Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ready for Chinese New Year

The house has been spring cleaned -- everything horizontal and capable of gathering dust has been wiped down, the floors vacuumed and mopped, the curtains and sofa covers changed, the dogs bathed and the fridge stuffed with fish, prawns and tons of veggies for the Reunion Dinner.

Time for a nice cup of tea with the season's first pineapple tart, a home-baked gift from the Malay neighbour down the corridor. Stands to reason that only in Singapore would my must-have Chinese New Year classic come from a Malay neighbour.

The pix is for the benefit of R (evil grin) -- you gotta appreciate the artistry of this tart. Not the usual filling slapped on a round of pastry thing, but it's made to look like a little lotus flower (artfully arranged by a tea cup with a lotus motif), with the petals holding the filling in place. Almost too pretty to eat, but quite delicious, really.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

There's always space for one more

One of my friends has switched to an e-reader because her bookshelves were overflowing. That came to mind after I finished the new-ish Discworld romp (not technically new because I waited a year for the paperback edition so that it could match the other Terry Prachett paperbacks on my shelf) and tried to find a space for it.

So yes, I can understand why people switch to e-books. But no, I don't think I will anytime soon. It's not just missing the old school feeling of turning an actual page. An e-book doesn't give me the satisfaction of putting it away on a shelf of "matching" books, and the delight of adding yet another book to an overcrowded shelf. I suppose it has something to do with hoarding. You get this delicious feeling of having expanded the collection that grew slowly over the years, one book a year (or however fast Prachett is writing -- long may he live).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ain't that the truth

Seems to me the world would have been a better place had we spent all the money on eradicating this WMD than the non-existent ones in Iraq.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

He's back, all is forgiven

I got tickets to Melvyn Tan's recital without even knowing what he was going to play. But I figured that one couldn't go wrong with his repertoire of Beethoven, Mozart and Debussy. Turns out the programme was heavy on Chopin -- possibly a hangover of the bicentennial last year -- but that's OK too.

I figured that if an ex-Singaporean took such pains and so long to finally stage a concert here, then the least I can do is to go to it. Tan was the Singapore-born emigre who stirred up public controversy when he returned five few years ago and was hauled up for evading national service (two years of military service compulsory for all male citizens). Tan had left the country at a young age and never returned to serve NS. When he did come back -- to see an ageing mother -- he was above 40 and no longer eligible for NS. More importantly, he had given up his citizenship in 1978. Still, he got the book thrown at him and was fined. It was a tremendous media circus, which gave rise to some rather voiceful public opinions. Most people (at least, those who told the media so) felt he deserved the fine. Some pointed out there's also a jail term for evading NS. A letter to the press opined that there is no justification at all for NS absconders to be allowed to return at all. I suppose that last person wasn't at the concert last night. I personally think it was a huge case of the Singaporean dog in a manger ethos -- as I have suffered (2 years of NS), so must everybody else.

Now back for his first public performance (there was a private one last year) in the land of his birth, Tan was lauded as a son of Singapore, with a comment in the programme notes going as far as saying that he is "without a doubt the best pianist that Singapore has ever produced". Which is only accurate in as far as he was produced, ie born, in Singapore. But what did Singapore have to do with his success as a concert pianist?
Aside from his first piano teacher in his childhood -- and we all had one of those -- he probably owes his success to his parents who had the foresight to recognise his potential as a pianist, the gumption to acknowledge that he could make a living from the arts (especially 20 years ago), and -- more importantly -- the means to send him overseas for training.

There were more young children than usual in the concert hall. And there were a good many students in school uniform, it was a school day after all. Probably piano students, all. Which probably also means there must have been quite a few piano teachers in the audience too. I wonder what mine would have made of Tan's posture. He slouched between movements, hunched as he played, his spine curving more and more as he progressed through the piece until he ended it, nose almost at the keyboard. The piano teacher I had as a child used to stand behind me, and knee me in the small of my back to make me sit up straight.

But oh, the recital was wonderful. Lyrical, technical mastery. He gave three encores to a standing ovation from almost the entire hall, which even THE Berlin Phil didn't get. The second encore was a finger exercise (Czerny? Scarlatti?) that I remember having to hammer out endlessly. I never would have thought that it could make a recital piece, and such a sweet, charming one too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Paving a path to heaven

The grass in the field next to the train station is a bit patchy, which was why it got water-logged during the recent monsoon rains. As soon as the sun came out and the mud dried a bit, the works department labourers came and planted more grass in the bald areas, and used some stones and rocks to level up water-logged bits.

And that was when I realised that one of the stones wasn't just a stone. It was a headstone. For (as far as I can make out) Lea Caron Langdon who died in May 1961, aged 7 months.

There's got to be a Singaporean epithet in this. Such as one of those homilies that the labour movement keeps espousing about reinventing oneself, relearning a new skill set so as to find re-employment, etc. Guess finding new work in a new sector doesn't just apply to laid off workers but also to headstones of exhumed graves.

RIP, Baby Langdon.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Short and sweet

Every now and then comes a book so brilliant yet so simple that you could have written it yourself. If only you thought of doing it first. Which is why it's so galling that the writers who beat you two it are two 19-year-old students.

Twitteratureis great literature as told on Twitter. Beat's Cole's Notes.

Emma -- The only way to take care of Knightley is to marry him.

Pride & Prejudice -- I suppose I love Darcy now, after all this.

Wuthering Heights -- Catherine has married the twattling tool across the street.

King Lear -- Nix that. Cordelia dead.

Medea -- Jason very unhappy I murdered the children.

Oedipus -- MILF

Romeo & Juliet -- @Montague, @Capulet: Can't we all just get along?

The Picture of Dorian Gray -- Oops. Grew old all at once.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- You think if you cut off someone's head, he'll die, but not in Camelot.

Lady Chatterley's Lover -- I'm def preggers with his baby.

The Tempest (the last bit) -- STAGE DIVE!!! Catch me, please?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Picture this

Went through some text-heavy tomes over Christmas (Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion -- both excellent) so decided to do some light reading over the New Year instead.

There's something delightful about picture books -- whether they're children's books or history of art books -- that can captivate you for hours. And I even had a theme -- I found in the library two picture books on dogs. One's a children's book on a confused dopey dog who wonders if he's a black dog with white spots or a white dog with black spots; the other an art book tracing artwork of dogs through the ages.

So New Year was spent leafing through pictures of dogs, and it's even more satisfying doing so in the company of two sleeping dogs snuggled up. I can't think of a better way to start the year.

Happy 2011 everyone.