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#09

Friday, July 29, 2005

Two dollars worth

Dressed in jeans, an unbuttoned shirt with a singlet underneath, I am with my friends striking out after dinner into the sleepy Orchard scene, already folding her doors as the hour approaches ten.

Entering the underground connection between Shaw Centre and Wheellock Place, we cross a busker, his guitar and his daughter, squatting quite comfortably in the hollow of the open guitar case. He appears Eurasian, his dark complexion reminding me of gypsies and other wandering foreign types.

One of my friends stops to drop a two dollar note into the case. Immediately, the girl, perhaps six years old, seemingly untainted by insecurities, unrestrained by the imposed rigidities of formal schooling, comes bounding towards us as we start to walk on.

Her father smiles as he continues strumming on his instrument. The girl shouts a string a 'thank you's that reverberate along the tunnel walls. We are alone in the quiet underground on a quiet thursday night watching a little girl radiate positivity.

Without warning, she bounds forward and hugs us, each of us in turn. We're pleasantly surprised at her energy.

When she turns to me, she asks a question that I do not quite catch at first. I bend down a little and she half-whispers her question again.

"Are you a girl?"

My thoughts stray to the wax greasing my hair and my dressing. A part of me laughs, another feels as though caught in the proverbial cookie jar. My friends do not seem to hear. I stoop down and answer "Yes," unconsciously mimicking her conspirational tone.

She nearly knocks me over with her embrace, arms around my hips. We do a quick twirl, stumbling, extending like some lopsided dance couple before I motion her back to her father.

As we walk away I am wrapped in layers of feeling: flashes of bemusement, a grey mass of mixed discomfort and ease. Swimming somewhere is that tiny yet tangibly present and persistent knot of shame.

en at 4:57 pm

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School of eeevil Tai-Tais

It appears that SCGS is not only a bitchy spawning ground for tai-tais, it's also a seething hellmouth of pure undulated eeevil. The evidence.

We also prowl the countryside, burn, pillage and plunder. Sometimes we contemplate global domination, blackmail the UN, make nuclear weapons, crush CFC styrofoam, litter, launch war on small countries and kill kitties too.

Bar your windows and bolt your doors, lads.

en at 11:38 am

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

supernova: where the corridors stink of salted fish

I have slept for 16 hours. I remember crashing at about 5 in the afternoon yesterday. My ringing handphone was thrust at me some time in the middle of my slumber, which I answered semi-coherently.

It was the teacher that I last relief-taught for. She had called to ask if I knew where her 3B civics and moral education books were. I mumbled several 'No's and grunts to show that I was still on the line (as tempted as I was). Being a veteran teacher, she was unsurprisingly oblivious to my semi-conscious responses and persisted in her line of inquiry. I inwardly cursed at the students who had blamed me for the missing books, perhaps thinking that I was a viable excuse to inflict the inquisition upon.

'...I asked for their books and they were 10 girls who said they gave their books to you so I thought they cannot be lying wad. Are you sure you don't have the books? Oh yah, I also need to ask you about my room keys. I can't find them and now I have to go to the office everytime...'

Never underestimate student collaboration in matters concerning delinquency.

I awake again past 9 in the morning, feeling a sense of wholeness. It's not a feeling of satisfaction as much of a feeling of un-dissatisfaction.

Because some experiences aren't designed to be expressed eloquently. Here is a list of the things I've gone through in the past 3 days:

1. Waking up at 6am after sleeping past 1am. Waking up at 6.45am after sleeping at 2am. Waking up at 7.45am after sleeping at 4am.

2. Potent coffee at the Prata Shop next to the SMU Evans building, also the Supernova Camp 2005 HQ.

3. Playing a gigantic scissors-papers-stone game along with 40 other people on my side. Oh, and it was 'Monster, Wizard, Dwarf' instead - actions and sounds included. Picture 40 people rising their hands and going 'Gaarrrrgghhhh!!' at another 40.

4. Climbing up and down 8 stories, plus several more flights because the facilitator wasn't at the 8th floor when I first arrived. I learn that cursing alone isn't as satisfying as swearing in front of other people.

5. I really suck at soccer. And I was playing against other girls.

6. Dragonboating is fun. Even if you're trying to keep pace behind a powerful super-experienced biceps-buldging dragon-boater guy and feeling guilty about soaking the girl sitting right behind you.

7. The longest bus chase yet. Ironically, after the number 16 bus that I seem to see everywhere when it's not unwanted.

8. Lots of pastamania. The best catered camp food yet.

9. Touch-rugby on a muddy field.

10. Ultimate frisbee on a muddy field.

11. Diving for playing cards at the bottom of a swimming pool. With shorts on, which was a very bad idea.

12. Going on the GMAX after downing raw egg and full-cream milk. And trying to show off in front of the installed camera. Pity there wasn't any sound capture. 'I can see my house from up here!'

13. Toothpaste, water, flour, water, face-paint, water, mud and more water. And getting swatted by giant sponge stick thingys by facilitators wearing monster masks.

14. Squashing giant red ants.

15. Eating fruit off a guy who escaped relatively clean from no.13. At least I wasn't the (un)lucky one eating the carrot dangling between his legs.

16. My first trip to KTV Box and proving beyond a doubt that I am indeed, tonedeaf.

17. The horror of removing wet feet from wet shoes after a long day's worth of activities.

en at 4:08 pm

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Circle Xperienced

The feedback form was the last official barrier barring us from freedom. It's first open-ended question was on it's second printed page (yes, two pages of feedback: multiple-choice and structured questions exam-style): what were your impressions of the camp, before and after?

My first impression of the camp was Jan grumbling on how it was compulsory (the word emphasized in bold on the matriculation form, reminding us to hand in our orientation booklet).

Because a deliberate misspelling in its title isn't cool enough to appeal to the freshmen, the metaphorical stick will do most of the trick. The same goes for the big SMUve event. In case the big balloons, song and dance, rock concert, free t-shirt and parade down the streets in town doesn't fill your crowd expectations, there's always the slotting of a compulsory CCA sign-up session right behind the festivities.

It's nothing personal, it's just business. And it's alot cheaper than hiring extras to provide people scenery and atmosphere.

Then again, with some creativity and tenacity, nothing is really compulsory except death and maybe taxes.

And in case anyone forgets: the Circle Xperience is not an orientation camp. It is a leadership and team-building experience. It's not just some session where you play games, exchange phone numbers and eat bad food. It's some session where you play games, exchange phone numbers, eat bad food and endure numerous debriefings after each activity where you are asked to voice your feelings and bare your emotional innards to the world.

Yes, spilling your soul is also compulsory.

Downing a can of Nescafe's dark coffee in the morning made tiding over the first day easier. From a routine of sleeping at 5 in the morning to waking up at 5 to accomplish last-minute packing, the natural adrenaline high and caffeine boast accompanied me into Chinese Gardens.

I have never been to the Chinese Gardens. The closest contact I ever managed was a secondary school chinese textbook with a passage on the Gardens, water-colour-ish pictures included. The only things I recall are the pictures (which I tried matching with their real-life counterparts), which go to show my interest and competence in the Chinese language.

We passed a garden of rain-beaten concrete "terracotta" warriors, standing around trying to look regal but mostly looking embarrassed sporting bright scarves in primary colours. The grass, rocks and trees were cast in painfully artifical although scenic landscapes. Should the Gardens stay open long enough for weathering to take its toll, at least the components would be easily reproduced. I wonder if there's even a warehouse of mass manufactured spare parts.

The place was empty. The gate to an area read "Garden of Abundance" - a title suspiciously vague and invitingly ironic.

There was supposed to be a High Elements activity. Our choice: crossing a wooden bridge of sorts dangling in mid-air without hand supports (the aim being to cross without grabbing the harness cord).

It unfortunately started to rain. What refused to wash away was the graphic imagery suggested by the instructor in his half-hour briefing as he went through the safety precautions (popping sounds and all): severing of fingers, removal of limbs, tearing of earlobes, head lacerations, plummeting to your horrible death while your harness is in the air laughing at you (his words, really).

On the last day of camp, there were also activities designed to test ones integrity. Herein lies the paradox. If you're watching for breaches in integrity, there would be no integrity to observe. As the philosophical question goes: if you could commit a wrong and get away with it, would you still do so?

Testing ones integrity with people circling around watching and commenting is completely missing the point. There is fear of retribution, peer pressure, a lack of incentive among the elements interfering with this little experiment. You can't just announce "This game is meant to test your integrity ok!" and expect accurate results.

en at 12:48 am

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Think Big Live Large

A "size law" will be passed in Buenos Aires, Argentina that will force clothes sellers to display and exhibit larger clothes sizes in their stores.

Now this makes me happy. And sad. In that mixed bittersweet way that heralds the triumph of rationality over common sense, of logic over humanity. It feels as if we've taken a nice step forward, only to realise we had gone two steps back already without even realising it.

The increasing use of and dependence on Law as a mechanism to correct social ills underlies the failings in other social institutions. When people go to the Lawyer's office to settle their grievances, when parents fight over their children in court, when it takes a Supreme Court order to get the NKF to spill its beans, when it takes an official legislation for shops to start being more considerate and sensible; it reflects on the family, marriage, charity, the kind of mindset of people in society.

Suddenly the passing of a law looks very simple in comparison to changing human behaviour.

en at 3:50 pm

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Of Bloggers.SG 2005 and shameless plugs

While most of the olympian celebrities and puny human extras of Singapore's first Blog Convention are nursing tomorrow's (no pun, however little, intended) hangovers and retiring from a hard night of partying and Microsoft sponsored drinks, I am unfortunately totally sober and still musing over the irony of Microsoft throwing money at an Apple dominated event.

My neck is also stiff from sitting near the front and staring at the big screens mounted above the panel of speakers. Elegantly covered in white cloth befitting a wedding ceremony, the chairs surrounding the stage stood awkwardly in the middle of DXO, looking starkly bewildered at the shiny dance floor, luminescent lighting, liquor-ready bar, velvet couches and all-round murky confines of a typical club. They felt hotel-issue. They felt mightily uncomfortable.

The legal eagles were there to branish their powerful linguistic arsenal ("factual matrix") and dispense dead useful advice ("... ultimately, it varies on a case to case basis." - in lawyer speak, this roughly translates to: for further elaboration, that's 500 dollars an hour and please make an appointment.)

During the breaks, the big fish get swarmed with adoring fans waving digital cameras. Small fry like myself are impressed that the queue to the refreshments move very fast. Considerate people.

I discover Xiaxue is a really small girl who knows how to wield her makeup.

The #tomorrow.sg IRC channel developed a personality of its own. Along with it, a liking for lightbulb jokes as well as fondling someone's 17-inch.

The geek shall inherit the earth. And it appears that they shall do so with Apple. Irregardless of the drinks Microsoft buys them. Because they'd be too busy educating the ignorant that flickr is somehow allegic to 'e's.

There was a contingent from blog.vjc.sg. I groaned and covered my face accordingly as the shameless plug ensued, followed by multiple echoes on the IRC screens. Such blatant and despicable tactics - advertising The Victoria Junior College moblog in public. To think that the National Interschool Blogging Campionship which ends on the 31st June has encouraged such obvious, desperate attempts at publicity. Simply horrendous that the bloggers@VJC.com team has to stoop to such lows to ask people to vote them at 96183799 by smsing 'nibc vjc'. Who on earth would part with the sum of 35 cents per sms to help deprive RJC of the championship. Or go visit and raise blog.vjc.sg's hit count.

Shameless, I tell you.

en at 1:31 am

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

These legs are meant for



If you look closely, my 5 month old kitty left a message.


It was Caleb's idea.

en at 3:14 am

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Giving Relief

Via Tomorrow.sg, go get Mis-educated by Khelath with her Tips for First Time Relief Teachers.

About a year ago I stopped being a student and became this automation on two legs that slept, ate, farted and performed all usual bodily functions under constant stress, anxiety and Bad Thoughts.

My higher brain functions were thinking metaphysical, waxing philosophical and seeing the bigger picture - being after all, higher brain functions. They decided that there was indeed much more to Life than mugging. The rest of me, in a remarkable display of bodily coordination and microscopic democracy, voted to mass panic.

Back to the point. About 6 months ago I started relief teaching. So it was quite the sudden role-reversal. And you just know it's karma payback time.

Two cents worth.

Teaching as Performance Art

There is a stage in every classroom, even if it's only a strip of empty space between the whiteboard and forty desks. It is there because students see and teachers feel it. They make it up, in their heads. This is hallowed ground. Trespassers should be prosecuted.

Just ask a student to come out and stand out there, in front of the class and talk. And talk. And talk. Public speaking isn't easy. Let alone in front of a firing squad.

Teachers are actors, playing both a function and character. For first-time relief-teachers, it then begs the question: as a role-player, what role do you want to be?

Know your Roles

It's like say... Dungeons and Dragons. (Ok, I admit I've never actually played D&D or any RPG game thoroughly but based on what I read and see, I know somethings.)

There are naturally sterotypical roles you could already slip into without much creativity. The barbarian warrior, the magical elf, the hyper-sensitive screaming banshee in the disciplinary department, the motherly naggy persistent auntie teacher.

Each has their own attributes. Their own costs and benefits. You only get a limited number of attribute points after all. When selecting your character (which you'd better stick with for the duration of your term), realise that you can't have your cake and eat it. Every student out there might wish for a young, sugarly-sweet, soft-spoken, fun, empathic and entertaining teacher out there in the firing range stage of the class. The price of this being overdue or unfinished assignments, truancy, yelling and fights, constant noise, bad grades and that dreaded chit-chat with the HOD who just got hold of the report cards.

It's either that or a totalitarian regime.

There are compromises, of course. But as creating a custom character, it's more tedious and difficult.

There may be such a thing as an enlightened despot, after all.

en at 2:34 am

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing

I have come across blogs that excitedly proclaim how their site traffic has crossed the (insert large figure) number threshold and there is that proud celebratory mood familiar with reaching new heights, grand achievements, crying newborn babies, scaling mountainous peaks, cheating Death or achieveing 280 for your PSLE score.

I have not seen blogs that mope about their dwindling number of site hits. I suppose it has to do with a measure of self-dignity.

Where climbing traffic are matters of momentous celebration, falling hit counts make one go into secluded corners to cry, or hug stuffed animals (or real ones, should they be available - kitties, perhaps) or drop all trappings of civilisation, embark on a frugal life living on remote peaks with only a bunch of chanting monks as company.

They bring out the worst in people.

Including pointless posts.

en at 1:28 pm

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

I am not a fangirl. Really.

This I have discovered: when in doubt, stumped by Blogger's Block and not to lazy, inspiration is only a click and five minute attention span away from another person's (in this case, Tym's) blog post.

The morning after last monday's Neil Gaiman QnA session (boy, was that 8 bucks worth it) that had the author signing past midnight when the event started at eight that evening, I feel misty, drained and star-struck.

I am not the only soul affected.

Via sms, a friend informs me that the whole night her brain screamed "Do me!", evidently finding leather-jacket-wearing beer-bellyed British man attractively normal, in her book. Adding that this was a terrible development considering she is not swooning over his works, which she has only read one of.

Two days after, the same few of us are at Borders. I arrive at about 5:20pm. The signing begins at six and as you have already heard, the line of people already stretches from the Borders entrance, around the circular glass doored area and outside towards the back.

Despite arriving 20 minutes earlier, my friends were already seated beyond the grasp of air-conditioned comfort. I discover that a friend of a friend had already started queuing past 2 o'clock. There was a buzz of anticipation, of mania in the air. Among which lurked the typical large overweight security types in blue uniforms.

One of which was hassling a troupe of cosplayers dressed up as some of the Endless: Dream (with really badly gel-spiked hair), Desire, Destiny (elevated on wooden clogs) and Death. Why, in this country, even the Endless have to queue.

I observe that the display for Harry Potter in the front windows of Borders is even further pushed into oblivion, more overlooked than usual, should that be possible. All the hanging colour drapes in the world and mountains of unsold Goblet of Fire books going at single digit prices each could not compete.

From teenagers in school uniforms (familiar hues of several junior colleges) to many adults in black sporting many ankhs (groan), each with their own story, each holding their own statement. Collectively a diverse selection of works, spiralling around the queue, testament to varied interests: plenty of Sandman comics (decade old single issues faded and yellow, or the more recent collections), American Gods, Neverwhere, Good Omens, Coraline, Wolves in the Walls and so forth.

Each a different version of fascination.

Neil Gaiman arrives, bearing shades and clad in Armani leather. After answering a few questions, he announces a set of book signing rules that he repeatedly emphasizes are not fair but there so he can retire before midnight. A maximum of 3 works. Only one to be personalised. And no posing for pictures, because past experienced threw up thousands of accumulated seconds of wasted shuffling, positioning, re-positioning and reshooting missed attempts.


We weren't one of them. Exercising efficiency and consideration, squeezing three people together in one single shot.

en at 7:30 pm

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Fantastic Publicity



Wah. Haven't seen so many trailers devoted to a movie on the Apple Movie Trailer page before. Maybe they should've spent their publicity budget on other things. Like finding a better director and script.

en at 7:11 pm

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Enter Sandman

Just returned from the Neil Gaiman signing at Orchard cineleisure, held after a lovely question and answer session and screening of a digitally packaged Mirrormask preview. I left approximately 45 minutes ago and I guessed there were still about fifty fervent fans still waiting behind us in line.

At first, waiting in the dim theatre (the price of being punctual for once), listening to two samples off the Mirrormask soundtrack: weird music and an even weirder rendition of 'Close to You' sang by something reminiscent of a small girl being half-asphyxiated, with chimes and hums in the background. Neil walks in and I'm oddly relieved to see the trademark leather jacket. Less than enthusiatic about the paunch though (Singapore: "You're welcome."). I know you guys are keeping him well-fed.

The turnout was enormous and after the theatre closed for the night, practically everyone poured two levels down to line up to get their books and figurines and pictures and ticket stubs (and iPod) signed. He was amazingly, mightily gracious and very much obliging to everyone, despite having circulation to his legs, lower torso and organs restricted for two hours and enduring the embrace of local heat and humidity, in the face of limply flapping paper fans by British Council members, after the air-conditioning to the building was switched off. Not to mention the signing session in the afternoon prior to this one. And being held up at a restaurant for photographs, explaining his late arrival. Kudos to Neil!

Neil Gaiman was hilarious. And it was reassuring to see most of the crowd rollicking in good humour at his quips and dry observations. One of the most notable being his confession that one of his interview extracts in the Mirrormask package was hopelessly and horribly false: a tale of Dave McKean being weirdly tramatised in his early childhood (small beard included and all), manufactured as a better alternate to "I don't know." to the question of "Why does Dave McKean use many masks in his works?"

He swears he didn't know they were going to use that as their widely marketed preview. He also wonders why they included a 1994 clip of McKean with a different beard and more hair, talking out of context about art in comics was included. Bizarre.

He also mentioned how someone criticised Mirrormask for unoriginal because the artwork in the movie resembles that of the person who did the Sandman covers. Oh well.

We got to enjoy this short film called 'A Short Film about John Bolton', which is about John Bolton but really not, especially with Neil writing and direction. It's an ending you can guess a mile away but we love it because we love Neil. By the way, this blog's url is attributed to one of Neil's short stories, of the same name. You can actually check it out here.

It's past one and I hope Neil has escaped the less-punctual hordes of relentless fans (or beaten them away with a cricket bat) and has gotten some sleep and has tucked out his shirt and doesn't mind me throwing about his first name as though we're on an amazing first-name basis.

en at 11:58 pm

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Everyone lurves kitties

So my youngest cat Daosah decides to launch himself at my other cat Flo in that typical self-absorbed, frenzied, estatic state cats go into when playing with each other. Unfortunately, my leg got in the way. And Daosah decides to use it as a sort of meaty launching pad.



And to think he's hardly an adult cat. He whines for attention, this one.

And to think I volunteered during matriculation to help the Cat Welfare Society catch disgruntled probably feral, possibly furious, fang-and-claw-happy adult cats for sterialization. Duty calls.

en at 12:36 am

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Almost Matriculated

Almost there. But not quite.

The story of my life.

Despite arriving at around three yesterday on the first day of SMU's matriculation runs, it turns out that two and a half hours isn't enough to finish everything. Especially so when one is obligated to attend a community service talk in order to be allowed to begin clocking our compulsory 80 hours of mighty good deeds. The logic of this obligation eludes me. But then so do many things.

Cruel fate scheduled the 4pm talk to concern the protection and maintenence Singapore's vital waterworks, a subject with as appeal to me as a enduring thumbscrews. The speaker whose primary task is imparting crucial information to the audience unfortunately found his duty upsurped by the wordy Powerpoint slides and decides to fulfill the optional role of comedic effect. He fares not better than the wordy, hugely uninteresting dull Powerpoint slides.

Hinting of desperation, the speaker recounts an annecdote of his that attempts to leech off the hype surrounding the recent body-parts murder. He implies he might have disposed of potential police evidence, thinking it was smelly river garbage. Dang, he didn't. The murder happened after he threw it away. Dang, the suspense.

Today I return for my interview for a forum mentoring CIP project. Unsurprisingly, they want the right kind of people to impart the right kind of values to teens so that they make the right kind of choices. I might not be selected. We'll see.

As a finishing touch,

"Can we wear black pants to Convocation?"

"You have to wear a black skirt. Last year's batch even wore their SMU scarves so it's already better for you guys this year."

"You have a SMU scarf!? Well. That's not very... practical."

Pants and boots. I'm be most happy wear that to both my convocation and graduation.

en at 11:38 pm

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