From one thing to another

Tanjong Beach Club

When yesterday morning began, I had three appointments taking me from lunchtime to late afternoon. By the time I headed out to the first appointment, I had squished three more things into my schedule. This was a good thing, because I got to catch up with some friends whom I was way, way overdue in seeing, and I also got to see what the aftermath of a TweetUp looks like.

One of my originally scheduled appointments was a media preview of the new Tanjong Beach Club (pictured above). All I can say is: I wish I had a friend who owned a beach house like that, and could I move in for a summer (or two) to write my novel, please? Not that I have a novel in me just yet, but you know: floor-to-ceiling windows, Mid-Century Modern aesthetic, infinity pool --- I don't think creatively one could go wrong with that.

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In a haze of sleep

I gave myself a three-day weekend, starting last Friday, and spent it trying to sleep off a cough and mild cold. I must've slept close to 18 hours each day, which caused several friends to tingle with envy today, but you know, there's something really sick in the body when you're too fatigued to even read your Twitter or Facebook feed.


Something strange in the library

Maybe it's because I spent the better part of yesterday working in the library, but I was suitably entertained by this video re-imagining the opening scene to Ghostbusters, wherein the Ghostbusters team pursue ghosts into the New York Public Library's main reading room. Sure, it was a stunt, but a worth one, to generate publicity for the library's fund-raising efforts (and those are some pretty harsh budget cuts it's facing).

I found the video via Mashable, which also posted a clip of the opening of the original film. The most noticeable difference between the library past and present to me (aside from fashion choices) was that the library today is absolutely overrun with laptops, just like the National Library is in Singapore.

Yesterday I was a little peeved at a library user hogging two power points when he wasn't even referring to any reference books. I'm starting to wonder if popular libraries are going to have to introduce more stringent laptop use policies in their reference sections, so that the people who are actually there to use the books (i.e. resources that can't be accessed off-site or via some kind of secured online network) won't find themselves crowded out of a seat (and power point) by headphone-wearing teenagers playing first-person shooter games.

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When S. Rajaratnam passed away four years ago, it was the music that I remembered. When it was announced today that Goh Keng Swee passed away, I found out via Twitter, plus it was just a few hours after my dad had text-messaged to say that my swimming instructor from my childhood had passed away a few days ago.

Of course it's Uncle Lawrence the swimming instructor whom I remember more vividly, even though I haven't seen him since the 1980s. But the memories are mixed up, somewhat. Images of the swimming pools at the former Raffles Institution at Grange Road and the former Non-Commissioned Officers' Club at Beach Road, where Uncle Lawrence alternately terrorised and cajoled a class of skinny children into learning how to swim (and occasionally tossed us off a three-storey high diving board at the latter pool), speak as much to the passing of an age as do the black and white images of Rajaratnam and Goh that fill the history books, will fill tomorrow's newspapers and occasionally pop into my mind (tepid remnants of hours of research at local archives and libraries). The voices too were from a different time: the cadences of Goh in the 1950s and 1960s describing his critics who called Jurong Industrial Estate "Goh's Folly", the smartness of Rajaratnam's sentences, and my swimming instructor's Eurasian Singlish accent, not quite the same as my parents'.

There is a time passing, perceptibly.

Vale, vale.

Edited to add (17 May): My friend Cheng Tju has posted a cartoon from the Straits Times (4 June 1960) to remember Dr Goh. It certainly harks back to a time when the fate of Singapore was hardly a foregone conclusion.



Madly in love with Prezi

Serendipitous is: discovering the wonders of Prezi, via Lisa Johnson's tweet, on the very morning that I was going to start working on my slides for some talks. It took me an hour or so to get the hang of Prezi, and then all I could do was try not to let my gleeful delight with the application overwhelm the fact that, hello, I was supposed to be concentrating on my ideas and not on the slides per se.

The talks I was giving were to different groups of students at Raffles Institution (or Raffles Junior College, or Raffles Institution (Junior College), depending on what nomenclature you grew up with slash prefer). To one group I threw out some thoughts on the writing of Singapore: A Biography and Singapore history in general, to another I was talking about writing and being a writer. Apropos of neither topic, one student asked if I would go back and change my decision to take a government scholarship at the age of 19 (see my essay "Once Bonded" in s/pores for more context). I told her to go reread the essay and, if need be, a recent blog entry.

After the talks were over, I felt immediately like passing out. Despite my teaching experience, I always forget how tiring it is to get up there and speak to and engage with a new audience.

But hey: Prezi! Now I can't wait till the next time I have an excuse to play with it.

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xkcd and yoghurt

Apropos of today's breakfast, whereat I had yoghurt that was in no danger of having expired, but I did have to weed through the strawberries I bought last week that weren't quite so fresh anymore.



Two-shower weather

I kept meaning to blog this week, but whenever I tried to write something that wasn't for work, all I could think of was how hot the weather has been and how I'm taking at least two showers a day to stay sane. Even so, my bath towel and bathroom floor dry faster than I've ever remembered, and even when I was mopping last weekend, the dampness from the mop just seemed to evaporate instantly.

This all sounds mundane, but the heat can really get you down. Low on energy, high on perspiration --- how is one supposed to get anything done?

I am supposed to take some time in May and June to figure out what other creative things I want to work on, for myself, in the coming months. I hope the abominable heat doesn't get in the way of that.



Going back to school

The dome at the British Museum

I have hinted, both on this blog and on Twitter, that something was afoot. Not just the new book project (which is shaping up nicely, by the way), but something else. I didn't say more earlier because I have a dread fear of jinxing my chances before firm offers and plans are made --- but now they have been made, so:

I am going back to school, for one year, at Goldsmiths College in London, to do a Masters in Cultural Studies. This does not have anything to do with jewellery-making, as some punny friends have jibed, but everything to do with reading Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu, Stuart Hall and other sexy cultural thinkers.

I will also be living and hanging out in London, obviously. Woot!

Some funding has been secured, for which I am very grateful (and will say more when the paperwork is done), and hopefully I'll be able to rustle up a little more in the next few months. The exchange rate on the pound is low now, as everyone keeps reminding me, but even so, London is an expensive place to live.

I got the acceptance email from Goldsmiths just this week. I got the scholarship funding letter while I was in Taiwan. Before that I was feverishly drafting essays, filling in forms, digging up old academic certificates and transcripts (my GCE 'O' and 'A' Level certificates are looking pretty weatherbeaten), and meticulously putting together application packages in time for various deadlines.

What did I learn from this process?
  • I couldn't have done it alone --- thank you, my gracious friends and associates, who offered advice, introductions and support.
  • Writing application essays to justify my existing career as well as future plans, can feel like simultaneously having a mid-life crisis and establishing new career goals that I actually care about.
  • I should always keep my certificates and records in one place, as my mother always said.
The last time I went through this type of application process, I was 19 years old and a rather different person. (Also, I was dealing with US university application forms, which are a lot more detailed than the UK versions.) Some friends have expressed surprise that university admission and scholarship offers now come through email, one several-kilobyte missive at a time. As one friend said, "Last time, we had to wait for a bit fat package to show up in the mail."

It is a somewhat different sort of anticipation and glee --- but I am still gleeful.

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