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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trompe l'oeil



Since I landed in Singapore, the haze has been doing a number on me, compromising my immune system, exacerbating a cough, etc. It seems like a cruel joke—reminiscent of the much-missed windswept, foggy solitude amidst the dripping redwoods of North California, with none of the reality. During hard efforts, the exposed surfaces of my skin will be caressed by successive gusts of wind-borne fog. The feeling is exquisite; picture the softest cotton, removed from the refrigerator, lightly spray-dampened, and ever so gently brushed across one's skin, pressed only hard enough to bend the hair follicles. Repeat. Repeat. Successive gusts of wind-laden fog dance before my eyes as whirling, twirling amorphous waves of diaphanous white. All around me in the forest echo the splash of water dripping—Fog Drip; water dripping from Spanish Moss, a net of green glistening with shimmering, ever-growing globules of water; draped, heavy with water, soaking the earth, feeding the roots of the giant redwoods hiding me from the ragged skies. As the climb grows steeper (and I grow warmer), I reach for the zipper of my jersey, to breathe easier; to treat my chest to the same caresses of the fog that envelopes me... in all its lonesome glory.

Here, here, we have no fog, only dust and shadow, and crowds mobs, hordes, and prattle; and incessant loudspeakers blaring from TV monitors in every bus, train, mall, home, office, etc. that you are but just another cog in the machine. Just another brick in the wall.

Ah, Singapore, where pretense (veneer) is all: the title of a first-world country, with none of the grace; the claim of an English-speaking country, with the language routinely butchered on the street, on TV, on the radio. Well aware of the ridiculous importance the locals attach to dress (not unlike how certain African colonies countries continue to impose foreign dress codes from their colonial master's culture), I had mentally prepared myself before boarding the plane. My premonitions were right. In my T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, I have been frequently given poor service (even poorer than the usual abysmal Singaporean standards) at shops. I have also somehow become invisible to many individuals. (Aside: I can't wait to discuss this interesting experience with my peers, especially with regards to the countless theories on subaltern invisibility we read about. *sardonic laugh*) E.g. a certain real estate agent (tell me, who is the moron? Some pretentious fop strutting about in a long-sleeved shirt, tie, pants, and leather shoes in 32 C (90 F), muggy, high humidity Singapore weather with a haze PSI index of 116, or me, in a T-shirt and shorts?) who, amazingly, not only executed a volte-face, bending over and kissing ass the moment he discovered we were in the market for a new home, but evolved the act to a colonoscopy as well. Last week, I was stopped and questioned by the security guard of the condominium estate my parents reside in. (Note to self: the next time this happens, take off running and lead the security guard on a friendly midnight jog around the estate.)


"As a graduate student at Stanford, many rich white students dressed poorly, but those of color tried to dress the best they could," wrote Ramon Chacon, professor of history and ethic studies here at Santa Clara. Chacon is the son of poor Chicano farm workers, and he received his doctorate from Stanford University.


A sign of cultural insecurity, perhaps?

Vestis virum reddit, or, "the clothes make the man," indeed. Here's something to chew on: my undergraduate education (alone) cost more than your HDB flat. Chew on that in your Armani Exchange clothing while you wait in line to top up your EZ-link / ERP Cash card, would you?




I am not going to get started on idiots who show up on dive boats with Prada bags but dive on rented gear (wetsuits too! Psssh!) because it will inevitably spill into the countless instances where I had to rescue them the morons from their unfamiliarity with borrowed gear own terminal stupidity. If the code of ethics in my professional diving qualifications allow for the option of refusing assistance to Darwin Award Contenders, I would gladly hang back and continue my own solo dive as a paying customer.

Not to fret, bleeding hearts! I will be sure to toss a Neiman Marcus sympathy card over the bow in their memory. I'm sure the dearly departed would be comforted by the fact that while they were fake divers, they can be real fish food.

Faux nation; faux pronunciation; faux people; faux divers; where the real consist of an abundance of cheap food and the incessant blaring of slimming ads to the sheeple. The two truly deserve each other.

A new name is hereby coined: Wannabe Nation.


Cheers,

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