Saturday, June 05, 2004

June went off with a suitcase and a couple of large plastic bags. In her best ah soh outfit complete with a humongous fanny pack to keep her change in, she headed for the flea market in one of the void decks in Sembawang to sell off the junk we have lying around but have never used. She even thought of selling off some of her rock paintings but being too busy this week, her attempt at a PPG Blossom portrait is left incomplete. Oh well, maybe next time Sembawang Town Council has another flea market then.

Some stuff she packaged together to be sold off as 'Father's Day' gifts, like the coffee brewing paraphenelia, and like the incense holder with incense sticks. Business wasn't exactly brisk but she still managed to sell off, count 'em, four items! From the proceeds, she shelled out $5 to buy a throw rug for Belle and Momo to sharpen their claws on. Aren't they lucky? Knowing them though, the cats will ignore it like they do with every other toy we have purposely bought for them. They like to play with stuff they aren't supposed to touch instead, like interesting-looking pieces of garbage and Q-tip's bone-meal biscuits.

Me, I went crazy in the afternoon and bought 'NFS:Underground,' which is quite thrilling to play especially if you are the sort who has a driving licence but can't afford a car. Not at these super-inflated prices, anyway. My simulation personality is very different from the 'real' me, I notice. When I'm driving my sim car, I have the worst driving habits and the foulest mouth imaginable. The fact that regardless of my conscious control, my unconscious instinct is to drive straight towards oncoming traffic rather than avoid it doesn't help my disposition much. Instinct always wins, hence the mouth. In a real car, however, I am such an Ah Pek. If you want to get somewhere fast, please don't ask me to drive. Sim or real, the experience just isn't worth it.

Just watched Prisoner of Azkaban. So dark, so gritty, I swear, even the director's colour palatte has changed. The Dementors and their effect on their immediate environment literally take your breath away. They are so much of a nothingness that the damage they cause is terrifying. The kids have grown up and it's great that Columbus doesn't hide the fact. I liked the balance in the kids' costumes -- they were in their teen outfits as much as they were in their Hogwarts uniforms. As teens they display as much of their own personalities and tastes as often as they can, while their school uniforms are strictly for school.

PoA however, seems like it's missing a great battle to end with a satisfying punch. It's like the feeling I got at the end of The Empire Strikes Back: what, that's it? Credit goes to the movie because despite its length it doesn't feel draggy and you don't feel the passage of time. So, erm... yes, as contradctory as it sounds, PoA is exciting to watch moment-to-moment, but the build-up fails to reach epic proportions. No, it doesn't have to, but perhaps I'm just a jaded old cynic, already over-entertained to death. Even so, I've got 3 words for the movie industry: Bring it on!

Friday, June 04, 2004

I am having such a healthy holday. So far I haven't yet slept past 7am, I'm having a regular breakfast and am walking Q-tip to Yishun Park and back before I start my day. It's a routine now.

I'm aching all over at the moment because I've taken up a commitment of er... let's just call it rythmic exercise. It's so much more painful and harder, sweatier work than Monday nite bowling, which is truly chicken feed, and even more strenuous than the badminton session I had last week. Can feel muscles that I'd forgotten I had shrieking at their abuse, from my back to my upper thighs and even my left elbow, for some reason. Next week, I can imagine what kind of shape I'll be in what with the Monday morning staff hike to Bt Timah summit from MacRitchie Reservoir, Monday nite bowls, and Tuesday 'rythmic exercise' all over again. Oh, the pain, the pain!

Met June for dinner at this little bak kut teh place on River Valley Road, next to UE Square. Everytime we watch a performance at DBS Arts Centre, we try to eat there 'cos the BKT is nice and garlicky in a dark soup and lots of pepper. It's still not quite the standard of the one in what was once Hill Street Hawker Centre (now it's a wasteland), but it's close. Good thing June had some cash on her -- I forgot to use the ATM and I was carrying around a grand total of $2 in my wallet without realising it.

We shopped for Japanese snacks and candy at Meidi-Ya Supermarket at Liang Court. Discovered some tempting-looking Japanese eating places too. Perhaps next time we're in the neighbourhood, we'll give BKT a skip and try out some of the Japanese cuisine here instead. Any advice from anyone who knows this area?

We joined Cara and some of the Drama Club for 'The Magic Paintbrush' by Brian Seward. Anxious moments as Cara made a dramatic last second appearance (in her new car!) and 3 of our fellow audience members got so lost they only showed up just as the play was ending. We've arranged for them to join Hasif's group tomorrow to make up for their lostness. Note: DBS Auditorium (Shenton Way) is not the same as DBS Arts Centre (home of SRT). Taxi drivers don't know this. Next time you cab it to DBS Arts Centre, tell the cabbie to go to Robertson Walk. You won't get lost then.

Will try not to give too much of the story away as I don't want to spoil it for tomorrow's audience. It was highly enjoyable, family entertainment with themes both children and adults can identify with. Simple set (not quite to Brian's liking), and the use of black-light and regular puppetry, loveable characters who sing and dance, all make for a wonderful family fare, Saturday morning cartoon style. I thought my sister's kids will be quite captivated by the story, so I recommended it to her. Who knows, maybe they'll take me up on it. I'm sure they'll have a great time.

Nice surprise to see Serena playing Shrimp, the smaller Imperial Guard. She's got so much experience now and she seems to have carved out her niche in supporting roles quite nicely.

Oh yeah, and we bought Brian's book as well, and got him to sign it. Don't mind helping him out here and there. He's done so much for us. $12 (u. $14) for a good cause, stocks are limited!
Just a dream
a noble dream
Just a hope gone up in smoke
I hear that sound, that simple sound
It gives me hope
only to fall back to the ground
Chan, M. Opiume. 2004

Got complimentary tix to the above performance. Jumped at the chance 'cos I doubt I'll get another ticket to another Arts Fest event this year. Mary scored the tix for us and since she couldn't get hold of Jen Lim, Adrian came in her stead. As typical of Adrian, he was making his way towards Jubilee Hall when Mary called him this evening and redirected him to Victoria Theatre to meet us. Tell Adrian to meet at Far East plaza and he'll wait at Lucky Plaza for us.

The fact that Opiume is performed by a theatre company leads one to assume that the production is a theatrical-type show. It's a common misconception and we now stand corrected. Instead, it is a beautiful classical musical performance with theatrical production values thrown in to enhance its marketability. C Wong was a compelling storyteller, melancholically delivering her tale of the drug-related death of a friend as the framework of the main story. The main story was, hmm..., apparently set during the period of China's Opium War; and there isn't much to say about what went on because the setting of the story supersceded the story itself.

The performers had beautiful voices to go with the music, but there was little interaction between their characters and hardly any discernable motivation behind their movement. Walk here. Sing. Walk there. Sing. Cross paths. Sing. Sit down. Sing. Stand up. Sing. Die. erm... Yes, there was that problem of having a dead body onstage that could not be gotten rid of apart from a miraculous resurrection which did happen. Hee Hee.

As a theatrical production, it lacked pacing and high points and low points to sustain interest. It wasn't until I realized that it was the music that was the most important element that's when I began to enjoy it. When I decided to ignore the backdrop, the movement and the attempt to appreciate the lyrics I discovered a treat for the auditory sense, credit being to the T'ang Quartet. Too bad T'ang was placed as part of the background when the guys should have been fronting the production. Everything I was looking for, movement, mood, tone, pacing was in the music and it stayed there.

As with the above excerpt, Opiume is a noble dream in the fusion of the different elements of music and drama. Sadly, the balance heavily favoured the former over the latter, hence the dream went up in smoke. There were one or two occasions when the audience thought the production had ended but the hope fell back to the ground when the music picked up again and the performers launched into another song. If you're going for this production, be warned: go enjoy the music, ignore everything else -- it's just fancy packaging 'sall.

After the performance, Mary brought us to the cafe at her workplace and we split a seafood pizza (I covered my slices with Tabasco sauce like in the ad) and destroyed a peach pie with honey ice cream, and a mud pie amongst the four of us. Good way to round up the evening!

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Dim sum for breakfast with in-laws. Went to Fortunate Restaurant in Toa Payoh central as nostalgia set in for the Wongs. It was their favourite eating place way back when they were still living in the area. We were starving 'cos we woke up early thanks to Belle but Sis-in-law only came to collect us at 9:30. The food isn't bad, but the main attraction, shrimp cheong fun, took a long time to arrive. While we waited, we over-ordered as usual and made ourselves sick eating various pao, and other deep fried stuff. I think it was the deep fried shrimp heavily wrapped in some kind of vermicelli that finally killed me. Surfeit of oil, and then I had to help finish the cheong fun which finally arrived. OK, for dim sum it's not too bad, but just lay off the oily stuff and go for the steamed instead. A much better idea, and healthier too.

Dropped in at June's old place since we were already in the neighbourhood. They collected some leftover junk they want to sell at the flea market this weekend. Oh, the family doesn't live there anymore but the ownership of the place is still theirs. Likewise the junk. Perhaps more on the flea market in subsequent posts.

Spent the afternoon comatose on the floor of my living room. Don't know why I was so tired. Must be Belle's fault. I gotta blame someone!

Actually, we just got back from celebrating Halim's birthday. It was such a surprise for him, seeing all of us at dinner. He didn't expect Mrs Halim to get so many of his old colleagues together to wish him many happy returns. Me, June, Anthony, Wendy, Gerald, Kim, Weng, Luanne, Vince (by himself) and Luanne's sister, Charlene (by herself); all staff, ex-staff and spouses/dates. It was like the breakfast club extended. Nice to see everyone again. Finally got to see Alexandria a.k.a. Mrs Halim, who planned the whole thing. So, she is a real person after all! Good dinner with halal sharks fin soup, pineapple rice, lemon chicken, deep fried garoupa, garlic kai lan and butter prawns. And of course great conversation, gossip and insults hurled around the table, the subjects of which may or may not have been present.

And speaking of present (how convenient), we got him a set of Lipton infusion teas, in orange and chamomile flavours. It didn't look like much so we also threw in a pair of teacups and since Sis-in-law had just returned from LA with a great bunch of cookies in tow, we also put a couple of packaged Mrs Field's cookies in the box as well to round things out. It's great having a wife who can come up with these wonderful gift ideas. Me, the stingypoke, would just have said a box of teabags would do.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Vacation time can be boring, especially on days when you don't make it a point to meet people. There is time to sleep, but I woke up early again this morning. When Belle wants out of the room, she wants OUT! It's non-stop meowing and if there is still no response from either of us, she'll treat my stomach as a fashion model's runway. She's not shy about using her claws, and she's no lightweight either. Then you have to feed her breakfast.

Since I was up early, I went for breakfast with Q-tip then took her for a walk around Yishun Park again. Where else can we go, right? Q-tip is such a manipulative little girl. On long walks when June is with us, Q-tip will beg to be carried after a while, the manja queen. Today, with just me, she walked all the way. I even gave her the choice of taking a shorter route but she pulled on the leash and insisted we go the long way instead. Humbug!

I had to get a replacement for my MP3 player's earphones 'cos I carelessly left it on the sidetable on Sunday night and Momo chewed through the wire. It's quite useless now. MOMO! I'll never learn. Momo's chewed through an assortment of cell phone charger cables, the stereo's FM antennae and partially through my PC's mouse cable. One day she's going to get electrocuted. Why, oh why, do we still keep her around? Oh yeah, she's cute.

Earphone replacement is a cheap Sony Fontopia type which doesn't have the same quality as my original Creative one. I mean the sounds are clear and distinct but it sounds like it comes from far away. I'll live with it, I suppose. If you have cats, you can't have nice things.

Ever get the feeling your PC needed an upgrade, but there was no real justification to shell out good money for it? Went to Sim Lim Square to shop but for all the peripherals there were on offer, I could see that I was doing just fine without them. I'm not playing any of the new games that need a state-of-the-art Radeon or GeForce FX and my speakers are a cheap, good-enough set that will not make the most out of an Audigy 2. I don't need any more memory, 512Mb is enough for now. I'll just have to keep tabs on the shipping date for Doom III. Once that's out in the market, I'm sure I'll have an excuse to spend money again. *Waits in anticipation...

Spent the evening watching Chinese serial after Chinese serial. I can see how addictive they are. When your cable box supplies you with Channels 8, U, and another couple of subscription Chinese channels, you can't escape. Let's see, "Double Happiness I" (TCS 8); "Greed Mask" (from HK); "Witness for the Prosecution II" (also from HK); must have been at least 1 more though my memory fails me as to the title. Well, there really wasn't much to do this evening since we ate at home and it looked like it was going to rain.

Feeling a bit cooped up, though. I want a beach, sun and sand. I want a bicycle or a pair of in-lines. I know how Belle feels like: I want OUT too! But there is the one fatal flaw in the attainment of my desires -- too lazy. Maybe too much work too, now I think about it. Now I don't want to think about it. Sigh.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Did something that I've always wanted to do but never found the opportunity for. Connie rounded me, Yee, Cara and Annie up to have a dramatic storytelling session recorded at Xinmin Pri Sch. Yee and Cara got lost as usual, and having misinterpreted my directions was also par for the course for them. It didn't matter that they were late, anyway. The Xinmin staff were having some kind of meeting and we couldn't start recording until 10, although we arranged to meet at 9. Connie was nice and bought us breakfast while we waited.

It's fun to do 'voices' while reading a story. We read from a couple of kids' stories; one about a non-conformist little bunny and another about a curious little boy and the tooth fairy. We also read excerpts from 2 grown-up stories, "Tuesdays with Morrie" (Albom) and "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (Bach). Both stories very inspirational, also about non-conformist individuals -- the first about a withering college professor with the most positive attitude to dying, and the second a young seagull with a passion for life and for flight. If you haven't read them yet, please do so quickly. Bach also wrote "Feathers" which is just as thought provoking.

Xinmin has a cosy little studio for the recording of video and audio projects. Quite pro, with photo-shoot backdrop, lights, sound system and studio-standard video cameras. In the control space there is a video editing PC and a complicated-looking slider setup and a synthesizer keyboard. The things we could do with a studio like that! The whole thing is so new the operators are still at the flipping-through-the-manual stage for certain functions that they haven't tried out yet. We had to be patient while they got their act together, in the meantime we decided who would read what and rehearsed.

Knowing the complexity of voice-over recordings, I was prepared to stay the whole day recording and rerecording take after take. Surprisingly, we were done by 2:30 which shows either how excellent we were at reading, or how low our standards of acceptability were. I prefer to think it was the former. Ahem. We heard clips of the recording just to sample our readings and I think we sounded ok.

Next thing to do is to layer in sound FX and music to set the mood. We also might need an attractive CD jewel-case design and then the readings can be used in primary and secondary schools in English classes. What fun! Thankfully, we've done the most major part of the production and the rest is just a lot of tedious and exacting work which someone else will be doing. Yee is so addicted to this idea now, he's suggesting we do a recording of Roald Dahl's kids' stories as well. Now, that is ambitious, and could well be worth doing. We'll get around the copyright issue somehow!

Now then, who's up for Monday nite bowling?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Locked, loaded, ready for deployment! Posted by Hello

Day began unusually early for a Sunday morning, Friendship Sunday notwithstanding. Woke up before 6am. The sky outside our bedroom window was bright for some reason and I thought we were late for our appointment. Thankfully, we weren't.

We brought food for 3A2 who was on community service, road marshalling and timekeeping for the Kebun Baru 4.5 km run. Assorted buns and tetra-pack Milo and Ribena was all we could provide, I hope it was enough.

We parked ourselves at one of the stone tables in the void deck of blk 177 to look after bags and belongings and tried to eat some of the leftover buns for breakfast. It didn't seem right, though, just sitting there and eating while all around us the other participants were busy warming up for the run and engaging in different kinds of exercise. Somehow it felt like the "one of these things" game from Sesame Street. It didn't help when June scooted off to the market across the road and soon returned with a tau suan for herself and a tau huay for me. We really know how to spoil the market for all the health nuts around us. Oh, and the cops too, who had to set up their crime-prevention exhibition around us -- hey, if we left we would be in dereliction of our guard duty!

After the run, we took a group shot with the guest-of-honour, MP Inderjeet Singh. I suppose our mugs will appear in some community newsletter soon.

Hmm... sometimes I wonder if I don't give 3A2 enough independence. Whatever they're doing, I seem to be there too. Does it cramp their style? It's tough trying to figure out the limits of being responsible for one's charges and being too controlling. I could use an honest reply on this.

Fast forward to this evening.>> After dinner we went to Northpoint to pick up some Complete for my contact lenses. I love this stuff 'cos it's so trouble free and it matches the salinity of my eyes perfectly. No stinging, no clutching of eye sockets, no screaming "yaaaahhhh!!!!" while your eyes adjust to your CL solution. Just stick them in and go. Simple. Complete's got a free coffee mug for every 2 twin-pack you buy as its current promotion. It's the aluminum type, not porcelain, for keeping coffee warm and spill-resistant. So now I have a coffee mug I can be proud of when I use it in the Staff Lounge during my hot beverage breaks. Come to think of it, I've never had a hot beverage break in the Staff Lounge before. Couldn't bear the thought of borrowing someone else's mug to drink coffee out of. My caffine levels are going through the roof come next term! Heh heh!