The obligatory birthday post

Daffodils at Green Park

Just spent a few minutes dipping into old blog posts from on or around my birthday, over the last few years. The voice is still there, but I'm thinking the person may have shifted, a little.

This year's birthday (as dutifully tweeted and Facebooked):
Class, Giorgio Agamben lecture in Kingston, pub after, instant noodles when I got home – all more fun than it sounds!
Listening to an Italian philosopher may not be everyone's idea of birthday fun, but mostly I study the writings of dead white men, and I do intend to dip into Agamben for my dissertation --- so I got a kick out of seeing and hearing the man himself. He put on a very dapper blue hat as he was getting ready to leave afterwards.

It was also very nice to get face-to-face birthday wishes from people whom I've gotten to know in my course, and to hang out with them in Kingston (about 30 minutes' train ride south of London). Sometimes it's nice to have Facebook break the ice about such things. No pressies, just drinks in the pub -- I quite like the British way.

Other nice things: warm and sunny weather all of last week when my cousin was in town, and a little on my birthday yesterday too. I've started carrying sunglasses around in my bag again, and I can't wait to wear skirts without having to put on tights underneath. Come on, spring, you can do it!

Meanwhile, there is some nonsense going on in Singapore with various people (including cabinet ministers) saying silly or downright offensive things. But all you need to read is Siew Kum Hong and mr brown (here and here).

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Oops, where did March go?

The Deptford Project Cafe

I'm down to almost my last week of classes. This surprises anyone who's never paid attention to the peculiarities of the UK university calendar. After March, we'll be left on our own to write papers, take exams, and finally research and write our dissertations. Some of my coursemates who aren't from the UK will be decamping for home, or shuttling between home and London for that stretch, but I prefer to stay in one place with my notes, books, library access and lecturers at hand. Making sense of critical theory is hard enough without having to juggle logistical difficulties as well.

Yesterday I finally mailed off my book proposal and grant application. If you ask me what the book is about, I'll probably refer you to points #17 and #18 in Alexander Chee's list of "100 Things About a Novel". Which is another way of saying: I'm still figuring out what it's about, but I managed to jot down a few thoughts to satisfy the application requirements.

While I was writing and keeping up with school and the Arab spring and what's happening in Japan, spring slinked in at last, with blue skies and cherry blossoms. I do believe I'm optimistic enough to start carrying my sunglasses around as a matter of course, as I do in Singapore.

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After dinner with my Singaporean kaki

Kaki is a Singlish expression (lifted from Teochew) meaning friends/buddies/mates. I got into the habit of using the word in the last couple of years, definitely thanks to otterman, who frequently sprinkles it in his tweets and blog entries.

My Singaporean kaki in London are a ragtag bunch of mostly postgraduate students. I suppose what we have in common, other than Singapore, is the sense of a finite, too-short time we have in this alluring, expensive, extravagant city. We're all in our late 20s or early 30s (okay *cough*mid-30s*cough*), and have taken the time (and money) out for one reason or another to come and study something we couldn't have studied at home: cultural studies, art and politics, architectural conservation, development studies. Also, for various personal and/or professional reasons, we're mostly going home when our study time is up.

So we get together every so often to talk-cock-sing-song-lim-beer, and sometimes this throws up random conversation gems, like:

In the middle of tucking into grilled lamb rib served with rice at a Cantonese restaurant, we were wondering why the restaurant serves it --- very nicely done, by the way --- since lamb/goat doesn't really feature in Cantonese cuisine, to our (five-Singaporeans-and-one-Malaysian's) knowledge anyway. Then one of us recalls in a broken fashion some legend from Guangzhou about five goats coming down from heaven to rescue the city from some crisis or other. Another friend wonders: "So did the people eat the goats after that?"


It turns out Guangzhou has a statue commemorating the legend, so I'm guessing: not so much with the eating, then.

Another mystery that popped up over beer later: where does one get good goreng pisang (deep-fried battered bananas) in Singapore these days? I couldn't even think of one place to get them, though the goat-legend-telling friend mentioned the Lim Kee stall at Maxwell Market.

Funny thing is, I can almost recall the last place I bought them, maybe three or four years ago, it feels like. I remember the oily texture of the battered snack on wax paper in my hands, I remember telling the hawker how many pieces I wanted, maybe some of the battered sweet potato pieces too for the person I was with --- but where the hell was it?

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