The Amazing Disappearing Man.

April 28, 2008

Life is a constant search for the missing.

And last Sunday afternoon, as I was searching for a missing warranty card in my mother’s house (why are these things never around when you need them?) I chanced upon some old photo albums. I opened the first one up and saw a picture from a long time ago. It was from my 3rd birthday party.

And there he was.

In a white short sleeved shirt, dark pants and black glasses. Skinny as hell, just like I have him in my head.

The Amazing Disappearing Man.

Grandpa. Ah Dad. Ah Hoots. He was many things and many names to many people – I knew him as Kong Kong.

I knew him but I never knew him well. I know he was there when I was a kid; there are photos to prove that existence. But in the horizon of my mind, I have only few memories of the Man.

And I know that when I was growing up, I would see him occasionally at my birthday party and some of my cousins’ ones, although I’m not entirely sure.

For the most part though, he was a true master of the Disappearing Act and that’s why I never saw him much.

I remember one occasion where I was in the backseat of my Dad’s car and he pulled to a stop at an awkward junction along Yio Chu Kang Road. Within seconds, a skinny man in a white shirt and dark pants came running. I remember him trying to sneak a glance in as my Dad handed him some money. And I remember a smile forming on that old face of his as our eyes met.

And then, in the blink of an eye, the Amazing Disappearing Man had done it again.

He disappeared. For the next 8 years.

Towards the end of ’96, the Amazing Disappearing Man made his final appearance. I remember seeing him in hospital during that time. My Father never encouraged me to talk to him. I think he was afraid that he would hurt me the way he had hurt them. It was the first time in a long time that I had seen him and probably the first time since I was a child that I had talked to him. He looked at me with an apologetic smile and a humble expression that made me feel awkward, especially with everyone else in the room. I felt like I was meeting a friend of the family, instead of the head of it. I remember the conversation. It was formal and he asked about my studies. Up till then, I had only known him from family photo albums and scattered memories at best.

After his discharge from the hospital, my uncles had a family meeting and decided that it was in his best interest for him to be put into a nursing home. A week later, the Amazing Disappearing Man pulled his final disappearing act.

I guess some birds were never meant to be caged.

Now, looking through the photographs, what’s amazing about it all, is that this Amazing Disappearing Man pulled off his final disappearing act perfectly.

To paraphrase Michael Caine in Christopher Nolan’s wonderful film The Prestige

“Making something disappear isn’t enough. You have to bring it back. And that’s why every magic trick has a third act. The hardest part. The part we call The Prestiege.”

And that he has pulled off. Right now, the Amazing Disappearing Man is as clear as day in my mind’s eye. In life, he disappeared. But after it, I see him all the time.

I see him in the smile of my Dad as he digs in to a good meal. I see him in the way my cousin’s eyes crinkle when she laughs. And most of all, I see him in my own reflection in the mirror, all day, everyday.

The Amazing Disappearing Man is finally here to stay.

Like I said – life is a constant search for the missing. Sometimes you lose a warranty card, sometimes you find a Grandfather.

Isn’t life great that way?

Now where’s that damn warranty card?


Mobile Madness.

April 21, 2008

An article in an Australian newspaper this week reported that the government of the Austrian city of Graz has just begun to urge it’s citizens to put their mobiles to “silent mode” when they’re commuting on the train.

Following the the footsteps of France’s National Railway which has instituted “zen zones” in compartments in it’s TGV bullet trains, many welcome the idea while even more are up in arms about it. Some say it’s a violation of the freedom of speech rights. Others think it’ll make a more pleasant commute in an otherwise noisy and crowded bus or train.

In a country where mobile phones are said to outnumber people 2:1 …

… I think that public transport is the least of our worries as far as noise level is concerned. 

Sure, I think that long commute home where you can’t get a seat would be made more bearable if you didn’t have to put up with:

1) The auntie in the D&G knockoff gold pants yakking on her jewel encrusted mobile with the Chanel phone dangler about how she just queued up for 2 hours outside the LV store in Taka just to get in.

2) The wanna be hip-hop superstar with the baggy pants and the Moto RAZR, blasting 50 Cent out the side of his phone speaker for the world to hear.

3) The teenager on the phone with his girlfriend who just alighted at the last train stop – he misses her already (awww … makes me wanna frickin’ throw up.)

Those are just three disturbances I have when taking the train – all of which I can just slip on my earphones, crank up the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on the iPod and forget about them.

So restricting mobile chatter on the train? For the birds, if you ask me.

Now, if you’re talking about the cinema, that’s where I would stand up and say, let those cinema mobile users burn in frickin’ hell.

A few weeks ago, at a screening of Sweeney Todd, I was treated to a yakking bitch from hell who had a relationship with her mobile some would deem unnatural.

The movie starts and immediately, we’re in 18th century London, gritty, grimy, Tim Burton-style dark. I’m loving it. Then all of a sudden, I’m hit by the brightest light I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Remember the part in Independence Day where all those people are on the roof of the Chrysler Building and the alien spaceship opens up and revealing this great blue/white light?

That’s what this woman’s phone was like – I shit you not.

Anyway, turns out that Miss Yakkety’s phone is pimped out, complete with airplane landing strip lights that come on and blind everyone around her in what I can only assume to be an anti-assailant device. And that’s just when she got an SMS.

So fine – she messages furiously, blinds me seventeen times in the process, and then finishes, to my relief.

So another 10 minutes past and I’m getting into the movie again when all of a sudden, amid Johnny Depp’s opening number, I hear One Republic’s “Apologize“, drowning out all audio from the movie.

I hate One Republic.

This goes on for at least another 10 seconds while Miss Y searches frantically for her phone. With those flashing lights, why do you even need to search? I bet you can see that damn thing from space.

So finally, she finds it and to my extreme horror, yup, you guessed it – she answered.

What follows is an exchange that we’ve all heard before and I’ll replicate it verbatim here for the benefit of those who still don’t know what I’m talking about:

Miss Yak (whispering loudly):

Hello? Ya … watching movie.

(louder whisper) WAT-CHING-MOO-VIE! Ya … cinema.

(even louder whisper) CI-NE-MA!

I wanted to suck her eyeballs out through her nose and dangle them from her phone like some latest Lian accessory- why do people even insist on answering their phones?

I’ll never understand.

So if you ask me, I’m cool if you wanna talk in the train, however loudly you want. Sing, dance, bitch, moan, whatever – I don’t care. But my patience really ends when you bring it into the cinema.

So to whoever’s in charge out there, I say penalize the bastards who do that. Strap them to a chair and make them listen to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” as a polyphonic ringtone a thousand times over. Or maybe blind them with Miss Yak’s mobile alien landing site. Let’s have silence where it belongs and noise where it should stay.

Call me on my mobile if you disagree with this post – all you’ll get is a busy signal 🙂