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Showing posts from January, 2006

Dogfight in Chinatown

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This week, Chinatown is at its liveliest. In the pre-Chinese New Year frenzy, everyone is trying to sell everyone something auspicious, delicious or... salacious? check out the last movie : Starring Angelina Jolie - not. You wish! J and I wandered into Chinatown tonight after work. And as at most of these larger and more well-organised bazaars, we witnessed the highest forms of sales(wo)manship at work - the Chinese auctioneer and the Thai/Chinese "monk". But who was the better of the two? So friends, Ampulets Theatre presents...the auspicious, the delicious...er, not very salacious Dog Fight in China Town ! (warning: this is the lengthiest playscript ever on this blog.) Starring 1. The Auctioneer: a middle-aged woman who, judging by her accent, is from the middle kingdom; and who, judging by the hoarseness of her voice, has been at this for some nights already. She is surrounded by 2 "walls" of pictures and 3 tables full of carved stone kirins. 2. The

got to get some ice cream

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When J and I were talking recently about the unhappiness surrounding his work and future, the word which cropped up in our conversations was "trapped" - and I thought of Wayne Lo. Who is Wayne Lo? Wayne Lo, like Took, is a convicted murderer - except that he was "lucky" his crime was committed in Massachusetts and not Singapore. So instead of the death penalty, 19 year-old Wayne Lo was sentenced to life in prison in 1992 (pre-Columbine days) for having killed 2 and injuring 4 other students at his college campus with an AK47. For the whole context of the murders in 1992 , you can read Gone Boy: A Walkabout - A Father's Search for the Truth in his Son's Murder (reviews in NYT and Salon also give an idea of the case), which waswritten by the father of one of the students who was killed. I only knew of Wayne Lo recently from the latest issue of Giant Robot (available in Kinokuniya & Borders), which featured an interview with him. I suppose ther

I lose

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a companion to this picture - click for larger pic in flickr One morning on the train I was slightly surprised to find 4 people around me reading - this being a too-sleepy-to-read sort of train. The man to my right was reading a book titled "10 characteristics of effective leadership" or something to this effect. Curious, I glanced at the page. Losers find problems in every answer, winners find answers in every problem. Losers see thunderstorms and icy weather, winners see rainbows and ice skates. There was a list of some 30 of these "loser vs winner" lines. And when he turned the page, I saw this at the top. Soul success is self-respect for an honourable life. If there is any truth in that book, then please let me not have to spend too much time with anyone who thinks himself a "winner" and finds his soul a "success".

trouble with numbers

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These memes are really tough to do. On the surface they seem straightforward enough, but when you do get down to listing down things you like/dislike/always do/have done etc, it doesn't matter if it is 4 or 7 - anything past the 1 is a real test. Why limit yourself to 4 or 7 of anything? 4 favourite foods when you may have 10 or 12, or since you are Singaporean, 39? Only 4 websites to visit daily when there are more than 4 friends with blogs (links on the right!)? Or 4 jobs when all you've ever wanted is that 1 which is not yet yours? OK, I admit: all of this is a long-winded way of saying that I did try to complete the 4 meme that tcsd , ru and CATch-up tagged me with...but failed miserably. As compensation, here are 4 poems I thought of immediately instead. Hope you enjoy them ;> 1. a lyric by someone who knows contentment 2. a psalm by a broken man who receives real forgiveness 3. a poem by someone who remembers (you'll have to scroll down to see the poem

the cook, his wife & their gods

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the altar to the most high cholestrol - photos in this post by J When I first learnt, several years ago, that J's dad was a cook (he ran a Zhi Char place in Jalan Besar hawker centre), I was surprised. Incredulous, "Your father's a cook and you can't even tell a garlic from an onion?" Father J is not a chatty man. Like most Zhi Char cooks, he has spent most of the time with one muscular arm holding on to a blackened, iron wok, and the other nimbly coordinating the fire, food, seasoning and plates. And in like manner, he sits steadily and silently by us when we visit, but his eyes, cheeks and lips are busy with smiles. Ma J, meanwhile, would carry on three conversations simultaneously with us, her 7 year-old grandson and her nephew on a long distance call from some Hok Chia village in China. Ma J likes to tell us what a good man J's father is - his faithfulness, his care for the family. All that, I imagine, is meant for me to conclude like father, li

fallen cities

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The first book I read by Italo Calvino was Invisible Cities . Although I have read the book once or twice again, like the cities he describes, I have no distinct memory of the book... Except that I enjoyed it at the moment of reading - its repetitions and refrains, its seeming economy with words but the surfeit of association, its glut of allusions and pretenses, those conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo that go everywhere and nowhere. Ruins have a similar effect. After a while, they all seem pretty alike. Chunks of stone. Moss. Invasive trees. Broken statues. Damp corners. And they give the same testimony. Fallen men. Failed gods. But we continue to want to visit them. We think there is something elusive and mysterious about their destruction, dream up stories and myths to match their human histories. We watch the missing roofs and walls, tread on their eroded floors, only to imagine the luxury of their architecture. We scale, tunnel and circle their spaces, tr

maybe it's the rain

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I've been wanting to write a short review of Jim Jarmusch's latest road movie Broken Flowers . But nah, too tedious. I thought about writing something on Ryu Murakami (that other Murakami) whose 80s novel 69 just got translated in English. But nah, too lazy. Next time. It's been a slow week, trying and with one too many heavy conversations about... I think I shall let this picture of a fellow weary train commuter do the talking instead.

Domestic Tourism Day

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all photos on this post, including this graphic composite, are by J It is strange how on an island just 640 square kilometres (same size as Tokyo and 2.5 times smaller than greater London), some form of regionalism still exists. Maybe regionalism is too big a word...maybe I should say kampung-ism . J and I have lived in the Toa Payoh-Bishan-Bendemeer area all of our lives. And even when our families moved, they stayed within this kampong, unable to imagine life any further north, south, east or west. And since J and I don't own a car, we seldom wander to other kampongs unless... Grand Katong Dame - the Iconic "Red House" Bakery...undergoing surgery ...it's Domestic Tourism Day! In our lower/middle-class Singapore minds, once bus #31 turned into Katong, we smelled Old Money. Katong is the genteel east, leisure-class east. The quaint peranakan east. The nostalgic art-deco east. The place where the early families used to keep their seaside/holiday homes. He

witch's brew

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A week ago, J and I ventured to Eu Yan Sang to gather our stock of Chinese herbal teas. In our encyclopedia of chinese traditional medicine there are only 4 entries - yin, yang, heaty and cooling. So as we surveyed the various packets herbal teas, it seemed each of them fell under the safe "cooling" category, promising to rid us of "heat" and "toxins". There was only one tea which stood out. It promised to have the additional benefits of aiding digestion, appetite and ridding the body of "wind". And its name was poetry - 七星茶, literally seven star tea . And here, my friends, is what poetry means in traditional chinese medicine. beetlejuice beetlejuice beetlejuice! Today, during our visit to J's parents, his mom aahed at the mention of "seven star tea" and offered this revelation in Hokkien: "Seven star tea, oh, it's for children to help them burp, get rid of wind. Yes yes, sometimes it's got cockroaches and co

the breakfast club

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finally, #3 - click for larger view The "study corner" at the void deck of J's block of HDB fats in Toa Payoh Lorong 8 is a pretty happening place. Every morning, a group of some 8 to 10 ladies between the ages of 50 and 70 gather there without fail. I guess this is probably quite a common sight in HDB estates: housewives back from their morning trip to the market and stopping for a little chat that becomes a long gossip - and oh, since it's going to be a marathon session, they take out their morning shopping and start preparing their lunch there too! What amazes me is that this daily gathering takes place despite the noise and dust from all the "upgrading" works taking place around them. If the mechanical drilling and hacking is loud, they would just speak louder. Such persistence! I'll try to get a sketch of them one day...but meanwhile, here's the 3rd picture of the adventuring rabbit series. I've been trying out new styles and c

look Ma, wings!

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Adults need fairy tales - or so the publishing world has realised some time ago. I suppose if you were to market children's books, particularly picture books, your target audience is not the young reader with no $pending power, but the anxious parent and doting aunt who will be buying the book. So it was only natural that publishers and bookstores soon packaged these books, Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" for example, to the adult reader instead, "the young at heart". These books sit at the far borders of the graphic novel world, since their wisdom and moral universe are too saccharine. At Kinokuniya's Christmas/New Year discounts , I picked up a couple of books by Taiwan writer/illustrator Jimmy/幾米 Ji Mi. Aiyah, being a snob, I had ignored his books for a long time...until after the recent trip to Taipei . Taiwan's been in love with his dreamy, colourful children's book illustrations for several years. But since Hong Kong made these poor mo