Happiness and other musings

I was quite early at a colleague’s wedding last month, and picked a good spot, directly looking at the live band.  And so I got to see the live band play, and it was a good band, versatile, could sing in a few languages (appropriate since my Malay colleague was marrying a Chinese), enjoyable to watch. 

About two thirds into the night, the band began to ask for guests to join them on stage to sing.  One guest did, performed ok for an amateur; and then another went on stage, and really just stole the show.  It was clear that this middle-aged chap was used to performing with a band, and this band all strangers were just another group to jive and make music with.  And so he did, improvising a jazzy up-tempo version of some song I’ll remember later, and he did it so joyously, he was so into it, that the band, bland and professional earlier in the night, began to flex and stretch themselves too, and put their energy into it, so that, when the second and last song ended with a flourish and the chap departed the stage to rapturous applause from the band and an audience roused from its postprandial doze, I couldn’t help but think that, if the bride and groom find the sort of happiness this mat rocker did making music with his newfound friends, they would be together for a long time indeed.

*****

I was in Solo, Indonesia last November for work.  And was disproportionately joyous when I saw bolsters on my hotel bed.

*****

My pal got me a CD of instrumental renditions of some of 梁文福’s most memorable songs and I love it to bits.  My pal got the same CD from her pal, and found that she didn’t like it much.  Darned.

Skinny pizza again and a Corrine lament

Since I discovered Skinny Pizza (see reviews here (with pics of the below-mentioned squid ink pizza) and here) last year when my colleagues and I happened upon the Wheelock Place branch for lunch, I’ve been there maybe six or seven times.  When I introduced my sis to the place, we had the truffle fries (a must-try that has gotten less and less special with each visit; I think it’s gotten more oil-laden and less truffled…) and the curry chicken babaganoush (we agree that the hard-boiled eggs are a touch of genius, and that the Skinny Pizza folks could be more generous with the curry gravy).  When I introduced my pal to the place, we had the squid ink pizza at the Suntec branch, and it was good – the squid ink gravy that soaks the centre of the pizza is an appetising mix of savoury and slightly sweet tartness.  And when we had it again last Friday at the Wheelock Place branch, the grilled calamari and prawns were done to perfection, with just the right bit of char.  The only imperfection was the red onion slices that were strewn over the dark crust and that left a lingering sting in one’s palate.  On Friday we also had the bitter chocolate tart, and while this was yummy on many levels – like a multilayered piece of fine chocolate – it also packed the sort of richness (heatiness, we Chinese would call it) that has been known to lead to spontaneous nosebleeds.

Later in the evening, we heard Corrine May’s Song for Singapore over the radio.  Corrine May has a wonderful rich voice, and I think she puts up a great performance for this song.  It’s just a pity that some of the lyrics are cringe/wince-worthy.  Seriously – “I want to sing, sing a song for Singapore”?  “You’re my brother, you’re my sister”? 

P/S.  I am reading a joke book.  I have been unable to read heavy-going fiction recently; “A Heartbreaking of Staggering Genius” and “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” sit mouldering and unread on my table and my bookshelf, respectively.

PP/S.  So here’s a joke from the joke book: “Men like cars.  Women like clothes.  Women only like cars when they take them to clothes.”  Funny, and with a decent level of accuracy :p

PPP/S.  Opposite to cringe/wince-worthy are the lyrics for Sarah McLachlan’s “Do What You Have to Do”:

Procrastinating

I procrastinate too much.  Take this post for instance.  On the fourth of June, on my way to work on the MRT, it was nearly too crowded to turn the newspaper you are reading, standing up, to the next page.  And so I put down my newspaper and people-watched.  And saw that a woman was just in front of me, facing my right, with earphones on.  She took out a plastic folder and extracted a sheaf of A4 printouts.  For some reason, I thought she was an insurance agent or preparing for some sort of presentation, and I lost interest and looked elsewhere.  Then I saw out of the side of my eye that  she was moving strangely, so I turned back – she was holding  the printouts firmly in front of her, and while looking at them, she firmly lifted her shoulders, and sank them back down, lifted her shoulders, sank them back down, all the while looking intently at the printouts.  Which was of course where I looked next, and I saw that on the printouts there was a list of songs or tunes and beside each song a corresponding exercise and remarks – as I remember it; this is the trouble with procrastination – such as “fast-paced” and “energetic”, which I took to be instructions for how to conduct an aerobics class.  So the woman in front of me, so early in the morning (seven-something a.m.), in a world of her own taking time from her commute to rehearse her aerobics routine, was probably an aerobics instructor.  I felt minutely proud of myself for this admittedly short chain of reasoning – it was a good start to the day.  And thinking back, this aerobics instructor, who seemed to take her job more seriously than many of those with more conventional careers and would presumably enjoy it quite a lot, was indeed preparing for a presentation.  I hope she and her class enjoyed that day’s session.

Later in the day, I heard someone who was not Sarah McLachlan sing “Angel”, and felt a sudden overbearing urge to listen to the original.

But, it must not have been that overbearing, since I’ve delayed that gratification, till now.

links

The Skeeter Davis link in my last post was apparently to her rendition of Both Sides Now!  Although apparently that video’s been removed due to copyright violations, here’s another video of that rendition.

some thoughts and a disappointment

A few days ago a couple of friends and I were talking about “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (I understand the proper title of the song is “Over the Rainbow”) and someone mentioned that her favourite version is Eva Cassidy’s.  I said that I hadn’t heard of her, and this other friend then offered to bring a couple of her CDs.  He did, and in the CD sleeve notes I read that she had died young.  Curious, I searched for more information on Wikipedia, and found that she died at my age of melanoma.  Digesting this while listening to her CDs, I had some thoughts.

She had an amazing voice.  Powerful, expressive, versatile.  Achingly beautiful in spots.  Her version of “Fields of Gold” got my attention.  I prefer Izzy’s version of “Over the Rainbow” though.

My cousin, who was born six days after me, also had cancer.  Hers was a relatively treatable sort of leukaemia, I understand, and she’s back at work now.  We met recently and she seemed like her old self, though she wears a cap now.  We talked about reading and books and relatives and relived childhood incidents and exchanged gifts and had dinner and coffee and talked some more about her illness and what it had wrought – it’s brought her closer with her in-laws, she said, and she now was carried around a bottle of stuff meant to disinfect her hands – and how the Internet has enabled support groups to form comprising people all over the world and how such support groups include a very specific category of people going back to work and how she found those useful.  I’m thrilled she is okay; that evening with her may have made my month :) 

I wonder if I will get cancer some time too.  Probably, right?  That seems to be how most people die.  I remember I dramatically plopped onto my bed reading my cousin’s SMS about her diagnosis – maybe that’s a good rehearsal.

And on that slightly morbid note, I just want to relate that, one, “14 Blades” was a so-so kungfu flick, fun to watch but not engaging emotionally and, two, on the day I watched “14 Blades” I saw Stefanie Sun’s concert at Resorts World and while she was in good form the attendance was disappointing and perhaps because of that there was no encore.  That stunned me.  I have been to a few concerts, and this was the first time there wasn’t one.  Very disappointing.

Ally

Well, so a colleague very kindly introduced me to Aimee Mann just this evening.  When I mentioned that I liked Sarah McLachlan, she said that I might like Rachael Yamagata’s “I Wish You Love”.  So I searched for “Rachael Yamagata” on YouTube, and I saw that she sang “River”.

At first I was entranced by the singing, but then I got the sense that she was yawning while she was singing, or otherwise trying to sound a little different, and while the effect wasn’t half-bad I thought it too pretentious.  So I decided to search for another “River” that I remembered sounding a little different too, which led me to Robert Downey Jr’s.  The cello’s deadly sad.

Then I saw a link I had to click, given that I’d just realised how talented Mr Downey is.

And then I saw another one.  And I cried a bit watching it.

P/S.  I so totally enjoyed watching Ally McBeal and listening to Vonda Shepard and the Christmas songs – especially the Christmas songs :)

The title of the song means “travel stop”

as in a journey’s way-point.  This haunting half-narrated, half-sung gem is in Chinese, and I’ve attempted my usual clumsy translation of its lyrics below.  Do check out the YouTube video after the lyrics.

驛 (Read by 黃舒駿; sung by 林慧萍)

火車站的候車室 (In the waiting room in the train station)
時常坐著一位打扮整齊的中年婦人 (Would sit a tidily arranged middle-aged woman)
手裡抱著一個老式皮箱 (Hugging an old-style leather suitcase)
游目張望 似乎在期待什麼 (Her restless eyes would wander, as if she was awaiting something)

第一次見到婦人是他高中的時候 (The first time he saw the woman, he was in high school)
每天夜裡從桃園通車到台北補習 (Every night he would travel from Taoyuan to Taipei for tuition)
深夜十一點回到桃園 (When he returned to Taoyuan late in the night at 11pm)
婦人總是準時地坐在候車室的木椅上 (The woman would always punctually be sitting on the wooden bench in the waiting room)
等待著的姿勢 不安的眼神 端整的打扮 好像在等待著某一個約好的人 (Anxious, waiting, dressed well, like she was waiting for someone she had arranged to meet)

起先他沒有特別留意她 可是時間一久 (At first he didn’t pay any special attention to her, but as time went by)
尤其是沒有旅客的時候 (Particularly when there were no tourists)
婦人就格外顯的孤寂 (The woman would seem especially lonely)
有一天他終於下定決心 (One day he finally decided)
在候車室等待那婦人離去 (To wait in the waiting room for the woman to leave)
一直到深夜落 一直到凌晨一點 (Night fell, and it was 1am in the morning)
婦人才站了起來 (When the woman finally stood up)
走到候車室的黑板前用粉筆寫著 (And walked to the blackboard at the back of the waiting room and wrote with a piece of chalk)
「水, 等你沒等到, 我先走了. 英 留」 (“Shui, waited for you in vain, I’ll leave first.  Ying”)

那時他才知道 (Only then did he realise)
原來候車室長久以來的這則留言是出自那婦人 (That those words in the waiting room that he’d seen all this while were written by the woman)
後來車站的老人告訴他 (Later, the old people at the station told him)
婦人已經在候車室坐了二十幾年了 (The woman had been sitting in the waiting room for twenty-some years)
有人說她瘋了 有人說曾看見她打開皮箱 (Some said she had gone mad.  Some said they had seen her open the suitcase)
箱裡裝的是少女時代的衣服 (In it were clothes from when she was young)
大部分的人都說 在二十幾年前那個夜晚 (Most said, on that night twenty-some years ago)
英和她的水約好在車站碰面 (Ying and her Shui had arranged to meet at the station)
要私奔到某一個不知名的地方 (To elope to some nameless place)
可是叫水的那個男人卻缺席了 (But the man named Shui had not come)

有一天他回家的時候 不再看到英的影子 (One day, he did not see Ying at all on his way home)
問了車站許多人都不知道為什麼 (He asked many people at the station but still did not know why)
這風雨無阻的婦人那一天沒有來 第二天的清晨 (This woman, who came everyday rain or shine, did not come that day.  In the morning the next day)
英殘缺的身體被發現在鐵道上 (Ying’s broken body was discovered on the tracks)
皮箱滾到很遠的地方 (The suitcase had rolled far far away)
旅客留言板上有她的字跡 只改了幾個字 (On the travellers’ bulletin board were her writing, only some words were changed)
「水, 等你三十年, 我先走了. 英 留」 (“Shui, waited thirty years for you, I’ll leave first. Ying”)

就這樣 斷了線 就真這樣 不再相見 (Just like this, the line breaks; just like this, we’ll never see each other again)
飛出了時間 飛出天邊 飛到另外一個 沒有我的天 (Flying out of time, out of the sky, to another sky without me)
經過許多年 所有的眷戀 飄浮在時空裡 沒有終點 (After many years, all the longing floats along in time and space, without destination)
人生是一張 泛黃的相片 而我站在車站靜止的畫面 (Life is a faded photograph, and I stand at the station, where the scene stops)

Random-ish thoughts

  • Yes, Minister is British satirical humour at its best – smart, precise and hilarious. Watch it or read it! (It’s been my bedtime reading the past few nights.)
  • Listened to this on repeat for half an hour during one productive stretch of work today, then realised I could be missing important snatches of office corridor talk and snatched out my ear-buds, reluctantly.

  • Am struck by iPhone envy. But learning to re-love my nifty E71, where I’m drafting this post :)
  • Shall finally write about the enjoyable 天冷就回来 soon.