Saturday, February 27, 2010

Juggalo News

Just felt like posting a video. Eyes dying. Here's info about Juggalos here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What the...?

It seems that at the end of last year, someone at the National Library created an Infopedia article about me.

Infopedia's an online database on Singapore topics. There's even a blog, called Infopedia Talk, where every new update of Infopedia is noted. The latest writer to be included is the horror and transsexual fantasy writer Joash Moo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

NUS Evening of Poetry and Music

I'm doing a reading Sunday at the Arts House Play Den, 6:45 to 9:30pm. Come if you can.

More info here.

It occurs to me that I've had an obituary on my front page throughout the entire Chinese New Year season.

This must be rectified! CNY was actually pretty good for me! My brother's come home for a brief visit from his back-breaking job in Manhattan i-banking (he's a 21st century rickshaw coolie, I told him) and I'm getting embarrassing loads of angpows.

Also had a pretty cool Valentine's Day, after carefully extracting an agreement from my folks to allow me to stay out on the 14th (which was the first day of CNY, for those of you not in Singapore). Mohan'n'me went for dinner at Out of the Pan, then watched a Malay language mini-musical about King Solomon's love for Balqis, Queen of Sheba, which included sequences in which they share a joint of weed and he can't remember how to spell his name in Arabic.

(No, seriously. It was called "Fewling", and it was put up by Panggung Arts. Also on this week is Cake Theatre;s "Invisibility/Breathing" and Ravindran Drama Group's "Taj Mahal", so by Saturday we'll have watched a Malay play, a Mandarin play and a Tamil play all within seven days.)

After that we wandered over to the Esplanade, where they had a singer called Imelda singing "Xi Mei Gui" and all the wonderful old CNY songs which Mohan complains are never played in department stores anymore ("ji di long dong qiang dong diang, wo yao qu bai nian," etc) and then moseyed over to the River Hongbao.

They'd brought in all these floats from Chengdu. It was bloody surreal, man.

These gals were rotating. Creepy note: they were on sticks! No actual feet under their skirts. They probably come to life at night and jump around like pogo sticks.

This dragon sculpture is made out of porcelain plates and spoons! Mohan said it reminded him of Montien Boonma's "The Pleasure of Being, Crying, Dying and Eating", now showing at 8QSAM.

Some of these tigers were also rotating. And their eyes were light bulbs. They were the TIGERS OF THE DAMNED.

And we're the pandas of the damned! (Contextual note: I'd just been asked to take a lovey-dovey photo of a heterosexual homoethnic couple, so I insisted on them taking one of us as well, just to make their jaws drop. Well, okay, so I did also want an excuse to hug the boy, but this is the reason why I didn't take care to pick better lighting.)

Okay, us Chinese are just plain weird.

Gongxifacai, bubugaosheng, dajidali, niannianyouyu, shengtijiankang, xueyuejinbu, xinniankuaile, wanshiruyi... ah fuck, can't remember any more.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Damn. Lee Weng Kee's dead.

He passed away on the morning of Wednesday 10 December. (Mervyn corrected me; I thought it was the 11th.)

For those of you who don't know him, he was one of the older members of Singapore's English acting scene - he'd actually grown up on a farm and run away from home several times, and been irritated when Kuo Pao Kun came in to advise them on a play they were workshopping and claimed that city kids could never understand what farm life was like just from one day's immersion.

He was in his '50s. Maybe '60s. Pneumonia, says Facebook. He'd acted as the father in "251", my Annabel Chong play, where he'd taken me out for coffee near a gym afterwards and told me about his life: how he'd lived in England and had a passionate affair with a priest who lived in a castle and seen old lovers, much aged and with symptoms of HIV, in Babylon bathhouse in Bangkok, which was one of the only places people in Singapore could openly cruise in the old days.

He'd written a play as well, he told me, in which he slaps the dead body of his mother.

A number of people had bugged him to write his autobiography, but he'd never got round to it.

He played a feng shui master in the very first episode of "Under One Roof", Singapore's first English sitcom. He was also a regular in "Happy Belly", I think. Recently, he played a charming man in a senior citizens' home in "Chasing Adam Cheng" and a hospitalised man who can see ghosts in "The Patient". I'd critiqued those two plays.

I don't know what to say in moments like this. I wasn't close to him. I wasn't a gigantic fan of his acting. But I respected him. And it does feel like one of the fires has gone out in this world.

(He was very frank about his sexuality, so I don't feel it's a betrayal when I tell you these stories. Strange also, knowing that as someone who wasn't a close friend, I didn't have enough of a relationship with him to betray him.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are you a gay man in Asia?

Then do this survey. It's for science! And it allows you to realise how slutty you've been over the last six months! (My judgment: not very, since I've been a monogamous relationship since August.)

After that, reward yourself by watching this very amusing and NSFW video. (Do NOT click on the link if you're under 18 or a straight man. Lesbian, bisexual and straight women should be okay.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

@School in Bengaluru: shots from MES Kishore Kendra Public School!

Yatta! Finally got these shots, taken during my workshops at last December's Bengaluru Habba. A kindly teacher at the school loaned us her camera (mine was on low batt).

Don't I look dapper in my sweater?

The shots of the other schools are here.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

SDP's Let's Talk

At the Ubud Writers' Festival, at a forum on Internet connectivity and freedom of speech, I polled the audience on whether I should agree to a web interview with SDP. (That's Singapore Democratic Party, an opposition party in Singapore, for those of you from abroad.)

Surprisingly, given that it's a human rights event, half the audience members said yes and the others said no. (Those who said no said they were scared I'd never get a government grant again.)

Anyway, I'd kind of made the decision already: the only good reason to say no would be that I was afraid. And the only way to change society is to live without fear.

But I'm talking out of my arse a little. The truth is, I hate listening to myself on recordings so much that I can't watch this clip. So I don't know what bits of the interview got selected.

Ooh, fun fact: the interview itself took place on my birthday last year, 25 November. The interviewer and the director, Chan Tee Lick and Seelan Palay, are both born on the same day. What're the odds?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Desert, garden, farm

Here's an abandoned extract from an essay I was working on for the Shifting Boundaries essay anthology. (It's abandoned because I decided to take the focus away from this portion of the essay, not because I didn't finish the essay itself.)

...But hold on. Am I seriously being nostalgic for a golden era when there was less art in Singapore? Would I actually advocate a cutback on festival funding? Is this panic simply a quarter-life crisis – a realisation that I’m not hip enough to keep up with the entirety of the scene at the sort-of-tender age of 29?

I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s healthy to step back and take stock of where we are in the midst of progress. And it is imperative to remember that we have made progress. This surfeit of arts and design events means we can definitively retire that old cliché about Singapore being a “cultural desert” (and yes, it is extremely extremely old: the first use of the term I can find dates from a 1964 essay by art critic Ho Ho Ying ). (1)

There’s also some evidence that Singapore’s more than the government-micromanaged “bonsai garden” described by Kwok Kian Woon. (2) After all, a fair number of the festivals on the list are organised by groups quite unaffiliated from the government. The Necessary Stage does the M1 Fringe Festival, People Like Us organizes IndigNation, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan does the Singapore Hokkien Festival, while the local embassies of all of the developed nations on the planet seem to be throwing a film festival of some kind.

But if we’re no longer a desert or a bonsai garden, then what have we become? Definitely not the “rainforest” culture which Kwok claims is typical of Southeast Asia, holistic, sustainable and wild. Witness the sheer popularity of arts and culture at all economic levels in the Philippines or Bali. In contrast, MICA boasts of Singaporeans’ increasing interest in the arts, noting that two fifths of us have attended at least one cultural event within the last 12 months. (3)

What we’ve become, I think, is a farm. We are now bigger, and more intensely commercial, than a garden. We exist not only for the pleasure of the beholder, but for the sake of the harvest.

For many, it’s a financial harvest. The government knows that investment in the arts doesn’t just get indirect returns (cultural vibrancy attracts international talent, according to the gospel of Richard Florida), but also direct returns: over $6 billion in operating receipts, (4) not to mention the unseen returns from eating dinner before and drinks after. Indeed, the ‘00s have seen a previously indie scene replaced by a huge wave of commercial theatre and music performances, commercial local film productions and commercial art galleries and art fairs. We are no longer simply part of an arts community, but also an arts industry.

Of course, not all of us are in it for the money. In fact, my metaphor’s inspired by a pretty cool, non-government affiliated collective named FARM that runs a non-profit networking web portal for artists and designers. Core members of the group lightheartedly refer to themselves as “farmers”, and their mission, originally stated on their site, is to “grow local creatives”. (5) Societies like this value art for its own sake, but are similarly driven by a belief that it must grow.

Gardens are maintained, but farms grow. Gardens are sites of leisure, but farms are factories of labour. The hegemonic narrative of Singapore is one of development: fishing village to port, First World to Third World. And development, as we’re told, comes only through hard work.

I’m pretty infused with the agricultural mindset myself. In response to an essay I’d written about the state of Singapore literature, one online commenter noted how I kept resorting to organic images of “growing”, “planting”, “famine” – turns of phrase that the commenter found “a tinge bit biblical”. (6)

Which brings us back to the first question in this essay. Dare we consider the possibility that our years of plenty may soon come to an end?

(1) Ho Ho Ying, “The Current Art Scene in Singapore (1960’s)”, Critical Essays on Art, Singapore Art Museum, 1999, pp, 26-28. Reprinted in Liu Kang and Ho Ho Ying, Re-Connecting: Selected Writings on Singapore Art and Art Criticism, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore, 2005, pp. 64-67.
(2) Kwok Kian-Woon, “The Bonsai and the Rainforest: Reflections on Culture and Cultural Policy in Singapore”, Ask Not: The Necessary Stage in Singapore Theatre, Tan Chong Kee and Tisa Ng (eds), pp. 1-25.
(3) Singapore Cultural Statistics 2004-2008: In Brief, Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, National Arts Council, National Heritage Board, National Arts Council and National Library Board, Singapore, 2009.
(4) Ibid.
(5) "I Am a Farmer", Five Foot Way, 22 July 2007.
(6) Ng Yi-Sheng, "Singapore, the City of Poets", Eric Forbes's Blog, January 28 2010.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

If you get what this ad is about...

... then you've got a pretty dirty mind. Like me. :)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Texts January 2010

Watched The SMU Arts Festival poetry slam today! I am pleased to announce that new blood is a-comin'.

Tan Jing Quee’s “Love’s Travelogue”
+Jeffrey Yang’s “An Aquarium”
+“The Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets”, ed. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

+Muriel Paskin Carrison and Kong Chhean The Venerable’s “Cambodian Folk Stories from the Gatiloke”
+Chuck Palahniuk’s “Snuff”

+Erwin Riess’s “Hawking’s Dream”
=Aimé Césaire’s “A Tempest”

+Vann Nath’s “A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21”
=Farish Noor’s “What Your Teacher Didn’t Tell You”
=S. Varathan and S. Hamid’s “The Development of Tamil Drama in Singapore”

=The Necessary Stage's "_______ Can Change"
+Albert Tiong's "The Passing"
+Teater Ekamatra's "Bilik Ahmad Berdaki"
=Trafik's "Destination Trafik: Deer"

=Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture's "Measurements in Khmer Society"
The Institute of Critical Zoologists' "A Guide to the Common Flora and Fauna of the World"
+Htein Lin's "The Scale of Justice"
+Jonathan Kambouris's "Last Meals"
+Philip Toledano's "America: The Gift Shop"
+8QSAM's "Classic Contemporary"

+Oun Batham's "Gangsters"
+Khmer Film Khmer Generation's "Twin Diamonds"
+Mike Eschmann's "Achtung, fertig, Charlie!"