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

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.

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Miscellany (12 Aug 2013)

The distance between armchairs at lunch and scenes from Before Midnight

A few days ago I had lunch with a colleague. This was again at the TCC at Central, with the mini armchairs that always make me wish I could settle more deeply into one but that would end up with me too far from the table and the meal and definitely too far for conversation. Come to think of it, this is also the issue in the typical Starbucks store – hm… “store” seems not particularly suitable for a Starbucks place; let’s use “location”, which is antiseptically neutral but accurate enough – this is also the issue in the typical Starbucks location in Singapore, which nowadays feels packed and spacious at the same time and is sprinkled with comfy yet low-maintenance sofas and armchairs and a place to feel like you want to feel comfortable in, but it’s tough because the instinct is to sit opposite each other, which places you too far apart, and sitting next to each other results in the sort of dynamic that also happens when two people watch a movie, which is similarly side-by-side self-directed focused enjoyment of the scenes unfolding before you, which only occasionally merit staccato bursts of mutual sideways looks and exchanges for the purpose of ascertaining that the other person feels the same way about the scene that you do. (There were lots of these when my pal and I watched Before Midnight, whose script I found topnotch and intensely engrossing. There is the opening scene where Jesse sends off his son with entirely and understandably too many promises. And then there is the scene in which Jesse and Celine drive back to their Greek holiday villa and quarrel the way significant others who can plot out the meanders of each other’s lines of argument quarrel, during which Jesse eats a half-eaten green apple which one of his twin daughters have yet to finish and said daughter wakes up and blearily asks for said half-eaten green apple and in so doing keeps the quarrel from boiling over. Then come the scenes of Greek meal preparation in which Celine helps her hosts stuff peppers with stuff that made me hungry, interspersed with scenes of Jesse testing the (pretentious) concepts for his next novel with an old fellow writer and a couple of fans, and then the dinner scene in which various models of love (including the model in which both parties know break-up is certain at some point in time, being young and independent and having no need for the sort of committed companionship and partnership that marriage is) and couplehood (including the model in which the party who dies second continues to think of what the party who dies first would say if he is still around) are discussed and bickered over and there is the continuation of the couple’s quarrel in the car, leading to a sharp rise in temperature then a very welcome drop in same as those around the table deftly conduct some reconciliation and set up the finale (Celine’s and Jesse’s hosts insisting on taking care of the twins while the couple enjoy a night at this hotel). Then there are the long takes where Celine and Jesse just walk and talk and walk and talk as if we are not there (in a way that movies, which by definition presuppose an audience, are usually too self-aware to show), and the scene in which Celine and Jesse check into the hotel and Jesse is asked to autograph some books by a fan and Celine too and Jesse obliges and Celine doesn’t want to until Jesse says out loud that yes Celine would be happy to and she does so in a way that hides her true fury from the fan and sends a clear message to her husband. Then comes the climax-which-felt-like-it-lasted-half-the-movie, in which the quarrel escalates into an emotionally violent argument with its own rhythm and plot about sex and gender roles and one partner’s success and guilt which is absurd yet raw and real, and lastly the scene in which there is some much longed-for time travel. There were points where my pal and I laughed together, and winced and cringed and flinched together, and after it ended, I felt – in no particular order – deeply relieved, tired and satisfied yet determined not to put myself through this movie again, solidly impressed with the chemistry and generosity of the actors in working out the script and then in acting out the script, and oddly optimistic about the future of Celine and Jesse as a couple.)

***

Crime book dichotomies

And I had thought that we discussed it during the lunch, but now I remember that the colleague and I had discussed books on the way to lunch. She asked what I was doing that long weekend – I said reading and spring cleaning, the latter of which I haven’t done, at all – and she then asked what books I liked to read and mentioned she liked crime books by James Patterson and Jeffrey Deaver and I replied I read crime books too but preferred PD James and Ruth Rendell and stumbled over myself trying to articulate the differences I saw in the crime books she liked and the ones I liked and, after dropping the too easy and slightly inaccurate action vs. procedural dichotomy, arrived at the international/cosmopolitan vs. little town/village dichotomy.  (And after reading Ruth Rendell’s dense and quite brilliant Harm Done, whose commentary on a vulnerable class (battered women, and women in general to a lesser extent) reminded me of Donna Leon’s The Golden Egg (which focused on one horrendously treated child), I find I have to consider also the popcorn plot vs. social commentary dichotomy.)

***

Love = capable of causing pain

Before Midnight came up again in a discussion with another colleague – we had exchanged books (Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl for me and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go for her) – who, after I mentioned the movie required a lot of emotional investment and was raw and not something I’d want to watch again, said it sounded so sad. I thought about that a bit, and concluded that for me the movie is not sad overall, but certainly the parts where Celine and Jesse show that each knows exactly where the other has poorly healed wounds to messily and thoroughly unscab – those parts are sad in the sense people who love each other so deeply are in the best position to cause that commensurate pain and sometimes fully aware they do just that, harshly jerking away the scabs and precisely salting the exposed parts.

***

7/8

This year, 7 Aug came with some warning – in that it was the day before a four-day weekend and therefore had stuck in my mind for other reasons than the usual, which I have more or less forgotten – and perhaps leading up to the day I had thought however fleetingly about what that date used to mean to me, so on the day itself I found myself humming 优客李林’s 输了你,赢了世界又如何, which had come out around the time the date meant the most.

***

A three-inch diameter ear-stud

Recently I got a seat on the MRT on the way to work. And while listening to my favourite podcast on my ear-buds (which by the way is an activity I seem to have become addicted to; I think the fundamental attraction to me is the ability to choose the world I alone want to experience), I saw this chap – possibly from Anderson Junior College; he looked the right age and had on trousers of the right colour and possibly the appropriate insignia – with what I thought were clear plastic headphones which turned out to be a gigantic hoop ear-stud (I only saw/paid attention to his left ear). Yup, it looked like he had on a ear-stud – which I always thought was some inconspicuous mini-thing to keep one’s earring-hole open – that was essentially a three-inch diameter hoop, I kid you not. It was surreal looking through the ear-hoop and seeing clear through to where his neck connected to his collar. I thought that was quite bizarre, and could his school condone it, but maybe he liked it.

***

Some much-needed self-bashing

I have become less and less appreciative of my folks, I’m afraid – plain choosy about my dinner, for example, asking Mum to cook me some noodles when she’d already painstakingly prepared rice and perfectly adequate dishes to go along with it. So the other day I came home, and she showed me that she had fried some rice, and I stared at it, reflexively thinking up reasons to reject it in favour of some noodles – I love noodles – including, I remember, complaining in my mind that the egg in the fried rice was too clumpy and not scrambled enough. I went to take a shower without either committing to the rice or saying I’d like some noodles, please, and after some well-deserved self-bashing came out and ate up two bowls of the rice, which was not the best but yummy enough. I need to be more self-bashing in this aspect of my life :)

***

Airsless people

Few people I know are totally without airs – I’ve met a President’s scholar a few years younger than me who was, and there is this high-ranking civil servant and former boss who is – and the other day I bumped into the latter at a stairs landing in Hong Lim Food Centre after I had bought my breakfast, and he seemed genuinely pleased to see me and spend those next few minutes with me to find out how I was doing, to the extent that, although people using the landing had to go around us, it felt as if he was perfectly focused on talking with me. That was a great start to the day.

***

Dear cab-driver, I wish you well…

I was going to work on a cab the other day. (Yes, this peasant princeling enjoys such uneconomical luxuries.) At around the same time I was thinking how new the cab was, the driver said that I was his first customer for this cab, and that he’d gotten it only the day before, after which he had driven his wife and two children (I think it’s two) around in the cab. He had only been driving a cab for a few months, and he was previously with TransCab (he was now driving a ComfortDelGro Hyundai Sonata), and his was among the last batch of Sonatas and the next batches would be i40s, he said. He said he did not like driving a cab – it was a lot of pressure, having to deal with different customers and not knowing which kind he was going to get next. A couple of his friends had gotten into trouble because of customer complaints already. He much preferred his previous job as a container truck-driver, which he felt he and other Singaporeans had been pushed out of because of PRC drivers, which he said he perfectly understood because that’s what someone else would do if he was in the boss’s position, and because the job paid by the trip and more and more the PRC drivers were getting the trips because they were cheaper, he could see how the inevitable would happen and had decided to quit, and his friend and fellow container truck-driver had talked it out with the boss but to no avail. He said that was why he asked his daughters (I think) to study hard and to his understated pride it was clear that they were doing well in school. I noted that his boss should be finding it harder to get good container truck-drivers and he said yes in fact his boss had called him to ask him to go back, but he had asked if his friends and former colleagues had been asked to as well and the boss had said no, and therefore he had decided not to go back, even though his friends had told him he should, because – he explained – he was the sort of person who didn’t like others to think that he had made some side arrangement with his former boss. I’m afraid I hounded him on this – perhaps you need not be so focused on what others think or say, I said; this is a job you like, I said; and which pays better etc. etc., I could have said – but he was adamant and appeared totally at peace with his decision and keen to continue on his current path to the best of his ability. Then we arrived at my destination, and I paid him and wished him well, and he wished me well, and said he hoped his other customers would be like me, and I slid over to the curbside and stepped out and closed the door and he drove off.

I hope he is doing well, this cab-driver.

***

One day, on my way to work…

Outside the MRT gates, I saw a man casually dressed in jeans and a light-coloured shirt at the side of the gates watching someone go up the escalator to the MRT platform. In Chinese, this would be described as 目送, literally “eye send” – as in using one’s eyes to send someone off. He watched and watched, and then finally turned away and, I think, caught me watching him and smiled a little smile.

Miscellany 15 April 2013

I am facing the very real possibility that all my freckles will turn into tags that need to be lasered or nitrogened off my face. There is already one, not yet fleshy, near my right ear.

Mortality is a theme today. A colleague that I have said hi to a few times, who was always friendly to me, passed away Saturday. I think he’s younger than me. It was cancer. He went through the remission-relapse whiplash, and I would imagine so did his parents and wife. Yes I found out he was married – one of the bosses said he had gone to this colleague’s wedding, and it had been less than two years ago. He looked genuinely shocked and yet accepting at the same time, and added: Life’s like that. Fate decides.

Today was a really hot day. I think I burnt up inside and couldn’t cool down, it was so hot. (Or maybe I am so fat.)

I was listening to Debbie Gibson’s We Could Be Together (Campfire Mix) – again – through some earphones, and got stunned by the little details that went into making such a terrific mood piece: simple guitar chords in the background; some nice percussive instruments; backup vocals playing all sorts of roles – giddy, supportive, grounding the song when her voice soars; and then her own voice when it counts. What a great voice she has. But even then, she couldn’t make the song herself.

I saw Mini Eggs in a tube today. And had to buy two.

I was on my way to sleep last night, and thought of getting one of the Rex Stout books that I used to read to sleep. When I realised that I wasn’t in the mood for any – any! – of them, I was quite surprised and then when I realised I was only a little disturbed, I was slightly more surprised. Someday I will find the Bear that used to enjoy reading any Rex Stout book and spending time with Archie and Wolfe and Saul. That Bear read and read and read. And probably learned too. I don’t really miss the Bear that enjoyed durians, but I would like to find out why he left. I think I liked the Bear that went up stairs two at a time the most right now – he’s definitely not coming back.

Today was also the day I found out when I’d be travelling for Peru. This will be my second visit there. I should be all prepared. And it’s a place I’d otherwise never get to go. But I only have to think about the flight – 12 hours in a big cylinder then a few hours in transit in Amsterdam then nearly 13 hours – to quail, and try hard not to think about it.

I’d never have heard Tara MacLean’s Settling if not for Meteor Garden. So. There is some redeeming feature in that series :)

Am I borrowed, am I blue. Is it just the dust of leaving you, settling.

Maybe I could just shave it off…

clever!

I saw a few things I thought were clever.

One was a device placed over a sink.  It holds a bar of soap.  Below the soap is a grater, and you can use it to scrape soap shavings onto your hand when you want a quick wash.  I think that’s really smart, and economical and environmentally friendly :)

Soap flakes (from urban taster)

Another was this interview with Sherry Turkle that Fast Company did.  Sherry Turkle is an ethnographer who studies how people interact with technology, and has written about it in her new book “Alone Together”.  Her words convey her research findings in a very genuine and accurate way.  She speaks of how the speed and frequency of incoming information have led us to shorten our interactions with others, that “[w]e’re not necessarily putting our investment in the ties that bind; we’re putting our investment in the ties that preoccupy”.  She speaks about how the metaphor of addiction is misused when we apply it to our relationship with technology, which is abundantly useful when used “in accordance with [one’s] social, professional, and personal values”.  She speaks of how this relationship with technology has created a “constant connection”, via social media or always-on email, which results in a sense of loneliness when one is not connected – the connection is the drug one could get addicted to then, maybe? – and a loss of the capability to be alone without being lonely.

And another was Laura Schroeder’s blog post about why people would work for House, everyone’s favourite brilliant misanthrope doctor, and even hang around after they’re kicked off the team.  (I appreciated the post so much partly because I’m a huge Hugh Laurie fan, from Blackadder The Third times :p)  She comes up with a very plausible answer :)

Oh, and this game too was I thought clever.  Trailer for your viewing pleasure below.

I wanted to share this story…

I know it’s already two days after Christmas, but I just came across this story and I wanted to share it with everyone who reads this.  It’s about a Christmas gift.

P/S.  To me, it’s interesting how early in their lives people know what they want to do when they grow up.  My earliest ambition, influenced by my aunts who loved their dogs and knew so much about them, was to be a vet.  The other ambition I held with any seriousness was to be a journalist, like my uncle, who has done so much that impresses me.  Today, I realise that I’ve never had the drive to pursue any ambition, but I still remember the sense of purpose that came with having something to aim for.

i am about to go to sleep but

… something tells me to write a short blog post, and so I shall. 

A few days ago while absent-mindedly looking through a shallow box of birthday and Christmas cards that friends from long ago had given me, I saw two which made me stop and think. 

One was from the girl – I wonder if woman or lady is more appropriate, now – I liked, her familiar elegant scrawl talking about how her rag-and-flag camp was coming up, back in the year 1997.  We were but 20 then, but she wrote, with a different pen from the rest of her words, something along the lines of “We are all getting older, but hey, let’s enjoy it while we can”.

The other card was signed off by my pal’s beau at the time and my pal, though it was her beau’s writing, a well-remembered scratch.  About 10 years ago now, the two of them carted a set of 36 books to my house as a birthday gift. 

Discoveries

Recently, I discovered that wedding couples have the same glassy-eyed look at their wedding dinner.  You know, it’s been a long, hectic day, and they’re trying to take it all in because it’s so meaningful, but the day’s become a pageant of things done for tradition and there are appearances to keep up, especially at dinner, where strange relatives and old classmates appear together, groups of people who had nothing to do with each other, all gathering for the same important, happy event, and it is for you that they’ve all turned up, and there are speeches to be made and toasts to be drunk and drunk and drunk.  It’s a hectic whirl, and glassy eyes, from the couple of weddings I went to in the last few months, are the norm for wedding couples.

Also, I discovered that I can’t deal with salty toothpaste.  Colgate has this new ‘mineral salt’ formula I think, and the first time I used it to brush my teeth I was still barely awake, and my instinct was to swallow the damn concoction because it tasted savoury.  It’s a conditioning, part of my upbringing – eating savoury stuff was a satisfying experience, almost all of the time.  And I realised that the day they make deep-fried stuff-flavoured toothpaste is the day I die of toothpaste poisoning.

Another discovery, or re-discovery, because I continue to be surprised by it: MRTs are so much less crowded during year-end school holidays.  It’s stunning.  Wonder of wonders, I actually got a seat the other day, a really comfortable bit of space.  I could put my bag on my lap and open it up and take a book out and read it with my bag on my lap and everything.  That was the most pleasant MRT ride I’ve had in months.

Also not long ago, I discovered Kij Johnson, who’s rekindled my enjoyment of science fiction and whose kooky titles just make reading her that bit more fun.  I know so many of us read genres and you may not read sci-fi, but just try her out.  Read “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss” here (you’ll see that the story’s won many awards and you’ll see a link to a cool reading of the story).  Then read “The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change” here (you’ll see it has nothing to do with evolution and all to do with an utterly superb re-imagining of the beginnings of a creation myth).  And then read some more :)

And just at the end of last month, I discovered “Skinny Pizza”.  Read a review here, and others here and here.  I have eaten at Skinny Pizza twice, both times at the Wheelock Place outlet.  Skinny Pizza’s gimmick is of course the skinniness of its pizza – basically, it’s to normal pizza what tissue prata is to normal prata.  Skinniness in this case made the pizza crust super-crunchy, which is both good and bad.  When I tried the curry chicken pizza, I found the gravy-laden centre portion absolutely delicious, full of the traditional Indian curry flavour, and the outer edges overly dry.  But I can live with that.  What I wouldn’t be able to live with, is if they discontinued their truffled fries.  It’s too bad that they are ordinary shoestring fries – if a higher grade of cut potato was used, they would be matchless.  As it is, they are still the most tasty fries I’ve ever had.

Team Singapore vs. Manchester United…

sounds like a goal fest for the team that’s going to beat my beloved Reds to this year’s English Premier League title.  It’s also, according to arch communicator Lim Swee Say at an event held this past Sunday, an apt analogy for the battle Singapore has against this scary recession.*

Known for his vivid stories and ability to communicate to the man on the street, he drew elaborate yet fitting parallels between how Team Singapore’s midfield would need to battle to win the ball against the Red Devils and how the government, employers and workers needed to work together to defend against record retrenchments; between how Team Singapore’s defence would need to be stout once its midfield teammates lost the ball and how the same tripartite partners needed to work together to minimise any unemployment downtime and get workers trained and again gainfully employed; between how Team Singapore could not just defend – because if it did it had no chance of winning – and its attackers would need to be ready to attack every chance they got vs. how Singapore’s labour force needed to become more skilled and resilient and competitive – for example, by upgrading its service quality – so that it would be ready to go on the offensive once the upturn came about.  It took him a while to draw all the threads of the analogy together, but football was a familiar enough metaphor that it engaged the audience during those sometimes meandering minutes – in fact, my impression was that the audience was held rapt by his virtuoso performance – until he completed the analogy with an almost audible click and earned spontaneous applause.

*Are things really that bad though?  At the same event, Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned that he knew of a range of medium-sized companies that were forecasting growth for their organisations this year.

Rainbow over Eu Tong Sen
An unexpected rainbow?

Work In Progress terminated

Came across this lyrical symptom of cost cutting, employee trimming and general corporate blood-letting: The writer of Work In Progress, a blog at TIME.com, has voluntarily left the organisation “after [her] managing editor… announced an open invitation for buyout volunteers”.  Maybe because of my work, I found that I could very much identify with her buyout-related tribulations – finding out from HR what the package would be, then realising her union had that information and she therefore did not need to tip her hand off to HR, negotiating with her boss about said package.  Two streams of questions struck me, almost simultaneously: Stream 1 – So many do not have the fortune of being in a position to volunteer for a buyout (both in terms of the company and her financial situation allowing her to).  Stream 2 – Why did TIME invite its people to volunteer for buyouts?  How would TIME judge the success of this exercise, whatever the reason?  Was everyone invited to do this, or just a section of its staff?  If the latter, how were they chosen?  Did TIME also invite them to volunteer to go on unpaid leave or some ‘reduced hours, reduced pay’ scheme?  Stream 2.1 – Are many other hard-copy magazines doing this?  (I would expect that maybe online-only magazines would not be able to save as much doing this and so aren’t.)  And are many other newspapers doing this?  And press agencies?

Thoughts would be very welcome :)