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Showing posts from May, 2005

The Faraway Tree

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I remember many happy afternoons reading Enid Blyton's "The Faraway Tree" when I was a kid. Right at the top of the tree are places such as Topsy Turvy Land or nightmarish places run by tyrannical principals (well, headmistresses). At Toa Payoh Lorong 8 (the PAP GRC side of the road) , by a block of upgraded one-room flats, is the extended living room of several families living there. The half-naked kids with their half naked fathers and their half-naked friends sit and chat the night away under this tree. Every few days, the menagerie of plastic gods and retired toys change their places, or are joined by new friends. Some days, there is a corner where the 8 immortals hang out with a fake Barbie (is Barbie ever real?); another corner where a couple of porcelain cats sit with the Goddess of Mercy and Mr Frog; and another spot where a plastic giraffe (tall even for a plastic toy), the laughing Buddha and the ubiquitous old fisherman (I had 2 of those in my old house!

Found in Transit

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We had just got back from Tokyo when the movie was first released in Singapore. We had watched it, not for the critics' positive reviews, but just to catch the Tokyo cityscape. Ah,Tokyo wonderland (Sneaker heaven for James)! Yesterday we gave in to the $19 DVD at HMV. The movie's website declares "Everyone wants to be found". I guess whether we speak the same or a different language, somehow, between 2 persons/cultures/entities there is always that slimmest of space where our words and meaning would often go missing in transit. Movies, missed opportunities and misunderstandings all tell us that maybe that space can never to filled. So our translations,interpretations and gestures, the messages we send out - they will never quite reach our intended audience in their entirety. Top: I've Seen the Doctor! Bottom: From Jesus to a Guru (Click to view larger image) But I think it's not always this lonely or romantic. My experience of translation tells me i

I/you am/are nothing without you/me

[Warning/Apology: This is a long post, plus it doesn't have pictures or drawings for now! An accompanying drawing will be uploaded only later.] Maybe I remember wrong, but I think my first encounter with the idea of "co-option" was in Cherian George's Singapore the Air-Conditioned Nation: Essays on the Politics of Comfort andControl 1990-2000 . The argument goes that the ruling party/government has dominated whatever intellectual millieu of this country by co-opting the voices of the intellectuals. This co-opting can be literal - by recruiting individuals into government or even politics. The co-opting can be literary or linguistic - by absorbing the critical words or works into the official imagining of Singapore, the Singapore "canon", hence neutralising, or sometimes distorting its language or meaning. All this sounds abstract (though, at the same time, I am sure I have over-simplified many things); even irrelevant to the lives of many Singaporeans -

Escapist, Regressive Thoughts

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Title painting of a series featuring un-coloured people, mostly children (A3 posters available! hohoho!). James and I, we've wondered for a long time now whether there ought to be some invention (one of those mystic Rambaldi inventions that someone from ALIAS would most certainly have in a handy syringe) that can stunt the growth - physical and mental - of a child. They are best to be injected with the formula sometime between the age of 1 or 2, just before they are actually conscious of their own self. Then, they still sing secretly to themselves on trains. And when they catch you watching them, they are a little stunned, aware suddenly that there is a reality beyond themselves. Their reaction is usually to shut their own eyes or hide their gaze from you - as if not seeing is the same as not existing. (When a baby/teenager lizard realised that it was discovered, it stood very very still for the longest possible time, its dark eyes returned my murderous stare but blankly, hop

The Ice-Cream Bell Rings

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Weddings are occasions I avoid. Not that I ever harbor any ill feelings towards the to-be married couples, it is just the thought of having to provide an account of your life in the past few years to old school mates, ex-boy/girlfriends, acquaintances of friends etc. Lives touch, which otherwise were meant to remain separate...Contrary to the spirit of weddings and unions, of course. Last Saturday was not a wedding I could avoid. He was a dear friend from university and, I confess, there was the lure of seeing the Church of St Mary of the Angels . As it turned out, it was a pretty solemn wedding, and WOHA's strangely medieval architecture (despite the contemporary, voluminous hall) only added to it. At the door, I discovered that a couple of old friends from university are now separated. It didn't seem so long ago that I had helped take photographs at their wedding. Familiar faces who have put on a kilogram or 5 have also acquired toddlers and cars and toddlers and pearls and

Downgrading for Upgrading

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It is all too easy to lament the pace of change in this country. Issues of memory and amnesia, national identity and heritage...these are tired things to talk about, so we continue to produce tired poetry and art in their passionate defence. However, our neighbours over in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 continue to show that there's no need for all this nostlagia. (From topleft: Happy in a corner / Feeling Down / Danger Keep Out; Good Luck Welcome / Still Happy in a Corner - Photographs by James)

Starry Wings, Angel Wings (T-shirt Designs)

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Toa Payoh Lorong 8, a narrow 2-lane road, serves as the border between 2 electoral wards. On the one side is Potong Pasir, under the care of Singapore Democratic Alliance's Chiam See Tong. On the other side is PAP's Bishan-Toa Payoh. The disparity between the 2 neighbourhoods cannot be more glaring. Potong Pasir, with its giant trees (their heavy branches in a sleepy slouch), naked void decks and spontaneous gardens, boasts the best BBQ chicken wings in Singapore (made by our pal, a Jacky Wu lookalike), the coolest Ah Peks in retro trainer suit jackets, and some of the loudest rats. PAP's Toa Payoh has colourful tiled life lobbies and void decks, sapling fruit trees whose growth seemed to have been stunted, and the best-cared-for bunch of stray cats ever (their supermarket catfood delivered daily at 9). Now that "upgrading" works have started at the Toa Payoh flats, the 2 neighbourhoods finally have 1 thing in common - dust. Indiscriminate, dust from age and du

If You Train, Don't Drive

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At the ripe old age of 31, my complete lack of knowledge about and enthusiasm for driving surprises many. Cars - symbols of industrialistcapitalistcolonialist america! And as the president of the environment action group in my junior college days (an 8 member-strong incarnation of Captain Planet, determined to recycle every scrap of torn love letters and mis-applied lecture notes our peers so carelessly discard), perhaps a small voice of protest still remains. Most probably it's just laziness. Plus the truth is, drivers miss out on so much that happens on public buses and trains. Well, nothing actually HAPPENS on buses and trains. Arrivals and departures. Conversations on the mobile phones. Many gameboy battles lost and won. Lovers doing some public loving. But mostly naps...people dozing off, dreaming private dreams. Nothing happens, and everything happens. Just last week, we attended a conference on taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien as part of the SIFF 's retrospecti

Sad is the Man

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James bought The Observatory 's 'Time of Rebirth' when it was released last year. I only listened to it recently, and I must say... wow. OK, i admit, it was the album design that first impressed me (i wished i had designed it, ah i would be so proud. Kinetic should be so proud). The 2nd track has been in my head most. Killing time/killing time/long is the passage of time/sad is the man/with an absent mind. // so sad is the man/sad is the man/who lives by the sea/ killng time/killing time/older the sea gets each day/sad is the man/who has walked away If indeed we are wasting away each day, disappearing (starting from the fingertips?), there is no romance of the lyric, girlish lulling and numbing song, the promise of a chorus or refrain. And whatever pity, generously given, makes us poorer. So much for sadness! I'm gonna take a shower instead, sleep and wish for a nice flying kind of dream.

Sunset Dream

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A painting I did some 3 years ago. The intention was to do a series of paintings on the adventures of a pet rabbit, set free. Haha, only managed to complete 2 paintings of that series - the rest are still nesting in my mind. James and I were at Bishan Park one Sunday evening when we saw a small crowd around a tree, staring at a white rabbit panting with fear. 2 metres away was a watchful cat. Both rabbit and cat lay quiet in the grass. What a dangerous world! And as dusk approached, would not the rabbit (abandoned or freed - is it only a matter of perspective?) desire a sail boat, cottony clouds, carrots and safe, creamy, warm bosoms?

tokyo sketches

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Was stuck in the office working late. Thinking of Tokyo.