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Showing posts from April, 2007

syndromes and half a century

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We had planned to watch these films at the 20th Film Fest but caught only Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century Friday night. That morning we had gone to the Bright Hill Temple where Ma J was cremated to collect her ashes, place the bones (laid out on a metal trolley covered with a plastic sheet) into a bright yellow and rectangular urn, and to carry that urn to stacks and tight rows of the same - a library of completed lives. For J and I, we are, as J puts it, sad but relieved for Ma J . You could say Ma J dying did not take anyone by surprise. When she was hospitalised last Saturday for a heart attack, the doc had warned that should her heart would fail, he would not be able to resuscitate it. So for the next 24 hours, relatives all had a chance to visit with an unusually lucid Ma J. Death has no syndrome. If not, these would be its most likely signs - or so others who recounted similar stories of their ailing and aged (grand)parents dying had said. Just

imitation goods

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"one day, the great wall" On our way to brunch - J: Hey look [ pointing at a rain tree across the road ], that tree looks like a bonsai! Y: Er, there's something wrong with what you just said... J: What? Don't you think it looks like a bonsai? Y: That's a - [ pauses to count ] 8-storey tall rain tree - J: So? Y: So? A bonsai is made to look like a giant tree, you're not supposed to say a tree looks like a bonsai! J: ... But I guess trees in Singapore are so regularly pruned, their lower branches sawed off and their crowns shaped, such that they are - like bonsais - bearing the marks of man's imitative art. I will always remember my sister, then aged 5, asking " cheche , what is rice made of? flour?" And in my head, the picture of a factory line of women, their mouths under a mask and hands in gloves, dutifully shaping the tiny white grains we know as rice from mountains of dough.

a tale of 2 cities (Part II)

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You could say Singapore bears many resemblances to Penang. Both islands were important pieces of the British empire's economy and both cities today wear their colonial past without any complicated postcolonial unease . In the case of Penang, many of the colonial structures remain government offices. This used to be also the case in Singapore, but we have succumbed to their more lucrative use as hotels, restaurants and - or the simplistic re-use of monuments as museums. Theirs line their esplanade. Many of ours, too, used to line our esplanade - but not since our esplanade has been redrawn post reclamation. In a region where the Chinese and Indian are not native, both cities' population are represented disproportionately by these 2 ethnicities. The "fusion" shophouse architecture of both cities bears the complicity of this migrant population with the colonisers. But of course, being migrants, both populations also found the need to stake out their respective enclaves

out of office

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What us amps don't seem to think we have too much of appear to be islands ! So friends, I set the out-of-office message on my work email a couple of minutes ago, and together with J and Ma Y, we'll be hopping on to this island along the straits of Malacca in the morning. It'll the first time we've taken Ma Y out overseas, but hey, I figured we had better do this while she is healthy and fit. No laptop this time. But J's got his camera and I my $4 notebook. We promise some kind of island report after the weekend. And if the reputation of Penang holds true, it'll be a gastronomical report.

man

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Stealing from J's photoblog (image by J): "managed to catch 'F' at the first free screening of this year's Singapore International Film Festival . 'F' is a documentary about this guy whose passion for films has driven him to extremes and the edge of sanity (which is what some might say). If you are a film buff, you would catch him at most of the film festivals in singapore, talking to anyone and everyone who passes his way about films and handing them a review or two of this or that film. Toh Hai Leong is also the director of the mockumentary called 'Zombie Dog'. I recall in the documentary, one of the interviewees said that one of the audience he showed "Zombie dogs" to complained that he wanted to watch the actual movie, and insisted that the film he just watched iwas only the 'making of...'. You be the judge of it, if you are able to get hold of a copy itself. Toh was diagnosed with Diabetic Type I or II (he can't r

I don't want to sleep alone

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A certain pattern is now clear in Tsai Ming Liang's films. A dystopian view of the city. Empty houses, apartments - even the half-built carcass of an entire complex whose basement is filled up like a lake. Water sustaining and connecting us but also carrying our diseases, our fears and our thirsts/desires. Food and drink - never an elaborate meal, not an occasion for social interaction and togetherness - but always consumed on the sly, alone, whether perfunctorily or hungrily. The little absurd and comic things we do when we are alone to fill up the silences and spaces, or just to get by - to breathe amidst the haze, to sleep amidst the ruins. And of course, sex - always the desperate seeking of strange bodies - alien to us but familiar in our alone-ness. Against all this, there is music, always nostalgic and perfect in its sentimentalism, a romance, the sweetest of escapes. With his latest film I Don't Want to Sleep Alone , I think Tsai has distilled all these elements into

dream community

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This morning I was strangely awake despite the short sleep and perhaps because it was a dreamless sleep. On the train to work, I read in the Mar/Apr issue of Art Asia Pacific an article about Gordon Tsai Tsung Ming and his dream community or 夢想社區. A farmer's son in Hsichih (Taipei County), a place previously devastated by floods, Gordon Tsai had a dream about a community completely energised by the arts - not necessarily the kind in museums, but of the street and parades. 5 years ago he also created a dream parade , and with his own money (supposedly US$500k per year), creates residencies for foreign and Taiwanese artists, and organises workshops and activities for the community. According to the article, he's a businessman (real estate?) and "anyone interested in one of his apartments must sign a contract agreeing to 3 conditions: a prospectivetenant must go to a worldwide arts festival...and return with photographs documenting his or her participation; the tenant nee