26 November 2006


One of my students just lent me a Thai film called Metrosexual. Its name in Thai can be roughly translated as The Gang of Gibbons and a Closeted Gay Man. Gibbons in Thai slang mean 'women' for gay people; it's a term of contempt as Thai gays believe that women love to cry out 'phua' most of the time, similar to those gibbons in the jungle. 'Phua' happens to mean 'husband' in Thai and it's not a polite term.

Anyway, let's talk about the film. My first impression is that these five women are loud
and the world would be a better place without them. Erm ... I'm just joking. I just felt we're now at last able to tackle the issue of sexuality in a frank, funny way. But the film is still predominantly melodramatic -- they tend to overplay emotion and downplay the complexity of gender construction. The messages are very strong and easy to grasp -- friends last longer than lovers; women sometimes marry 'gay' men by accident; and people fall in love happily on Loy Kratong Day. (The last one being just plain awkward and excessive, it simply should be cut from the film.)

However, it does make me wonder. Is being gay something one is born with, or is it constructed by society? Why cannot Kong get married to Pang at the end and reshape his sexuality? Or is it possible that there's this essence of being gay in there waiting to be discovered? And once one 'discovers' (rather than 'invents') this 'true' self, one needs to express it accordingly out of sincerity. I don't think there's an accurate answer to this, but it has long been pestering me. Even though I'd like to be persuaded by the constructivist view of sexuality, that sexuality is something created and categorised by society, somehow I feel a bit ill at ease. Maybe one's gender is shaped by society and this process is too effective and successful, as one feels like gender is something that one imposes upon oneself by choice. Maybe it all starts with an arrangement of DNAs and society further imposes some sort of pigeonholing and stereotyping, creating pattern that imprisons rather than liberates humans.

Anyway, constructivist or not, I believe the film somehow plays upon an all too facile view of sexuality -- that it is something that waits to be discovered, that Kong's gayness is like Pat's gayness or Pee Bee's gayness. The film also suggests that there're also signals that can tell whether one is gay or not. I don't believe this and I think the level of 'gayness' in all 'gay' people is different, to the extent that labelling someone as gay becomes some sort of violence, of putting someone in Jameson's 'prisonhouse of language'. Maybe Kong is what society brands 'gay' but what if he truly loves Pang and wants to settle down together. If so, what Pang's friends do (i.e. asking Kong's male ex-lover to rekindle his homosexual desire) is really terrible. In a way, I somehow wish that Pang and Kong decide to get married in the end, despite the protest of their friends. It's not the question of fooling oneself, but rather it's a question of willing to 'perform' one's gender and stick to it.

I also got a friend who is married to a rather 'gender-dubious' guy. They've been married for years but they are still very much in love. Well, at first our group had a big discussion but at the end we came to a conclusion that it's not the point. The point is whether he really 'loves' her and whether he's willing to share the rest of his life with her. Maybe there're more to life than just labelling and branding ...

06 November 2006

Cafe Lumiere

I know I should have had updated this sooner during the school holiday. But hey I got life you know. On my birthday this year Mat took me (of course it's originally my idea) to the Siam Ocean World to see weird fish and a fake polar bear. It's such a pleasant experience to leave books once in a while and do something else. Well, books might be the world but the world does not only comprise books. Bookworms beware! Saying that, I'm hooked on Garcia Marquez's Erendira story at the moment. Such a contradictory man I am.

Right, today I'm going to talk about the Japanese film Cafe Lumiere, which I saw long time ago but the feeling still somewhat lingers. It's nice to watch a 'silent' film once in a while, especially if you happen to live in one of the maddest cities in the world, littered with noise everywhere. Tops supermarkets for instance install this terrible advert thing -- if someone walks past this machine, it'll be activated to switch on and emit noise selling all sort of products from whitening face masks to cockroach baits. On top of that, they even play Tops radio in the background (sometimes so loud that I couldn't hear myself think!). I reckon people at Tops don't want customers to make a good judgement on what to buy and what not, but to be lured by their price gimmicks and display tactics.

Anyway, let's talk about the film. When I say it's a 'silent' film, I don't mean that the actors don't talk or become some sort of mute people. They do talk but they choose not to (maybe they've been living in Bangkok before moving back to Japan). It's 'almost a love story' between Yoko and Hajime, 'almost a love story' because you only 'feel' that the two are in love but there's no physical evidence of whatever kind in the film that tells you straightaway that they're so in love. They don't kiss; they don't hug, so don't even bother imagining that they'll have sex on the train like some Japanese porns. They just talk and sometimes they remain quiet -- just like that, side by side, in a second-hand bookshop run by Hajime, who happens to be handsome -- but somehow you can feel that there's kind of warmth and understanding emanating from their co-presence.

There's also another kind of quiet -- that between Yoko and her parents, especially her reticent Dad. Yoko is pregnant with someone else and her Dad does nothing but remain silent throughout. You can just tell that there's some sort of reproachful tone in his silence (pardon my use of paradox here).

The film ends abruptly, without letting people know that the two will live happily ever after. When I watched it, I was quite surprised at such a sudden end and thought that there's something wrong with the DVD. But then I bought it from a proper shop in Central World, not from a Silom stall, so it should be all right. It's just my mindset that's the problem. So I started to readjust my frame, realising that maybe the end is meant to be like that -- quick, abrupt, but powerful. Powerful in the sense that maybe life is like that: no one will know how people's lives will end and it can be quite precocious to presume. Maybe when two lives converge, it's like two trains passing each other. Just like that. A fond memory. Something that doesn't last but somehow lingers. No wonder why Hajime likes to record 'the sound of the trains': to take this metaphorically, perhaps Hajime can be compared to a film producer who tries to capture the rhythm of contemporary urban lifestyle in the changing Tokyo landscape. Oh such a metafictional subtext. Traditional narrative forms may no longer be appropriate -- no fairy-tale ending, no magical stardust turning an ugly pauper into a handsome prince. But it's good that it still keeps one traditional element intact -- love. Even though I didn't recall hearing the word uttered in the film, I got the feeling that the film wants us to realise that it's not easy living in a big city like Tokyo, but if there's someone there with you life will at least be easier.

Gosh, it's the first time in this weblog that I don't express any anger or annoyance at the end. How rare!

08 October 2006

The Rule of Four

I've just finished The Rule of Four, a debut novel by Caldwell and Thomason. I must say I find it pretty disappointing towards the end as there are some knots that are yet to be untied. It seems like the authors prefer to give emphasis to thriller elements and the melodramatic ending (a fire!) at the expense of intellectual decoding. For example, I don't know where the crypt really is at the end or what Paul does to the blueprint. These should be two of the most important moments when the authors can add more fun in enticing the readers with more codes to be cracked. Yet these two moments simply vanish from the narrative, leaving the reader to pick up pieces at the end finding Paul already lurking in the crypt in Italy! I find Dan Brown's works better in this aspect, as he never leaves the reader gasping at narrative gaps. All of Brown's knots are duly untied at the end.

However, the psychological complexities of the characters are pretty good, even though I know of some readers who reject these or find them irrelevant. Good thrillers can show some psychological aspects of the characters too and I think the relationship of the main characters are reasonably good. I personally find that between Tom and Katie realistic and not totally irrelevant. But I wonder whether choosing Tom's point of view would eventually compromise the narrative, as towards the end it is PAUL who cracks the two most important puzzles and the reader is sadly kept at a distance.

11 July 2006

Mother Figure

I thought I was not going to complain but hey this has gone too far. For the past couple of weeks, it was my destiny to meet two powerful figures, both mothers, whose sons were King's scholarship grantees. Of course, I have nothing against the King's scholarship, as it was established back hundred years ago and loads of people having this have done good to the country.

But seeing these mommies flexing their muscles just gave me creeps.

I had a chance to meet the first mother when her son was interested in what I was doing in my professional avatar. Of course she couldn't stop when she had a chance to brag about her son, but at least she had a modicum of intellect to disguise it quite well in a veneer of recognising her son's success. But what I couldn't understand was that after our talk she did take hold of her son's hand and lead him around like he's a soulless moron. Come on! Your son's got King's scholarship. You should let him get a life, an independent one at that. Maybe she forgot that the mother didn't live forever, but there'll be someday in the future that he'll have no one to guide him. Well, that's when the role will be relegated to the wife, I guess.

As I left from the first couple, hoping that my life couldn't fare any worse, fate led me to meet another power-lust mother, this time in a one-woman show without her son. It was a PEN event where they announced short-listed winners and her son happened to be one of them. Sadly, he's in the States and "couldn't find a flight back" so she needed to jump onto the stage herself, blabbering away about her son's magisterial (almost god-like) capabilities. To the audiences' dismay, she talked about how she became a person who distracted him from his study and persuaded him to go to a concert instead. We all knew that she tried to trick everyone into thinking how humbly she tried to portray all this, that her son was good at dancing apart from studying to become a meteorologist. In the end, I felt embarrassed for her that I decided to leave prematurely, even though the novel her son wrote was one of my favourite in the list. It's a shame that he couldn't make it. But who knows, if he had made it with his mother there, he might have regretted it. The audience felt the same: they went to the event, hoping to know more about the novel, but instead they ended up being forced to pry into a private business of how a mother has destroyed a son's life willingly and innocently.

I'm glad I'm not going to be a mother, gender-wise and attitude-wise. I know that I'm far too uncaring (and too sensitive at the same time) to be one. I hate to destroy people I love "innocently" and "with all good intentions". I wonder what the future will hold for these two sons but I wish them for the best. One piece of advice: get rid of your mom before it's too late!

04 June 2006


For an urbanite like me, going to the beach is something I cherish, as it means a parallel world diametrically opposite to the one I'm living in. Pattaya is more so than any other place when it comes to this. Life in this small seaside town in Thailand is so majestically unreal and whenever I go back there I always feel differently towards it.

I used to hate Pattaya, for all its go-go bars and sex industry, preferring to go to Krabi, which is more rustic and primitive. But as I'm getting a bit older and less precocious I feel like Pattaya is perhaps a town where at least people are frank with their needs and where the level of tolerance is sky-high. Last week when I went there for the umpteenth time (though it's the first time for Mat) I was quite surprised learning how I grow to love Pattaya more than before. Sex tourists, prostitutes, transsexuals, transvestites, etc. are no longer stereotypes waiting to be condemned, but humans who have complexes and needs, normal just like the rest of us (well, if we're so sure that the rest of us are sane!).

We went to stay right on Dongtarn Beach, Pattaya's gay beach, but we saw that heterosexual couples (especially honeymooners) went there too and the crowd was pretty mixed. No one cares whether you're gay or straight (as long as you've money, I'd say). There by the beach and by the pool I've finished a novel about parallel universes and it did seem like I was the protagonist myself being transported to a parallel universe where relaxation was just in the air. I meant it -- once we drove into Pattaya, we just felt really calm and relaxed, out of the hustle bustle of crazy Bangkok life.

The resort where we stayed was pretty secluded and I just adored the pool. You can go to Mat's blog to see the pic -- I just can't be bothered to upload it. The owner walked around the breakfast area in the morning giving away minute rabbit tealights to her guests. This may sound a bit weird but it's a adorable gesture nonetheless. (Or maybe I'm from the city so I'm not used to people giving you things!)

18 May 2006

Da Vinci Code in Bangkok

Mat and I just went to see the Da Vinci Code at the Scala in Siam Square. Today is the first day of its screening here in Thailand. There has been a series of debate whether its screening here wouldn't affect Christian people. What I heard from the news was that some of the Christians actually launched a petition for the censorship of some parts of the film, especially the last ten minutes when it reveals what the Holy Grail actually is. Columbia Pictures did appeal and won so we had a chance to see the 'whole' film.

My first reaction after watching it was that the film and the novel didn't quite correspond in many points and that several sensitive issues are still left untouched or slightly implied, i.e. the relationship between Neveu and Sauniere and how the Priory of Sion 'keepers' actually keep the 'rose line' or the 'blood line' alive. We saw the scene whereby Sauniere had sex with a woman in some sort of ritual but they never explained why this old man was still at it! I guess this will probably incense more people so the filmmakers have decided to downplay these. Apart from this, I also couldn't quite understand some parts of the film. Two questions, for example. When they were at the Temple Church, why did Teabing's assistant need to kill both Langdon and Neveu, even though Teabing still needed Neveu to tell him the code to open the cryptex? Also why did Captain Fache arrest only Teabing, and not Langdon and Neveu even though they're believed to be suspects?

I've read the novel and I must confess that reading it is more enjoyable than watching it. But watching it helps my reading as some of the details of the novel are based on 'real' settings. My personal pleasure is to learn that Dan Brown uses 'apple' as a clue to the cryptex. 'Apple' can mean many things (not just i-pod, mind you!) and what it reminds me straight away is the apple of knowledge. Both Langdon and Neveu have tasted it but refused to let others know it, apart of me and the rest of the people who have seen the film of course (in addition to just several millions who have read it). Now we need to keep quiet and don't tell anyone else ok? Shhhhhhhh...

14 May 2006


Those of you who live in Thailand would have probably heard by now the news about an alien from the sky in the shape of an almost transparent worm-like cone. The moment the media knew about it, they rushed to the scene and the rest is history. The owner appeared on TV and tried to safeguard her new treasure, believing that it was something given by gods to cure her illness. Loads of people rushed to her place, some with incense sticks and candles, asking for "divine numbers" for the next lottery draw.

However, soon after, it turned out that the alien was just a cool-aid pad left in the water. The chemicals in the pad will naturally form an ice-like layer around the pad. Now loads of people, especially those in the city, stormed into their nearest 7-elevens to get these pads (which are now being sold like hot cake) and enjoy their new home-made aliens.

I've found this event rather amusing and thought-provoking. It shows how differently people in the country and the city approach the same object of mystery. The former group, still holding a deep faith in pre-Buddhist paganism, reluctantly submits this object for scientific inspection, whereas the latter group, with a rather alarmingly high level of irreverence, does not seem to take this event seriously or question why almost every popular newspaper choose to give space to this type of news. They rather think that this is an opportunity for a new toy and not a situation showcasing gullibility and sheer nonsense. Maybe it's just that the culture of serious criticism has yet to be formulated, especially among those middle-class kids heading towards their nearest convenience stores to get these pads.

Saying that, I think I'll go to buy one of these pads tomorrow and make my own little alien. I think my colleagues would love to see it! :)

08 May 2006

Dechito's World

Welcome to Dechito's World. It is destined to be a website where I'll collect trivia, interesting thoughts and events (sometimes weird, sometimes so banal it's extraordinary) occurring here in the amazing country of Thailand. I also plan to publish snippets that I sometimes receive from friends and feel too guilty to press delete.

Thanks Mat for providing his brand-new notebook for me to experiment with my latest whim! Who knows whether this first entry will also be the last?