Archive by Author

It’s been a while…

16 Aug

and I’m typing this on a new-ish Bluetooth keyboard which I’d bought after convincing myself that it would make me blog more. I have gotten to the point that I’m disgusted with myself for not writing, for not reading, for – in fact – spending any spare time racking up levels in an admittedly addictive video game while listening and re-listening to some favourite podcast episodes. The lack of meaningful interaction with words has finally gotten unbearable.

Pessimist: And this will be another blog post in a series of really infrequent blog posts.

Optimist: I will plan blog posts in advance! The next one will be about my favourite podcasts.

Realist who does not want to be a wet blanket: Let’s see how long this lasts.

Rummaging through my “to be blogged” list, I find

  • The first nightmare I have had in a while. Even one or two years back, I would still have occasional dreams in which I did not prepare for school. I can’t remember the details, but they were about not preparing for exams or some embarrassing situation that arose because I was not prepared, and often came during periods of stress at work. It amused me that I did not dream about the stressful work situations or something else at work instead, and I thought more than once that I just missed school, and my dreamer-self did not want to totally traumatise me by situating the dream in the scary scary work world, this after more than 10 years of work, which – come to think of it – is less than the 16 years I’ve spent in school. This most recent nightmare though was finally in the context of work. It was a major international event, something unexpected but which I was still expected to be prepared for happened, and I had to give a speech in front of a big audience which included my boss’s bosses. For some reason I had no draft for the speech, and for some other reason I was calm about it in the dream, as if I knew. The dream ended before I had to go on stage.
  • A stormy night. It was some weeks ago now, but I think this was on the first workday after the weekend, in the very early morning, when the skies crackled with lightning so bright I thought it was time to wake up, and the thunder which followed was so loud it could be felt in the bones, like jarring smashes on the walls of the house. The storm was over before long, but judging by the audio-visual display it was the most intense I’ve experienced in many years.
  • Something funny. I use my iPhone as a watch a lot of the time, and a lot of the time when I am using it – browsing the Internet or Twitter timeline etc. – I just look at the top of the phone for the time. So a few weeks back, while reading an honest-to-goodness book, I wanted to know how long I’d been doing that, and glanced at the top edge of the page I was reading. It took me several instants to figure out what had gone wrong / what I had expected to find there, but when I did, I couldn’t help chuckling and then marvelling at my thickheadedness.
  • My favourite episode of 99% Invisible. Ever since it came out, my favourite episode had been Higher and Higher, because the image of the two friends-turned-rivals competing to build the tallest structure in the world and one sneakily constructing a spire *within* his “growing” building that gave it the winning peak was just so compelling. But now it is my second favourite episode, after All in Your Head, which is about how horror movie music is made. So good.

Kit Chan and emptying out my “to be blogged about” folder

16 Jun

I watched Kit Chan sing last Saturday, and there are seven things I remember from the concert.

1. She started with a slightly trancey version of 担心, which was highly unsatisfactory, since that song is in the top three of my favourite Kit Chan songs when sung like it was originally sung.

2. She sang both the Chinese and English versions of Home, and the arrangement managed to be more soothing than emotional, and maybe it was also because it was sort of at the unremarkable two-third (?) point of the concert, but my friend who said that she would cry at the concert and think of Mr Lee if Kit Chan sang Home did not. The bits of white lights studded throughout the sellout crowd waving along as she sang made a real spectacle though. There was to be no real climax during the whole concert.

3. She was super-comfortable with the audience, chill and relaxed, never more than when she sang Marilyn Monroe’s My Heart Belongs to Daddy, which, Kit Chan recounted, her secondary school teacher persuaded her and her fellow songstresses from school to perform (with the appropriate moves apparently) at a fundraising event in front of many older guys. She thought it was a little off.

4. She sang 是谁在敲打我窗 是谁在撩动琴弦 (I can’t remember now if she sang more than this, but definitely at least these two lines). At the next interval (the concert was peppered with banter, very enjoyable), she explained that after watching the scene in which Tony Leung and Andy Lau share a *moment* listening to these two lines, she had been wanting to sing just these two lines at her concert someday.

5. She also sang 天冷就回来; Leslie Cheung’s 左右手 and ; Stefanie Sun’s 尚好的青春; Jacky Cheung’s 原来只要共你活一天. And once the usual concert issues like over-loud instruments wore off and her voice warmed up, she sang so well.

6. She sang 我真的爱错 perfectly, and I rediscovered that I love the song, the lilting tenor bits accompanied by the sad lonely guitar strums. My friend smiled so widely when she announced it was her next song, and sat back to enjoy it.

7. So, even though she has many more-than-listenable songs and even I’d say more outstanding covers, one of her songs stays in my brain, partly because it’s so dramatic and partly because the lyrics conjure an image of someone luxuriating in the emptiness of her lost love (drama right?). And at this point somewhere in the middle of her concert, she started talking about a type of song called 芭喇歌, which are essentially ballads, and there is a type of song which is essentially a ballad, but with tightly packed words sung in a 洒狗血 (spray dog blood, literally) fashion. So I took this type of song to mean a power ballad basically overflowing with drama, which was why I was not so surprised when that turned out to be the preamble for my favourite Kit Chan song 炫耀. And she sang it the way I wanted it to be sung.

Not about the Kit Chan concert

I really enjoyed how 江美琪’s fans made her cry/sing/shine in this video.

A couple more songs from the senseless score of my life, plucked from my half-awake mind as I zombie-lurch to the bathroom at 6am:

4 December 2014 – 龙卷风

26 March 2015 – 春娇与志明

And one day in April, on the 7th to be exact, my dad made for our dining pleasure some soup with duck and salted vegetables and tomatoes which was yummy, and a potato and sliced pork stir-fried in brown gravy which he had been improving. I am a very fortunate son.

I’ve amassed quite a few tumblers in my time at work, some I bought, some colleagues gave. I don’t use them, preferring to use a CNA mug. That’s a quite a few – which, surprise surprise, means the same as quite a lot – of tumblers I don’t use i.e. vessels I don’t fill, which immediately got me thinking about how substanceless I maybe am.

9 thoughts I had while I was not blogging

29 Sep

1. [22 September] So today, in my fourth week in emy new department, which is one floor down on the sixth floor, I pressed 7 in the lift. Apparently a muscle memory built up over the last two years takes over when I’m in automaton mode.

2. [In a cab on the way to work, passing by Yishun Avenue 1 going towards the expressway, looking left] The clouds today are like fog-shrouded hilltops seen from a nearby peak. One can see which is nearer, and which further, and the nearest one actually looks approachable.

3. [About a coffee start-up near the workplace; I will call it X] The coffee in X really isn’t very good – this is after trying maybe 20-plus lattes from the place, generally around 8 in the morning, when sometimes I’d see my friend’s mum alight from her other daughter’s car – in particular compared to lattes from Symmetry (the only food I’ve tried from the place is the crispy baby squid – it looks cute written like that, not in the least edible – and it’s so good).

4. [About my normal day, and the song-list in my head) My alarm is set for 6.05am. I usually wake up a bit earlier than that. When I actually get off my bed and zombie-slouch-walk my way to wash up, there is usually a song in my head. For a few weeks it was the same 许茹芸 song. On 24 September, it was 那些年. The next day, the One Night in Beijing chorus caught me unawares. And on 26 September it was – I took a while to pin it down, my brain was playing only snatches – Pharrell Williams’ Happy. And today, it was the music accompanying this FANTASTIC and violent fight scene in 杀破狼.

5. [On my first MRT ride in some weeks] I had forgotten what it is like to ride the MRT as a routine – there are people you expect to see, and stories you begin to make up about them. The harried mum with two always sleepy, always not-quite-kempt children, the boy with a repaired cleft lip who is more tolerant than his older sister of his mother’s nudges to wake up when they reach Bishan. From this, my brother and I thought their family situation must be difficult. But I do not think of them during that MRT ride, because I see a motorcycle with lime-green spokes and it falls behind the MRT and I keep waiting for it to catch up.

6. [During a lull in a busy period in August] Huh – I haven’t changed the month on my calendar since May.

7. The nasi lemak from that corner stall at the Old People’s Park Food Centre is lousy.

8. But the nutella crepe – made by a lady from Saybons (I didn’t know they did catering) – is perfect.

9. A long time ago, I learnt about fastest plane in the world, faster than the F15 or the F16, with the highest cruising altitude: the Blackbird. And recently I came across this totally amazing story about someone who test-piloted this plane for a living.

Flex again, and stuff I want to remember

27 Apr

I have not written or read for myself for a long time, it seems. I think part of it is that I’ve become addicted to the sheer availability of reading material online – plain old books now seem too uncertain a proposition.

I did read Caroline Paul’s Lost Cat recently – it was short enough that after reading the blurb I was confident there would be no unpleasant surprises. It’s supposed to be a true story about what happened after the author got into a plane crash – she helpfully clarifies it was an experimental plane – and I read it in an hour and a bit, not including the time I used to make sure I was not going to the miss the lip of the escalator (I would have, by a couple of feet, if I hadn’t looked up), and the time I tried to prolong the book, after I realised it was ending in a few pages. I found it to be an interesting look into how pet-owners see their pets and how people come to terms with the life of their significant other. I also enjoyed the funny drawings which accompanied the story; I remember that I came to know about the book through Wendy MacNaughton’s blog, and her art was one of the reasons I looked forward to the book. One line early in the book stuck with me; it set a tone I could identify with: Every day I expected Wendy to lean in, whisper that she’d had enough, and walk out the door. And who would have blamed her? We hadn’t been together long enough to justify this kind of burden.

***

Some weeks ago, a few days after the first rain in a long spell and the inevitable flight of the large black winged ants, many of which got attracted to the lights in my kitchen, I heard a chorus of frog croaks. And as I think back on it now, it was a muted chorus, just a few frogs, and soft. There was a time when frogs and toads were not an uncommon sight in my garden on wet nights, and it’s a little strange, but I can’t remember if the chorus had been louder then.

***

In Ottawa, again relative yonks ago (August 2013), I saw a garishly lit-up stretch limo which had been converted into a roving casino. Think there was one person in there.

***

On 3 March this year I had my most vivid dream in a while. I was in a neat and pristine army bunk, a modern flat of a bunk, nothing like the poorly ventilated, poorly lit room I had lived in for a good portion of my life while I was doing national service, the sort of room that somehow stayed dirty and grimy no matter how one cleaned it. And an erstwhile bunkmate was there with me, and we were discussing how a big shot was going to inspect the place, and how the new four-to-a-bunk regime made it infinitely easier to prepare for the inspection than the old many-to-a-bunk arrangement. He was quiet, now that I think about it, but smiled more than when I last saw him, or remembered. And slowly with no warning I realised the room was too bright, and I never had a four-to-a-bunk sort of bunk, and he was smiling altogether too much, and I could see him too clearly – and then I woke up, unsure of what time of the day it was, half-remembering that it was evening, that I had just taken my customary weekend late afternoon nap, and then after an effort, and checking the time, I realised it was morning, and I had just awoken from a late night, having dreamt of a fellow Sim who had been dead for more than 17 years, and whom I never really knew that well.

***

Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the Men in Black movies, told a very funny story in the 1 March 2014 edition of the news game show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!. (I was going to transcribe it all, but it’s already all there at the link – you can listen, or you can read, or you can listen and read.)

***

I was in Salt Lake City not so recently (just checked – it’s amazingly almost half a year ago in November 2013). And while I was there I ordered these earphones. Because I couldn’t be sure they would reach my hotel before I left for Singapore, I paid the shipping fee. The merchant sent me an email with a link that allowed me to track the package on its way to Singapore. So I did. The first stop for the package was to Salt Lake City. Nice coincidence. Then, when I stopped in San Francisco for a couple of days and checked the link again, I found that the package had been sent to San Francisco. And from there of course it followed me to Singapore. Brilliant. What’s more brilliant: I came to learn that the same earphones, but without the mic I did not want, were available for way less on a special offer.

***

It was good to do some personal writing again. I can feel the atrophied muscles start to grudgingly slough off their stiffness as I flex just a little bit.

I Am Pilgrim

5 Jan

The colleague who was my Secret Santa for Christmas 2013 got me I Am Pilgrim, a book that I think I first read about on Guardian. (I really need to track where these recommendations come from, for my reference and future enjoyment.)

I wanted a good thriller, and got 700 pages’ worth – with the 9/11 attack as a very present backdrop, and the promise of a worse eruption of terror, narrated in the first person by a haunted and brilliant protagonist, studded with observant and unsparing detail and surprisingly sympathetic characters. The writing took some getting used to – I thought it was stilted in the beginning – and there was some grandstanding, Hollywood-ish moments (which sort of makes sense since the author is a former screenwriter), but it was a satisfying read, which I finished in one sitting (this afternoon and evening).

Probably the best thing is that the ending – with a master criminal still at large and the protagonist accept his calling in life – all but guarantees that this will be the first in a series :)

P/S. Another colleague got me a really cool bookmark; I used it three times before I finished the book.

Salt Lake City and flakes of snow I did not see

2 Dec

In Salt Lake City, I saw no lakes, but I did see a gray day, mist descending upon the streets, and a bright day, with smears of clouds and sun-rays that made the cold crisp and clear, and the colder aftermath of a storm I’d slept through, stained sidewalks and puddles and gusts of condensed breaths, all from the inside of the hotel, the most luxurious I’ve ever stayed at, where my colleagues and I met with other folks and talked and talked.

***

These days I seem to only read proper books during my work trips. I finished two and a half of them this time round. One was Kathleen Jamie’s collection of essays, one of which was about a trip to see auroras and which I thought was a work of beauty, something I literally gasped at, and which was generous, because she described stuff in a way that made me think, she really wants you to see and feel what she does. I want you to read it and take it in in all its context and be happy, but I also want to share a bit of it with you, so here’s a bit of it:

Luminous green, teal green, the aurora borealis glows almost directly overhead. It intensifies against the starry night like breath on a mirror, and it moves. Across the whole sky from east to west, the green lights shift and alter. Now it’s an emerald veil, now with a surge it remakes itself into a swizzle which reach toward some far-away place in the east.

***

Apart from being a stunningly lyrical essayist, Kathleen Jamie is also a poet. And talking about poets, I found one, I can’t remember whom or where from, but I found a good one who writes about commonplace things and is supremely accessible. (This makes a difference to literalist me.) Check out Billy Collins, and his poem The Lanyard. I enjoyed how the poem sort of does a slow little pirouette to end off.

***

And this year, I also discovered Ken Liu and his stories which often mix in some aspect of Chinese typography or myth or history to poignant effect. How wonderful, that some of them are freely available. Like Mono no aware. (Gravity fans (i.e. those who like the movie starring Bullock and Clooney, not those who ensure the feel of weight) should especially enjoy it. I wouldn’t know – I haven’t watched Gravity yet.)

***

A couple of months back, I heard a song on the radio. It was a sad Chinese pop ballad, and at first I could not place the familiar voice. Then it hit a clear high note, and I realised it was 张信哲. When I got over the voice, these lyrics stayed with me.

飞机起飞之后 我的笑容永不再相同 (After the plane lifts off, my smile will no longer be the same)

Somehow, in Chinese, it’s more poetic.

***

This year, I discovered many many things about myself. One of these is that I always ruin my candles. You know, those that fill up jars? I always drop matches in them, or add in potpourri petals and bits to see how they would smell burnt, or the wick would shorten to an untenable length. Then, the candles get neglected and then the neglect becomes abandonment.

***

Also quite recently, I heard the first few piano plonks of Jewel’s Foolish Games, and immediately knew what song it was and remembered that I hadn’t heard it for many yonks, that it had been big when I was in my first year of university and that I had thought the world of its lyrics and her singing. Listening to it this time, Jewel sounded strident and pretentious, instead of raw and heartfelt. I don’t think the song has aged well.

Or maybe it’s my taste that hasn’t.

 

For my friends who like Calvin and Hobbes

23 Sep

allow me to introduce… Hobbes and Bacon!

Strip 1

Strip 2

Strip 3

and, sadly, the last strip.

Also sadly, it seems that the folks who did this and also their own Pants are Overrated did their last comic strip in October 2011.

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