Words once that mattered:
It doesn't matter how you voted, if you voted, whether you are rich or you are poor. This is your government --- the government of the entire people of the colony of Singapore, and its one single aim is not the welfare of the people who believe in its ideals, but the people who believe in Singapore.

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Out of the office

While Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlets are, in general, nothing to get excited about, the free wireless access at the Funan Centre outlet, combined with the dull white noise of conversations at neighbouring tables, makes it quite the nook to while away a couple of hours of work.

And to blog, of course.


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Listening to (another) Singapore

A glimpse of the not-so-distant past

It's very surreal to, on the eve of one's birthday, stumble upon political speeches made on the same date as that birthday, only distantly relocated to different times --- and different worlds.

Sixty years ago, the world was picking itself up from the shambles of World War Two and the British Empire was fretting over the shortages still suffered in its colonies (or that's what they claimed in at least one of their speeches, anyway), to the point that an actual conference was held in Singapore to consider how best to address the situation. It's queer to think that speechmakers the world over have been thanking people who come to their conferences in exactly the same words: for taking precious time out of their busy schedules/affairs to attend to the matter at hand.

Fifty-one years ago,the political parties contesting Singapore's first elections for an internal self-government were pulling out all the stops to woo the voters. Top on everyone's mind was not only the People's Action Party, but also the now defunct Labour Front and Progressive Party. Who'd've thunk it that listening to radio election speeches could be so rousing?

I wonder what will happen tomorrow that unborn generations might someday want to listen to or view in the nation's archives ...


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The weekend

This is a good way to begin the weekend on Friday evening --- by memorializing leaving the office.


Not that things have been bad at the office. They've been very good, really. No, this photo's really to memorialize the start of the first weekend in over a month that I didn't have to be working through said weekend.

So instead, on Saturday I took (hat-tip: mr brown, for teaching me the difference between 'bring' and 'take') my parents to see Singapore GaGa at the Arts House, like I said I would. My dad, who's 63, pronounced it a "classic" which needed to be released on DVD, stat. Afterwards, the walk to the car led me to the belated realization that, "The new Supreme Court building's so ugly, it actually makes the Treasury building look good."

Today, I spent the whole day at home eating junk food: Chinese nasi lemak from our neighbourhood coffeeshop for brunch, followed by half a bag of Ruffles potato chips (I have an established weakness for them) at 5 pm. Right now it looks like dinner supper might be some leftover KFC mashed potatoes. (Food connoisseurs reading this, please refrain from passing hellfire-and-brimstone judgement; I did preface this list with the term "junk food".)

Ironically, while last weekend Ink wanted very much to play but I was rushing a deadline, this weekend I had almost all the time in the world to play with him, but he was curiously inert. Maybe it's the aftereffects of the vaccination and de-worming he had at the vet yesterday, but it's strange to see him spend most of the day asleep, and still be quite happy for us to put him to bed at 10:30 pm. (We moved him because he was getting all dozy on the couch, which means he'll get all yowly when we try to move him after he's fallen asleep, as we learned the hard way last night.)


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Eye the camera Eye the camera any which way Ink watching soccer

I am very remiss in blogging about our not-so-new cat Ink, but in my own defence, the first week he moved in with us coincided with the last week of a freelance project that I was madly rushing to print, and this second week he's been with us I've been madly atoning for pseudo-parental neglect by playing with him instead of snapping pictures or blogging about it. So.

The interesting thing about acquiring a cat, especially one of the Cute Overload variety, is how much I want to come home and play with him. Part of it is the abovementioned pseudo-parental neglect from not being able to spend the better part of the day with him, or knowing that he's alone in the bathroom if both of us aren't home. (He's not yet sufficiently acclimatized to the flat that we'll let him wander free unsupervised, although that is most definitely the eventual goal.)

I've had the look/gasp/SMS/IM of disbelief from friends when I say something about wanting to go right home after work to see Ink, but I get it now why people say that pets are therapeutic (assuming you get the right one for your temperament, I suppose). I get it why people show off pictures of their pets (guilty as charged, the above four image all currently reside in my cellphone) and how they can spend a good deal of time waving colourful ribbons and other paraphernalia in front of the pet, instead of, you know, blogging or watching TV.

And I'm coming really late to this party because I've never had a proper pet before this. I mean, I had terrapins as a child but those really don't do anything and aren't anywhere as cool-looking as diamondbacks. And the chicks we reared wound up as, er, chicken on the dinner table. (No, really, we Singaporeans can be coolly pragmatic that way.)

Let me put it this way: I've never had a pet that, after a busy day, would curl up and go to sleep on the couch before.

Ink sleeps


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What do Freemasons eat for lunch?

On Friday, ampulets and I ventured on a not-so-undercover mission to find out what it is the Freemasons have for lunch. This comes after days of walking past the sign outside the Freemason Hall informing passersby that their restaurant a) is open to the public, b) offers set lunches for $9.80 and c) accepts telephone reservations.

I don't know what the Freemasons are about, but the restaurant's interior consists of lots of dark wood panelling, elegant chandeliers, portraits of a young Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, among other luminaries, and framed display pieces on the walls that showcase Freemason togs and weathered-looking pseudo-parchment pieces about Solomon's Temple.

When I entered, I told the waiter I was meeting a friend and he responded, "What's his good self's name?" At least, that's what I think he said; I was too busy being mildly perturbed that the other three or four occupied tables consisted of business-looking-types in business-type suits who could have passed for actual Freemasons.

But that's just first impressions for you. As it turned out, lunch was largely impeccable --- good service, good food, all in a nicely coiffed environment that couldn't more be at odds with the busy streets and humid weather outside. As ampulets remarked, it immediately feels like you're in the UK. ampulets had the roast chicken, I had the poached dory, and I'm sorry the photograph of my dory didn't turn out well because it was the prettiest dory I'd ever seen: three coils of soft white fish fillet crowned with fragrant garlic butter.

The only letdown was the dessert, which was a slice of butter fruitcake served fresh from the fridge.

What Freemasons eat for lunch

We just had the melon balls. And the photo, to prove that we ate at the Freemasons'.

On our way out, as I was pointing out the antiquated sign directing the way to the "Ladies Powder Room", we must have loitered for half a second longer than permitted for non-members because an old Chinese man popped out of the door beside the restaurant to ask if he could help us.

Nevertheless, this is quite the cosy nook to pop in for a peaceful lunch in what I am coming to think of as the old city area of downtown. A wedding party even trooped in for a late déjeuner from the nearby Registry of Marriages, which made ampulets and I go, of course this would be the perfect place for that.

The set lunch changes everyday. ampulets and I are next coming back on a Thursday, for the prawns provence with pasta and the brownies.


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Anyone have a remedy for the post-lunch slash mid-tropical afternoon sleepies? Even after the following:
  • A bottle of sweet Sunkist lemon juice and aloe vera drink;
  • Taking a ten-minute walk to the library to get a book for research;
  • Reading said book, which is quite interesting in itself
  • IMing
Quick, before my head crashes down on the table ...



Tuning in

I've spent the better part of my working hours these past couple of weeks listening to audio recordings of lives and times gone by. Some voices are Singaporean, others are sojourners who were here at some pivotal moment in history. Many, I can't help but realise, are probably deceased.

Mostly, this task entails listening to cassette tapes. Nothing transports one more instantaneously back in time than re-encountering a piece of technology from one's childhood.

High-tech, low-tech

Technically, I think I was already a teenager by the time I acquired my first Walkman. It was pink --- not by choice, despite my current predilection for that colour, but because it was the only colour that the sale item came in --- and it was more advanced than the current model I'm using at work in that it had both fast-forward and rewind functions. (The one at work lacks the latter, not to mention its fast-forwarding speed is painfully slow, or maybe that's just the impression I have because it also lacks a counter.)

That first Walkman was probably the combined size of the PDA and iPod I use today. It ran on AA-sized batteries and played cassette tapes well enough, but it couldn't record anything. I wonder what ever happened to it. I seem to recall coming across it in the late '90s after I moved back from the US and I thought my packrat of a mother would certainly save it for some kind of imagined rainy day slash salvageable use, but she doesn't have it either.

But that's okay, because not having it gave me the excuse to borrow this cool number from Little Miss Drinkalot's brother.

High-tech, low-tech II

Way before Apple made the sexy listening devices, there was the Aiwa Walkman, and hot damn if this model isn't sleek enough to outsmoke the iPod: clean lines, contoured surfaces for the different buttons and an elegant black casing. In some ways, the aesthetic hasn't changed very much in the twenty years (or more) separating these two little beauties.

My parents didn't exactly believe in splurging on toys like a Walkman when I was still dependent on them for pocket money, so I never had the resources to get something as nice as this. So when LMD passed it to me last week, I was a little blown away that I finally had one of these babies in my hands --- and a little jealous that it still wasn't mine.

Listening to oral history recordings never felt so cool.

Oral history fun find for the day: Can you say the following in under 6 seconds?
" ... comprising the states of Johor, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu Terengganu, Perak, Melaka and Penang".
I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I had to listen to it at least five times over in order to get all the names of the states down (good thing they never quizzed us on that in school), but I still can't recite the list that quickly. Maybe if I had 54 years' of practice ...


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Can't win 'em all

Some days I am geek girl. Other days, like today, I need to download a video in order to figure out how to remove the cover on my cellphone so that I can reset it.


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The simple things

I'm not sure if I'm getting cat-like tendencies, but I really like the feel of the office carpet under my feet and have taken to padding barefoot whenever I'm up and about from my desk.


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Everyone go wish my brother happy birthday!

(Blog entry title shamelessly stolen from Threadless's email alert today, which indeed made me stop what I was doing right there and then to go look at new T-shirt designs...)


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Why you should be nice to your friends in primary school

Because they may turn up many years later as the wife of your boss!




(Mostly Singapore) Stuff to do

Bored? (A common enough Singaporean 'plaint.)


Got energy to burn?

Well, I wasn't paid to plug any of this stuff on my blog, but I've of late encountered in my own social circle too much of a buzz of spontaneous activities celebrating Singapore, that it deserves its own blog post.

Singapore Gaga

Singapore GaGa opened yesterday at The Arts House. It rocks (others think so, too). Go see it, then check out Singapore Uniquely. (Or check out Singapore Uniquely first. Whatever floats your boat.)

Thoroughly inspired? All right, pick up your favourite magic marker or more sophisticated drawing implement of choice, and contribute a sticker design to Majulah Stickapura (gratuitous launch photos here), the latest effort by the 1819SuperMovement.

You may not be travelling to Tokyo in May, but your sticker design certainly could.

Finally, on a non-Singaporean note, check out my friend Keet's Relentless Toil: Print Shop, which is filled with just the darlingest art pieces that will tickle the fancies of children and adults. Proceeds from certain prints go to the March of Dimes.

I'm partial to the cat print myself, but if you're feeling all Singapore-inspired, you might want a groovy lion for yourself.

A completely original artwork by relentlesstoil.

(I might be putting in an order soon, so if you want to bundle a bunch of Singapore orders together to save on shipping, let me know via email.)


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Home is

As I walked down by the river tonight after Rojak, it dawned on me to wonder: Is it worth it, to be able to walk alone after midnight in downtown Singapore and not have to worry about being harassed or attacked --- in exchange for not being able to blog about elections or the countless OB (out-of-bounds) markers about talking about race or religion or sex or the real politics of this country?

Is it?


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Me strong woman now

I would like to point out that I started my day by singlehandedly changing a 5 gallon drum on the water cooler at work. This is remarkable considering that I usually have trouble hefting a 1 kg bag of rice.




Listening to Singapore

Full disclaimer: I saw Singapore GaGa on Monday night in a blogger-only private screening (first time in Singapore media history!). However, it's not like they're paying me to say nice things or anything. I liked the film and I'm going to bring my parents to see it. You should too.

Watching Tan Pin Pin's Singapore GaGa is like tuning in momentarily to all the background noises of the city that we seasoned urbanites are used to ignoring or blocking out altogether in our daily lives. For 55 minutes, the frequency changes, and all those things at the edge of our aural awareness swell into focus: from street buskers and racuous children, to musicians and music-makers that perhaps the ordinary Singaporean wouldn't encounter up close.

Pin Pin calls it a documentary, but this one doesn't need a narrator; the city narrates itself. Happily, it's not a production that sets out to define Singapore, and happily it evades all the definitions that would be imposed on it by The Powers That Be. You won't find cultural tokenism here, or jingoistic tableaux --- except for, well, see it for yourself.

No, relying on her own musings and observations, Pin Pin's woven together a soundscape that's at once so familiar, yet tells you something you didn't quite expect about the city. And always softly, subtly, respectfully.

I last saw Pin Pin at a NUS forum (webcast available) in December on the veracity of the Discovery Channel's three-hour pseudo-epic The History of Singapore. I remember thinking then, after I'd seen some of that programme, that for all that it aspired to be The Definitive Documentary About Singapore, the Singaporean was strangly absent from it.

In Singapore GaGa, the Singaporean is everywhere, and the Singaporean voice that Pin Pin's found chatters disarmingly from start to finish. "Singapore as you've never heard it before," I chimed glibly at the film's conclusion, but that's not it either. More like, Singapore as you've maybe not paused to notice it before.

Teng Qian Xi, the film's publicist, describes it as at once avant-garde, yet family-friendly and accessible. The word "charming" also seems to have cropped up frequently. Maybe they're trying to say it's unpretentious and sincere (both of which it is). But I don't know about "charming" because that seems to dangerously pigeonhole the film, potentially in the Uniquely Singapore mould, when what it does it is more than charm.

It engages. It finds a story and tells it. If you live here, maybe it makes you feel just that little bit guilty for being constantly jacked into your iPod or cellphone, and not letting the city speak to you. And in the end, it's neither more nor less than what it claims to be --- that is to say, one person's story of this city.

Which is why, I think, it works. Listen for yourself.


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Revelation of the day

So apparently, I am a Senior Researcher and Script Editor.

It's nice when other people make up nice-sounding titles for the work I do.


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Saturday night

Nothing calms the unsettled soul like a little Serenity.

Well, that and a little late-night bak kut teh (herbal pork rib soup).

Supper - A Portrait #1 Supper - A Portrait #2 Supper - A Portrait #3 Supper - A Portrait #4


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I just thought you should see what I see everyday.

It ain't a QWERTY anymore



Voting? What's that?

Overnight, we have become residents of Marine Parade GRC.



By the way, for some reason that completely escapes my comprehension, there is no downloadable, freely available map of the revised electoral boundaries. The government press release on this matter (warning: PDF only, because plain HTML files would be too user-friendly, you know) informs me that:
[E]lectoral maps are available for sale to political parties and prospective candidates for the next general election. The maps can be purchased at Counters 3 & 4, Singapore Land Authority Sale Centre, 26th Storey, Temasek Tower, Shenton Way.
I was able to check my personal electoral register information online, but not everyone has internet access. The Straits Times, "the most-read newspaper in Singapore", carried a map which had lots of pretty colours but little by way of factual information like street names so you can tell where the specific political boundary lies.

No wonder we have such a politically informed and active electorate.


Related posts: This place, I love Singapore, Why

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Unexpectedly, a homecoming

I went "back" to Chinatown for lunch today, and it felt like coming home, even though I didn't eat in a coffeeshop or hawker centre or eat Asian food at all, for that matter. Just cutting across Hong Lim Square, smiling at the old men inching their way down the stairs, inhaling the aroma of freshly baked Chinese breads and poking around in a stationery store before buying some wedding ang pows --- it all felt familiar and right.

After lunch, I picked up a kopi-O kosong (black coffee, i.e. no sugar, no milk) for 60 cents, to bring back to the office. It wasn't as teeth-stainingly powerful as the kind they serve at my favourite coffeeshop on Keong Saik Road, but it'll do.

(Yes, you can still get excellent coffee in Chinatown for 60 cents. Eat your heart out, Starbucks.)


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Dead end

I just realised that the script I've been working on is nothing more than an excuse for the two characters to take turns playing the Exposition Fairy for this particular story. Pah!

Perhaps even more disturbing is that I have, of late, acquired an unholy prefernce for the font Times New Roman.


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On a completely different note

Epicurious has the best iced tea in Singapore.


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This place

Some days I think I'm going to blog something earnest about Singapore and politics. And then, on the train on my way to work, I happen to see the Straits Times headline of the day:
"Budget not a GE sweetener, says PM"
Fuck. Why bother.


Related post: Why

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First day

I have a desk.

I have a security code.

I was informed this morning that someone usually unlocks the office "between 9:30 and 10:00", so I couldn't come in too early even if I wanted to. This surpasses even the previous job's what-time-we-expect-you-here standards, hurrah.

Addendum (2:50pm): I spent as much on lunch today as I did yesterday on lunch, dinner and a beer combined. Clearly, I can't be eating like this everyday.