Infinite Space

May 22, 2014



When I’m flying, one of my favourite things to do is to read the in-flight shopping perfume ads. Perfume is a tough sell in print–I always imagine it’s some poor, drunk copywriter sitting in a dark, smoky, unkempt room who can’t get work doing anything else (his small poetry compilation did poorly) who has to write them. His phone will ring he’ll pick it up, some bored intern from the perfume conglomerate will read out a list of ingredients and he’ll hack out some hyperbolic description on a rusty old typewriter while he chugs a bottle of warm whiskey with a cigarette butt inside.

Something like:

Top notes of gentle jasmine mingle playfully with a smoky woody base of burnt oak and umber. A rush of citrus and watermelon follow through, reminding you of summer days of leisure and fun with your friends and family. Truly, a scent for the season that will bring out the active, dynamic side of the modern woman.

I didn’t really expect to come across hyperbole on something as banal as the HDB description for a 3-room flat, though:

Infinite Space

Really, HDB? “infinite space”?

Maybe if by “clever touches”, you mean “become a Time Lord” and renovate your little HDB flat such that it’s internal spacetime exists on a separate dimensionality from the rest of the universe. I suspect even Phua Chu Kang, best in Singapore and even JB might find that a difficult job.

Clever touches don’t need to extend to your wardrobe

Only Connect- Series 9 – Episode 4:

She can’t see and still she got more correct answers than me.

Curry Trees

May 2, 2014

I had no idea there were actual Curry Trees, the leaves of which are (sometimes) used in making curry.

Midnight’s Children

April 30, 2014

I finally finished Midnight’s Children! It was so long and tedious I actually feel accomplishment for having done it.

But now that I’ve finished it, I can’t even tell if I liked it or not. I hated the narrator and the style narration. I loathed it. And I think that was what Rushdie intended. I suppose it deserves its Booker Prize–even if you hate this book, I think you’ll see that you were meant to have hated it–its unlikeability stems not from being a poor piece of work, but being true to its subject matter. Even its rushed letdown of an ending seems oddly appropriate, since by that time you already know that Saleem can’t tell a story about visiting the toilet without hamming it up with a thousand other details.

I do regret not reading this before visiting India–I think it perfectly describes my ambivalence to the country. Also for the little bits of history sprinkled throughout that reading Wikipedia doesn’t quite convery.



March 9, 2014

Little misadventure last week. I was scheduled to fly from KL back to Singapore late on the 6th, last Thursday. I’d booked the last available flight so that I could do as much work as possible on the day itself, but I ended up just looking at logs and trying to provide reasons for systems not working that I don’t understand. That’s been happening a lot lately, and I’m getting rather sick of it, but that’s a story for another day.

In any case, the long-and-short of it is that I missed my flight. The taxi pulled up at the airport 40 minutes before departure, and by the time I’d found the check-in counter it was empty, with only a “CLOSED” sign to let me know anyone had ever been there.

Thankfully, KL’s LCCT airport isn’t quite as horrible as I’d imagined. I managed to buy my tickets for a flight back on the very next day at 6AM within 30 minutes with AirAsia (my original booking was with Tiger), and the bulk of the delay was in getting cash from the ATM. The airport was bustling with people, and there were still some retail shops open, even though they weren’t selling anything I’d be interested in.

I considered my options: spend money sleeping at the airport hotel (surprise! there was one), hug my luggage the entire night while grabbing what sleep I could in the lounge, or travelling back to Petaling Jaya where the company apartment was, only to return in another 6 hours. I decided for the hotel–risking airport pickpockets and KL traffic seemed like hassles I didn’t want to deal with at that point.

The worst part about LCCT is that the only hotel, a Malaysian budget chain “Tune” was 500m away. Some more adventurous travellers walked with their luggage, but not having had dinner that night I didn’t have the energy for it. Thankfully, there was a transit bus. I found a queue and asked a middle aged chinese couple in their forties if it was for the hotel bus. She smiled, nodded at me, then turned to her partner and linked her arm in his. After the stress of the evening, her smile comforted me. I suppose might be why I paid them extra attention that night. It struck me that they had no luggage on them, unlike the rest of us in the queue.

There was a pretty good mix of people at the hotel–some like me who’d missed their flights, some who needed a place to rest for a couple of hours while waiting for to fly somewhere else. The poor reception desk was swamped with a line of irritated, tired people

The couple I’d queued behind were in front of me at reception too. Only he booked the room, though. She sat quietly at the far side of the lobby, on a white faux-leather lounge sofa just looking on serenely. He spent quite a long time questioning the hotel reception about the costs of various services (the hotel charged for towels and even air-conditioning), so I think the money must have mattered to him. I couldn’t tell if he was Singaporean or Malaysian from his accent; he sounded better educated than a typical kopitiam uncle, though not overtly ang-mo-pai, and had the manner of a man trying to be casual in an unfamiliar situation.

She had on a sleeve-less black dress, which revealed arms with a little more fat than was fashionable, and her hair was a simple shoulder-length affair, but she still looked oddly elegant–almost detached from the roomful of irritated, tired room-seekers. Perhaps it was her posture–it was excellent. She looked relaxed, trusting that he would be able to take care of things, although the other line moved quickly on as he checked and calculated prices. He finally finished his booking, and as I took his place to make mine, I noticed out the corner of my eye how they communicated, silently. He turned to give her a slight nod–all the signal she needed to join his side at the elevator. They held hands.

Despite spending the money for it, I hardly slept that night, having recently become addicted to Knights of Pen and Paper. I finally crashed at 1:30AM, only to wake at 4AM to stumble, bleary-eyed, to the airport.

It turns out they were on the same flight I was on back to Singapore–I caught a glimpse of them at the check-in, and again at the waiting area, just sitting together, holding hands without talking. We landed safely in Singapore, and the last I saw of them they were walking down the corridor after clearing immigration, ignoring the duty-free and the luggage carousels. There was nothing they wanted to buy, they had no baggage. She had nothing but a little handbag; The only thing in his hand was hers.

I’m not sure why they had to take an impromptu trip to Singapore, what their relationship was, or why they had to stay at a dingy airport hotel. I don’t think I it was a planned vacation, at any rate, or at least it was one which didn’t allow very much time. Maybe it’s just all the Sherlock and Elementary I’ve been watching, which makes me think I can deduce something about two strangers from the little I saw.

But I think I know enough to recognize what doesn’t need words to explain. I think I saw love.

And I hope when I’m forty someone will still want to hold my hand.

Syonan Jinja

January 6, 2014

So I’ve been doing some research trying to find some interesting trekking sites in Singapore. One of the less mainstream walks seems to involve finding the derelict Shinto Shrine which was built in 1942 following Singapore’s fall to the Japanese.

Now, quite a few people have visited and blogged about it, but I just thought this particular resource was a little funny: it’s from a blog for a luxury condo developer, selling the “Thomson Three” at Bright Hill:

Infested by various snakes, scorpions, spiders and mosquitoes, superstitious trekkers who lose their way in search of the Syonan Jinja would blame it on the haunting of the Japanese spirits who protect the Jinja its treasures from intruders.

Because that’s what every potential luxury condo investor is looking for–proximity to ancient ghosts guarding war loot.

Ipoh 2013

December 30, 2013

Spent 2 days in Ipoh with HS and her friend.

There was plenty to eat, but precious little to see. We went to the mildly-interesting train station and city hall, but not any of the caves or temples. I’m given to think they would have been only mildly-interesting as well. The nightlife was, as far as I could tell, non-existent.

I’m not entirely certain if it’s Ipoh’s fault for being boring, or if I just had a guide who was somewhat lazy and ill. To be fair, he was a local and the problem with asking locals about interesting things to see is always a tricky business. After all, it’s difficult to gauge how interesting something you’ve grown up taking for granted is. Also, I was a bit of a third leg, so my views on Ipoh may have been somewhat coloured.


Still, HS and I weren’t supposed to be there for the sights anyway–it was meant to be a working trip, after all. We didn’t get much done, though–well, not the work we set out to complete, anyway. We did get our hair done and put on a couple of pounds.

Overall not one of the most productive or enjoyable trips I’ve taken, but at least it didn’t cost much.

Expenditure Review – 2013

December 30, 2013

Decided to take stock of the year in terms of my finances, after getting a bit of a shock looking at the bottom line. I spent quite a bit this year. Inflow did not match outflow.

Biggest sinkholes were: cash spending (meaning day-to-day food, taxi fare and petty cash), travel and rent.

I can’t believe I spent that much on travel. Only made 3 lousy trips this year to Cambodia, US and a couple of R&R days in Hong Kong / China / Malaysia.

2013 Expenditure by Category

2013 has not been a good year for my bank account. Hopefully 2014 will be better. I can’t believe my new year’s resolutions are going to be:

  • Move in with parents
  • Travel less

It’s like I’m regressing to when I just started working and had to struggle to make rent. Sigh.

From ChannelNewsAsia – Scores of foreign workers skip Little India

Some of his peers chose to watch cricket while others took the time to get fit at the gym, or engaged in leisurely pursuits at their dormitories.

That’s right–despite working gruelling hours at construction sites doing manual labour, our migrant workers are still spending their spare time GOING TO THE GYM. It’s not enough, lifting heavy things during their day jobs.

*I* skipped gym last weekend because it was raining and so the air conditioning in the gym would be uncomfortably cold.

I am ashamed.


Singapore Riots

December 12, 2013

The Little India riots have left Singapore’s media, traditional and new, in a flutter. The causes prescribed are varied and far ranging, and seem to depend largely on the agendas of the analysts. The xenophobes blame it on poor integration and the large number of immigrants; the liberals blame unhappiness wrought by poor living conditions and employer abuse; the government insists it’s an isolated incident fuelled by alcohol; the anti-PAP-groups insist it was due to the lateness of our civil services, which as usual are evident of our terrible leadership.

Who to believe? Perhaps they’re all correct. After all, the xenophobes and liberals are both arguing opposite sides of the same coin and alcohol definitely played a role. As for the anti-PAP comments–those hold true for any event in Singapore for those who can’t stand the PAP.

I suppose what’s important is what comes next and what actions are to be taken. And something has to be done–after all, if Singapore has any “natural” resources to speak of, it’s the peace and stability of our little island, and a forty-year record has died together with poor Mr Sakthivel Kumaravelu.

In a bid to boost Singaporeans’ and investors’ faith in the continued placid continuity of Singapore’s safety and prosperity, there has been no small PR effort, with ministers of all stripes reassuring everyone that it’s business-as-usual.

In an odd little bit of news, the heroism of our boys in blue has also been highlighted by DPM Teo:

“We knew we were going into a very hot situation, and were mentally prepared.

Our troopers had encountered real-life situations dealing with unruly and violent groups, but not on this scale. We had faced such situations in training and this prepared us to deal with this situation. We had some young troopers, including NSFs, among us who had recently graduated from their course, and we were pleased to see that they carried out their duties well.”

It’s prepared and unexciting, but exactly what I’d expect of a professional who makes his living wrestling with rioters rather than writers’ block. Maybe in a couple of years, when things have settled down enough someone can write something with a bit more (literary) blood. Perhaps with a tongue-in-cheek title, like “300: Singaporean Warriors”.