend to get carried away easily by our imagination, and all scary things risk being magnified and totally blown out of proportion. Shadows become monsters; the cracking of the stairs is the sound of a thief on his way to your bedroom. Utter horror, sheer terror, a child’s demons crawl over incomprehensible paths.

But there it is, brightly lit on my screen: an ingenious sentence that teases me to click through. “Choose Your God”. As if religion is something you can pick like a dish from a restaurant menu, depending on your mood, your craving, your whim of the day. Regrettably many consider it to be this way, a product on the supermarket shelf for them to use as they please and dispose of it when it no longer serves them. They pray to their god only when they are in need, thereby asking him a favour when they are faced with an earthly problem. Then when that issue gets resolved, at most some will have the courtesy to thank him still, before going on with their lives again, as if their spiritual appetite has subsided. It’s remarkable how most religions have created different gods for different purposes, even those religions that claim there is one god only. They creatively circumvented their conceptual limitations by creating saints, for instance, mortals with exceptional qualities, almost divine, who became the symbol of certain human aspirations: a saint to protect the farmers, a saint for fertility, a saint to worship if you lost something and who’s supposed to bring that item back to you…
Clever marketing guys, those religious people, trying to increase their market share by designing custom-made saints or gods. And now they discovered the world wide web even.

“Choose Your God”. I can’t resist. After all, I am very much interested in all things spiritual; I am a searching soul wandering the worldly paths to find some truth and enlightenment. “Curiosity is the source of all knowledge”, I ponder, and I click on the banner, not worrying about the viruses I may invite into my computer by doing so, or the spam mail I will probably have to endure for some time to come. I sit up straight, focused, in upper concentration, expecting some interesting, new spiritual insight to appear on the screen. A blink, some flickering, a window pops up. “GAME LOADING”
I sigh. Amen.


"Timendi causa est nescire."

(The cause of fear is ignorance - Seneca)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

JASON MRAZ: "Unfold"

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.

(Ranier Maria Rilke)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

CLAWFINGER: "When Everything Crumbles"

I’d wish my words had wings. They’d fly to you and whirl around your head, like a butterfly on a sun-soaked afternoon. They’d make you dizzy and knock you down, spinning stories that would both awaken you and make you slumber. Then after a while, you’d slowly open your eyes, and embalmed in a scent of honey and freshly-cut grass, you’d bring your finger to your eyes and would wipe the crumbles of rapidly-forgotten dreams away. You’d gently come back tiptoeing into this world, and you’d gain clarity with the growing confidence of a painter’s brush.

Friday, 2 December 2011

TLC: "Waterfalls"

Before setting foot in a men’s restroom, you’d better be aware of both the practices and the unwritten rules that govern these establishments which are exclusively reserved for the male species. Even if you’d feel discriminated now for belonging to the other, female half of the world’s population, it's worhtwhile to continue reading. For it would not be the first time that a woman ends up in a men’s restroom one day, either deliberately or by mistake. To cut the long queue in the women’s restroom, or to engage in some kinky, behind-closed-door activity in the first case. Or because she's simply too tipsy to distinguish between the male and female signboards on the door in the latter case.

Just like any other man, I have accumulated vast experience with public restrooms in my life already. And I guarantee you, they come in all sizes and shapes, as if they want to reassure their male visitors that they need not worry about that particular body part which they come and relieve in those restrooms in the first place: for those parts come in all sizes and shapes too.

We men are expected to be quite open-minded and versatile when going the toilet. Yes, we do use trees, ditches, grass fields, rocks and all kinds of artefacts which nature provides us. So not necessarily do we even bother to enter the man-made restrooms in the first place. We men therefore better admit it: we are not much different than the primitive mammals with which women compare us sometimes.
But the artificial restrooms which the human species invented for us are sometimes just as varied as those imaginary ones we find in nature. We are made to pee against brick walls, metal plates (gosh that sound…), marble tiles. They ask us to aim at a hole in the floor; at a sticker of a fly (assuming that we will hit the target better); at mothballs (to disguise the smell of the drains)…We have to pee in oval bowls, in squares, triangles and circles. No wonder many men are good at mathematics and geometry.

Urinals come at different heights too. I have observed that they are often lower in Asian countries. This implies that, for one and the same person, there’s a longer distance between the centre of his body and the urinal bowl at which he’s supposed to aim. A macho Caucasian would straight away declare that the average length of their member is different (read: longer) than their Asian friends, requiring more available ‘hanging space’ above the bowl for them than for Asian guys.
I wouldn’t put it in such a way myself. I am probably not a macho. Rather I believe that the higher or lower positioning is simply based on the assumption that the average Asian male (as a whole) is not as tall as their Caucasian fellow. To avoid too much splashing outside of the bowl, the distance for the urine to drop is therefore reduced by hanging the bowl lower. Personally I don't think it matters much, thanks to Newton and his gravity. Whatever liquid that falls from a height goes down anyway; only the height of the waterfall will be different.
But what about the other way around? What if you are a short guy and the urinal hangs relatively high? What if a short Asian guy goes to Europe on a holiday, for instance? Let’s put it this way: shorter guys would probably make great fire fighters.

Oh, there’s so much to share about restrooms interiors and design. What kind of crazy idea did that creative architect have in mind, who installed a mirror on the wall to which a series of urinals were attached? Not only is it confronting to see your own private parts double (“Am I drunk or what?”), even worse is that you almost have no choice but to watch your neighbour’s piece of equipment being projected on that wall also. Trust me, the view is not always very nice. It’s awkward even, especially since we men are bound by some secret code that prescribes how we should behave when another man is doing his business while standing next to us.

While we do what we have to do, we sometimes talk to our neighbour, which proves that contrary to common misconception, men are effectively capable of doing two different things at the same time. And regardless whether there’s a divider between the two urinals or not, it’s a fine line for us to walk when chitchatting casually with our neighbour while releasing our bladder. It requires the same kind of mental discipline not to intuitively glance down as when we talk to a big-breasted girl exposing her cleavage in all its glory.

We therefore often chose to simply meditate and stare at the wall in front of us, ignoring our neighbour altogether, yet consciously aware of each other’s presence. Because nonetheless, as relaxed as we may seem while standing there, still there is this unspoken, hidden tension that hangs between us. We smell this stubborn stain of competiveness, which is just as ever-present among men as it is among women, and it riles us as if it were the smell of urine itself lingering in the restroom. Our silent game is very childish: who will stop peeing last? As if we believe that the longer you pee, the bigger your water tank must be.

Victory is yours when the waterfall sound next to you finally stops and your neighbour starts the closing ceremony, commonly referred to as the “shaking ritual”. Female readers probably frown their eyebrows now. Because essentially you are faced with the same issue, but I doubt that you deal with it in the same manner as we men do. I can not imagine that any of you wiggles her body after finishing, while still seated on the toilet cover, for instance. But we men do have something called the “shaking ritual” indeed, to solve that similar problem which a waiter has when pouring wine into a wine glass: he doesn’t want any drops to fall onto the table cloth after he finishes pouring. So how about that “shaking ritual” then? Well, we do what smokers do: by tapping the cigarette, a smoker will ensure that the last few crumbs of ashes fall neatly into the ash tray. Drink, smoke...aiya, men...

(very likely to be continued)