About Zareth

I write at zarethwritesat.com. Mostly about books, musings on daily life and current affairs and whatever catches my fancy. I occasionally tweet @zarethtweets. Yeah, I have very boring handles.

Baby Drop

I know, I know, I’m a year late. Last year, I promised that I would write a post about an incident relating to a baby drop. Not the kind of baby drop where you leave a baby at the doorsteps of an orphanage and that kid grows up to become a hero/heroine (they always do). It’s more about the physical act of dropping a baby – or a toddler to be more exact. I actually wrote the post last year, but never got around to editing and posting it. So since this incident took place during last year’s Lunar New Year, and with the 2015 Lunar New Year a couple of days away, I’ve decided to post the entry (edited and recut).

So let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

It was a couple of days into the Lunar New Year when I attended a lunch outing with the extended family on my father’s side. I was the sole representative of my branch of the family tree as my immediate family was scattered across the four corners of the world. If I wasn’t alone, my dad would have probably went: “Zareth, put the baby down, now.”

Well, unfortunately I was alone.

Anyway, lunch was good and we celebrated it with yusheng or lo hei, also known as the ‘Prosperity Toss’. It’s one of the customary dish of Lunar New Year that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and some parts of China. Consisting of a number of raw ingredients, the aim of lo hei is to toss the ingredients as high as possible while screaming lo hei, lo hei, lo hei. The result is often a great big mess and a dish where the ingredients never really get mixed properly. Still, it’s quite fun.

Before the toss. Excuse the horrible drawing. It actually looks quite appetizing in real life.


After the toss. Three quarters of the ingredients usually end up on the table. And you end up apologizing to the waiters for the mess.


So what’s the point of tossing the ingredients apart from the sanctioned mess? Well, the height of your toss is proportional to the growth of your fortune. So if you want to get rich quick, you better fling that piece of raw salmon into the air and hope that it doesn’t land on your grandparents’ heads.

Lately I’ve also come to realized that most of the messes are due to the fact that each diner is trying to toss their way up to prosperity until the whole thing denigrates into a chopsticks battlefield. This is made worse when you consider the fact that each person is using a pair of extra-long chopsticks. Extra-long chopsticks = extra ammunition and rage.

The thing about lo hei is that if you attempt to sit and toss at the same time, you’re already cannon fodder.


So we lo hei-ed and hei lo-ed and ate and drank the whole afternoon long. After feeling sated, we decided to leave the restaurant (this decision was expedited by the restaurant closing for the afternoon). My relatives and I stumbled out of the air-conditioned interior and into the hot haze of afternoon drowsiness.

We ended up standing in the heat for about 15 minutes while everyone had a lengthy debate on whose house we should retire to for the afternoon siesta. The contenders had quickly come down to two of my aunts but the general consensus was still lo hei-ing back and forth without any conclusion. So while I waited for my relatives to settle on a decision, I surfed through Facebook.

“Is that a museum?” one of my uncles interrupted my mindless Facebook surfing.

“Eh?” I said.

“That building. It looks like a Chinese museum.”

I was a bit puzzled because we were in Clarke Quay, Singapore’s clubbing and pubbing nightspot. Granted, there might be a few museums in the general vicinity. But we were standing right in the heart of clubland and even with Singapore’s addiction to constant change, I don’t think a museum would have just drunkenly danced its way into Clarke Quay.

I turned to the general direction where my uncle was looking at and immediately said: “Oh, no, that’s a club.”

“Really?” He was incredulous.

I nodded with the accumulated wisdom of spending too much time in Clarke Quay during my younger days. “Yeah, it’s a club.”

“Oh,” he said and laughed, “it looks so much like a museum.”

Not a museum. (Taken from Linbery’s Panoramio account).


The impasse was finally broken and an agreement was reached. We were heading to one of my aunt’s house – a decision that was to be reversed barely 10 minutes later. Since my relatives had parked their cars at different areas of Clarke Quay, we decided to split into groups (that took another 5 minutes of deciding). I was tagging along with the uncle who asked if the club was a museum.

I was about to walk away when I saw my 18-months-old first cousin once removed (who’s also the grandson of abovementioned uncle) staring at a plastic container filled with dirty cutlery from a nearby restaurant. He was staring at the cutlery with rapt fascination. Apparently the cutlery represented an art form that spoke right to the heart of an 18-months-old toddler.

Nothing like an aquamarine background to complete the drawing.


So I walked up to him and said, “Hey M___, let’s go. Your parents are waiting for you.”

He kind of ignored me and continued to be fascinated with the plastic container. Maybe he was waiting for Finn and Jake from Adventure Time or Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick. Or whatever cartoons that toddlers watched nowadays. I took M___’s hand and sort of encouraged him to walk. It didn’t worked. He was still waiting for the wonders of the plastic container to reveal itself while my relatives had started walking away to their cars. So I decided to take advantage of my considerable strength and picked up M___.

M____ had no idea the fate that was going to befall on me. But mostly on him.


I had my left arm wrapped around M___’s chest while my right arm sort of hooked underneath his diaper-clad bottoms. In a way, M___ was sitting on my right arm with my left arm securing him to my chest. Everything was fine and dandy as I walked towards his parents.

About two seconds later, M___ realized that I was neither his mother nor his father. He glanced back and gave me a “who da hell are you?” look. Granted, neither his mother nor his father had facial hair so I guessed I failed the facial recognition test.

M___ decides that I shall not be his carrier


M___ was not happy. He wanted out of my arms. And he figured that the best way was to start wiggling around. I thought I had him secured in my arms but you know, toddlers. So somehow M____ was starting to break free of my bonds and was on the way sweet freedom.

I reacted by holding on to M___ tighter.

M___ continued to struggle.

I struggled to balance M____.

M____ continued to wiggle around.

It went back and forth and by then, I was losing both my balance and my grip on M___. I mean, try holding a toddler who does not want to be held while trying to maintain your balance. It’s apparently a much better core workout compared to standing on an exercise ball while lifting a pair of 20kg dumbbells.

So while I was focused on maintaining my balance, M___ broke free to freedom.

But M___ miscalculated. Instead of pitching himself forward so that he’ll land on his feet (but with a chance of landing on his face too), he decided to throw himself backwards. And across my body. With the full strength of an enraged 18-months-old. Up till today, I have no idea how the hell he executed that maneuver.

I think M___ actually flew over my shoulder and not across my body as depicted in the picture.


So the only thing I could do was to twist my body around and follow his trajectory while trying to break his fall as much as possible.

Of course I failed to do that. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about this.



The gif above kind of accurately depicts the fall – but remove the rugby player, the sportscaster, the football and the playing field.

There was split second of silence while both M___ and I stared at each other in shock.

The first thought that went through my head was:

“Oh fuck, I broke my cousin’s baby.”

Then an ear-splitting wail filled the entire empty quay. My relatives turned around and saw me half kneeling and squatting, trying to comfort M____ who was looking very, very distressed.

Apparently no one saw the entire incident since they were already walking away. So they only heard and saw the aftermath.

My cousin came up to me and asked what happened.

What else could I say? I couldn’t say, “M____ was practicing his flying triple kick but missed. He has potential though.”

So I said, “I, er, I dropped M____. It was an accident.”

Fortunately the facts of the case were established and my cousin told me there was nothing to worry about*. On the way to their house, my uncle and aunt told me not to feel bad and that kids had the tendency of falling off people arms. I also think my uncle made a passing remark that I fell out of people’s arms one too many times when I was a toddler.

Huh, so this is karma, I guess?

A couple of days later, over Skype, I told my father about the incident. There was a long pause as he contemplated on what to say. Then he gave me this advice:

“In future, you shouldn’t carry other people’s kids, wait till you have your own kids and then you can carry them.”


Oh, and M____ turned out to be fine. So all’s good. He still needs to work on that flying triple kick though.


*My cousin told me he trained M____ how to fall properly. Basically that consists of putting his arms out to break his fall. I guess that’s why M____ didn’t faceplant the ground when he tumbled from my arms.

I think the lyrics is quite apropos for this post.

Monthly Reads – January 2015

I’ve been reading quite a fair bit this past month and it’s definitely an improvement from last year. So far my average is about a book a week, up from last year’s count of a book every fortnight. However, it’s too early to know if I’ll be able to keep up the pace since we’re only one month and a bit into 2015.

Contrary to what people like to think, I’m actually a pretty slow reader for an English major*. So for me to average one book a week is quite a good record as sometimes I can spend a month reading a book. Good things are best enjoyed in small doses (i.e. another way of saying that I take my own sweet time finishing a mid-size novel – usually about 250 pages).

If you take a look at my reading history (hover above the button “Readings”), you can see that 2011 and 2013 were my worst years. In my defense, I excluded a number of books from the 2011 list. Those books were novels and texts for my English Literature courses and because I’m a humble braggart, they are considered as ‘work’. The reading lists in my blog consist only of personal readings – books that I read for pleasure and don’t have to analyze the hell out of them through the lenses of different literary theories.

For 2013, I have no idea what the hell I was doing. I think I was watching a lot of movies and TV shows. And hey, movies and TV shows are still books, but in moving pictures.

2010 remains my best year so far… in terms of count. In terms of diversity, not so much. I was mainly reading graphic novels by Neil Gaiman and Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. For non-fiction, I went through a phrase of devouring all of Gladwell’s pop-science books (I haven’t read his most recent “David and Goliath” though).  Yay for count, nay for diversity.

So when 2014 came to a close, I was determined not just to read more, but also to read widely. What does this means? It means reading classics that you thought an English Lit major like me would’ve read (but haven’t). It means reading stuff that I have always wanted to read but ‘never had the time’. It also means reading books that I avoided purely because I thought that they were either boring or below my reading station (yeah I’m a fucking snob). I’ve never really like thrillers or suspense because I thought they were just cheap thrills for the hoi polloi. I’ve also avoided the sword and sorcery sub-genre because I perceived them as ‘bad’ fantasy. Yeah, yeah, that’s just me judging the books by their genre.

I may even take a stab at Singapore literature canon. I’m not implying anything here, just that I very, very rarely read Singaporean fiction (aside from True Singapore Ghost Stories).

Another reading habit that I need to adopt is reading more non-fiction. So for 2015, for every three or two fiction books, I will read one non-fiction. They can be any ranging from self-help to history, as long as they’re, you know, non-fiction.

So anyway, my reviews for January 2015 reads:


“The Circle” – Dave Eggers


I first came across “The Circle” on a website back in 2013 or 2014. I can’t remember what website it was, but basically it had a sneak peek of The Circle. The sneak peek condensed a number of chapters into one short story length and it was captivating enough that I was highly intrigued by the premise. So when I saw the book in a store – no questions asked.

The premise is simple enough: a female protagonist is employed by the most powerful and influential company in the world called The Circle. It is a technology company that handles all Internet and social media activity. Life’s basically a technological utopia covered in unicorn’s rainbow shit. But beneath the rainbow, there’s no pot of gold but rather a pot of leprechaun’s shite.

It’s basically part 1984 and part Brave New World – but now with social media and the sharing economy added in! While the novel started off strongly, it slowly devolved into “an ending flat and inane beyond belief!” That line was taken from Cloud Atlas, by the way.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but the ending wasn’t that strong and I found that the characters were not very well rounded and towards the end the protagonist was just incredibly infuriating. I mean, gawd….

I feel that what Eggers tried to achieved here in this polemic, Orwell and Huxley did it better and with a much lighter touch in 1984 and Brave New World respectively. Eggers managed to capture the overall omnipresent Big Brother feel beneath the techno-utopia vision, but he did not successfully instill a deeper sense of despair and hopelessness.

3/5 – Google! Bad! Facebook! Bad! You didn’t hear this from me.


“Snowing in Bali: The Incredible Inside Account of Bali’s Hidden Drug World” – Kathryn Bonella


This is one of those books that are beneath my reading station. It’s one of those books that I won’t read it or buy it or even think about it. The moment I read the title, I would automatically move on.  It’s also one of those books that you see prominently displayed on book racks at airport bookstores, especially in places like Singapore.

There’s a reason why I seldom read books like this. It’s because I think they’re mostly sensationalized bullshit. Sure, there might be a grain, or a nugget or even a palm-sized truth in them. But surrounding them are mostly window-dressing. Just look that the title.

But to be honest, I was intrigued when my sister passed me this book. And since I’ve made the decision to read more non-fiction, I decided to give this a go.

Sensationalism sells. But it’s sex that gives it the spice, and this book started off with a bang, by getting a former drug dealer to describe a blow-by-blow account of a sex orgy.

Sex and drugs aside, the story is relatively well-told and structured and charts the rise and fall of several drug dealers in Bali and their fast paced high-living life. But what I thought was the book’s glaring weakness was the lack of character development. Since Bonella calls them the drug kingpins of Bali and vividly details their sexual and drug escapades, you would expect the characters to be more descriptive, more vibrant, and more ‘out there’. This is not the case; after a while the story gets repetitive and you can’t differentiate one drug dealer from another. But perhaps that this might be Bonella’s method of protecting certain ex-drug dealers who are not in Indonesian jails yet. All in all, a decent read if you’re killing time in the airport.

2.5/5 – At least it gives you an idea of where to buy drugs in Bali, at your own risk, of course.


“Stardust” – Neil Gaiman


I saw the film Stardust when it first came out in 2007 and thought that it was quite unexpected from the usual fairy-tale movies (i.e. Not bad. It was nice to see Robert De Niro play a pirate captain with a twist) . At that time I had no idea who Neil Gaiman was/is and so did not know that it was based on his novel of the same name. It was only until I started devouring his Sandman series and his other novels did I then learn that he wrote Stardust. Dust me surprised (sigh, bad pun).

Stardust demonstrates Neil Gaiman’s ability for darkly humourous moments and for revealing fairytales in a slightly different spectrum of light. I find that it’s quite similar to another of Gaiman’s novel, Neverwhere, but while the latter is much more dark, Stardust is much lighter. It trots along at a lively pace and the action never really lets up and you keep turning page after page to find what happen next. While the characters are interesting to keep you emotionally invested, they tend to be one-dimensional. But then this is to be expected when you’re reading an adult fairytale. Or maybe I’m just biased towards Neil Gaiman.

3.5/5 – Great, fun read for a lazy weekend and gives adults (like me) an excuse to read subversive fairytales.


“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream” – Hunter S. Thompson


Oh boy, where do I start with this? How about we start with the man himself?

Hunter Thompson aka Raoul Duke aka Doctor of Journalism is famous for employing and popularizing Gonzo Journalism**. Gonzo is basically subjective reporting (as opposed to objective reporting) and is a highly personal blend of both fiction and fact. The focus is not just on the story, but also on the journalist reporting on the story.

Prior to Fear and Loathing, I’ve only read one of Thompson’s work sometime back in 2009 or 2010: The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. This article is where Thompson first employs gonzo which would later be heavily featured in all of his works. So while I had a small exposure to Thompson’s style, nothing prepared me for Fear and Loathing, which is Thompson’s most famous work, and for good reasons.

The book opens up with one of the most well known opening lines:

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…

From there on, Thompson takes you on a harrowing ride that constantly teeters and skids around on the edge of insanity and drug-induced psychosis.

Throughout the journey, Thompson paints psychedelic sceneries that leave vivid impressions in your mind. An example is the way he uses deceptively simple words to hammer home the point, such as the word “heavy”. Thompson uses this word several times throughout the book to describe a situation that is so foreboding and ominous that you can actually feel it pressing against you. Complementing Thompson’s writing is Ralph Steadman’s absolutely breathtaking illustrations. You know how Roald Dahl’s stories and Quentin Blake’s illustrations suit each other perfectly? It’s the same here from Thompson and Steadman.

This book is one hell of a heavy trip.

4/5 – A seminal work (but don’t take my word for it since I haven’t read the rest of Thompson’s writings). Thompson makes quite a number of references to the 1960’s counter-culture era and that may be confusing for people who don’t know much about that era. But don’t let this stop you from reading Fear and Loathing.

Note: The book has been adapted into a film of the same name. It’s directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame and stars Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. I haven’t seen it but I heard it’s a pretty good movie. However I would recommend to read the book first because I heard that the movie lifted quite a lot of dialogue from the book.


* It also means I read slightly faster than the average reader.

** Wikipedia’s entry for Gonzo Journalism.

The buildup towards the end is awesome. It starts around 5:35 but I recommend that you listen to the whole song.

I’m back to blogging and am no longer dropping babies

So I’m back after an almost 13 months absence. No, that “2013 in review” post does not count. WordPress did up that post for me. It’s a automatic feature.

Now that I’m back there are some minor updates to the blog.

  • Changed the website’s name from Zareth Writes At: Blog to Zareth Writes At. Spot the difference.
  • Updated the About Me section
  • Added a new FAQ section. The FAQ Section is basically sort of a mock interview between myself and my reflection in the toilet bowl after a night of heavy drinking.
  • Promise to try and get out a new post every Wednesday (GMT+8) for the duration of 2014.

About the last point, I said I’ll try. Key word is TRY. I’m not the most disciplined and prolific blogger as attested by the infrequency of my blogging. Why Wednesday? I wanted to post every Monday but then I have a serious case of the Mondays. Tuesday is the day for me to recover from the Mondays. I don’t like blogging on Thursdays and Fridays since they’re so close to the weekends and I don’t like blogging on the weekends since they’re, well, the weekends. So Wednesday it is then.

Some weeks I might post more, but otherwise it’s one new post every Wednesday. But I guess this week is your lucky week cause I’m putting up two new posts this week: this and one more on Wednesday.

So what’s the new post of 2014 going to be? Well, the clue’s in the title.

Zareth’s blogging again? Well I hope he shut up soon and let me have my siesta in peace. Otherwise I’m telling him the “Three Bears” story. And it ain’t the one about Goldilocks.

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2012 in review for Zareth Writes At: Blog

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.