Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Moving on

I've found a place where writing is stripped down to its bare minimum.

Hop on over here to view my posts https://medium.com/@davienne

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Selected picks from my Google Search

I don't know when I found out about Google.

It was one of those internet things I stumbled upon, gingerly tried, and then when it became famous, latched on to for dear life. Back then when choices were limited and the right dosage of indie was cool, people judged what you included in your digital world.

I was a heavy IRC user and learnt to create my own scripts that could /slap around people with customised text (cool). I did not have Friendster (uncool). I used Trillian as my IM (bordering uncool).

Anyway, when I got to know about Google I remember marvelling at how clean and simple it was, without knowing that was something I wanted (you didn't actually realise that Yahoo's unrelevant searches was a problem, until you conducted searches on Google).

And today, I don't ever know how I would have survived without it. I am a content junkie. I search just about anything and everything. And by extension, Wikipedia is my next favourite site. (That doesn't mean I retain information well though. My careless brain is like a sieve - more like a spoon with holes that you use for steamboats maybe - in, and then out.)

So out of boredom and for want of more updates on my blog, I'm scrolling through my search history and picking out 3 interesting results I have intentionally searched for, or been linked to through my searches. Here we go.

Site: Database of Priests of Sexual Abuse
What it is: As it is explanatory from the site's title. It details priests that allegedly committed sexual abuses and you can view them in alphabetical order.
How I came to the site: I've never really known details about the sexual abuses performed by Catholic priests - it's just a piece of general knowledge nugget that's been at the back of my mind. So when Pope Benedict resigned and more rumours about his role in sex abuse scandal rose, I did more searching.
What's interesting: The site even contains affidavits of victims who claimed to have been abused.

Site: Harry Gordon Selfridge's wiki page
What it is: Brief life of Mr Selfridge, who founded Selfridges, a departmental store in the UK
How I came to the site: I'm a TV series junkie. While flipping through shows I stumbled upon and watched the first episode of "Mr Selfridge".
What's interesting: I never knew that one man could change the mindset of shopping. Back then, merchandise were not put up for display, there were no display windows, nothing to entice people to purchase things.

He invented the term 'the customer is always right' and changed the notion that shopping was more of a thrill than a necessity.

Site: Jezel.com: Long Day’s Journey: 8 Hours With Artist Marina Abramović
What it is: A blog post about the blogger's experience with  Marina Abramović, a performance artist
How I came to the site: Heard about her work, "The Artist is Present", where she sits, not moving, at a museum and people are invited to sit opposite her, and just, look. But that wasn't the most interesting part..yet!
What's interesting: In another video she actually tears, reaches forward and touches this man. I was extremely surprised by this anomaly. It turns out that the man is her lover from 20 years ago, Ulay.

And when you read about their love story, you can't help but empathize with their deep connection and feel the wretchedness of their love. In the final moments of their love, Marina and Ulay decided to start from opposite ends of the Great Wall of China, and each walked for 90 days to meet in the middle. They then separated and never came in contact again.

Talk about drama love!

***

If you happen to go through your search history and find interesting stuff, please share with me in the comments! I'd love to read what other people search about!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

recalibration


I don't believe we ever really know, who we want to be, or what we want to be.

Life presents too many possibilities and divergences. On each decision making point there is rationality, emotion and chance, which branches off into more of what could be.

When I was little I told everyone I wanted to be into forensics. The minute part was the satisfaction I'd get when adults praised me for being brave, but more importantly it was because I knew getting into Medicine was a feat, and choosing a specialisation would be a greater one; being able to think outside the box was what I fed on.

Almost 15 years later, here I am, not in Forensics, and not even being remotely near the field of Medicine.

And Life has continued setting its winding roads for me, and when I look up it's all a  misty horizon.

In exasperation sometimes I set rules for myself, New Year Resolutions, buy notebooks to write on, make mental promises... just to try and keep myself on track. Of the adult I dreamed to be, of the stability I think adults should have.

But, the truth is, people change. Things change.

The stability that I yearn for is often short lived. Either I can't keep it up because I'm not really being myself, or Life hands me lemons and the expectations are on me to make lemonade.

Being in motion, really is part of our instincts. That Humans need to move to have progress. In something, out of something, it doesn't matter. We move as individuals in the big world because that's how we become more efficient. Solve crimes. Get things done. Evolve.

So what I want to say is, for everyone out there who's moving forward, backward, offtrack, the hardest, really, is to Stop.

Stopping is terrifying. That's why people hate getting out of comfort zones because instead of cruising along, you need to apply brakes.

And here it is again. The Decision. The same, misty path, but in different directions. You look back and you think, that was what I wanted to be, to do.

Now, you just gotta stop, recalibrate. And go.

Friday, December 14, 2012

sublimation

it's at this moment that i want to pen this heart wretchedness, so that i can pick it apart letter by letter, confront it, so that it's just words.

sadness, it comes in surges. if you close your eyes, you can almost feel it creeping and wrapping its soulless, formless fist around your heart. as it squeezes i gasp for more air; the questions, they tumble, how, why, please, why.

and then it loosens its grip.

this room, it's the same room, but things have changed. these are just tissues. away they go.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Firsts in Bangkok

"Floor six, ma'am"

I look at my key card.
It says sixty-six.

"Uh... do you have a room with a better... number?" I feel a tinge of embarrassment for being superstitious, but this would be my room for the next 25 days.

He peeked out from behind the reception table. "We have a room on level two but..." his voice drops to a whisper, "it's usually reserved for indians ma'am."

I pause.

I'm weighing the possible consequences in my mind.

And then.

"I'll stick to this." I say hurriedly.

And so that's how I came to be staying in room 6-66 in the city of Bangkok, for twenty-five days.

***

The first word I learn, is hew leaw, or hungry already. Bangkok time is an hour behind. We start work late (at about 10am) and we go for lunch at 2pm after the lunch crowd have had their fill. This means 3pm my time and I go to my colleagues to moan that I'm hungry.

They nod politely. They know what hungry means. But they don't really register it, maybe because it's a foreign word and it would be equivalent of me telling you, "Gastric acid is lining my stomach now in preparation of food that has yet to come."

I get the translation from a colleague and yell "Hew leaw!!!!"

It does the trick perfectly. I jot this down in my notebook that I would soon fill with scribblings of chinese and english characters to help with intonations.

***

This. Is. Heavenly.

I have never tasted anything as satisfying. The bronzed skin doesn't lie; the salty and garlicky seasoning spreads over  my taste buds, leaving me watering for more. The meat is tender and juicy, coated lightly with its own oil.

What sorcery is this fried chicken?!?!

The stall lady (or malelady, I really can't tell) plonks another plate of glistening chicken on our table. She hurries back to her kitchen - a deep steel cylindrical pot balanced over a gas stove by the side of the road. With her fingers she picks out chicken parts from a covered red bowl and releases them into the pot.

I look on in awe as she stirs the cackling concoction with an oblong frying spatula.

My colleagues would soon regret this, for once every two days I would bug them for the first road-side fried chicken I ever tasted.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Childhood Memory


My parents were renting when they got married, and moved in hastily into their new apartment when it was only partially renovated, because they miscalculated the gap between the end of their lease to the time the flat would be ready.

I don’t remember this, but my parents and I spent a good couple of weeks living in half of the flat while waiting for the concrete to dry on the other half. Our family would come to live in this flat for almost 25 years in a green and serene estate known as Kembangan.

In the 1980s in Singapore, Kembangan was not a popular choice for middle-income Chinese families to move into: it had a history of being a Malay kampong and had few communities of Chinese people. It was also inaccessible by public transport. The closest that we had remotely related to fun was a building nearby that was home to several clinics and maid agencies, a far cry from the cool and hip shopping malls that were mushrooming in the estates around us. It even had a name that was befitting of its lackluster demeanour: Kembangan Plaza.

Perhaps because of the lack of activity, several rich families were attracted to the quiet, unassuming estate in the east that had (relatively) plenty of land to develop but was still pretty affordable. Soon our dull, brown apartments were surrounded by fancy-gated terrace houses. Along with the rich people came a small and expensive wet market, of which my mother would compare and complain incessantly about the prices of meat and vegetables. Apparently a dollar for a bunch of kangkong was bloody murder in those times. (Fast forward to now: the wet market has recently been replaced by a chain supermarket. Mother has been singing many of its praises.)

Our two-lane road also funneled into a one lane street as the rich parked their cars outside on the roads instead of on their empty porches. They were just opposite our block, a four-storey unit that dwarfed its towering sibling blocks. Each storey had three families, and we stayed on the ground floor sandwiched between two families.

Because of this, I grew up in a small neighbourhood. My playmates were mostly kids from the same block, and we would gather at the playground (the standard battle cry: running by my flat and yelling into my windows) almost every evening as our maids sat on the benches and chatted. It was this playground that I buried a sparrow that had entered my house by accident and gotten smacked unconscious (also by accident) after we tried to catch it zealously with Dad’s fishing net. I laid it to rest on my favourite mini Care Bear pillow, dug a hole like how they did in the movies, and covered it up with sand.

On other times, my default playmate would be Abu, my next-door neighbour. We’d meet outside on the lawn that stretched in the front of our houses, a luxury considering most public housing do not have any greenery to speak of. Granted, it was the government’s lawn but we treated it like ours anyway. Like the time when we petitioned against cutting down a mango tree that we’d planted (the Town Council claimed that it was obstructing the apartments and we negotiated to having a few branches cut off instead of the entire tree).

In Science during primary school each of us was given a potted plant to keep alive. I volunteered for the pineapple plant because I thought edible fruits would be more practical than pretty flowers. I broke the pot and planted it directly on the lawn because after all, that was how the mango tree grew so big and tall, right? I would learn months later that Pineapple plants had male and female species - my Science teacher would tell me with sympathetic eyes that I’d scored myself the male species and would be stuck with green spikey leaves forever. But for a good two months or so Abu and I would tend to the plant together, watering it and cutting away the wilted tips. We’d also find other food to plant, using our knowledge from Science classes, and gaining more in the process. For example, we knew that we had to put an onion into water for it to grow roots. After the onion started to grow green lush leaves we decided to transfer it to the soil on the lawn. That’s when we learnt: you can’t plant an onion directly into soil because most likely the ants and birds will come and eat it.

Sometimes his elder sister would join us after school, and on rare occasions his elder brother as well. With enough numbers we would play block-catching; dashing barefooted through the blocks and hiding stealthily behind pillars for the chance to tap someone else. And then Abu’s grandmother would trot out of the house, calling after us until we collapsed in a heap at her feet right at his doorstep.

Our parents have always held a tight rein on us from being in other kids’ houses, welcome or not. Like most strict Chinese parents, they didn’t trust us to behave ourselves (with good reason – I once hid in a box while in the home of Dad’s acquaintance and activated the entire family to look frantically for me) without their supervision and ‘lose face’ lest they were deemed to be lesser parents. But after 2 years of playtime, I finally didn’t have to excuse myself home whenever Abu’s grandmother invited me in for a drink.

I can’t pinpoint what was the first thing that surprised me as I made my maiden step into Abu’s home. From the outside our dark, brick-wall houses looked identical, and my childish mind had expected the interiors to resemble what the interior of my home was – curtains drawn, bright and airy, marbled flooring, simple wooden cabinets, wooden furniture with Chinese carvings. Now, as I crept up the triple steps into his home, there were so many things that loomed at me at once. The carpet. The strings that ended the carpet. The wooden furniture with gold platings. Lace curtains. Strings of crystals covering the doorway. No chairs, mostly cushions. More carpets. More rugs. Soft yellow lights.

I stared intently at my new surroundings as we sipped our bandung on the floor. Abu’s grandmother also brought us chicken wings at the living area - a habit my mother would strongly disapprove of. “You dine at the dining table, not anywhere else!” She would say. Her dining rule would later result in us being fast eaters and having the bad habit of blasting the TV’s volume (so that we could hear when our shows were coming back from commercials). Abu then spoke to his grandmother in a language I had zero familiarity with. They laughed. It must have been a joke, but I couldn’t understand it at all. I tried hard not to stare.

It was at this moment, that I truly felt that Abu and I had a different culture. As an adult now I feel silly for having been so affected by it, but I suppose as a child I was shocked that someone I thought who wouldn’t be too different from myself, was that diverse. I felt alienated from my friend, like I didn’t know who he was anymore. I bade a hasty farewell and retreated back into my home.

It was later on that I managed to decipher my eight-year-old state of mind. It was then that the word “Malay” had a meaning to it.

***

Post notes:

This post was inspired by recent events of racist remarks made by Amy Cheong. My mind rewound back to my happy childhood times with my playmate/neighbour. I remembered how instead of embracing it, I was uncomfortable with the difference in culture when I visited his home and heard him speak Malay. I don’t know why I behaved that way, but I did. Perhaps it was education. Perhaps my parents never inculcated the correct values. Perhaps I got influenced in a different way by other people.

Although Abu and I drifted off naturally as we moved on in school, it was during the house visit that I started become more aware, like having my childhood bubble burst. I thought that the reason for all of these differences was probably due to the fact that we were of different colour.

I truly believe that everyone can start out without prejudices like I had with Abu during playtime but somehow along the way of Life, differences get tagged, as a “racial” or “sexuality” difference, because people need to reason within themselves.

The other day I was arguing with a friend that you can’t say that someone is ‘prejudiced’ if a “prejudiced statement” consists of a fact, or a statistically supported observation. It’s a sticky issue, she said, and that Sociology classes taught her to delve deeper into history. And then to prevent from seeming racist, I started digging up names of Malay friends that I had, as if to say, “Look! I have Malay friends! I am tolerant!”

Sigh. I won’t try to pretend that I know the root of the issue, because I don’t. In fact, I feel like we’ve been taught all our life to avoid talking crap about other races, but it seems like we’re just following a textbook of Race diligently and after this Amy Cheong thing blew up and people started reciprocating with racial slurs, I have a burning question, WHY?

Other Notes:
Abu is a fictitious name
* Kampung: Malay word, meaning village
** HDB: Housing Development Board houses, or public housing provided cheaply for the Singaporean people by its government
*** Bandung: a Malay drink of rose syrup and milk

Friday, September 21, 2012

DIY Fridge Magnets: The Making of Tim & Aud's Wedding Present

Our boss Tim got married in July.

The country managers decided to give him a wedding present. We settled on something sentimental instead of practical stuff since you never really know what people actually need. And we didn't want anything that the newly weds would just put on the shelves and forget about it, only to discuss ten Chinese New Years later during Spring Cleaning, if they should get rid of it. 

We decided to give them something they'd able to stick on long-term household appliances, but still see on a daily basis. Like a fridge.

If you don't know already, Tim's proposal to Audrey went viral and got almost all the men who saw the proposal hating him. I'm pretty sure there's some 'Anti The Weird Geeky Asian Guy With The Dumb Proposal' group somewhere. Anyway, here's the video if you haven't watch it already.




In the video, Tim holds up a series of cue cards that show customised Internet Memes. I'll skip the part where I'm supposed to launch into a string of cooing of how he's the sweetest guy on Earth and Audrey's the luckiest girl. Anway, we thought to copy the Memes and immortalise them as fridge magnets.

We had to watch it like a thousand years times (geddit geddit it was a pun on the Christina Perri song in the video) to recreate the present. It was important to get every image and caption right, or it wouldn't be funny-sweet the way it was originally meant to be.

Final product:


^ You probably can't see it since the fridge is filled with fridge magnets (Ming treats the office fridge as a passport of his geological footprints) but it's the squarish ones that show a Dinosaur and a Penguin

You will need:

Stiff white cardstock
Opaque white marker (necessary only if your cardboard is not white)
Penknife
Ruler
Thick clear tape
Spray mount
Adhesive-backed magnet tape
Photo paper
Printer (I used Canon Selphy)

I was able to find all of the materials from Art Friend, Orchard Road.
Inspiration here


Step-by-Step tutorial on how to create DIY fridge magnets:

1. Design your photos

^ There wasn't really much designing needed. Just very tedious watching of video and looking for the correct meme and putting the correct words on. Be careful to keep the size of each picture same, or you'll have a hard time while cutting them. Our photos were 300x300 pixels each.

2. Compile your photos for printing


^ After some trial and error, we found that it was easier to cut out the pictures if you drew straight lines and aligned the pictures with another. Had to scroll through Tim's blog to find that exact picture of them in front of the red phone booth. I am SO happy that it was obviously a picture under a London entry, or I'd have to devour his blog archives.

3. Print your photos and cut them out! 
^ Not my fingers, obviously. Tip: Use a chopping board so you don't cut your table!

4. Cut the cardstock
^ Make sure they are the same dimensions as your cut-out pictures

5. Colour the edges of your cardstock white

^ Usually cardstocks can be yellowed in the middle, so this helps. But you can skip this step if you're lazy.

^ And you're halfway done!

6. Mount the pictures on the card stock
^ Make sure you keep a distance (cardstocks that have too much mounting spray can get quite messy), and have ample newspaper to prevent the floor from getting excess spray mount.

^ Put your mounted picture under something heavy and stable, like a laptop, and leave to dry.

7. Laminate your mounted picture
^ Use clear tape, stick an end on the table first before sliding it slowly over the picture. Tip: use a credit card to help smoothen out the air bubbles.

8. Cut out strips of magnetic tape

9. Stick them onto your mounted pictures

10. And... you're done! 


Enjoy!!


PS: This blog post was drafted in July but only got completed after NuffnangX became live.
PPS: Found the picture that Tim instagrammed after he put it up on his home's fridge:
Source: http://instagram.com/p/NvdqDVHJqB/

Monday, September 17, 2012

Being Chinese

I caught a taste of a rain droplet as it slipped past my nose and onto the tip of my lip. Like water through an old metal tap it was dull and steely. Instinctively I started to compare it to the dewy raindrops back home in Singapore, where it'd usually be accompanied by the smell of fresh cut grass, as if the rain gave the grass blades a thorough bath and spread the smell of nature all around.

I squinted. There it was, the faint fuzz of rain.

"Oh crap, it's raining." D pulled me along and the tottering of my heels increased with urgency. The main road from the lobby looks manageable, but I've experienced Beijing roads enough not to be tricked by them. Distance is a perception and this perception becomes warped here. Somehow buildings are bigger, roads are wider, and one takes longer to travel to what seems like 5 minutes away.

When we reached the main road, the fuzz had progressed into large splatters. Motorcycles throttled by, wedging experiencedly through traffic wherever they could find openings. We moved a little forward so that we were standing right in the middle of the first lane, or else spotting and eventually landing a cab would be near impossible - buses and parked cars lining the lane obstructed our view. Fortunately we had three other lanes to look out for cabs, but not that fortunately for us, hailing a cab in Beijing was akin to getting seats on the MRT in Singapore during rush hour: extremely tough and you always have to keep a look out to some uncle/auntie snatching it from you. And when you do land it, you'll have to avoid the stares of other uncles/aunties near you.

To spot an empty or about-to-be-empty cab requires a little skill. For spoilt city girls like myself, I first look out for the red lightning symbol that would light up whenever a cab's empty. Only the newer cabs would have that, apparently, and by only looking out for that I'd eliminated the other older cabs in the city. It amazes me whenever I witnessed D's finess in spotting those cabs: the dull red words "空车" (or Empty) that the older cabs have, but hardly distinct against exhaust fumes and dirty windshields. The highest level of cab-spotting, I would discover, was when one could notice the driver lifting his arm towards the front mirror to flip the 空车sign, and make a calculated dash towards the slowing taxi.

To get onto the cab requires an even more pronounced skill. One thing most tourists would notice in China, would be the unabashedness of the Chinese. Some would describe them as being rude, uncaring and unaware. I don't think that's absolutely the case. I have seen fellow Chinese shouting after litterbugs and Chinese air stewards asking Chinese passengers to go back into the toilet to clean up their poo. Most of the time, the offenders would correct their own behaviour, therefore hinting that they ARE aware, just only when others have pointed it out. I have puzzled it over some time and spoke to some locals, and I have come to the conclusion that most Chinese are self-absorbed, and hardly empathetic - a societal by-product. If you delve into the Chinese history books, you'll find that incidences like the Cultural Revolution have suppressed the need for altruism (so people tend not to act alone to care for others, resulting in the "mind your own business" mindset). Policies like the one-child policy have possibly led to people not being able to observe from their siblings and therefore not being able to put themselves in the shoes of others.

Anyway, I digress. The lesson learnt is, Don't Be Afraid To Snatch Someone Else's Cab. Because:
1. You (the person who has empathy) will feel bad since someone has waited longer for it, but remember, that someone (without empathy) possibly WOULD NOT feel bad if he did it to you
2. If you don't grab the chance when you can, you probably won't ever get a cab and trust me you do not want to take the subways during rush hour unless you don't mind having your nose shoved into a sweaty, hairy armpit

With the combination of the skills of spotting a cab, of getting into a cab and a motto of "don't matter if it's a hobbling old lady, man in a wheelchair, mother with a baby, just GRAB THE CAB", we managed to grab one to our dinner destination.

D volunteered the road name, followed by an indication of North, South, East or West. Beijing roads function as ring roads, or rectangular loops of roads bracketing Central Beijing. It's easier to point out to a driver whether you're going North or East of a particular road rather than state "behind" / "next to" it because that might not always be accurate.

The cab chugged off, its plasticky windows rattling. From the radio the presenter's Beijing accent was strong and recognizable. It was a style of radio programs that I've long forgotten: solo story telling. The presenter drawled on, his voice becoming thick with emotion and descended to soft whispers as the story moved. I've never listened long enough to figure out any storylines though, usually my mind would drift off to something else.

"Do you mind smoke?" The cab driver spoke. His question was more of a statement, for his cigarette was already brought to his lips.

D looked at me. I hated smoke. And he knew that. I've complained incessantly about the pollution, about inconsiderate smokers making my eyes water, flipped about like a maniac in the presence of smoke. Smoke is a major reason why I dislike China and I've never made any efforts to hide it whenever someone asks the casual "So how do you like Beijing so far?" question.

But the Chinese in our blood spoke up.

"No, please go ahead."

In a country where its leaders tried to demolish Chinese culture and practice, where foreign-born Chinese would come and grumble about its inconsiderate culture, we did the ultimate Chinese thing - by being polite, to save 'face', we lied so that we didn't have to say no.

And so as the smoke billowed backwards, I looked up to keep my eyes from watering.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

mind over water

toes, dipping
coolness spreads, you think you're safe

ankles, slightly sure
feet numb, you think it's the cold you crave

body, shoved in
you shiver, regret laced with surprise

submerged, struggling
too deep, bubbles are now your cries

too late, too late for saving
tears fall, your cage is now with you as one

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Fascination with North Korea

I think it all started with Barbra Demick's book Nothing To Envy.

I got it because I didn't want to look like a lonely and sad traveller while on a transit flight to Beijing. Well, that and I knew I tended to perform socially-uncool actions when I'm not doing anything, like openly stare at weird people, throw angry looks at mums with screaming toddlers and give frozen smiles (while having my eyes dart nervously about) to aircrew greeting me. (Greeting aircrew is a struggle for me till today. I find that I don't really want to say hello but I can't because (i) it's a social rule to say hello back when someone greets you (ii) I want to be able to have my extra packet/s of nuts when I ask for it/them.) I theorized that a book would be the best way to avoid all of that, and the crew would be more forgiving towards someone engrossed in a book and would therefore forgive me and give me my nuts.

I digress.

So I walked hastily into one of the bookstores in Changi. I was torn between two books - Nothing to Envy and Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. Both choices because then I'd developed a love for historical books; the former because North Korea was such a mysterious and intriguing state and this was a story of defectors, and the latter because I love facts that I can't wrap my head around and I gobble anything that tries to explain factual phenomenons. Evolution is one of them. HOW did we come from monkeys? Yes, it took us many years, but still??!!

Anyway, I figured that I needed something light for the flight since I'm prone to headaches and I was worried heavy stuff would put me to sleep, something I didn't want to do while transiting. It was the best 8 hours of reading I've ever had. I was sucked into the everyday life of a North Korean: I learnt about their social class systems, so contradictory to the communism model. I imagined what I had to do if I had to survive, and I could only imagine - but somehow somewhere, a North Korean did and ate all the crazy stuff just to live.

I don't want to spoil the book for you but it's amazing how Demick writes so simply and weaves the stories of 6 North Koreans into a piece that culiminates the North Korean culture, social and political situation so well. From then on I spiralled on to other North Korean books, I paid extra attention to news about the reclusive state, I devoured anything that could give me more evidence and dimension of the culture that I knew so much of already.

I even made a friend while in a club in Beijing I really hate going to clubs over there because it's smoky, rowdy and people overspend WAY TOO MUCH. So usually I turn into the Great Sulk while trying my best to be as sociable as I can manage. But Great Sulk had a night off because I met someone who works in History Channel, and whom I found was as greedy for North Korean knowledge as I was while we were exchanging DPRK information. We rattled off book titles, documentaries, and spoke of friends who've paid visits to North Korea. Unfortunately I forgot her name (damn those champagnes can be a real killer when you down them in between animated chatter) and couldn't add her on facebook get in touch with her.

Before I continue obsessing, let me pause and say that I'm stating my Affirmation here: I will visit North Korea before I turn 30!!

I've only met one person who has done so in a tour group and her account has really inspired me to go (even though it was really not that inspiring, haha - I was more incredulous that a first-hand friend went in and made it out even though North Korea has been open to tourists for a long time now). My mum will kill me once I mentioned it and she had a really violent reaction, but I'm sure she'll come to.

Some snippets of North Korea to end off my post:
- North Korea actually flourished in the early days under Kim Il Sung, the founding father of North Korea. This is because at full production, the communist state can support about 80% of its country's needs. But of course, all of this floundered eventually (inefficiencies, lack of income from trading activity, diversion of revenue to military needs etc). Great article about North Korea's economy here

- Buildings in North Korea are grey, structured and drab.  Described as "Stalinist buildings", it's common for architecture in communist countries as colours are usually reserved for propaganda.
North Korean grey Stalinist building

- North Korean adults are approximately 3-8cm shorter than their South Korean counterparts

Ok that's all for now cuz someone just came in to gossip with me !!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Story of my Reading

I have my  mother to thank for making me the book person that I am today.

Back when people still frequented public libaries, my mum would bring my sis and I to the Bedok branch. We'd have breakfast at the market, walk past the interchange and drop by my childhood friend's family jewellery shop to say hi. And then continue on with the bustling heartland crowd and into the library. On weekends there would always be queues of people waiting to borrow books.

We would be there every other weekend or so to return our books and select more. Well, at first she picked out the books for us but soon I started ditching my sis and the kids section, and moving onto the shelves where the Young Adults selections were.

At first we could only borrow 4 books each. Lucky for my mum, without much push I fell in love with reading and hit my borrowing quota every visit. Well, not so lucky for her later on when I became addicted and read books in every postion/place/corner/social situation possible. She had to pay for my spectacles at 8 years old and meet my English teacher regarding the reading ban she'd imposed on me (and some other classmates so I wasn't the sole bad egg!!). Miss Sng found out I was sliding my book in and out from under my desk whenever she had her back turned to the chalkboard.

Later on, I was delighted to find out that the library increased the borrowing capacity per person to 8 books. Using some of my sister's quota I had enough books to occupy most of my after-school time. When mum became too busy with work our maid took over ferrying us to the library, and I had someone I tasked to search for book titles for me. (I was hooked on many teen series back then and it was hard to find consecutive titles.)

I think the library trips finally stopped after a couple of years, when I discovered I'd forgot to return one book which had chalked up fine fees that would make any adult baulk.

So I switched to buying books. Loved hanging out at Borders, Marine Parade when it wasn't in its floundering years of bankruptcy. But book prices meant I had to scrutinise titles and usually I walked out buying nothing at all.

Until I read my first fantasy books. Oh boy.

I relived my younger days of chasing after an entire book collection. I slouched at home and in cafes poring over kingdoms, gnomes, dwarves, magic, centaurs, wars, quests...And the great thing about fantasy books is that they're usually on sale before other fiction titles, so I was devouring them steadily without hurting my pockets too much.

Recently David bought me a Kindle and while you can't hold a candle to cradling a book spine and smelling the woody scent of page-turning, the convenience and amount of content I can consume of that device is simply amazing and makes up for everything the Kindle doesn't have.

Over the years I've moved on from Fantasy to Historical titles, and I think I'm stuck with this genre. I can't see any other type of books that will convince me to move on. And the great thing is that Amazon has such a vast selection of ebooks I can't browse them all. Somehow they've also analysed my reading patterns and recommended some really good books too.

I really want to talk about my books, but maybe I'll save my reviews for another time at the risk of boring you and myself. Hah.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Useless Entry for Remembering

This is an entry I wrote in my leather bound journal as it perched on my food tray after take-off. It was the start of my 6 hour flight from Singapore to Beijing. I'd just had a harrowing check-in experience as I arrived at the check-in counter less than a hour before, all flustered yet extremely relieved to find the counter still serving passengers.

Fun fact: on my return trip, I missed my flight back to Singapore.

Thursday, 19 April 2012 

The sole purpose of this journal entry would be to, most importantly, pass time. And along the way, conveniently relieve my itch of writing. Not in a journalistic, writer sort-of-way, but in a "I want to see how my handwriting looks like after typing became a staple" and "I have to feel my pen against paper" sort of superficial way. 

I'm getting these pen ink smudges at the side of my pinky - a source of annoyance that seems all too familiar during secondary school days; where I had a crazy obsession of switching from ink pen to another brand of ink pen, and all my assingments were almost all penned with ink pens. That's kinda besides the point but anyway I would frequently pick up dried ink from previous lines of writing. Like now. 


(I see now that I'm fulfilling my purpose quite well. I do have a knack for going on and on about unrelated and frivolous stuff.)

 I'm currently on a planen right now en route to Beijing. Or else this piece would never have materialised. My hands have ditched their relationship with this pen and took on the keyboard as their lover. I'm ashamed to say that if you could see my handwriting now, they're hideous: slanted,  unstructured, undefined and making my page look populated with scribblings. Which they are, of course. but I'd have preerred if they look like handsome literature spewing out from the hand of a man with a debonair smile. 


Enough about talking about my handwriting. I shall recount stuff that happened today on the plane.


I have half a glass of orange juice left. I'd originally intended to hold out till the end of the flight and smacked on a whole slab of lip balm. But i succumbed to the thirst. And once I did, it was a slippery slope. I'm now AUD7++ more broke because I spent it on orange juice and a bottle of water (which  I got as an accessory because paying AUD4 by credit card for a bottle of orange juice would seem really stupid.) On hindsight, I'm not sure how another AUD3 helped with the "stupid" problem, but that's why I said it was a slippery slope. 


From time to time I'd glance up to catch the movie playing on the screen. A mime, really,, since I don't have any earphones. Speaking of airplane entertainment, today while packing Piers suddenly asked if I'd like an iPod. He's always up to no good, and usually anything he says has another sarcastic statement that succeeds it. (For example, once he scribbled "Worship Piers" on our fridge's "Things We Need" list. To which he commented upon confrontation from me, "That's so sweet Elaine. You really didn't have to, but go ahead if you must.")

(Added in real time to prove how Piers  is douchey -  his Facebook cover page!)