Archive for August, 2006

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Blog Review: Angry Doctor

August 29, 2006

This Angry Doctor has got me all riled up. Nothing makes me more horny than a smart, sassy, intelligent person with a medical degree. I don’t agree with everything he says, of course, but he does furnish insightful comment on prevailing medical policies in Singapore. And god knows we need more discussion, not less. In addition, the Angry Doctor sometimes gives offbeat, Ally-McBealesque commentary on the medical profession. And shows you medicine with a human face. Which is why hospital dramas are so exciting right? We want to know that the people who have the power of life and death, the ability to cure us or kill us, are only human, and like the rest of us mortals may sometimes make mistakes, sometimes with not-so-nice consequences.

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Poem: First Memory

August 28, 2006

First Memory

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was—
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

Louise Glück

When I was young I loved the Transformers (TM). I would beg my parents to let me watch the cartoon every Saturday, and endlessly heckle them to purchase the Optimus Prime toy for me. My mom always wanted to let me what I have. My father, on the other hand, is the emblem of Asian Conservative Values (whatever those might be. Here’s looking at you, LKY!), and he knows the meaning of the word bargain. He never let me do anything unless it was good for me (read: him).

So the hoops I had to jump through to get that Optimus Prime were amazing and neverending. As soon as I completed one task, another set of instructions would issue forth from his lips. A Sisyphean, Kafkaesque nightmare. Finish your Chinese homework. Score at least 95% in your next Maths test. Go for your piano lessons. The list was endless.

Till one day, I knew I had him trumped. Being the adorable boy that I was (yeah right, I was a fat hideous kid who could spell his ass off), I was asked to perform the duties of the pageboy for the marriage of one of the members of the church. I agreed, sweetly. Yes, auntie. The sting in the tail was, of course, on the day of the wedding itself, I refused to walk down the aisle unless a new Optimus Prime boxed set was placed in my arms. I screamed, I kicked, I yelled. Nothing, nothing could placate me. And that’s how I got my Optimus Prime.

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Poem: Arsehole

August 25, 2006

 

Arsehole

It is shy as a gathered eyelet
neatly worked in shrinking violet;
it is the dilating iris, tucked
away, a tightening throb when fucked.

It is a soiled and puckered hem,
the golden treasury’s privy purse.
With all the colours of a bruise,
it is the fleck of blood in albumen.

I dreamed your body was an instrument
and this was the worn mouthpiece
to which my breathing lips were bent.

Each note pleaded to love a little longer,
longer, as though it was dying of hunger.
I fed that famished mouth my ambergris.

Craig Raine

Isn’t this just so funny, yet delicate? I especially like the use of ‘ambergris’ – the fragrant sperm whale excretion used in perfumes. Check out the spoofs of the poems here. I especially like the one that follows Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts. Cracked me up completely.

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Dancing in Chains

August 24, 2006

Thom GunnThis is how I survived junior college – being loveless, unloved, unhappy, abnormal, unstraight – I read the poetry of Thom Gunn. I love his poetry for so many different reasons – I can’t go into everything now but at the moment in time I’m rereading all my favorites. In fact his collected poems and his last and final collection (Boss Cupid) is sitting on my desk at work, waiting to rescue me from drudgery and boredom.

I was introduced quite late to Gunn. In the second and final year of junior college, the ‘S’-paper teacher introduced all of us to Thom Gunn (or was it just me? Juline, can you corroborate?) with the lovely poem, ‘The Hug’.

The Hug

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
  Half of the night with our old friend
    Who’d showed us in the end
  To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
    Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
    Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
    Your instep to my heel,
  My shoulder-blades against your chest.
  It was not sex, but I could feel
  The whole strength of your body set,
      Or braced, to mine,
    And locking me to you
  As if we were still twenty-two
  When our grand passion had not yet
    Become familial.
  My quick sleep had deleted all
  Of intervening time and place.
    I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

Thom Gunn

I like to think of Gunn, at times, as a metaphysical poet, a sort-of Donne – the dramatic voice, the use of wit, the double-entendre, ambiguous quality that many of his poems possess. For example, how this rather sweet poem hinges on the last line, where the deliciously and darkly ironic ‘dry’ is delivered. Lovely. More Gunn coming up.

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Central Banters

August 23, 2006

the lovely Michelle and me!So the past few days I’ve been sick – I’ve had little sleep between interning and bringing the HPAIR guys around, and I get really grumpy and pessimistic when I’m sleep deprived. Add to this four nights of drunkenness in a row and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. So today I decide to dress up abit, and wear a nice (NEW!) skinny tie to work. Which did get me a bit of attention, since the men where I intern rarely wear anything, erm, nice. As you can see, I’ve become Michelle’s main squeeze – she’s trying to French kiss me even though our lips aren’t in contact. Sorry Mich, I don’t like you that way.

pict0771edited.jpgMichelle rarely works during office hours, as you can see. I caught her trying to surf Style.com. She was supposed to be finishing up a brief, but in her own words, ‘I dunno why but I feel so slack…’ Thanks Michelle. Because of you, the nation of Singapore is one step closer to fighting the ultimate evil that is inflation! (Okay, so I introduced her to Style.com and now she’s hooked, but at least I don’t slack so much during office hours okay. Ok so I did go through Alexander McQueen’s beautiful Autumn ’06 collection again, for like the three thousandth time, but hey that isn’t my fault. God, I’m such a bimbo. And loving it.)

(Thanks to Wilson for the advice on how to insert the photos properly.)

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Review: Second Link

August 22, 2006

Second Link

Wild Rice

National Drama Centre

You walk into the theatre and are greeted by a sparse set. A fluorescently lit square floor, cleaved into same-sized squares. In the absence of all other decorative frills, one assumes that the director has chosen to let nothing detract from the quality of the selected text (excerpts from pieces by Singaporeans in the first half, and by Malaysians in the second), and the quality of the actors.

The actors discharged their duties admirably – consistently good performance by both the Singaporean and Malaysian actors, who had to contend with being both strong physically, to fill the sparse stage, and vocally, to animate the texts. Particularly good was the Singaporean Malay actor, whose beautiful voice lent such a strong vitality to the texts.

However, the texts were an entirely different matter. To be honest, the first half was quite nearly unbearable, because of the uninteresting and unarresting quality of the Singaporean texts. One would have preferred a selection which illustrated something about Singapore – yet the selection was flat, at best. More disturbing was the fact that many pieces were bursting with triteness – two lesbians who decide to strike it out on their own after being married to men for so long could make for particularly touching drama. The pathos, however, quickly disappears when they are made to say things such as ‘I rue the day I met you…’, to which the reply comes ‘I never rue any day that I loved you’. This is sphincter-clenching cliche at its very worst. Which is not to say, of course, that all the texts were bad – the excerpt from Elangovan’s Talaq, portraying an abused Muslim woman, banned the first time around, was quite tantalising.

Much better was the second half. The Malaysian texts were much better selected. Aside from the texts of Malaysian writers, excerpts from the Sejarah Melayu, Hikyat Abdullah and the story of Sang Kancil was included, to provide a historical-mythological perspective to the issues discussed. Consider, for example, the excerpt from the Sejarah Melayu, which portrayed the story of Bukit Merah – condemnation of corrupt government. Compare this with Mark Teh’s Daulat, a humorously satirical piece that pokes fun at Malaysian and Singaporean politics. And in general the Malaysian texts were much more textually appealing. One got the sense that the featured Malaysian writers were really trying to struggle with the language, which brought a vividness to the text. There was a degree of subtlety that could not really be found in that of the Singaporeans.

This was intensely disappointing, as the performance became rather lopsided. So much better in the second half, with the Singaporeans handling Malaysian texts, than in the first half, with the Malaysians handling the Singaporean texts. This was not helped by the somewhat lacklustre and obvious staging of the texts in the first half. Distracting, rather than illuminating, was the use of multimedia. When the actors say ‘merlion’, ‘gold’, ‘food’, one assumes that the audience can use their own cognitive abilities to recognise what these are. Having the slides portray pictures of the foresaid items not only does not help, but detracts from the quality of the work. In addition, the employment of physical techniques was obvious and rather unsubtle, as in the case of the story of Nuwa, who has a head of a woman but the body of a snake. In this case, the actors formed an a slithery human chain to illustrate the snakiness of Nuwa.

The staging of the second half was more delicate, and more delicious. Although there was the occasional miss (the crocodiles in the Sang Kancil story were portrayed with chomping arm actions), there was a degree of simplicity and faithfulness to the text that seemed to be missing from the Singaporean staging. In ‘Flowers in the Sky’, for example, the juxtaposition of the Muslim prayer against the Buddhist ‘OM’ was haunting. Furthermore, the format of the presentation itself was far more interesting – it was a ‘Malaysian Roulette’ where audience members were invited to join in the tikam-tikam selection of the pieces, ensuring a degree of freshness of presentation as the actors had to contend with jumping from piece to piece in no particular, preordained order.

Which on balance amounted to a rather interesting end to the inaugural Singapore Theatre Festival. However, the piece seems to reinforce the nagging suspicion that I have, that Singaporean art won’t be evolving in a particularly beautiful or challenging direction until the artists realise that style must accompany substance, and that a greater deal of subtlety should be in order.

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August 21, 2006

Standing alone again on the brink of a gulf of solitude can be particularly enlightening. I am stronger than I have ever been, I fear nothing, for I know that you are with me. Thank you, Crys, Jane, Sal, thank you so much for your countless kindnesses, your willing ears, your comforting arms and words. I am so much the better for knowing you, I am so much the wiser, happier, angrier, fuller, so much more human.

We are on the edge of the rest of our lives – they will diverge, they must. Twenty years on, who knows? Will what the fortune-tellers have said come to pass? Or will we fulfill our own prophecies, will our fortunes turn because we will them to.

I am as excited as you are, Crystal, or as fearful. Why are the things of our youth (two years ago) so far away from where we are now? So many things separate us, over and over – conscription, physical distance, death, disease, birth control, love, time difference. I keep all your smses in my handphone inbox, Crys, but I am slowly learning to delete them. Not because I no longer love you, but because I must try to forget. There is no logic to nostalgia – to remember everything is a form of madness. If anything, England has been a blessing (we were always too similar – the sane parts became saner, the good better, the strong stronger still, but the mad parts became madder, and the sad sadder). We take with each other what we must, and what we will. I am still as in love with you as the first day that I rued we would never be friends.

Jane – you were the one whom I felt fragile under my fingers, I shuddered to hug you because you were so small, so vulnerable, and I didn’t know what to do with your hurt. When ages ago, before we drifted apart and came back together and drifted apart and came back together, you called me in an angry, tearful fit, I didn’t know what to do but cry myself, and feel your raw pain on my own skin, in my own gut, and try my best to shield you from yourself and your life. But I have learnt not to underestimate you and your reserves of strength – trying to protect you only patronises you, a form of reverse-colonialisation, to make you need me so that you would need me. You know, more than ever, what you want in life, and you know that you will achieve whatever you set out to if you want to. Never doubt yourself – I have learnt not to doubt you.

When I first met you, Salman, I must have been intimidated. Who isn’t, when meeting a personality of such proportions? You must have hated me, I must have resorted to sex as a defence mechanism, put you off with my unneccessary frankness. But thank god for Puma shoes, and that shopping trip. Calling you my friend is one of the greatest pleasures and honours I have in my life, and whenever I meet new people I always want them to meet you, first of all. You have drawn out all that is me, all that is my own, and refined it. Opposition and agreement with you develops self-consciousness and self-awareness. You constantly undermine all my assumptions about life with your sense of humour and your generosity – two opposing poles between which you are finely poised, laughing at and loving at the same time.

So – the psychologist, the architect, the diplomat – and I the economist. Will we be what we think we will be, or will we open up ourselves to the vagaries of living and life, and be enriched by what we must experience? Twenty years on, with our children (will I have children? will I even be alive?) and our families and our husbands and our pets and our similarities and our differences, we will be beyond our own present recognition. But wherever we will be must needs be a product of where we have been – and on the occasion of the matriculation of one of my best friends in one of the best schools on earth, I thank you, Crystal, Jane, Salman, for challenging me, changing me, amazing me.