Friday, August 17, 2007

7 things I love about Singapore

About a week before Singapore's National Day, I gave myself a writing exercise. To come up with 7 things I love about Singapore in time for the nation's 42nd birthday. I will not allow myself the obvious Singapore subjects, like Chicken Rice, or Zouk. I will also treat the nation Singapore as Singapore the lady, a fast approaching middle aged needing something uplifting to look forward now that she is past the big Four Zero. So there will be abit of music, lots of movies, abit of food and abit of speed and a big heaping of love.

Alot of internet writing tend to be barbed and ribbing. So this will be a reminder we still love Singapore.

Read on.

number one

I love music so the first on the list is

Baybeats is one of the biggest music festival in the region.
Yes. The scene actually travels down to Singapore (hooray for regional budget airlines and local budget hotels) once a year to check out what Singapore bands have to offer.

Baybeats is loud,
it is massive and best of all
it is free.

What more could you want?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

number two

ok, number two on the list

Singapore made movies

If there is any doubt that there is a film scene in Singapore, the month of August will erase that notion.

For the past coupla years, August has been the traditional harvest month for local filmmakers to showcase their work. Last August saw Gloria Chee's Smell of Rain, Gilbert Chan & Joshua Chiang's S11, Leonard Lai's High Cost of Living and of cos, Colin Goh & Woo Yen Yen's Singapore Dreaming.

This year continues that tradition.
We have Nicholas Chee's Becoming Royston,

Royston Tan's 881,

Wee Li lin's Gone Shopping

and Tan Pin Pin's Invisible City.

And for those who missed out on the past years, Arts Central has (very generously) decided to air all the good stuff on (free to air) tv in the next coupla weeks.

Yes, they are really going to show Eric Khoo's Be With Me on local tv. and yes, are they going to show that (in)famous liplocking scene at the end of movie? who knows?
What I'm more excited about is the screening of Singapore Gaga 5 days after the National Day Parade. For those who have seen Pin Pin's work will appreciate this (understated) irony.

only in singapore

number three

I've been busy unpiercing my ear drums over at Baybeats this weekend, so I will be posting part 3 and part 4 together.

Number 3 on the list.

Where do you go to cool off on a hot saturday afternoon in Singapore? You can join the hordes at the many many shopping complexes. But wouldn't you be rather be chilling with chicks in bikinis instead?
Of cos.

And for that, one of the best spots in Singapore is

The Jurong East Swimming Complex

For a mere S$2.00 (thats 5 times cheaper than wild wild wet)
and a stones throw from Chinese Garden MRT station (you don't even have to take a shuttle to the island of Sentosa)

you get
not 1 but 3 water slides
a big ass wave pool tat comes alive every hour on the hour with waves with enough tossing power and a rain spray to cool off the afternoon soon
a easy relak longkang to pull you around the whole complex
plenty of water games for your toddler nieces
but thats not all
you also get a proper pool for serious lap swims
and a kentucky fried chicken store to offset all those calories you burnt in the pool

For those peeps staying in the west side of Singapore, (west side, represent!), the JE swimming complex has long been our undiscovered gem

I love singapore!

number four

I've written about singapore made films. But where do singaporean filmmakers get their filmmaking chops? By making short films of cos.

Singapore has a vibrant short filmmaking scene. To take a snapshot, this week alone has 2 separate short film events.

The Substation's First Take
First Take is a democratic showcase of the newest short films made by local filmmakers. if you have a short film, submit it, and they will show it. every first monday of every month. the only catch being, you the filmmaker has to appear and participate in the post screening discussion with an audience of peers and film lovers alike. And its been going strong for the past 10 years. There is one happening tonight. Details here
Admission, as always is free

National Museum's Short Cuts
The Short Cut series is a well curated series organised by the National Museum as a "best-of" showcase for local short films made in the last year or so. The series kicks off this coming weekend with an excellent collection by some of the more experienced local filmmakers.
details here
You can start collecting the free tickets from today.
Get in early, as tickets traditionally gets picked out on the first day.


number five

If you wanna go really fast, and you're stuck in Singapore,
there are not that many places that you can go to.
In fact, totalled up, you can count them down in one hand.

But what we make up for quantity,
we sure make up for it in quality.

One of the best "tracks" Singapore has to offer is our infamous pasir panjang slope.

Easily accesible from the AYE, you start off from NUH. Accelerate past the students hostel and then you start blasting down this twisty series of chicanes as fast as your balls allow you.

Trees on your left, a semi hazardous slope on your right, slow drivers on your front and not forgetting a very very harsh penalty for speeding
if you get caught.

If you make it down to pasir panjang road at the bottom, you can always chill out at the nearby hawker centre with one of THE best satay stalls in singapore and a long cool drink.


number six

2 more days to her birthday
and I have not even touched on lunch.

Singaporeans love food. Ask any singaporean what/where their favourite chicken rice/laksa/steak/risotto and get ready for a 500 word full on essay.

I'm a Singaporean
and I love food
and of the many many things I love,

I love spring rolls.
I've tried many many popiah from many outlets.
My favourite thus far is Qi Ji Popiah

Qi Ji PopiahI love that Qi Ji has outlets located all over Singapore, and not at some hard to find one single outlet that might be closed the one day I decided to have some popiah.

I love that despite being a roaring franchise, the popiah is still made by aunties
(who look like they do have some cooking experience). As opposed to some button pushing instruction-following teenager at Burger King.

I love that I can tah pao their popiah home and it will still taste pretty good

And I love that their popiah taste awesome paired with their laksa sambal and kopi o.

Lest I become a biased QiJi unpaid spokesman,
let me state that their nasi lemak is crap.


number seven

I completely missed her birthday, since I spent it
along with hundreds and hundreds
of other Singaporeans

out of the country.

Which is apt, since this final piece is all about transits and transitions.

I pay tribute to one of singapore's favourite icon, The Changi Airport

The love hate relationship we have with our biggest airport is symbolic of our love hate relationship with Singapore. Singaporeans love the new things; we love the shiny and the bling and whatever is on the hot list of some magazine editor.

Changi is off that category by a mile.
A little old, a little aged here and there. Not quite elderly enough to fit into the current retro love affair sweeping the country (that award goes squarely to chinatown and kampung glam).
But not quite a spring chicken that she does need a nip and tuck reno these past few years.

All her parts still work perfectly. but still that botox injection of a new Budget Terminal and a Terminal 3 shows that the old girl is up and fighting to court new business from air travellers now starting to flirt with the new chicks on the block like KLIA, Suvarnabhumi.

Why do I love Changi so?

This comingDdecember holidays will see record numbers of Singaporean leaving for holidays all over the world. While they will be more than happy to leave this stress filled island, Changi does it for them in the most stress free manner possible. Changi has one of the best departure halls in the world. Great facilities. Wide berth toilets. Internet access everywhere. Good kopi catering to all price classes. Comfy chairs. Even the smoking area does not stink of smoke. Compare and contrast with (god forbid) heathrow.

Changi ensures Singaporeans leave in peace, not in pieces.

But do we come back? Of cos we do. and Changi pulls out all the stops to welcome us back.

Everytime I fly back to Singapore, I insist on a window seat. As the plane approaches Singapore, and the pilot does a sweep turn to Changi. I peer down my cheap economy window seat, down into the sea, and I see the rows of ships parked just off east coast beach, the lights of hdb flats of Tampines, Bedok and Simei twinkling in the night. This sea of lights replacing the dark sea thats been the view for the past hours cramped in seats too small for dignity.

I love it, this view that changi brings to the airplane audience. It still does bring a lump in the throat at this light show.

We might bitch and moan and complain about her stolid ways. but still. Singapore, she still knows a thing or two about the right buttons to push

Its so fashionable to be cynical and blase when writing/blogging on the internet, but I'm not afraid to say this

Singapore is a keeper

I'm a day late
but still
happy birthday, babe

i heart singapore


Friday, July 20, 2007

1 week, 15 films

off to bangkok for my very first bangkok international film festival
actually off to bangkok for the very first time

been doing abit of reading up

Discovered that google has got some pretty nifty tools. Google Maps is especially awesome. I'm using their My Maps tool to mark out my hotel and the Festival venue. Oklah, the image is alittle old, but all the BTS stations are there.
I'm syncing this along with my schedule, images, and other info to my dopod.
Plus, google is online, so I can refer to it again over there. I'm hyped.

so bangkok here I come!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

teh, satay, and stayin together

Who would have thought you can blog 1500 metres above sea level?

I'm sitting here with a borrowed ibook (thanks matt), typing this out on the cool lounge of Daniel's Lodge (info here). It's been a perfect afternoon. Was at the teh plantation tourist trap teh shop having my overpriced fresh teh and not so fresh scones, but wat saved the day was reading up on the new issue of Off The Edge magazine I picked up in Ipoh. The May issue is, as usual, a quality read. I'm reproducing an excerpt of Hishamuddin Rais's tapai article below; he does a riff on satay and satay sauce which I really love.

check this out

Off The Edge - may 2007

Satay and wine
by Hishamuddin Rais

Early this year, I was by chance taken by a friend to a Kedai Satay in Keramat. He had frequented this kedai several times. This kedai has only one menu item - satay. This is a signature of a good eating place, very specialised and very artisan. Never trust any restaurant or kedai makan that boasts hundreds of dishes. This is a con job to lure the uninitiated into the taste of monosodium glumate.

I revisted this Kedai Satay recently. This time, I was well prepared with a half-bottle of Lucas California red and two plastic cups. It was a risky affair, but good eating is about taking risks. I took the table furthest from the main counter. When a beautiful, well-mannered Indonesian waitress appeared before me, I ordered satay ayam, satay daging, satay perut babat and satay hati - the entire collection of this satay house. For my drink, air suam.

It was an early Sunday evening, the kedai was rather empty. The tukang bakar was a youngish bloke in a red t shirt sweating himself in front of the extra long grill full of red, burning charcoal. The traditional kipas has gone forever - replaced by small electric fan.

The fundamentals of satay are: fresh meat well-marinated with the requisite spices. Beef should e from the T-bone or daging batang pinang. Intestines can be large or small. Chicken satay is simpler; chicken meat being always tender and easy to chew. But unlike beef, which can be consumed half cooked, chicken must always be well grilled.

Kedai Zainah Ismail's satay is really of top rank. Satay daging always failed me. Most times I avoid satay daging because it is hard and unpleasant to chew on. At Kedai Zainah, the satay daging was soft, tender and sweet - the meat must have come from daging batang pinang. The perut babat was excellent. For the uninitiated, satay perut can be a problem for its 'peruti' smell, but for the me, this aroma is rather erotic - a mixture of human BO that only occurs in the split second before orgasm. The the next sexual encounter, one should keep this in mind.

Hati or liver should never be turned into satay at all. Liver is 'unmarinated' because of the thin membrane that protects it. No spice can penetrate this skin. Liver itself is a rich composite that has its own particular strong taste. I did not rejoice at the satay hati despite the beautifully brown peanut sauce.

Yes, kuah satay or peanut sauce is part of the satay ritual. Let you not be mistaken - well-marinated satay with flawed kuah kacang will not help your evening. A brilliant satay sauce is of no aid to poorly marinated, hard meat. Satay sauce and the beef or chicken must keep in tempo, just like John and Yoko - there would be no Imagine without That Piano.

for the rest of the article, go get the magazine (link here)

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in my rush to pack for this trip, I happened to load a whole bunch of really old music into my dopod, which left me with a lot of reminiscing, re-discovering a whole bunch of tracks i thought i have forgotten

one of em happened to be Suede's live version of Stay Together

like John and Yoko, Brett and Bernard was completely in tempo in the first half of the song. but once the chorus slides out and the solo bridge comes in, you can hear the roar of bernard's guitar just ripping through the chords.

its no secret that by the time the single Stay Together was released, brett and bernard were not in good terms. and by the time the band got touring, things just got worse between them.

brett was kind enough to fade back while bernard worked the solo, howling out his pain and frustration through the strings. and when he was done, brett served in with a wonderful stammering riff revolving around the phrase "16 tears for every year". each man worked on and worked in the other's melodies, pulling and ripping apart the other, then adding and melding to build up a crescendo that went on and on. when they were done, the crowd just went nuts.

bernard left the band shortly after the tour. but for that moment, this was what made Suede great. the hits that followed from Coming Up were good (Beautiful Ones, Thrash, Chemistry Between Us), but nothing could beat that grandeur and tension of Stay Together.
two undeniable forces working in tempo, just like John and Yoko, way back in the day.


Friday, March 09, 2007

let's drive to Brighton on the weekend

Hi everyone,

Wow, it has been a while since the last update. Today is as good as any for a posting, so let's go. It is two weeks into the lunar year of the golden pig, and already i'm listening to alot of Bloc Party.

A Weekend in the City, specifically, their new second album after Silent Alarm, which I still love dearly.

I love that the album sounds as great in my headphones on my long runs as they do in a club with too many bodies.

Its a heady thumping album, great for timing your strides, with splashes of odd guitar bits tat makes you break out those airguitar poses.

Okereke still writes erratically, with horribly cheesy lyrics colliding with honestly great ones, sometimes in the same song.

I Still Remember
...We left our trousers at the canal, and our fingers had almost touched...

The Prayer
... Lord give me grace and dancing feet, and the power to impress ...

Waiting for the 718
...Spend all your spare time trying to escape, With crosswords and Sudoku...

My current fav is Waiting for the 718, a lovely song inspired no doubt by the promise of all that long weekends we enjoyed way back in 2006.

It starts out with a daydream while waiting for public transportation, and it somehow ends with travel plans to a beach somewhere.

Let's drive to Brighton on the weekend

Brighton is nowhere near Singapore, but we have all these great beaches a half a day away. Koh Pangan. Lombok. Na Thrang. Even Goa.

That dream of warm sand dusting on your skin. Reggae serenading a slow motion sunset. Hot coffee and long conversations. Fresh mango and sex. Long runs and morning swims. Sweaty afternoons and shared showers. And of cos, cheap and well done seafood.

Ahh, them days. Them days when every mid week, i'd be dreamin of drivin to Brighton. Them days when i cant wait to fill up my passport with new and exotic travel chops. Them days when i tolerated my job but loved the money.

Times have changed. I still love money (still cant/dont have enough) but i love my job even more. The dream is still there but it does not fuel me as much. I'm spending less and saving more. Sure Lombok is great, but i've learnt to make do with Siloso (those comfy beds litterin Cafe del Mar sure does help)