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Life As A Pupil In Chambers by Ooi Keng Liang

‘Chambering’ instantly conjectures an image of servants scurrying about carrying pails of water to their masters’ feet in the deep dusty chambers of the dark ages, enslaved by destiny. A lawyer friend of mine in Singapore told me to replace the term ‘chambering’ with the more accurate term ‘pupilage’ but I told him the latter sounded like a bad case of eye infection. By whatever name it is called, chambering is no picnic and I am here to reveal why.

While still in recovery mode from the dire aftermath of CLP exam, which had punched us in the face and left us for dead, we are to begin work under a Master’s chambers at a wage which makes an African blood diamond child laborer seem rich. We are known as trainee lawyers to the public, not unlike the trainee surgeon who might leave his scalpel in your abdomen after surgery. Perhaps because pupil-in-chambers is a term too long for busy lawyers, we are too often referred to as ‘chambies’; a term I suspect is a combination of ‘chambering’ and ‘babies’. I like it better if we are called Levir, short for legal virgins.

And then there is the inferiority complex. We are immediately ushered into a world where seasoned lawyers walk by very quickly with their big black briefcase in one hand and flowing robe in the other who had little time for lesser creatures with lesser tasks. They also have no time for full sentences and often resort to abbreviations. I remember my very first day in court for case management. The counsel for the opposing party rushed to me and said ‘Mr Ooi, I will file the SDK tomorrow, can u please MOB for me then we meet up later in MJU or 32* ?’ I tried to forge a confident reply with matching abbreviations but the only ones flashing in my mind at that time was ‘OMG WTH I don’t know what you are talking about SOS! SOS!’ Sometimes, the inferiority complex is so bad that I dare not breathe in the lift filled with lawyers galore.
Contrary to popular belief that chambering pupils can make whatever mistakes without causing much uproar (apparently because you are just a legal lowlife who cannot be held responsible), you can’t. The last time I made a mistake, I was thrown head-first into hot water with the legal Trinity; the Judiciary, the Bar Committee and the Person who signed my paycheque. I cannot divulge any further about the problem, lest I will not be hired by any firm for the next 15 years or so; suffice to say it involved me and a female member of the Judiciary in a small private lift. No, it is not what you think.

There is much ruckus about attire and grooming; no bright-coloured ties for men, skirt for women must cover the knees (dismay to not only the female lawyers), fancy hairstyles are frowned upon, jewelries on men are not allowed but religious ornaments are bearable. ‘Keng Liang your pants are too skinny’, ‘Keng Liang your shoes are too pointy’, ‘Keng Liang your hair is too high’. My hair itself has been subject of so many comments and feedbacks that I believe it should have its own Facebook account. Or Twitter. I suspect this has got to do with the standard of perfect hairstyle set by the Penang Bar Chairman himself by example and we mere mortals fail shamelessly by far. (Mr. Gnana please don’t object to my long call!)

Oh and how do I start on the duties galore we owe to LAC? We give out flyers in malls. We sell books and t-shirts in concerts. We visit prisons. We conduct dock briefs before the feistiest of judges. We endure endless hours of dialogue with an Ah Mah client who wants to sue her dead husband and the entire town. We gather our guts and tears to tell a poor man we cannot help him sue a hospital which killed his teenage daughter because Legal Aid lacks jurisdiction. And just when it's the time to pull down the shutters at LAC, the Ang Mah has to return with an intricate plan on how to sue his dead husband. Apart from the wonderful people who run LAC (Shini and Anne, you owe me big time), the countless hours spent at the LAC makes me want to staple things to the clients’ head. Above all, we are made to relive the resurrected horror of yet another exam called Ethics allegedly aimed to bolster our professional and ethical conduct. Certainly such exam was not designed to make our lives difficult but if you don’t pass, your long call is screwed, I’m sorry the more ethical word is ‘postponed’.

Certainly I must say to be fair, the lessons learnt in these nine months eclipse the inherent pains. I am taught that fellow lawyers are better made friends than enemies. Judges are imperfect individuals with worldly temperaments. Court interpreters can save your asses. Have a spare tie in your car. Do not give your cellphone number to clients. Be nice to nice people. Feign confidence when you have none. Bahasa Melayu is very important. Pretend to be busy always. Know thy judges. Go to court early. Trust your instincts. Prepare your case well. Be graceful in victory. Leave quickly if you lose. Love the law. Be optimistic. And above all, let senior lawyers fetch the bill.

Last week marked the last week of chambering for me and I must say the transition has been most bittersweet. I have had the privilege of chambering in a firm which I have grown rather fond of. I am most eager to live that very moment of transcendence; from the lower-case legal infant fit for the second row Bar table to Glory but I am made aware of the responsibilities too. The cacophony of courtroom buzz, morning rush, interpreters’ drone and vibrating cell-phones on Bar tables is slowly accepted as a large part of the inherent nature of a honourable profession as we join ranks of lawyers whose single mistake could mean millions in loss or spell death to our clients. It is also not very motivating to know that we finish chambering just in time to greet year 2012, the year doom is rumoured to come. Should doom ever come, I want the world (especially the Legal Trinity) to know that it is not brought about by the cut of my pants, the height of my hair or the choice of my footwear.

*32 is a cosy cafe strategic to the Penang courts, near enough for quickie meals or drinks or lepaking with fellow lawyers, also a place I suspect bosses don’t like as much.

because life is a bitch

I, for one, cannot, understand why people go to clubs, pubs or the dark loud places to hang out. The magic is lost on me. However, because life is a bitch, it has to happen that 99% of my friend loveeee these places and more often than i like to, i was dragged along and will end as wallflower of the night. These places are filled with posers (read: people who are dressed to their nines,going around with overpriced liquor in hand and ciggy sticking from lips, pretending they are having a ball of the time and hugging everyone in sight), smoke from a gazillion cigarettes (not that i dont love lung cancer but the smell of smoke really bothers my nostrils), lousy loud sleazy remix music blaring from some exhausted speakers and idiotic people grinding to the idiotic music in a semi drunken state.

I am always the observant side-sitter so let me be the sane and sober voice, these places suck.

A friend once tell me 'we go there to free our minds, the music will set u free and u can reeally be yourself'

Well, that is only true if my free real self is longing to drunkenly grind to loud britney remix in the dark so that my toes are trampled god knows how many times, all the time inhaling cancer well into the wee hours of the morning.

Convocation Really Is A Funeral

because it was meant to bury the pains we religiously endured; tears we succumbed to, sweat- drenched years labored and lost, age-stained paths crossed and forgotten, lessons learnt and unlearned, priorities reshuffled and relationship redefined. But I had to attend because it would be evil to deprive my parents their fundamental right of witnessing their youngest child robed in black glory and receiving The Scroll on stage from a white-haired royalty. The convocation is a formal goodbye to endless nights of studying, constant episodes of migraine, dramatic cursing in all forms of languages known to mankind, coffee-fueled souls, suicide-inducing exams and all things murderous.

As we lay down the corpse of our yesteryears, we come together openly reminiscing our journey yet glad it was all gone, in the presence of invited guests closest to us. All of us were to be attired in somber colours and expected to conduct ourselves in all solemnity and rigidity while traces of merriment were kept to a minimum. Through suppressed smiles, parents and loved ones exchanged pleasantries and quick glances as they collectively basked in mutual pride and gratitude. The Speaker took the stage and delivered a speech, the length and flavor of which were not unlike that of an obituary while we sat in deafening silence. The hard angle of formality was somewhat cushioned by the plush carpet spread, decorative satin-like cloths draping all the right places, restful rows of sofa seats while the hall was softly illuminated by a teetering layer of ambient lighting from dangling gigantic chandeliers belonging to Victorian era.

Shadowy figures of dark-robed graduates (think Harry-Potter) are flanked by congratulatory bouquets galore and poses were poised for flashing cameras as the evening went on like an old movie without film. There is a reason we are all dressed in utmost black.

After 5 hours of utter anticipation, I finally took the stage and royally bowed to receive The Scroll and I have to say The Moment was of pure orgasmic proportions. Ascending the stage was a journey itself; a journey to a new chapter, an unveiling of a blessing, a beginning of transcendence and a simple step of faith. The Scroll contained the grim epitaph of what was over and done with while carefully scripting the map of my long-awaited future.

Dressing Up At the Traffic Lights

Last Sunday I had an encounter of the lifetime. The tragic event will be narrated in careful details below. Having to reach Boss's house at 7am for the Alor Setar court trip, I comfortably woke up at 6.40am to Kartik's frantic morning call, brushed teeth and grabbed my clothes, perfume, instant coffee in plastic mug, shoes, a bottle of mineral water, hairgel and sunblock SPF2000 (hello its Alor Setar where they can bake cakes in the sun) and threw them all in the car and took off aka Too Fast Too Furious meet Death Race meet Princess Diaries style.

What transpired in the next flurry of 15 minutes drive madness I could not put into writing lest the authorities concerned call. Like a bat out of hell, I stepped on my poor MYVI accelerator like its a Bugatti-Aston Martin crossbreed, dashed into the darkness and honked my way through the early shimmering rays of dawn.

Still in worn pyjamas, I was fronted with the rather impossible task of getting ready in the 10 minutes while driving schumachering at breakneck speed. Admidst the maniacal rush, the proverbial comical lightbulb came on and I had an idea. I have to pass 4 traffic lights before reaching destination. I have 4 things to put on. Mathematics is not that hard anyway. The genius took place.

Traffic Light 1
looked left and right. no one. pull down the pants which is not an easy task because of the sitting position and and the very small MYVI interior. Try to put on the black slacks. Slacks was caught in the car keys stuck in ignition. Panic set in. Try to untangle. 6 second before light turned green. Untangling.. 5  4   3   zipped! ouch vrrrooooooooooooom

Traffic Light 2
Shirt was easy. Buttoned up in two seconds and tugged into slacks and buckled the belt. Perfume sprayed liberally.  Car filled with eau de toilette fragrance and au naturel intelligence. Vrrrooommmm

Traffic Light 3 
Hairgel application was a sticky situation. Pun intended. It was not hairgel found in Watson range but rather a state of the art wax-gum hybrid saloon product from Japan which cannot be applied without leaving ur hands sticky and your hair looking fantabulous without a streak of grease. Elvis Presley was rumoured to use this very brand until the day of his death. Anyways, back to the seat of my speeding crossbreed car,  at the 3rd traffic light I was spiking up the Hair with the help of the very outrageously small rearview mirror all the while cursing the size of it (mirror, not hair) while conveniently making a mental note to write to Perodua to complain sue for the mirror.

Traffic Light 4
Downed the coffee which was made back in house in one gulp. Flush with mineral water as liquid breakfast to curb hunger. Wound down window to rinse sticky hands out in the open. Wiped wet hands on pants appropriate thick towel beautifully hung from car seat by mystery person.

Managed to reach destination ON TIME and pretended I was early and faked a yawn as my heart rate was fluctuating like an Olympian athlete champion. Good morning Sir.

The Auspicious Round Table

Since I was a little kid, i wonder tirelessly why we cant have the Long Dining Table like those seen in western movies; heavy, steady, made of good wood and seats at least six. Ours is always round. Everytime i asked Mother she would always give a quick and short answer 'It's round because we are Chinese!'.  Somewhat annoyed with such incomplete answer, I shouldered this question mark which grew and bred in my mind each passing year, nourished by my non-chinese educational background. I always think that long table is superior, since it can be set beautifully with flowers, napkins, elaborate chandelier hanging low while it seats well-dressed people who pass big heavy salad bowl around in formal seating. There seemed to be an odd shimmering air of elegance clinging to the Long Dining Table.

But the magic of round table was unveiled little by little to me these years, with increasing clarity. Every Chinese New Year, people hastily return from all over the world to take their respective seats at the round table for a meal together with their family, as if their presence is mandatory. Surgeons put down their scalpels, judges their gavels, clerks their pens and soldiers their weapons. Round table seating forces elbow-to-elbow brush; a sign of closeness, connection and bond. At the round table, everyone can see everyone in unobstructed view and there is little difficulty in reaching out for food or conversation as the diameter is exactly the same from every seat to the centre of the round table. Distance is bridged as people close in and love reaches out.

My Reunion Dinner 2011
On a symbolic level, round table is a Circle. Circle signifies completion and union. There is no end in a circle, it is an endless cycle of life and continuation of love from one to another. That which is good is retained in that circle and never runs out. The existing gap and distance is being closed as one by one of the family members take their seats at the round table. That is why it is called Reunion Dinner. because no matter how far one goes in life, ones must return to his roots, his family, his seat grounded at the Round table.

Because we are nothing without family.

I now realised the purpose of Mother's very short answer all these while. It was meant to show me that Love cannot be taught in a sentence but can be learnt, understood and instilled with the passage of appropriate seasons.  Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Of Mockingbird and Dumplings

Past weekend poofed in a whirlwind of frenzy. Dieting efforts took a slow slide down the drain as I shamelessly participated in weekend pre-Chinese New Year foodfest which comprised of 9-course dinner(of which i ate 6), Manhattan Fish Market seafood platter for 2 which fantastically include all hardcore sins in Diet Bible like fried oyster, fish and chips, french fries, garlic rice and deep fried squids dipped in Tartar Sauce!) and a string of notorious(-ly sumptious obesity-inducing) Penang hawker foods.

I'm so fat I took a picture of myself last Christmas and its still printing.

My mother's eldest sister from Hainan China flew over for CNY, she has the most interesting Hainanese accent. I mean i understand perfectly every word of Hainanese but when she spoke, I thought i was at some earthquake refugee camp in ancient China. Mother was at ease(at times making fun) with my supposedly lousy grasp of the dialect but i was eager to prove myself. Which turned out bad. Very very bad.

Converstion Over Dinner
Aunt from Hainan : in mad-pure Hainan Do you have a girlfriend?

Me: oh.. uh ...rubs head..smiles in silly manner hoping my charming innocence will be the answer for every question i don't understand

Aunt from Hainan : trying to explaining in same mad-pure Hainan I mean is there a girl who you like?

Me : ooo..mmm making sounds resembling that of a parrot-buffalo-Shrek crossbreed in attempts to respond to a perfectly alien languange

Aunt from Hainan : Sigh, looking to a sneering Mother So..

Mother : in same mad-pure dialect No he does'nt have a girlfriend.

Aunt from Hainan: turns to me, mocks at my blur reddish innocent-turned-stupid face Ahh is there any wonder?

At that moment, I feel like stuffing her face with chinese dumplings but was quickly reminded of chinese piety and the fact that she is Mother's 74-year-old sickly sister who raised my mother and swiftly stuffed the dumpling in my mouth.

Shoot the Glutton

Somebody kill me, after so many weeks of militant dieting and some noted achievements in weight loss, i  finally died succumbed! Went to this Japanase place with Evon(bff, lawyer, on-and-off gym rat) and ate a set lunch.  SET MEAL is the number one sin in the Diet Bible and I have commmitted it conciously, it feels like commiting adultery; caught in bed with a steaming bowl of white rice, salmon fish head teriyaki, miso soup, salad and jelly. What possessed me?!!

Im so fat I have my own area code.

How to Achieve Total Awesomeness

As of now 8.47 in the morning, I am plagued with :

Red Swollen Eyes from adulterating my poor eyes with third-world cheapo colour contact lens, which in pure distraught I tore into halves (lens, not eyes), albeit after swearing the most obscene of profanities in front of the bathroom mirror and an astounded sleepy-eyed mum. Sometimes it feels like the lens are gang-raping my eyes for 8 hours non-stop.

Hunger Pangs as a result of not eating for 3 weeks pursuant to 2011 resolution #4 in a serious attempt to look absolutely fabulous for Chinese New Year life. From the moment I woke up until now(about 54minutes), I have craved for (not the normal i-feel-like-eating kind of craving but more like crawling-on-the-floor licking-the-Pizza-Hut-brochures kind of craving) eggs and bacon, 3 inch grilled steak in BBQ sauce, chocolate brownie with chocolate topping, jumbo sausage and corn, peanut butter waffle, Japanese Garlic Fried Rice, Starbucks ice-blended anything, teppanyaki beef, tosai and a buffet lunch spread at E&O. arghh ok calm down, nothing tastes as good ad skinny feels, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. nothing taste......

Acne Attack who would have predicted that acne will follow you like a ghost into adulthood and beyond?  My face and back are populated by pimples, acne and all their relatives, forming together a large community. They even have their own Facebook account. 

Insecurities which come in the forms of physical loathing, periodic doubts about ability of self, low self-esteem which together manifest in me knocking my head against the wall repeatedly hoping all problems will be spun out of my mind.

Sleepiness which is not a novel problem to me anymore but one which is the root of all evil. when one is sleepy, one is not productive, lacks enthusiasm and lacks life. The only way to get rid of sleepiness is to sleep, but when one sleep, one lacks life as well. It was reported that Albert Einstein never sleeps more than an hour daily and he claimed that sleeping is a waste of time. Is there any consolation when Einstein looked like a wrecked train run over by a bigger wrecked train?

In such melancholy mode, I would say that to achieve awesomeness, one needs

  • perfect skin (one without blemish, white as snow, mattified, Robert Pattinsonish)
  • perfect metabolism which allows you to eat whatever, any where at anytime without the food going straight to your thighs and obtain permanent residency there
  • enough money to enable you to buy daily disposable color contact lens or eyes dazzling enough that can go naked
  • an awesome but thin self-help book that can be read in one sitting that can kill century-old insecurities
or failing all of the above, awesome Photoshop skills to correct all wrongs and evils in life. 

To Kill Or Not To Kill

When I was asked to blog about abortion, my brain shivers and screams for a blanket because it is The Topic. There is no one right answer because opinions are like assholes, everybody has one. No one can talk about abortion smiling, it has to be tip-toed approached with a considered degree of reservation, knowledge, tact and sensitivity. Truth is, I have none of those. From a raw point of view, i think when you dig into our own body with a coathanger and pull out some bloody pieces of flesh mess, it cannot be good. 

I wish abortion debates stops dead right there but then again, we are a nation of intellectuals. We need to sound clever because this is a serious issue. Pro-choice movement raises their flag: Women has a right to choose don't they? It is their uncompromisable civil right. To outlaw abortion is to deny woman and those feminists will make noise again and no one can ever win a debate with a feminist, can anyone? If men got pregnant, abortion would be available at convenience stores and drive through windows. Also abortions usually take place in the first trimester when the fetus cannot exist without the mother and relies upon the health of the mother. So it does not have a separate existence as it cannot exist outside the woman's womb. Technically then, it is not a murder(to be safe I just cut and paste this from Google)

Also, they manage to throw in some moral grounds to support abortion. What if the woman is raped? the baby is found to be unhealthy? disabled? what will the future of the child be? Better kill it Now. There is no dignity in prolonging his/her suffering by letting him live. 

Then the Pro-Life saints march in : Two words, it's murder.

Well my thoughts? To be clever, I was tempted to stay on the fence but as I was trying to get some pictures for this post, I found my stand. I hope they will help you find yours too. 

Confessions of a Seasonal Insomniac

Sometimes, I mean most times, I live in a daze. Previously i would have dismissed such realization in a heartbeat by convincing myself that every person of the Ipad generation who is deprived of sleep for a couple of years is a bit dazed. Then I look at Shaleni (good friend, food fan, saint of sorts), she is not dazed at all but quick-witted I would say. And she never sleeps. Her dark circles are so big the government is planning to build an airport there. I think she hasn't sleep since 1969. But she talks fast, gives responses in 0 second and could cook up a joke in no time. Normally I would just walk about zombie-eyed and stare into the space like I'm solving some sophisticated mathematical equation for Harvard but really I am just damn sleepy.

But being an insomniac is not without its benefits. One gets to live the night and let me tell you night is beautiful. Nightfall is often referred to as a mistress; seductive, elegant and charming and I am a firm believer that beautiful things(as well as most crimes) only happen after nightfall. The stars lined the shores of a vast sky, the moon is hung up to provide substance for a poet's masterpiece as well as to lend passion to heated lovers, Nature retreats into Herself as angels come out to play. As darkness blankets the earth, our insecurities retire, our features soften as stress is being washed away, the world closes in, defensiveness dropped and every single object is awashed in a dazzling light (no, Im not high).

Fueled by copious amount of coffee and wanton fetish for nights, I sit up reading a book, call a friend, say a prayer or write a piece. For people who do not like what I do when I can't sleep, that is why God created Facebook.

The enormity of an insomniac's problems cannot be negligible. It is beyond just dark circles. Those circles widen to pull in a truckload of inconsistencies. Your metabolism slows down, your logical reasoning falters, vision blurred, hunger pangs set in and everything stands still frozen in time while your mother screams from her room at the top of her lungs threatening to disown you if you don't fucking sleep already.

It is almost 3am now which is the Insomniac's 9pm. I think Im going over to Shaleni's to help build the airport. 

Painting by Maya Kulenovic

Food Is Evil

The only evil in dieting is cravings. There are some good days which sail by without food appearing in my mind for like every 5 seconds or without me downing tonnes of water to suppress the Appetite(yes she is an animal, a ferocious one at that). As a seasoned foodie and seasonal dieter, I will say without qualms that there is a certain sick chemistry between our psychology and food. This psychology, bred and fed by our upbringing (like how your mum pacified you with food whenever there were hints of discomfort or unease), external influence (meals with friends are sooo satisfying) and culture(upsized, heavily portioned, grease-soaked carb-based calorie-laden meals, every meal), creates a complex unbreakable stronghold forming like a web to entrap us(whenever i say us means me) in moments of weaknesses.

As a simple example, this morning I woke up sleepy and hungry. I went to work after a cup of coffee and some eggs. Such lack of sleep causes a blurry array of unstable emotions and I do not know how to feel. Im not sad and not happy, just unfeeling. Such emptiness I mistake for hunger so i just sat there fighting my emotions or the lack of. As I was struggling, a call came up from the clerk asking if I wanted breakfast since she was out (external influence). Since I was struggling to find substance to fill my emptiness, food appears as a timely and convenient choice.  I succumbed and asked 'what breakfast they sell there?' to which she replied 'fried noodles' (culture) so I said okay one packet, in fucking split second. So before I knew it, I was sitting at the table swallowing fried noodles for breakfast and the worse thing is I felt good or somewhat pacified soon after (upbringing) .

Yesterday, Jaja (college mate, close friend, dieter, retired fatso foodie) and me had small talk over iced-water and 1/4 of a plate of chee cheong fun about Thinspiration and dieting. She said as a matter-of-factly that when we joke about our weight all the time, it becomes a self-deprecation, most times humorously so, which we grow to embrace, that is, the fact that we are fat and comfortable with being fat and selectively link the good things to being fat such as being bubbly, adorable, harmless and cute. She could not have put that in a better way.

That being said, I shall adopt 'food is evil, evil is food' as my daily hourly mantra. Thin is in. Fashion=Emaciation. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels? Pro-ana is the deal. I blame the world for hating fat people and putting Thin People on the pedestal. If there is one thing ripe for crucifixion, that is us all.

Someone pleasee just slap me with a carrot. Or a cucumber. or anything less than 20kcal.

Colors Of Thaipusam

Thaipusam is an annual Hindu festival which commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.Hundreds thousands of devotees will flock to and flood Penang and its poor little roads and for a day in the year, the streets are graced with myriads of bright colors and massive traffic jams as civilization stood still to make way for the gods.

I was a face in the maddening crowd and for the lack of a word to wrap up the occasion, i would say 'sweaty'. I got stepped on, spat at, splashed wet,  pushed about, sweat-stained, eyes smoked, sardined and worn off but I enjoyed every moment of it. There were people dancing, fighting. singing, jeering, whistling, chanting, people of all races, countries and cultures came as one for the celebration of life and beyond.

'Hey, why are u taking my pic?'

Where is my entree?

Did lunch with Trish,  Raghu and PY at a place in town called Smoky Jack. Trish is a rekindled bff and she was ever her old self; ultra bubbly, fast-talking and ridiculously funny. She talks like a train on greased rail.. If ever there is a tongue marathon, she will win hands down. Thats why she used to rap Eminem songs back in college. Raghu is a tiny-appetite guy who watches what he eats, unlike us who eats whatever that is dead or not moving, as long as it is covered in BBQ sauce. PY is a middle-aged woman who is our constant reminder that age cannot take away your sweet innocence. And I, I was the hungry guy who almost ate the menu. 

 The place looks way cooler than my lousy Nokia phone camera can produce. It is supposed to resemble a moody spaceship metal junk hideout but thru the low def camera, it looks like a run-down recycle shed of a lost era.

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.” - Orson Welles

Morning Covets : Blazers

Awesomeness! But in this oven we call Penang, if you wear a blazer out you might as well tie a broccoli on your head since you will be getting the same amount of negative attention.Someone pleaseee fly me to France.

Sorry Sir, No Plastic Bag

Sweet Little Penang has jumped on the Green wagon by declaring a state-wide ban on the use of plastic bags beginning January 1 2011; a  giant leap towards environmentalism I would say. Last year, Penang was the first state to observe 'No Plastic Bag Day' in hypermarkets and shopping malls which was soon extended to 3 days a week. Now this total ban. My simmering pride of being part of such a commendable green practice was shortlived after an incident which happened to me in Prangin Mall.

I was at a famous Tomyam shop in Prangin Mall to take away a packet of tomyam noodle. After ordering, i sat down to wait in the crowded eatery. About two centuries later, the girl came out of the kitchen to hand me 3 packets each containing tomyam soup, glass noodles and rice. These 3 packets are not tied up with the long pink string (like they usually do) but tied by rubberbands, which means there was no strings to carry but I have to pinch them by the top. So in great disbelief, I looked at the girl with my 'are you kidding me' eyes and she gave me the 'no im not kidding you' look.

Me : Sorry, do you have a plastic bag for me to put these in? (pointing at the boiling hot tomyam and noodles and rice)

Girl : Sorry no. 

Me : (raising my voice by two octaves) May I ask why? 

Girl : No plastic bag day, you don't know? 

Me : (taking a deep breath and raise voice to another octave) I know, but look at these, they are boiling, how can i pinch it by the top and travel 6 floors up?

Girl : Normally we charge 20cents for a plastic bag. Ok?

Me: (in my final octave voice, by now I sounded like Mariah Carey) Okay! I want one plastic bag. 

Girl : Wait a while. 

After another two centuries later (I actually saw the seasons passing), the girl emerged. 

Girl : Sorry plastic bag finish (and she abruptly left to serve other customers)

At that very moment, while being aware of the importance of reducing my state's carbon footprint, I felt like leaving my footprint on her face. 

Sometimes Beauty can only be revealed by ugliness

First Offender : Tragic Tale

Today I was summoned to court for the very first time in my law-abiding life for the world's favourite most common traffic offence - not wearing a seatbelt. Since law school, I have squirmed at the notion of paternalistic laws, or laws that keep you from harming yourself. Anti-drug laws are paternalistic. So are laws preventing you from swimming at a dangerous lake. So are laws demanding you to contribute to EPF or pension system.  So are laws forcing you to wear a helmet or a seatbelt.You harm no one if you don't do it, only yourselves. I have only one issue against paternalism, that is, when do you draw the line exactly?  If a person really prefers safety to convenience then it is legitimate to force him to wear seatbelt. But if he knows well the risk of not wearing a seatbelt (I would think 100% lawful drivers do) and he insists on not wearing, then why the fuss? What's next? Laws that compel couples to save their marriages, laws that force you to embrace at least one religion? Where's the line? And who draws it? 

I pleaded guilty and mitigated some along the lines of 'Im a poor chambering pupil who cannot afford to pay the compound so I'm here. Im a first offender I will not repeat my carelessness... etc' and the court slapped pinched me with a RM80 fine. There goes the new arrival Topman shirt that  I'm eyeing for months. That's tragic. 

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