Wednesday, November 30, 2016

art excitement

The girls and I (Day as usual was at the home of one of his friends, he isn’t interested in family outings anymore) went to one of our favourite haunts, the National Museum, one of the few places which is free, educational and under-shelter. (it was drizzling)

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* Outside the museum, on an outdoor escalator built on a hill

I led them straight to the lowest level because we have seen the other exhibits many times, and stuff at the lowest level changes.

In the past, we’ve seen things there which can be rather boring. Upon approach, it didn’t look very promising.

It appeared a terribly serious art exhibition: “What is Not Visible is Not Invisible broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary through selected artworks from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art”.

French and Contemporary. Two very intimidating words. I wasn’t even sure if kids were allowed, or if we would be allowed free entry.

Then the museum staff beckoned us over: “You want to go in? It’s free”.

Ah.

“Come, come. You enter here. Be careful, it’s very dark in there, and there are some flashing lights.”

Ooh. How potentially exciting!

And it was, surprisingly, delightfully, so. What a wonderful space to stumble into.

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* Upon stepping into the pitch-dark room, the exhibition title only flashes on when the visitor steps past a certain point, perhaps to prove that what is not visible is not invisible?

The art wasn’t paintings on walls you are supposed to gaze upon. It was all dark spaces you tentatively wander through before emerging into something 3D and out-of-this-world, like a room filled with smelly fog cut through with laser lights playing tricks with your perception, or a spider web made out of a glue gun, or a video shown on a TV lying on its side of a glitching cellist with strings attached to her arms like she was a puppet, which scared the hell out of the girls. It was all rather engaging.

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* Optical illusion thingy

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Our top picks:

The girls squealed when they turned a corner and observed the gently pulsing blue chiffon ball. “Ohhh so CUTE, Mama! Take a picture! It’s so CUTE!” It’s essentially a piece of square cloth hanging from the ceiling with a fan under it.

There’s a very complex cheem write-up which I forgot to take a picture of but in reply to Jo’s incessant questions – Why did the artist do this? – I summarized for her: The artist wants to say that sculptures can also be created out of thin air.

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* Jo, Lu, B and the Ball

The glue gun spider web. I don’t know what it means.

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The video of an artist living his life in a small white box. Why we remember this is because the moment we passed by the video the artist had just peeled off his underwear and while he was facing the side, the girls couldn't stop giggling. The write-up says: “The cell is a mechanism that determines his movements and with time and practice, the mechanism will become his relief.” I tell the girls, even if you need to stay in a very small box you can get used to it and you may like it.

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* After he has removed everything he sits in his coffin-like bed. At least I think its a bed.

The room of green balloons. 

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* The green viewing window to the artwork: Work No 262, Half the Air in a Given Space

So pretty, we were admiring the sight when the staff walked over, led us to a door and said, “You want to go in?” This became the girls’ #1 attraction, as they gingerly tiptoed their way around the enormous, curiously soft orbs (yes, soft, not hard like party balloons) and tossed them around. 

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Apparently a lot of had been popped by less-disciplined visitors. Again, Jo bugged me for meaning. The write-up said: “The monochromatic and formless sea of spheres offers visitors an opportunity to navigate the work from within, while also challenging them to consider that the location of art can be found somewhere between physical experience and sculptural construct.” WHAT? Why do these explanations always give me headaches?

I didn’t know what to tell the girls. Jo was dissatisfied with every one of my attempts to explain. In the end I told her, the artist wants to say that when you enter and play you are a part of the artwork.

The UV beach. This was supposed to be Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. The girls are supposed to enter one door, walk up a ramp, climb down the ladder, take off their slippers, lie down on the towels and sunbath. I have no idea why but they loved that beach. They lay down for a long time. (By this time I had given up on meaning.)

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Overall, Lu had a lot of fun. I hope she has seen that artists don’t just do 2D paintings.

Jo did, too, but she was (as can be seen from above) left frequently scratching her head in frustration. She who demands proper explanations and clear answers exclaimed in exasperation, “THIS is ART? How is this ART? Even I can do this! What does this MEAN, Mama? Wait don’t run away! Explain to me!”

I tried, I really did. Make sense of the esoteric. I actually read aloud the explanations and tried to make it reader-friendly for her. Once when I finally gave up and exclaimed, “I don’t KNOW, Jo, I don’t get it,” the fellow next to me stifled a giggle, not in a you’re-so-stupid kind of way, but in a you-read-my-mind kind of way.

I didn’t quite satisfy Jo, but I think she has become even more convinced that she doesn’t care too much about Art and subjective things like interpretation.

Monday, November 28, 2016

road safety park

Thankfully, it’s still around.

I have some stellar memories of my time at the Road Safety Park, going there for school excursions, driving around in a mini-car of sorts and learning how to observe road safety rules. It was so exciting being a driver, although now that I’m one I have learnt that reality sucks.

The park now is gray, nothing like the explosion of kids, colour, sunshine and thrill it once promised.

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* Park layout

Its appears an ageing edifice, with overgrown tree roots, fallen leaves, the names of corporate sponsors and public bus numbers still featured on faded signs, and guerilla mosquitoes.

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Online, the happy proclamation is that the road safety park is “now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week!” with special games and perhaps facilities available for paid booking by school groups or institutions. Basically the gate is never closed.

We’re not there 24 hours but we hardly see anyone there.

Thing is, the kids love it.

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It doesn’t take much, but the deserted park with the miniature “roads” (complete with arrows, road traffic markings and Stop signs) criss-crossing all over is more than enough for some spectacular play as the kids indulge in high-speed chases and whatnot. The thrill is in turning corners and evading the pursuer, who then has to find a short-cut or some other road to fire up the chase once more. (No, none of them are actually there to learn traffic rules)

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* Day on blades pursuing Jo

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Traffic lights don’t work, the mock Shell station is always shuttered and things are run-down but it’s a place where imagination is released. In fact there’s been more than one occasion when I felt the hairs stand on the back of my neck, as I skate-scooted in deserted corners and the amber ball lights suddenly blinked on and off…

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* Day pounding his way over to arrest the girls at Shell station and 7-11

Anyway. It adds to the atmosphere.

The kids spend a long time there, laugh a lot, and emerge dripping with sweat.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

cake competition

They each make cakes. Not real cakes, but cakes made out of their special blue sand. Everyone puts a lot of effort into their cakes and Jo orders me to judge them. “You must give 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize, Mama,” she said.

Hmmmm.

I say, Mama is not going to give 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize (Jo: WHAAATT??!) but I’m going to give individual awards.

The most Perfect Cake, which is technically the best and made with the most precise measurements, goes to THIS ONE! (Jo preens)

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The most Exquisite Cake, because it’s quaint and tiny and is littered with delicious-looking bits of garnish, is THIS ONE! (Day proceeds to cut up and squash his cake)

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(At this point, Lulu starts to wail. Why am I always the LAST ONE? The last one means I’m the lousiest, right?)

Of course not, Lulu, I say. This is not 1st, 2nd, 3rd, I’m giving out individual awards which means everyone’s cake is fabulous in different ways.

The most Creative Cake, because its a round dome and goes against the usual concept of a four-sided cake, and because it’s unusually segmented rather than tiered, goes to THIS ONE!

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(Lu is still very miserable)

Still. Sometimes, the ability to make words work in my favour is useful for getting out of sticky situations.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

at peace

Something very strange happened today after Day collected his results.

He jumped, skipped and danced for joy all day, like all the worries of the world had slid off his shoulders. He blithely conversed with KK about life (most times he avoids conversations with what he deems is his overly-stern and critical father) and went to bed with a hint of a smile on his face. It was such unusual behavior that KK the Immovable found cause to remark on it.

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There were no frowns today. Well, there haven’t been any frowns since the exams finished, but today there was joy and ecstasy. He reminded me of his pre-school self, the cheerful little fellow who flashed his dimples all the time.

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* Post-result lunch treat at Day's choice of restaurant, er, Mos Burger

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* Post-result dinner treat at Day's favourite Jap restaurant, er, Megumi

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* Post-result post-dinner ice-cream treat at Udders

Don’t for one moment think that the result was miraculous. No. It was actually on the dot, almost exactly what we expected, just one point off from his Prelim result and some distance off from that long-ago bet KK made with him.

In the intense atmosphere of the school hall where anxious parents were seated on chairs, behind the 12-year-olds who were lined up according to their classes, Day returned to us with his stack of unopened certificates and envelopes. He uncovered the score in front of Jo, Lu and me and while he didn’t say anything, his face read: Huh? That’s it?

Jo grabbed the cert and said, “Huh? So bad?” while Lu, after taking a look herself, sighed, “I was hoping Gor Gor would get 271.”

Around us, tears flowed. Not a lot, but each instance was furtively tracked by other parents (like me) who can’t quite help noticing. The girl who wiped away her tears as she strode out of the hall with her stone-faced parents behind her, a pudgy bespectacled former friend of Day who hugged his friends and cried as his mother behind him surreptitiously gave me a thumbs down signal, and the mother of the second-highest scorer in school (kaypoh mums know these things) who very subtly gave her son a smile and a pat on the back when he nonchalantly whispered his result to her.

Day went back to his friends. Scores were audibly exchanged by some, while the heart-broken ones refused to share and simply disappeared.

But for Day, the boy whose Whatsapp identifier is "Studying = Students + Dying", it looks to me as if his nightmare has ended. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is, because I really don’t think he would have cared either way, but that it’s ended.

To all the possible school choices – actually he’s probably only eligible for the affiliated school now – he doesn’t care. All boys? Co-ed? In the East? In other parts of Singapore? Secular? Religious? To all, he says, “I don’t mind”. Which makes the selection part terribly difficult indeed. I had assumed that by age 12 they will know what they want and work for it, but Day tells me, “Tell me”. (No he can't get his toe into that school)

Aiyah.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

night before

Suddenly we realize the results release are upon us. Tomorrow. It's quite exciting!

Gosh!

Today is just another day. We’ve got a whole range of schools all lined up for the result and where it falls. Honestly we have no idea how he’ll do. It’s a mystery box as far as we’re concerned.

I know of kids who are worried, parents who are worried, who have not been able to sleep for a few nights. I think for them, there is a lot resting on the results. Parents may have spent a bomb on tuition and extra classes, everyone might have sacrificed sleep and better things to do in order to do well in the exam, the results are what the entire family might have worked really hard and gave things up for.

Good or bad, we don’t fall in that category. To put in a not-so-nice way, there was little investment on our part and so there is little expectation. Day himself is completely unfazed, regardless of what he gets. He says, it's too late to worry. 

As long as he gets into the Express stream, I think, is fine.

There’s a lot of funny fighting and squealing going on because Jo is trying to arm-twist Day into letting her see his results first. She expects him to get his results, obediently fold the paper in half and pass it to her so she can have first look. He’s laughing so hard at his unreasonable sister he can hardly bargain.

It’s going to be a party. Both girls want to follow me to school tomorrow.

KK says: Message me. If its good news I’ll come back and we can have lunch.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

dream come true

(I know I’m blogging in dribs and drabs but that’s my style these days it seems. Every other post I think of, I have to think twice and if I have to think twice it doesn’t get written)

Not my dream. The family dream. It’s happening!

On 20 November, I think about six months after they first met, Choon popped the question.

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Defying all (my) expectation, he does so in true style. He sends a limo to pick her up from the airport when she returns, it ferries her to one of the nicest hotels on Sentosa where he’s waiting, he whips out the ring and she says yes.

(I offered chauffeuring service but he had already ordered the $60 limo taxi)

Everything is rolling ahead very quickly because, as Por Por says, our family patriarch is almost 80. Time is not on our side. But I also like to think that when the time is right, two mature adults who find each other will not have many doubts (like my folks).

And Phoebe is perfect. Not just for Choon but our family.

What are the chances that Choon finds a nice, easy-going, steady girl who speaks our parents’ language and share similar values?

She joins the family for dinner all the time and when she does, everyone around the table is nattering away in Cantonese. Phoebe, whose Cantonese is far better than mine, also watches drama serials like Mum. They have plenty to talk about.

And we will all have plenty to talk about as we go about planning major family events in the months ahead. It’s going to be so thrilling!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

snapshot

As a freelancer I’m always trying out new clients and new projects, because I get bored.

One thing about trying out the new, is that there are risks.

I take on each new project in good faith. I don’t ask too many questions and I venture in to see if the working relationship could blossom into an enduring one that could enrich me either financially, professionally or personally.

Sometimes things don’t work out. It’s one-off and I treat it as a lesson.

Worse is when a new client is not satisfied. It happens. Expectations, styles, working processes, ways of giving instructions, elasticity of timelines, it always differs.

This time, I get a prospect via Linkedin. I do the work, I submit the draft, and I get a stinging response. Sub-standard writing etc etc.

I should be inured to it, but it still hurts. It really does. I'm great at self-doubt and it doesn't take much for me to question if I'm good at what I'm doing.

The first response is to craft an equally stinging rebuttal – because I have my justifications too. Then I calm down and eventually segue into my standard response which is to ask – What can I learn from this client? What do they want and why? How are their demands different from all the clients I have written for before? And how can I make sure that the next time I have another client like that, they will never accuse me of sub-standard writing?

Then I say, thank you for your edits, I will do my best. And I do.

(then I keep my fingers crossed that they will pay!)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

celebrating her hair

As much as KK hates long-haired lasses, and as strident as he is in forcing Jo to cut hers (“Cut your hair, Jo! It makes you look old and it’s not nice!”), I really do love her hair (when she doesn't flip it over in front and pretend to be that girl from The Ring). 

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To me, this is a girl who should keep long hair because it’s easy for her. Its thick, slippery to comb and falls nicely without funny stick-outs and she’s got a nice head which isn’t cone-shaped like mine. And unlike last time, she has taken to doing everything herself (she does it better than me), so I never have to touch her hair.

But well, it was time to lop off three inches. 

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* Jo: "I hate it!"

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

japanese lunch

There is a restaurant at Liang Court which is one of our current weekend favourites.

The thing about restaurants and these kids of mine – probably kids in general - is that once we return, they stick to tried-and-tested favourites. It also works for me because I know that the portions will be just-right and I won’t have to struggle to eat anyone’s leftovers, or starve because the leftovers I expected to eat were unexpectedly wolfed down.

Typically, this is what happens when we hit this Jap joint.

Everyone is ravenous. Because we would not have had breakfast, as we would have had to wait for KK and Jo to wake up and get ready, which could be 11-ish or noon.

We enter the restaurant which is usually quite empty as it isn’t quite lunchtime yet. KK and Jo grab a menu but they only take a cursory look because everyone already knows what they want.

My boring old salad with raw fish cubes arrives. I’m the one who always eats clean, shunning protein for veggies or small side dishes. Usually Day would rip into my salad course, but I tell him nicely, “Mummy is really hungry today” and he holds off.

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* BB with salad

The salmon belly arrives. KK is a great fan.

The beef steak arrives. The five of us (including me because I love a slice or two) grab our forks and start getting to our feet as the plate reaches the table. We fight over it. “I want this piece, you take this one, it’s got fat, this one’s mine, mine, MINE, I said it’s MINE!!! Stop touching with your dirty fork!” The waiter tries not to laugh. In 30 seconds the beef is gone leaving a little untouched pile of radish and dip.

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* I whip out my camera and half the beef is gone

The beef is like a tiny little appetizer sitting in the pits of their unsatisfied stomachs.

Next comes plain udon for the girls, which they share. This is the tummy filler. It’s quite nice, simple, and divides nicely to keep each of them full.

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Then KK and Day have their bowl of chicken collagen ramen or whatever it is, a tiny thick milky intense bowl of almost-creamy chicken soup which keeps each of them full.

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KK looks around. “More beef?” The kids chorus, yes please!

Out comes another dainty slab of beef, the warfare starts.

At the end of the meal, one of the girls will pipe up timidly – What about peach?

Kids have long memories. They remember when they had something before and will hold you to it. On two or three occasions, we ordered a Japanese peach, which came sliced on a bed of ice larger than it was. I wasn't there but Jo messaged me the photo saying "Sooooooooo nice". It cost $10 per peach. No more peach.

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I always leave this restaurant feeling a little peckish because salad and a few slices of beef don’t quite cover breakfast and lunch. But it’s OK, I’d still feel guilty adding to a bill which is already over a hundred. And I know, of course there are better places out there. But it's become a habit.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

card tower

One of Day’s friends remarked, “Goodness I wonder what kids in the past did to keep themselves entertained without a handphone. I’d be so bored without it.”

What was surprising to me wasn’t what the boy said, but that Day was surprised and even aghast.

The way he is now, I fully expected him to agree.

Most times, his head is deep in the phone as he fights his Clash Royale battles, or deep in the laptop as he fights his DOTA battles.

Perhaps he doesn’t see or want to acknowledge that he is very much a part of the 低头 (Chinese term for smartphone addict).

It’s true however that when his phone is removed or not with him, he still possesses the ability to entertain himself.

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* Five levels

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* Eight levels, with Jo

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* Complete! KK threatened to put a dinosaur eraser on the top floor and once he did it all collapsed