Monday, May 30, 2005

If Giants Stand Taller

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

- Sir Isaac Newton

I just spent a pleasant Saturday night watching ACJC's "Camelot". As a lau chiau, the grandeur of Camelot did not suprise me one bit. Suffice to say, I've seen worse overseas productions brought to Singapore. If ACJC were to go on tour tomorrow, I'd gladly give up my day job to join them as a groupee.

The three centrepieces of the production were nothing short of inspired. Lancelot, played by Jared Kok (whom I've worked with before) depicted the arrogant, convicted yet vulnerable Lancelot with equal parts of passion, skill and comedic timing. Shue, playing Guinevere flowed from young maiden to canny stateswoman to forlorn lover with subtlety and nuance - if you blinked you'd miss it. Leon, playing Arthur, encompassed the essence of the boy-king, idealist-philosopher, and defiant loser against destiny's cruel hand.

There are three others I thought especially noteworthy.

I've worked with Hansel, the actor playing Pellinore. He displayed his growth as an actor with his canny performance of Pellinore. As a bonus he was by far the best singer of the lot (Postscript: Was reminded today he's got some serious vocal training). His comedic timing and stiff upper lip kept the production from taking itself too seriously.

Modred was suitably evil and conniving - an excellent counterpoint to all the goody-goodiness in the play. I've never worked with Razor, the actor - I know him solely by reputation. However, it appears his reputation preceded him. Bonus fact - he appeared to be the only one who was truly comfortable with the repainted bokken they used as stage swords. I suspect he's had some kendo training.

My greatest kudo's however, must go to Lady Anne, a role played by a young actress named Audrey. Lady Anne was not a big role, or did it have many lines, but Audrey made every moment she had on stage count. Her stage presence and excellent delivery enhanced the production in the manner a thread woven deep into a tapestry would - the vibrance of the colour may not show, but the strength lent to the tapestry as a whole was just as important.

In short, Camelot reminded me of what it meant to be ACJC Drama.

Yet, memory plays tricks on the mind. For a few precious moments, with the cast on stage, I heard shadowy voices and saw blurred faces imposing themselves over the young actors and actresses. Faces of former comrades that have sweated and bled on that stage. The ones that have come before. The ones that I stood beside.

I realised after a while that, of all the faces I saw, I did not see my own, nor did I hear my own voice. The humbling bittersweet tang of truth filled my awareness. It was sheer arrogance to think that I could stand among giants. Yet, once, some years ago, a man did stand among giants. Like Audrey, I once tried to hold a tapestry together. Perhaps that is why I identify so much with her performance while simultaneously being humbled by it. She does what I did, but she does it so much better.

On Saturday I have seen the giants of posterity. My chest fills with pride that I call ACJC my alma mater, unworthy as my own performance was. These giants stand tall, occupying far more than I could have reached. Yet, they stand on ground pressed firm, stomped flat, and nourished by the efforts of a mere man, and many other mere men that have come before.

I could not be more proud.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hiding Out

It seems that the Singapore blogosphere decided to have a good time at Hideout last night. Kudos.

Yes, I knew about this tres chic event. No, I decided not turn up, even though the fanboi I am badly wanted to stalk Singapore Blogging Superstars.

If I turned up, Bad Things will happen.

I kid you not. There are some universal constants. Gravity holds the universe together. Motherhood is a good thing. I cannot be cool. If I become cool, the universe will end. I've even got case examples to prove it.

Case 1

A friend of mine decided to have his farewell celebration at Centro. We had arrived late and we had to queue outside for some time. The week before, I had bought a cool new pair of shoes (i.e they weren't black, leather and Scholls) and even spent an afternoon in a casino in Sydney. Normally, I would not have attended this farewell celebration, but it was a good friend and hey, since I was cool twice this week already, why not a third time? So I joked with my friends about my being so cool this week, and shared a few giggles.

Famous last words.

We waited outside for almost an hour before said friend appeared, said something to the bouncer outside, and got us all in. I didn't take more than seven steps into Centro proper before the unthinkable happened.

The music stopped. The lights stopped flashing. Uh oh.

Centro kenah raided that night. The friends I had been joking with gave sour faces - and promptly banned me from ever entering another nightclub with them. One suggested that I should blackmail other nightclubs with my attendance.

What a kharmic kick in the ass.

Case 2

My wife and I have a favourite restaurant off King's Arcade, on Bukit Timah. We used to visit it fairly often. We liked the food, we liked the decor, and we liked the proprietress. It was a wonderful chill-out place.

One day, some months after the events in Case 1, I made the mistake of proclaiming how cool the restaurant was to my wife.

The restaurant shut down a week later. The proprietress explained that there wasn't enough business in the area to keep things going.


I can't turn up for blogging meets! They are too cool! If I turn up I'll be cool too! This can't happen! The universe counts on me to be uncool! There's no telling what will happen after! Hideout may close down! A*Star may issue a public apology! Or horror of horrors...

Singapore Bloggers may actually start supporting Straits Times Online!

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Picture Worth a Thousand Giggles

Saw an advertisement published on Today. It is an advertisement on a National Management Competition sponsored by the Singapore Institute of Management. I thought the picture was incredibly appropriate for our national style of management.

Notice where the kick is aimed?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Music I Love

Writing about Berkeley's harder than I thought. Not having a digital camera on hand makes it harder. Nice online pictures of Berkeley are damnably hard to find. Suffice to say, everything I've seen online doesn't do the town justice. It's beautiful and charming. It's got personality, vibrance and intelligence. It's home of some seriously good kebabs, tacos and, believe it or not, Thai food.

Hence, finding myself wholly unable to describe my week in Berkeley, I decided to distract myself by vandalising Slinky's blog. Slinky responds with a taunt about my ignorance of kewl bandz, and I now feel obliged to disprove her - and in the process affirm my worst fears about my well-affirmed geekdom.

Why do I feel obliged to disprove my ignorance? Why, to prove that geeks do listen to rock bands!

There's only one problem. My music taste can only be described as absolutely weird. I've gone through a cantopop phase, a chee-nah-pop phase, a German Industrial Rock phase (I kid you not), a 60's rock and roll phase, a '70's disco phase (oh the humanity!) and just about everything in between.

However, here's a sample of all-time favourite soundtracks. Let's start with the mainstream stuff.

U2 - Just about the whole of Joshua Tree and "One"

"Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head"

- One, U2

Okay. So they suck now. So they should have retired years ago. But U2 in it's prime was more than music. It was poetry set to a tune. How can you not love lyrics like that? It was angsty, mournful and above all, it was Bono.

"Time After Time"

There. I admitted it. :shamefaced:

I love this song. I have 3 different versions of this song - Cyndi Lauper's, an acapella version by Rockappella and a jazz version by Ella Fitzgerald (at least I think it's her). The music isn't sophisticated - it's elegantly simple, yet raw and honest at the same time.

Aerosmith - "Big Ones" Album, "Walk this Way"

Okay. Another shamefaced admission. I love Aerosmith. I discovered their stuff pretty late in my life, so I can't even blame teenaged rebeliousness. Heck, the only thing that didn't suck about the movie "Be Cool" was that duet version of "Cryin'". Now -that's- kickass.

Bob Marley

Seriously good shit - though the lyrics take some research to understand properly. Bob Marley derived a lot of inspiration for his lyrics from Rastafarian beliefs. No it doesn't just involve smoking pott and wearing multicoloured belts. Go google "Ras Tafari". You won't regret it.



Okay, just kidding. I guess this is as good a bridge between my mainstream tastes and my non-mainstream tastes as you can get. Queenshryce is blardee good. It's German, it's got some really good axe play, it's got two dots over the "e" at the end of their name. How cool is that?!


Now for my not-so-mainstream stuff. Or rather, not so English-speaking mainstream stuff. Some of the stuff here would probably be considered mainstream to a Chinese-speaker.


Another late discovery. I didn't liked the band when I was first introduced to it in Secondary School. Yet, when I was reintroduced to it a couple of months ago, I was instantly hooked. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what their lyrics meant, but believe me, it was worth the effort. Tightly crafted, well suited for the music, and their lead has a beautifully haunting voice.

I'm willing to go out on a limb and consider them comparable to "Queen" in terms of rock anthem-ness. Heck, their lead singer died young too. Scary.

Songs I like from Beyond: 海阔天空, 大地, 光辉岁月


Most people under 50 and not chinese will probably not have a clue what this song is, just by looking at the title. However, if you are chinese, about 30 (or older), and watched old TVB martial arts flicks you'd probably know this song, even though you've probably not heard it in over 20 years.

Give up yet? It was the theme song of the original version of Tian Long Ba Bu (天龙八部). I found out recently that the original singers of this song weren't even professionals - they were employees of TVB.

Say Yes - Chage and Aska

Another theme song, from the old Japanese serial "101 Proposals". I never watched the series, but I'd always listen to the theme song when it played. Forget the wussy English-Translated version, the japanese version fits phonetically better into the tune.

Flying Pickets, King's Singers, Swingle Singers, Rockapella, Budak Pantai

I've a serious love for acapella music. The groups I like are too numerous to mention, but these are the favourite-est of the lot. If you have a chance, listen to "When You're Young and In Love" by the Flying Pickets. It's heart-melting.

I'll leave this list for now. Hope I've sparked off a few good memories with my list of songs.

Monday, May 23, 2005

An Old Scar

With time comes injuries. Some never go away. Many form scars. Pressing a finger on the scar brings a memory of the pain that caused it - a phantom of remembered pain if you will.

To Ms Chng and the Straits Times, the recent debacle of portraying Singapore men as wimps has pressed hard on a very old scar. I am willing to give you both the benefit of doubt here. It's not because you've earnt it. It's because I, too, know how difficult it can be to stand up and say something different when authority says otherwise. Even when your life is at risk.

Yet, -even if- I give the benefit of the doubt, the fact that the following quote was used as a defence disturbs me greatly

"I said “they are fine until they enter national service”, in response to a question about whether I find Singapore men whiny. My point was that the only occasions I noticed whining was when they were talking about their national service experiences. When asked what they complained about, I said “minute things” as I did not wish to expatiate on what they had shared."

If indeed, Ms Chng, your version of events is accurate, then I must ask - why was your response about national service? There are a million different ways you could have answered the question posed to you - why national service?

I can certainly empathise with your response. I, too, know female friends who don't care and couldn't care about men who talk incessantly about the million minute things they have to do in NS. They can't understand why, after going through all that and finally being free of it, we still talk about these small things.

It is because NS is too big.

Like blind men trying to describe an elephant, the only recourse we have are to describe the events that one feels. The rope of the elephant's tail. The fan of the elephant's ear. The trunk of the elephant's leg. We describe minute things because the totality is too big, too alien for words to describe.

How does one describe the sense of isolation of being in the army? That your entire existence now consists of something you hate? Something you cannot get away from?

What can you say to inunciate the pain of forcing away your loved ones because your life is now something they don't understand?

What words are there to describe a mortal fear for your life? Or the heartache of watching a comrade waste his life? Or realising that while NS ends, the scars of NS will forever be imprinted in your psyche?

How many forget the heartbreak of their girlfriends walking away because they couldn't share their universe?

How many?

Ms Chng, you are not unique. Like many other well-educated Singaporean females, you believe that your life is your own, your future is within your control, and that there's nothing beyond your grasp. In other words, your experiences have reinforced your Type-A personality.

And because your experiences have reinforced this world-view, you just cannot understand that a Y-Chromosome away lies a universe where our destiny is not our own, where we can find no welcome precisely because of this great and growing divide.

If I find no welcome in Singapore, why shouldn't I break all bonds and leave?

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Found an Apartment

Again, typing this from an overpriced Internet cafe somewhere in Berkeley. We've managed to hunt down a few apartments - and we've found one we really like. It's in a good neighbourhood. It's got the added advantage of being neighbours with a -really- cute shih tzu puppy.

More on this when I get back, I promise.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


I apologise for the upcoming scheduled lack of updates from over the next week. I'll be flying to San Francisco to finalise my lodging and then to KL to say goodbye to relatives. I -may- have internet access, but I can't be sure.

So to my readers, I'll be back in a week. In the meantime, take care.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beyond the Beyond

背棄了理想 誰人都可以

- 海闊天空, Beyond

Please forgive me, for I will never be bridled,
I love my freedom too much,
Although I fear that one day I too will fall.
Betraying your dreams is too easy to do,
and in betrayal, I fear we will have nothing but ourselves.

- Translated from 海闊天空 by Beyond

Reading Miyagi's, Mr Brown's and Sheena's stories about my parents have left me releasing that this would be the last Mother's Day I'd be able to celebrate in person with my mom, for a long time to come.

No, my mom's not as mean as Miyagi's. Nor Sheena's. But she is every bit as courageous as Mr Brown's wife. From her humble beginnings as a kampong girl, she fought her way up from being a simple accountant to being on the board of directors in a KLSE listed company. From being completely unable to cook, she's now a master chef.

She brought up two boys, who love her dearly. Two boys who learnt how to think for themselves, stand on their own two feet and take shit from nobody. She's given everything she has to ensure that her two boys want for nothing.

It is her success with us that's the source of her misery today. You see, I think she raised me too well. I'll never be happy yoked to someone else's dreams or ideas of what my life should be. I need to find for myself what my dream is - and it's only by leaving that I can do so.

She did the bravest thing she's ever done. She's letting me go, even though she'll miss me terribly. She's letting me go knowing that there's a good chance I won't be back.

Thank you, and I'm sorry.


People who have no respect for you but hang around you anyway.

- Apocalyptic Wen

Over teh tonight, Apocalyptic Wen demands answers about why I answer everyone elses comments but his. After asking about the chio bu on the poster of ACJC's production of Camelot of course.

And me voicing my complaints that she's too young for him.

And him not caring.

AW: "Eh, how come you never respond to my comments?"

Me: "Cos your comments don't dignify remarks."

AW: "Wow! Such disrespect! I never knew you cared!"

I have weird friends.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Shameless Plug

A while ago, I wrote about saying goodbye to my alma mater, ACJC. It's with the sense of pride and nostalgia that all proud ACSians have that I present to you...

Tickets purchase details here

The funds are going to build a Center of Performing Arts for ACJC. It's something I'd like to have enjoyed during my days in ACJC, but if I can't, the least I can do is to ensure that my juniors do.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Local Food

As a frequent visitor to Kuching and an avowed foodie, I had been fascinated for a long time about the differences between Singapore and Kuching hawker food. I suspect the similarity in food can be accounted by the population demographics. Like Singapore, Kuching has a large chinese population. Also like Singapore, Hokkiens, Teochews and Hok-Chews (all provinces in the southern part of China) form the largest segment of the Chinese population.

There are, however, some very distinct differences, that mere demographics cannot account for.

Gan Lao Mian and Kolo Mee ("干捞面")

The chinese ideograms are the same for "Gan Lao Mian" and "Kolo Mee". The differences are phonetic - the former being Mandarin, and the latter being Hokkien. The phrases, however, connote different things altogether.

In Singapore, Gan Lao Mian refers to any sort of noodles that is not served together with soup. The soup is usually given in a seperate bowl. The "dry" noodles are usually prepared with soy sauce or oyster sauce for taste.

A popular variant of Gan Lao Mian - Bak Chor Mee, or Minced Pork Noodles

In Kuching, however, Kolo Mee is prepared very differently. The key is the condiment. Kolo Mee is usually prepared with a dash of pork lard and bits of fried garlic. The lard brings out the flavour of the garlic and enhances the taste.

Needless to say, Kolo Mee is both tastier and more unhealthy.

Health x Taste = Constant

Roti Prata and Roti Canai

Roti Prata is a popular Malay dish in Singapore. It's essentially a discus of dough that's been tossed around, then fried to give the dough some crispiness. It's eaten with curries.

This may come as a suprise to Singaporeans who do not frequent Malaysia, but according to my wife, the term "Roti Prata" does not exist in Malaysia. It's actually called Roti Canai, and the preparation method's slightly different.

In Malaysia, the dough is actually not fried to crispiness. It's fried to soft firmness, then given a few whacks on the sides to fluff it up, then possibly fried again for plebians who like crispy canai (which is apparently a distinctly Singaporean thing).


The dish "Laksa" refers to a dish of rice noodles served in spicy gravy. Again the preparation method in Singapore and Kuching differ - most significantly on the gravy used.

In Singapore, actual curry is used. Because the curry is rich, pieces of tau pok (fried bean curd) are used to soak up the gravy. The noodles used tend to be thick, about the diameter of spaghetti. It's often served with fish cake and cockles.

Singapore Laksa

Kuching Laksa is different. There's a special paste Kuching-ites use for their laksa. It's very much spicier and more fragrant than Singapore laksa. It's not often served with coconut milk either, so the gravy is less rich. The preferred type of noodles that are used tends to be vermicilli - which soaks up the gravy more efficiently.

Kuching Laksa

That's all for the day. Hope I didn't make you too hungry. Heh.


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Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Reason I've Not Been Posting

World of Warcraft recently implemented a system which rewards players for taking out other players. It's called the "Honour System".

I personally see nothing honourable about it. It's turned most settlements on the World of Warcraft universe into Kosovo's and Somalia's. Especially the (P)layer (V)ersus (P)layer servers.

So peace-loving me had to migrate to a new server. And create a new character.

Here he is. Meet Pastafarian, my Troll Shaman.

Troll also got beng okay? Donch pray pray!

Coolest thing about being a shaman is the ability to transform into a Ghost Wolf.

Wolf on Full Moon

I did mention I am a geek right?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Almost Infamous Special Edition - Death of a Gentleman

The first and only time I've been on the inside of the Istana was during Pre-U Sem. Yes, it was the same Pre-U Seminar where I asked nasty questions and hung out with the Fox.

Being the unmannered, uncultured plebians that we were, we had been asked to arrive at the Istana early. We were told to give then-President Wee grave respect befitting his station. We were told to address him as "Mr President, Sir". We were not told the horrifying consequences of our failure to address him thus. It was certainly effective.

About an hour after the final strains of "Heaven Knows" was performed impromptu at the lawn of the Istana by yours truly, President Wee appeared. Needless to say, everyone fought to appear as intelligent and poised as they could. School reputation on the line leh!

With so many of us tripping ourselves up to impress him, it was only a matter of time before someone made a faux pas.

"President Wee", the poor chap said, then stumbled to correct himself.

"Mr Wee". Sniggers

Nervous tension. "I mean...Mr President..." and as an afterthought, "Sir".

Against expectations, the Ettiquette SWAT Team did not descend in force to punish the heathen. Mr Wee smiled indulgently, eyes twinkling, and broke into a chuckle. Not a berating one. The kind that invites you to chuckle with him.

The tension suddenly disappeared. It was amazing.

Mr Wee's family has my deepest condolensces, as does Singapore. We have lost a great man and a true gentleman.

Farewell Mr Wee. You will be missed.