me and you and the rest of new york city

"wow, remember when we went to see Art Brut in Northsix??? we went right before that venue closed down... you left before Art Brut came on, but you still saw Test Icicles.. .haha, that was one of their last performances before they broke up... they fall off the stage constantly"

Today's post is dedicated to Adam, one of the best gig buddies I have ever had and also quite possibly the world's most unrecognised genius when it comes to frenzied balls-out gig dancing. Some of the best gigs I have ever seen in my life were with him, and they include:

- Broken Social Scene, Webster Hall: they played the sped-up version of "It's All Gonna Break", Kevin Drew floated out onto the audience like the most serene crowdsurfer you ever did see. At the end of the set, Adam completely drenched in sweat hugged me screaming "That was amazinggg!!"

- Abovementioned Test Icicles gig at Northsix, where the members were so drunk they kept falling off the stage, when they weren't flipping their hair our of their eyes.

- Foreign Islands, random club in Alphabet City: lots of screaming, and I wore my "kueh lapis" dress. As we peeled out of the club the bassist walked out with his girlfriend. "I loved your show!" I called out into the night. "Thanks dude!" he called back out - moments ago he was a raging lunatic onstage but now he was just like any ordinary friendly shmoe.

- Belle and Sebastian, Nokia theatre Times Square. I lost my favourite sweater but at least I got to see them live.

This does not include other random, mostly drunken, memories such as: being menaced by hoodlums at wing night at the Lion's Head Tavern, discovering a magic chocolate fondue fountain in Greenwich Village and eating as much as we could until the restaurant's owner came out and huffily unplugged the machine, crashing into Gray's Papaya so we could use their bathroom, and getting drunk in all kinds of places.

Good times.

too cool for school

Reading my favourite street style blog sometimes really stupefies me. From a year of reading it, I have gathered that the fashionistas in Berlin are:

- usually from somewhere else
- usually ridiculously good-looking students (my theory is that they are all actually student-slash-models because how the hell do these students afford vintage luxury items)
- also ridiculously young, or barefaced liars when it comes to their ages. I mean seriously, how can this girl be 13? 13???

why saint jack is a must-see

This year not only marks Singapore's 50 years of self-governance, but also marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Saint Jack, the only Hollywood film that has ever been filmed on location in Singapore and was banned for years until recently. I watched it last night. It's one of those slow-moving movies made with a kind of neocolonialist sensibility and paper-thin plot(angmo whorehouse owner protects an adoring coterie of prostitutes from one-dimensional triad characters), but that's because it's a film about Singapore in the 1970's. You see Bugis Street as it with gorgeous bewigged women, Chinatown in its choked up glory, a completely unrecognisable Orchard Road with just a green patch of land where Takashimaya is now, Boat Quay as a thriving godown area, the Fullerton Hotel as a post office with trishaws waiting in the dirt outside, and a glorious pan of Clarke Quay (start from 1:00; spoiler alert: it's the ending) showing an endless row of dirty shophouses by the river exactly where Central is now, throbbing with life and vibrancy. I ate up every single shot.

Some people might dismiss it as colonialist poverty porn. But it is much more than that for someone who grew up in 80's Singapore when these places were undergoing great change, and who came of age in a time where the country has completely revamped itself into a mercilessly modern country of steel and glass. Our history as a young nation was dictated to us through textbooks and orderly nattering documentaries; our knowledge of Singapore's salacious past has been restricted to the occasional informal oral history lesson by our elders, pictures, fleeting shots in TV programmes. So to watch an uncensored record of Singapore in the 1970's, to see her brimming with Third-Worldery exoticism and sleaze more akin to Bangkok, is a pure jolt to the system. Such is the power of movies that the sheer contrast of Singapore in the movie to what we know today as a new generation of Singaporeans instantly provides you a wide revelation into what Singapore is, was, and has become, and consequently who you are as a Singaporean.

The reactions this film can provoke can be various. For me, it inspires a desperate happiness, that underneath this layer of modernity lies the dirty beating heart of Singapore's past. There is also a kind of nostalgic melancholy. I feel as if I'm an immigrant in my own home: adrift, inhabiting a world that shares the same landmarks as this other past I've never known, but is otherwise completely different, bears no relation in its atmosphere and soul.

But if Singapore had not progressed, I would not be here today, enjoying the comforts that I enjoy. So this leads me to the conundrum of modern Singaporean identity: should I be happy for Singapore's progress, of which I've benefited immensely from, when not only it has been at the expense of such character, but also has led to such a profound sense of disconnectedness to an other Singapore that our government had sought to systematically erase?

For all this, Saint Jack is a great film and I highly recommend it for any young Singaporean curious about our recent history. Plus, it also features the spectacular sight of a bell-bottomed midget Ah Beng. If that isn't worth the price of the DVD, I don't know what is.

in laos

Some sights, on the road in Northern Thailand and Laos:

- A dog, perfectly balanced, standing on the back of a motorbike going 60mph enroute to Chiang Khong, staring at the road with a steely gaze.
- Minutes later, an old man on a motodop ferrying a large forlorn pig in a makeshift wooden cage. The hog oinks at me mournfully as the bus rattles past.
- A naked tiny Laotian girl, passed out cold on a wooden table, at a deserted restaurant overlooking the Mekong. Later she wakes up disoriented, crying for her grandma who has stepped away. P wanders over to console her, she stares at him hunched over like a wild wary animal.

The river mud here in Huayxai is so full of sediment that it glitters like black gold.

Tomorrow: to the gibbons!


Calling all recessionistas! SWOP #8 is happening again this month, and if you're someone who's into thrift finds why not drop by for our latest swopping session?

As usual we are teaming up with our friends at Fleaflyflofun, and holding SWOP at Home Club as part of FleaFly's monthly flea market..

Date: March 21, Saturday
Time: 4pm - 6pm
Venue: Home Club, at The Riverwalk (map: ). Look out for us outside the club.

Bring at least 5 items, $5 for charity, and as many friends that you can round up!

Check out for more details on how this works, and the philosophy behind Swopping.

All proceeds will go to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

SWOP! at Rowell Road

Hello all, this is probably a bit too short notice for some but if you haven't got anything to do this afternoon, why not drop by for SWOP!, a charity swopping event?

Today's session will be held at The Other Side, a new artist’s space that’s opened up at Rowell Road recently. Come drop by and hang out with the Little India arts crowd and get some thrift finds while donating to a good cause! Bring $5 and at least 5 swoppable items of clothing, books, VCDs or accessories in good condition.

All proceeds will go to Transient Workers Count Too.

Date: 28 December 2008, Sunday
Time: 4pm to 6pm
Venue: The Other Side, 66 Rowell Road

Our website address:

Here's a map:

Hope to see you there!

man and machine: part 1

I was talking to a friend tonight about this short story which I've wanted to write for some time. It's about a man who gets severely disturbed by the construction going on next door (this was inspired by the crazily noisy place I used to live just down the road). Anyway, one of the things I said tonight was that I always get daunted by completing what may seem to be a massive piece of work, even though it may just be a teeny tiny novella. So I came up with the idea of writing it in spurts, and serialising it on my blog, like how Dickens would do if he were alive today.

Then I came home and realised that I had written the entire first "act" of the short story already, in a document that I'd squirrelled away in the depths of my computer some time back. Anyway, here it is. Let me know what you think.

Man and Machine (part 1)

The first thing he hears in the morning is pounding and drilling and the noises of a wrecked world. Men shouting. Metal on metal. Pound, pound, pound. He gets up, clutches his head in his hands for a minute, wishing for the noise to stop. Then he really gets up .

From the window in his kitchen he sees the hoardings first. Red thick corrugated tin hoardings, glistening sweatily in the burgeoning heat and sunlight, and he imagines that if he touched them his hand would come away seared, like a nice slab of grilled tuna. Beyond are the machines, and they seem to be copulating copiously. Every day whenever he looks they seem to have multiplied threefold. First it was a digger, then another with a dumptruck, then skips began to appear, dotted around the barren landscape, and then finally to the great gnashing, terrifying sound of metal crunching and gears whirring and engines shrieking the piledriver appeared, tall and unforgiving. It stands now, the largest of all the monstrous artifacts in the lot next to his flat. He regards it, one hand on the kitchen counter, another clutching the window grille. It’s silently judging me, he thinks to himself.

He shuffles off, dusty sounds swiffing off the tiles of his kitchen floor. He hates the noise but the alternative would be having wet footprints all around, and he couldn’t have that could he? He tries to match each pound with his shuffle. He saw something like that once, an old gag, in an Indiana Jones movie. How old was he, twenty? Twenty-one? In the cramped Lido cinema, knees up against the chair in front.

Today: the market. A list of perishables to be looted from the wet trays and boxes and hurried home, before the unbearable heat ruins them all. He is known for his taste in fresh fish. He can’t stand the taste of mushy flesh – no matter how much chilli and garlic you could put in, you could never disguise the taste and texture of fish that has just gone off a little before you steamed it.


When he steps out of his flat, he feels that the neighbourhood cats are watching him. Occasionally he sees them darting in and out, underneath the cars simmering in the 11 o’clock sun.

When he gets to the bus-stop, he sees the truant students slipping out through the hole in the fence, giggling privately at their deliberately misspent youth, intoxicated with the idea of rebellion. He privately wishes they get run over by the buses, which seem to charge forward into the bay like deranged horses, heaving and frothing and champing at the bit. It would be appropriate to see a frightened face, a pair of legs sucked under the wheels. All would be left would be a purple scrap of trousers or skirt, ground into the pebbly concrete of the bus bay.

Down this street: rows of rows of crooked shophouses, ateliers with shadowy shopfronts, electrical goods stores and toilet furnishings and shower nozzles and oversized chandeliers. A large sculpture of a toilet bowl perched atop a door. On the bus he has seen, while whizzing past, mysterious boxes affixed to the walls of the showrooms. He has remained intrigued for days. Sometimes, while lying in bed he has imagined them popping up slowly from the ceiling. Some of them explode in gentle bursts of plaster confetti. Some of them ring – presumably his mind wants to believe that they’re literally telephone boxes. But now he has the time to examine them – getting off at a stop, weaving his way towards the five-foot-way, coming up close to the glassed shopfront- he sees they are just boxes. Plain ones. Just rectangular shapes. There is no shop sign, no indication what this is. Perhaps it’s an art installation. He feels vaguely furious at this discovery. How could there be nothing more to what it actually is?


He knows what he needs to do: buy sugar. A lot of it. When he goes to the 24 hour supermarket near his place....