Wednesday, June 30, 2004

6 Days in Green

Day 1: In-Processing

Catching up with army friends. Many look rounder (and most tell me I look thinner).

Funnily, everyone's hardly changed. Talking in the same way (some more Hokkien) and joking in the same crude humour that manifests only in the presence of pure testosterone.

The old-bird reservists are amazingly slack and bo-chup. My kind of company.

Day 2: Combat Jump

I grabbed fear by the balls.

Today's training included a jump off a 5m high platform over a 4m deep swimming pool. Almost didn't want to jump.

As I stood up there at the edge looking down, I felt dread welling up inside of me. Threatening to paralyze me, fear almost gripped my very being. But I grabbed it by the balls: yelled out my IC number, took 1 step forward, and plunged straight down.

The next thing I knew, I was a couple of meters in the water. Wasn't so bad after all, and I actually didn't mind going again. Of course I didn't.

Day 3: IPPT

Got gold! Jumped 238cm for SBJ (a personal best!) and ran 9m13s (not a personal best :) $400 richer and feeling happy and accomplished.

G: It literally pays to be fit.

Quite amazed that I managed to run so fast, kudos to the sergeant with whom I'd agreed to be each other's pacer.

*flashback to start of run* Fellow pacer broke at intense sprint and left me eating his dust 6 seconds behind

I'm sure I could have beat him. It's mind over matter.

Day 4: Nothing Memorable

Boring boring boring...

Must have lost 1million neurons that day.

Day 5: Naviation Exercise on Scramblers

Fell off a motorbike in lim chu kang during a navigation exercise. Received 3 minor cuts above my eye, and a bruise below my armpit.

I was the pillion rider and barely knew what was happening, except that my friend had lost control of our bike while going up a steep slope. Was feeling shitty for a while that I was suffering for the mistake of another person. But no, I don't blame my friend; accidents happen.

Moral of the story: if you're driving other people, whether in a car of on a motorbike, be responsible. Too many stories of riders who survive, but their pillion passengers didn't.

Day 6: Out-Processing

I hate waiting. I hate bureacracy.

There's no place like home. There's nothing like home-cooked food and a loving mother to nag at you.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

"We Marched Last Night Ah!"



6 days of ICT starting tomorrow.

Took me a while to pack.

As I rummaged through a cardboard full of musky army gear, I found my good ol' trusty leather gloves - real tattered and seriously well-worn.

I was surprised at my own reaction - a chuckle and a irrepressible grin.

Seeya in 6 days' time!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Of Dumplings & Dragons

What do Singaporean housewives do in their free time? Make rice dumplings, of course! At least my mom does.



Ah yes, the familiar shape of the bah zhang - 4 cornered, bamboo-leaf-wrapped packages and its sticky contents of glutinous rice, mushrooms, pork, and chestnuts to be savoured with dark, sweet sauce. Back in my secondary school days, I used to eat it practically everyday in the late afternoons because that was all they had in the school canteen.

Old wives' wisdom dictates that you can't eat more than 2 or 3 at a go, or else indigestion and bloatedness will afflict the greedy and foolish one.



For the culturally amnesic, rice dumplings are part of the Duan Wu Jie, aka dragon boat festival. This festival commemorates Qu Yuan (332-296 BC), a patriotic Chinese poet who, according to folklore, drowned himself in a river in a bid to protest against rampant corruption. To the horror of environmentalists and lovers of aquatic life alike, the lau bai xing (i.e. common people) began throwing rice in the river while beating drums and splashing water to keep the fish from getting to the poet's body.

Motivated by curiosity and a need to maintain my reputation at home as mommy's domesticated boy, I joined in the dumpling making while my father and brother were simply disinterested in this supposed family activity. But I failed miserably at this deceptively difficult task of filling, wrapping, and tying the dumplings. In the end, I only managed 2 and my mom made the rest.



These dumplings that my mom made were ti zhang, a fillingless variation of yellow glutinous rice to be eaten with sugar - white, brown, or coconut. It has a signature smell that I absolutely detested when I was young, probably because it wasn't sweet enough for my liking. And I could never understand why my mom kept buying it even though nobody else at home really liked it.

So when my mom began making it this time round, I asked her why. Her answer was so simple, it floored me.

"I like it."



This time round though, my mom decided to experiment by filling the dumplings with red bean paste. The experiment failed miserably; the middle of the red-bean-filled dumplings stubbornly refused to cook properly, despite hours of boiling and steaming. My mom, evidently used to occasional failure in the kitchen, was instead rather amused and proceeded to rectify the situation by painstakingly reconfiguring each dumpling.



As I hesistantly sampled her handiwork, my mom quizzed, "did you know that the Great Wall of China is made of the very same glutinous rice?"

Guess she wanted to exonerate herself for underestimating the resilience of the humble grain of glutinous rice.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Why Mosquitoes Exist

Someone's gone and answered the biggest question of all: why do mosquitoes exist?

According to the article on NY Times, population control and keeping humans away from wildlife are two important reasons.

Amazing huh?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Music Making: Weaving the Ethereal

Last Sunday night, I attended a performance at the Esplanade by "Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble". As part of the Silk Road Project travelling round the world and to which Yo-Yo Ma is founder and Artistic Director, this concert was a commendable effort to both entertain and educate about traditional Eastern music that sprung up along the Silk Road and also music inspired by these Eastern roots. This is but my humble, little review of the performance.



This world-renowned cellist hardly needs introduction. However, while his current achievements of 15 Grammy Awards, 50 released albums, and a multi-faceted music career of crossovers and collaborations are undoubtedly impressive, Yo-Yo Ma is more likely to be remembered for his genuine and unassuming personality, and a winning, effervescent smile.

As I watched him move onstage with cello in hand, under the intense gaze of an expectant audience and the immense weight of his very own reputation, nothing about him spoke of arrogance or pompousness. Instead, from a slightly hunched and relaxed stride to a navy blue business suit (as opposed to the typical musician's black tuxedo, regal with bow-tie and tails) to his familiar circular-rim glasses to an intelligent and upbeat voice, this man's aura was one of sincerity and unpretentiousness.

"...music has the ability to transcend space and time...
I have to confess, I scoffed internally at his initial words for this phrase is so clichéd and hackneyed, it wheezes and flaps like a leaky balloon every time it's blown in public. Even reading the programme booklet made me snicker silently.

"Said Ma, 'As we interact with unfamiliar musical traditions, we encounter voices that are not exclusive to one community. We discover transnational voices that belong to one world.'"
But as I sat through the performance, my jadedness at music-making (narrow and unwarranted for an amateur musician who was hardly part of the local music scene) was thrown out and replaced instead with a revived hope and optimism towards music, and an ear more open towards Chinese musical instruments. Never have I heard and seen someone pour out so much of his heart and soul into... simple, long notes; it was an inspiring reminder of how music really has to extend far beyond the notes we see on music sheets.

Ethnomusicology, a dirty word to some because it reeks of fusion (aka new age hybridism of culturally inspired elements that is intended to challenge and tease in a curiously refreshing manner). We've all heard it before: East meets West, European tradition infused with Asian elements etc. But far from feeling scandalized at my enjoyment of music mainstream enough for the masses, my interest and curiosity really were piqued about the music, its origins - the very objective that the Silk Road Project has set out to achieve - and even my very own roots. I reckon the success of this project is attributed not so much to Yo-Yo Ma's award-winning playing but, to a large part, his name and credibility as a carrying vessel.

At times the evening's music was minimalist, in terms of both content and instrumentation, but it was captivating nonetheless. I was instantly mesmerized by the ethereal quality present in the opening piece, Tryst, a love song between a courtesan and a scholar/poet. While the oboe's main theme evoking images of a wailing woman was refreshingly haunting, when the Kayagum performer, garbed in traditional Korean costume, really began singing and wailing, it was utterly forlorn and poignant. Such is the power of the human voice.

The other piece that completely enthralled me was the Mugam-Sajahy for String Quartet. A surreal sense enveloped the darkened stage with lights focusing only on the players standing at both sides of the stage and Yo-Yo Ma, seated in the center, both beginning and ending with a two note, heartbeat-like ostinato. This simple theme softly beckoned and yet, under the weaving of Ma's artistry and expert movements, morphed and danced. As three other voices gradually joined in, I found myself initially at a loss at which player to look at and which voice to focus on. Then I simply looked up, listened, and slowly realized my interpretation of this arrangement: lost, individual voices from afar searching, finding, and finally meeting. Other antics such as extremely vigorous playing and dramatizing the music by moving deliberately across the stage added to the theatrical feel of this performance.

The evening finally climaxed when the entire Silk Road Ensemble gathered for a final, boisterious encore - their unofficial theme song whose title frustrates my online search. I had watched them perform the same piece on TV, but this live performance was simply magical. Synergy (another hackneyed word) and pure simple fun - two rare and elusive elements in classical musical performances - were definitely alive and kicking onstage.

I am, once again, a music lover.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Who R The Best Boyfriends?

Got this hilarious email from a friend.

Any of your husband or boyfriend is an Engineer?

Message: Today's lesson - Girls must be convinced, so learn to promote yourself - convince them that 'Engineers are the Best Boyfriends'. Let me tell you why girls should eventually marry an engineer over a Law, Management, Arts or Medical School Graduate. He has three distinct advantages over the rest of the graduates.

Advantage 1: Secure lifestyle
An engineer boyfriend can provide you with a secure lifestyle. At 27 years old, an engineer probably has a respectable, stable job that gives him a high income to own a car, invest, have a comfortable life, and get married and buy a house too. Law graduates are still working as a lowly apprentice in law firm, most management graduates have just failed on their first business plan, the arts graduate is still looking for a job, and the medical school graduate is still living in a hospital.

Advantage 2: Unmatchable industriousness
An engineer boyfriend will dedicate an unimaginable amount of his time and effort to understand you. Engineers strain really really hard to understand their work. You can believe that they will try really really hard to understand women too, just like how they understand their work, once they believe that you are the one. So even if they don't understand you initially, they will keep on trying. Even if they still do not understand, they will figure out the correct method to keep you happy (e.g. buy diamond ring = 1 week's worth of happiness.) And once they find out the secret formula, they will just keep on repeating it so that the desired results appear. Unlike the Lawyer who will argue with you, the Management graduate who will try to control your spending, the Arts graduate who will 'change major', and the medical school graduate who will operate on you. And you know what, it's really so easy to make engineers believe that you are the 'one'. Say that you like one of their projects and they will be hooked to you forever.

Advantage 3: An engineer boyfriend will never betray your trust.
Let me first tell you what is wrong with the rest of the others - the lawyers will lie about everything, management graduates will cheat your money, the arts graduate will flirt, and you probably just look like another cadaver to the medical school graduate. Your engineer boyfriend is either too busy to have an affair, and even if he does, he is too dumb to lie to you about that. Hence, an engineer is the most secure boyfriend that you will ever find - rich enough, will keep on trying to understand and please you, has no time for affairs, and too dumb to lie to you. So girls, why procrastinate?

Get an engineer for your boyfriend!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Porn On Local TV?

That's food porn, to be exact.

For the late wakers and the no-life, white-collared cubicle slaves, the culinary slot on Channel 5 starts at 11.30am every weekday morning. Over the past few weeks, I've been faithfully catching Oliver Twist everyday but as that drew to an end, I worried about life after Jamie Oliver. But this uneasy void was soon filled by my latest goggle-box obsession, Nigella Lawson.



Forever Summer's the name of her home culinary show. Sensual and bordering on orgasmic is what she is, the way she liberally spouts slurring adjectives like "amaaazing" "intensssse" "llllovely" and the way she sighs and moans in mouth-filled delight. Even her groan, as she heaved a heavy mortar, is especially sexual. And the way she looks up to the camera ever so sweetly with a gleam in her eyes.

High and dry is what I am, after watching every episode.

*cue soundtrack: bopping bossa nova beats with girating flute solo*

Perhaps it's my weakness for full-bodied women who spout a thick English accent and are addicted to the intense heat of fresh red chilli. But I'm not the only raving about her. Her first culinary show, Nigella Bites, was described by Salon.com as "the most consistently lubricious show on the air".

Without a doubt, food is better than sex. After all, how many food orgies have you had in your life? And how many sex orgies? Case in point (unless my friends have secret lives). During the latest episode aptly titled "Green" for the mint-centric recipes, I practically ogled at the thick, oozing mint syrup being poured deliberately over full, fleshy peaches poached in spicy bourbon.

Lawson's life story is indeed inspiring. But for all her success with 2 shows, 4 books, and being the subject of countless sexual fantasies, Lawson proclaims herself as being merely a food enthusiast and not an expert. She is apologetic yet unabashed about her apparent lack of adeptness in the kitchen that is typical of TV chefs. Her motto is "to achieve maximum pleasure through minimum effort". True to this, some of her recipes are really so fuss-free that she prepares them in the open of her backyard and even her kitchen tools are chosen to minimize effort on her part so she can still look good on TV (like the curved, double-handled knife that makes dicing look fun). After all, the underlying theme of her life is emancipation from blandness, prudish weight-watching, and the imprisoning kitchen.

And all feminists who love fried food say Amen.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Clifford Pier: Retro Lost in Modernity



Located at the edge of the familiar concrete jungle we know as Shenton Way is a forgotten treasure trove of curious sights. Dwarfed by its towering neighbours, most people in their daily rush to and from work hardly pay any attention to this quaint little place by the waterfront. It takes a professional bummer like me with a curious eye to notice it. Of course, I only did because G's working in the area.



Named after former colonial governor Sir Hugh Clifford, Clifford Pier was opened in 1933 and underwent major expansion in the late 1970's. Once bustling with the activity of money changers hawking their services (supposedly yelling "Change! Change!" hence the name Change Alley) and American sailors whose ships had called at the pier, today it is quiet and unexciting mainly because of competition from other ferry terminals. And since I was there on a hot, lazy sunday afternoon, it seemed especially deserted, except for tourists heading for a cruise aboard the Chinese junk and foreign workers chatting and even napping on the cool, concrete floor. Sadly, with a new pier coming up at Marina South, this pier is slated to be demolished, but for now stands to remind us of our heritage and identity.



As I walked over from Caltex House into the bridge linking Clifford Pier and Change Alley, the scenery changed from one of sparkling modernity and see-through glass walls to one of dim lights and dirty walls, typical of old shopping centers. I was immediately drawn by the curious interior design that is reminiscent of earlier times. The shop names ("Dinky Di Store, House of Russian Goods" and "Trendy Cafeteria") were even more intriguing. Thus I made a promise to return with my camera to capture these sights that we always take for granted. So there.



Do check out my photo blog but please pardon the poor quality of the pictures. It's my first photo essay anyway, so be nice. Do check out a much more professional article and a photo essay done by Straits Times a while ago.



Neither did I know about Neptune, the first revolving restaurant and the largest theatre-restaurant in Singapore that used to run topless nightclub shows. In the course of my online research, I also found a forum where various people have posted photos and postcards of Singapore in her yesteryears.

See, there are interesting places in Singapore after all.

Ease the pain by sharing

Got this article from the Life! section from Straits Times (16 June 2004). If I've infringed any copyrights by publishing it here, pls let me know and I'll take it down immediately. Otherwise I'm just sharing a heart-warming article.

Ease the pain by sharing

The family that hurts together, stays together. Or at least, that's what I learnt when my daughter had to get an injection

ONE of Haley's Hello Kitty earrings had become impacted in her left ear.

It was probably due to a bout of eczema. When the skin broke and then healed, the earring just got set in the earhole and was not going to budge.

'There's nothing I can do here,' said Dr Pat, our family doctor.

'I suggest going to KK Hospital where you can get her sedated.'

My wife shuddered - sedation means a needle and a needle means pain.

We have all been there. The terror of a sharp, thin, metal rod piercing your skin. Even as you age, there remains some trepidation, but at five years old, it seems like a near-death experience.

'You explain, Stephen. I can't handle this,' said my wife with all the bravery of a field mouse.

When D-Day came, and as the girls were having breakfast, I decided to bite the bullet.

'Haley, darling?'

'Yah,' she replied.

'We are going to take out the earring today. There's a hospital where the doctor knows how to do it.'

Apparently, she had been mugging up on her civil rights.

'If it hurts, I'm not going.'

'Well, that's just it. They have medicine that puts you to sleep so you won't feel a thing.'

'But if it's painful, I'll wake up.'

'This is a special kind of sleep where you can only wake up when they stop giving you the medicine,' I said.

'Daddy's had it before, it's very fun. They ask you to count backwards from 10, and before you even get to seven, you fall asleep,' I continued.

I feigned sudden unconsciousness by slumping in my chair.

'OK or not?' I asked.

'OK lah,' she replied, smiling.

At the hospital, she was her usual buoyant self. She happily laid on the bed, and her jolly demeanour quickly charmed all the nurses.

Even when they disinfected her thigh and I helped pin her arms above her head, she seemed relaxed, albeit with a slight look of curiosity.

Then came the needle.

A split second of shock was followed by the realisation that she was being injected.

Her eyes widened in shock and pain. Then came the screams that would rip out the heart of any parent and drop-kick it between the goalposts at Guilt Stadium.

After what seemed like forever, the needle was withdrawn from her thigh.

By now, her face was soaked in tears. With big, startled eyes, she implored: 'Why did they prick me? It's so painful.'

I brushed back her hair, dried her face and assured her that there would be no more. But even though she was staring with eyes wide open, the sparkle had gone and so had the trauma. She was sedated.

Twenty minutes later, a five-nurse team had removed the earring and an unconscious Haley was wheeled into the observation area.

She was expected to be out cold for another 45 minutes. But within moments, the little tiger had opened her eyes. She was aware but could not see clearly.

I felt sure she could hear me, though. Close enough to whisper, I told her I was there and that all she had to do was sleep.

But she was scared and fought against the unfamiliarity.

Her face seemed numb. Slowly, she opened her mouth as wide as she could and held it there for a scary 10 seconds, trying to understand the strangeness she was feeling.

Responding to my voice, she whispered: 'Papa?'

Despite her condition, with all the strength she could muster, she lifted her left arm onto my head to draw me even closer.

For the next 15 minutes, she drifted in and out of consciousness - her hand never straying from my head.

Soon, she asked for Mummy and got the big hug she was looking for.

It is so hard to see your little girl cry when she is scared of the unknown. In that situation, you realise that you are all that she has in the world.

But I was to realise something else that day too.

While still vulnerable though slightly more lucid, her face suddenly collapsed into tears again.

'I want Jie Jie,' she cried.

More than anything I had experienced all day, that plea for her elder, nine-year-old sister made me realise what we all are to each other.

It is natural to think that a child wants her parents when she is scared.

But for Haley to ask for Amelia, that speaks volumes for their relationship too.

Sisters, I have observed, can share a friendship, unlike brothers.

There seems to be a special closeness, born of trials of growing up together and cemented with affection, which perhaps brothers are afraid to express.

It is good to think that in their adult years the girls will still be friends. I hope our family unit stays tightly together.

After all, if I ever got my ears pierced, I would not want to do it alone.

Send your comments to stlife@sph.com.sg

Friday, June 11, 2004

Remember Your Army Daze?

Like most Singaporean males, I have a bunch of rowdy army friends, with whom I literally shared thick and thin, and shed sweat and blood. I've definitely have come a long way since the age of uninhibited, profuse cursing and swearing (Hokkien included). Yet when we met up recently for dinner and coffee, it felt just like good ol' times. Apart from a newly minted degree and more girl-related stories, nobody seemed to have changed much outwardly.

Amazingly, the entire evening's conversation revolved round that gruelling and trying 2.5 years of our lives which took place about 5 years ago. Haven't 25yo's who have spent a good 4 years on an, at the very least, eventful university education got anything better to talk about?? From the way we were reminiscing, these events seemed to have occured just yesterday.

Perhaps I've erased from memory all remnants of the trauma of temporarily losing my individuality and freedom in submitting to authority and a highly disagreeable system. But recalling numerous memorable incidents and colourful characters I'd met during NS did bring back many a chuckle or even a guffaw. And undeniably a warm fuzzy feeling.

*cue canned audience going "awwww"*

Once again, I'm reminded of the power of shared historical experience. In this case, one that is so intense and unique - physically, emotionally, and psychologically - and has left us with indelible collective memories to be laughed and joked about. From camou-sticks to maggie mee to hammocks to smelly berets, from acronymns to codewords to soldiers' creeds to infamous phrases, from a rat-infested camp to guard duty patrols to local training grounds to overseas training trips, from the mundane to the peculiar... Every detail was recollected and savoured, including the infamous mistimed curse muttered by one guy under his breath that aggravated an already furious barrage of corporal punishment.

My personal most unforgettable experience? Once, during a training exercise deep into the night, my team was unfamiliar with the terrain and had to resort to bashing (an NS term for insistently moving - sometimes hacking - through thick vegetation with connotations of foolhardiness) through a tapioca patch - its indomitable branches, the bane of all NS men. It took us almost an hour to clear through about 100 to 200 meters of it. At the end of it, I remember looking up and seeing HDB flats in the horizon. I imagined their residents all tucked under their covers, warm and cosy, and snoring through the night, while here I was - cold, wretched, and exhausted - suffering the glory of proudly serving the nation.

But it's true what they say, NS is a rite of passage, filled with eye-opening sights (and smells) and experiences. At the end of the day, beyond a greater wisdom, I know I have gained a group of reliable and trustworthy guys that I can count on as friends.

*cue canned audience going "awwww", followed by applause and cheers*

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Burnt by Peanut Butter

During breakfast early this morning, I had toasted bread, thickly spread with peanut butter. I placed the plate at the edge of the table and bent down to pick something up. The next thing this sleepyhead remembered was searing hot pain on the right shoulder.

Grabbing a bunch of tissue paper, I immediately wiped off the offending, hot peanut butter. And off came a patch of skin. I probably stood there for quite a while, gaping at my first degree burn, the size of a 50cent coin.

Pink, naked flesh was staring back at me.

Thankfully G was around and saved the day. The cure for burns? Tender loving care and first aid. Peppered with some teasing about my congenital clumsiness - particularly potent in the early mornings.

When I told my friends about it, one remarked how doctors always reported the strangest of accidents happening and this was one of them.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Six Feet Under: A Showcase of the Human Self

One of my favourite TV dramas is HBO's Six Feet Under (SFU) - created by Alan Ball, award-winning, and HURRAH! returning with a 4th season in mid-June.

Another TV drama addiction? Perhaps. I guess we all find our own things in life to speak to us and what better than drama serials that throw up fictional characters and dramatic situations to tickle and provoke? But as I remarked to G, "this show is so... human". It's really a showcase of the human self - emotional, psychological, and philosophical - and our uniquely convoluted human relationships. Besides, amid themes centering on life and death - literally so, in focusing on the Fishers, a family that runs a funeral home - SFU's brand of dark humour is particularly refreshing and intriguing (i.e. art-fart appeal).

SFU showcases the myriad of complex human thought and emotions that each character goes through in dealing with life's sundry issues - from coming to terms with the loss of a father to discovering self-identity and the purpose of one's life to dealing with love and sexuality.

Though I'm still going through the 2nd season, every episode always leaves me quiet and brooding. Each episode opens with someone doing what he probably does everyday, not expecting death to come his way in the next few minutes. We, the viewers, are initially titillated and even shocked by incredible (and sometimes amusing) situations that invariably lead to unintended death. But as we become accustomed to death being part and parcel of the family's life, death no longer shocks and shakes us. Not so much because Ball has run out of quaint situations to throw in our faces in season 2, but we really begin to accept it, just as the Fishers do.

Even each death opens a brief window into man's other peculiar facets, portrayed sometimes through a character imagining a dead man speaking poignantly to address his personal struggles. And other times through family or friends who are thrown into sudden disarray and emotional turmoil in coming to terms with the loss of someone. Their reactions range from "why did he have to die", "I regret not knowing him better", "I could have prevented her death but why didn't I" to "good riddance, you son of a bitch", "I always thought you loved me but this..." etc.

G sums up the show as "functionality in dysfunctionality". I couldn't agree more - at first the Fishers appear to be another dysfunctional American family, albeit with the curious business that involves carting cadaver home. But as you follow the series, each character's individual battles with personal demons are revealed. The viewer then begins to understand their psyche, perhaps even empathize with them emotionally, and finally realizes their functionality, whether as an individual or as a collective.

In the last episode I caught (season 2 eps 12), I find the scene of Nate and Brenda's falling out particularly heart-wrenching. Two persons together and due to be married, but emotionally apart and fighting lonely wars with their past that repeatedly haunts them. While I feel sympathy for Brenda's complex and her seemingly incomprehensible sex-maniac ways, Nate's anger and sense of betrayal are expected. Oh yes, somebody say "this is drama", where the viewer, as a third party who sees everything, understands and wishes how the characters can see themselves for who, what and how they are. Of course, we all wish they'd better hurry up, make the right decisions, resolve all conflict and eventually get together. But where's the fun in that? :)

As the follower of any series would ask, who's your favourite character? I say it would be Claire, the redhead teenager who, from my following so far, is now redirecting her angst and bitterness towards everything and everyone in life to discovering her latent creativity and in the process, self-identity and her place in life as she moves on to life beyond high school. Perhaps I, too, empathize with her and desire to discover and unleash the inner artist in me.

The Power of Advertising

Got this hilarious joke off some website a while ago.

The father sat reflecting on how much joy his two sons brought to him during the year. He decided to buy them both the present of their choice this holiday season. When he asked his older boy what he would like, the son replied, "Oh boy, I would like so many things. Maybe a bicycle, or new skis, or skin diving equipment. I wish I would have them all, but any one would make me happy."

That was fine with the father, he now had some good choices. Next, he turned to his younger son, who was only eight years old. The boy envied his brother for all the games he could play and all of the sports he could do so well. When asked what he would like, he made one simple request. "I would like a box of Tampax Tampons." The father was shocked, "What in the world do you want a box of tampons for?" he demanded angrily. The poor boy, not knowing he had said something wrong, answered, "With Tampax, you can swim, ski, sky dive, horseback ride and play any sport you want."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Makan! Glorious Makan!!

Makan is malay for "to eat".

One of the reasons I love being a Singaporean is the abundance and variety of delectable, heavenly Singaporean food! Name me any cuisine and you'll find it here: chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Italian, American, French, German etc. My mouth salivates uncontrollably and my gastric juices churn in excitement whenever I flip through local food guides, like Makan Sutra or the ST Life! Food Guide.

View pics here to activate drool.

Eating is, unequivocally, the national pastime in Singapore. Thus small wonder that Singaporeans will go to, literally, great lengths to savour reputable foods. And almost excusable are those who will fight over the last, remaining BreadTalk pork floss bun.

In case you didn't know, apart from caning vandals and banning chewing gum, Singapore is internationally known for being a food haven and, in particular, its cheap, good and hygienic hawker food. Singapore's hawker centres were even touted by a book about interesting places to visit around the world before you die.

Mmmm... satay, fish head curry, BBQ-ed sting ray, Hokkien mee, murtabak, ngoh hiang, Indian rojak, mee pok tah, ice kacang, orh lua...

The most wonderful thing about hawker food is that every version of each food varies according to the hawker's secret recipes, traditional or otherwise. After conducting our own food hunts (at the expense of our cholesterol levels), G and I agreed that the stalls listed in the Makan Sutra were not all that great but were worthy of Seetoh K.F.'s attention perhaps because of some special ingredient that added a unique twist to the traditional version.

Unfortunately, the humble beginnings of this the hawker centre as a wonder of the world are little known...

*cue scratchy LP playing Shanghai diva music with gradual scene-change to sepia tones*

It all started in the 1970's, in the central districts that included Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, and along the Singapore River. Shops and markets were abuzz with commercial activity, while the streets were lined with hawkers hawking (duh!) their food in their carts. PM Lee Kuan Yew decided to clean up the Singapore river and improve hygiene standards. Hence in order to provide them with proper sanitation, hawkers were all licensed and relocated to central locations. Thus was born the hawker centre.

Ok, that was all I managed to gather from my brief online research. Perhaps the National Heritage Board could make more information available and accessible.

If you ask me, I'd say there's only 1 thing about Singaporean hawker centre ettiquette that foreigners oughta know: the awesome power of the deceptively humble packet of tissue paper, ubiquitous and cheap.

Chope's the word - a colloquial term immortalized since primary school days to arrogantly mark one's territory with connotations of vehemence and animalistic aggression. Like a magical item from a fantasy-based RPG, once a packet of tissue paper is placed on a seat, a ward of immense, immovable human presence is cast by the demure, young secretary who is now able to proceed, carefree, to order her plate of chicken rice.

One of my fondest memories as a kid was stuffing my face with BBQ-ed chicken wings and kambing soup at Thomson Flyover Hawker Centre, which unfortunately has long been torn down. But never fear, Singapore's temples of gastronomical orgies - from Newton Hawker Centre to Maxwell Market to Lau Pa Sat to Serangoon Garden's Chomp Chomp - are all well and alive!

Too bad I've sworn off oily and greasy food :)