Friday, February 29, 2008

Garfield Without Garfield

Check it out. It's actually funny. [UPDATE: My mistake! I linked to a Spanish Wikipedia entry on Gothic architecture.)

I should be blogging about my trip to Manila, Feliciano Omar's visit here, my workshop experiences at the Arts House, or my new bout of chemical depression (super-fresh! Just delivered this morning!), but I'm SLEEPY.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I'm going to the Man Hong Kong Literary Festival!

My first ever writers' festival! (I was never properly invited to the Singapore one, doncha know.) Here's the events I'll be doing:
Thursday, 6 March
8:00pm | Joyce is Not Here, 38-44 Peel Street, Central | free event code: 806H
Poetry Roundtable -- Reconnect with poetry as local and international poets read and discuss their work. Featuring Andrew Barker, Sally Dellow, Sayed Gouda, Viki Holmes, Isa Kamari, David McKirdy, Ng Yi-Sheng and Cai Tianxin. Moderated by local poet Martin Alexander.

Friday, 7 March
7:00pm | The Fringe Theatre | HK$90 event code: 807G

Rhyme Across Time -- "To have great poets there must be great audiences too." ~ Walt Whitman. Experience the poetry of Sylvia Plath, Kit Wright, Caroline Kiser, William Blake and Ted Hughes on: beginnings, home, love, spirit, and endings as read by local poets Martin Alexander, Andrew Barker, Sally Dellow, Jason Lee and Madeleine Marie Slavick. Featured poets Viki Holmes, Isa Kamari, Ng Yi-Sheng and Cai Tianxin interpret these topics in their own distinctive voices. Moderated by local poet David McKirdy.

Saturday,8 March
2:00pm | The Fringe Studio | HK$90 event code: 808H
Labels: Gay Literature -- Is there such a thing as gay literature? Can writing be a tool to come out? Does one have to be gay to write a gay novel? This session discusses gay culture and what the label implies. Nigel Collett leads a discussion with Peter Moss, Ng Yi-Sheng and Alon Hilu.

Can you believe it? People will actually pay money to see me! (Um, me and Isa Kamari/Alon Hilu, that is.)

Friday, February 22, 2008


Three eye stories:

1. While he was driving me for my LASIK op, my dad told me that when he was 12/13 years old, he had double vision. Doctors were so intrigued that they promised him an eye operation, the second such performed in Singapore (the first had been an utter failure).

My father rather liked the attention, since it meant he could get out of school on MC and lord it over the kids in school by parading past the classroom until the teacher came down to examine his credentials for absence.

But he was smart enough to realise that getting his eyes poked wasn't such a great idea. So he practised focussing on his reflection in a mirror, converging the duplicate optical images. It worked. The doctors were dumbfounded and asked him to explain the procedure in detail.

2. When I was practising capoeira a few days after the op, I told my sparring mate Yong Kan how the surgeon had actually forbidding me to exercise for a week. Yong Kan, being a doctor himself (in fact his nome de guerro is Doctor; in fact he's a straight married 31 year-old hot-bodied hunk of a urologist who runs marathons for fun on weekends), was horrified that I was forsaking sound medical advice. He told me he's met patients who suffered grand force trauma to their eyeballs shortly after LASIK and had to get their entire corneas removed. To see again, they had to accept cornea transplants, together with weekly steroids which kept their bodies from rejecting the tissue while also raising their chances of getting cancer.

I told my niece this story, mostly just to scare her after she said I looked good after the op. Personally, I think if I go blind I'll stay blind for a few years. It'd enhance my street cred as a writer no end.

3. Ka Fai saw me at a performance under UV light, just after I'd taken my eyedrops, which have white residues. He said I looked spooky, as if I'd been weeping milk.

I'm not trying to look like a wanker: the sunglasses really do help to reduce glare and increase depth of focus. Even indoors - especially indoors, when there's crazy fluorescent lighting like in my Arabic class.

I got the shades free from Action For AIDS: aren't they fabulous? No-one can see who I'm ogling!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Singapore's hosting the Youth Olympics 2010!

Apologies to our Mexican readers. ;) [CORRECTION: Our Muscovite readers! Apparently I can't tell the difference between Mexico and Moscow in a Mandarin newscast.]

Oddly enough, I have not met one single person who actually opposes the fact that we've bid so hard for the opportunity. The Olympics often cost a bomb to host; wouldn't the Youth Olympics be similar?

I wonder, though... given that China's been under so much human rights pressure over its hosting of the Beijing Olympics (which it's mostly ignored and trampled over, with reprisals from Mr Spielberg), mightn't Singapore face a similar human rights quandary? We kinda did in 2006 with the IMF/WB meetings.

Whatever the case, 2010's gonna be interesting. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


This, according to my mother, is one of our ancestors from China.

My brother says that for a man descended from royalty, he doesn't look too handsome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nanyang Literary Festival 2008 - Pandora’s Box

I'm reading at NTU's Lit Festival tomorrow!

20th February 2008, Wednesday
Venue: Canopy J, Canteen A
Duration: 11.30am – 4.00pm

(I've got the 11:45ish to 12:30 slot).

Monday, February 18, 2008

Yay for Progress!

I just wanna thank TCS for screening "28 Days Later" last night complete with that gratuitous butt shot of Cillian Murphy in the shower. Yowza!

I've just been linked to by Martyn See for my chronicle of Singapore censorship 1959-2008, so I might as well provide some balance.

UPDATED: Hold on, what's all this on the Net I'm reading about him having had full frontal nudity in the opening scene? I guess something did get censored after all. Poo.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Roses Rally in Malaysia, Chingay in Singapore

my chat with activist/artist Seelan Palay:

Seelan: hey Yi Sheng
me: hiya
Seelan: today was another rally in KL
to present roses to malaysian PM
me: !
Seelan: I will fwd you a response
me: why roses?
Seelan: plea for the release of hindraf 5
roses to be presented by 100 kids
me: whoa

i'm reading stuff on the net
Seelan: check out the mail
me: the kids were arrested too
Seelan: yup
tear gas was shot into human rights commission bulding
cause sort of "retreated" there
then the shot went into the building compound

me: did you ever watch amir muhammad's "big durian"?
i remember there was one bit there
where he had an indian actress say how every now and then the malays and chinese get their parangs out and fight each other
and the indians just watch
different story now, man
Seelan: YES
hats good contrast though, that youre making
me: in fact if i'm not wrong, the last time indian malayans came out in protest for their rights was the sepoy rebellion of 1905!
Seelan: :)
me: (i probably am wrong lah)
probably got less famous case
Seelan: well I guess they joined in the indepedence struggle
me: yes
Seelan: but after that, youre right, this is the first

me: so odd
tonight i was at the esplanade
over here got chingay
over there got rally and protest
Seelan: art
is it not
both "performances"
me: are you talking about chingay or the roses rally? :)
i have a shot of s r nathan's float
he was on a silver-plated merlion
the mc shouted, "everybody, make some noise!"
so i yelled out, "Abolish ISA!"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out, vile jelly!

So on Wednesday morning I went for LASIK with Dr Lee Heng Meng at Gleneagles! What do I look like now?

Pretty normal, huh? But when the lights get too glaring, I whip out my mommy's sunglasses and I look like this:

And every night before I go to bed, I have to wear this:

That's just in case I accidentally scratch my eyes while I'm sleeping and screw up the precious surgical objets d'art. I'm not supposed to wash my face for a week except with a handtowel, play sports for a week because of the sweat, or go swimming for a month.

I can actually stop wearing the goggles tonight, but I'll keep them around as part of my Gothic Lolita playset.

Reader: But what does everything look like now with your grace-healed eyes?

I'm not kidding. The halo effect is in full force. First night I went to watch "What Is Man" Esplanade and I swear I could see the auras of every actor on stage. (They were mostly yellow. Some audience members were kinda purple, though.) Every streetlamp that I meet has been transformed into a gargantuan rubicund dandelion. It's really quite pretty. But disorienting.

Been having trouble focussing, too. Peripheral vision seems weirdly jelly-like (but didn't I have worse peripheral vision when I had glasses?). This is all normal for the first week after LASIK, and it does seem to be settling down.

What no-one warned me about, however, is the weird feeling of being nude: I am naked (I am not wearing my glasses) and yet I am clothed (I am seeing more clearly than I am comfortable with informally). I keep on wanting to take off my glasses, only to find myself groping my unburdened ears and bridge of my nose. Stuff glares. It's really gonna have to take getting used to.

And by the by, I keep noticing how many hot guys in Singapore wear glasses. I'm talking about those tanned computer engineer types around Clementi MRT (i.e. on the way to NUS or one of the polys) who look like they code while they canoe. Yowza.

Never you mind, what's done is done. LASIK is treatment. Here's a photolog:

I took this in the morning to commemorate my last few hours as a myopic.

My dad drove me. Bless him.

Parking was ridiculous at Gleneagles, so he had me get out of the care and did it illegally. Watch him parallel!

This is my optician. Optometrist? No idea.

Time for the freaky eye-test. Apparently I was 25 degrees worse than I was a week before, which is normal deviation.

Here's the prescribed medication, including my sedative pill for the op. The nurse (who was quite chioh) told me not to worry; she did the op too with Dr Lee three years back and she assured me it doesn't hurt. It just feels like there's some weird PRESSURE on your eyeball.

Time for the op! Here's the latest line of spring fashionwear from Hussein Chalayan!

They actually taped my showercap in place. Hair can be a dangerous thing.

Shoes can also be dangerous, apparently. They had me only wear socks into the operating theatre.

And that's where there's a gap in my chronicle, because they wouldn't let me take the camera into the operating theatre. Dr Lee lay me down in a body-moulded apparatus that made me think of the dentists' chair in "Cremaster 3", made me stare at a teeny red light (which got kinda blurry, although whether it was the machine or the sedative pill or the numbing eyedrops I don't know), and a teeny green light behind, and told me to keep looking at the light, excellent, while he applied plastic grips to my eyelids and transparent suction cups to my eyeballs, and over to the black machine, five four three two one by one, and whew, I thought, it's over, but no, it had just begun, my left eye open with a vise, look into the light, and the light had become the skeleton of an ultraviolet red red rose by now, and look into the light, and poky-poky with the scalpel, and excellent, rinse, and now the right eye, look into the light, and my left eye was foggy and my mind was groggy anyway, and how was I able to keep my eye focussed anyway -

I forgot to mention something. When the LASIK machine starts, you can actually SMELL YOUR EYEBALLS FRYING.

Yep, it's the cornea being seared into shape. And they'd warned me about the buzzy-buzzy sound of the machine. But the SMELL. That's gotta last. For the record, it was kinda like overmicrowaved meat under plastic (the kind where the clingfilm pops and goes gooey but the chicken thighs remain pink and uncooked).

Dr Lee also held my head, physically, in place while the machine was buzzing. His hands on my head. I found that surprisingly tender.

Anyway, when it was over, he lifted the suction from my right eyeball, removed the grips, and let me sit up, and I really said, "Oh my god, I can see!" like some Jesus miracle.

(It really strikes home the first moment. After that you forget that you're not wearing contacts, so it feels less mindfreaking.)

Anyway, I got to time-out for a while in a dark room with classical muzak playing, and then I got an aftercare moment (all good! he says):

That's me and Dr Lee Heng Meng. Or Stevie Wonder and Dr Alison Grey.

My meds were once every hour/two hours the first day, everything once every two hours the second day, and now I'm down to once every three hours. Zymax, Pred Forte and Refresh Plus.

And this is the good doctor with his clothes on, when I went for my 24 hours-later checkup.

May I just mention that the first time I went to his clinic, they were showing "Final Destination 3" in the waiting room? Don't watch this clip:

Will update you as my eyeballs heal.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Something Positive

From something*positive. Mooreheads will understand what it's about.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


My appointment's on Wednesday morning, 10:30 am. It's costing me $4K, but all the young people I know who've done it say it's worth it.

(At Velvet Underground last week)

Pooja: But I like your glasses. Wait, take them off. (Pause) Yeah, go for LASIK.

This is me today:

This is me tomorrow:

Or if something goes wrong, this is me tomorrow:

And just to freak you guys out, here's a video:

Wish me luck!

Monday, February 11, 2008

We don't play mahjong in the family, but...

...while bai-nian-ing, I bet five bucks against my father than Obama will kick Hillary's ass.

He believes Americans would never vote for a black man. I say too many people hate Hillary.

Actually, I have no idea who'll win, but I'd love to lord it over him if I'm right. All images via Slog.

Post-script: Interestingly, my mum sees me as a qualified authority to consult on whether Hillary is boffing Huma Abedin. I think it's rubbish, but really, how the hell should I know?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Happy CNY from Petronas 2008

I especially appreciate the comment by dreamhouse:

stupid video, cny are supposed to be happy, and not the other way round.

You donch like? Go see this one!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Thought I'd start off the year with a little photo essay of today's events.

Was filial this evening, helping my mum stuff angpows.

Ruyi the cat felt left out.

Okay, don't have shots of dinner (which is a small affair in my family) and our trip to Borders (where we overspent incredibly with my new Borders card and our 40% off voucher, allowing us to get a total of 46% off on roughly $1K of goods [I kid you not]).

Instead, I'll show you shots of our visit to Kuan Yin Thong Hood Cho later that night.

There's actually some bastard yelling out that photography is forbidden on a loudhailer. In English, Mandarin and Hokkien.

Grr! I love the composition for this shot, but my hands are palsied.

Omi tho hood, as my mum says. As soon as we planted our joss sticks in the sand, a team was waiting there to dump them in a vat of water to allow for the next lot of people to pay their respects.

The temple's really smart - they give you free angbaos (not tonight, but other nights) so you're obliged to give them more in donations another day.

Next door the Hindu temple was also doing a brisk business. Lagi fatt choy.

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.

The temple DID give us these excellent flowers. Fo' free. (We donated, of course, but not proportionately to family income. Don't hate us.) I specifically requested the lotus buds.

This is our altar. See those bronze candlesticks? They're OLD. Families used to borrow them from our family in the kampung cos no-one else had ones as big.

Channel 8 TV special. This one was really weird for me, because it's the Wong Fei Hong song, which is all about some testosteroney definition of what makes a Chinese man, a hao han, and um, well, that's not me.

How did our national festivals all become about racial definition, anyway?

I'm under orders to leave the lights on all night long.

Mum said I could blow out the candles after the hell money burning ceremony, though.

The altar. Heart of the home. G'nite, everybody. Happy Year of the Rat.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Visiting the Syonan Jinja Shrine

Back on Saturday 19 January, me and some Theatreworksy folks made a little pilgrimage into the depths of Macritchie reservoir.

Y'see, we're doing a performance/investigation/project called RESERVOIR, based on the curious fact that the jungle around the reservoir hides the ruins of the Syonan Jinja Shrine, a Shinto temple built by POW labour during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

There are various legends surrounding the shrine (documented here), including a few that it hides a great treasure, maybe Yamashita's Gold, maybe the ashes of the Emperor, maybe something so mysterious that it's the Japanese version of the Holy Grail: an item that would make Singapore the iconic point of Japanese spiritual colonisation of Southeast Asia. Syonan-To: the Light of the South.

But of course, it was pulled down by the POWs as soon as they realised the Allies were winning. Only the foundations remain. A parallel shrine in Bukit Batok was demolished completely and a signal farm built in its place,

But the odd thing, Ka Fai says (and of course the whole thing's his idea), the odd thing is that the Shrine remains in ruins - it has neither been cleared nor restored (failed proposals have been made to restore the shrine to draw Japanese tourists, for example). It is protected by nature, by the wilderness that is the original, genuine biota of the lately hyperurbanised Singapore. It is preserved by kami.

Still, it's accessible via a four-hour trek into the jungle. Time for a little expedition!

Snafu #1: we were supposed to meet by 7:30 but Ka Fai's tyre went flat on the highway. He had to get a new one, setting us back about a couple of hours.

Farewell, old thing! (Hey, this is a performance about old things. You gotta respect.)

Meet the gang: Choy Ka Fai (Associate Artist with Theatreworks and member of KYTV), Charles Lim (a multimedia/new media/conceptual artist who was just along for the ride), Patricia Toh (an actress who was in VISTA Lab with us and shaved her head for Singapore Season Shanghai with DramaBox).

Ah, Macritchie. The place holds a lot of memories for many of us. Science field trips, army fitness runs, family picnics.

And some new memories as well! These guys were pretty cool when we told them we were doing art.

Evidence of our jungle heritage: a community of macaques.

They're not scared of humans much. They want your food. They'll open your backpack themselves if you're not careful.

Quite early on we passed a slightly mysterious gravesite. I remember visiting it with Singapore Paranormal Investigators once. Not Japanese; Chinese.

Yup, that's Singapore.

The weird thing (okay, there are many weird things) about Macritchie is that you keep on walking through this thick virginy jungle and then suddenly come out into a stretch that's used by Island Country Club. (Yes, those are golf buggies in the background.)

And a fountain!

And also some godawful, brackish streams.

Could the secret treasure of Syonan Jinja be a sacred lingzhi?

These are the remains of a bridge that served people as a shortcut into the shrine area. The Allies pulled it down, of course. It'd be faster to get to the site if we waded through.

Even faster if we went by canoe. This is where it's supposed to be; on the other end of the shore. But of course we're gonna trek through the jungle.

With a stop at the observation deck, of course.

This is it! We're leaving the beaten path for the actual bash-through the branches jungle!

This turned out less than ideally. Snafu #2: we found the GPS we'd brought didn't work well, especially since we'd forgotten to bring a compass. Snafu #3: we got lost for a while, despite Charles's best efforts to get us to smash the branches behind us. Snafu #4: a branch hit me from the side, between my cheekbone and my glasses, right in the eyeball, and I got a bacterial infection.

But I didn't know that yet. I bathed it in mineral water, and after about five hours of trekking (yeah, we were slowcoaches...)


Don't have good photos here, but it's basically an abandoned pump room. It's really nice and overgrown; can't do it justice. The floor and the walls are eaten away by algae and moss and creepers; it's created this wonderful space in the midst of the forest.

And a dramatic backdrop, too.

Charles loves the photo op.

Look! Even the end of this broken branch is photogenic! And tourist-friendly!

Okay, time to pack it all in. More trekking ahead.



Yep, these are the steps built into the hill upon which stood the fabled Syonan Jinja shrine. And here we are, finally at our pilgrimage site.

Charles was pointing to the incredible canopy overhead. There was some animal above, making warning noises. Now and then, there was the sound of a tour group in the distance, but they never found us. Hard to find.

Time for lunch first. Nom nom nom.

Then time to exploar. And dockument.

There was still the ablutionary basin at the top of the steps. Snafu #5: Charles put his hand in and he got an infection later. But the rest of us were fine. Pat said it was the most alive thing in the midst of the stone ruins: there were even guppies inside.

For shits and giggles, Charles let his GPS float inside.

Other strange fragments in the architecture, of course. That's what ruins are.

Someone's been making offerings!!!

After a while, we turned back, and decided we were too exhausted for the land route.

Yup. So we waded across the ruins of the bridge.

And we got wet.

These are Ka Fai's s interpretations of the headscarf. Eat your heart out, Jeremy Hiah.

Eventually we returned to civilisation, and Charles got his wife, the filmmaker Wee Li Lin, to give us a lift.

But not without a victory shot first!

And then I went home to sleep. And that night I went with Migrant Voices to help teach creative writing to Indian and Bangladeshi construction workers.

I do lead an interesting life. Some info on my Philippines trip soon.

Oh, and before I forget: RESERVOIR will be staged at 72-13 from 28 to 30 August 2008, with a cast and crew drawn from both Singapore and Japan. Stay tuned.