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Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 in review

If I could pick one entry a month to represent my blog in 2005, they would be:

January: Who's the hero?
February: Culture of fear
March: Filipino babies for Singapore
April: On the casino
May: The problem with Tomorrow.sg (and similar blogs)
June: So you wanna be a filmmaker in Singapore
July: What to do in a "zhao geng" situation?
August: Sharing and keeping durians
September: Harmony and sedition
October: State of Chinese
November: Printer companies, market share and competition
December: The Greatest Story Never Told

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"King Kong"

King Kong
I was supposed to watch "King Kong" with my parents, but in the end, I went with a friend. To prepare myself for a three-hour movie at 4:10pm and knowing how my bladder works, I did not drink anything after lunch. But I wasn't dehydrated.

I'd only seen bits and pieces of the original version, but I knew what the story was about: the basic "beauty and the misunderstood beast". And then it ended with the other universal story theme: tragic love story. Sigh, such is fictional love.

As expected after reading the reviews, the monkey didn't appear until one hour into the movie. Meanwhile, the audience had to be content with seeing the comedian Jack Black try to be serious and driven and all that. And Adrien Brody's sad-looking face.

Luckily, Naomi Watts was there to light up the screen. I liked the way her facial expressions captured her feelings perfectly. Her performance was outstanding, even when all she was doing was screaming her lungs out. I noticed that there were a lot of dialogue-less moments (since a monkey can't talk), but the silent bits were very touching.

Unfortunately, other parts of the show were just too long-winded. Peter Jackson seemed to enjoy squeezing every last drop of emotion frome very scene. So, I felt that most scenes could've worked as well if they had been shortened by half. Heck, the whole film could've fit in two hours if a lot of fluff had been left out.

Like the first officer and his young sailor. I think they're supposed to be the characters that the audience can relate to, i.e. see the whole event through their eyes, but to me, they were expendable fluff. Same went for the second rescue attempt (when the captain and his crew saved the adventurers from giant bugs) that was almost a blow-for-blow repetition of the first rescue (when the filmmakers were saved from the savages by the captain and his crewmen).

Also, when King Kong was fighting the dinosaurs, I thought that it would be funny if Kong just decided that Naomi Watts' character was just too much trouble for his worth and bounded away into the trees. Ah, but then it wouldn't be a love story, because, you know, the damsel must always be rescued.

I liked two scenes: the first when Naomi Watts' character slept in Kong's arm, and when Kong slid around on a frozen pond while clutching a laughing Naomi Watts. No surprise that those scenes featured the monkey and his love interest.

I'd watch the show again, especially if all of the fluff was taken out. Otherwise, well, it was fun to watch the first time. Naomi Watts should be recognised in some way for her performance.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Note to self: Corrinne May in Concert

"Strings and Serenades -- Corrinne May in Concert"
Sunday February 12, 2006, 7:30pm
NUS University Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Tickets on sale from SISTIC in Jan 06. $30, $40, $50.

Update (Sat Jan 7): Got 'em. $50 tickets, row V.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Cycling at East Coast Park

Sugar cane drinks
Wow, I must be the most obiang young Singaporean ever! Today marks my first time:
  • taking public transport to East Coast Park
  • at East Coast Park in more than 20 years (excluding the times I went there just to eat at the food centre)
  • seeing the new shophouse facade housing new eateries near good ol' McDonald's
  • cycling in almost 15 years
  • cycling at East Coast Park
We arranged to meet at City Hall MRT at 10:30am, but she turned up at 11am. We thought of going straight away, but there was a light drizzle, so we decided to wait and see if it would turn into a downpour. In the meantime, we had brunch at Starbucks.

At about 12pm, when it still hadn't rained, we decided to risk it and just go. We took the wrong bus (14) and ended up in Bedok. So we did the next best thing: took a taxi to McDonald's at East Coast Park. Wow, that area has changed soooo much! Where there used to be just McD's and a smattering of restaurants, there is now this huge faux shophouse facade housing several eateries, including a coffee joint. The place has become so commercial. Yucks.

We had planned to kayak, but given the time, we decided to just cycle. $6 for a male bike, $5 for female, for 1.5 hours. We headed straight to the jetty. The park was crowded, which was to be expected for a public holiday, so I had to be careful not to hit any errant cyclists or rollerbladers. Couple that with my lack of cycling for more than 10 years, and it took me about 5 minutes before I remembered how to cycle without wobbling or swerving unnecessarily.

The jetty was filled with people, but we still managed to find an empty beach. The sun was out, but the clouds were dark, so it wasn't too hot. A breeze cooled us down.

Nearby, a preteen boy said to his parents (in Chinese): "The water here isn't as dirty as near the beach!" I explained to no one in particular in a soft voice: "Because people litter at the beach!"

After a while, we went to the food centre to drink sugar cane. We sat and chatted until I realised that it was 2:05pm, 15 minutes before it was time to return our bikes. So we cycled back to the bicycle shop, and just in time too.

After a brief wash-up, we headed back to town. And this time, we knew how to go there because we found the correct tunnel leading to the correct bus stop where the correct bus (16) stopped. We were feeling hungry, so had a late lunch (at 3pm!) at Daddy-O's Diner at Wisma Atria's Food Republic. I had chilli cheese dog, yum!

We headed to Ngee Ann City, making a brief pit stop at Mos Burger to pick up ice tea. Then it was to Books Kinokuniya. I'd never been to this branch, but was amazed at the size of it! I was enthralled by the huge comics section. Then while wondering around, I got lost momentarily at the other end of the shop. Everything looks the same in that store.

And then it was home sweet home.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

The Greatest Story Never Told

The story of the birth of Jesus Christ has been told countless times. This is my take at retelling the story, but from a different person's point of view, i.e. not Jesus, nor the parents, but from another character whom I think has been forgotten over the years.

I was inspired to write this story after watching a Christmas musical. In it, the character, who is my main hero, was portrayed in a somewhat lighter tone, perhaps to counterbalance the weighty story.

Who is this person? Read the script to find out.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas light-up walkabout

I've never walked down Orchard Road to see the lights and decorations. At this time of the year, Orchard Road is always a crazy mess of human and vehicular traffic. This year, though, I decided to make an exception.

Too bad it wasn't as impressive as I had expected. In years past, buildings would be decorated to the nines, with fanciful themes and what-nots. There were even contests to see which building the public thought was the best decorated. I'm not sure if there is such a contest this year. If there is, my vote would be "None of the above". I wouldn't even vote for previous winner, Centrepoint, only because it "sold out" with an M&M-themed "Melt in your mouth Christmas" decoration. *pfft*

Yes, it was that big of a let-down. As mentioned, those buildings that had decorations were only sparsely done. Beyond Centrepoint, decorations dwindled to a minimum. Even the bright spot at Raffles City consisted of a huge tree and little else.

Is 2005 the year of Christmas decorations cutbacks? I didn't know the local economy was still in a recession.

The road decorations, though, were a different story. A tad too red (to save resources for the Chinese New Year decorations next?), but at least they were bright and cheery and light on cheesy messages. New this year: speakers that blared Christmas carols all night long. Entertaining for the casual passer-by.

Podcast

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Drinks with Terina

Drinks
Terina, who had returned to her home for a holiday, stopped by Singapore for a few days of... shopping! What else? Since we hadn't seen each other for almost... two years (wow, it's been that long!), we decided to meet up.

I met her after her dinner, and we walked down to Ice Cold Beer at Orchard Emerald (because that's all I really know!). Along the way, we also admired the Christmas light-up. At ICB itself, I was hoping for a table outside, but the place was packed, so we had to settle for the noisy interior. I ordered a gin tonic, while she ordered a light beer.

We talked about stuff, like her work, my work, mutual friends in the U.S., life in Singapore vs. Malaysia vs. USA, etc. And... in between, there were awkward pauses. I'm not sure if she realised them. No offence to the company, but I realised that it didn't seem so easy to "catch up". Maybe I was tired from the day's work.

We stayed at ICB for about an hour, then headed out to the streets again. We walked down to Plaza Singapura, again to admire the lights. It was quite late by then and she suggested walking back to her hotel. The Sheraton. At Newton Road.

Horrors!

So I introduced her to the MRT system. She needed to buy her ticket, and while I was familiar with the system, I didn't know the nuances of it, since I don't ever need to buy a single trip ticket. She didn't have small change, so I footed the $1.90 bill ($0.90 for fare, $1 for deposit). In the train, she asked why there was a $1 deposit. I jokingly remarked that single-trip tickets are so "high-tech" that it can't be afforded to be lost, so the deposit is to ensure that commuters return their tickets.

What could've been a half hour or longer walk became a fifteen-minute (or so) walk-and-MRT trip. At the hotel lobby, we said our goodbyes, promised to keep in touch, hugged, then went our seperate ways.

See you online, Teri!

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas musical

Angela invted me to Barker Road Methodist Church's Christmas musical, so I went to see what it was about. It was held over three nights this past weekend, i.e. Friday to Sunday nights. And staged in Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)'s drama theatre.

Since I had arrived early (the musical was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, but I arrived at 6:30pm), I spent the free time touring the rebuilt campus. Where there used to be the familiar Lee, Middle and Lower Blocks and auditorium and small sloping field where Scout meetings were held, there are now three main buildings connected by a labyrinth of staircases and corridors. Where there used to be a large field is now the sports complex. Where there used to be a swimming pool is now a basketball court. Big change.

After my walkabout, I found a seat in the theatre and waited for the musical to begin. The story was simple: when the MRT train is stuck, which delays everyone's shopping plans, a girl tells her unbelieving best friend the birth of Jesus Christ. The nativity story is then reenacted with modern songs.

The story is given a few twists, e.g.
  • the angel Gabriel dressed as a glittery John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever",
  • three (female) village gossipers, and
  • an Italian-sounding innkeeper (Innkeeper: "Cash or credit?" Joseph: (picking up fishing net) "Do you accept Nets?")
It ended with a few seconds from "The Passion of the Christ". (Ever since that show came out, churches seem to use it freely to tug at heartstrings. Enough already!)

And I met an old friend too. Back in secondary school, we went to a Scout Jamboree (camp) in Jakarta, Indonesia. Tonight, he played Joseph. We talked a bit, and then he had to help with packing up. After that, I talked with Angela, remarking about her hidden acting talent, which surprised me because she's quite a quiet, private person.

She was joining her cast and crew members for dinner, so I headed home.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Housewarming-cum-Christmas party

Christmas jelly cake
A colleague had just bought a new house, so she invited a few of us there to join her in a housewarming-cum-Christmas party. It was at a new condominium in the Bukit Batok area, so it was quite easy to make our way there after work. There was also a gift exchange (max. $15 per gift), and I dug up two metallic photo frames at home to use as my gift.

The party started at 7pm with a poolside Thai buffet. The pool-cum-clubhouse area looks really posh. There was even an old Egyptian-style royalty bed near the pool! And fountains in the pool! Wow, I've never seen those before. We were marvelling at how new and modern and nice the place was.

Her apartment looked cosy too. When I walked in, I was surprised to see the kitchen to my right. Not because of its location, but because she had installed glass walls to seperate it from the rest of the air-conditioned house. Interesting. She also had a glass wall put in for one of the rooms, which she converted to a room for her dog. In the main hall, I kept discovering cupboards everywhere -- under the seats, under the table, under a mantlepiece. Good hiding spots!

After the gift exchange, and over a dessert of jelly cake (a large slab of jelly shaped like a Christmas tree), she showed her wedding video since most of the others had not attended. And then we played... "Taboo"! Although most of them had never played it before, I thought we got through it pretty well. There were two teams: "Kuniang" and "Kuku". I was on the former team, and we won! Yaay!

We finally left at around 11pm, happy and satisfied.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cosplay!

I attended by first-ever cosplay! Officially called "Anime@Expo", it was the end-of-year cosplay event for 2005, held at Singapore Expo. Yup, my second time venturing to that end of the island in two months. I had heard about such events before, but decided to check this one out when I heard a colleague was participating. It was organised by Shiro Tsubasa Animation Club (forum at SGCafe).

No, I didn't go in costume.

With video camcorder in tow, I went to check out the hundreds of people dressed as anime, manga or other pop culture characters. I could only recognise a handful of characters, but I was more impressed by the details that go into the costumes. Some were tailor-made, others were intricately designed using assorted clothings and stationery. Who says Singaporeans have no passion??

I paid $12 to go into the conference hall, where the real action was. If I was amazed at the number of cosplayers outside, I was even more surprised by the HUGE number inside! Cosplayers here, there, everywhere! According to the programme, there were song and dance items. I had entered just in time to catch a dance performance by a foursome (group name: EP?). It wasn't the best of performances, but I applaud their courage in going up on stage.

I wandered around the various booths and learned a new word: "doujinshi", or fan art. Just as there was passion in the costumes, there was even more in the original works. The art was, to my eye, almost as good as Japanese manga. There were even dolls, badges, trading cards, manga, etc. No hentai (pornography)/yaoi ((male) homosexualism)/yuri (lesbianism), though I saw some trading cards with nude depictions.

Plug: Comix Pandora
Ben and Melissa were manning the booth. I was taken in by their doujinshi. Each picture had a hand-drawn character, while the background were done with computers. Very impressive! It's the first doujinshi group in Singapore and have been around for almost four years. Besides art pieces, it also publishes manga. I bought a set of four books for $12. There was also a poster on sale for -- get this -- $15!!! Cheap but good! No, I didn't buy it, don't know where to hang it.

Other groups: Imaginary Friends, Wings.Symphonia.

I stayed to see two of the best costume finalists, but had to leave due to other commitments. All in all, a very wonderful experience and I look forward to attending another.

Podcast

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Gathering at The Balcony

Cheers!
I met a few folks for dinner and drinks. It had been a while since we'd met altogether, so Stephanie suggested it. And since there was a new watering hole in town, she thought that we should check it out too.

We met for dinner at Food Republic at Wisma Atria. Food Republic, in spite of its name, is just another food court in a shopping mall. Therefore, it is crowded and noisy. There were lots of people waiting for a table. Haha, good luck. Fortunately, Chin had arrived early and managed to snag a table for us. I was the second-last to arrive at about 7:30pm.

Aside: I could've been slightly earlier but took a quick detour to see the new Apple Centre at Orchard. Two-second verdict: more on-hand testing of computers and iPods, pretty much the same in everything else.

One interesting thing about Food Republic: there are waitstaff pushing push-carts around the area, selling drinks and snacks. Very 1950-ish. But I imagine that it's quite tiring to jostle with the crowds.

We left about an hour later and made our way to The Balcony. Along the way, we stopped by a Motorola stand because Angela wanted to lust at the pink Razr V3.

The Balcony, as the name suggests, is a bar that is designed like a balcony at the side of The Heeren. Like a balcony, it is also open-air, so we were "refreshed" with cigarette smoke and vehicle fumes (it's near Orchard Road). Coupled with Singapore's weather, number of people (I estimate its capacity to be 150), and large pillows, and it is quite a hot place to be ("hot" in the sweaty-and-sticky sense, not the drop-dead gorgeous meaning).

We scored a place that was actually reserved, but if we agreed to leave by 10:30pm, then we could occupy the space. While other customers had to sit on hard chairs surrounding a small table, we had a white cushiony area surrounded by large pillows. I ordered a Bailey's, my first time drinking it, and it really is like chocolate milk!

Yew Jin and his fiance stopped by for a while, long enough for us to take a group photo. He also gave us some chocolate biscuits all the way from Down Under.

Chin treated us to drinks before leaving. Thanks!

I also ran into Inex. What a small world!

Unfortunately, the night ended on a rather downcast note. Angela downed a quarter glass of her Graveyard drink and felt its effects when we got up to leave. For the next hour and a half, we accompanied her as she slowly recovered. On a personal note, I got to talk with Jeff a bit more. While waiting for Angela at a restroom, we talked a bit about religion and philosophy. He raised an interesting argument which I hope I heard correctly:

We all know that the Earth is warmed by the Sun. Suppose a person believes that the Earth is warm because of geothermal heat. Because his belief is wrong, should he be denied the heat as the rest of us?

It was after 12:30am when Stephanie and Jeff sent Angela home while I took another cab back.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Biological clock is ticking

For the past couple of days weeks months, I've found myself staring longingly at parents with babies or toddlers.

And I don't stare at the children in a paedophiliac manner. Choi!

The staring is part envy, part want. Like today. I saw one father carrying and rocking his baby while the mother was doing something else. Later, I saw a mother feeding a baby, then the father took over to care for the child while the mother ate her dinner. Someone can be telling me the answer to life and I'd tune out in preference of watching the parent and baby.

I don't think I'm being naive about this. Sure, there are kids who are devils who irritate the hell out of adults. But I feel that if I and the general population came out on the good side, then history, experience and statistics are on my side of producing good offspring.

Heck, I've already picked out an English name for a daughter. Only one friend (or two) knows what it is.

And no, I'm not feeling this way because the government wants me to have kids. And not for the "baby bonus". No, no, no. It's purely biological and emotional.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

RIP la idler aka Sondra

thesimplelife
Picture by Tinker, Tailor
Idle Days is no more.

I only met her offline three times -- ever. I was a volunteer at Bloggers.SG, and she was in charge of the volunteers. The first time was at the volunteers' meeting/briefing. The second was at Bloggers.SG itself. The third was at Hideout for a volunteers gathering.

So why was I touched by her?

In August 4, 2005, she wrote an open letter to the Tomorrow editors and resigned as an editor herself. (She rejoined a week later.) In her letter, she wrote about how she was fed up with the internal politics some-reason-or-other there and decided to leave rather than subject herself to more trouble.

And I thought, wah, this quiet girl has balls! It's rare to see someone in Singapore take a stand (politicians excluded), especially one so publicly. And her action drew attention to the inner workings in Tomorrow. And maybe things have improved there, I don't know.

And another thing: her age. She was at the prime of her life. Mid-30s, maybe? Still too young.

RIP.

More info here.

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New personal website -- yuhui.info

It has been many moons since the idea first started germinating in my mind. A personal website that is all about me and my passions. A platform to showcase my skills and talents.

yuhui.info
(Not yuhui.com, as I would have preferred, but it makes sense anyway, since I am not a commercial entity (yet?).)

And it's going to be quite a ride, I hope. Now that I've invested some money into this venture, I should keep it updated and relevant, so that I get my money's worth.

If there isn't much to see now, there will be pretty soon. Stay tuned.

It's the new Yuhui's World of Wonder.

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