Thursday, June 29, 2006

Alone in the Big Apple

Ok, you haven't seen a small hotel room until you've been to the Comfort Inn Central Park West. We're talking seriously small people, like hobbit small. It's probably only slightly wider than our kitchen... Seriously. Once you open the door, it's ONE step to the bed, and another two to the bathroom (no, I take that back, it's just one more step to the bathroom...). If I were claustrophobic, I would have collapsed upon entry. But apart from that, this hotel's actually kinda cool- comfy bed, clean bathroom, cable TV (although they sadly don't have the Food Network- what's wrong with these people?!), safe and quiet location, a skip and a hop from Central Park and Sesame Street so I don't have to deal with traffic or commuters, and best of all, FREE WIRELESS!! Did I say FREE?? :)

So here I am in New York on my own for work. Have to spend the next two days in Sesame Street watching videos for eight hours straight. I know- sounds fun you say... Talk to me again after you've watched coutless "Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?" clips and hours on end of Elmo's World... You'll be begging me to put on some serious Boris or Acid Mothers Temple just to regain some semblance of perspective and sanity...

I did manage to squeeze in some sightseeing today which was great- had the best egg tarts (yes, note the plural noun and the fact that eating counts as sightseeing for this girl ;)...) this side of the world which so warmed the cockles of my heart I thought I was going to cry. It had just come out of the oven so the pastry was all crumbly and meltingly buttery, and the custard, still warm and wobbly soft. It was sheer ambrosia... I do have to say though that the other flavors of egg-tarts that they had on display looked much less tempting- there was a Chernobyl green honeydew egg-tart, and a strawberry version that looked like someone spilled cheerleader-pink nail-polish into the custard... Walking around Chinatown was actually kind of depressing- all that glistering fresh seafood (we're talking whole fish, people, not whimpy fillets masquerading as the real stuff, piles upon piles of green Asian veggies, and luscious fruits that don't cost more per pound than premium beef. All within the budget of a poor grad student...

I finally made it to the New York Public Library which is an awesome building in and of itself. The lions- Patience & Fortitude- were suitably impressive, and Bryant Park which is just next to the library looked like a lovely place to spend the day had the weather not been so dreadfully sweltering... They're having an interesting exhibition- Poets and Artists in Dialogue- that showcases some lesser known illustrations of masters like Picasso, Manet and Chagall, and it was kinda refreshing to encounter their work in such a different context.

I'll be too busy with work the next couple of days to do see much more of the city, but I plan to check out the Columbia University campus tomorrow, hopefully catch Shakespeare at the Park (they're playing Macbeth- I'm excited...), Joan Didion's doing a reading from "Year of Magical Thinking" at the Park on Friday (which I'm afraid will be frighfully depressing, but good nonetheless), and there's the street vendors in SoHo on Saturday morning. I only wish Jude were here with me instead of in the middle of Indiana presenting his poster. Travelling's just not the same without him...

Monday, June 26, 2006

The SJI OBA viral video !!!

OMG, never underestimate the power of the web! Tonight, I managed to do 2 things:
  1. I managed to track down an old friend from Penang, Malaysia by doing a google and locating his most current contact on our high school's alumni discussion board.
  2. While in the discussion board, I find out that the St. Joseph's Institution Old Boy's Association has a infomercial on Google video, which I have embedded here.

I've always held that my alma mater was a little behind in the way it handled its public relations and image. Unlike other flashier and more monied exclusive schools, SJI has not really tapped the media to engage the public or even her former students. I guess things are changing now. Not only do I find that there's a discussion board, there's a blog and a viral video too!!! Maybe what the school needs next is a customized Social Networking tool?

But what boggles me is that if I want to sign up to be an OBA member, I need to fill out a physical form! Hmmm ... that seems a little out of sync with the trajectory of the other efforts online.

For those of you not familiar with the school, the video presents a smorgasboard of local elites and personalities that are well-known graduates from the school. The individuals that they have chosen, I think, are highly representative of the school's motto, "Ora et Labora" or "Pray and Work" (which for years, I've been telling Serene means "Play and Work", and hence explains my very well-balanced character ;) )

I actually know a couple more people whom they should have added on to the video. I would have certainly liked to see more about graduates of the school who are overseas and what they are doing. I think that this is a sterling effort on the part of the OBA and it deserves to be lauded. However, next steps maybe to extend engagement of alumni members beyond the shores of our fair island?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Someone put the kettle on...

So how difficult is it to find a good and reasonably priced kettle?? We walked out of the house early today (I can't believe we woke up before 9am on Saturday morning...) armed with a list of garage sales all over Ann Arbor, a map of the city, a belly-full of the kind of greasy, vaguely satisfying breakfast only MacDonald's can provide, and a heart full of hope to be able to find a kettle for less than $5 to replace the one that indescribably went kaputt on us a couple of days ago...

But alas, it was not to be- we saw all imaginable household products from salad spinners (there were plenty of those for some unfathomable reason...) to fondue pots (that looked like they were manufactured before I was even born) to toast holders (why people would pay for a contraption like that continues to elude me...), but no kettle. Jude did get a brand new Adidas raincoat/ shell for $1 (obscene!), and we bought a couple of framed pictures at a steal (the frames alone would have cost at least five times what we paid...).

We even went to Kiwanis hoping to find our elusive kettle, and believe it or not, amongst their ridiculous array of kitchen appliances, there was only one kettle, but it was tiny... Fine, if we need a kettle, we'll buy a new one. So we set off to Target, TJ Maxx, a hardware store and even the Asian grocery store to see if we could find one of those electric hot water boiler things. It was ghastly! The prices ranged from $17- $54.99. More than $50 for a kettle? What? does it magically enrich my water with minerals that will make me live forever?? Even $17 seemed a little pricey for something that simply changes the temperature of water. I was not a happy woman...

Anyways, we came home defeated, $23 poorer from all the things we bought at the garage sales that we DIDN'T need, and dying for a piping hot mug of coffee to soothe my frayed nerves at not getting the one thing we had woken up early for, and the one thing I need to make my coffee... On a whim, I plugged in previously mentioned (and apparently kaputt) kettle into the socket, and a minute later, the thing starts to heat up! What do you know? it wasn't broken! Words could not describe how happy I was at the mundane sound of the kettle hissing and whisting away... A minute after that, I had my coffee, and everything about the world was right again... :)

Come oh come ye tea-thirsty restless ones - the kettle boils, bubbles and sings, musically.
- Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cabbage soup

Originally uploaded by jyew.
So how wonderful is this- in an inspired moment of culinary puissance and homesickness, my husband forayed into the kitchen and whipped up what must be the best tasting cabbage soup this girl's ever had... He seared some pork shoulder with garlic, chopped up a whole garden of cabbage, carrots, onions, & potatoes, and cooked the whole darn thing with chicken broth and water. We let it simmer happily for almost 5 hours after which the house smelled like a cross between a hug and a warm blanket (does that make sense at all??)- all comfy and heartening... Just before we served it for dinner today, we added some rice vermicelli which just brought everything together into a hearty, deliriously delicious meal...

Jude's grandma used to make this soup for him all the time and there's just something about soups like these that always remind us of home. Between slurpfuls of it for dinner, we wondered what else it is that we miss from home that we now have to try making on our own. We've conquered Char Siew (Chinese roast pork), Nasi Lemak (coconut rice), curry puffs, Beef Rendang, and Hokkien Mee... We were thinking of popiah (veggie wraps/ rolls), but since there's no way we can get a hold of those handmade popiah skins, what's the point? (we momentarily contemplated making our own, and then looked at each other and went- "Yeah right, who are we kidding??...")

Oh well, we'll see what else we can conjure up. In the meantime, I can't wait till tomorrow when I have another go at the leftover soup (it's going to taste even better of course...). That's it ladies, if there's one piece of advice I have, make sure your husbands makes good soup!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


So, to return the favor of bringing me to watch two not totally unenjoyable but no less noisy avant garde metal concerts, I dragged Jude to watch The Lake House yesterday. It wasn't totally planned so I didn't really know what to expect. Jude told me that NPR had called the movie "insipid", and the NYT review did say that you have to suspend some hold on reality or the whole intergrity of the film would collapse... Great, my husband's going to barely contain his sniggering throughout the 90 minutes and I'll feel bad for bringing him to a cheesily bad chick flick...

Thankfully, neither of that happened. He didn't snigger (if he did, I didn't notice), and I didn't feel bad at all after the movie. It was actually a pleasant surprise and I was strangely moved at the end. We both have issues with how things were resolved and it would have been an infinitely more poignant movie had the ending been different, but on the whole, I think we both enjoyed it. The narrative was elegantly strong, and as implausible as the premise may be, it wasn't difficult to truly suspend logic for that 90 minutes. Don't try to deconstruct the movie with any kind of rationality- that'll be like watching American Idol and believing that your votes actually matter...

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves have aged significantly since they were in Speed together and it shows (esp. for Sandra Bullock in all those uncessarily long close-up shots...). But they've also matured, Keanu Reeves in particular- I wouldn't have believed anyone if they had told me 10 years ago that he was capable of emoting. There are scenes where the solitude, loneliness and a very palpable sadness emnate from no where else but the presence of the two actors. It helps too that the film is set in Chicago; in fact, the whole thing seemed like an affectionate paean to the city and it's architectural beauty. I think that lent some soul and gravitas to the film's enterprise.

The soundtrack was particularly evocative too- tons of Nick Drake (I mean, what's a semi- angsty love story without some Nick Drake?), a nice smidgen of Paul McCartney, and a gorgeously lush opening track from The Clientele.

The Lake House isn't going to win any awards, but for that 90 minutes, just give in a little and indulge in the easy fantasy of hope, waiting, and fulfilment...
So I lingered with the people
In the silent August glade
But the rain has brought the night
And the night has brought the rain.
- (I Can't Seem To) Make You Mine, The Clientele

Thursday, June 15, 2006

High School MixTape Challenge!!!

Recently, Eric, Chrispy, Dcooney and Eric's friend John conducted a music swap of the music that we used to listen to in high school. You are allowed to include anything that you used to listen to in high school. But nothing beyond your high school graduation. And, like a cassette tape, there should be 2 sets of 45min music compilations.

I was a little handicapped by this constraint because 1) I graduated from a Singapore Secondary school (high school?) at age 16,in 1988 and 2) the bulk of my music collection is either in Singapore or on vinyl which I sold off when I moved here. Regardless, I rose to the challenge and have managed to burn my contributions to the music swap. Behold below! The tracks that I have chosen to be representative of my teenhood:

Side A:
1. Zoe Tay (2:55) Boredphucks
2. Communication Breakdown (3:12) Led Zeppelin
3. Tame (1:56) Pixies
4. Natural's Not In It (3:06) Gang Of Four
5. Work (2:37) Lou Reed & John Cale
6. Motorcycle Emptiness (6:08) Manic Street Preachers
7. The Hardest Walk (2:40) The Jesus And Mary Chain
8. Love Will Tear Us Apart (3:26) Joy Division
9. Not Too Soon (3:09) Throwing Muses
10. The Shyest Time (3:35) The Apartments
11. Mean To Me (3:14) Crowded House
12. Head Over Heals (3:43) Overnight Jones
13. Jennifer She Said (3:02) Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
14. Blister In The Sun (2:24) Violent Femmes
15. Thirteen (2:37) Big Star
16. Under The Milky Way (4:58) The Church
17. Bad (5:51) U2

Side B:
1. Vapour Trail (4:18) Ride
2. When You Sleep (4:11) My Bloody Valentine
3. But Not Tonight- Extended Remix (5:13) Depeche Mode
4. Perfect Kiss (8:02) New Order
5. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (4:54) Talking Heads
6. When Love Breaks Down (3:46) Prefab Sprout
7. Moments In Love (10:15) The Art Of Noise
8. Wolf In The Breast (3:32) Cocteau Twins
9. Shadow Of A Doubt (3:32) Sonic Youth
10. Briliant Trees (8:23) David Sylvian
11. The Wild Ones (4:50) Suede
12. The Whole Of The Moon (5:00) The Waterboys

OK, I have to admit that after burning the discs, I realized that I cheated on 2 counts. One, I took my graduation year to be 1990 and not 1998, as I assumed graduating from Junior College as my graduation year. And two, I was a little careless with the time limits for each side of the mix tape. And lastly, I also think that a number of tracks slipped the 1990 constraint imposed. See if you can guess which ones ;) Also, feel free to compose your own high school mix tapes and share them with us in the comments.

Shuffle music meme

Instructions: Shuffle all the songs in your iPod, then use the resulting songs to answer the following questions, in the order in which they appeared.

How does the world see you?
Hear Me Out (Frou Frou)
As a whiny, clingy stalker? Yikes...
"I join the queue on your answer phone
And all I am is holding breath
Just pick up, I know you're there..."

Will I have a happy life?
Nite and Fog (Mercury Rev)
Ermm... apparently yes, once I become Queen of Darkness and rule over all things strange and creepy...
"Vampires want darkness
Monsters want soles
Spiders want corners
But you want it all "

What do my friends really think of me?

Nothin Gives Me Pleasure Like You Do (Josh Rouse)
Enough said :)

Do people secretly lust after me?

The Maker Makes (Rufus Wainwright)
Yes, yes- yearnfully, plaintively, obsessively... :)
"One more chain I break
to get me closer to you
One more chain does the maker make
to keep me from bustin' through"

How can I make myself happy?
I Love You (Daniel Lanois)
Narcissistic love?

What should I do with my life?
Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song (Jens Lekman)
Dedicate my life to helping people with the Elephant Man disease. This song is about Rocky Dennis, the guy in "Mask" (with Eric Stolz and Cher), and his relationship with the blind girl played by Laura Dern.

Will I ever have children?
Perfect Situation (Weezer)
I'm clearly taking this out of context, but the lyrics seem to say "Yes."
"Tell me there's a logic out there.
Leading me to better prepare
For the day that something really special might come.
Tell me there's some hope for me."

What is some good advice for me?
Inside and Out (Feist)
Fidelity and constancy.
"Let this moment be forever
We won't ever feel the storm
I ain't no vision, I'm the girl
Who loves you inside and out
Backwards and forwards with my heart hanging out
I love no other way"

How will I be remembered?
Float On (Modest Mouse)
For my great levitational abilities?

What is my signature dancing song?
Lo Que Dice (Ozomatli)
Ooh, cool- it's actually extremely danceable!

What do I think my current theme song is?
Meet Me By the Water (Rachel Yamagata)
I'm going to be meeting some guy by a body of water?

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
A Dreamy Day of Day Dreaming of You (Of Montreal)
I love the lyrics to this song- all whimsy and happy. I'll gladly adopt it as my theme any day.
"You're my muse you're my silly goose
And every day is a dreamy day of daydreaming of you.
You're my one, you're my honey bun
And every day is a dreamy day of daydreaming of you.
I can dream of you without snoring
And I'm lucky that that's true.
Because everyone would know that I found them boring
Simply because they're not you.
All I want to do is lay in the daisies
And daydream of you know who I'm referring"

What song will play at my funeral?
Feeling Good (Nina Simone)
Hmm... I wouldn't mind this at my funeral I suppose. The lyrics seem somewhat appropriate although I doubt anyone would think of it as funereal...
"Stars when you shine you know how I feel
Scent of the pine you know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel"

What type of women men do you like?
Fireflies Take Flight (Ed Harcourt)

What is my day going to be like?
Central Reservation (Beth Orton)
"I'm stepping through brilliant shades,
All the color you bring,
This time, this time, this time,
Is fine just as it is."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jude's birthday BBQ

We just realized this morning as we were getting ready for the BBQ that we haven't had many people over to the house since Jude's Masters classmates graduated and moved away. We used to have them over all the time, either for dinner, drinks or a potluck, and we kinda miss that. I think one of the greatest things about having your own place is that you can fill it with the sounds of your friends' laughter and the communal groans of stomachs too full from the delicious food that people always bring with them...

The birthday BBQ went on smashingly well, if we should say so ourselves; there was definitely enough food to go around- we made teriyaki chicken skewers, balsamic-marinated veggies, hotdogs and thinly sliced steaks; people also brought their favorite side-dishes like mac & cheese, bean dip, two yummy salads, cheese and proscuitto pinwheels; oh and let's not forget the cases upon cases of beer, two bottles of sangria, a bottle of wine and get this- what must be a record for any birthday celebration- FOUR birthday cakes (three of which were cheesecakes by the way...)!! You guys are too great!

I think everyone had a good time, what with the playground and open field, and even the weather held up- all bright and sunny, although it got a little chilly in the evening... The photos are all up here, and we just want to say a huge Thank You to all of you who came! We loved having you over, and you really helped to make Jude's little trek over the THREE-FOUR hill that much less painful... :)

[Ice-cream cake from Eric, Amy & Finn]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


About a year ago or so, I wrote a little something about heartbreak songs and about how they are more than just about the pain. There is a profound melancholic beauty that must underlie a truly great heartbreak song that so few writers can achieve. I need to now add another one to the list. This appeared at the end of one of the Lost episodes and I realized that I've never heard it in its entirety. I've always loved "A Blower's Daughter" but I think I've found my new favorite Damien Rice track. Watch the video and look at the lyrics carefully- talk about melancholy; by the time he crescendos over that last plaintive chorus, all you hear is the ache, the sorrow and the abadoned cries of a broken spirit...

I dare you to listen to it without feeling your own heart break a little...

We might kiss when we are alone
When nobody's watching
We might take it home
We might make out when nobody's there
It's not that we're scared
It's just that it's delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place (that) you've known
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

We might live like never before
When there's nothing to give
Well how can we ask for more
We might make love in some sacred place
The look on your face is delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place (that) you've known
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place (that) you've known
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Lost- Part II

*Sigh*... so NO ONE got it right... between the comments here, a couple of emails and one phone call, everyone expected it to be either Jack or Hurley. Hello?? Does anybody even know me at all??... Especially Jack (sorry Mr. Petersen...)- a girl needs a lover, not a savior. I actually find his I'm-your-hero-I-can-heal-you-and-I'm-deep-coz-I'm-a-doctor-with-tattoos complex kinda annoying. And condescending, making everyone around him appear just that much smaller and more incompetent. Like geez... take a break from saving the world please...

A relationship needs sparks, and there's no shortage of some serious sparkage when it comes to Sawyer if you ask me... I know he can be a complete and utter jerk (Jude's flabbergasted that I actually find "the greasy redneck" attractive... His jealousy is adorable- really...), but c'mon, how can you hate a man whose voice soothes a baby even when he's talking about torque, transmissions and horsepower? The man's a marshmallow inside... Of course the whole smouldering chemistry between him and Kate helps too. I like them together- she takes his swagger down a notch, and he lets her be herself. And ain't it every woman's dream to tame the rogue?... :)

Which male Lost character do you love?

Take this quiz!

Ok, but eye candy aside, the show is driving me crazy- honestly, it's like a drug... We're three episodes away from the end of Season 1 (yes, it's been a Lost marathon every night since Saturday...), and if you ask Jude, he'll tell you he's probably never heard me hold back from swearing so much. I hate the emotional and psychological roller-coaster it takes you, I hate how it toys with my mind, and I hate how it makes me squirm and laugh all at the same time. And I take it all in like an addled, helpless addict... Watching it on DVD is great because you don't have to bother with all the ads and the excruciating lapses between episodes, but when we start watching the Season 2 re-runs on TV, I'm forseeing profound mood swings between Wednesdays**. I'm not sure if my psyche (or my husband) is going to be able to bear the tension man...

Oh, be still my beating heart...

**As a result of one of my obsessive web-surfing expeditions through all things Lost, I discover that in order to finish showing all the the re-runs of Season 2 before Season 3 begins in September, come July 19, it'll be two back-to-back episodes every week... OMG, ok people, you know what NOT to do between 9pm- 11pm on those Wednesdays... Actually you know what not to do from 9pm this Wednesday on...

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Webpage wallpaper

So I've been planning on getting a proper webpage up and going for the longest time- the more I look at the Google Pages one I have right now, the more it looks like a glorifed Powerpoint presentation. And it's especially frustrating that I can't customize how the background looks.

So anyways, when we were in Chicago the last time, I bought a pattern library CD and spent today playing around with the patterns and colors on Photoshop to figure something out for my webpage wallpaper. And I need help. Have about 15 samples right now (they're up in an album on Flickr) and I need to whittle that down to about 9 or so. I'm trying to achieve the whole retro/ vintage feel with the color combinations, but I'm not sure if it's working out... Some of you have a better eye for colors and web-design than I do, and I could really do with some advice. Thanks guys!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lost- Part I

The last time I obsessed over a TV series like this, I was still in school, I hadn't yet met Jude (because if I did, he would have given me such a hard time about it- he still does actually...), and I believed that the most profound love story of all time was between a Slayer and a vampire (who wouldn't??). Wednesday nights were Buffy nights and nothing would get in my way. The hour between 9pm- 10pm were sacrosanct and anyone who knew me also knew better than to ask anything of me in that 60 minutes. I would have ignored them even if they tried.

And now, almost 8 years later, the same thing is happening- no thanks to my husband who decided that we have to catch up on the whirlwind of a phenomenon otherwise known as Lost. We watched it in bits and pieces throughout the two seasons but nothing sustained. Jude got really caught up with it just this past season and figured we should just start from scratch and watch the whole darn thing right from the beginning. This is where we say a prayer of thanks to Blockbuster Online. We've watched the first 8 episodes of Season 1 already, and now I'm obsessed. Message boards, conspiracy theories, website games, fan-fiction, you name it, I've been there, sucked into the Lost miasma this whole last week. That's it, even if it means staying up till 4 in the morning, I'm going to watch the rest of Season 1 and the first episode of Season 2 before next Wednesday's re-run so we can follow the whole labyrinthine narrative in the right order.

I do have to say though that some parts of the series compel me more than others- Jude loves the intricacies of the plot and the mind-games the writers play. I suppose those intrigue me, but it also gets really frustrating after a while and it drives me absolutely loony... I like the relationship more, the characters and their flashbacks. I have nothing but respect for writers who can weave intricate character tapestries and still keep the main action of the plot going- now that's what I call good TV.

On a fluffier note, it helps too that there's plenty of eye-candy involved, both for the guys and the women. Came across this quiz on the web (told you I've been sucked in...). Let's see if people can figure out who's got me gripped on the show. There are 4 choices, and I'll give you the weekend to take a shot at guessing. We'll see who knows me best! This will be fun... (Ok, Sam and Jude can't play coz they know...)

Jack- The doctor with the martyr complex
Sawyer- The Southern rogue with a past
Hurley- The lovable one who used to be a mental patient
Charlie- The former rock star (and former hobbit) with a drug problem