Monday, June 26, 2006

Silent Night Quite Literally

Phobia was phenomenal! Think Hitchcock's movie Vertigo, in the film noir era, they used to film the show without sound first. The actors will then watch the silent film, and then coordinate the sound effects with the actions. Phobia showed the sound effects bit of the process, without the silent film in the background. Thus they recreated sounds like the breaking of bones by crushing celery sticks, or the soundscape of a library or restaurant, using everyday objects. It was brilliant!

We take the soundscape around us for granted. The sound of the MRT train cabin at 9:30pm Saturday night. People talking. Shoes shifting. The intercom in four languages. The swooshing of the speeding train. The sound of Citylink. The sound of slippers coming down the stairs. The sound of a lady walking, compared to the sound of a man walking. When we hear something, it instantly triggers a heuristic, a memory set, an automatic action. Layers upon layers of sounds intertwine into a set soundscape that we hear on a regular basis, and thus are able to filter it out.

Saturday was lovely. I closed my eyes in the busy MRT train cabin and just listened. Holding a can of green tea, I walked silently in Tanjong Pagar, the area I grew up in, and just listened to the thickness of sound around me. The chirping of insects. Jazz music from a near-by club. Metal doors from stores closing up for the night.

It brought back memories of me, 12 years old, playing trauant from Sunday service every Sunday, running along the concrete path towards the near-by hotel's pharmacy, and trying on make-up from sample palettes. It brought back memories of shopping in the supermarket, and giggling over strawberry flavour condoms along the aisles because we thought they were sweets. It brought back memories of Sunday luncheons in the grotty old hawker centre. It brought back some nostalgic smiles, but mostly painful memories. I have resisted coming to that area for eight years because of what it reminded me of, and now I feel like I have came full circle back. Not any older or wiser.

And all these just came from standing still in the darkness, and listening.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Bit of an Alkie, eh

Most of my friends drink a lot more when they are studying overseas because a) its cheaper and b) your dorm mate cares a lot less if you stumble home drunk than your parents. Being a freak of nature, I don’t seem to be able to indulge in any alcoholism overseas, but once I’m back in Singapore, I find it hard to count my alcohol free days. Not like I’m getting pissing drunk at all, just that I guess in Singapore it’s kinda a holiday for me and with meeting friends over 18 years old, our social transaction often happens over a cocktail. Oh and Singapore has ladies nights, which means free flow of alcohol.

So last night was my first time in a gay club and bar along the infamous Pink Triangle area of Keong Saik road right next to my old church. Happy (yes, pun pun) was swanky and big with intimate booths and a spacious dance floor. The bartenders were very friendly and the cocktails (I had a Happysexual) were about as strong as drinking a cup full of spirits neat. Noel and I later headed up to the cozier Mox with its retro inspired décor. Everything was brown and orange, very kampong style with wooden floor, a swing and a huge bed in the middle for some erm…….male-on-male action? The bellini was so yummy and strangely enough, sobered me up after that flammable Happysexual. We stumbled up to the attic of Mox where they were having an art exhibition. I was use to seeing scantily clad women posing in vulnerable fetal positions on the beach, or with a stalk of flower etc, so it was strange seeing naked men replace the woman’s position in those pictures. Interesting. It felt good being a gal in a gay bar because you are totally at ease. No one wants you. You know no one wants you. You don’t care if no one wants you. And you get to laugh at your straight guy friends getting hit on my other guys. I’ve already got a devious plan of who to bring there next.

It was suppose to be a play, not racial harmony day

Last Sunday I got the opportunity to watch Mobile, a Necessary Stage Production about foreign workers in Singapore and their suffering. A very relevant topic, I applaud their sincere intentions in opening the can of worms, but was stunned by how almost amateurish the production was. The plot lost its point almost immediately after the intermission, many of the scenes had no relevance to the topic and from a play about migration and foreign workers, it became a play about God and poverty.

Mobile is guilty of the same thing most Singapore theatre, mine little amateur piece included, is guilty of; clichéd symbolism and attempting to cram too many issues into one play without developing any of them. Using a highly technical form as an excuse for shallow characterisation and loosely tied narrative, Mobile tries to distract the audience with technicalities like a play within a play and intercultural mediums. It’s disturbing that 9 years after the likes of LEAR, a professional theatre company still needs to use pulling red cloth out from between your legs to symbolise abortion and rape. If I ran the National Arts Council, there would be a red cloth ban on all Singapore stages.

All in all, Mobile was like giving a literature or art history class in secondary school a stage and some very elaborate props and asking them to do a play on the futility of life. They might have done better. Who knows.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I’m sorry we are a rude country. Please forgive us. It isn’t our fault.

After more than a quarter century of courtesy campaigns, Singapore is still ranked at the bottom five of the Reader’s Digest courtesy survey. So we have campaigns to train us how to smile more so we can beam at our new IR visitors (Four Million Smiles Campaign), we have service staff incentive programs to teach us how to say please and thank you, and now the head of the Singapore Kindness Movement (what an awesome job he has) said that Singaporeans need to be reminded to be more courteous and that the courtesy message has to be reinforced to take root. So what excuses were given this time? One of them was “Hong Kong took years and years to get where they are today. It is possible for Singapore, we have shown ourselves to be a nation that succeeds if we put our mind to it.” Really? You know what Singapore is good for, giving ourselves excuses. We are unique case. We are so small. We don’t have a homogeneous population. We are still so young. We are a developing country. We have no resources. Our human resources and political stability are the most important. So because of all these factors that set us SO apart from other countries, its not our fault we have a one-party system, opposition wards should be down on the list for lift upgrading, freedom of speech is not allowed and oh, its also not our fault that we are rude. When ever there are business opportunities, suddenly we are a first class country, a world class nation, the oasis of a developed nation in the midst of south east asia. And then when faced with challenges and when failures are pointed in our faces, suddenly we are just a developing country and too young to be facing the competition. And the worst part is, we Singaporeans buy into all that crap. We are not a developing country anymore. We just use that as a security blanket to make up for how socially inapt we are. How different are we from Hong Kong? In what way have HK been given more years to be more polite then us? There are only two things we can do about it. Accept the fact that we are not the most polite society in the world and bloody move on with it! Do the French care that they are rude? No! Or we can accept that there is a deeper issue in society and through subtle education changes, inculcate the values of politeness to our children, and the results will be shown about 4 generations from now. Setting up courtesy campaigns, asking people to smile in front of a camera, banning chewing gum because people can’t dispose it properly and drawing little yellow boxes in front of MRT trains and reminding people in four languages to queue up behind the yellow line is seriously no different from training a bunch of monkeys to eat the yellow banana. Why don’t they fine us for not saying please and thank you too? No amount of foreign investment, integrated resorts and MICE tourist can make Singapore a better place if it doesn’t come from within. Smiling at a tourist, or waving at your boss or saying please to a customer is not courtesy. True courtesy is saying thank you to the hawker uncle, the cleaner, the rubbish collector and the sales girl. It’s holding the door for everyone and slowing down a bit to let people pass through first. Courtesy is not for improving the economy and attracting more visitors to Singapore so our GDP will increase. It is just to make someone else happy. And I think because Singapore forgot about the human equation in courtesy, it has completely missed the point.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Do we need a weeping girl icon to remind us of the atrocities happening everyday?

June is absolutely the best time I like to be in Singapore, Singapore Art's Festival and the Great Singapore Sale. And also its the school holidays so all the shopping centres will feature some "take photo with winnie the pooh/barney" sessions and my friends and I can stand there and laugh at the mascots.

I watched The Wall last Wednesday, something I have been looking forward to watching for some time. It was performed by the Al Kasaba Theatre and Cinematheque group from the Palestinian Territories, and uses folk songs and story telling techniques to convey the sense of entrapment and helplessness the Palestinians feel behind the wall. Although at some points the subtitles got lost and we were left totally clueless in Arabic, the simplistic narrative and childlike story telling was poignant and left a bittersweet aftertaste. Instead of dwelling on the politics, it focused on the human situation in Palestine. A man who hasn't seen his wife for 5 years and was repeatedly rejected when he tried to cross the wall to see her. The woman whose dress-making shop was repeatedly shut down by the Isreali authorities. The jockey who dreams of leaving Palestine with his animal but was thrown into jail. The numerous permits and checkpoints the Palestinians have to face when they want to get anywhere. With the recent haunting images of images of Huda Ghalia, the seven-year-old Palestinian girl who has been made the icon of Palestinian suffering after she lost her parents in a beach blast, this play was exceptionally symbolic to me.

Also because my last contact with the Middle-Eastern situation was at a Zionist talk at Upenn about the threat of Palestine to the Jewish nation through the proliferation of propaganda media. Admittedly I was there for the free pizza, but it left me wanting to know the other side of the situation. The tide and media favour has been in a stand still between the Palestinian and Israeli plight with the recent Qassam rocket attacks, the Gaza beach massacres and Hamas' refusal to renounce its call for Israel's destruction. Often as we get Middle-East conflict fatigue (because it is in the news everyday), it's easy to forget that no matter which side we want to take, there is a human live situation that we cannot ignore. No Palestinian or Israeli deserves to die. Or deserve to lose their family. And I think The Wall brought a fresh reminder of the human aspect in this conflict we so easily get all academic about.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dating a Coffee Addict

" Drinking tea is like foreplay, real coffee is like sex, and drinking Macdonald's coffee is like getting raped in the ass." ~ Bob and his OCD with the perfect coffee

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Shouldn't Be Allowed to Name My Kids

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk trying to put off cold calling a dozen journalists to come for a press conference, when I thought, if I started a magazine, I'll call it SHIT.

"Hi this is SHIT, who do you want to speak to?"

Imagine being a receptionist at that company. Imagine the name cards. Imagine telling your boyfriend's parents where you work. "I work for SHIT. Literally."

Then I started getting the giggles while thinking about it. So it was me sitting very still looking slightly constipated trying not to laugh.

The sister magazines could be called CRAP and POO. They would be the hottest magazines around man. Totally. I think its reasons like this why Mckinsey rejected my internship application.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Now For Channel Self-deprecation

Everyday at work I discover more about how naive, careless, ignorant, clueless, socially awkward, immature, rash and dumb I am. Suddenly all the A's and scholarships don't matter anymore if you can't update a spreadsheet accurately, or type a press release with no grammatical errors in it. Working is a throughly humbling experience that has nothing to do with how well I do in class.

And scruffy. Looking at the elevator mirror today, I decided I look scruffy. No matter how hard I try, I can never be one of those poised women with cement-perfect hair, botoxed-perfect make up, starched white shirts and icy cold detachment. I look more like a cartoon character than a Madame Tussaud cutout on Tatler. I mean, I couldn't go to a bar without knocking fruit punch over my friends and stuttering in front of the bartender. Oh well.

Bumped into my ex-boyfriend's sister at the Shell press conference today. It has been about two and a half years since I last saw her. It was alot less awkward than how I imagined it to be. It was good to meet her and we caught up briefly. It's always so weird to meet your ex or people from your ex's life. It's like dying and bumping into your physical self. Or getting into a coma and waking up in 2060. It's like a movie where you were in every scene, and suddenly the producer took you out and fast forwarded the movie. And then you watch the end of the movie and find it hard to follow the story because of a memory lapse. That kind of surreal "whao-the-last-time-I-saw-you-you-were-a-guy" kind of forced amnesia. Is that a universal feeling or am I just weird?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Singing Waterloo Here

Funniest thing I have read in some time:

This is in response to the May 31st article in the Financial Times about the chief executive of TeliaSonera, a Swedish telecoms company, being charged with bribery after inviting clients to see the musical Mamma Mia.


Being subjected to two hours of the Abba musical Mamma Mia
is not a bribe – it’s a form of discipline (and possibly aesthetic torture).

Chris Dillion

I don’t know who Chris is, but I am with him on that one.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

12 Hours Now It Is Night At Home

I sit by the window on a clear sunday afternoon finishing some work, and listening to sometime I haven't heard for over a month; my Full Measure acapella Not For Nothing CD. I recognise a few of my friend's voices. And I think back about America. And I start tearing. I am so far away. I think of my friends thousands of miles and across oceans away. It's 12:57am now in philly. Some people are out at Marbar, or Lamda. Or in town. Or at Philly diner. And I think about that empty spot I use to stand in, or empty chair I use to sit in. Across the sky, some of them are in bed, or still in huntsman studying. I think of my favourite computer terminal staring across the empty courtyard. It would be summer now. And suddenly I am overwhelmed by a great sense of lost.

Trying to Make a New York Out of a Singapore

When you end up eating, drinking, shopping and clubbing at the same places everyday, you know you have been in that country for too long. In Singapore, its always Soup Restaurant/Cafe Cartel/Crystal Jade/Marmalade Pantry for food, Tango's for drinks, Far East for shopping and Zouk for clubbing.

So back from the US, I decided to rediscover some new charm in my old country to satisfy my eternal tourist mentality. With new friends come new places to eat.

Ember at Hotel 1929 Keong Saik Area:
After a rather disappointing meal at the Marmalade Pantry, Ember provided a less "I''m trying to upholster my sofa like a Tod's handbag"environment with a more simplistic "Be here for the food, families are invited" type thing. The cod was sweet, the veal's cheek tasted like very nice hash and the winner was the wasabi mayo drizzled soft shell crab. It wasn't oily, it wasn't dry, it was perfect and meaty.

Pepper Lunch in Takashimaya/Plaza Sing:
There's a reason why I ate there for two meals in less than 24 hours. It is that good. A cross between claypot rice, terpanyaki, bibimbap and hotplate sirloin, this comes to you in a hotplate that is heated up to 26oC, and stays hot throughout your meal. Rice, half cooked beef, sauce, corn, pepper and butter are on your dish, and you stir it up and cook it while you eat. So good. I think the wait staff already recognise me.

AlleyBar at Peranakan Place:
I met the most attentive hostress there who bothered to search the entire bar for us just to sit us down in a cozy little corner. The lychee magaritas are yummy, and comes with real lychees so at least you are getting some fruit intake as you drink.

Butterfactory near MS:
The walls are surrounded by Happy Tree Friend's like cartoon wallpaper except without the morbidity. The drinks are strong, the music is pretty good and the crowd is yuppie-ish. Oh and the girls are good looking. And will hit on guys. A swarm of girls broke into our dancing circle and dragged my guy friend away to dance. Fun.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Yes I Am That Stupid Snowball....

I tried to reassure myself that I was just tired and not genetically predisposed to stupidity, but this clinches the blond joke of the year award. I was trying to call my mum using the office phone, but instead of her number, I kept punching in my own hand phone number. And so my hand phone rang. I picked up my hand phone, not recognising who was calling it, and the “person” calling me put down. A little fazed, I did the same thing again, called my own hand phone, pick up my hand phone, put down my office phone and got spooked that some one was calling me and hanging up. Pissed off that I was getting prank calls, I used my hand phone to call back the number that was calling it. And my office phone rang. Now you would think that I would get the connection now that I have been calling myself. But no I did not. I got even angrier that now even my office phone is ringing. It was only after about 8 times of trying to answer two phones that I finally drew the connection that I was calling myself. I really shouldn’t be allowed to interact with normal people because I might contaminate all your gene pools with stupidity. And of course now I am dumb enough to publicize this stupid event to everyone.