Tuesday, May 31, 2011

England Literature trip 2006

Most of the pictures were taken with a film camera, and as you can tell, my photography skills were really horrible back in Sec 2.

Candy shop at Grasmere!

We were taken on a ghost tour around York

Trinity College in Cambridge

The boats were named after characters in Shakespeare's plays

The view from one of the towers at Warwick Castle

At Jane Austen centre in Bath
The Stonehenge
The Big Ben. Apparently big ben refers to the bell

London eye

The infamous Tower of London
This was where Richard the Third  killed the 2 young princes for the throne

We were chasing the guards at the Buckingham Palace

The gates of Globe Theatre

Monday, May 30, 2011

Unsung Heroes

At first glance, you are presented with a snapshot of Singapore, neatly encapsulated into a glossy Kodak photograph. Certain phrases leap to your mind as you gaze from afar- emerging Asian city running as if on clockwork, seemingly self sufficient. Gleaming skyscrapers, polished to a shine. First world city, buzzing metropolis, accolades aplenty.

But what often goes unnoticed are the unembellished close ups of the heartlands, of the people engaged in the humblest of occupations. These scenes play out quietly like a series of vignettes.

Spare him a cursory glance, and you will see the man behind the wheel. But as seconds pass, his face slides quickly out of the fraying hem of your consciousness, elusive as a dream, so that he remains invisible. Faceless. Only the EZ-link cards beep a shrill greeting, as oblivious commuters file past him indifferently, their ears stuffed up with tiny wires, eyes fixated on tiny screens. Like a modern-day harbinger of journeys, he ferries them to their destinations. Their fates lie entirely within his control.

Amid the lunchtime frenzy at the hawker centre, no one pays attention to the misshapen back of a woman. No one witnesses her liver-spotted hands betray a slight tremor. Stiffly, painstakingly, she shuffles about, picking up stranger after stranger. The future stretches out bleakly before her, and she catches a glimpse of an endless terrain of oil-spattered tables, strewn haphazardly with the remains of leftovers and fish bones. Like intertwined lovers, the dirty cutlery lie partially drowned in bowls of soup. Her days will be defined by the mop moving unhurriedly back and forth on the floors caked eternally with grime. An imperceptible sigh escapes from her lips. The sound lingers, momentarily suspended in the air.

Every single day, the masked, gloved army of trash collectors advance into the various housing estates. Like a peace offering, they heave bloated black bags into the truck's cavernous jaws, all the while suffused in the noxious stench of garbage.

Our foreign counterparts, taking on the jobs that we so love to shun. All over the island, they are loading cargo into containers, building our future homes, shaping the physical landscape, toiling on the sun-drenched earth. And the entire time, we are sitting in our shiny towers, air conditioners blasting in full force. From a high vantage point, it is deceptively easy to disregard their contributions, to deem ourselves as superior. We regard them warily, some of us not even bothering to disguise the resentment. Muttering darkly among ourselves, we are seized with the irrational fear of being pushed out of our homes, of our country being overrun by these new inhabitants. We are so obsessed with distancing ourselves, when already, their imprints are everywhere.

Perhaps one day this picture-perfect image of Singapore and the unvarnished reality will finally align.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Some old pictures I dug out:
My sis and I

My sixteen year old dad

Mother doesn't get it by Cyril Wong

I don't know why I don't know love.

I don't know why my sister sleeps with white men and likes it.

I don't know why I don't like sex.

I don't know why I turned into my mother no matter how hard I resisted.

I don't know why my son does not look at me in the eye anymore.

I don't know why my daughter used to bring home other girls dressed as boys.

I don't know why my daughter likes men now and the men are never Chinese.

I don't know why I believe in God even though He does little to make me happy. I don't know why I can say such things and still believe I will go to heaven.

I don't know why I keep waking up in the middle of the night after dreaming of lying at the bottom of a pool.

I don't know why even as there is no light in dreams I can feel I'm not alone and that something is waiting to hold me down to drown.

I don't know why my husband loves to mop the floor to a meaningless shine.

I don't know why the self is a shadow I keep trying to pin down to point in one direction.

I don't know why this home is where my heart is no longer.

I don't know why my body shrinks with age but my loneliness never does.

I don't know why my children watch me with their father's hollowed eyes.

I don't know why I keep telling my son I will kill myself if he refuses to marry.

I don't know why I never kill myself.

I don't know why it is precisely these moments when I am almost sure I am happy that doubt pours inside me like a cloud of mosquitoes through the grate of a roadside drain I saw in India and could not stop staring.

I don't know why I can almost forget my pain when I am at my busiest and most distracted.

I don't know why I still believe the dream of the happy life will surely fit itself back inside my body tighter like a screw tomorrow.

I don't know why the pain comes back.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Landing by Cyril Wong

What death may be: a slow, close-to-weightless
tilt, like a burgeoning foetus turning
slightly in the womb. The engine starts a low
growl like a stomach, the aircraft hungry to
land, to devour the space between its
falling body and the ground, followed by
the slow lick of its wheels against the runway's
belly: pressing down, then skating forward,
only to decelerate, a sensual slow-mo,
and the plane makes a sound
like the hugest sigh of relief.

The seatbelt sign blinks off for the final time.
We rise up from our seats like souls
from bodies, leaving bulky hand luggage
in the overhead compartments, then
begin a tense line down the aisle, awkwardly
smiling at each other, remaining few minutes
alive with all kinds of ambivalences,
or simply relief at having arrived, at long last,
in that no-time zone of a country
without a name except the ones we give it;
weeping, laughing, both at once


 I've lost count of how many mindless, bland movies Hollywood has been churning out, in the hope that the audience will be so distracted by the action and special effects and fail to notice the weak plot and lacklustre acting. You don't need big budget movies to win people over. Sometimes even the simplest of movies can be the most sincere , as proven by the film Flipped.

 While the theme of first love centres as part of main plot,  Rob Reiner (also director of The Bucket List) deftly tackled other issues with aplomb-  typically weighty like honesty, courage, coming of age, prejudice, familial  relationships. In less capable hands, it would have easily come across as  tired, and   the audience would have steered well clear of such cliches.  But with Reiner's skillful execution, coupled with the authentic acting and gorgeous cinematography, it translated into a film that was poignant and irresistibly heartwarming. Of course it helped that there was a great soundtrack, which paid tribute to the era of oldies like The Chiffons and The Everly Brothers, against the backdrop of 1960s  American suburbia. 

Anchoring the film were the commendable performances of the two young actors who played Julianna Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski(Callan McAuliffe). Truly, they were a joy to watch. I particularly liked the portrayal of Juli. Carroll took the character and made it her own, managing to strike a delicate balance between wide-eyed innocence and yet displaying a maturity beyond her years.

The supporting cast and vivid characterization strengthened the story further, injecting candor and giving depth and providing substance to the film. For all his snide comments and condescending attitude, Bryce's father( played by Anthony Edwards) still came across as someone the audience could relate to. Likewise, the family confrontation scenes were emotionally charged and it left me almost in tears. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that Flipped is a film worth watching.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As I listened to her talk, I felt a sense of admiration for this friend of mine, who had shown me that there was nothing wrong with daring to dream big, ludicrous or impractical as it might seem, and who had taught me to look at life and see all the possibilities it had to offer. Hearing her talk about her aspirations made me take good, long, hard look at myself.

All my life, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would tell them, naively, ' I want to be a journalist',  not realizing that I had been limiting myself. Other than journalism, I hadn't the faintest idea how to go about pursuing other choices. I'd entertained some options, but being a pragmatic Singaporean, I dismissed those thoughts, knowing that it would be nearly impossible to succeed.

 But now I tell myself, to hell with it, who cares what people think? I don't want my idea of success and a good life to be defined by just these symbols of status- having a stable job, a relatively high income, marriage and 2 kids, owning a car and living on private property, being wealthy enough to take my family to the country club or splurge at the shopping mall every weekend. Surely there is more to life than material comforts?  I find it scary how many Singaporeans work are contented with living in stifling conformity. And the thought of being trapped in a rut but not being able to do anything about it, or being just another disillusioned office drone in this rat race is simply terrifying.

Pursue what you love and don't be too quick to write it off, you never know until you've tried :)
I watched them laugh and converse effortlessly with one another, so comfortable in their own skin, and the entire time I was thinking, what is wrong with me. It was a feeling I couldn't quite shake off, this peculiar sensation of ghostliness, of being an outsider.  I hovered at the margins, never quite belonging, always gazing in, wondering what was it that made me so different from everyone else. I felt like an impostor masquerading as a real, live, normal human being, mirroring the gestures of those around me, hoping that no one would discover it was all a farce. When people talked I withdrew into myself, finding it difficult to even look at them in the eyes. It was as if I wasn't even there, just invisible, like a ghost drifting about, observing what went on with a gentle indifference, sometimes with an almost clinical detachment. I sometimes suspected that I was dead inside, impossible as that may sound. Perhaps some part of me had been lost along the way. It seemed to be the only explanation for the perpetual numbness I carried around.

Putting these thoughts into words turns out to be harder than I thought. Perhaps a quote will succinctly capture what I'm struggling to say.

" It was a source of both terror and comfort to me that I often remained invisible-incompletely and minimally existent, in fact, it seemed to me that I made no impact on the world, and that in exchange I was privileged to watch it unawares." - Housekeeping

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


" Do you ever feel like running away, but you don't know where you're running to?"

" Every day of my life."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Singapore Arts Festival: Filem Filem event


Sitting on the wooden steps with my arms wrapped around my knees, waiting for the film to start, surrounded by fellow film buffs, and I was overcome with a sudden bout of giddy happiness.

The theme of the festival was ' I want to Remember', so the event was supposed to evoke a sense of nostalgia and give people the chance to reminisce about the good ol' times. The older generation was probably transported to the Singapore of the1960s-1980s, where outdoor screenings were a weekly affair, and entire families would gather round on the grass or perch themselves on wooden stools and snack on peanuts stuffed in paper cones, and the coolies and samsui women would go around hawking their wares before the show.

The audience sat in half-darkness, reveling in the near-perfect tranquility, partly hypnotized by the soothing sounds of the singing cicadas, the delicate rustling of the trees in the slight breeze, the gentle lapping of the Singapore river. While it was definitely a novel and refreshing experience, what stood out more was how evocative it was. One will find one's senses titillated as the night unfolds. There was no place I'd rather be, and I pitied the masses of people in the air -conditioned shopping malls, who were throwing away their hard earned cash on material things that would never fully satisfy them, and not knowing what they were missing out on.

It was a little surreal, trying to reclaim a tiny fragment of the past, when in fact the simple, rustic charm of the venue was framed against the backdrop of the urban cityscape, against the towering skyscrapers, incandescent as they loomed in the distance, dazzling us with the powerful artificial light, the very epitome of modernity.

The juxtaposition of the two places served as a reminder that while progress was inevitable, and though Singapore is now known as a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, we can look back and still find traces of the sleepy fishing village it once was in the post colonial era.

Some of  the following films screened at the Festival Village.

I found this surprisingly catchy and heartwarming.

An extract of the film Lighthouse by Anthony Chen.

Phil Collins - The Meaning of Style (2011) from Jose Da Silva on Vimeo.

I watched the full version of this during the Singapore Biennial 2011 at Old Kalling Airport. Often, many people have misconceptions/ preconceived notions about the skinhead subculture. After Phil Collins spent time with the skinheads in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, the end result was quietly enchanting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Subsisting on the solitude of words, music, and the blank pages of your journal, you wore this feeling of aloneness wrapped around you like a second skin. To be alone and to be lonely are two separate things but sometimes the line blurs and it bothers you to know that you can't tell the difference.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

And all you felt was an unrelenting numbness , this yawning emptiness that just wouldn't go away

Sunday, May 8, 2011

HMV: I place the headphones my my ears and let the music seep into my skin, my veins, feel the world shrink and disappear as the song carries me someplace else. I get this sense of total and complete peace. As I watch the world go by, it's as if nothing can touch me. People are moving about the aisles, as if in slow motion; a trio of teenage boys exclaim over some record at the heavy metal section, mouths opening and closing, gesturing rapidly, a couple in their fifties are at the classical music section picking out some records and looking thoughtful, a movie buff is at the film area checking out the latest DVDs. I feel distant and detached and far away from everything, impassively taking it all in, watching life play out from a vast distance, all the while in my impenetrable bubble. I think to myself; music offers a temporary escape, a respite from the humdrum and monotony of everyday life. It allows you to attain some semblance of blissful oblivion. For that short lived window of time, the world teeters and begins to fade, becoming hazy and unfocused and then vanishes momentarily as the sounds sweep you away, and you're unresisting, so you can't fight it even if you tried...

until you take the headphones off and you stand blinking a little as the sounds and sights from the outside world rush in and bombard your senses, and the feeling is gone once more