Saturday, March 01, 2008

It's our society's own fault that people put off having kids till "later". Biologically, we are quite capable of reproducing in our teenage years, but society tells us that we aren't ready then. We're not (psychologically) mature enough, not financially secure enough, not socially stratified enough to bring a new life into the world, and we believe it. In fact, so many of us believe it so strongly that we still believe it well past our 40s when the peak our our hill looms just an Ollie away. We're not ready, we haven't got the money, we still have dreams we want to pursue that will presumably get us out of this social rut we're in before Baby ("Wah! Wah!", not "ooh, baby...!") ties us down irrevocably, once and for all.

It's society's rules that we have to get an education, get a job, get a mortgage, get insurance, pay taxes and do our part as a consumer of resources before we're considered responsible enough to bring forth offspring. If we strictly follow these rules, we'll never get to spawn at all as we'll never have enough personal security to know when we have met the prerequisites.

No wonder teens act up the way they do. They are physically mature but society keeps them immature with a brick wall comprising rules, norms and expectations that stands in their path. The collision is seldom pretty. Teens wonder why their parents/teachers/authority figures are so stupid; their parents et al, wonder what past sins they are being punished for. What a mess.

Which is why Juno is such a fortunate pregnant teen. Her friends and family take her shocking news with stoic resignation, then put their full support behind her decision to carry her baby to term. Instead of seeing the situation as the end of the world, they see more excitement in the potential for new life.

Despite the mistake she has made with her social timing, Juno is never alone in her predicament, nor made to feel guilty about keeping her baby even though she is still attending school. While she still gets stares from strangers and schoolmates who make fun of her, the people that matter to her continue to shower her with love and encouragement, making her burden just that little easier to bear.

Teenage pregnancy is no laughing matter, no matter the light treatment the movie gives it. Prevention is still better than cure, but if regardless of our best efforts as caregivers and it happens, it would be wonderful if the family just deals with the situation instead of making it worse through blame and recrimination.

Ultimately, it's Juno's courage, her commitment to do the right thing, her strength of character and her intelligence that salvages a bad situation and make it work for the greater good. Juno's a lovely character and a totally watchable movie if just a touch idealistic.
It's Chinese Drama Night on campus again. Tonight's performance of the White Cloud Gang was for the first time a feature-length production rather than the usual double or triple bill.

The plot involves a cursed Chinese hairpin imbued with unholy power by a vengeful butterfly spirit bent on bringing down a dynastic kingdom over the emperor's indiscretions with her. The curse is so potent and so transcendant across time and space that disaster befalls the present-day family and friends of a teenaged girl who happens to find the ancient hairpin while on a camping trip.

It really is thanks to Amy that I've got the plot figured out this far. With the absence of in-house subtitles, Amy kept a running translation of dialogue and situation for me so I wouldn't feel too far behind.

A couple of observations: performers seemed very anxious to leave the stage -- before the scene has had time to build, it was over as there was no one left onstage to engage the situation. As a result, the occurrences and encounters offstage often appeared more interesting than what was happening onstage. Too bad all the characters tended to be so conflict averse. Lots of spicy details could have come out if the characters had interacted with one another more, but everyone was just too much in a hurry to leave in a huff instead.

Also, too many unnecessary scene changes in long blackouts. There were fewer and faster blackouts this year, but still... The kids who write these scripts tend to write as though they are producing TV drama in which a quick cut can warp time and space in an instantl. This convention does not work for theatre with a 'live' audience, obviously.

Wonder what people are going to think of our Eunuch Admiral play in April? Chances are, the audience will be just as confused.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Baggy's leaving on a two year vacation, following her hubby's latest job posting. Her bags are packed and she's almost ready to go live the life of a Sydneysider taitai (lady of leisure).

Boss ladies, Cynth, Jo and Amy sponsored the Bon Voyage cake to conclude our department meeting (left).

Now that Baggy's gone, I believe I'm the last one left of the staff that fell off the turnip truck arrived on campus that January of 2000, so long ago. So many have left already, and I am aware that there will be more to follow. The pond is starting to look emptier and emptier. It's occasions like these that remind me that this is a workplace after all.

Still, amongst friends, a small group of us -- who could spare the time -- took Baggy out for a farewell chix rice lunch. Even Vays dropped back in from maternity to join us.

The pix (left) was supposed to be the beginning of a longer series of farewell lunch pix, but I was thinking of my stomach first as usual, and carelessly left my cam in M2 while we ate. Duh.

Oh, well. Bye, bye, Baggy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Got family in England riding out the big quake. The following is a mass email from our Mancurian colony, basically telling family here that everyone's still ok, not to worry:

"I thought you would like to know that it lasted for awhile, was 5.2 on the Richter scale and it felt like there was an elephant under the bed. I thought the cats were having a fight on the bed and almost shouted at them until Dan said it was probably an earthquake. The house then spent the next half an hour settling down, with much creaking and groaning of pipes. The in-laws, who were pretty much near the epicentre of the quake slept through the thing... I ask you? Poppy is convinced that the trampoline has walked off the patio onto the surrounding gravel...hmmm. Ok. end of excitement. Now I need some sleep."

Good idea.

Meantime, despite the number of nasty shocks Indonesia's had in the last few weeks and predictions of the "big one" yet to come, CalTech quake expert, Prof K Sieh, assures us that 'tectonically, Singapore's possibly one of the safest places on Earth.'

Good to know.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Matters of the heart are clear-cut and simple for the S'pore male, if what we read in the Sunday Times is true. How does a S'pore guy know when a S'pore gal likes him? He gets the privilege of paying for her meals, opening her doors, and carrying her handbags and shopping bags. If he's really lucky, he even gets to see where she lives when he deposits her at her front door after being entertaining, charming and generous with her during their romantic date.

It's also equally clear that when S'pore gal goes out of her way to make S'pore guy feel special, to cater to what the guy really wants without him having to work too hard for it, and even allow him to entertain the illusion that he might actually be interesting, witty and desirable, the warning bells of our more aware males clang with the intensity of a paranoiac Peter Parker's spider sense. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Beware the "honey trap", set by the real girlfriend, baited by a fraud.

Whether the guy passes the "honey trap" test or not, the result is pretty much the same. The relationship has come to an end. If the sting is successful, she gains sufficient evidence to prove that the split was not her idea. If unsuccessful, it's still a clear signal to him that she doesn't want him to carry her stuff, open her doors and drop her off at home any more. Think of it as the ultimate going-away pressie: after he has spent so much on the dating, it's only fair that she spends an equivalent amount on the break-up.

It's unsurprising then that good ol' boy, Edison Chen, wants to quit showbiz in HK. It'll be so much more lucrative conducting dating motivational workshops for the hapless S'pore male. :P

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Propaganda doesn't look like propaganda if you present it as a hilarious satire. In the DS Dollies' History of S'pore, few sacred cows survive intact by the end of the show. Every S'porean's pet peeves get some air time -- en bloc woes, personal taxation, parking enforcement, neighbourly relations, even the issue of ministers' salaries, all dressed in an amazing variety of colourful costumes, set to catchy beats and slick dance numbers, and slain upon the altar of uproarious, raunchy comedy.

The DS Dollies themselves are wonderfully energetic and versatile with their characters. With quick-change costumes and accents, they play a roughly chronogical series of vignettes involving a multitude of our favourite historical working-class stereotypes (and the occasional world leader). From pirates of the high seas, to the women entrepreneurs of the leisure and entertainment industry, to the samsui women, to the colour-blind kampong aunties, we get the sense that our current concerns are nothing new. Like we do today, our predecessors too could have faced rising costs, unsympathetic public officials, unequal income distribution between the leadership in comparison with everyone else.

As the sacred cows fall one by one, oddly enough we discover that it isn't unpatriotic to air our worries in public, or to laugh and poke fun at ourselves and our foibles. By the end of the show, we audience members are singing along with the Dollies' renditions of national songs, many of us waving our national flags (they handed each of us one during the interval) in time with the music. Despite our grouses about life in S'pore, we are still proud to be S'poreans.

But most of all, we're proud that even growing up in "straitlaced" S'pore, there's still enough homegrown talent to create the music, dance and comedy that make the DS Dollies franchise such a success.