Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Manberries of Titanium Steel

I'm not dead yet.

On August 25, 2005, I wrote a whiny post about turning 29 in a foreign country. It was essentially a complaint about turning 30 in a year's time and my bitchy friends not letting me forget it. My non-bitchy friends did not let me forget it too, but since they were (i) nice to me (ii) threw me a party and/or (iii) fed me, I'm all good about them. They know which category they're in.

That post will never see light of day. It's not right. I should have more manberries than that.


"There are two types of balls: there are big brave balls, and there are little mincey faggot balls."

- Bullet Proof Tony, played by Vinnie Jones, Snatch.


I'm a student, and I'm funded through savings and family money. If I don't find work, I won't have luxuries but I won't starve. Not this dude. This dude has serious, diamond-hard, basketball-sized manberries. My own manberries feel puny and mushy in comparison.

He delivers pizza to make ends meet. He sleeps in a room with no heat under a large pile of blankets. He does all this, and he doesn't mind because he wants to make things better.

Now THAT is a Jim Braddock right there.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cabbage Soup

The last of the IKEA furniture has been assembled. I'm settling down to a new routine of commute-study-household chores. This was the first weekend I've had since my wife arrived where I could kick back, relax and enjoy a peaceful Sunday.

The wife and I spent a bit of time tidying up the house - with the new furniture and tasks, we had to do more, but it was nothing we couldn't manage. The wife has obviously had more experience living alone than I do and it showed through her breakdown of the household chores. Another reason I am glad to have her around.

I experimented this week with making soup - Sunday afternoon, I made chinese cabbage soup. My first attempt was bland to say the least. After consulting with my mom about her recipe, I found the ingredient for making the soup base. Boiled soy beans.

Hence, I tried it out this week - and it worked. It tasted almost as good as the ones that I used to have back in Singapore, and I added some stuff that I liked and were not part of the original recipe - beef (taboo in my house), mushrooms and carrots. It was a good meal.

After the end of the meal, I sliced up half a watermelon, and I suddenly had waves of nostalgia for Singapore. Watermelon after a good chinese cabbage soup meal was something bordering on a family tradition - and the tastes brought back memories of Singapore.

Strange how a familiar taste can evoke memories like that.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


No incisive commentary today unfortunately.

My wife has finally arrived. We have spent the last few days assembling furniture and generally getting my spartan apartment furnished and homely. My hands are worn to stubs from twisting one too many allen keys, and my body aches from carrying over 500 lbs of furniture. Admittedly, 300 of those 500 lbs were delivered, but STILL...

I've been having a good time feeding my wife the various dishes I've mastered over the two month's I've spent here. Work is hard, but we're doing well.

Oh, and I've gone through a major life change. Better to show you.

What better way to feel the California breeze?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cinderella Nation

"I have to believe I got some kind of say over our lives. When things are bad we can do something about it, make things better for our family."

- James Braddock, as played by Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man"

I do not believe a country that decides what's best for its people. I believe that people decides what's best for its country.

Like a looming shadow, we, the citizens of Singapore, have seen our lives become increasingly complicated, increasingly expensive, increasingly insecure. We have seen men we trusted tap on our trust, in exchange for gold. We have seen the waking of the giants of the Orient, and the waves that have come crashing down on this little midget of an island.

But we are still alive. While we are alive, we can still make history.

During the Great Depression, an over-the-hill boxer, Jim Braddock, boxed with a shattered right hand. Against all odds, he won a grueling 15 round match to become the heavyweight champion of the world. He did not fight for glory, fame or riches.

He fought to buy milk for his kids.

People call the Singapore blogosphere infantile. I don't. I scan Singapore blogs and I see Jim Braddocks. The everyman, beating back demons in their lives with quiet dignity and compassion. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life must be for some of these bloggers. Yet, these men and women still have smiles, and share them freely. They share their stories because they have a story to tell.

These stories are often fairy tales. True, people often get killed in fairy tales, but so do dragons.

The story of Singapore is a fairy tale, but the men and women responsible are often forgot. Not the statesmen, the politicians, the wealthy. The everyman that carried the bricks, laid the mortar, clawed at the earth in search of a better life for their families. These everymen remind me that no politician, statesman or leader, no evil looming shadow, no twisted complication can grant us that which we already have, nor take away that which they cannot - our dignity, our compassion, our love for family, and our willingness to bear any hardship for their sake.

Happy National Day, Singaporeans.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Kangaroo and the Rabbit

The summer's almost over. The fall session starts in two weeks. From now till then, I have some well-earned time off.

My summer session has been fantastic. My LLM classmates are a hoot. More importantly, I got an overview of US Law - and learnt to see Singapore's legal system with fresh eyes. Learning about US Law through the eyes of a Singapore lawyer is the mental equivalent of seeing a kangaroo and picturing a rabbit.

You know sometime a couple of million years ago they shared an ancestor. You can even see the common features. Yet, somehow, you can't seem to grapple with the fact that many legal terms you take for granted mean something absolutely different, or are approached completely differently.

I have started to grow to respect US lawyers. Yes, they have a reputation for being ambulance chasers and aggressive beyond reason - in some cases this is well-deserved. Yet, during my course of study, I find that even 1st year US Law students have to deal with a level of complexity that just isn't found in our single-city state. The multiplicity of different ways of thinking by the law - created because each of the 50 states is, in fact, a sovereign - creates a dynamic and culture that is just not found here.

At the heart of it, it is being comfortable with uncertainty.

Singapore laws are, at their heart, stable. Singapore legislative drafting is generally overinclusive - this cannot be done in the US by virtue of the Constitution, itself a vague document. US case law often cross-germinates, and judicial ideas get tossed around, exchanged, and incorporated - what happens once in a case does not always get repeated.

More importantly, the litigious society that America is has one great impact - there is a mechanism, at least, for the people here to air their grievances. I find no such safety valve in Singapore. Here, at least, I can advise my client to lobby the legislature and sincerely mean it.

I worry for the day where a pipe in Singapore's social structure bursts. I doubt it will be a dramatic event. Rather, like a small pipe bursting in a large house, the effects will only be felt when one ignores the burst pipe long enough.