Saturday, March 31, 2007

April: National Yi-Sheng Awareness Month

Heheheheh. Nora Samosir just called me a media whore for having so much coverage of 251. I requested to be called a Media Meretrix instead, so I too can be an MM.

But in fact, I need all the publicity I can get for April, because I have THREE (3) shows coming up for this month.

1. Georgette: a musical on the life of Georgette Chen
Musical Theatre Singapore
Esplanade concourse
8:30 on Wed 4 and Thu 5)
FREE (it's a concert performance of excerpts)

2. 251: inspired by the life of Annabel Chong
Toy Factory Theatrical Productions
Esplanade Theatre Studio
8pm from Thu 5 to Sun 15, 3pm matinees on weekends, no show Monday

3. Frostbite: a 10-minute play
Short and Sweet Singapore
8pm from Wed 25 to Sat 29
Studio Theatre, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts

... I have no idea what it'll cost. It's part of the week 2 events, as shown here.

Come watch, bee-yotch.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Half my essay for FOCAS on censorship in Singapore in the year 2006 is gone because I didn't save properly.

I need something to punch.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Yish be not proud

Feedback from bloggers on my NUS Arts Fest reading.

I went to watch the poetry recital Tempestuous Beasts at NUS UCC Foyer with Weewee and Miss Pooja Nansi rocked. The rest were too gay for my liking.
-Alexis K,

in my mind, tempestatous [sic] beasts, judging from the title alone, would be a passionate angsty emotional angry sarcastic literary reading... but instead...haiz. i'm not sure how to describe it. let's just say the feelings wasn't there, lah. it was tame. ... and that guy lee-sheng just annoyed me. what's up with the cape?? a little too much. my mood couldnt take it today.

Yeah, I know I should laugh it off, especially since I'd deliberately made a decision to read my less well-known pieces at the event. But it still hurts a little.

That's one of the paradoxes of my life. I believe strongly in the long-term value of good criticism, but I don't take criticism well, whether it's good (I assume it's flattery) or bad (I believe it and it depresses me).

I say this partly because tomorrow, my extremely negative review of Jocelyn Chua's "A Brief Affair With Infinity" comes out. And I'm friends with both Ruby Pan, the director, and Richard Chua, the Artistic Director of Little Red Shop. It's the maiden production of his theatre group. Whether they remain friends afterwards... time will tell.

I know that Jocelyn's going to take this hard, which is why I made sure to use the review to promote her book of earlier plays - "Restless and Other Plays", available at BooksActually, Kinokuniya and NLB. It really is very good; she consistently places her characters into desperate situations, chaos birthed of perverse hierarchical systems (governmental, sexual, familial, whatever), exploding into grotesque influorescences of violence.

Even so, I know that my lack of mercy will come back and haunt me when 251 opens next week.

Let them criticise. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Patti Smith is hot.

You see why I can't tell my parents I'll never marry a woman? (Hey, she was lovers with Robert Mapplethorpe for a while.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Books I Have Read June 2005

I've been checking out my journal. Dream documentations, half-finished poems, desperate prayers, lists. I rather like it.

The long lists, for example, are testament to the eccentricity of my reading habits,

"Myths and Legends of Ireland"
“Njal’s Saga”
“The Rig Veda”
John Ashbery’s “Chinese Whispers”
John Bastin’s “Olivia Mariamne Raffles”
Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”
Tim Burton’s “The Death of Oyster Boy”
Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”
Nina Epton’s “The Golden Sword”
Otto Fong’s ”Sir Fong”
Joanne Harris’s “Chocolat”
Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw”
Jonathan Kirsch's “The Harlot by the Side of the Road”
Koh Beng Liang’s “The Last Three Women”
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s “Freakonomics”
Leona Lim's “Our Sisters, Their Stories”
Audre Lorde’s “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name”
Leslie Lung’s “Freedom of Choice”
Melissa Mathison's “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (screenplay)
Campbell McGrath’s “American Noise”
Roman Polanski's “Rosemary’s Baby” (screenplay)
Richard Sale’s “The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Icelanders”
Shinji Saijyo's “Iron Wok Jan”
Teh Yik Koon's ”Mak Nyahs: Malaysian Male to Female Transsexuals”
Ruth Vanita’s “Queering India”
Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
Mark Waddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”
James L. Watson’s “Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia”
Cyril Wong’s “Below: Absence”
Arthur Yap’s “The Space of City Trees”
Yong Shu Hoong’s “Isaac Revisited”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Have you ever felt like less of a person because you never memorised any transcendental numbers (e.g. Pi [3.15149] or Euler's constant [2.71828]) beyond six digits?

Well, worry no more! It turns out that there's a transcendental number we can all memorise! It's the Liouville constant, which is defined as...

\sum_{k=1}^\infty 10^{-k!} = 0.110001000000000000000001000\ldots

Basically, it's the summation of 10^-1 factorial + 10^-2 factorial + 10^-3 factorial + etc....

So now it's easy to recite a transcendental number to the first 100 digits! Just begin with "Zero point" and remember to say "one" the first, second, 6th and 24th times and zero all the other times all the way to a hundred (if you're going for a thousand places, remember to say "one" at the 120th and 720th places too).

Have a ball! Show off to your friends! It's better than The Song That Never Ends!

(This is a belated entry for Pi day, March 14th)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

This is why I want to write weird musicals.

Q: You've said that opera has always been about the gods. What exactly did you mean by that?

PETER SELLARS: Well ... human beings need permission, and usually that's metaphor, to recognize that there are many layers of reality moving at any given moment, and that every small gesture has very large consequences. So opera is this amazing form, which takes a gesture, and understands it through music, poetry, dance, visual art, all at the same time.

"The artist's work is to lift people out of their usual sense of their own cosmos into a higher vision of what's going on up there."

A whole galaxy is in place around these four actions. You thought you were just writing a letter to someone, but in fact, there was a whole symphony orchestra playing. In fact there was a chorus singing. In fact, it's like a bigger deal. Opera constantly gives you that perspective shift; that glimpse of spiritual activity inside of the simplest and quietest moments.

From here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Theatre Idols + Tempestuous Beasts

I'm finally having my biographical-surrealist play, "The Final Temptation of Stamford Raffles", performed next Wednesday 21 March, 8pm at Action Theatre's 42 Waterloo St theatre. It's just a staged reading, but I've got a solid cast - Gerald Chew, Lim Yu Beng, Janice Koh, Wendy Kweh and Jeremy Lee (the only experienced actor in the current production of the Swimming Instructor, whom I noted has a nose that French desserts should be named after).

I'm going back to back with Tze Chien, and only one of us "upstarts" makes it to the finals the following week. I definitely won't beat him - aside from the fact that TC is a great writer, he's doing a comic drama and I'm doing a weird experimental half-finished piece that's way too long for a 45-min slot. But I'd appreciate it if you guys came - and hell, it's free!

E-mail Action Theatre for comps - 2 to a person.

Also! The night after, on Thursday 22 March at 8pm, I'm reading at Tempestuous Beasts, an evening of poetry at the University Cultural Centre lobby. It's part of the NUS Arts Festival this year.

Don't like poetry readings in general? Well, check this out: the other readers are
Cyril Wong, Alfian Sa’at and slam poet Pooja Nansi - all of us strong performers, and tempestuous indeed. It'll be a good show, I promise - and I'll try to avoid reading the stuff I've read billions of times before. More info here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mass Rapid Transitions

Check it out... this is what SMRT has planned for us in the future. Courtesy of Wikimedia and Heman Chong on the artscommunity mailing list.

Of course, given the delays for the Circle line alone (supposedly due 2010, but now hit by sand shortages), we might not live to see the grand filigree come into fruition.

We might want to consider building a dam system to guard against the upcoming global warming trend first. Otherwise, we're Atlantis.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Adam Rickitt - I Breathe Again

Recently found this old music video that I found incredibly erotic as a teenager in the 90s... note how masculinity is projected as a fabricable construct, the icon himself contextually feminised in terms of aesthetic, scientific and commercial objectification to the point of annihilation. Also, watch those killer abs! Yowza!!! Ka-cheng!!!

Curiously enough, Wikipedia reveals that the artist/model is now a candidate in the British Conservative Party. Omnis mutantur, baby.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Itchy ears

1. I googled myself just now. Pretty precise outcome - you get my online poems and blogs and reviews all on the first few pages. Plus, you get this review of YAWP, including my performance. I have no idea how to respond to it:
"...I like the way he delivers his poems better than his poems themselves. He seems boring at first sight, but really, his delivery is SO GOOD and funny..."
I know it's a compliment, but it's pretty damn disconcerting to realise that I'm more form than substance. And am I that square-looking?

Anyhow, the reviewer was quite right - YAWP was a ball, from the invited hardcore slammers Marc Nair and Bani Haykal to the contestants, who, if not uniformly good, were thoroughly entertaining. It's a pity that Michael Corbridge gave the post-mortem in the end; Alfian (who was the third judge) would probably have delivered a much more in-depth analysis.

Apparently poetry performance teams tend to do other people's work rather than their own - and that's a smart decision. Teams which used their own poetry quite often ended up with unfocussed angstfests, which make for some remarkably gymnastic creative movements but can't quite speak to an adult judge.

The first prize went to Hwa Chong team "Multiracial We Study Together" (it's a quote from the school motto) consisting of Jian Yang, Melo, Claire Soon, Rachel Au-Yong and Salima Nadira Mafoot Moss Simon. They did a well-choreographed and curated melange of politically charged poems by Alfian Sa'at and sexually charged pieces by the Earl of Rochester. (Very embarrassing for Alfie, but hey, glory must have its price.)

The clear winner of the night, however, was Lisabel Ting aka "The Sexual Textile", who performed her own series of poems (including a villanelle on Wee Shu Min!) from the voices of different archetypal Singapore characters - "Aunty/Adult/Addict/Adolescent", she called it. We gave her the best solo performance (there was only one other competitor) and decided to split the best original poem prize with Karen Xi, a promising RGS girl with a much shorter but still impressive piece called "hear me out".

Of course, I'm sensitised to the problem of how performance poetry events marginalise shyer writers who don't quite dare to take the stage - I hope there's still a semi-sober arena like the now-defunct RJC Afternoon of Poetry and Music for them to ply their wares.

In the meantime, let's yawp!

2. Urg. I started on the below post before I got the residency news.
And how was it? Not bad, I guess. I was about 5 minutes late for my 3pm appointment - had to take a cab in the rain from rehearsals for Georgette, which I'd stupidly scheduled at 2pm. Because of my tension and the dramatic way I rushed up the stairs, by the time I got to the interview I was hyper - punctuating all my sentences with exclamation points, talking with my hands, being super-enthusiastic about everything.

If they liked me like that, wait till they see me when I'm in a low-energy mode. Which was directly after. (I'd only had about four hours' sleep, y'see). By the time I got to Hwa Chong, I crashed - I fell asleep on a bench, waiting for the ELDDFS event to start.
Btw, isn't Robbie Goh's letter down there terribly well-crafted? My sis, the GP teacher, pointed it out. The progression from one point to another, the careful massaging of my ego to prevent shattering of dignity and encourage future progress... ai-ai-ai, but then I step back and the illusion is rent asunder.

Of course, the grand question is, who did get the Fellowship? I'm as clueless as you are. Because of a suggestion Shu Hoong threw up, I'm awfully suspicious that it's - well, there's no justification, but a successful Singapore novelist whom I admire but wish would write her novels with a more informed Singapore perspective.

I really have no idea who won it - I swear - but simply considering that I might have been competing against her sent me into a fit of random depression last night. You see, if I'd been on the panel, even if I hadn't liked her novels one bit, I'd still have selected her as a Fellow rather than myself. Never mind the officially declared aim of developing new writers - Singapore needs a good, marketable novel that doesn't over-exoticise itself, and any course she'd give would be a great breeding ground for much-needed future novelists.

I mean, hell, if they're starting a novel-writing programme, I'm joining in.

My friends have been amazing beacons of comfort, by the way.
Fay: Who won it?

YS: No idea.

Fay: Don't worry! I'll dig up who he is and chop off his hands!

YS: But then he'll be able to write a great novel based on the trauma! And he'll be invited to all the disabled arts festivals!

Fay: (pauses to consider) Then we'll chop off your hands.
3. Some good news. Today NAC Lit Division approved my travel grant. Woohoo!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Dear Yi Sheng,

Thank you for coming down to talk to us last Friday, and for the pleasure of reading your application material and becoming better acquainted with recent developments in your literary career. The panel shortlisted and interviewed a number of strong candidates, which is encouraging, but which gave us an unenviably difficult final decision.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that we are unable to award you the Fellowship at this time; however, we would like to make you the (only) reserve candidate, as acknowledgement of the strong potential we saw in you. We had a protracted debate over the relative merits of two final candidates, of which you were one. It really was difficult coming to a final decision, and the second-guessing did not stop even after we made that decision. We certainly feel that you'd be able to add much to this Fellowship, and thus even though in the final analysis we felt it fair to award it elsewhere, we also feel that you should rightly be the reserve candidate. Should the awardee for any reason be unable to accept the Fellowship, the judges will re-confer with the view of awarding it to you.

The judges also impressed on me to communicate, on their behalf, our very favourable impression of your existing work and artistic development, and to strongly encourage you to consider applying for this Fellowship again in the near future (should the present Fellowship go to the awardee instead of to you as reserve candidate). I'm stressing this to try to indicate to you the close nature of our final decision, and the panel's really strong affirmation of what you are doing. Your achievements are particularly impressive given your age and the prospect of your future development.

We expect the awardee to respond to our offer within a week or two, and if for any reason the awardee declines the Fellowship, rest assured that I will be in touch with you immediately.

Best wishes,

Robbie Goh

Friday, March 02, 2007


In eight hours' time, I'm being interviewed for the Arts House/NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Writer's Residency position. Wish me luck, guys.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

February Texts!

14 books this month... which means one every two days. Not bad for a polyamorous reader.

Other observations? Two more of my authors on my resolutions list down (31 more to go!), an exclusive devotion in fiction consumption to trashy novels (one chick-lit and one sci-fic-dick-lit), no graphic novels, a prurient interest in the 19th century... and absolutely no gallery exhibitions which caught my interest. (Actually, the Tim Etchells videos were in the Fringe Gallery, and they were ubercool, but most of the other art I saw was unremarkable).

Ainsley Burrows's "The Woman Who Isn't Was"
+Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha"
Jasmine Seah and Jennifer Koh's "Light Is Like Water"
"Poems of Fernando Pessoa"

+Tracy Quan's "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl"
Philip José Farmer's "The Maker of Universes"

+Mary Zimmerman's "Arabian Nights"
+Gustave Flaubert's "The Temptation of Saint Antony"

+Dan Savage's "Skipping Towards Gomorrah"
+Søren Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"
+Norah Jones's "Self-Made Man"
John Bastin's "Sophia Raffles"
Florence Nightingale's "Notes on Nursing"
Alan John's "Unholy Trinity"

Teater Ekamatra's "How Did the Cat Get So Fat"
Very Special Arts and Van Body Theatre's "Red Dust"
Anti-cool aka Tomoko Takahashi's "Reset Button"
Rirkrit Tiravanija's "Stone Soup"'s "Rojak 07"

Teater Ekamatra's "How Did the Cat Get So Fat"
Very Special Arts and Van Body Theatre's "Red Dust"
Anti-cool aka Tomoko Takahashi's "Reset Button"
+Performance Workshop and Ming Hua Yuan Taiwanese Opera Company's "Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land"
+The ETCeteras' "Game Play"
+Dick Wong's "B.O.B.: The Final Cut"

Rirkrit Tiravanija's "Story of Stone Soup" Series's "Rojak 07"

+Tom Tykwer's "Perfume"
+Tim Etchells's "Starfucker" and "Kent Beeson Is a Classic and an Absolutely New Thing"
+Willie Koh's "Elefant"
+Lots of Comedy Central's "Robot Chicken"
Lots of Dani Spies's "Quickbites"

Jan Rothuizen's "The Self-Collector"
Singapore Fringe's "Fringe Gallery"
Asian Civilisation Museum's "Mystery Men"
Jeremy Sharma's "End of a Decade"
Chng Seok Tin's "Wonders of Golden Needles"
Tan Keng Seng and Greenwood Primary School's "The Story of Nian"