Talking about writing about the invisible

The end of the work-week got busier than I anticipated, so I didn't have the chance earlier to plonk the info for my public talk at the National Museum tomorrow:

Historia SG 2013 – History Seminar Session 1
Gallery Theatre (basement), National Museum of Singapore
2:00 – 3:30 p.m., Saturday, 1 June 2013

Prof Victor Savage from the National University of Singapore speaks first at 2 p.m. on place and street names in Singapore, then at 2:30 p.m. I'll speak on "Writing the City, Rendering the Invisible". Or as the museum put it to me when they invited me to speak: "various ways to approach the exploration cum writing of Singapore’s past, in particular, of 'invisible spaces'."

More details at the National Museum website.

Registration is full, I've been told, but that said, some people always can't make it at the last minute. If you're not registered and really want to try and get in, be there before 1:50 p.m. --- if any registered participants fail to turn up by then, the museum will release their seats to those people waiting there in person.

And if you've registered for this talk, please come early so that you don't lose your seat!

This is my last public talk for a while. After tomorrow, I need to crawl back into the hidey-hole that is my apartment to burrow away at the writing --- paid jobs and the novel.

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Time to talk about Queenstown

A few friends have asked for the details of the My Queenstown symposium where I'm speaking tomorrow. I've been publicising it old-school style in forwarded emails instead of plonking the information on my blog --- oops. Here you go:

My Queenstown symposium
"A forum series on social memory and development"
2.00 p.m. - 4.30 p.m., Sunday, 26 May 2013 (that's tomorrow)
Queenstown Community Centre, 365 Commonwealth Avenue, Singapore 149732 [Google map]

Speaker line-up:
The publicity poster for the event is on Facebook (without Kelvin's photo and bio, but he's definitely in the line-up).

Each of us gets only 15 minutes to speak, so we'll be short and snappy, plus there'll be time for Q&A. If you're interested in social memory, Singapore heritage and/or the lovely HDB estate that is/was/will be Queenstown --- come!



Say something

I am not one for doing online surveys, but here are two Singapore-related ones that I thought were worth doing this morning:

1) The Land Transport Authority is running a public poll on the names of the stations on the new Thomson Line. There are three shortlisted names for each station and the online polling interface is really easy to use.

My only beef is that the map extracts provided don't always provide enough context for someone who's not familiar with the area. I had to refer to Google Maps to clarify some of the locations, especially at the Marina Bay and Woodlands ends of the line.

I've stuck my choices at the bottom of this blog post, so avert thine eyes if you don't want to be biased.

2) The National Arts Council is running a survey for people who work in the arts and cultural sector. If you're one of them, go and do it! The online interface is one of the most intuitive and readable I've seen online, and it really didn't take all of the 15 minutes they said it would.

Okay, here's the equivalent of a spoiler alert. What follows are my preferences for the Thomson Line station names, from the southern end to the northern end (with occasional explanatory comments):
  • Gardens by the Bay/Marina Barrage/Marina Gardens
  • Marina South/Marina Boulevard/Marina Coast
  • Shenton Way/Shenton/McCallum Street
  • Maxwell/Ann Siang Hill/Neil Road
  • Havelock/Bukit Ho Swee/Zion Road ("Havelock" for me refers to the general area, "Bukit Ho Swee" to the specific area where the station will be, and "Zion Road" makes people in general think of the area near the hawker centre and Great World City)
  • Great World/Kim Seng/River Valley (importantly, without the "City" because it ought to be named for the landmark amusement park that occupied the land, not the mall)
  • Orchard Boulevard/Grange Road/Tanglin (I think Orchard Boulevard is what people think of as the "back" of Orchard Road, which I would argue is closer to the ION Orchard/Paterson side than the Grange Road/Tanglin side where this station will be)
  • Napier Road/Botanic Gardens South/Taman Serasi (because I don't often hear "Napier" used as a geographical reference point in everyday conversation, and because people generally don't distinguish between different ends of Singapore landmarks in terms of cardinal directions, which potentially makes "Botanic Gardens South" confusing and not as user-friendly, and also because I feel sentimental about Taman Serasi hawker centre and I think the name is worth resurrecting for a modern association)
  • Mouth Pleasant/Whitley/Old Police Academy (Whitley is on the other side of the PIE lah)
  • Upper Thomson/Thomson Village/Thomson Park
  • Sin Ming/Bishan Park/Bright Hill
  • Mayflower/Kebun Baru/Ang Mo Kio West (though I was torn about Kebun Baru)
  • Lentor/Lentor Green/Teachers' Estate (I like "Teachers' Estate" but I think the area is slightly west of the station, right?)
  • Springleaf/Nee Soon Village/Thong Soon
  • Woodlands South/Champions Way/Woodgrove
  • Woodlands North/Republic Crescent/Admiralty Park

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I did an email interview with the Sunday Times for its "Bookends" column, which should appear in the papers tomorrow. If you're curious about why and what I read, and how it influences my writing, go take a look.

It's good timing because I've been on a reading spree lately. It started a couple of months ago when I was pushing myself to finish the first draft of the novel, because I realised that I needed to diligently feed the mind and the spirit with fiction, rather than my usual daily fodder of news and non-fiction. Then I kept reading crazily because there were all these books and book reviews that kept waving their hands at me for attention.

I finished three books in the last three days: one I started about a month ago, another I started a week or two ago, and Dave Chua and Xiao Yan's entertaining graphic novel The Girl Under the Bed in one sitting today. Which makes a few of the titles I name-dropped in my Sunday Times interview out of date, but never mind.

Already thinking about the next few books I'm going to read. One of them, I'm ashamed to admit, is The Crystal Shard, the first book in R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale trilogy, which I really should've read when I was a teenager during my heyday of science fiction and fantasy reading.

I've also been messing about with Goodreads lately, even though it's now an Amazon property and a friend in the book business has recommended LibraryThing instead. My Goodreads profile is hardly complete, but all my authory stuff is there and I've found it useful for keeping track of books that I want to read.

Okay, back to the books.

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Playing catch-up

With reference to what I said yesterday about having the time now to catch up on online chatter, I thought I'd plug a good cheatsheet: The Round Down, a weekly email newsletter by my friend @sangsara and his friend @yjsoon.

I know, I know --- a weekly newsletter, how old-school in internet terms. But @sangsara's always had a keen nose for quirky news and a snappy way with words, and the newsletter taps into that difficult-to-pin down online Zeitgeist that's more than just a mash-up of lolcats, Google Glass-esque technologies and food blogs. Plus, you know, rounding up (or down) the news for the week.

So go sign up. Your information overload will thank you for it.



Back in circulation

Since I submitted the first draft of my novel to the National Arts Council on Tuesday (they're supporting me with a grant), I've been creeping slowly back into my social life: long catch-ups over meals with friends whom I've had to put off seeing for the last few months, a couple of work-related meetings and emails, reading longform journalism and short stories again, and even watching Obama be funny at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

It's also nice not to feel I have to churn out 2,000-3,000 words of prose everyday.

Friends have been asking how it feels like to emerge from what I've called my "self-imposed writing hermitry". I have two parts to my answer:
  • I need to catch up on all the internet memes, viral videos and online gossip of the past few weeks. It was only after Tuesday's submission that I allowed myself to watch, in good conscience, not only the Obama one but also the putatively epic video of a cat in a shark costume on a Roomba chasing a duck (which I found not-so-epic, perhaps it'd been over-hyped and over-linked by the time I got to it), and it was only on Wednesday night at a friend's place that I understand what the Jawbone UP is (no, I'm not getting one).
  • It's nice to be able to drink in the company of friends again, instead of timidly nursing a beer or glass of wine in front of an imperiously glowing iMac screen.
The other question people have been asking is what am I going to do now. The answer for the month of May is:
Oh boy. I believe fellow writer @davechua's exact words (for his schedule and mine) were: "No rest for the wicked."