By Nury Vittachi
Here's a little thank-you to readers.
From time to time I take the comments and emails received on this page and submit bits of them in place of the column that gets printed in newspapers in various countries.
And of course I use your names along with your comments, so that your wit is justly celebrated! So thank you from me, and thank you from hundreds of thousands of readers in many countries. The column that appears in the papers is below.
AND NOW THE good news: The secret of happiness has been discovered. This economic downturn has led many people to realize that satisfaction does not come from filthy lucre. Where is it found? I feel privileged to be able to share this letter from reader Dilys Mackenzie:
"Dear Nury, I am passing this on to you because it worked for me. I have found inner peace! The way to do this is to finish the things you start. I looked round my house today and saw the things I had started but not finished, so I finished them: the vodka, the Bailey's, some red wine, the ice cream and the valium. You have no idea how peaceful I feel now. I intend to continue to do this no matter how big the bottle or carton."
Thanks. So that's all you have to do: Finish everything you start. I wish you luck, Dilys, and promise to visit you on your deathbed in the obesity clinic.
Another secret-of-happiness letter came from reader Carly Wan, who said: "When I am depressed I use The Singapore Technique. I surround myself with bad news from other countries, but look only at good news about my hometown. It really cheers you up."
To start me off, Carly attached a link to a news clip about a January 6 incident in the US city of Ohio. A four-year-old boy took a gun from his parents' room and shot his babysitter. "Jackson County Sheriff John Shashteen said authorities are investigating the shooting," the report said. "The child has not been charged."
I see what she means. That IS an "only in America" type story. But having said that, in Asia toddlers can kill you without guns. They can shoot bird flu or SARS from their nostrils with cruise missile accuracy.
But going back to "finishing everything you start", this is not good advice for dieters. The best way to lose weight is to "get a skinny boyfriend or girlfriend" a reader named Farah said. "One of my friends tried it and she looks good now."
Tying a vow to a relationship really works, other readers agreed. Karuna Menon said he was advised to write down the date he would smoke his last cigarette and read it out loud to someone he loved. He wrote down a date one month ahead and read it to his true love. "I thought it was a joke, and smoked every day of the following month. But when I woke up on the date mentioned, I just stopped."
If that doesn't work for you, don't worry. Smoking comes with its own built-in stopping technique, known by the medical term "death".
A reader named Kanyu Wong shared a brilliant method that Asians can use to become instantly petite. "Just move to Australia," she said. Suddenly you're tiny.
This works well for Asian females, but it stinks for Asian guys. Whenever I buy stuff in Australia, I have to go to the children's department. This is SO not cool for adult males.
I dread the day when Aussie premier Kevin Rudd hosts the leaders of Asian nations at a summit. "Welcome, Premier of China. Come and sit next to me. We went to the mother and baby store and purchased a special high chair just for you."
It’s official: beer is healthier than water
By Nury Vittachi
Thanks, Mr Goh. I shall adjust my children’s drinks intake list accordingly.
Mr Goh, an expert in water systems, read the column on this page about tap water being healthier than bottled water and was inspired to share his own experience.
He was part of a team who installed high grade purification equipment into the Carlsberg plant in Malaysia, so can confirm that the beer was made from the purest possible water.
But his study of Malaysia’s tap water produced surprises. It revealed that it had high level of chlorine. This is not dangerous unless the stuff combines with organic matter to form trihalomethane, a carcinogen, he told me. He found that normal tap water in Malaysia contained almost no organic matter, but the stuff that came out of home water filters often did.
Thus: in terms of health, at least in his part of the world, tap water is better than filtered water, but beer was best of all.
Thanks, Alex: you have just made a lot of men very happy indeed. Next: I need you to use your chemical analysis skills to prove that eating chocolate fudge cake increases longevity.
This column today should be better written than normal, since I am going to devote the whole space to feedback from readers.
Contrary to what was stated in these columns last week, the haggis of Scotland should be eaten, not played, I heard from readers Humayun Hye of Bangladesh and Dilys Mackenzie of Sri Lanka.
But I did get some support from a lady named Pilates, who said: “You imply that people should blow into the haggis and eat the bagpipes instead of the other way around. Your suggestion is good as it would improve the taste of one and the sound of the other.” So there.
On the subject of having a name which suits your job, one reader pointed to the top writer of cowboy gunslinger novels, whose name is Zane Grey. He adopted the first name “Zane” because he thought it sounded tougher than his real first name. His real first name was Pearl. Ouch!
Staying on the topic of names and macho men, reader Lisa Ip of Hong Kong said that every time her husband Bartek introduces himself, people say: “Eh? Martin? Barton? Burton?"
His professor got frustrated and decided to call him by his middle name, Jan.
“But he pronounced it ‘Jane’,” Lisa lamented.
Bartek is large, beefy and powerful and really does not look like a Jane.
Still on the topic of names, reader Karuna Menon from India wrote: “Indians typically use a god’s name for their children, their cows and their elephants. With a million gods to choose from, it’s easy. But, dogs are usually given an English name, such as Jimmy, Tommy or Johnny.”
The English would probably take this as a compliment, since they’re crazy about dogs. In England, the name “Rex” is reserved for monarchs and dogs—although the press seems to respect dogs more than royalty.
In the meantime, the men of Asia should raise a toast to Mr Goh—and make sure your glass is filled with a health drink, such as beer.
A mystery: why are modern Asians so metrosexual?
By Nury Vittachi
Today, this column is going to be much more intelligently written than usual, because the space is being handed over to readers’ letters.
From reader Lesley Croft: “Why are there so many Asian metrosexuals? I have worked with men who have decorated their desks at work with fluffy bunnies, Moomins and Thomas the Tank Engine. I just don't get it.”
Reader Dan Kubiske said: “This cuteness thing goes deep. My sister's family is hosting a Japanese 14-year-old as part of a middle school exchange program. The one gift the girl wanted to get for her 20-year-old brother was a Thomas the Tank Engine. My sister and her family were not sure what to make of that. She wrote me and asked if that was normal. I told her it was not. I said I thought the brother would have preferred Hello Kitty.”
Joe Roces, an Asian-American, wrote that people in the United States assume Asians are either over-achieving geeks or Bruce Lee, which was tough for him, since he was neither: “I suck with computers and everyone thought I was the IT guy the first day of my job.”
From May Khoo: “Thanks for the article about Englasian. It cures my homesickness. Can you write another one-ah?” From Andrea Wicking: “I am half-Indian, half-Australian, but the Asian in me comes out when I’m back in Malaysia. I start talking just like my relatives.” From Melanie Tan: “Your Asian English passages make me nostalgic for life in Penang. Make me frus only.”
From Gideon Ip: “I strongly believe that your column should be translated into Asian languages as well. You can get over the difficulties of translating humor if you put some ‘root’ pieces of humour into a dictionary or reference called a Jokasaurus or Funtionary and classify them with numbers and levels. People can then just quote the codes to each other: ‘What if A4 said B12 to C1?’ We should develop some sort of international humour mark-up language.”
I can see them rolling in the aisles at that, Gideon. Now who was saying that Asians are over-achieving geeks?
From Peter Emmett: “Here’s another reason why there won’t be an Asian in the US White House any time soon: Legislation exists making it illegal to chop down the White House trees and concrete its lawn.”
There were several notes on miscommunication. From Terry Bugden: “We were sitting in the departure lounge of the Phuket International Airport waiting for our flight to be called. Suddenly there was a pinging noise as the public address system came to life and a female voice said: ‘Passengers on Flight TG 478 to Kuala Lumpur should proceed to gate five and have their body parts ready for inspection.’”
From Sue R: “True story. A waiter put down a dish in front of a couple of tourists in Hong Kong and said, ‘This is a freaking chicken.’ The couple were surprised at his colloquial language and asked him to repeat himself. ‘It's a freaking chicken,’ he said. Finally, he points to the listing on the menu: African Chicken.”
From Samantha Wu comes an Asian joke: “Did you hear about the guy who won a competition and the prize was a year’s supply of super-hot Thai chilli sauce? It was one jar.”