Sunday, November 30, 2008

Even more music

I've heard Julian Bream perform John Dowland before (the joys of a regional Arts Centre in a provincial university) so Sting's Songs From the Labyrinth didn't really pique my interest. But then, it's Sting. Rock star plays lute and does Elizabethan ballads. So I caved in and bought it.

And it wasn't bad. I think I was subconsciously holding my breath with this rock superstar goes classical thing ever since Liverpool Oratorio (again, the education of the abovementioned Arts Centre) put me off Paul McCartney even though I like the Beatles like anyone else. Sting's tenor rather suits Elizabethan ballads. I guess he could have been a rock star four centuries ago too.

But I don't think I will cave in so easily to buy a ticket for his coming tour in early December (whaddaya know, Sting in Singapore twice in a year). $25 for a CD is one thing, $100-$500 for a concert ticket is something else. Even if I paid $350 x 2 for the Police reunion tour in February. And there's no Stewart Copeland this time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More music

This must the week that pigs finally flew. If The Cosmos Rocks was three years in the making, then it's nothing compared to Chinese Democracy -- which was on again, off again, and took 15 years.

The Guns 'n' Roses album was released this week, hot on the heels of the Queen album, and it's quite interesting to listen to one after the other. There's one rock group that carried on without a vocalist while the other is the vocalist carrying on without the rest of the band.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Long live the Queen

This album was a long time coming. In early August, I got wind on the Internet and in rock magazines that it was scheduled for a September release. It still wasn't out by the time I left the UK in mid-September although a copy of Mojo that I picked up then had already reviewed it. It should be out in the stores any day now.

Any day now dragged on till November. In between, everytime I walked past a record shop, I'd pop in to ask. I got a whole range of negative responses from salespeople ranging from the clueless (how can anyone who works in a music shop not know who Queen is) to the argumentative (who wanted to know how could Queen possibly have a new album when they have no lead singer).

Then last Thursday, one of my colleagues, also a Queen fan, said it had to be in the stores now because Amazon had finally started selling it. I happened to be going downtown that day, so I hit almost all the music shops in the shopping district. And got the same range of clueless answers from the salespeople.

And then I walked into Borders. And found it -- just the one copy buried among the old Queen stuff. You'd expect stacks of it to be piled high on the new releases shelf but no, there was just the one sole copy hidden away. Like they'd only brought in one copy because they weren't sure that it would sell.

I pounced on it like it was gold and when I went back to the office, waved it triumphantly at my colleague. He thinks I probably have the only copy in Singapore.

That was exactly a week ago. It should be properly in the stores now. Even if I'd ordered it from Amazon in the first instance, it would have arrived.

I only waited till now to blog about it because I was persuaded to write a review. I did it because someone suggested it; because there was no review filed for this week, the regular music guy being on reservist training; and it was one of those easy-peasy things that wrote itself in 10 minutes.

The practice is that inhouse reviewers don't get paid, even if they do it on top of their normal duties. The kickback is that they get to keep the review copy. However, this was moot to me since I already have my own copy. So I did it for fun, basically. But then somebody else took the fun out of it so I don't think I'll do this again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter is coming

I live one degree north of the equator but I can tell -- because the cranes are back. These elegant, tall, white long-legged birds winter here from North Asia and can usually be found in feeding in the large grassy fields outside the development where I live and watering at the monsoon canals.

They used to be a welcome seasonal sight but in the past years, have been regarded as potential bird flu carriers. Times have changed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hot seat

I was on the train to work yesterday when an elderly gentleman got on, just one station before where I was going to get off. By then, there were no more seats left. So I stood up and gave him my seat. Osteo-arthritis notwithstanding. This guy was clearly waaaay older than me.

He didn't want to take the seat initially, until I told him that I was getting off at the next stop anyway. And then he smiled one of those sweet smiles only old folks have and shuffled towards the seat.

By then, a kid about 10 years old was inching his way towards the vacated seat and about to set his bum down on it.

"Oi! I didn't give up my seat for you!"

He leapt up like the seat was hot.

One day, young punks will have osteo-arthritis too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's confirmed, I'm old

I've been a bit creaky here and there lately but didn't think much of it as I popped glucosamine. Last week, I had the odd feeling that sometimes my right knee downwards wasn't connected to the rest of my body. I'd turn but the lower leg wouldn't turn with me, giving my knee cap a sharp twinge.

The GP thought it could be wear and tear problems, given my age, but insisted that I take an X-ray, just to rule out that I didn't break anything. I couldn't have, I haven't fallen or anything.

So I had an X-ray done last week and popped back into the GP clinic today for the results.

"The good new is," he said, "you haven't broken anything."

"The bad news, hmmm," he hesitated.

So I filled in the blanks for him. "The bad news is that I'm an old lady, right?"

I have the beginning of bone spurs in the joint and am one step along the way to osteo-arthritis. You know, Old People Stuff.

I am now Officially Old.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Aint it the truth

I got this from my dog e-list yesterday with the subject: Some things are so beautiful, you HAVE to share them.
And so here it is.

I rescued a human today.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.

I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card, I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and my only desire is to make a difference in some loving human's life.

She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds to me. I shoved my shoulder and the side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I promised to keep her safe. I promised to always be by her side. I promised to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes everyday!

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Relatively speaking

It's a small world as they say, and on top of that, Singapore is a small country. Everybody knows everybody else, or at least knows of everybody else.

But never in my wildest dreams did I think that a friend of mine would turn out to be a distant relative.

I have known R since junior college and she also went on to the same university as I did. She now lives in London and we spent many happy hours together when L and I holidayed in London in August/September.

We had talked about our families and she had remarked that her mother's maiden surname is the same as L's, and that her name was remarkably similar to L's father's name. We never really thought much about it until this week, she found out from a conversation with her mother that her mother and my father-in-law are cousins.

Which makes her and L cousins first removed, I think. Is that how you count "removed" cousins?
And her furkids -- two lovely Maine Coons and an independent-spirited Bengal whom I fell instantly in love with when I finally was able to meet them a few months ago -- and mine would be cousins second removed. Queeni grew up with a kitten and so has cat-like habits and loves cats. Now, she's actually related to cats!

Hi Cuz! *waves*


One of the reasons why I didn't blog about my recent trip to Hanoi was that I came home to a rather surreal time because of a death in the family. The other reason was that I had to write about it, and also supply pictures that I had taken. Now that the article has been published, I can finally put here the pictures that weren't used and the text that had been cut. This blog has no advertisers and therefore, I don't have to be as judicious as the lifestyle editor.

Thirty years after the Viet Cong saw off the Americans, the Vietnamese are still reducing them -- albeit tourists -- to a quivering mass. Charlie has returned as the cyclo driver. The cyclo is pretty much like a trishaw, only the driver is behind the passenger -- which is good from Charlie's standpoint since the passenger gets hit first in the event of collision. Charlie's modus operandi pretty much consists of heading straight towards what seems to be oncoming traffic and challenging bus drivers to cut into his lane. The bus driver wins. They always do. It's the same everywhere.

That the Vietnamese love their motorbikes is obvious, not just by the sheer numbers on the road but also by the case of one (parked) bike spotted -- its seat was upholstered in that unmistakable LV logo and motif more commonly stamped on handbags. Bike by Louis Vitton.

Most retailers will accept US dollars, and conveniently so, especially in the company of fellow travellers who can read double entrendres in "How many dongs have you got on you?"

Vietnamese organisation is written on the walls. While most places have graffiti spray painted in free hand, Vietnamese graffiti is stenciled. These, I was told, are phone numbers for contractors. They come along, identify a unit that is likely to be refurbished, and leave their phone numbers so as to save the owner from looking up the number in the Yellow Pages.

This is a view of the city from a local coffeeshop that is four floors up on a rooftop. There is no visible frontage of the coffeeshop at street level. You walk in through an art gallery (apparently almost every Vietnamese owns a motorbike and paints in oils) down an alley way, into an open courtyard that looks like someone's house and up a winding staircase. The rooms that you pass on your way up really are part of someone's house. If the guide didn't lead us, we would have never found it. As it was, we were the only foreigners on the rooftop. No Starbucks would have a view like this, since passing pedestrian traffic is everything in their business plan. And in anycase, there was no Starbucks in Hanoi, despite its coffee culture. There are small mercies in developing countries.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Heir and heiress

Mother-in-law, in tying up father-in-law's estate matters, has instructed their family lawyer to give $500 each to Queeni and Rupert from the estate. It's not exactly a bequest but a gift.

So the lawyer calls L and demands to know: "Do you have two children that I'm not aware of?"

"Err, yes, I have two kids."

"What are their names? Can you spell it out?"

"Queeni. And Rupert."
Lawyer was obviously writing everything down.

"Boy or girl?"

"Queeni's the girl, Rupert's the boy."

"How old?"

"She's seven, he's two."

"Can I have their IC?"

"Err, you can have their licences."

And now, hot shot lawyer -- who has an ongoing trial at High Court -- is completely stumped and needs to consult his partners on how to give money to dogs.

Under Singapore law, pets are not considered entities (like corporations are, although I know more animals with heart than some corporations). Instead, pets are considered possessions and you cannot give or bequeath money to chattel. If you want to do something like that, you're usually advised to start a trust fund and name an executor, that sort of thing. I don't think we're going into all that for $500.

Still, that's probably a lot in dog money. Or bones. Or chewies.

My furkids are gazillionaires.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Going bananas for a purpose

Back to mundane everyday-living posts. The only reason why I bought a bunch when grocery shopping the other day was so that I could use the new lacquer plate I got from Vietnam.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Friends in high places

A friend of mine emailed me to say that the wife of the new president of the Maldives is someone we knew at university.

The University of Warwick has a reputation for being a hot spot for student activism. Which is one of the reasons why it changed its mind about opening a campus in Singapore.

But I never imagined that my friend's former housemate would turn out to be the First Lady of the Maldives.

She is in illustrious company -- another housemate, a Jordanian, married into the royal family and is now a princess.

I feel like I've achieved nothing with my life!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Life is transient

I left for Hanoi on Monday. Sometime late Sunday night if not Monday morning, my father-in-law died in his sleep.

I came home on Thursday. My father-in-law was already cremated.

And all this while, L never wanted to tell me, didn't want me to cut short my trip. He even told my mother and our friends not to tell me. But then I got one rather odd text message late on Monday by the time I finally turned on my cellphone. L was uncontactable all day, so I called a friend. And that was how I found out.

Everyone, even my mother-in-law, said not to cut short the trip, seeing that it was already a short one. L didn't see the point of my getting off the plane only to turn round and get back on it.

So I went through the motions of Hanoi.

It was a weird trip. When I left home, this old guy was doing his own thing. A few days later when I got home, there was nothing left of his existence on earth. It was like he had never been, especially as I don't see him often. Life is odd.