Some people say that plot drives the story while others single out description or dialogue. With my fiction, I’ve always impressed the consequence of characters. A memorable name may impact the story much more than witty conversation. So far, in terms of fiction, I’ve written two collections of stories (including Schoolarium) and my debut novel (Curry Bashing). Two of these books remain unpublished. Both of them have passed the first draft. To be honest, as a self publisher, there is little margin for error when it comes to selling books. Writing and editing is one thing but you likewise have to be savvy with marketing and promotion. In my case, my memoir was quite personal. It would mostly suit people who personally know me.

Barbershop compliment

I was at the barbershop a few weeks back. We talked about my latest text. The barber threw me a curveball. I had said that I printed fifty two copies. He then asked me how much I needed to sell to make a profit. The question threw me off. I told him half the print run. Of course, this was far from true. There is a lot more to self-publishing than printing copies. After finishing my haircut, there was this oldie guy who was up next.

‘You’re good looking,’ he told me.

‘Thank you.’

‘You’re welcome,’ he said.

A few months back, I overheard a Pinay senior giving me the same compliment.

I mentioned this bit about this training we had as seniors in high school. In my memoir, I pointed out that our drill sargeant told the class that ‘Topher has the ideal haircut. You should copy his look.’

A couple of my batch mates said that they intend to do so.

‘Not on my watch’

I have been praised for my inimical style. Having lived and studied in two countries certainly fostered this. Some authors that I look up to are notable for including recurrent themes in their writing. For instance, John Grisham is noted for his legal thrillers mostly set in the South. He also loves to put backstory to his oeuvre. Indeed, some of his avid readers have commented that his last few books are rich in historical fiction. Haruki Murakami utilises magical realism, cats, wells, and love stories in his body of work. As mentioned before, Connelly always makes sure to promote closure in his texts. His villains meet their Maker before the end of each book. This ensures that his plots remain fresh.

As for myself, the mobilisation of a school setting is the biggest unifier among my work. I’ve spent a lot of time inside schools and learning institutions. Ergo, it’s only natural for me to draw from those experiences in my fiction. Education is not just about books and quizzes. Making relationships and creating memories are part and parcel of the journey.

Aside from this, a common trope among my recent stories is the use of students blocking their enemies on social media. I think I’ve used this for at least five stories. I impressed that it’s hard to decipher what’s really happening through mere online contact. Misunderstandings and ‘catastrophising’ are likely products. Sometimes, it’s ‘lost in translation’. Other times, former friends or classmates are blocked as a result of not knowing them enough. Whatever the reason may be, this adds flavour to the word wok.

Memorable characters

In my works, whether published or not, I expect my characters to do the heavy lifting. I want to create full personas in a thriving, made up microcosm. My last collection of stories was eighteen deep. I think on average it was around fourteen or fifteen pages each. All of the stories were loosely based on real happenings.

Thus, fictionalising appellations take time. You can’t just count six Pomeranians, divide them by two and call your main man as Tres. Similarly, it’s bad form (not to mention unoriginal) to ogle a doughnut and christen your heroine as Donata. In my case, I peeled the onion and thought long and hard before unveiling my stars. As per the ensuing list, most of these tags would only matter to Filos in general or, in particular, my schoolmates.

Possible character list (loosely based on real earthlings)

Harvey Morallos = Barry Milallos. Harvey was a friend in high school. We were both hoops nuts. He said that his specialty was ‘driving through the lane.’ He was far from the best English speaker but his trying effort was always priceless. I mentioned him in my memoir.

Roel Nator = Ronel Bapor (Ronel Ship). Nator was a schoolmate of mine. We often hung out after lunch. One time, he was talking bout his friend, Bevin. I asked him a couple of times, Devil? That ticked him off. On the court, he was a decent point guard. In the intramural on our senior year, we only finished third out of four.

Dexter Carullo = Lester Corn-Julio. See also: Dude, where’s my plant? Further reading: The thirty-year-old freshman. If you’ve heard of Beavus & Butthead, you’ll get the punchline.

Garry Renevo = Gabby Relleno

Amos Victor Delgado = Camus Vector Del Gago. We were classmates for four years of high school.

Prince Gerald Llandelar = Vince ‘Mallard’ Santigwar. The class clown who had a mean streak. Any one with half a brain would classify him as a bully. I guess being a ‘faith healer’ would suit him.

And saving the WORST for last

Don Anonuevo = Long Ka…

Dubious mention:

Oohh mamayedo bap bareya…shiva pweyorap bareya. Hulele bap ba…BARABASON si Barba! (Barba’s beard is hideously long)

I recall this tune that we performed during graduation. During rehearsals, Vince and the other bullies kept picking on Barba. To be fair, Barba barely had a beard. In the restroom, I overheard Barba complaining to Jerwin Piranha about being picked on. The latter said that ‘You make them walk all over you.’ Obviously, Piranha wouldn’t take it sitting down. I know this for sure, as I cited the latter in my memoir.

Pa post nga ulit. (May I post again) #corny

Ronel Bapor (Ship)
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You (season four) reviewed

The fourth season of You was one of this year’s most anticipated releases. As is usual these days for Netflix’s premier shows, the current series was divided into two parts. Part one landed on 9 February, with part two releasing exactly a month later. The first set ended on a hell of a cliffhanger, setting up the stage for the remaining eps. Joe is now Professor Jonathan Moore. Perhaps Matthew Broderick was imprecise when he said in Election that New York is the place to be when you’ve lost everything. In Jonathan’s case, London is more like it.

The Old World

After escaping the mess he left in LA, Joe heads to Europe. He is hell bent on finding Marienne, who now lives in Paris. He tutors a small group of uni students. He also spies on his neighbour, Kate, who is initially dismissive of him. When her fiancée suddenly ghosts her, Kate gradually warms up to Joe. Meanwhile, Joe hangs out with Kate and her friends, all rich and spoiled pricks. This is rather similar to his former LA situation, where he mingles with stuck up rich mums. At the onset, the clique does not welcome him as he is merely a professor. He doesn’t travel the world in private jets, dine at the fanciest restaurants, or own the dopest wheels.

New beau

This time, there’s no Love Quinn and child. Instead, Kate is the new object of his affection. Initially, he has trouble winning her over. She has a complicated situation. As it turns out, she is richer than he first thought. Indeed, she is the wealthiest among her clique of filthy rich pals. She also has a strained relationship with her dad, who Greg Kinnear plays. She would be mistaken in thinking that she is all set, as her dad had a hand in every step of her good fortune. He famously says ‘I own everyone I need, including you’.

‘The Bay Harbor Butcher‘


As a serial killer, Joe continues his rampage. His lust for killing is insatiable. To some extent, he reminds me of Dexter Morgan. He tried to balance his relationships and work with his bloodlust. He’s likewise impeccably efficient, expertly manipulating people and doctoring crime scenes to stay out of trouble. Like most serial killers, he meticulously plans his slayings. This enables him to get out of tight spots. He shows no mercy, both for victim and spectator. Finally, he dismembers corpses like it’s just another day at the office.

Smartest in class

As with earlier seasons, the show’s writers have a penchant for delivering puns and humour. The posh British accents add colour to the drama. Every episode is about the right length, sitting near forty minutes. The utilisation of an Indian restaurant was superb, as was the shrewd Nadia. The latter is played by Amy Hickman. She is his smartest student, always with a book in hand. Nadia has a fierce rivalry with fellow high achiever, Edward. Joe correctly predicts that they would end up together. Nadia is smart enough to figure out Joe’s true colours. That, however, might not necessarily a good thang. When Marienne reads her daughter a story, it brought me back to when my Dad would read us Childcraft stories.

The season also sees the return of the glass cage. Who will be trapped? Will they be able to finagle out of Dodge? Will they marshall the assistance they require to depart in one piece? Upon seeing the latest eps, the cage reminded me of the one in The OA. Shame though that the latter was cancelled.


The inclusion of Rhys as the voice of reason adds another touch to You. Based on a true dreamer, he quietly becomes Joe’s conscience. Sometimes, reality and fantasy become blurred. Through some devious manoeuvres, we begin to doubt if Joe is really the perp. Aside from Kinnear’s character, Adam is another Yankee expat. He falls for Phoebe, only she doesn’t know the full extent of his money woes. He secretly has a guilty pleasure. I had to smile when Adam gave her a string of twine as an engagement ring.

Binge watching

You’s fourth iteration has received rave reviews from critics. While pundits question the show’s believability, Penn Badgeley’s dedicated performance leaves fans longing for more. You have to give the writers credit. They reset the series by featuring practically a new cast of characters, much like in season two. Only Joe and Marienne were the holdovers. In its fourth edition, You remains a critics’s and crowd darling. Though not a Netflix original, the show’s relocation to the platform has seen it consistently topping the charts. Even now, nine days post release, the show remains number one on Netflix Australia. Despite fresh faces, new storylines, and a relocation to the Old World, You remains a strong option for those who need to binge watch. In case you’re wondering, the fifth season has yet to be green-lit. With the public’s eager response, the renewal seems like a shoo-in.

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The tradition of intentionally fouling a poor free throw shooter has been around for ages. Since the sixties, most big men have not been accurate from the charity stripe. While they can throw their weight and dominate inside, converting free throws has been their Achilles. This had led opposing teams to deliberately send these goons to the line. The earliest notable example is Wilt Chamberlain. ‘The Stilt’, as he was known, was a prolific scorer in the post. At over seven feet tall, he towered over his nemeses. Individually, he was clearly the best centre of his era. He always came up short against the Boston Celtics. They were powered by the league’s greatest winner: Bill Russell.


I recently watched a two part doco on Russell. The Netflix production pays homage to the man simply known as eleven rings. Wilt was the better athlete but Russ was the smarter team player. Wilt may have scored a century in one game, the greatest scoring output in league history. He may have averaged fifty markers a night. He was the league’s all time scorer until Jabbar passed him in 1984. Yet for all his individual merits, he did not enjoy as much playoff success as his rival. As they say, ‘offence wins games, defence wins championships’.

Going back to the crux of this post, Wilt was a lowly foul shooter. His percentage hovered around the fifty percent mark. As a result, teams caught on and began fouling him earnestly. After all, one point is better than two. Anticipating this, Wilt would avoid getting hacked by playing hide and seek with his oppressors. The L quickly brought this unsightly scene to an end by mandating that the fouled team would have two shots AND ball possession, unless this transpires in the last two minutes of the quarter.


The list of poor shooting man mountains do not end with Wilt. Shaquille O’neal is a prime example. When he entered the L in 92, he wasn’t a horrible foul shooter. During his early years with Orlando, he was treading the sixty percent plateau. However, as his career progressed, his shooting got worse. There were even whole seasons where his percentages dipped below fifty percent. This, in turn, made him a target for aggressive defences. He was often sent to the line, where he committed brick after brick. In fairness, he claimed that he dropped them when they counted. Like Wilt, Shaq had seasons where he shot better from the field than the charity stripe. In his memoir, he couldn’t explain the ineptitude. He had tried everything, including getting rid of the crusts on his peanut butter sandwiches. Nothing worked. He ended his career with over 28,000 points. He confesses that he would’ve been above thirty thou had he just converted more freebies.

These hack a Shaq defences are done to neutralise the other team’s easy scoring. Curiously, it wasn’t Shaq but Dennis Rodman who became known for this tactic in his era. While playing as a Chicago Bull, Rodman was fouled six times by little known Bubba Wells. The latter holds the dubious record of quickest fouling out in history. He played for three minutes. Whack! You’re out.


Other Shaq contemporaries like Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan continued this trend. The former is a great rebounder whose bad free throw shooting has forced him out in close games. His teams felt that leaving him out there will jeopardise their chances. DeAndre Jordan was known for his tenure in Lob City with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. He was one of the more athletic centres. Like Drummond, he was often left out of close matches due to his bad shooting.

Andrew Bogut is an interesting case. He was the first overall pick by the Bucks in 2005. The Aussie quickly impressed the crowds with his pin point shooting and adept passing for a five man. He was an All Star in 2009, but broke his arm after a dunk. Since then, his shooting wasn’t the same. His form was affected and he became more of an inside presence and rebounder than a scorer. That he was able to adapt his game to his team’s needs was truly remarkable. He lasted many years since the injury, a testament to his hard work and diligence. In 2015, he won a chip as a starter for the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, Giannis is another case. He takes a lot of free throws but doesn’t make heaps of them. Despite of this, he proved his doubters wrong by winning a title in 2021. In one of those playoff nights, he was on a tear from the foul line.

Not always

It doesn’t always have to be big men. The most notable example was Bruce Bowen. The latter was a defensive stalwart for San Antonio. He was also known for his accurate three point shooting. He would spot up from the corners and let it fly. His on the ball corner sniping didn’t transfer to the foul line, where he was a really atrocious foul shooter. The most consecutive free throws he nailed was 9. As he admitted, he couldn’t even hit double figures. Teams would foul him intentionally, until he was left out of the action. In spite of his flaws, he was a fearless, lockdown defender. He regularly took on the game’s greatest scorers and made them work harder for their buckets.

In some ways, as per Wikipedia, the Hack a Shaq is a grey area. The tactic is much like a handball in football, a ploy that is against the rules but still exploited by teams. Despite the rule changes and video reviews, the Hack a Shaq seems here to stay. As long as there are stars who couldn’t convert at the line, there will always be teams out for blood.

Boston Garden
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‘Straight from the Heart’

This week’s post will be a bit more personal. I’m going to relate the story of my peerless Ninang, Auntie Oye. I first met her when I was three. Ninang and my late uncle stayed with us as they were vacationing in Oz. My first impression as a kid was that she was very kind and caring. She always beamed and she fussed about our dad, her youngest brother. Furthermore, she handed two 24-carat, Chinese gold bracelets to our Dad, one for her godson and one for her niece. Looking back, my parents had great foresight in picking her as one of my godmothers during my baptism. She was born in November and is a self-made multimillionaire. As I wrote in my memoir, ‘She’s the gold standard of our clan’s success, inspiring others to follow’. While already affluent, she is also deeply devout. She always attends Mass, says her prayers, and she never forgets to give back to the needy.

Gift giver

As I grew up overseas, she readily gave me gifts whenever I saw her. One time, I was shopping for Christmas presents and I bumped into her.

‘Hello Chris. For whom are those gifts?’

‘For Mum and Dad,’ I answered.

‘Do you always give them Christmas presents?’

‘Of course. They’re my favourite parents in the world.’

We both chuckled.

My Dad is very close to her. When he was a boy, a bully almost hit him. Eagle eyed auntie got between them, and trouble was averted.

Factory Maker

She owns a factory in Manila. The eighties and nineties were the boom time for her business. Aside from her manufacturing venture, she also created a Hogwarts of sort. My cousins had to subsist in single parent households as our uncles died prematurely. Auntie gladly took them in. On weekends, they helped in the factory. Though they studied during the week, they were encouraged to strengthen their Catholic faith. As a result of this life experience, most of said cousins are happily married and have kids of their own. Some have continued their journeys elsewhere. The lessons they gleaned from their stay with auntie will always resonate with them.

I was still a kid when my family returned to the Philippines. She invited us to lunch in her abode. She offered that we stay in her condominium. We stuck around as we endeavoured to get our documents right. I mentioned this stay in my memoir. Like my father, she studied in a Chinese school. Her kids, like most of us, did likewise. She effectively adopted my older cousin, ate Elgie, when she was five. The latter lived in the condo. I later learned that she enticed us to remain in Manila, albeit in a different place. I’ve always wondered how that change would’ve turned out.


I’ve included some of Auntie’s best charitable works in my first nonfiction book. I remembered to thank her for all the good that she has done. I haven’t seen her in a long time. Though she’s far apart, doing good remains her calling. Recently, she sent me five books via courier. This included 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich by Bo Sanchez. She also added a St. Benedict medal to protect me. I could see her viewpoint. As a Catholic, keeping the faith is paramount. I’ve stayed in her house a few times. She’s our go-to when we want to layover in Manila during summer break. My Ninang is a gracious host; she made us feel very much at ease in their home.

She was the ‘hermana’ of the local Church. This means that, for one year, she sponsored all the undertakings and costs. As I wrote in my book, she has travelled the world. She has been to Japan and the Holy Land. She took Europe by storm and visited her in laws in France. She was at the World Trade Centre the weekend prior to 9/11.

Sister par excellence

She’s always game for inspirational films. She brought us to behold the original Spider-Man in the cinema. She also accompanied us to a Nativity Story showing.

In spite of her immense achievements, Auntie remains grounded. Each year, almost without fail, she goes back to our hometown during Easter, fiesta, and All Soul’s Day. She likewise celebrates her birthday there. She regularly donates food to the needy. Every day, she prays the rosary. As they say, ‘Whoever does not honour their past, shall never reach the peak of their success.’

She encourages everyone to embrace the Marian beads. Before, she would give away a whole sack of rosaries. When I vacationed with them after my freshman year, I noticed that she gave away food every Sunday after Mass. That’s one surefire way to go to heaven.

As I posted on Facebook, what’s the point of doing good later when you can give back now? That’s why I’m not a fan of money making machines who could be doing more TODAY.

I told my Dad that she’s a good sister to him. ‘Not just good,’ he said. ‘She’s the paragon of big sisters.’

Aside from travelling internationally, she also visits many Catholic shrines across our country. Lately, my Dad has been accompanying her.

A note on the title

In case you’re wondering, this post’s title is a nod to the eponymous book that she recently sent me. My Dad had given us two copies and she gifted us two more. Both, like my Dad’s earlier gifts, were brand new. The prayer companion is very useful. Instead of scouring the net, Heart has everything you need and more. Many years ago, I trooped to Myer during Boxing Day. We bought three branded, Aussie towels and we gave her one of them. We always remember to bring her pasalubong (gifts) when we can. We make sure that her fam has the best and tastiest items as she has been exceedingly generous over the years.

As per Brian Tracy, ‘Excellence is not a destination; it’s a continuous journey that never ends’.

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The Black Phone (2021) reviewed

Last week, Netflix Oz had a AAA addition to its lineup. The Black Phone was one of 2021’s most popular blockbusters. This was Ethan Hawke’s villain debut. He only appeared after about a third of the movie. His presence though was unnerving. In case you’re wondering, there are no severed limbs or scary looking humanoids. The movie builds on the eerie. What’s unseen is just as perturbing as what meets the eye. Phone is more than just another goosebump inducer. The story of a degenerate abducting young kids is vile. The biggest question though is the title: what is the black phone?

Gwen and Finney

The characters were well-cast. Virtual unknown, Mason Thames, shines as the protagonist, Finney Blake. His sister, Gwen, has psychic dreams. Their dad smacks the latter, telling her that she’s not her mother. When he finds out that she’s been cooperating with the detectives, he belts her. Regardless, the two siblings share a tight bond. When the bullies take a liking to Finney, his friend Robin comes to the rescue. The latter would be a victim of the so-called Grabber. Once the former is missing, the bullies come at Finney with full force. Gwen tries to defend him. Obviously, Finney is a lonesome geek. He sits alone in class but finds a kindred soul during Biology. Gwen teases him about his crush.

The Grabber

The setting is Denver, Colorado. The movie opens with an baseball game. Finney almost wins a strikeout, and Bruce (his opponent) tells him that ‘Your arm is mint.’ Four young chaps, including Robin, have been abducted. The spate of disappearances have the town on edge. It was reported that the Grabber shows up with black balloons in an unmarked white van. We uncover that he wears a mask to avoid detection. He pounces on his victims when they are walking alone. He then keeps them in a dark room where he toys with their mind. The room is a far cry from what these blokes are used to. He deprives them of food and company. They have no connection to the outside world. None of these boys have ever escaped to tell their stories.

While Finney is being detained, he feels that the other victims are helping him. He tries his best to leave, but his efforts are futile. Once, he’s able to finesse over a sleeping Grabber. He runs like a maniac, but the Grabber has wheels and he’s on foot. What was once a hopeful getaway turns into A Nightmare on Grabber Street. He refuses to give in to misery. He maintains his composure though there seems to be no way out of the hellhole. Initially, he was abrupt with the Grabber. He was bitter at being victimised and he let it be known.


At first glance, the room seems like another prop in this story. The casual moviegoer would see it as the detention of a blooming mind. However, a closer look would reveal that there’s much more to the room that meets the eye. The space is an allegory of shackles. Unless you’re Elon Musk or a tech or mining magnate, chances are, you’ll be in a situation where you feel restricted. It doesn’t have to be your home. It could be your career, your school, your team, or even your own family. In this instance, a lifeline would help. Anyone could be forgiven for yearning for a black phone. The Grabber need not be a child abductor. He could be the O.J. Simpson of your life, the Voldemort, the foil to your plans. Admittedly, without darkness, there’s no light. If you look intently, there should be a helping hand waiting for you. In Finney’s case, his sister was his saving grace.


If you’re expecting an ending like Dead Europe’s, then you’re bound to be disappointed. That’s a good thing though. When the protagonist emerges from the trenches, he becomes the object of appreciation and admiration. His heroic efforts were not to be forgotten. The mystery surrounding his exploits only add to his legend. The movie is well-paced and the acting, well done. At the beginning of release, the film was garnering a perfect score on review site, Rotten Tomatoes. The acclaim eventually evened out, but it’s still strong at eighty three percent. More importantly, Phone took home the Saturn Award for best film.

Apart from the movie critics, the film was also an audience pick. A few days after its Netflix release, Phone became the number one movie on Netflix Oz. There have been a few blockbusters lately, including Dune, Wednesday, Glass Onion, and You season four. Part 2 of the latter will be released on 9 March. Joe Goldberg has replaced Dexter Morgan as pay per view’s favourite serial killer. Streaming viewers could well fit in a Dickens novel: ‘Please, Sir, I want some more.’

Rating: 4.5/5

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‘Paklang-er’ aka Stalk Lady

Many moons ago, I mentioned how I hung out at Hunter Connection in Wynyard. (See also: my Hunter post from 2021). They have a nice selection of cuisines and are strategically located next to my chiropractor. However, sometimes, we get more than we bargained for. The first time I saw her was when I was munching on Hungry Jacks. The fast food chain is our version of Burger King. I was almost finished with my Sunday supper when this haggard looking lady approached. The person masticating loudly beside me was a white lady of unknown origin. She had a noticeable accent.

The kindness of Accent

The other lady hovered near Accent, before asking for some chips. This exchange continued throughout my supper. After munching on a few chips, Accent told the lady that she could have the rest of it. Lady then took a seat and enjoyed her whoppers. To be honest, the lady had seen better days. She wasn’t going to win America’s Next Top Model. No offence, but she looked like someone who’d escaped from a cancer ward. Her skin was peeling off and her hair was unkempt. Her getup reminded me a bit of Dobby the house elf in Harry Potter. Maybe she borrowed the former’s potato sack. Who knows?

Sister for lunch

My sister had seen lady. She admitted to giving her food, although she did suppose that she didn’t know what lady was. Sister said that there was actually two of her kind. The other was a similar looking hombre. They usually go round that area, she told me. Is this one big joke? Did someone put her up to this? Is that skin real, or did she utilise heavy makeup?

Two choices

Once, I ordered two choices with fried rice. I usually get a viand with veggies on the side. I was almost done with the meal. About to deposit the leftovers to the garbage can, the lady stopped me. I left my tray, chock full of bok choy stalks, on the table. I then saw her feasting on the so-called ‘Chinese broccoli.’ Quick aside: though she was happy to consume the stalks, I felt that I could’ve done more. I was so locked in that I didn’t notice her lurking beside me. Otherwise, I’d have given her my lunch.

Hunter Connection is slated to be history. The once bustling building will be converted to a metro stop. Most of the shops have left. Some were lucky to relocate, while others bit the dust. I wonder what will happen to lady and hombre. Perhaps they will find another Flushing Meadows.

Accent (again)

I have to admit that Accent impressed me. She isn’t even a local but she acted better than the majority. Perhaps she had similar experiences in her home country? Perhaps she is a really altruistic soul. Regardless, homelessness is real. You’d think that great leaps forward in wizard technology would translate to better opportunities for everyone. You’d think that living in the West would mean all would have a fair go. You’d believe that ‘Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind.’

Pertinent world issues

People talk about climate change a lot. There is increased investment into solar panels and electric cars. You see Greta Thunberg addressing the United Nations. Renewables are suddenly cool and companies get a big tick for being carbon neutral and sustainable. Then there’s women empowerment and Malala. Trending stories and hashtags have defined inclusiveness. The big problem remains. How can we be good denizens when we cringe at the less fortunate?

There’s a passage in the Good Book that goes, ‘Whatever you do to the least of your brethren, you do to Me.’ Another quote: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ I’m not asking you to sponsor a child nor to regularly contribute to a charity. If you just try to be a better person, that’s one step to going to nirvana. If you have more, then give more. Always remember that God sees what we’re doing. Everything that you do to the poor, you do to Him. Kindly mull that over while you’re snacking on Macca’s.

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The Heat Check

Some of you might be wondering about the title. This is a term most commonly associated with basketball. You might suggest that this implies a body temp check or an evaluation of the arena’s mercury. You’re wrong. A heat check relates to an offensive player’s difficult attempt after hitting a few shots in a row. It’s called a heat check since said cager wants to see how hot his shooting is. A heat check is so named since the defence will likely clamp down on the shooter, thereby guaranteeing a more difficult try from the field. Now that you know the definition of the heat check, it’s time for the main course: the searing Australian summer.

Hallmarks of summer

Summer here arrives in December, though hot days could be expected in late spring. By then, the days are longer due to daylight savings. By the onset of summer, one could easily expect thirteen hours of sunlight. Christmas and New Year fall on summer. I recall my chiro telling us that he much prefers Christmas here than in his native US. While it’s winter there, there are glorious sun soaked days here. Summer is about ice cream, tennis, the outdoors, travel, fruit shakes, shopping, mangoes, and shorts. For others, it’s all about swimming, movies, or the cricket.

The warm days are made for ice cold shakes and the guilty pleasures. Ice cream and gelato shops seem to come alive during summer. Last week, I already covered tennis. It was great seeing Novak reascend to the top of the mountain. He extended his record Melbourne haul to ten, with nil losses in the finale. If you’ve seen the queues at Sydney airport, you’ll glean how travel is such a hot commodity these days. The stars have aligned and the wanderlust is bursting at the seams. Whether it’s a short domestic trip or a farther international journey, one thing is clear: the airways are back. There’s even a new domestic carrier, Bonza.

Shopping is definitely back. Black Friday was just an appetiser. The Christmas lead up and Boxing Day sales have turned up the heat for the shopaholics. Some of us have even tried new retailers. We’ve got to get out of our comfort zone. While we’re at it, it’s important to be a savvy shopper. You need to get the best deal. Meanwhile, wearing appropriate clothes is important. These days call for cotton and linen garments. Viscose is also good, but polyester and acrylic are best left for the warmer months. In case you’re wondering, merino wool can also be a good choice due to its breathability. Often, you’d see people in shorts and tees. This makes sense, unless it’s under twenty five degrees. In that case, pants are apropos.

Summer break

Before I forget, summertime coincides with the school holidays. They get about a month off to recharge their batteries. For year 12 graduates, they have finished school. They get ready for the next phases in their adult life. For others, they brace themselves for another year of learning. They could do most of the activities listed above, if not all. For instance, they could frolic in the pool. They could troop to the cinemas with their families. Ice cream is de rigeur. Moreover, like most Aussies, they will support our compatriots in the cricket and tennis. Taronga Zoo is also a hit with the little ones. We have to get some Luk Chai time. Ergo, summer vacation means spending quality time together. Regardless, for the past three decades, Tropfest has been a summer classic. Audiences would cram into an open cinema as the entries are screened. It has been hailed as the world’s best short film festival.

Safe than sorry

January is traditionally our calendar’s hottest month. Temperatures have been known to reach the forties in parts of Sydney. Country NSW regularly top the forties. As a result, we should be sun smart. I’ve detailed these steps in a previous post, including the use of sunscreen, sunnies, and going for the shade. Skin cancer is a recurrent enemy in our country, so it’s best to be safe than sorry. Spare a thought also for summer fruits. Mangoes are probably the most ubiquitous, but there are others as well. Plums and watermelon are equally in season. So are grapes and pineapples. The top of the table though goes to cherries. These little red things epitomise everything good about summer. While not as affordable as mangoes, without question, cherries are the season’s pick. Summer might be hot and humid, but ‘you can’t say no’ to the longer days and pleasant conditions.

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Australia Day 2023

This Thursday was observed as Australia Day. The date celebrates the coming of the First Fleet into Aussie shores. Though the day falls on a Thursday, it is marked as a national holiday. Call centres of most national and multinational companies take a brief break. Specialty retailers are hit and miss in terms of opening times. Supermarkets are open, as are restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls. Straya day is associated with barbies (barbecues). It’s very common to ogle paunchy, middle aged, and balding gentlemen tossing a few sausages on the poolside grill. The kids love it. Everyone gets to splash and frolic in the water. Toss in some alcohol and you’ve got the classic Aussie holiday combo: a beer and a barbie. In case you’re wondering, libraries are closed but expect the cinemas to be packed. Everyone yearns for the air con in these hot times.


In this year’s staging, there was a special promo thrown around. Hundreds of swimming pools across the nation offered complimentary poolside passes during the holiday. This ensured that no one was left behind. Aside from the pools, the beaches are probably the hottest ticket in town. From Bondi to Brontë, Brighton to Manly, everybody is up for the surf and the sun. Thus, the celebrations usually coincide with sunny weather. The air is humid and the sky is clear as the day unfolds in the height of summer.


Oz day is likewise traditionally associated with citizenship ceremonies. The custom of gathering and swearing in new Aussies has been going on since time immemorial. However, this edition featured a lot less of the type. Probably a COVID thing. Indeed, this marks the first real Oz Day since COVID hit roughly three years ago. We’ve endured lockdowns and natural disasters. We’ve had to practice social distancing and get vaccinations. Overseas travel has been out of the question. With no more social distancing, jam packed beaches are back to pre COVID levels.

Melbourne Park

As usual, Oz Day coincides with the tail-end of the Aussie Open. The men’s semis transpired on Thursday evening, with fireworks interrupting play for ten minutes. Novak Djokovic is back with a vengeance and he’s the favourite to win. The world number four has had a turbulent year as he tries to stay on tour despite being unvaccinated. As a result, he had to miss last year’s edition. This time though, Rafa’s been knocked off early. This means that Djokovic’s path is clear for a record-extending tenth victory at Melbourne Park. This would also nab him his record 22nd career slam, which is one more than Nadal.

I wanted to witness his match against Aussie number one, Alex De Minaur. I didn’t follow through as I knew who’d win. The Joker completely overwhelmed The Demon in spite of his alleged injury. He was looking good out there, and even Alex said so. Injured or not, Nole plays his best tennis at the Open. My chiropractor went to Melbourne for a week to watch the action firsthand. He told me that he’s ‘getting in’ on the hype. Yesterday, 28 January, Djokovic battled Tommy Paul for a spot in the men’s final. As usual, the Joker played in centre court. Paul kept up in the first set, rallying from 1-5 down to level the score. However, he ran out of gas in the second set, only taking one game. From there, it was only a matter of time.

In the other semifinal, Stefanos Tsitsipas was too good for his opponent. It was third time lucky for the Greek, who had previously lost his two semis at the Open. He made light of the tremendous support at Melbourne, calling it his ‘home grand slam’. The city is famous for having a huge Greek contingent. In the past, players like Mark Philipoussis and Marcos Baghdatis had enjoyed the same level of adulation. However, Tsisipas has progressed further than Mark ever did in his home slam. Cypriot Marcos took a set off Federer in 2006, the edition best remembered for Roger crying like a baby after receiving the trophy from Rod Laver.

Sunny day

Oz Day is usually sunny. Many moons ago, I remember celebrating it with my cousins. I think it was 35 degrees. It was even hotter when I was in uni. I had been tuning in on Andy Roddick’s match when my friend and I decided to catch this animated Disney flick at the Burwood cinemas. We had to snack on ice cream as it was Saharan out there.

Oz Day celebrations also honour outstanding Aussies. The Prime Minister presents the Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the year, Order of Australia awards, amongst other accolades. This highlights the tireless citizens whose tremendous and selfless work merits recognition on the national stage. This year, a Sudanese footballer was honoured. There was also this Sikh local hero who provided nourishment for the homeless.


Of course, there remains some controversy regarding Oz Day. Critics have singled out the day as it commemorates the First Fleet. They see it as quite Anglocentric and elitist, even bigoted. They reason that, prior to European colonisation, Indigenous peoples have subsisted on this land for Millenia. Why then, they ask, should we honour the settlers when we’ve neglected the First Nations? In effect, they move to repair the appellation. ‘Australia Day’ to these detractors, is both misleading and not inclusive. While we’re at it, we should also update the flag and the national anthem.

For now though, let’s stick with Australia Day. I look forward to the singles finals in Melbourne. (Tonight and tomorrow,) we’ll crown new slam victors. Last night, Sabalenka fought back from a set down to overpower Rybakina for the women’s plum. The reign of local champ, Ash Barty, (will come) has officially come to an end. Moreover, we may very well see Novak’s return atop the podium in no time. He is, after all, an immaculate nine and zip here in the championship round. See you next year.

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My New Year’s Resolution

The calendar has ticked forward and the year now reads 2023. That means out with the old and in with the new. Having a New Year’s resolution is a familiar path for those yearning to change. I remember Charles Oakley, one of the nineties’s toughest big men, admitting that he tried to eat less junk food to stay in shape for 2003. Meanwhile, his Washington teammate, Michael Jordan, said he had no NY resolution as he can’t keep them after the third day. This is an extreme contrast, especially since they suited up together.

Twenty twenty-three

So you might be wondering what is yours truly’s 2023 resolution. It’s a simple one: limiting my online orders. When I say orders, this includes clothing, books, CD’s, accessories, and food delivery. Moreover, this encompasses titles to be collected at the repository. I have a lot of stuff already. My winter wardrobe is stacked and so are my summer choices. I could honestly say that I don’t need another jumper or t-shirt. My closet is overflowing with socks. I have many branded items and no frills garments from Kmart, Big W, and Target. Granted, they may not all be of the right fit. I’m not the type though who offloads a lot of stuff. In effect, the purchases keep adding up.

The easy way

Online shopping is an easy habit. I admit that it’s a lot more undemanding than reading a paperback or even streaming Netflix in my downtime. It’s day and night compared to writing and editing a book. My sister told me that it’s becoming a disease. I’ve been caught up in the process of buying and thus, collecting. I see something nice. It’s not even cheap and I want to pull the trigger. My mum says that I’m not a smart buyer. She reasons that other people have two winter jackets and that’s it. I’m in an endless loop of addition.

I regularly check Ozbargain to see what’s the latest deal. Indeed, I spend less time reading the news than scrolling through that site. Aside from the deals, their forum section is also enlightening. Occasionally, I’d also check the sister site, couponese, for any unreal coupon codes, including Domino’s.

Holiday Cheer

Consider the last few items I’ve bought. During Black Friday, I purchased Rodd and Gunn sneakers and a leather kit from Myer. I ordered twice from Catch and returned one of them. I nabbed some items from this health store. To top it off, I bought a new iPad cover from Officeworks. My mum admitted that my old cover was still very serviceable and gave it an eight out of ten. Fast forward to the holidays. On Christmas Eve, I got these clearance Mitch Dowd PJ’s from Myer. Thank goodness it was the right size. Subsequently, I got this wallet from Strandbags. I’ve used my old one for about fourteen years. Again, mum said that it was still in tip top shape. The other wallets that she saw were much more worn. Regardless, they still used them. See also: On rewards programs in Australia (previous post). I also bought two soundtracks from JB Hifi. I got more Mitch Dowd pj’s.

I admit that I saved a bit from these purchases. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have nabbed them. Still, the fact remains that I have PJs, I got more than enough CDs, and my wallet was still good to go. Any smart buyer would have a hard think before spending their $$$. To be honest, these are not big ticket items. I’m not grabbing a car, or white goods, even a new 4K TV. I didn’t pay for a brand new Alienware laptop or a gaming console. Right now, my prodigal ways do not extend to that front.

The Hoarder and the have-nots

My mum says I’m collecting shoes. My sister says I’m hoarding. Going to the store or library for order pickups seem like a lot of trouble, especially since I have more than enough. So now I’m going to draw a line in the sand. Instead of collecting branded items, now is the time to hold my horses. This spending spree is not a sustainable lifestyle. When I put it that way, I think of the Great Depression in the US. I likewise ponder the shots of malnourished kids in Life magazine. There are people out there who are really having it tough. They can’t afford Crumpler bags or Lacoste trainers. They never ordered a combo meal online. They do not rock up in a Tommy tee or a Superdry rugby shirt. Yet, despite having little, they seem content with their situation. If you never knew anything better, there’s no reference to compare.

My parents and my only sibling have long urged me to taper down on the online orders. My sister has even gone so far as to tell me not to look at clothes any more. This, she says, is so I wouldn’t be tempted. I admit that it’s not easy. My mind has been conditioned to check these websites, to ogle Ozbargain, and make finds. In a way, my sis is right: it’s a malady. Perhaps I should attend some Online Shoppers’s Anonymous. ‘Hello everyone, I’m Topher and I’m a deal junkie.’ I admit that I may not be able to totally stop shopping. However, I’ll try to restrict my purchases. Since the NY, I’ve ordered food a few times and I’ve bought the Mitch Dowd sleepwear. I’ll try a little more to keep my spending in check.

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What’s your forearm?

Note: No mammals were harmed in the making of this article

An old Craig David song inspired the title of this week’s post. Back when MTV was still a thing, his song, ‘What’s your flava’ got a lot of airtime. Don’t be confused though; this entry shares only the title. A few years back, I did this short creative writing course. Most of the group was unremarkable, save for Imogen. She came in the second week of class. Her missing forearm was the first thing we noticed about her. Before I continue, I’d like to stress that I try not to discriminate against the meek. Being handicapped doesn’t preclude you from accomplishing great things. However, I must admit that some shortcomings are more pronounced than others.

The class

The class was all about experimentation. Our tutor encouraged us to try new writing styles and gave us weekly homework. A number of us would then print out copies of our work. We would distribute said copies around the room. Finally, we would read out our work. I got to do so twice during term. I must admit that it was a nerve wracking experience. For about half of the course, I ignored Imogen. Although I was curious to know about what happened to her forearm, I knew that wasn’t a good idea. Nothing screams faux pas more than asking a girl about what happened to her missing forearm.


Speaking of missing body parts, there’s this Aussie who’s become the face of the movement. Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs but his engaging and cheery persona attracts women like bees to honey. He was featured on Sixty Minutes. A day later, while waiting at the barber shop, he was the talk of the oldies. While browsing at Dymock’s, I even found out that he’d penned a memoir. There was an ep of Parks and Recreation where Chris (Rob Lowe) talks about this book, Limb-it-less. The read featured a man with no arms and legs but became a world beater or something. Incidentally, Vujicic’s memoir is also titled Limitless.

Aside from Vujicic, Dylan Alcott is another torchbearer. He’s a household name in Oz after winning all those grand slams. Unlike Nick, he has limbs. However, he’s a quadriplegic, which makes his accomplishments even better. He was crowned as the 2022 Australian of the Year. Now retired, he can rest assured that his achievements merit him a place in the pantheon of greats. In all these example, I can’t help but admire their resolve. In spite of the challenges, of having missing limbs, they managed to deliver. Others may have a complete set of limbs but either don’t make the most of it or use them for the wrong purposes.

Scrabble and Scrivener

Later on, both of us were early to class. I jammed with her. I learned that she was doing her master’s at a top uni. She was currently working on her thesis. I asked her which writing software she was using. She said Scrivener. She then asked me the same question, as I had been juggling two projects. Storyist, I replied.

‘What’s that?’

I told her it was just like Scrivener but had a focus on fiction, in particular, novels and stories.

‘It doesn’t have as much templates as Scrivener. That one’s packed with features.’

She admitted that she enjoyed playing scrabble. I told her that I was a two-time champ in school. I’ve been contesting the board game with another peer after class. I told Imogen that she liked to make up words and check the dictionary. Imogen said that she was strictly by the book. Once, I matched up against her after class. I won, but it was a close fight. After this, the three of us faced off. I was first to use up all my tiles. This meant that they had to subtract their letters. It was a nail biting finish.

A word on the title

As a side note, I wanted to title this post as Who’s your forearm. This is a nod to Who’s your daddy. I quickly put together though that the current post title makes more sense. While Christmas Day is about our loved ones, we will have another two days to unwind. Boxing Day is about two things: shopping and sports. Cricket fans will flock to the stadium for the Boxing Day Test. Basketball watchers will tune in to the NBA’s Christmas Day treat. Those who would do neither will be snapping up bargains around Sydney. David Jones will open at seven am while Myer and Westfield will welcome shoppers at eight. This is far from a downtown affair with other suburban centres joining in on the fun. From North Ryde to Parramatta, Bondi to Hornsby, there’ll be no shortage of berserk bargain hunters. Experts forecast that this would be the busiest Boxing Day since the pandemic commenced.

From Topher to my dear readers, I wish you all a cracking Yuletide season and a rosy 2023.

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