A mini modern media miracle

The season finale of the latest season of The Amazing Race aired two Thursdays ago.

Terz watched it before he left on his vacation to Japan.

I only watched it tonight.

And yet, despite going about my life as usual in our delightfully media-saturated world, I managed to avoid being spoilered as to who won the race, although I did inadvertently find out one of the two teams that didn't win.

Not bad, not bad at all.


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I know language evolves and changes, and words take on new meanings and implications.

But when did "architect" become a verb??!!??!!?

As in: " ... so that companies can architect and coordinate their supply chains with ... "


Corporatespeak will be the death of me, I know.


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I never got a tan at a wedding before

All laid out

This was before all the happy festivities took over the lawn: soap bubbles and Polaroid snapshots, pretty brown wooden fans and dainty hors d'oeuvres, and of course photographers galore.

When two photographers get married, and call all their (photographer) friends together afterwards for a photo, you gotta wonder: who's left to take that photo for them?


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After hours

It's a good thing that I'm with kk, when the boy calls from Tokyo for directions to find his way home from Vanilla.

In other news, kk and I have not had margaritas together since Las Palmas in Evanston, Illinois in mid-1997. We'd planned a sojourn at Cafe Iguana tonight to remedy that situation, but were thwarted by the unavailability of tables. Good thing the tasty Santa Carolina Chardonnay at BarCelona took care of that ...


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24 things that took way more than 24 hours

So I've been tag-team-tagged by Chandler and a gecko's tale.

Once you've been tagged, write a post with 24 weird facts/things/habits about yourself then tag 6 other people.

1. If I don't do a meme straight away, I'll sit on it for weeks and weeks on end before finishing it. This one, for instance, took a good five days to get done.

2. I haven't not had a drink everyday since Sunday, 15 May.

3. Many moons ago, I went by the nick LizVader.

4. I frequently think of something, immediately forget it, and then spend ten minutes (or hours, or days) trying to dredge the thought up from the miasma of my brain. Yet another reason my domain is named what it is.

5. Before I went to university, I was painfully shy. Funny how it looked a lot to other people like I was being aloof, when I was just absolutely crippled by the thought that everyone else was too cool to be interested in me.

6. I still think everyone else is too cool to be interested in me.

7. I obssess about how untidy my handwriting is, even though a) I'm hardly twelve years old anymore, and b) I hardly ever handwrite anything anymore.

8. I have to practise my signature because at some point since the last time I renewed my passport, my signature's gotten a lot more indecipherable, to the point where official-type people have asked me to re-sign documents to make sure I really am the person I say I am.

9. My favourite comfort food is buttered toast with sugar sprinkled liberally on top.

10. I really didn't need or want an engagement ring, but Terz insisted.

11. When I was a kid, I quavered in fear some nights, thinking that giant monsters (?) would swoop down from the mountains (what mountains? Singapore has no mountains) and kidnap us away to their giant cave.

12. My nose is so sensitive to dust that cleaning up just one room in our tiny apartment is enough to send me into sneezing fits for the rest of the day.

13. I can't type the word "enlightenment" accurately on first try. The impulse is always to type "englishtenment" instead.

14. I have a cat who enjoys clambering into and sitting inside the washing machine drum, although he looks a little confused when he unintentionally sets the drum turning.


Clearly, he's no hamster.

(Okay, so this point is about how my cat may be weird, rather than about how I'm weird, but I'm running out of steam here.)

15. I remember song tunes rather well, but I'm hopeless at song titles and even worse at song lyrics. It's all about the melody.

16. I go to dance clubs to people-watch, not to dance, because I don't dance. More accurately: I can't dance.

17. I have a horrible poker face.

18. After consuming one unit of alcohol, I turn red faster than anyone I know. People who've never been out with me before often feel the need to point it out, probably because they're afraid I'll pass out on them or something. I've been told it's got something to do with good circulation and/or a particular enzyme that Asians are genetically predisposed to having. All I know is it means I can't have a drink over lunch and then go back to the office because everyone'll know I've been drinking.

19. I don't use makeup, except for a dash of lipstick when I remember to, but, more importantly, I don't know how to use makeup.

20. I typically IM in grammatical and correctly punctuated phrases. And I generally apologise for typos.

21. I have an incredibly poor gauge of distance. If there weren't markers on the ground where I run, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how far I'd run. If you ask me how far away something is, I can give you the dead distance in terms of how long it'd take to get there, but I'd be hard-pressed to say so in kilometres or, worse, miles.

22. I'm multiracial. That's less common than you'd think it was in ostensibly multiracial Singapore.

23. I'm a great believer in vibes. If I have bad vibes about a person/place/job, I probably won't pursue it. It's all about the gut instinct.

24. I don't mind the odd meme, but I feel guilty about tagging others, so a lot of the time, I just let the meme die with me.

Like this.


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Some days, I start out thinking I'm not going to see anybody I know.

Then there's lunch with Ondine at the unbeatable Bunalun.

I didn't know blinis looks liked this

And an hour in the afternoon snuck away with the best friend and her bouncing baby boy (thought he wasn't actually in the Bumbo today).

Taken by _tris_.

And a pseudo-dinner with an old friend and new ones at Wine Company.

It looked better in real life

Nosso bad for a day when I thought I would be flying solo most of the day.


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Not a geek

Taken by by Mussels.

I can programme a VCR.

I can Skype my cousin in Paris (though, whoops, I haven't lately).

I can chase down the meaning of syair online.

But it took me twenty minutes to figure out how to dial a Tokyo phone number.




Home alone

All I'm saying is that it's fitting that the first full episode I watch out of my new Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection is "Once More, With Feeling".

Particularly everything from the song "Walk Through The Fire" till the end.


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You know how some things are unbloggable?

Like the incredible conversation I had with the cab driver on the way to Wine Company last night, which began quite spontaneously, acquired a life of its own, and wandered the gamut of topics from The Typical Life of A Cab Driver, to his own personal career choices (oil rig guy turned construction guy turned technician guy and part-time cab driver), to his grandfather's voice saving him from falling asleep on the road (that was before he became a cab driver; he's a very careful driver now), to his three-year-old boy. But already I'm not doing justice to the unforced simplicity that underlay his tale and made music of an ordinary life.

Like a recent conversation I had with a friend about whether it's alright for a brother and a sister to have sex (with each other). I'm definitely not going to get into the technicalities of that in this here blog.

Like the fact that Terz has SMSed countless times and called once from Tokyo, which is really sweet, but part of me is angsting over how much money each little SMS costs and how much it'll add to his vacation bill when he gets back. Yeah, yeah, I should enjoy it and just stop nagging.


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On the road again

Nothing like a short sprint yesterday evening (and by sprint, I mean darting from our block of flats to the next block to grab a chocolate bar from the neighbourhood store before my friends arrive in their cab) to make me remember why I liked running in the first place. And to get me off my lazy ass into running mode today --- for the first time in six months.

I did about 4 km in just under 30 minutes, which is not as glorious as last year's standards, but I'm happy enough given how long it's been the last run and how much alcohol and chocolate cake I've consumed in the interim.


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I've always been a bookish sort

Up, up and away

I like working in the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library at the National Library. It's got all the books I need to refer to for work in one place. It's got floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch three glorious storeys up. This means that whenever I need a break from the old tomes I'm poring over, I can glance around and see what the rest of the city is up to that day or check out the thunderstorm moving in from Bukit Timah.

Best of all, the Reference Library's not flooded with idiots using their cellphones (even though there are occasional offenders).

To sum up, this is the kind of place where people leave their iBooks completely unattended (and unsecured) for at least half an hour at a stretch.

All by itself

That is not my iBook. I don't have the money it would cost nor do I desire the stress it would cause to have to replace my iBook, so I tote mine around with me, even if I'm just off to the stacks for less than two minutes to snatch up a book. Other people, clearly, don't share my paranoia prudence.


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Codes of behaviour

The question I've encountered most commonly lately is, "Are you going to see The Da Vinci Code?" To which my typical response is to roll my eyes.

No, I haven't read the book either. Yeah, I'm a literary snob --- though an erratic one, which means I'll admit to enjoying the first Bridget Jones's Diary but there's something about the whole book-reading market's love affair with Dan Brown that makes me not want to touch it with a twenty-foot pole.

But I didn't quite expect it to come down to this:
The censorship board [of Singapore] gave the movie an NC16 rating, barring viewers under 16, arguing that "only a mature audience will be able to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction."
So the censorship board of our world-class, first world country, is on record as opining that one who reaches the magical age of 16 then magically matures, mastering overnight the very difficult task of differentiating between fact and fiction --- which makes me wonder what the censorship board thinks our children and teenagers are doing everyday when they watch The O.C. or whatever popular Nickelodeon cartoon is on. Or, for that matter, when they watch or read the local news.

Which makes me wonder if the censorship board thinks that Singapore cinema audiences, brought up on a steady diet of overwhelmingly melodramatic Hollywood and Hong Kong films (and, increasingly, Korean ones), have trouble recognising that they're mostly watching fiction and not fact, and need to be safely guided to see what's what.

Which makes me wonder, if they think we're that stupid, why don't they simply have a ticker-tape running below the Chinese subtitles of any film, reminding viewers that, "The story you are watching is fiction. F-I-C-T-I-O-N. It is not real. People don't live like this in the real world."

If I were under the age of 16, I'd be insulted. For that matter, I'm insulted on their behalf.


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Spoiling ourselves

This one's for kk.

Fancy fancy fish

I took Terz to Big Fish Seafood Grill tonight --- his first time, my second. The food did not fail us, nor did the wine. I'm not sure if I'm coming late to the party here, but I've been having very tasty New Zealand wines recently.

However, I'm not sure that hefting a 35-litre bag of kitty litter down four flights of stairs after half a bottle of wine is a good idea.


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Do you see?

"I do not understand you."
"By the way they looked at me, by their perception of me, they would make me into the creature they perceived. I would feel myself becoming a lesser thing. It is the power of men."
"But I am a man."
"No," she said, too impatient to let him develop his argument. "Of men, men in a group, men in their certainty, men on a street corner, or in a hall."
--- Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey

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I am a Murakami woman

So saith Cowboy Caleb:
Cowboy Caleb: Terz is the like a char in a Murakami novel
Cowboy Caleb: come to think of it, both of you are.
ME: How so?
Cowboy Caleb: he does his own thing
Cowboy Caleb: like the dude in Norwegian Wood
ME: and me?
Cowboy Caleb: all murakami female chars are very individualistic, talented at something and are skinny.
Cowboy Caleb: all his men are tragedies walking around waiting for stuff to happen.
Right, then.


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I just wanted to say ...

... That there are many cute young Canadian men in the office today.


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Go watch

ampulets reviews The Last Communist, which I saw last week, and as usual says it much better than I can.


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Married, attached, single or --- ?

So after one of those conversations the other night, the single guy friend I was with laughed and said, "Now you're really not going to introduce any of your friends to me, right?"

To which I protested that it wasn't anything he'd said that would deter me, but that I didn't have that many single female friends in the first place --- or single friends at all, I thought out loud.

So today I decided to count them.

Out of 265 contacts in my cellphone:
  • 109 are attached (either married or seeing someone seriously),
  • 14 guys and 22 women are single,
  • And there are 12 that I'm not sure of their current status.
The rest are work acquaintances (35), who don't count because I don't socialise enough with them to introduce them to friends, and contacts for restaurants and other services (55). (I realise the numbers don't add up to 265, so I must've miscounted slightly somewhere.)

So about 70% of my friends/relatives are not-single and about 23% are single. I always had the impression that I knew more single guys than women, but it turns out that the reverse is true.

Now I'm wondering, is all this "normal" for someone in my demographic?


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Dinner and after

Fancy Chinese food

You know a Chinese restaurant's gone upmarket when the food's served on square plates, the restaurant tries to serve everyone's portions individually instead of allowing us to dig into a communal dish, and pork ribs come with silverware on the side.

Also, when the roast chicken skin served with prawn and a slice of mango is served on a potato chip. (It tasted like Pringle's to me, even though my uncle tried to laugh it off as a mini taco.)

But I'm not doing justice to the food, which was really quite good and not as much of a culinary experiment gone wrong as I'm making it sound like. And dessert was a somewhat psychedelic marvel.

Fancy Chinese dessert

I have no idea what the dish was called (the perils of ordering the set menu), but think flour rolls with pandan (green) and ang tau sar (red bean), served on a bed of ground peanuts. I wish I could've eaten more of them.

Since the dinner was ostensibly a Mother's Day dinner, it's only fit that I put on record the fact that the two mothers present (my mother and Fifth Aunt, her sister), are certified pet killers. The inadvertent death toll from their childhood:
  • One terrapin (and one that "ran away")
  • One bird
  • Two guinea pigs
  • One pigeon (cooked for dinner because my grandmother found it "troublesome" to have it flapping around, it seems)
For the full gory details, you'll have to ask me the next time you see me. All the deaths (except the pigeon) were accidental. Of course.

After dinner, because I am rapidly turning into Little Miss Winealot, I enticed Little Miss Drinkalot out to Barcelona for a nightcap. Even though soccer was playing on at least five screens in the courtyard area, we managed to have a chill girls' night out, quite different from the previous attempt. Maybe the magic ingredient needs to be white wine and not Lana cake.


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What kind of day has it been

See through

I continue to have crappy sleep.

I neglected to bring an umbrella and got drenched in the rain, which I ordinarily don't mind but I was too sleep-deprived to enjoy it today.

I took an hour to fold all the clean laundry.

On the bright side, Ink's liver seems to be recovering, although the blood test results still aren't completely normal so he's got medication for the next few weeks.


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My sleep is all screwed up

On Sunday night, I woke up every hour or so, it seemed, long enough to register that it was still dark out and drop back to sleep again.

On Monday night, as result of the nap I took from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm, I couldn't sleep at midnight --- or at 1 am. I think I dropped off some time before 2 am.

This morning, I woke inexplicably at 4.30 am. I turned over and thought sleep would claim me immediately, but I must've tossed and turned for at least another hour before it did. And I had to be up at 7 am.

Of course, I could go home and have an early night tonight. But Terz and I are gonna have dinner somewhere that's not our neighbourhood coffeeshop and then go listen to one of our favourite bands play (no prizes for guessing where). Sleep can wait till the long weekend tomorrow.


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Life with Ink

It's been almost two months since we brought Ink home, and from the kinds of posts I've made here and the accompanying photos in the Flickr photoset, you'd think that life with him mostly consists of moments of unbearable cuteness, interspersed with the odd reality check of buying food and kitty litter.

In other words, something like this:

Ink in shadow

Things that I have had to do since we brought Ink home, that I never did before in our almost seven years of living in this apartment:
  • Cover my hand with a plastic bag so that I could reach down the bathroom drain to recover the drain cover that Ink'd pulled off (an almost daily ritual) and casually tossed down there.
  • Wedge a non-functioning desktop computer on top of that drain cover, between the sink and the shower stall, because it's the only thing heavy enough that Ink can't move it to scrabble further at the drain cover.
  • Pick up his toys after he's been put to bed.
  • Vacuum the living room, dining room and kitchen every other Sunday (we have someone come in to do a thorough cleaning of the entire apartment the rest of the time), not so much to clean up cat fur as to suck up the regular dust that accumulates in all the corners he loves to hide in.
Oh, all right, I love the little bugger.

Some friends have remarked that Ink is like our substitute child, to which I say that despite the above, he's a lot less work than a child because he's self-cleaning (excepting the weekly shower we subject him to), doesn't require any food preparation more sophisticated than pouring dry food out of a bag and doesn't talk back (although he occasionally sulks when he's been told off).

Having said that, we sinned grievously last week because we knew we were running low on cat food, but for one reason or another neither of us couldn't make it to the pet store --- and the next thing we knew it was 11 pm on a Wednesday, Ink was starving and the cat food bag was completely empty.

Oh, how he mewed.

Fortunately, we had a packet of wet food, some kitten formula Terz'd bought before, so that kept Ink going overnight, till Terz got new food the next day (all 20 lbs of it, so that we don't have to go to the pet store so often). But we felt very, very guilty, and when we got home the next night to find a stray cat outside our door (on the eleventh floor! How did it get up here?), it was time to atone for our sins.

Returning the karma

He was a skittery creature, but he came forward to get the food once we backed off. So he got fed, we left some water out for him too, and our karma equilibrium was restored.

Last Sunday, I was napping on the couch and Ink pounced on the cushion I was hugging. Once I got over the shock, he settled down on the cushion and went to sleep too. It was nice.


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Taken by Wahj.

It's amazing the things one spots outside Epicurious.




Reader Request Week: Meeting the husband

I realise Reader Request Week is rapidly becoming Reading Request Month, but what can I say? The elections sucked up most of my attention and energies last week. Plus I've always excelled at procrastinating.

Anyway, way back when I asked for requests, pinkyjumbo asked about my "love story with Terz" and fuschia cow submitted a similar request via email, wanting to know how I met Terz. Without getting into the gory details, here's the safe-for-public-consumption version of how I met and married my husband.

Our first meeting was quite a classic moment. It was the first day of class at the National Institute of Education (the local teachers' training college, or at least, that's what it's supposed to be), I was jetlagged from having flown in less than 48 hours ago from what felt like a three-day non-stop party in Honolulu, and I had no idea where I was supposed to be or even what classes I was supposed to be taking. Somehow, I got myself to the right place for a literature class, where I encountered the first familiar face --- an old friend from junior college.

"I have no idea what is going on or where I'm supposed to be? How the fuck is anyone supposed to figure things out?" I cavilled loudly, waving an incomprehensible schedule at her. (I may not have actually said "fuck", but believe me, the sentiment was there.)

Serenely, she said, "Let me introduce you to ... " And it was Terz, who not only knew had figured out the mysteries of our arcane schedule, but, I dimly recall, also had an impeccably organised file of blank foolscap and other papers needed to get through one's first day.

On his part, he tells me that after I introduced myself, he didn't catch my full name (of course), so to him I was just the girl with the really long name and who spoke really fast.

Some things haven't changed in almost nine years.

Having met, we didn't really have anything to do with each other for about six months. Then our social paths began to cross, as various groups of friends began to coalesce around the common objective of skipping as many classes and studying as little as possible without flunking out of school. Hours that should have been spent reviewing education pedagogy were instead spent kibbitzing over iced lemon tea and cigarettes (not that either of us smoked) in what was then known as Raffles canteen.

Blah blah, blah blah.

We started going out.

Blah blah, blah blah.

I proposed. No fireworks, no ring, no elaborate dinner. Just us lying around flipping through some magazines one evening, and me going, "Hey, so do you wanna get married?" And he was like, "Yeah."

And then we did.

I would stick one of our wedding photos up here, for old time's sake, but they're buried somewhere in my website where I can't find them. You'll have to imagine it for yourself.

Some people have remarked about how young I was when we got married (25). I often demur, "Oh, but my husband is a few years older." But really, it was just the right time, the right thing to do --- and of course, the right person.


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Weirderer and weirderer

Taken by askgerard.com.

Obviously, I'm not shopping in the right Cold Storage stores because I never came across those before. I like fruit, I like weirdness, but I'm not about to cough up $50 for it.

Would you?



It'll do

Because the People's Action Party got only two-thirds of the vote, down from 75% the last time. (Edited to add: my brother's crunched some numbers on the alleged 66.6% "mandate".)

Because the Workers' Party kicked ass in Aljunied GRC, taking a sizable 44% of the vote, even though they hadn't contested that constituency before and were going up against a People's Action Party team that included a Cabinet minister, a mayor, a minister for state and two not entirely low-profile Members of Parliament. Nevertheless, the Workers' Party made Aljunied the GRC with the lowest winning majority for the People's Action Party.

Because the Workers' Party rocked in the Prime Minister's home ground of Ang Mo Kio, taking one-third of the vote even though, again, they hadn't contested that constituency before and most of the team were political novices were aged 31 and below.

Because in comparing maiden general election results for new Prime Ministers, although Lee Hsien Loong received a greater proportion of votes last night (66.6%) than his predecessor Goh Chok Tong in his first general election (61% in 1991), Goh then brought home his constituency with 77.25% of the vote, while Lee held just 66.1% of the vote in his constituency last night, even though he's been the incumbent there since 1988.

Because Chiam See Tong took home Potong Pasir, as he has worked hard to do. Dude, he's 71 years old!

You can't win 'em all. But this'll do.


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I am what I am

Courtesy of Little Miss Drinkalot.

I AM: impatient and easily distracted
I WANT: a happy life
I WISH: I could have voted today
I HATE: intolerance
I MISS: winter
I FEAR: failure
I WONDER: where I'll be in ten years' time
I REGRET: nothing
I AM NOT: tall
I DANCE: only in the shower
I SING: only in groups and then very quietly
I CRY: too easily
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: nothing at all --- neither arts nor crafts nor cooking
I WRITE: everyday
I CONFUSE: conviction for truth, nostalgia for reality
I NEED: a sharper mind
I SHOULD: start writing those damn short stories already
I START: my day with some kind of milk drink
I FINISH: things quickly
I LOVE: life
I REMEMBER: not enough


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Rallying hope

Taken by Domch.

I've been asked this week why I'm attending so many election rallies, particularly since I don't even get to vote in tomorrow's election. The glib answer I've given, as well as the rallying (no pun intended) cry in my attempts to dragoon friends to these events, is that this only happens once every five years and it all happens in this one week, really, so we'd better not miss the chance.

That's not entirely accurate, though. What it is, is that this is the first elections since 1988 when so many constituencies have been contested and such a striking proportion of the population gets to vote. It's the first election I remember when the dominant People's Action Party did not emerge on nomination day with an outright parliamentary majority (47 seats are being contested this time round, as compared to 28 in the last election in 2001). And it's the first election happening in a really thriving internet environment.

I suppose, having worked on the government and seeing how some things work on the inside, I'm also curious to see what the alternative might be and what their ideas are like. I already know what the People's Action Party's all about, so I don't need to go to their rallies. And seeing as the friendly neighbourhood mainstream media is continuing to avidly cover that party, I might as well take myself off to Opposition party rallies to hear from the horse's mouth direct. Yeah, I could have read the party websites, but I was also curious to see who were these people and voices behind the names.

Of course, election rallies are a good show too. A colleague said that people go for the theatre; another friend remarked that people like to go to feel angry. The political candidates do their best to rile up the crowd about their issue of choice, while simultaneously entertaining them and making them feel good about their vote --- and all without digital special effects or a multi-million dollar budget. While it is a spectacle in its own way, it's about as far as you can get from the pabulum of other "national" events like the National Day Parade.

Ultimately, perhaps it's the very fact that I don't have the opportunity to vote that drives me out to these rallies. Disempowered, disenfranchised myself, I want to see what other Singaporeans might be thinking and what parties I can't vote for are offering. I want, a little bit, to hope ---

--- But not too much, because I don't want to be disappointed again and because I know there are people, even among my friends, grumbling about the "hassle" of having to go down to their polling venues or who will vote without thinking about the social issues or political concerns at stake. (Needless to say, those friends don't understand why I want so badly the opportunity to vote.)

I went to four rallies this week and I'm glad I did. I've learned more, thought more, debated more. I know where I stand.

Tomorrow, we find out how this country measures up to that.


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On the ground

I've been told I should blog about this rally tonight (for the record, the Workers' Party rally at Serangoon Stadium), and I think I'll be too wiped after I get home, so here are thoughts from the front, as it were (composed during rally speeches in languages I don't understand).

Things I'm noticing here that I didn't see at previous rallies:

  • More women, here with husbands and friends.
  • More families, with teenaged kids too young to vote but who are here anyway.
  • Teenagers in school uniform, again too young to vote but who clearly want to hear what's
    going on.
  • People who've come straight from their white-collar jobs, in pinstriped long-sleeved shirts and pressed pants, some still wearing lanyards around their necks with security passes tucked into the front pocket of the shirt.
  • The police not allowing people to stand on a nearby overhead bridge to listen to the rally, presumably because some kind of public disturbance might ensue, but there were quite a few annoyed citizens politely but firmly arguing the point with them.
  • Lots more people from minority races.
(That thought was aptly interrupted by a speech about pushing for a more inclusive and free online environment. That's one thing I can definitely get behind.)

The other big thought on my mind is whether rally attendance will translate to votes for the respective party. Historically, saith more seasoned election watchers than me, it hasn't. We'll find out in a little more than 24 hours.


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Election rally survival tip #312

Don't dress like you might be from the Internal Security Department.

I'm in a short-sleeved button-down fitted shirt with jeans and brown walking shoes, and my friends have mocked me mercilessly already.


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Good morning

This morning, I opened the door to leave our apartment for work, and in the first burst of pre-rain fresh breeze, everything smelled of Vancouver.


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Seeing stars

Some nights, I plan to blog, have pictures and a draft post and everything --- and then it's 3:52 am by the time I send my last deadline-non-negotiable work email and you know what? It's time for bed.


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Another night, another rally

I was gonna go to the Workers' Party rally at Tampines tonight, but a twist of fate --- namely, the influence of friends --- brought me to the Singapore Democratic Alliance one at Aljunied/Geylang East instead.

We got there around 9 pm and the first thing I noticed, honestly, was that the ground was a lot more potholed and therefore hazardous to one's feet and ankles than the previous field I was at. It's kinda hard not to notice this, seeing as every other step seemed to take my slippered feet into a pothole. In Singapore's much vaunted clean-and-green environment, I am shocked! shocked and outraged! to find that a field of such poor quality is still allowed to persist. (I'm not sure if I should be pointing fingers at the local Aljunied Town Council or the Ministry for Environment and Water Resources, but I know the Singapore Democratic Alliance can't have been responsible for it.)

The rally itself was smaller and quieter than my previous experience. The crowd numbered somewhere between 1,000-2,000 (again, these are my feeble layman's estimates) and the party's own cheering squad seemed less spirited, though the emcee's rousing introductions of each speaker and the coordinated whistle-blowing helped to keep things going.

In other respects, it was similar to Sunday's experience: Police/ISD tent set up to videotape and photograph the proceedings (check). Crowd made up of mostly older Chinese men (check). Overwhelming applause when the party leader --- in this case, Chiam See Tong --- arrived at the rally (check).

Originally taken and uploaded by elsija
(at a different occasion, but it's way nicer than anything my cameraphone could muster tonight)

The issues they talked about (excluding the speeches in Hokkien and Teochew which I couldn't follow, and I might've missed some of the stuff in Mandarin too because I didn't have an all-powerful translator like BoKo with me tonight), and my initial reactions, if any:
  • The introduction of a minimum wage to protect older workers' jobs.
  • Preventing transport fee or GST increases after the general election --- Hear, hear!
  • Lift upgrading programmes --- Alas, the details of this eluded me because they were delivered in Mandarin.
  • Introducing a new public holiday to celebrate Singapore's multiracial and multicultural identity --- Okay, now there are plenty of important issues that people should be concerned about, for this election and at any given time of the year in this country, but seriously, introducing a new public holiday is not one of them. Singapore's multiracial and multicultural identity is not being threatened, by any means --- I feel a wave of nausea at even having to type those overused "multi-" words right now --- and if anything, what this country needs is to get beyond the superficialities of having Racial Harmony Day (already celebrated in schools) and four official languages, to deal with interracial issues with more genuine honesty, so that stupid shit like this isn't par for the course in our delightfully racially integrated housing estates. *exhale*
  • Explaining why SDA election posters for Sin Kek Tong in MacPherson GRC had to be removed --- Apparently, they violated the Elections Department's regulations by a small measurement. Note to all aspiring Opposition candidates and supporters out there: Always always always read the fine print on any forms you fill, any regulations you swear to abide by, because this Elections Department will hold you to the very last letter of the law. If you haven't already hired the most anal retentive person you know as your campaign manager (or whatever the local equivalent is), now is the time to start training one for the next general election.
  • Sin Kek Tong explaining how he was misquoted in the Straits Times, conveying the false impression that he had failed his 'O' Level examinations four times.
  • The elimination of the streaming examination in primary school.
  • Chiam's ability to pick good political candidates --- He pointed out that the PAP too had picked candidates like Teh Cheang Wan (our local Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has some handy background information on his case here) and a few other names that I couldn't catch.
  • The question of what happens to all the interest accrued on the deposits for public utilities accounts that every household is required to pay upfront and doesn't see again till the account is terminated --- I think we paid $70 almost seven years ago, which adds up to a whole lotta spare change even in that time. A worthy question, even if the answer turns out to be relatively banal.
  • Having Progress Package payouts every year, not just right before a general election --- Hear, hear! (Incidentally, those of us who dutifully signed up for our payouts in the first round got the cold, hard cash in our designated bank accounts on 1 May, a neat 5 days before the general election.)
Earth-shattering? No. Occasionally banal? Yes. But they've said what they believed in, and I still can't believe Chiam is 71 this year.

My newly acquired survival tips for future rallies:
  • Wear covered footwear, even in dry weather.
  • Budget an hour to leave the rally area because all the car parks will be jammed with cars trying to get out, there won't be enough taxis for everyone and even the footpaths to the nearest bus stop or MRT station will be somewhat clogged.
  • Don't wear black because it attracts mosquitoes (though I fared alright tonight).
  • Wear pants because --- and this might be psychosomatic, but --- exposed legs get grass itch.

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My very first political rally

And so it was, that at the ripe old age of 32, despite not having the opportunity to vote in this general election, I attended my first political rally tonight. And an Opposition (as characterized in popular discourse, though all that means is that they're not the dominant party) political rally at that. More precisely: the Workers' Party rally at Hougang Central.

Because it was my very first political rally, I didn't have all the survival tips down pat. I knew from Yawning Bread's accounts of two recent rallies that the setup would likely be spartan and no-frills, i.e. bare grass patch, potentially muddy in the event of rain, packed with enthusiastic supporters. So BoKo and I were prepared to sweat it out if the crowd got too tight and armed with an umbrella if the weather turned.

What I didn't know was that it would be smart, if one were planning to listen to the entire rally, to bring one's own chairs and refreshments.

Don't forget to bring your own chairs

Ever the enterprising

No wonder the vendors selling cold drinks, ice creams, fried fish balls and other snacks seemed to be doing a decent business even before the rally began.

I didn't really have any expectations about what a rally would be like. I supposed there would be loud cheering from supporters (check), loud exhortations from candidates (check) and silent stares from the policemen on duty (check).

What I didn't expect was the variety of languages that the candidates took turns to speak in (English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Tamil) and the rousing response to the speeches made in Hokkien and Mandarin. I have never felt like more of a monolingual minority: even though I could grasp the odd thread of what was spoken in Mandarin, I had to keep turning to BoKo for a more thorough translation. And I certainly didn't get any of the Hokkien slang or jokes that were keeping the crowd engaged.

The other thing I didn't expect was the size of the crowd --- oh lord, the crowd. It was already decent-sized at 7 pm when we got there --- 4,000 or 5,000, we estimated --- but it swelled to fill almost the entire field (hemmed in by Hougang Central, Hougang Avenue 4 and Upper Serangoon Road, Jalan Naung and block 837). Our layman estimates: 10,000-20,000, all told. And they stayed, standing, even though most of them were unable to see the speakers and could only hear their speeches through the PA system, until the very last speech wrapped dutifully, in accordance with police regulations, at about 10 pm.

Who's on first?

(Some of) the crowd at 7:30 pm

(Some of) the crowd at 9:45 pm

(In the middle image, you'll see the stage where the Workers' Party candidates spoke from, completely exposed to the elements, as opposed to the covered stage setup where the police could videotape the proceedings and the crowd, high and dry no matter the weather.)

What did they speak about? Healthcare costs, predominantly (which I thought was a bold choice since it's a highly unsexy political issue), but also foreign talent, flat upgrading programmes and municipal issues like Deepavali celebrations and attempts by the People's Action Party to woo constituencies controlled by the Opposition, like Hougang, back to its fold. (Apparently, the People's Action Party offers Hougang residents free breakfast, coffee and two slices of bread, every Friday. Bread and butter issues, huh?)

But I think the money quote came from Workers' Party candidate Perry Tong when he pointed out that his party's manifesto spent four pages and 800 words dealing with healthcare issues and outlining specific policies, while the People's Action Party's manifesto had just forty sixty words to say about it. I haven't yet compared the manifestos to verify this, but that's on my to-do list for tomorrow for sure.

So that was my first rally: Huge crowds, fervent (though not quite roaring) support for the party. Old men who look like they might've attended their first political rally back in the '50s, standing alongside families with fidgeting teenaged children, standing alongside couples younger than me who have yet to start a family, standing alongside even younger people who are probably just old enough to vote this time around. Surprisingly few smokers, for a crowd this size. Residents watching and listening from the adjacent apartment buildings, the staircase landing on every floor dotted with their silhouettes. Young people carrying a "We love Sylvia" placard, that when flipped around read, "We love life, we love freedom".

I can't wait for the next one.

Whether or not you get to vote, whether or not you make it to a rally in the next week, find out a little more about what's what this election. All the political parties have published their manifestos on the web: the People's Action Party (PDF), the Singapore Democratic Alliance, the Singapore Democratic Party and the Workers' Party (links via a gecko's tale).

Read. Think. Question. Debate. And --- if you get to --- vote.

Parallel accounts:

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