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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fruit pulp

Thanks to my best friend for making my morning!

A few years ago, I had posted something about the then new ad for the Sony Bravia flat panel TV.

Other ad companies had apparently then started imitating and spoofing the commercial to great effect!

What makes it funny however, is not just the spoof itself, but the reaction it then garnered from the residents of Swansea, where the ad was filmed. See here. Thank goodness Sony didn't use fruit- I doubt they could afford to the incur ire of the entire city of San Francisco.


**Update: Ok, it would now seem that this entire thing- from the ad to the Swansea residents' website was part of a larger viral campaign by Tango, the juice-maker! The campaign also included a spoof news website and ebay listings of things allegedly "broken" during the filming of the ad. See here.

Clever... :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back in the kitchen

You know it's Fall in Ann Arbor when a bus ride that typically takes 20 minutes takes you 35 instead :( Yup, it's Move-In day at the dorms, which means huge big-ass SUVs on every corner and brand-new, shiny "here's your present for getting into college" BMWs and VWs... Note to self: stay at home on Move-In days from now on.

So we've been back for a couple of days and still reeling from the jetlag somewhat. I thought I was doing well yesterday until I rested my head on the pillow at 10pm (why? why? she asks herself...), and the next thing I knew, it was 5am. I decided to wake up, did some work, and then promptly went back to sleep until 8.30am. I'm sure that doesn't bode well for my general functioning today...

Something that did help me stave off the jetlag blues yesterday afternoon was cooking actually. I know, that sounds odd, but there's something in the rhythmic chopping, slicing and prepping that necessitated a kind of easy focus and attention from my mind that would have otherwise succumbed to the drowsiness. And so I spent the afternoon making a batch of stuffed zucchinis. It was a little labor-intensive, but like I said, I needed it, and it was somewhat therapeutic too. I miss cooking in our own kitchen- actually, I miss cooking. The thing about being home is never having to cook on our own- there's no shortage of local food to eat and lucky us, home-cooked food is always just a phonecall away... :) But I've also missed pottering around our kitchen, thinking up of new things to try, and bringing back old favorites that always satisfy.

Speaking of which, if you do have a couple of hours to spare, try this recipe for Stuffed Zucchinis. I adapted it from Simply Recipes that calls for turkey sausages. We didn't have any so I used ground chicken and seasoned it with fennel, paprika, red chili flakes and a generous dash of salt and pepper. And I used 5 regular sized zucchinis rather than the really large ones. Everything else was pretty much the same. I highly recommend the recipe- the zucchinis come out all succulent and flavorful, and because it's all veggie and lean white meat, it's healthy too! Just what we need after 5 weeks of abadoned indulgence!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Field Recording 2: Singapore street auction

It's the seventh (ghost) month on the Lunar calendar and temporary stages have been erected all over Singapore. These stages typically host performances (if the clan or business association can afford it) or more commonly benevolent auctions to benefit charities. These auctions tend to be noisy affairs and street performances in their own right. The auctioneer is typically a professional trained in the art of handling a rowdy and drunken bunch. Also, conducting an auction by the side of a busy is no mean feat. This auction was recorded on August 23rd at about 10.30pm and was located outside the coffeeshop on the corner of Sin Min and Thomson Roads.

* update: thought I would add some photos for good measure to provide some context to the field recordings.

A friday night out with the boys

Talking cock after hours when the roads are emptied of people and traffic. Surrounded by denizens of late night eating establishments. Conversation ranges from the inane to serious politics. Catch phrase of last night "wikipedia taught me more than my father" ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tempeh contribution

Sometime in April when we had the Cooks over for dinner, we made Tempeh Tauhu Goreng and then posted the photo onto Flickr.

Subsequently, we were approached by someone in the U.K. who manufactures tempeh who asked if he could use the photo on his company's website as well as have the recipe. The website's now up and so is the photo and the recipe. Here's the site's front page:

I gave them a modified recipe from the one I had used since they told me that most of their customers are vegetarians. Here's the vegetarian version of the dish.

There was no money exchanged in the process of course, but we got credit for the photo and the recipe, and it's just nice to know that our food pornography's appreciated ... :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

881 Soundtrack: A review

After watching the movie, it was time to spend some time mulling over the music of course, and I have to say that both Jude and I have become rather taken with the soundtrack actually. While the film was a little long-drawn at parts, with the soundtrack, I was left wanting more. The renditions of ge-tai standards aside, all the songs written specifically for the film are truly exquisite.

There was a time in my junior college days when mornings were defined by my friend, Yvonne and I walking to school while humming popular xinyao songs (see Wikipedia entry here for this genre of songs originating right here in Singapore.) Listening to the 881 soundtrack has reminded me once again why I- thoroughly non-Mandarin speaking- had found this brand of Chinese songs so beguiling, and why I'm now beginning to rediscover that side of me that loved this music so much. I think there is something about the lyricism of the language that lends itself easily- with few words- to evoking rich images and hence complex moods and emotions. And it is this spareness and simplicity of the lyrics that make the layers of meaning even more profound.

Take for exmple "Black May" (身外物), my favorite track on the album. For those of you who read Mandarin, here are, in my opinion, the most moving lines:

身体和财富, 都是身外物.
人类是租户, 爱却是礼物.
哪怕物归原主, 爱也不会结束.

I don't admit to having a command of the Chinese language enough to translate this accurately, and even if I did, something is bound to be lost in the process anyway. But to give you a rough idea of the melancholy captured in just those few lines, a very rudimentary, very unpolished translation might read: Our bodies and wealth are merely borrowed for this short performance otherwise known as Life; we are but renters of these mortal possessions. But Love is a gift, and even if it is to be returned one day, it will endure.

Here's the video of the song, performed by Ngak, a popular pub singer/songwriter who performs in various local venues:

Another exceptionally written song, and also the unofficial title track of the album is "One-Half" (一人一半). There are several versions of it on the soundtrack and the album version is performed in a combination of Hokkien and Mandarin.

The lightly upbeat melody of this tune belies the heartbreak and sadness so palpable in the lyrics. Together with "Black May", "One Half" and most of the original songs on the soundtrack sustain a theme of waiting, sacrifice, and a tortured love muted and thwarted by circumstances. In other words, this is painful stuff, folks...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Royston Tan's 881: A review

Royston Tan's 881 opened last week on the 9th of August. The choice of the opening date was really strategic to the movie I must say - 9th of August was National Day and it is also right before the Lunar 7th month or Ghost Month begins.

In a previous post, we've exclaimed our enthusiasm for this movie. Apparently this enthusiasm was also shared by Serene's family and it was a big day out for everyone as I reserved an entire row of seats at the cinema.

The movie has been greatly hyped in the mainstream media and I was both surprised and glad to hear that Royston managed to get actual getai performers to act in this movie. Also, the dialogue of was filmed in a mixture of Hokkien dialect and Mandarin. This was of great interest especially to older Singaporeans (many of whom I spotted in the audience) as the vernacular dialects have been banned on most media channels since the early 1980s.

The opening of the movie was also not without controversy though. According to the Royston Tan blog, the director and cast member (Mindee Ong) were injured by assailants on motorcycles who pelted them with eggs. Read more about it (as well as the official press conference) here.

But did the movie live up to the hype? I would have to say that for the most part it did. The performances put in by the two main protagonists were stellar. Additionally, the visuals in movie were stunning and there was interesting use of CG especially towards the end of the movie. Everyone (this is referring to myself and Serene's family) enjoyed the songs and musical numbers so much that we were still humming a couple of the tunes after dinner. However, there were moments in the movie which would have benefited from tighter editing. There were points which I felt that Royston belabored and could have made more succinct.

We just managed to get hold of the soundtrack and are looking forward to listening to when we return to Ann Arbor and when home just seems a little too far away... :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

New personal avatars - advice sought

We have been meaning to improve on our avatars for a while now. The existing avatars were created using a web application and did their jobs well until now. As the both of us are back in Singapore at the same time, we thought that we would ask our very talented friend Dominic Chang, who's a brilliant animator to help us with creating improved versions of our online identities and image. The result of his work can be seen in the image above. And below shows you how much work Dominic put into this through his process sketches.

What we were going to do with the final icons are to digitize them and then load them onto either Photoshop or Illustrator and fill in the colors. I'd appreciate anyone's advice on how I should go about doing this as this is the first time we are actually doing something like this. Hope to hear from someone soon.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Everyone smile!
Originally uploaded by jyew.
After 4 years of not being around for my parents' birthdays, Jude and I are finally home in August and able to celebrate their birthdays with them this year. My dad's birthday today was a nice little affair, complete with a flower arrangement, a tower of cupcakes, a homemade meal of course, and the wonderful company of my uncle, aunt, and my cousins, Jill and Terri (who just discovered that yes, she can bowl, thanks to the Wii...)

I remember how special it was when my family were with us in Ann Arbor at my birthday two years back, so I'm really glad we're home this year for my parents'.

Happy Birthday Dad! And many many many many happy returns!! :)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Field Recordings: Singapore miscellany

For those of you who have been following our flickr site, you would know that I've sunk some money in an Edirol R09 digital audio/field recorder. I've just started using this device over the past couple of days and must say that I've been very impressed with the results. While it's not exactly difficult to use, getting the recorder going while you are on the move or in a tight spot can be a little involved. Also, I've not invested in external mics yet and have so far relied on the onboard mics on the device. I am still playing around with the settings to suit various use situations and I've included a sampling of how I've used the device below. It's also hoped that my audio captures can provide more context/depth to the photos that I am taking:

Sri Krishna Hindu Temple, Waterloo Street, Singapore

This snippet highlights the fact that I am still getting used to the recorder and also haven't really plucked up the courage to approach performers. I was standing outside the temple recording this. The audio would have been better if I tweaked the settings and actually went inside the temple.

Sembawang Beach, Singapore (08/01/07)

Sembawang is on the Northeast coast of the island. The beach that you see above used to be a British military wharf that has now been converted into a park. It's a nice quiet little beach that still hasn't lost it's rural and laid back air. However, there are still remants of the old wharves that are evident. I sat on one of these old steps and placed the recorder down to capture that waves lapping at the old foundations of the wharves.

Mercury Rev @ Esplanade, Singapore (08/02/07)

This was a rather strange night for me. The esplanade is now the preeminent venue for arts performances in Singapore. However, the venue has been also trying to reach out to a younger crowd by hosting a series of 'indie' and local acts in a month long event called "Baybeats". However, some of the acts in the event has a strong cultural clash with the identity of the Esplanade. It's sort of like hosting the Sex Pistols in the Lincoln Center. And this incongruity was starkly evident in the fact that the venue's ushers busied themselves throughout the performance by asking audiences members to remain in their seats and also to keep ensuring that there was no photography throughout the performance. It was a futile effort.

The audio captured here was in a live performance setting where I was seated 4 rows away from the stage and smack in the middle. The acoustics of the room were excellent , however, the recorder was in my shirt pocket and it may have captured some side conversations that I was having with folks that I attended the concert with. Beware though, I manage to capture quite a big chunk of the concert. As such, the file is rather large (136mb to be exact). Enjoy :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Patriot

9th August is Singapore's National Day. And prime opportunity for what is now one of my all time favorite pictures of my dear husband :)

There are so many layers of humour and irony to this photo that I can't even begin to unpack... :)