Readers' poll #4: Chopsticks are lots of fun


I'm writing about Korean food right now, which begs the question of why Koreans use silver chopsticks, which got me thinking about how globalised Asian food has become and wondering how common it is for anyone --- not just Asians --- to know how to use chopsticks these days.

So here's my readers' poll: How old were you when you learned to use chopsticks? Feel free to embellish your answer with tragic tales of food dropped on the floor or being rapped on the knuckles by your elders, if any.

Also, I'm interested to see if anyone says, no, in fact they have not learned to use chopsticks.

My story: I don't remember exactly when I was taught to use chopsticks, but I grew up first using the fork and spoon --- to eat Asian meals, yes. Even today, at home I reach for a fork-and-spoon combination before I think about chopsticks, unless sushi is involved. I suspect I must have been six? seven? years old when I could use chopsticks competently in public (i.e. my parents didn't have to request for a fork and spoon if we were at a Chinese restaurant).

But my parents always lamented that my brother and I learned the wrong technique. To this day I can't control my chopsticks in the traditional fashion, where the chopstick closer to the body stays static while the thumb, index and middle finger lever the other one and keep it moving. I can still pick up most food and I did okay with those darn slippery silver Korean chopsticks for almost two months, but the occasional quail's egg or soft tofu still eludes me.

Oh, but the tearful tale of how I had to sit at the dinner table and learn to cut steak properly ... That's a story for another day.

So, do tell: when did you learn to use chopsticks and do you have a story to tell about it?



One gunkan to herald them all

Gunkan ganbatte!

I'm a week late to the party, but congratulations, Howard!

Is there a nicer thing to do with a good friend than to sample sushi and sip sake? No, not really.

  • It's in the basement of OUB Centre.
  • Try their versions of the tamago sushi, the tori kara-age and the enoki mushroom stir-fry.
  • Tell the cashier you're a fan of the Facebook page and get a 20% discount until August 28 (tomorrow).
  • Don't steal my bottle of sake.



What pets these creatures be

Wil Wheaton's dog Ferris died suddenly yesterday, which made me feel unaccountably sad. I say "unaccountably" because it's not like I'm friends with him or his dog. I guess I've just read his blog long enough, wherein the dog often made guest-star appearances, that I can't help feeling a pang at the awful news.

Then today I read (via Joan Walsh on Salon) "Night of the Hunter", Gwen Cooper's amazing account of how her cat-with-no-eyes --- well, go read it for yourself.

And now it's time for a picture of my cats, taken a few months ago.

Sleeping together

I still feel a pang.

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Incidental inspiration

When I wasn't thinking about Korea these couple of weeks, I was thinking about:

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Getting started

Breakfast of champions

Inspired in part by Wil Wheaton's "just another day".

Some days I wake up to my cell phone alarm. Other days I wake up to a cat's meow. If it's Sisu, it's a plaintive whine, maybe delivered beside my ear, maybe exhaled as she strides peremptorily into my bedroom. If it's Ink, it's more likely an insistent wail, accompanied by a nibbling/nipping of my exposed toes, perhaps anointed by a baleful glare as well. (If I open my eyes to acknowledge him, the game is up.)

Sometimes I sit up, only to lie down again. The cats feel cheated then.

Other days, most days, when I'm determined to be productive or have an appointment to keep, I'm up and out the bedroom door to the toilet, which in this apartment can only be accessed from the kitchen. This confuses the cats greatly, because their feeding area is also in the kitchen, and I'll come out of the loo to see them waiting expectantly for me --- only to have me breeze by them to go back into the bedroom. (Because, you see, a quirk of this apartment is that the toilet is accessed from the kitchen, whereas the bathroom, with the shower area and sink with my toothbrush and toothpaste, is accessed from my bedroom.)

I might pause in the bedroom to change out of my pajamas (a rather snazzy black/grey/white ensemble, if I do say so myself) into whatever clothes I'm wearing at home for the day. Then it's into the bathroom for a perfunctory combing of the hair and a dutiful brushing of the teeth. This doesn't take more than a couple of minutes, but depending on how greedy the cats are feeling, there might be a rising lamentation in sync with their back-and-forth pacing while I'm hidden from them behind the bathroom door.

Of course, once I open that door, they both skedaddle for the kitchen. I move a little more leisurely, stopping at the chest of drawers beside my bed to pick up my glasses and my cell phone. The cell phone gets dropped off at the dining table on my way back to the kitchen, where the cats have parked themselves. I put down their feeding bowls and pour out their respective dry food, and while they set to the nom-nom'ing, I fill the kettle with water and flip on the switch.

While the water's boiling, I fill the French press with ground coffee from the fridge. Sometimes I start clearing the kitty litter; other times I wait till the boiling water is ready and I pour it into the French press, before I start on the litter.

I always have to check the time on the microwave (the only clock in the kitchen) to make sure I don't let the coffee in the French press sit for more than four minutes.

So: coffee. If I have any breakfast food, it gets set out onto suitable crockery. By this time Ink will have finished eating, so I clear his bowl. Sisu's the nibbler, so her bowl comes out with me and is set beside the dining table (where I've been working lately, instead of at my desk). I have to keep an eye on the food because the cats aren't supposed to eat each other's.

If I haven't done so already, I retrieve my laptop from the (cat-proof) cupboard, flip it open and refresh my email window. I plug the cell phone into its USB charger into my laptop. I crack open the delightfully old-school louvred windows at the front to let some light into the living/dining room.

I sit down to coffee and breakfast. And so the day begins.

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When life gives you writer's block

Go out and do something else.

  • Have an impromptu rendezvous at the Starbucks outlet at Siglap with friends who live in the neighbourhood.
  • Mosey down to a Korean fried chicken restaurant at Tanjong Pagar.
  • Re-watch Firefly.
  • Blog.
  • Allow friends to redirect you to There, I Fixed It and Emails From Crazy People.

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When vapour condenses on your camera lens

The way ahead

Make pictures anyway.

Full Flickr set here.


Everything's happening right now

Making a list

The list I've made in my notebook:

1. Paradise Lost (documentary photography)
2902 Gallery
till 30 August
11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Tue-Sat
1 p.m. - 6 p.m., Sun

2. I, Polunin
NUS Museum
till 3 January 2010
10 a.m. - 7.30 p.m., Tue-Sat
10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun

3. Hunters & Collectors (colonial naturalists/collectors of Southeast Asian specimens and artefacts)
Asian Civilisations Museum
till 21 September
1 p.m. - 7 p.m., Mon
9 a.m. - 7 p.m., Tue-Sun (till 9 p.m. on Fri)

4. A Story of the Image (Flemish art)
National Museum of Singapore
till 4 October
10 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily

5. The Image of Our Landscape (19th-century landscapes of Singapore)
National Museum of Singapore
3 September- 29 November
10 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily

6. Curating Lab: 100 Objects (Remixed)
Helutrans (Tanjong Pagar)
till 30 August
11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Tue-Sat
11 a.m. - 3 p.m., Sun
Free shuttle bus runs from the bus stop next to Adelphi, Fri-Sun

7. Drawing as Form (by The Artists' Village)
Sculpture Square
till 28 August
11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Mon-Fri
12 p.m. - 6 p.m., Sat-Sun

Not in my notebook but I bought tickets to bring the parentals already:

8. The Dead Sea Scrolls & the Ancient World
The Arts House
27 August - 20 September
10 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily

Who say Singapore got nothing to do?



Are you a maker or a manager?

As I was buckling down to work a couple of weeks ago, Pin sent me Paul Graham's "Maker's schedule, manager's schedule", which crystallises a lot of what I've only properly realised these couple of months about how I work. In a nutshell: managers get stuff done by breaking the day up with itty-bitty tasks and meetings, makers need uninterrupted blocks of time to get substantive creative work done. (He goes into good detail about each job type --- go read it.)

I used to multitask a lot more, and a lot more flexibly, when I first started freelancing. Maybe it was because I was doing itty-bitty bits of work, whatever came in that seemed interesting or paid the bills, none of which were very long-form or long-term projects. I also thought that trying to schedule all my client meetings on the same day of the week was 'cause I was lazy to go out everyday, which would feel too much like going to work at a conventional office job.

Now my work schedule swings between the extremes of (a) hermit-like self-imposed isolation at home with the internet on for research but not IMing, and (b) multitasking days for things like meetings, admin work and "grabbing coffee" (see Graham's use of the term). This month it's been mostly (a), which has been great for creative foment, although I have to admit that in this day and age of constant Twitter chatter and link-sharing, it feels counter-intuitive to take a step back and block it all out in order to get anything creative done.

I wonder also if this is why many of my teacher friends are always so frazzled during term time, as I used to be. Preparing a good lesson is "making", but so much of a teacher's life is filled with "managing" --- managing students and colleagues, being managed by bosses and the system. Just as non-freelancers sometimes assume that a freelancer having a "flexible" schedule means they can interrupt his/her day at any time, people in school often assume that a teacher who doesn't have a scheduled lesson is likewise "free" to be interrupted ("free periods" indeed).

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All I wanted was plain-vanilla chocolate

When I found cheap strawberries at the supermarket this week, I immediately knew that I wanted chocolate ice cream to go with them. It used to be you could just waltz up to the ice cream freezer and scoop a tub off the top of the pile, but now that we have rucola, fresh peaches and couscous in our supermarkets, it turns out that it's harder than you think to rustle up a tub of plain, simple, ungarnished chocolate ice cream.

I wasn't about to pay $14 for Haagen-Dazs. Ben & Jerry's (almost as expensive) doesn't do a pure chocolate. Working my way down the price chain and through the ice cream freezer to the very cheapest brands of Walls, Magnolia and Kings, I was still left empty-handed. There was Rocky Road, plenty of Neapolitan and many other concoctions that ran along the lines of chocolate-chip-superfudge-chunky-chocolate-with-cookie-dough. But no plain chocolate.

Not at Cold Storage, not at NTUC. Not even the Haagen-Dazs brand.

I eventually settled for Wall's triple chocolate. As a point of comparison, it was 1.5 times the size and less than half the price of a pint of Haagen-Dazs. Admittedly it's also described on the packaging as a "chocolate and malt-flavoured ice confection".

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Not a fussy eater, really

This is the story behind the dessert options at yesterday's housewarming.

The day before
The Host: "I'm kinda really fixated on that orh nee [from Big D's] ..."
Me: "Count me out for orh nee. I really dislike it."

The afternoon of
Me: "Do you want me to bring anything for tonight? Dessert?"
The Host: "It's okay. I asked _____ to bring ice cream for the non-orh nee eaters."

Five minutes before
_____ : "Ya, I got ice cream. The usual flavours."
Me: "Which are ...?"
_____ : "Pulot [hitam] and coconut."
Me: "Guess I'm not having any dessert tonight."

Upon arrival
The Host: "G-man brought dessert too."
Me: "Oooooh, what?"
G-man: "Arctic Roll and Vienetta."
Me: "Arctic Roll!"

My first taste of the new Arctic Roll

It was a little disconcerting at first that the dominant colour in the Arctic Roll packaging is now a sickeningly sweet fuchsia, instead of the reassuring deep blue of the original (similar version here). I suppose this is what happens when companies try to funk it up to "appeal to a new generation of Britons".

Taste-wise, they got the ice cream about right, but the raspberry is too tart and the sponge cake not sweet enough. I had only one slice of it. Time was when I would eat half a roll for breakfast before school (my mother permitted a very wide-ranging choice of breakfast foods).

I wonder what other discontinued "retro" products will be resurrected by the recession ...



Day --- off

Dress --- worn.

Ideas --- scribbled down.

District 9 --- watched (well, as best as I could, given the motion sickness which led me to shut my eyes for a good half of the film).

Big D's dinner (ta pow) --- eaten, with gusto.

Arctic Roll --- eaten, but meh (didn't quite get the original formula right).

House --- warmed.



The best Singapore blog you're not reading

A Singapore Taxi Driver's Diary --- not updated that often, but there's a good trove of stories already that has some nice nuggets about living in Singapore today.

(Via Heman Chong on Facebook.)

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A little art interlude

Lookit that horse

So tonight I broke my self-imposed isolation and went to the opening of "A Story of the Image", a visiting exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore with art from Antwerp --- from big names like Ruben and van Dyck, to contemporary artists I've never heard of but, from what I glimpsed tonight, seem to be doing interesting things.

And that's all I managed to do tonight, glimpse things, because holy crap, I was not prepared for how big this exhibition is. I'm used to temporary exhibitions in Singapore being small because they're travelling shows and our museums have limited space. But this one takes up the entire temporary exhibition space on the basement level of the museum. After the first couple of galleries, I gave up at trying to look at the art properly because the place was supposed to be closing in 20 minutes anyway. I'll go back another day and take my time at it. Yes, I'll have to pay $8, but damn if it isn't going to be $8 well-spent. When was the last time you heard "16th-century engravings" and "Singapore" in the same sentence?

Suzie and TOHA (The Other Half of Ampulets) were there tonight too, and TOHA remarked that watching people respond to the artworks reminded him of the New York Times article I Facebooked last week, "At Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus" (via Hwei Shan). At exhibitions there are always people who walk through studying their guidebooks and catalogues diligently, and there are people diligently taking photos of everything they see or like or feel they ought to take a photo of, and there are people who trudge through 'cause someone made them do it. There are people who sit and sketch, and and there are people who wander, well, wherever. There are people who check it off a list.

There were no sketchers tonight, but let's see if any turn up the next time I pop into this exhibition.



Cats in a (laundry) basket

Cats in a (laundry) basket

This only lasts a couple of minutes. Then one evicts the other, and takes the entire basket for his/her snoozing pleasure.



O Cedele

If you were wondering how to pronounce 'Cedele' (the name of a bakery/restaurant chain selling rather tasty eats in Singapore), here is the answer from deafknee (via Stripes and Butterflies), who wrote to them to find out. Now you know.

I wish there was a better story behind the name, but hey, I never got round to making up a good story about why I use "Tym" either.

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Watching the NDP

So I watched the National Day Parade (NDP), because I was staying home to write anyway, and I'd been told that with Ivan Heng as the parade's creative director, there were gonna be pole dancers and Koh Chieng Mun singing "I Will Survive".

As it turns out, this was all the writing I managed to do.

5:55 p.m.
Time to switch on the TV. Oh look, it's Anthony Bourdain waxing lyrical about Singapore food on Discovery Travel & Living. A very appropriate broadcast for National Day --- except that he's swigging down Heineken instead of Tiger.

5:57 p.m.
Bourdain's done; over to Channel 5 for the parade telecast. Except that before that starts at 6:15 p.m., it's the prime minister's National Day Message. Clearly, this is why the mute button was invented.

6:08 p.m.
Every time I glance up, the Prime Minister looks like he's trying really hard to perform for the camera. Which is, you know, a lose-lose proposition.

6:09 p.m.
Oh good, it's over. But I'm still muting the simpering National Day song that they're playing next.

6:20 p.m.
Everyone loves parachutists.

6:23 p.m.
There are commercial breaks in the telecast of the parade?! [Edited to add: It turns out this was the only one.]

6:26 p.m.
Good thing the sound of helicopters flying back for the parade drowns out the commercial break.

6:29 p.m.
I always like watching our politicians to see what they make of all this. Especially Uncle Lee.

6:30 p.m.
Look! Our Members of Parliament can strike a drum-like toy in sync!

Here comes the Cabinet. Do they always walk through a public area where they can deliver handshakes? Reach out and come together, yo.

6:32 p.m.
They're playing Singapura, O Singapura as Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong enter. It's not quite the same without the rousing military fanfare.

The commentator says something like: "Lee Kuan Yew ... 85 years old ... still lending his expertise to the nation ... Goh Chok Tong, our prime minister from 1996 to 2004." Hm.

6:33 p.m.
Birthday greetings from around the world. *mute*

6:35 p.m.
Lee Hsien Loong gets what mr brown would call "ooom-ch'-ooom-ch'" music. I really miss the military fanfare.

6:39 p.m.
I heart the giant Sang Nila Utama puppet. It reminds me of that that old German Telematch TV show they showed on Channel 5 in the 1980s, with competitors in colourful costumes running around the field with joker puppets and other giant props.

6:41 p.m.
Sisu is very curious about those helicopters hovering outside.

6:42 p.m.
Sang Nila Utama looks a little, um, Caucasian.

6:43 p.m.
I also heart Singa the courtesy lion. He needs to have his own TV show. Of course, his Twitter is good too.

6:45 p.m.
"Line-dancing lion dancers" --- of course the pun is intended. Who wrote this script?

6:46 p.m.
Holy crap, in what universe is it cool to include terrorists and simulated chemical attacks in the National Day Parade? Did the parade only take half an hour to jump the shark?

6:48 p.m.
The audience looks a little dumbfounded at the simulated terrorist attack. Bring back the parachutists and Black Knights!

6:49 p.m.
Now there are Navy boats chasing "bad guy terrorists" on jetski past the Merlion. I feel like I'm at an SAF Day show, not the National Day Parade. Bring back the marching contingents and guard of honour!

6:50 p.m.
It's not exciting to watch people get chased when a) you know the inevitable outcome and b) there are no Black Knights involved.

6:51 p.m.
Ooooohhh ... Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries for the Chinooks' arrival. I am seeing Apocalypse Now in my mind.

6:53 p.m.
Underwater camera footage of the rather cool Navy divers, though they look less cool when it looks like pre-shot (not "live") footage meant for a computer game.

There are so many video clips in this "parade", I'm wondering why they didn't just make a feature film and be done with it.

6:55 p.m.
Ah, armoured vehicles rolling into the parade square. It's like an amped-up version of the 1969 parade, when Singapore rolled out its very first tanks.

6:55 p.m.
Naval divers approaching the politicians' seating area with weapons. If this were a movie with Bruce Willis, someone would be getting shot any second now.

6:56 p.m.
Stop referring to them as military "assets". It just sounds stupid.

6:58 p.m.
The SIMULATED TERRORIST ATTACK (it really merits the caps) is over. I hope they bring back the Sang Nila Utama puppet.

6:59 p.m.
Drummer boys are always cool.

7:00 p.m.
Yay, parade commander Regimental Sergeant Major! Cepat jaaaaaaaaalan!

Owwwhhhhh ... the parade contingents have to sing a cheesy song as they march in. O the indignity.

I have been reliably informed that the crazy shit happens between 7:30 and 8:15 p.m.

7:04 p.m.
The traditional marching contingent bit of the parade seems to be in full swing (and no more singing, whew). This has always been my favourite bit.

7:07 p.m.
We interrupt this perfectly delightful parade marchpast to wonder, why is there a giant eye-shaped screen looking down on everything? It's a little creepy and cult-like.

7:10 p.m.
The President arrives. He does not get "ooom-ch'-ooom-ch'" music.

7:11 p.m.
It's the Majulah and I'm too lazy to get up from the couch. Ink is standing up, though (he wants food).

7:16 p.m.
I've always wondered what small talk the President makes with the soldiers he stops to chat with in the guard-of-honour contingents.

7:19 p.m.
Talk about distortions of reality. The commentators just said President Nathan is "well-loved by every Singaporean".

7:20 p.m.
The feu de joie is one of those things better appreciated at the event itself.

7:25 p.m.
The Marina Bay venue isn't grand enough for our marching contingents.

7:28 p.m.
After the SAF marches off, comes the Singapore Civil Defence Force, then the People's Action Party, "the first of our civilian contingents," said the commentators. Hm.

Followed by SembCorp Marine. "Economic defence is what they're representing." Double-hm.

7:31 p.m.
After a slew of uniformed youth organisations, comes CapitaLand. *boggle*

7:33 p.m.
So the civilian contingents consisted of representatives of:
  • the ruling political party
  • SembCorp Marine, which is part of the government-linked company SembCorp Industries
  • a group of teenagers in the Scouts, Girl Guides, various first aid and paramilitary organisations
  • Capitaland, "one of Asia's largest real estate companies"
  • the National Trades Union Congress
What. The. You-know-what.

7:37 p.m.
Traditional dancing ensues. I never have strong feelings about this part.

7:40 p.m.
Peranakan Chinese culture "is being represented here for the first time!" Delivered by a bubbly commentator with no trace of irony.

The giant puppets in the audience are pretty cool. More Telematch, less terrorist attacks!

7:43 p.m.
There are green Barneys! (Okay, they're supposed to be crocodiles.)

7:44 p.m.
Cheesy Chinese music with psychedelic costumes. Now this is what the National Day Parade oughta be about.

7:46 p.m.
And then there were Singapore Girls and disco music. Embrace the kitsch. Pity they cut it before the line "play that funky music, white boy".

7:47 p.m.
Oooh, "Shout"!

7:48 p.m.
Music remix tracklist:
  • "Tell me what you want, what you really want"
  • "Free your mind"
  • "Everybody dance now"
  • "Macarena"
  • "Come on, vogue"
  • [Pole dancers acrobats!]
  • "I like the way you move"
And then cue old-school Uncle Lee. Perfect.

7:54 p.m.
Traditional pipa music with a modern beat and robotic dancers to represent Total Defence.

7:57 p.m.
Koh Chieng Mun does "I Will Survive" with Military Police doing their awesome gun drills around her. She should've had more airtime.

7:59 p.m.
Okay, the kids doing "When I grow up, I want to be ---" was pretty sweet.

8:00 p.m.
Uh-oh, mopey National Day songs. Time for a bathroom break.

8:04 p.m.
Wong Kan Seng has funky new glasses. Lee Kuan Yew looks --- I really wonder what's going through his mind.

All the musical medleys in the world cannot save truly crappy National Day songs from years past.

8:05 p.m.
The heart-shaped mass display formation and heart-shaped balloons floating up to the sky makes me wonder why we don't do something like this for Valentine's Day.

8:06 p.m.
An old news clip of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon reminiscing about the very first 1966 parade. Ah, the good old days, when if you didn't have heart, you didn't have nothin'.

8:12 p.m.
A float! That's old school.

8:13 p.m.
Nice juxtaposition of sports heroes old and new, Li Jiawei (did I get the name right?) vis-a-vis Fandi.

8:15 p.m.
There's an awful lot of nostalgia in this year's video footage.

8:19 p.m.
The camera sweeps across the front row of politicians during "Stand Up for Singapore" and I'm thinking, it's an awful long time for some of them to be standing up.

8:20 p.m.
There are now so many National Day songs, the medleys can go on for more than 10 minutes and counting, even with using only short bits of each.

8:23 p.m.
When the evil eye screen flashed "The pledge --- you know the words", I really thought they were going to go through with not showing the words on the screen. After 44 years of indoctrination, people ought to know the damn pledge.

Ah, the arrangement of the National Anthem that just might be the least martial one yet.

8:25 p.m.
Clearly, fireworks are the key element to getting everyone psyched up when they take the National Pledge and sing the National Anthem.

8:28 p.m.
And we're out. I wonder if there's a giant dance party at the parade venue now. That seems appropriate.

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My new best friends

I have made two new best friends since Sunday.

Please meet: Hong's Hangul Conversion Tools. Type in some hangeul and it'll spit you the romanised equivalent (transliteration, not translation). More importantly for my needs, type in the romanised word and it'll give me the hangeul character that I need to add to my text.

The second one is a no-brainer: Google Translate, which has received enough queries from my computer to default to offer Korean-English translation.

How on earth did people do things before the internet? (Rhetorical question.)

Edited to add (Aug 8): The Korea Times reports that an Indonesian tribe in Sulawesi has chosen to adopt hangeul as its writing system (via The Marmot's Hole).

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Writing mode

I didn't mean to take a break, but between yesterday evening's two meetings and today's work-related lunch, I kinda killed the momentum of writing I'd been building up since Sunday. Oops.

More and more I find that to do any substantive writing, I need extended blocks of distraction-free time --- no IMs, minimal email activity, no dips into Facebook or Google Reader, no face-to-face interaction with anyone I know (the postman doesn't count) and no phone calls of consequence. SMSes are probably the only minor interruptions that won't derail my writing entirely.

Needless to say, no social plans too.

Lately I also find myself unable to write in the morning till the brain has had a couple of hours to warm up. So I've had to wake up earlier (my alarm is set for 7 a.m. on writing days), so that by the time I'm done ploughing through the morning news, fun reads and administrative emails, I can still pack in a few solid hours of writing before the stomach demands a lunch break.

My self-imposed writing lockdown has prompted one friend to email me to "check in" --- I suppose, to make sure I hadn't fallen and hit my head, or passed out from a lack of food or anything. Ironically, he sent that email today, when I was completely not locked down.

I'll be resuming life as a hermit tomorrow.

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Music, essentially

I've been toying very idly for some time with the idea of getting a piano, and I might have one in a couple of months, thanks to a friend's largesse and if the costs of moving/tuning/restoring it work out. I haven't sat down to play one properly in years, but hey, it's like riding a bicycle.

Which is something I only realised last year, when I was hanging out with another friend who was trying to figure out, by ear, chord progressions on his guitar for various Beatles songs, and I was surprised at how quickly the instinct for it came back to me ("No, no, it goes up to a D, not back to the G ...").

(And yes, I realise the chord progressions in Beatles songs are often precisely that predictable, or classic, or hackneyed --- but when you haven't thought about how an F goes to an A minor for a while, it's very neat to realise that you can still find the right note.)

As with many aspects of life in Singapore, if you learn music --- as I did as a child --- you also take examinations for it. Which tends to kill all the wonder and magic and other good things we associate with music.

Like this.

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo.

(Via Cowboy Caleb.)

Which immediately reminded me of one of my favourite TED talks, Benjamin Zander on music and passion.

I am buckling down to work intensively for the month of August, but perhaps after that, there will be a piano and more music.