Posted in Uncategorized by expatatlarge on May 19, 2012

Promise to write something soon. In Bangkok, had enough of “ping pong” and “open bottle” shows, and with a respite from the hectic Singapore social life, there may be plenty of opportunity to pen a piece or two. If this gastro would ease up. (French Bistro on Soi 11.)

But then again I promised to turn the Bruce parts into an ebook (done fuck all.)

Also I promised to lose more weight (stable at about 117kgs).

I put this on my FB page, from the NYT (there would be nothing to blog about without the NYT, as they say). For those three of you not also on my FB, this is funny in case you weren’t aware. 5555, as we type in Thailand. But it flies into the wind of tragedy as well.



Posted in penis, plagiarism, Singapore by expatatlarge on May 7, 2012

The term koro is presumed to derive from the word ‘kura’ which means turtle in the Malay language (see below), they say. Turtleneck sweaters, Turtleneck penis…

Oh my god, that woman has stolen my penis! Oh my god, that swine fever injection is causing my penis to retract back in to my body and rumour has it that such a disturbing symptom will kill me!

The Great Singapore Penis Panic! Saw a small (ha ha) book about this in Kinokuniya yesterday, nearly bought it but, you know, I was concerned that the cashier girls might look at me in a strange and knowing way.

In 1967, hundreds of men in Singapore were rushing to hospital clutching their wedding tackle, holding it firmly, as you do, with pegs and weights to prevent death from disappearing dong. There was a rumor circulated by a local paper the the meat from a vaccinated pig was causing this unusual complaint.

It was penis panic! It was cock consternation all across the nation! It was schlong schlorting! It was wang worry! It was attribute anxiety! It was horn hysteria! It was missing member! It was prick perturbation! It was dick dismay. It was wiener [pronounced ‘veener’] vanishing. It was… etc, etc…


Mass hysteria? Mass panic? Yes. OK, maybe.

The social psychology of ‘epidemic’ koro.

Bartholomew RE.


Flinders University of South Australia.


The few isolated reports of individual koro exhibit a symptomatology indicative of major psychiatric conditions (ie. psychosis or affective disorder), and appear unrelated to collective episodes which involve social, cultural, cognitive and physiological factors in the diffusion of koro-related beliefs. Yet, koro ‘epidemics’ continue to be viewed as exemplifying mass psychopathology or irrationality. An examination of the similarities between koro ‘outbreaks’ and a sub-category of behaviour which has been loosely labeled as ‘mass hysteria’, suggests an alternative, non-psychopathological explanation. In reclassifying ‘epidemic’ koro as a collective misperception rather than a culture-bound syndrome, it is argued that koro is a rational attempt at problem-solving which involves conformity dynamics, perceptual fallibility and the local acceptance of koro-associated folk realities, which are capable of explaining such episodes as normal within any given population.

Pub Med


Ah, love you Google: found a good review of the prick problem at Yesterday.sg. If you don’t want to follow the link here is the text:


[commence plagiarism]

May 27 2006
The Great Koro Epidemic of 1967

Posted by budak

In the year 1967, Singapore was gripped by the fear of shrinking organs, an incident that has enterred the casebooks of psychiatric medical history. (Warning: risque content!)
While trawling the net for entirely innocent factoids, I came across this footnote of local history known as The Great Koro Epidemic of 1967.

Koro is a mental condition in which men become obsessed with their penis (err…. doesn’t this happen all the time?), believing it to be afflicted by shrinkage with the ultimate result of retraction into the body. Some sources cite a role in Chinese metaphysical beliefs, where abnormal sexual acts (visiting prostitutes, masturbation or nocturnal emissions) disturb the yin-yang balance, leading to a loss of the yang (or male) force with accompanying consequences on key organs.

Apparently, countless Singapore men were afflicted with a raging delusion that their penises were shrinking and retracting into the body, a fate which causes mass panic and mortal anxiety. This phenomenon, known as Koro, arose following press reports of Koro cases due to the consumption of pork from a pig that had been inoculated against swine fever. Needless to say, pork sellers had a bad year. The coy headline of the Straits Times on 5 Nov 1967 (A Strange Malady Hits Singapore Men) gave little indication of the true girth of the problem.

Professor Kua Ee Heok of the Department of Psychological Medicine, National University of Singapore, in his monograph, Transcultural Psychiatry, has this to say of Koro:

“Koro refers to a syndrome, which has for its central theme a fear of death due to the person’s conviction that his penis is shrinking into the abdomen. The panic-stricken man often clutches on to his penis with bewildered spouse and relatives assisting. The term koro is thought to derive from the Malay word kura which means “tortoise” – the symbolic meaning is that the penile retraction is compared with the retraction of the head of the tortoise into its shell. The syndrome in traditional Chinese medicine is known as suo-yang, which literally means shrinkage of the male sexual organ. In women it may take the form of retraction of the vulval labia or nipple.

Koro is often viewed as a form of panic disorder with the symptom-complex of fear of penile retraction and impending death, palpitations, sweating, breathlessness and paraesthesia. The factors, which contribute to the occurrence of koro, include beliefs and attitudes pertaining to sexuality. A common Chinese belief is that the loss of semen weakens the body, and loss of yang occurs with masturbation and nocturnal emission. The loss of semen through sexual excesses is thought in traditional Chinese belief to lead to fatal ill-health. Personality traits associated with koro have been described as nervous temperament, suggestibility, sensitivity and immaturity.”

Dr. Kua also cites a report in the Singapore Medical Journal (1963, 4, 119-121) in which Dr. Gwee AL, describes a Koro case involving a male Chinese aged 34, seen on 24 March 1956.

“He was at a cinema show when he felt the need to micturate. He went out to the latrine in the foyer and, as he was easing himself, he felt a sudden loss of feeling in the genital region, and straightaway, the thought occurred to him that he was going to get penile retraction. Sure enough, he soon noticed that he penis was getting shorter. Intensely alarmed, he held on to his penis with his right hand and shouted for help, which however was not forthcoming as the latrine was deserted during the show. He felt cold in the limbs, and was weak all over, and his legs gave way under him. So he sat down on the floor, all this time holding on to his penis. About half an hour later, the attack abated.”

Dr. Gwee also authored a later study (in the Singapore Medical Journal 1969, 10, 234-242) about the 1967 epidemic, which affected over 500 persons. From this report, Kua notes the following sociological background to the outbreak: “ …before the outbreak of the epidemic, there was concern about chickens being injected with oestrogen to increase their growth. Some men were afraid that the oestrogen in the chicken would cause gynaecomastia and avoided chicken meat. At about the same time, there was a rumour that contaminated pork was being sold on the market and that diseased pigs were being inoculated against swine fever. This triggered off the epidemic and a possible explanation of the outbreak is that the inoculation of the pigs was seen to be similar to the injection of chickens with oestrogen.”

It was also noted that the epidemic “subsided rapidly after reassurance and explanation from the doctors through television, radio and newspaper.”

Chris Buckle of the University of Ottawa, highlights the Singapore Koro Epidemic in his study entitled: A Conceptual History of Koro.

“In July 1967, all swine in the country were inoculated with an anti-swine fever vaccine. It was an event that brought much public concern and considerable media attention.

On October 29, 1967, rumors began to circulate that the consumption of this inoculated pork was causing men’s genitalia to retract. It is unknown how, why or where in Singapore the rumors began. However, there is some evidence that the kosher Malays were blamed for the event, an accusation in line with the background of racial tension that plagued Singapore in the nineteen sixties. While this idea was not described in the government controlled Chinese or English language media, personal accounts do give it credence.

On October 30th a small Chinese language paper reported that “people developed koro after eating the meat of pigs inoculated with anti-swine fever vaccine”. A few days later, the same paper reported that an inoculated pig had died from penile retraction.”

Within the week, public hospitals were seeing hundreds of koro patients, and Buckle notes that no statistics exist for the presumably high number of individuals who were treated by family or traditional Chinese physicians. It was reported that “men resorted to clamps, pegs, and even weights to ensure that their tackle remained in its rightful place.”

Reflecting perhaps the high degree of public trust in state bodies in those good old days, koro cases increase exponentially following a statement by the then-Ministry of Primary Production (now AVA) that “emphatically denied rumors of pork contamination.” Buckle writes that as a result, “an alarmed Ministry of National Development issued an immediate statement claiming that ‘no one in Singapore need worry over the safety of pork from pigs slaughtered at the government abattoir where every carcass is carefully examined and stamped as fit for human consumption before they are released to the market’”.

The outbreak subsided after press statements by the Singapore Medical Association that “koro is a culturally determined form of emotional ill-health affecting primarily the Chinese…the present incidence of koro is essentially due to fear and rumors which have no foundation”. Meanwhile, advertisements for Australian pork began to appear in the papers. The Chinese-language Nanyang also reported that a man in the ministry of production had apologised for comments about the link between the swine vaccine and koro. The final nail on koro’s coffin came with the televised statement of the Deputy Director of Medical Services, Dr. Lim Guan Ho, who stressed that koro “is only a disease of the mind and the victim requires no medical treatment at all.”

I wonder if any readers of sufficient seniority might have recollections (not necessarily of personal encounters with koro though) of this incident??



Many Japanese and Korean men look down, search, and then shrug. They’re used to it.


Posted in Uncategorized by expatatlarge on May 7, 2012

Exercise won’t make you skinny. It will make you fit.

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Posted in about to be kicked out of Singapore, visas by expatatlarge on May 4, 2012

His Personalised Employment Pass lasted for 5 years. It gave E@L, well, 5 years of hassle-free residence in The Little Red Dot (TLRD {aka: DWTDP}). It was not Permanent Residence (PR) but, hey, no need to pay 15% of his salary into a lame-arse, opaque investment, Gov’t superannuation scheme, viz: the Community Provident Fund (CPF). But he does pay about $50 more for a game of golf (GOG) than a PR would.

No, with this PEP E@L could stay in TLRD for an extra six months after any termination of employment (as if they’d let him go!) in order to seek an equivalent fat package from one of the other big players in the field (not including Philips, burned his bridges there). Otherwise it would be only a month before a visa run would be required, and an apartment in Surat Thani secured.

OK, it’s cool, E@L is in a BigCompany(tm) these days, his preferred employer swallowed yet again Jonah-like into the belly of some fresh corporate beast. And that size company means an efficient human resources (HR) department that will sort it all out, right? *wobbles hand*~~~ish…

Ah, no-no-no! An eight storey building, all one company, right? Right? Wrong. Each division is a separate entity with its own HR. Only 45 people in our sub-company. One lady doing it all. Sigh. Corporations these days, what can you do?

Yet E@L’s PEP was on the cusp of expiring. He had until Friday.

Our lone HR lady had faxed the paperwork to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) three weeks ago. We all figured it was going through the internal machinery; chuffa-luffeling through those pipes behind the walls; turning under the power of springs and cogs; sucked up by singing vacuums; whirring dizzily through the typewriters; faxes and teletext machines, concentrated on by bespectacled men in suits in Dickensian offices; with cowering amanuenses scribbling down the wisdom of great men’s opinions on the suitability of foreign talent (FT) these days; photocopied here and there; stamped by officials with their square Chinese name stamps and their round Chinese company stamps; initialed by execs; digitalisised [sic] and whisked as fast as electrons into databases and random access memories (RAM) (And then, one day, I got in!); glowing on tri-colored crystal displays; duly filed and uploaded; dutifully backed-up; emailed and copied to all; archived; printed; stored; checked and sorted; all done and approved.

Just waiting for the call.



On Wednesday, still no news. E@L was at the ANZAC dawn service (no, shamefully, he was fast asleep) and hence late for work. The HR lady and E@L’s office manager (OM) had been checking online for his application’s progress through the MOM and thought it rather … strange … disconcerting … that there was no record of E@L’s application at the MOM’s on-line, check your status, don’t bother us we’re busy, information site.

“We can’t get in, to check the progress. There is no record of your application having been filed,” they (HR lady and OM) told him as he placed his kopi (upsize, still warm, carried all the way from Tampines Central Mall) on his office desk. He stood erect, his fists on the desk in front of him, looking sternly over his still-slightly fogged (aircon -> 100% humidity -> air-con) sunglasses. He tried to look like a bigwig who was going to say something serious. HR lady was fidgety. She was apologetic and looking awkward. Perhaps she was worried than E@L would be upset. Mmmm, thought E@L, and HR lady waited, turning her head slightly side to side, (she’s not from the sub-continent), dancing from foot to foot…

“Mmmm”, said E@L. “Without that employment pass (EP) I’m grounded, work-wise, right?” She nodded. Thinks: OK, that’s it, down tools, work finished, no visa, no more slaving over a hot tablet playing Words With Friends in the office. He’d have to do that all that tuff stuff by the pool at E@LGHQ instead.

“Whatever,” shrugged E@L. It sounded a good deal to him, as he repacked his man-bag with Samsung 7.7 Tab (new toy, not really happy, font-size too small), his Kindle, reading glasses and a fifth of bourbon. “Let me know.”

“Ah, no, you can still work, at least until Friday. I am sure we can get a 30 day extension. But you will have to go online to cancel your current PEP.” That might, she said, sort out the some issues, like with overstaying his visa. But he needed a SingPass.

A what?

He needed to register and obtain a password (forgotten it already) that will allow him to access the government’s many sites that are interactive, where official things can be, um, interacted with. Like cancelling PEPs for example. He took an hour off and wandered to the CPF building where he could check in with a little old lady (LOL) at the SingPass desk to obtain this on-line avatar. FIN (no idea) number of his PEP, passport sighted and a new password (he has so many different passwords – not, he has two and no idea which this one is) was on its way. She looked up, smiled, and said he could now log-in and bring down the structure of the entire electronic edifice of Singapore should he so desire. Or just cancel his PEP.

Back to the office and puts fresh kopi, upsize, on the desk. Log-ins. Follow instructions, as printed out by HR lady.

“There is no record of an application for a replacement EP. Please enter a valid reason for PEP cancellation,” said the computer screen. Valid reasons? E@L has not finished his contract of employment and leaving the country. He has not lost his PEP. He is not pregnant. WTF?

Mmm. Back to paragraph one.

What to do? If nothing came through by Friday, E@L would become an “overstayer” and essentially a criminal in the eyes of Singapore’s notoriously forgiving uncompromising judiciary. The fine? The cane? The noose? Even worse, his BigCompany(tm) could get fined, and they don’t want that says HR lady. And E@L would have a black mark on his passport for sure. Overstaying is not an option. Must get an extension or do that visa run on Friday.

Travel-wise, (for work) even with an extension, temporarily, he is screwed. He’d have to hand over the current (expired) PEP at outmigration and come back in on the white entry form for a maximum of 3 months of doing nothing – on a tourist visa – as no work is allowed (unless you are run by a snake-head in orchard Towers or Geylang). Work-wise, maybe some gardening coming up.

PR lady and OM were on the phone all day (well, three or four calls) and kept getting no help at all from the MOM Help Center. Eventually someone twigged that the PEP work visa renewals are done manually – there was none of the above-spoofed electronic complexity. Further investigations showed that the file was sitting in someone’s in-tray. Had been for weeks. And today was that person’s day off. IKYN.


E@L was on the web almost instantly seeking a solution to this devastating dilemma. It was a terrible situation, the world was falling down around his ears, and all other senses and body-parts related to his head. OMG! E@L was in a frantic panic!

He had to make an urgent decision! Book a flight for Phuket or Hua Hin? Maybe Koh Samui. Bali? Cebu? How could he decide at short notice? Either that or skip to the Malaysian border at the causeway, hand in his PEP card, as mentioned, play a GOG (so much cheaper than as a non-PR in Singapore), fill in a white tourist form, as mentioned, and all would cool. Except work.


Eventually, early Thursday, HR lady got through to the hyper-efficient doofus at the MOM (in this country which is a paragon and bench-mark of efficiency world-wide) who had overlooked the urgency of E@L’s PEP application. He, for only a man could fuck things up as grandly and as casually as this, banged a few contact points on his keyboard and the required information was officially in progress.

This meant E@L could go in to MOM (in person) on Friday and pick up the Temporary 30 Day Extension for both his work visa and something for the immigration people.

(Sigh. E@L had been planning to work from “home” on Friday. He had organized with some friends to head to Marina Bay Gold Club (MBGC) for an expensive GOG first thing in the morning! Cancelled now!)

OM went with him. Appointment was in the afternoon. He could have played the GOG after all!

Look at all fancy chairs for the staff, said OM. E@L thought they looked like Aerons, certainly something Hermann Millerish. OM tells E@L that the enormous amount of money (from PR and citzens’ CPF no doubt) spent last year on seats for bums was quite controversial at the time. They are Hermann Millers. E@L paid more for a non-Miller. Damn.

Temporary visa notes handed over quite quickly by another LOL, no smile this time, but E@L wondered if those comfy chairs were not part of the problem. He knows that lazing back on them is immensely, emotionally soothing (he had lazed, emotionally soothed, amazed, on Aeron chairs in the Philips office in Hong Kong all those years ago). Had Mr Paperwork-In-In-tray been asleep? Maybe, like E@L, he was internally retired.


Notification of approval of his work pass came through this Thursday, 6 days after the PEP period ended, a month after the application was submitted. The PEP was, as E@L mentioned in para one, a 5 year pass. It turns out that this can only be given once. It has to be replaced (if the application is accepted) by a conventional EP.

This time E@L was only granted a 1 year EP? WTF? He will have to go through this again in 12 months. It’s almost like Singapore doesn’t want E@L to stay!


Perhaps he should apply for PR to avoid this threatened annual thing?

While one of E@L’s buddies, who is essentially a pauper, was denied, several of E@L’s better paid buddies have been granted PR easily. A few years ago this was. They walked into PR-hood as if MOM was giving away quasi-citizenship with MacDonald’s Happy Meals at that time.

But he it is getting harder and harder to obtain PR these days, despite the Gahmen’s own recommendations that more and more FT and PR are required up for a declining population (or to make more kids?). And not unsurprisingly there continues to be quite a controversy (nicely understated by mrbrown) about dilution of the Singaporean population and its (Chinese?) identity.

(This is not a Singapore-only debate. World-wide, easing of immigration laws thanks to the need of corporations [those who truly run the world, not governments] in globalization campaigns for easy flow of workers, has led to increasing conflicts, calls for isolationism and a sometimes vicious backlash against those who support immigration. These attitudes are prevalent in Australia too [a nation of genocidal immigrants], where refugees on leaky boats are hassled and turned back, and where Pauline Hanson gets elected to State Parliament?)

Anyway, EP or PR, it gets complicated.


Carry That Weight

Posted in alcohol, beer, diet, food, overweight by expatatlarge on April 21, 2012

The Singaporean Chinese owner/manager (which? both?) of a certain riverside bar in Singapore was sitting with The BiTP* at one of the aluminium (or are they wood?) outdoor tables, sporting a blue baseball cap that he kept adjusting on his head, and wearing a pale tee-shirt with a small Manchester City FC logo just above the left breast. The BiTP (Bruce and E@L in this instance) were closing the place, as they say, at just after 3am.

E@L didn’t take in all the initial conversation, not completely (it was 3am after all), but he believes insert name, (also forgotten) splits his time between here and, was it Toronto? [Jesus, did E@L get anything?] The manager, let’s call him Terry, didn’t seemed fazed by the time, so Bruce and E@L were able to cadge yet another last G&T before the bar-staff pulled the shutters completely down and all left. (Bruce was on the verge of getting one bar girl’s phone number, but another had him well pinned for the cad he can be [is].) The bar manager, a narrow thing who always wears a bikini top under her dark singlet, was languidly perched on the back of a chair she had reversed on the fourth side of the table. She was listening in and laughing at Bruce’s lines and rejoinders to Terry’s, and, with that bright grin and attentive nod and conspiratorial eyebrow raise, E@L was in no doubt she was wishing that we would all just shut the fuck and go home. But as Terry was with us, she had no option but to join and wait it out.

They kept chatting about things E@L has no knowledge of, nor opinion on, such as English football (soccer!) and, with Bruce being a mad Manchester United fanatic, and with ManU and City fighting it out over top spot in EFL… When he says ‘they were chatting’, E@L really means Bruce and Terry were good-heartedly (but teeth-clenchedly) jousting with each other about the season’s up and down, highlighting the other’s Downs and promoting their own Ups.

Maybe, at one point, the topic had turned to the FnB business, because something roused E@L enough for him to interject a line on how he is poised to become a squidillionare, if his private shares in Wooloomooloo (opening soon in Singapore, folks) keep capitalizing up. This turned Terry’s attention to him for the first time. Terry paused.

(Fat chance of E@L becoming disgustingly rich. Some may consider him halfway there already – he’s got the disgusting part down nicely.)

“Look at that belly, man!” says Terry, reaching from where he was perched – fit, alert (maybe a little bit pissed) and erect – on his aluminium (or are they wood?) chair to where E@L could barely maintain any plane approaching the vertical on his, and he patted the protuberant magnificence of the legendary E@L paunch, thrice. “You gotta do something about that belly.

“You gotta lose some weight. You are carrying too much weight. It’s bad for you. Man! You gotta lose a lot!”

E@L knows what you are all thinking, that this is going to be a blog post about the difficulties of disposing of the bucket of crunchy pulp that was all that remained of Terry after E@L responded to his comments, but rest assured. E@L is used to this stuff. It’s water of a fat duck‘s back now.**

(T’was not always thus. E@L is not going to rehash the arguments and elaborations and the multiple diversions in that post. OK maybe a bit…)

So E@L just nodded and smiled and said, “Yes, don’t I know it!”

Yeah, of course E@L knows. As if E@L wasn’t told a hundred fucking times a fucking day in a fucking hundred different fucking ways. Get over it, E@L thinks. I’m fat, I know, I know I’m fat and I know you know I’m fat. Just shut the fuck up about it. You have terrible teeth. You have a tic whereby you can’t stop touching your baseball cap. Shut the fuck up.


Do you know why E@L mentioned this incident, and the one linked to above, among the many others like them in his eight (8, count ’em) years here? Before he be accused of being specifically anti-Singaporean let it be known that the only place no-one comments on his weight and/or shape in is America, and not because Americans are inherently more polite. But because they are FUCKING FAT SLOBS, like E@L.

Why mention it? Because it contrasts quite well with the comments he has been hearing from his friends in the last few weeks.

“You’re looking good E@L, You lost weight, yeah?”

Girlfriend says you are looking well, and wants to know if you have lost weight.”

Three or four times, with slight variations, on that theme. Yes, E@L has lost weight. Quite a substantial amount. Well, ‘substantial’ is a relative term.


Jan 2 2011. That’s kgs folks, not lbs.

Always a peak period, post Xmas, etc… but scarey enough to set E@L on a something of a mission. He has spoken to you guys about negative incentives before. Not disincentives, which necessarily demotivate you, but incentives which are stimulated by a tangible, painful, negative outcome.

“Lose weight or you’ll die”, might be considered to be one? Right? No.

“Yeah, sure Doc, fatty liver, yada yada, heard that one before.” But it is too vague and generalised a threat. The empirical cause-effect link, while undeniably there, is just not specific enough.

Lose weight or you will die, but of what? Of old age? Of necrotising fasciitis? Of your car getting stuck in the middle of a level crossing as a train approaches and a flaming plane plummets from the sky right at you carrying Al Queda terrorists, one of whom unbeknownst to his terrorist allies, not to mention the crew and passengers, accidentally contracted Ebola virus while training the Congolese Rebel Army only last week… Yeah, OK, I’ll watch out for that, says E@L. Thinks: and so those people all had to die because E@L didn’t lose weight? Oh the humanity!

Stay the same weight, get heavier, lose weight, watch Final Destination III, and guess what? You’re still going to die. Everyone dies in the long jog, no news there.

However, “Lose 15kgs by the end of April or I’ll kill you with this formidably large weapon”, that is more what E@L is talking about. It sets a specific goal and ties it to a specific, um, reward – brains splattered everywhere.

In his present case, the less violent negative incentive is some cash, currently held by Bruce, and if E@L fails to loose those 15kgs, that cash, S$5,000, will go to a Traditional Chinese Medicine hospital or university of Bruce’s choice.


The prospect of such a heinous anti-Enlightenment forfeit has sent E@L running moving quickly to his cupboards and fridge in order to discard everything vaguely carbohydrate-based into the recyclable waste disposal bins, conveniently located for E@L to increase his activity quotient in the car-park down two flights of steps – good exercise. No rice, no spuds, no white bread (he never eats white bread anyway, soft and mushy – yuck!) and, shudder, no alcohol.

No white rice, and E@L lives in Asia? Tough, yes, it is tough. Some places do serve brown rice as an alternative to, well, to none.

No alcohol, and E@L is an Expat? Tough in-fucking-deed!


The date for this 15kg loss has pushed back to his birthday, late June, on the not unreasonable grounds that too rapid a weight-loss might reflect an unsustainable period of deprivation and starvation that would quickly end and the weight would yo-yo back up, and even higher.

Whereas a six-month plan could promote a more moderate and sustainable change of life-style.

E@L spend most of February on a zero-alcohol binge. March, a few wines here and there, April, not so much on the wagon and running behind it, but hand on the rail, ready to jump back on at any time. It was in this period that E@L realised a strong association with alcohol and some gastrointestinal problems which, unlike his normal oversharing attitude, he is unwilling to explain – not time for the gory details. He was pleasantly surprised to find these chronic issues disappear for the period in question. Okay, E@L is allergic to alcohol. His intestines don’t like it. Lesson there. Can E@L learn it?

The knowledge that he will suffer more than just a hangover has had a considerable impact on his ability to keep the frequency of boozing with the BiTP down. It has helped immensely that many of the other BiTP were on a quiet February as well. E@L generally doesn’t drink spirits, beyond the “I’m too distended for more beer, I’ll have a G&T” stage (such as 3am. Hey, we’ve all been there) so even though he has a duty-free store full of spirits in his Antique(tm) Chinese ™ shelves, these offered no great temptation. Wine? Well, he’s just come back from a Barossa wine splurge, so this was tough, wine fridge full to bursting with amazing old vine Shiraz’s and GSMs, and you name it. Let them age a bit more, let’s pick one every now and then, for a special occasion.

And he has stood his ground. Running behind the wagon while standing his ground, note, and not running to the loo.

So was E@L taking commercial so-called diet-drinks for his social fluids instead? When his former flatmate Izzy send him a link about the counter-intuitive dangers of his favorite low-calorie, non-alcoholic imbibement, Coke Zero (and its ilk), he has gone off that sort of stuff as well. More tea, (green, ginger, English Breakfast), coffee no change, and at the pub it was lemon, lime and bitters with soda water. To drink at night, lime and bitters in soda water.


And Mademoiselle, the envelope please…

April 21 2011

Yeah, the other scales died in the interim (did not break apart, smart-arse!) so one can’t be too exact about the delta here, but the irrefutable fact is that E@L is down close enough to 12kgs. That’s 26lbs for the two readers E@L has in the States. Another way of looking at it is that he is down by 10% on his previous weight. This is lowest he has been since a drastic reduction (to 114.5kgs) for his 30 year school reunion in 2005. He was still told he was fucking fat though, by someone who was a fatty at school, now thin – rudeness is not exclusively Singapore thing after all.)

Probably that loss is bit faster than the revised plan, but he has plateaued for a while, so it remains encouraging that, come “all the fives”, E@L might be able to purchase some clothes off the rack.

E@L won’t bore you with any more details of what he is eating more of and less of, but one of the big surprises for E@L in all of this, is that he does have the will-power after all to do something… something at all.

He just has to make the decision, finally, then believe that he made the decision. So often it is a pretend decision, one he knows he will break (write that novel) like a traditional New Years Resolution.

But anything he wants to do, he can, if he does, as they say, set his mind to it. And now he knows he can follow through on it. This is not Tony Robbins bullshit here, this is E@L learning the hard (and cheaper) way of what great achievements he is capable if he could just shut the fuck up and do them.

Two months to go.



* BiTP = Boys in The Pub. One of Indy’s. Remember Indy?

** His favorite incident was back in 1998. E@L was probably the largest man in Vietnam at the time. As he got out of the taxi at the gate of his designated hospital, he saw that an old man, who had been sitting down doing nothing (maybe playing checkers with bottle tops) like the twenty thousand other people along the streets they had driven, was looking back at him in the car window. The man arose from his stunted, square, blue-plastic stool (you know the ones, right?) and, still in a slight arthritic stoop, opened E@L’s door for him. He was smiling toothlessly. E@L thanked thanked the man as best he could: “Cah-mon, cah-mon, thank you.” But that is not the incident…

A woman and her children were negotiating the path of chairs and old men and irregular paving as E@L alighted, when one of the children stopped. In awe, his face a picture of wonder and disbelief, he instinctively moved towards E@L as if in a trance, with his right hand forward… he rubbed E@L’s belly in a circle two times before his mother dragged him away by his other arm. He must have thought E@L was the Buddha made incarnate. 5555!

Cash Cow Shit

Posted in food, getting rich slowly, Hong Kong, Singapore, wine tasting by expatatlarge on April 17, 2012

Those of you with your fingers on the pulse, your noses to the grindstone, your feet on the ground, your heads in the clouds, your eyes on the the prize, your tongues kept civil in your heads and yours heads not halfway up your arse will be aware that E@L has a controlling small interest in a steakhouse restaurant group in Hong Kong called Wooloomooloo. This is not a party political broadcast, whoof, me?, but please go to the restaurants and bars there and spend your entire life savings at your earliest convenience. Take a loan, spend more. Speak to our financial consultant.

Anyway, point of story. (Anyway, any sentence that begins with “anyway” shows sloppy, sloppy, sloppy thinking. AKA: too much red wine.) Point of story.

E@L was in Hong Kong last week (working hard, hush your mouth) and enjoyed himself immensely. Please don’t start E@L on his preferences between Hongkers and Singapore. (Ten blogposts started and abandoned in frustration already this week.) On any given hour of any given day, the answer might be 180deg from what it was last time you asked. So what did he do?

He had a quiet night in Wanchai with Bruce(!)…

He took a stroll up the gweilo, ahem, friendly region Queens Rd West in of Sai Wan (did anyone even notice there was Westerner there? No. – c.f. The Glamour, Christopher Priest, 1984) and took in some the hectic, hectic, no-time-to-think ambiance of that part of town.



Anyway (oops), he visited several (3/4) of the Woolies (as we affectionately call the money-spinning cash cow) over the course of his five day stay on the barren little rock (as we affectionately call Hong Kong) and has some more photos to share…

View from the rooftop at Woolies at Wanchai, on Hennessy.

View across to Hong Kong from Woolies Prime in The One, Nathan Rd – E@L and an old HK friend, MJ. View is bit misty, you can’t see the top of IFC2, but still, pretty frackin’ awesome, what? Fireworks and light-show every night at 8pm. The bar area, with it’s jaw-dropping balcony view seems very popular for some reason, and we couldn’t get a seat there after our meal. Great! Spend more money!


Anyway (FUCK!), we they are opening a Singapore Woolies in June, our their first international venture. Tell your friends. E@L went today to the third floor at the Swissotel (The Stamford), at Raffles City (not Raffles hotel, not Raffles Shopping Arcade, not Raffles Hospital, not Raffles Place) to observe the current state of affairs. At the moment, it’s an area of concrete and brick and steel pipes and open windows. (Thankfully it doesn’t rain much in Singapore… Yeah, right.) But mid-June or so… look out!

Here are some shots out of the window. Mmm, not bad.

That road you can see next to the sports ground transforms into part of the racing circuit for the Singapore F1 GP every September. (Damn. Was hoping for a nice quiet venue. Bummer. And no, we are not taking booking yet, even for the ownersshareholders.)

That crazy what’s-that-on-top-of-those-three-buildings thing is part of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, next to the casino integrated resort on, well, Marina Bay. Fireworks and light-show every now and then. Theatre complex, convention centre, 2,000 plus hotel rooms, etc… all right there or just a small walk away. Very good spot in other words.

OK, good view but it’s not as spectacularly brilliant as the view from TST to Hong Kong Island, even so it’s not that bad. For Singapore.


So anyway, after all this, E@L heads out for dinner at another restaurant to meet up with some friends, Jennifer and David (real names, to indict the innocent). We went to Balzac, new place in The Rendezvous. French place. Absinthe cocktails sort of place. Beef cheeks in red wine jus sort of place. Incomprehensible French word for soufflé (already a French word!) sort of place.

We knock back our cheap Côtes du Rhône vin ordinaire (still quite nice, Grenache/Syrah) and chat with each other and with the staff (quiet night). Jennifer is in Singapore for the Food and Hotel Association expo at Changi and she notices that the chef (walking past) has a halyard around his neck from that very same FHA exhibition. She calls him over for une petite conversaysheon and things start rolling from there. A little bit of extra service, some more bread, please try the absinthe cocktail, have the unpronounceable chocolate soufflé…

Then David gets a phone call – “Yeah, sure, bring them over…” A friend of his, who doesn’t drink, has been at a French wine thingummie. He drops by a few minutes later with three bottles of already opened but barely tasted French wine – St Julien, etc… Not crap at all. Well into three figures, each bottle.

The sommelier, after seeing this impressive delivery, and noting that we hadn’t fallen over unconscious after several of those absinthe (they were 99% cognac, it turned out, pfft!) cocktails, opts to bring over three clean glasses for us. But wait, there’s more. With the first bottle done, the St Julein, the sommelier tempts us with a taste of some of his biodynamic French wine as a comparison.

In fact, fuck it, he leaves the remaining 3/4 of the bottle with us. This wine is from the biodynamic Rhone vineyard of the dynamic M. Chapoutier. Last time E@L tasted one of these was at a degustation at the way expensive but impressive Andre restaurant with the Asia manager of M.Chapoutier, Stephane, sitting at the table next to us. (One of the drops we had that night was $750 a bottle, E@L found out later!)



E@L thought, like you, that this is some fancy way of saying organic. Right? Sure, I’ll drink, thought E@L. They finished the free bottle, David was leaving with the other two (also Bordeaux or that ilk) bottles to take home as some of us (not E@L obviously) have to work on the morrow, so we settled the bill and left.


Biodynamic: 9 points…

1: Bury cowshit in a cow’s horn in the soil over winter. Add to compost.
2: Bury ground quartz in a cow’s horn over summer. Add to compost.
3: Hang yarrow flowers in a stag’s bladder though summer and bury them over winter.
4: Chamomille, ditto in cow intestine.
5: Stinging nettles, bury in summer.
6: Bury oak bark the skull of a farm animal over winter.
7: Hang dandelion flowers in cow mesentry over summer, bury over winter, dig up in spring.
8: Spray valerian flower juice into the compost.
9: Give vines a nice cup of tea. Put fermented common horsetail (equisetum arvense) directly on to the vines or use a manure.



Heard enough?

E@L’s opinion of this bioinsanity and its biodymaniacs? Have a guess. Why not have the vines do yoga? Why not give them coffee high-colonics? Why not allow them to discover themselves in an ashram in Goa?

Take E@L back to the plain old vinodiversity of the Barossa, please, please, please.

Fucking bionutters. Wine was OK, but fuck, do you really need this bullshit to wash down the cowshit?


p.s. eat at Wooloomooloo any chance you get. E@L wants to be a money-spun cash-cowshitillionaire!

Hongkers Time

Posted in Hong Kong, long time no post, work by expatatlarge on April 9, 2012

E@L feels comfortably at home with the jarring discomfort as his rattling red taxi bounces from tram-track to barely-repaired pothole down Queens Road West towards his hotel in Sai Wan. (Sai Wan? you scream, WTF are doing out there?).

He is trying to get a 3G signal is what. What is with this place and roaming?


E@L may have time to relate somethings about this breif sojourn to his old stomping grounds tonight (it is lunch-time now, nearly the hour upon which he has to turn up at work – a seminar in one of the big hospitals just up the hill.)


Time. How to measure it? Why to measure it? E@L was on the walking machine thingie at the gym for the last 4000 drops of water, half an incense stick and several cms fall in a iron ball attached to an escapement mechanism listening to this…

IOT with Melvyn Bragg

Measurement of Time 29 Mar 12
Thu, 29 Mar 12
42 mins
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the measurement of time. Early civilisations used the movements of heavenly bodies to tell the time, then mechanical clocks emerged in Europe in the medieval period. For hundreds of years clocks were inaccurate but now atomic clocks are capable of keeping time to a second in 15 million years. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Kristen Lippincott, Former Director of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich; Jim Bennett, Director of the Museum of the History of Science at the University of Oxford and Jonathan Betts, Senior Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Podcast – 20MB)


Horology. There’s a term to conjure with.

OK talk to you a leap-second later, your favorite horologist,


The Bruce Bits, etc…

Posted in Bruce, old blog, writing by expatatlarge on April 5, 2012

I am currently trawling through my old blog (again), as well is this one, looking for bits and pieces I can cobble together – not necessarily into anything coherent or internally consistent – something about Bruce, and/or taxis, and/or the Mouse, and/or Kopi, and/or hotel breakfasts and toast…


There are maybe 700 posts and perhaps 250,000 words over there place (approaching 2 milllion hits btw) and with the 740 post here, god knows how many words.

There must be something I can do with it all (as people have been saying for years) rather burn my few remaining hours over something new that is not taking the shape I want it to.

I will need to redo a great deal of the earlier risqué E@L stuff retrospectively as Bruce stories, to give a semblance of character continuity.

Plot? Don’t make me laugh.

Watch this space. (If I don’t run out of steam…)


Do you think I should I should charge you guys for the effort I am taking to do this, as Dick Headley does, or let it run free amongst the wolves on the internet marketplace, as Mercer Machine does?



Posted in books, hard slog, writers by expatatlarge on April 2, 2012

My occasional flatmate C, a lady-friend from HK, [settle down troops, nothing going on] keeps a cartoon journal. Everyday she draws hilarious little doodles in a notepad given to her by her daughter for Christmas. Nothing much, just fifteen minutes of cute cartoons inpired by her day. A funny pic of C with an appropriate emoticon face, a talk bubble with an explanation or an exclamation, and the day has been analysed, sorted.

Nothing necessarily big. Just something, every day.


She has not missed a day since the beginning of the year.

Wish I had that dedication.


And as my attempts to play that $180million app Draw Something have shown, I can’t draw cartoons either.



No examples of either, sorry.


In other news, my favorite opening few lines of a novel have changed. No longer are these classic vying for top spot: “It was a starkers night in the dorm;” “riverrun, past Eve and Adams from swerve of shore to bend of bay brings us by a commodius vicus of circumnavigation back to Howth Castle and environs” (or something like that); “Listen. Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time;” “One morning Grigor Samsor woke from a night of restless dreams to find he been transformed into a giant cockroach;” etc…

All are usurped by Robert Walser’s opening two sentences of his 1925 novel, The Robber.

“Edith loves him. More on this later.”

How awesomely fuck-you-literary-conventions-creative-writing-101 is that?

According to the blurb, Walser wrote this in almost indecipherable microscript. A first draft presumably; but Walser never bothered to transcribe it into a fair copy because he did not plan on publishing it. It was not “deciphered” and published in German until 1972 and finally translated to English in 2000 (review linked above).


He was confined in a mental institution for the last 30 years or so of his life, at first of his own volition, as they say (which he says a lot), but latterly by Doctor’s orders – although perhaps undeservedly. He went for a walk, and wrote something, every day. One day, on his walk, he fell dead in the snow. He didn’t write much that day I guess.

You might recall that I had this beautiful Walser quote on my old blog: “We don’t need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.”


(I have blogged about him once before (back when I was funny) when I was in Zurich on the way to a ski holiday.)

The Anthropology Of Cliché

Posted in books, chess, cliché by expatatlarge on March 25, 2012

OK, I know I suck at chess. I can never get above a 1400 rating on Gameknot, and they have the friendliest rating system ever. (1200 is absolute beginner.)

But what I excel at is buying books, and buying chess books has been not been exempt from the weird behavioural quirk that, I find out today, might be termed my illusio. (“It’s the investment people make in the activities that give meaning to their lives, their committment to them.” Something beyond receiving blowjobs I guess.) I think my interest and skills in chess may have more of the dellusio to them than any illusio, ho ho, however.

Part of my 4,000 point plan in reducing my dependency upon the physical, hard-cover, soft-cover, awkward to hold, printed word (I just can’t fire up the passion for my Kindle, it’s so fucking impersonal. Handy. But fucking impersonal.) is to… Stop. Buying. Books. Point 354 is to buy fewer books.

It’s like when you’re on a diet (I am on a diet) and you see a cookie. You know that that cookie is jammed packed with 1200 calories of evil deliciousness, right? So if you eat it, wham bam, straight through your overly-efficient starvation-keyed metabolism and it’s on your waistline (if you still have any part of your body that can be reasonably identified as a waist.) There should be a calorie trading scheme. Or a some spooky mystic weird universe in which not eating that cookie that you have in front of you, not just results in zero calories added but also is calorie-traded in such a way that you lose the fat version of 1200 calories just by not eating it.

So you eat it one time; you don’t eat it the next time. Balances out, right?

With books the same. You see a book you absolutely must have (the complete poems of Sappho, for example) even though there is zero chance of you ever opening it again after those few seconds of browsing in the Paragon Kinokuniya, and thinking how cool, but you don’t buy it… and some space appears on your ridiculously orverflowing shelves. That makes room for the purchase that you do make – Counterplay, An Anthropologist At The Chessboard, by Robert Desjarlais (and I am presuming that Desjarlais is the anthropologist in question) – OK becasue now there is space. Oops the fucking Sappho anthology got in there as well. Lesbians, can’t stop ’em. As in people form Lesbos. According to some of these verses, it was men that got her going! (Ah, no was thinking of the Lesbia lady of Catullus’s poems – you know, “the words of women should be writ on running water” guy, and yes I have an anthology of his as well. Know fuck all about poetry. Right up there with chess. Plenty of books though.)

Anthropology. Chess. Cool.


I’ve been working on a particularly difficult presentation for most of today – I have no idea how the machine works, and I have to explain it to 37 others for most of Monday – when I wasn’t buying and not buying books and definitely not eating cookies. Saturday. In Bangkok. Working. Sigh. Again.

At 11pm I drop down to the 24hr restaurant at the front of my hotel, say hello to the old experienced hooker who sits there all day with a large glass of red wine in front of her, poised like Shelob (only Shelob didn’t drink wine or fuck people for money), grab a table overlooking the seventh level of Sukhomvit (which Hell can only aspire to) and order a low-carb steak salad and a happy hour, high-carb, beer. Which means two beers. I tear the plastic wrapping from the book, spend three minutes trying to get the statically charged film from my arm hairs (it’s like a sticky booger you’ve rolled up into a ball, just won’t flick off your fingertips, just keeps swapping from one to the other) and settle down to enjoy some significant anthropological insights concerning 16 pieces on a 64 square board.

The book seems OK, sure, and after only a few pages I have picked up a few nice quotations and that line about illusio, which I like. We’ve had Tibetan Buddhist death rites, Philippine head-hunters (from Makati or Anglese City?), Nepalese shamans, GZA from Wu-Tang Clan penning lyrics for his song Queen’s Gambit, Marcel Duchamp who “needs a good game of chess like a baby needs a bottle”, Simone Weil saying “Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer”, Joe the IT engineer who thinks “you’ve got to be a masochist to want to play competitive chess, T.S Eliot (speaking of poetry), and more… by page 26. Phew.

One slightly sour note hit my (failing) ears back on p9, and that was the phrase: “nexus of people.” I felt sure that the idiom was mostly right (I think of nexus as a hub or axis of relationships) it just seemed like an overly twee expression for a guy who had to inform us earlier that illusio is a Latin word. Well, d’uh, so is nexus. Ah, it is probably just me. He also says “cyborgian”, so what the hell. Nexus, schme… whatever.


However – get that gird on your loins people – on p23, this… this… DISASTER of E@L exploding proportions:

“But you don’t want to avoid it like the plague, either.”


[My emphasis, btw.] Can you believe that this anthropologist was given a book contract? This is 2012, yeah? (I have trouble with dates.) People are smarter now, right? Apart from the logic in the sentence sounding somewhat strange – sort of a double negative* – the fact that he has just used the biggest, worsest, mostest blatantest, fucking cliché EVER is completely stunning (which is why, several sentences ago, I was stunned.)

This is the cliché they warned you about at school, that your mother told you not to accept sweets from. From Strunk and White (I am guessing) to Fowler and Gowers, from Funk and Wagnell’s to Beavis and Butthead, the warning is shouted from the tops of various tall places that would act to promote transmission of the voice, this is the cliché to avoid like the, wait for it, plaque on my dentist’s wall.

From “nexus” (see, I am a brainy writer) to “avoid it like the plague” (I am the dumbest fuck writer ever and my editor should be sacked.) That is right up there with Dan Brown’s classic: “he was beginning to think it was going to be a long night.” (Two clichés for the price of several hundred.)

That drunken farang screaming abuse at the sex-workers of the world in a passing tuk-tuk nearly received a free copy of “Counterplay.” Not completely free, as I did have to pay for it.

Sigh. Should I stop reading now? Should I quit the book, quaff my beer(s) and get back to my overdue Powerpoint nexus? Sigh.

Well there have been some gems in there. Maybe I’ll give the guy another chance, he is only an anthropologist after all. (Recall that in ‘Waiting For Godot” the most offensive term Ponzo (was it?) could come up with was ‘architect!’)


Bang. Page 27. “…But step inside the place on any weekend and you’ll happen upon [groan] a cramped but vital domain of chess praxis.

Is praxis a Latin word, I wonder. (Yes.) (How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Praxis.)

Nexus, followed closely by Praxis. Praxis I shouldn’t complain about, it is a word from the soft sciences, but it’s all these X words he spouts. They’re so unexpected. Inexplicably so.

But I complain, inexorably, I complain. Complaining is my illusio, my praxio, my nexio.

And I buy books. Sometimes I read them. And I fail at chess. Fail badly. Fail more badderly next time. But I hope like hell that as a writer (stop laughing) intractable blogger I am able to step around or subvert many of the major clichés. When I do spot myself using them at face value (I mean, at the value of a face) that is.


And it’s late, and I do be grumpy and the book is OK, I guess, I’m just in a mood because despite telling my colleagues three weeks ago we needed to get stuck into these PPTs… I hadn’t done a nexus thing. I’d been, you know, avoiding it.


* well yeah, it’s meant to be a double negative in context. You don’t want to skip playing Blitz Chess forever, but, seriously, do you want to chase it like the plague?