Well, it wasn’t really without any leisure reading. For example, one book which I did start on during a work trip to Auckland in early October 2019 – and finished last week – delightfully explores which animals also fart. (Thanks for the gift, Bryce!)
Being a reader used to be part of my identity. Books used to fill the interstices of my life. Now, those are stuffed full by bits and bytes from football websites and articles recommended by social media (I favour Reddit, but don’t participate except to upvote worthy items, such as many from r/NatureIsFuckingLit, pardon me). I still like reading, but I’ve not read a book that made me put off sleep – which used to be a not uncommon occurrence – since I read the Chinese web novel turned hit drama 琅琊榜, the second volume of which I had to finish before I took off my spectacles and turned over, tired from the sadness in the book. But although I did not read many books, there were experiences that still made me want to write about them, and so here they are.
A JJ Lin concert
2019 was a year in which, so impressed by JJ Lin’s performances on variety shows, which I caught on my many YouTube binges, I got my brother to join me for the second night of his concerts in Singapore, even though I was not by any measure a fan, being unfamiliar with probably 80% of his oeuvre, a fact which struck me several times while I was sitting on the very basic plastic chairs on the National Stadium pitch, buffeted from the ground by the deep vibrations of the thunderous sound system, so loud I wondered if the hearing of those in the front rows survived – I am surprised mine seemed to have, and in fact my tinnitus is gone, possibly because I am now deaf to my tinnitus even. Have plonked the set list for this particular night below:
[1st break. Every time I am at a concert, at the first break, I remember something that happened at a Sandy Lam concert I enjoyed. At a break – this was near the end of the concert, rather than at the start – the lead drummer played a little part of a song, like a chord or two, then stopped. It was a very familiar song, one of Sandy Lam’s big hits, a duet with Jonathan Lee, but the audience wasn’t expecting it, and drumming doesn’t necessarily convey the tune of the song easily, so there was no reaction. Then the drummer drummed out a longer part of it, then stopped. And a longer part, waving his hands, and we got the message – he wanted us to sing along. And sing along we did – the indoor stadium crowd gave a joyous, at times jumbled, but wholehearted version of 当爱已成往事, the love theme of Farewell My Concubine, until the drummer bashed out one final flourish to welcome back on stage the only person we would have preferred to be singing at that time, and we lapsed back into listening mode.]
- Always online
- （with 阿杜）坚持到底
- 记得 [I used to think JJ Lin depended too much on the way he arranged his music to make his songs sound good. As proof, I played my pal A Mei’s version of this song, and then JJ Lin’s version of this song, and my pal agreed that, come to think of it, played side by side like that, JJ Lin did emphasise the string instruments a tad. I thought this was enough to make the artifice too showy. At that time.]
- 输了你赢了世界又如何 [Then I heard JJ Lin’s version of this song. His own arrangement. His very own, rock-star version of a classic, the original version of which is immaculate but still standard fare placed beside this incandescence.]
- White Christmas
- Show the world
A card shop at the corner of Junction 8
I saw this composite picture, and immediately remembered a card shop at a corner of Junction 8, where there is now a restaurant, probably a fast food restaurant, and felt so sad about the time that had passed, and the paucity of stuff I buy cards for now, and the stuff I could have done in all that intervening time. Gosh that was a while ago.
I missed her birthday last year, the first time I ever had since I knew her. Then one ordinary Tuesday in October, she made an unexpected appearance in a dream. Even as I sobered up on hearing the alarm the details were sinking back into dream murk, but I remember I had bought three things for her, three, but I couldn’t remember what they were, though one was in an A4-sized box, like a stack of printer paper. The place was an almost deserted Jurong East bus interchange, from school days, sort of near where she used to live. I stopped by to talk to an acquaintance, and then suddenly she walked by; she also knew the acquaintance, and stopped; they were together. I said her name, and when she did not hear me – I was sure with dream certainty that she did not hear me – I said it again, and when she did not hear me again, I handed over what I had gotten for her. Writing this down, I realise that I did not hear her voice; she did not say anything, just looked mildly puzzled, and keen to go about her original business. And I as usual simply left.
I am a Liverpool fan, of the vintage that will always think John Barnes would keep even the currently en fuego Sadio Mane out of the team. Liverpool are as of this very moment doing extremely well. And the comms nut that I am, I cannot get over the clear difference between the highlights which the losing team showed, those which the winning team did.
Cinema Paradiso, and a poem
By happy accident, Facebook alerted me that my cousin-in-law and erstwhile classmate back in Primary School – fate is weird like that – had played the theme from Cinema Paradiso. I loved how it sounded, and got to searching YouTube for other performances of the theme, and came across this one of the theme’s composer Ennio Morricone conducting a bravura performance, accompanied by probably the most beautiful poem I’ve ever read.
Dreaming Water – Rhina Espaillat
I woke up this damp day
thinking of Venice:
how lapping water
smoothed into grace a garment
of old stones, put on
Bridges curved like the small of
the spine arched over
that gilded their knees with quick
coins of shifting light.
My bones dreamt water;
and I thought of green-dappled
ceilings glimpsed from our
gondola, the sea
domestic in its stone gloves.
I think Stefanie Sun has the effect of enhancing any piece of music she lends her voice to. As an example, witness her collaboration with Mayday, courtesy of the magic that is YouTube recommendations: