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Subject: Singapore #77 - Kicking 'round the Kaaba
(Posted on Oct 4, 2014 at 01:20PM ) Tags:
So what gives with that Kaaba reference and analogy toward the end of that chapter, when Bob and a couple of the lads were decompressing at the end of the night after they left the wedding. They were having drinks and chatting to a posse of females inside the ever-interesting Orchard Towers with its famed nightlife that was otherwise covered in this other post.

Girls, smelling money, gathered like the slow counterclockwise-circling pilgrim swarm around the Kaaba in Mecca during Hajj.

Bob was thinking in that general sense of Islam, as Ramadan was full on during that October 2004 wedding trip to Singapore, and the locals of that faith were adhering to that month-long practice. Note that Ramadan and the Hajj do not coincide, but Hajj does coincide this year with Yom Kippur, for the first time in three decades. Bob just figured to cover it off today, since it is Eid al-Adha, after all. Call it coink-e-dink if you prefer.

The Kaaba (or Ka’aba) is the cuboid building and most sacred site inside the most sacred mosque in Mecca, the Masjid al-Haram. The book's tie to the circling swarm can be seen in reality below.



The circling is called Tawaf, and is always done in counter-clockwise fashion. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that busy in the bar … Bob was just using a little hyperbole and artistic license to make his point. Here’s a 3D animation of the inside and some more background information here for those really curious about the structure.



This video explains the rites of Hajj in six minutes for some added depth. Seems like things are all mapped out for folks on the pilgrimage.


This great VICE documentary really gives one some good perspective on what the scene is really like during the Hajj. Makes the logisitics behind Burning Man seem like child’s play in comparison.


A pretty crowded scene, and I imagine it is tough to actually be allowed to get inside the Kaaba these days, unless you are some VIP cum special guest. In case you are wondering what the inside is like in reality, the answer lies here in this clandestine video that does us all a favor. 


It makes me wonder what this guy’s treatment would have been if he had been caught filming. Most fulfilling their pilgrimage will never get to see the inside of the place. It looks like a tough ticket to get, especially if one is non-Muslim, since only Muslims are allowed inside Mecca, unless one sneaks in somehow. I’m sure that has been done before.

There was a bit of brouhaha earlier this year, as recounted here, when a local cop on duty took a decidedly more relaxed pose on the shrine, and placing the sole of his shoe against it. He looks pretty weary, and probably just needed a rest. However, it certainly wasn't interpreted that way, per this longstanding gesture in the Arab world and what it means as discussed here.


There was a temporary outcry back in 2006 when Apple unveiled its iconic Fifth Avenue store in NYC. Perhaps just another coink-e-dink in the world, as opposed to some porpoiseful [sic] ploy on the wrapping during construction. You can be the judge of that, based on these photos before and after, as compared to the shrine.




Anyway, this whole Kaaba analogy was just a throwaway late night comment by some wedding traveler in a bar with his friends for those that might pick up on the reference. So now you know what's behind it and the link to girls and money. 



Subject: Singapore #77 - Sussin' symbiosis
(Posted on Jul 19, 2014 at 12:10PM ) Tags:
Edwin M. Terry, aka Dr. LoveSexy, stated at one point in this wedding chapter, "People fall into three categories—pimps, hos, and hustlers." He was commenting on how the world works, and the people in it. So what was he on about?

One could add "players" to the above mix, as Xzibit did in his rap ditty "What U See Is What U Get" but Dr. LoveSexy was keeping things more basic.



Given this song title, I was reminded of WYSIWYG from the realm of IT, but it's not far off topic. Anyway, back to our line in the book, where Edwin likened his view of people and their positions cum pecking order in the world to be not dissimilar to that of Gary Johnston’s one in Team America: World Police. Gary pours it all out in this classic scene to an audience of global dignitaries. Hey, he's an actor, right, just like Raygun Ronnie (Reagan).




And then after all that, somebody had to add, "The world was a better place when that fine balance between mutualistic and commensal symbiosis was achieved."
So whaddat in plain English?  Mutualism is when both/all species in a relationship benefit, and commensalism being when one benefits, but the other(s) doesn’t (don’t) benefit or get harmed significantly. Now you can ponder that statement a bit more. More general scoop on the symbiosis poop can be found here, for any science-curious types. 



Parasitism was left out of the mix that day, cuz, well, that ain’t making the world a better place, unless you be like, erhm, part of that Illuminati / NWO / Bilderberg crowd and their philosophy. That’s the straight dope on humanity and our world. However, that ball of wax is best left for another time. Just so you know, NWO is NOT to be confused with them infinitely kooler N.W.A. katz.


You can make this stuff about how people are in the world as complicated as need be, depending on your frame of mind and who you’re discussing it with, but at the end of the day, Gary Johnston and Dr. LoveSexy got it down right.

And whaddup with the spelling of "hos" going on here? There’s debate on whether the plural of ho be hos, hoes, or ho’s, per these pieces, here, here, and here. Go figure. No wonder the nightly news ain’t accurate neither. After some discussion and diligence on this spelling matter, with my editor, she agreed and was like, "Yo, bro', hos be best." As a bonus, it’s the shortest too.

Let's also not forget about the classic, family-friendly Holiday "Ho" too. Maybe a little out of season at the height of summer, but retailers are already geared up for it I can assure you. 

This spelling subtopic on hos might conceptually displease some folks. For any complaints that may arise, this single guy traveling our planet for wedding adventures turns to this galactically wise chap here for input and spiritual guidance. 

Subject: Singapore #77 - Tightly knotted ties
(Posted on Mar 5, 2014 at 05:33PM ) Tags:
What is it about Singapore (SIN) and a reference to a tie feeling a little tight?

The original mention comes from the (in)famous autumn 1993 piece by William Gibson in Wired Magazine [1.04], entitled "Disneyland with the Death Penalty."

He ends his review of the place and trip there with…“I loosened my tie, clearing Singapore airspace.”

Happy to be out of there, on his way to Hong Kong, he was, at the time, feeling perhaps a bit like these two cats.


Paying homage to the close of Gibson’s piece, this Singapore-set wedding chapter in my book signs off with the nod "My tightly knotted tie felt loose."

My own first SIN trip was three years before Gibson’s, and not that his viewpoint wasn’t valid, (although some criticized it), but I still had a good enough time there in September 1990, even when I was not some typical "shopper on steroids" tourist. Maybe that was because I was living and working in India at the time, but that's a story for another day.

Despite any restrictions and curtailed personal freedoms in that Asian city state, when you are hanging out at a wedding with other single guys like Edward Pickett and Edwin M. Terry, aka Dr. LoveSexy, you can still have a lot of fun there (or pretty much anywhere on the planet for that matter with those two). If Gibson had been in tow with our trio that September 2004 day and through the evening into the wee hours, he may have come away with a somewhat softened opinion. Otherwise, he may have found SIN a tad more interesting back in the heyday of Bugis Street and when it was an international “spot” to hit until the early 80s. It sure seems like the place really knew how to play and get its groove on back then. 

Wedding Chronicles might eventually be banned in Singapore (if not for this particular chapter, then for some other goings on throughout the book), if word gets out, giving it an air of some infamy and added Singaporean street-cred and edge. If so, it would be in good company with Wired Magazine (at the time after Gibson's piece) and local punk rock outfit The Boredphucks (for being cast a little too far out from the normal Singapore mold) and their album Banned in da Singapura.


I still like the place, for a few days at a time anyway, and the food's great, so that is always a good start, at least for me. A few expat friends have lived there, liked it, and I still have some there to this day. But I can see how it may not be for everybody, especially if you are a creative type wanting to push the boundaries of your craft, lifestyle and/or general cultural environment. This short Techinasia piece with Steven Wozniak touches on the general aspect of creativitah there, 

Then again, this whole very recent YouTube spin (embedding was disallowed) on the place and its pluses and minues is also kinda kool, including the angle of creativitah and thinking out of the box. In all tit for tat fairness, this YouTube rebuttal comes back to defend being a proud Singaporean.
 
This Wired opinion piece from 2012 by Kenneth Jeyaretnam revisits the Gibson take nearly 20 years later, but from an insider's perspective. You can be the judge of what’s changed, or not. It’s a certainly better job and closer to the core of the place than I could ever pen. What with all the stuff going on in the world today in many places, and Big Brother watching over all we do anyway, maybe it ain’t so bad after all.

Hey, if  Robert Mugabe is there to hang out, have fun, and shop until you drop by the container load per the 2012 take (partly cuz, uhm, he ain’t allowed in Euroland and the USA) and this more recent health-driven reason, that is saying something too, if not also attesting to the state of medical care there.

Eduardo Saverin moved there in 2009 and renounced his US citizenship in 2011. He seems to like the life there per this local articleI suppose it can’t be all that bad, apart from any purely coincidental favorable taxation advantages that may have factored into his decision making process along the way. Like, the dude musta done some research and tested the waters before diving in. However, this roaming single guy remains unconvinced as to a personal potential long term play there, but to each his or her own. However, I'd be open to consider it though if circumstances offered a move there. 

Maybe they all hang out at Orchard Towers (per my other post on this item) and some of the erhm, uhm, higher-end “health spas” around town. 

In parting, I slapped a few shots of the place together on this Pinterest Board if you want to take a look at the place for yourself.

Subject: Singapore #77 - Swedish Snaps Songs
(Posted on Feb 12, 2014 at 01:06PM ) Tags:
You know you have a diverse group of friends when you find yourself singing Swedish drinking songs at a wedding in Singapore with a bunch of Chinese folks spread around your table. You don’t fight the situation, suck back the snaps / aquavitand sing along as best you can.

While we all sang in English at the time to make it easier for the assembled international collective, you just know for sure that these tunes sound way way better in their original language. To prove it all, some of the energetic Swedes present decided to let us hear the difference in their native tongue.

Three songs, and three shots of snaps went down in quick succession. This type of Swedish snaps drinking song is called a snapsvisa, and is usually short and simple (to be sung with vigor) so as not to have too much time between you and your next shot (or song).

How strategic of them sly Swedes. It was probably all about getting oiled / lit up more quickly and letting that Scandinavian shyness slip swiftly away into the shadows.

Here is Hell and Gore (or Helan Går in Swedish), considered by some to be the Big Mama or Daddy of all these songs. 


No offence to the lads in the version above, but some may find this more impromptu, feminine version as sung here by Malin Åkerman to be a little more endearing and charming, if less boisterous. Who do you want to be out belting back shots and singing these songs with at the end of the evening when all is said and done? 


Last, this interpretation of "1, 2, 75, 6, 7" with sign language as added accompaniment makes it a little more interesting (and tricky if you want to try both deliveries simultaneously). Note the numbers in Swedish are much more musical in nature. After a couple shots already down the hatch, this litle ditty can prove to be a real challenge if you try and sing it more quickly (and in Swedish too if you are an English speaker).


When faced with a tough, spur-of-the-moment choice in life, like choosing between a shot from the red/black label bottle of snaps (O.P. Anderson)  or a shot from the touch-of-green label bottle of snaps (Läckö Slotts Aquavit), what is one to do?


Decisions, decisons. Take’em both down between the rounds of songs and shots, and cover the bases, Bobbolin(o/a). That's what you do.

After a few, no doubt everyone present felt much better about their singing capability. Still, I wasn't about ready to quit my day job, no matter what that was. Somedays, it felt like attending weddings all over the place was my part-time job. 

To all my Swedish, and wannabe (with) Swedish, friends out there, Skål / Skol!



Subject: Singapore #77 - Orchard Towers
(Posted on Jan 17, 2014 at 07:35AM ) Tags:
Orchard Towers really does exist, and it's probably not a place the government or the tourist board there wants to advertise much, and most certainly not about its night time activities. I tried to find out about it on the official Visit Singapore site, but alas, there seemed to be no mention of it after some cursory searching there. And like, one is supposed to be surprised by that?

However, the good news is that there is information about the place, if you look around. It's kinda like what is reported (or not, in many cases), with "The News" and what is supposedly going on around us (or not, sometimes as the case may be) in the world we live in. But that's all another matter.


I put forth these two opinions / overiews on Orchard Towers, if you want to read and dig a little deeper on the matter. This first one, Orchard Towers - "The Pick-Up Mall in Singapore" is from an old Geocities site and an American guy called Warren who moved there in 1999. The second is a more recent 2013 post from a female Brit expat's blog for another perspective on the place, with Orchard Towers...aka Four Floors.

And for those that prefer video and voice over the written word on the page, here's a nifty little piece from a seemingly short-lived SIN-produced series called The Real TV about "Ladyboys at Orchard" [Towers]. I like the part with the Russian tourist from St. Petersburg playing coy and coming here for some beers and to uhm, ehrm, "relax". Nicely done, Buddy! You know the drill. THIS is reality TV, not like a lot of the other fluff masquerading as such.




Dr. LoveSexy, Edward Pickett, and Bobby Bo were just hangin' out that night for a good time is all. As you can read and see, there is a LOT of stuff going on at this place. Who says Singapore has to be boring and sterile? While some tourists like to hit museums, art galleries, houses of worship and other popular mainstream sites there like Sentosa Island, when you are hanging out with Edward Pickett, he invariably has other ideas.

No matter what your take on the place is overall, the food, above all is first rate. And that's a great thing. 

There's no substitute for live travel and exploring different cultures in wonderful, faraway places, if you are fortunate enough to ever have the opportunity, and have the inclination to get out there and explore what is going on outside your neighborhood.  As Mark Twain is often quoted, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Alas, many just do not have the opportunity ever, so that needs to be factored in to things as well.

It's all just really about some single stumblebum guy's fun and games going to weddings all around the world.