Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cranium Central!

This is insane:

After about two and a half hours worth of this bloody thing yesterday, followed by what has got to be the most overhyped two games of Jenga, I walked out of Settler's Cafe utterly exhausted.

As in, after 6-hours-of-non-stop-clubbing-dehydrated-need-to-crash level of tiredness.

Why on earth would you play Cluedo or Risk when you have this!? Taboo is good too, but better if you're with a bunch of close friends so that all the personal innuendos can come into play. I really liked the artwork though... very Felix the Cat.

That was one disturbing cartoon man. I always felt very unsettled after watching it. And come to think of it, Felix reminds me of Sonic the Hedgehog. Ok, nevermind.

I realised having prata supper at Upp Thomson on a public holiday will allow you to bump into people from every bloody educational institute you've attended in your life. Except kindergarten.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Maddening Crowd

(He's escaping from it all. Mentally.)

My family's reunion dinner is not for the faint of heart. Or hearing.

The noise decibels rises gradually through the night till it reaches an almost indecipherable crescendo of blaring tv+screaming children+men talking about football+women yakking+toys emitting sounds+others.

I only contribute to, like, half of that.

The lines of gender are clearly drawn though, and its something that frustrates me even though it seems perfectly natural enough. The women are really in the kitchen, the men sit and talk/watch soccer, the women later talk about losing weight and children, the men talk about shares and assets.

Which is why I absolutely adored Jia Ye who stood her ground amidst all the madness.


You're top notch alright.

Behold! The madness.


Hm ok, maybe you've to see around the corner to understand what I mean. (My family's into babies. I have a mountain-load of expectations on me to live up to) :


Not forgetting the other two camped out in front of the computer (plus the other 10 or so I'll see tomorrow.


But seriously, kids are great.

[Conversation when I tried to take over the game on the computer to chase them outside]
Reuben: But you never play this before!! Its very difficult one you know! Level 6 is very difficult!
Me: Nevermind, I can still try right?
Reagan: Try for what? You try you'll also die what.


With their kind of angst and inclination for nasty remarks, its no wonder JiaYe remains numero uno in my book. Boys. Tsk.


But ok, the other stuff. Like food!


I was planning to take a photo of the entire table with all the food, but 3 hours of waiting didn't really make anyone (including myself) less hungry and I really couldn't be bothered at that time. So this will have to do. Ingredients for steamed fish, teochew style.


Apparently, my grandma buys and cooks entire ducks and chickens by herself. I always thought she bought 'em from somewhere.

WRK_0002 .

You know what that is? Big-ass prawns soon to be turned into absolutely unhealthy, deep-fried, batter-coated prawn fritters. Yum.

So ya, the date with Mr Engineer was quite interesting in the sense that I had never actually met someone who had absolutely no interest in having an opinion on things. Wait. I never actually had a conversation with an actual engineer before, so that rules out everything. Anyway,I figured its because of where he's from, or maybe anyone born outside of Singapore is like that.

Ya. I'm still puzzled. Having an opinion on everything and anything is like all I can do. Other than talking.

Note to self: Do not tell Boss about personal life especially when it is likely he will use it as ammo to take more potshots just to keep me in my place.


My cleaner called me today and asked what I was doing tomorrow. He said he had nothing much on, and was thinking of visiting a Japanese shrine just to look-see.

With a divorce and a cheating wife behind him, and a son who the aunties in Channel 8 dramas would call "a good-for-nothing unfilial son".. happy fucking chinese new year indeed.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Post-wine Pre-work ramble

Ok, so maybe I am selfish.

Francis called me last night to come into work today. I hope i didn't scare him off with my enthusiastic HELLO!!!!!! on the phone.

Arrived at the office to see that there was free food (mee siam) available for some kinda pre-CNY celebration for pix desk and I really really really couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it was for me to come back on the day there was free food. It's been a long time since I had a good laugh at my own expense.

I say I am selfish, because I took such immense pleasure in taking photographs today, and perhaps all that talk about doing good for the world was a temporary rant to make myself feel less guilty for doing something I enjoy.

There's just something about the camera, something about creating the photo, something about all the dials and the numbers and the exposure ratings and the cool click of the shutter that gets my blood racing like mad, and I was on adrenaline hours after the assignment ended.

And I think I remember feeling like that during all the other assignments. Regardless of how inane the subject was. Or how damn shitty the photos turned out.

My motivations may have wavered, but the emotions have always remained the same.

Will update as my Mind shifts. Which it will. Frequently.

Anyway. Chinese New Year. As a taxidriver said to me today, "Every year, the same bloody thing. I really not looking forward to it."

Not exactly true for me, I do like the reunions and the crazy gambling (plus this year I will bring beer) and the nonsense talk. I do NOT like the shopping-ritual-get-new-clothes routine or the wake-up-early-to-dress-and-go=visiting part

I remember I used to get a new set of pajamas every CNY when I was younger. Some traditions should never have been stopped.

Question: How long more can I use "But I'm so young!" as an excuse? Or reason. Whatever.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Emilia's Work

One thing that I've noticed - I leave voicemail messages in one breath. So whoever hears my msgs would think that I'm very rude for leaving messages in a breathless rush.

Ok so, Emilia came to town - Finnish/Spanish/Acehnese Emilia who had been in the jungles of Meulaboh for the past 7 months - and civilisation was perhaps a bit too much of a shock.

"I can't believe I'm caring about whether my hair is washed," she said. "I can't believe you accessorize."

So I gave her medicine, an absolutely hedonistic weekend to recharge her and to prepare her for another half a year of, er well, not caring if her hair is washed.

And she was my medicine, literally dragging me up from the bore I was becoming (read every other post below) and in the 5 days she was here managed to get rid of my blah-blah-sad-sad-whine-whinyness, dragged me shopping for an outfit i would NEVER have EVER EVER worn (read: pink and shiny) to go to the place I said I had no desire to go to (read: MOS) and squealed with me over Grey's Anatomy and Buffy and read the first lines of books in Borders to see which one took our breath away and planned how we might share a room in Mozambique in 2007 and landed me a date an actual date on Friday and in between all of which we bitched about capital punishment and politics and prostitution and military stupidity and women's rights and men/boys and humanitarian work and basically whatever made us human.

So I really don't care that the wonderful weekend ended up with me sniffling away in bed, utterly sick. (i can't feel my nose)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I bet Indians are happier than Singaporeans

Ok, I'm moving to Nigeria, for real. Or South America.

I wonder where's Singapore ranked in THIS survey.

The World Happiness Survey:

Here and Here

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A certain Park on a certain Night

WRK_0132 copy

WRK_0077 copy

WRK_0100 copy

I'd never been to the Speakers' corner before. I knew where it was located, roughly, but the entire Chinatown/ClarkeQuay/NorthBridge/SouthBridge/BoatQuay area is just one big mess of directionless impressions in my head. Make no mistake about it, I will get lost in that area.

Anyway, after taking photos for FYP (am working: hooray!) along North Canal Road, I debated between heading to Settler's Cafe just a few doors down and crossing the road to Hong Lim Park, aka our Speakers' Corner.

Lars, in case you this is uncharacteristically like our country, you need to get your speeches cleared before you speak. At the police post nearby.

Anyway, I never liked parks in Singapore. Actually, I never liked the concept of a park. Too manicured, too fake. Too planned.

This park's no different. But it was so cute to see a sign prohibiting musical instruments and sound players or something.

So I took photos of cats around the park. It was nice to be out of the house anyway.

But I kinda wish that couple could've chosen a better place to start making out.

Oh wait. They were in a park. Hm.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Jess wants to see what typing with tequila feels like.


Somehow, I turned on comments moderation, and didn't know about it. Ah well, its off now.

I did it! Some how I did it! I downloaded the entire Season 1 of Grey's Anatomy!

The show has protaganist Meredith Grey narrating throughout, offering very witty and philosophical insights on her life, the big picture, everything. Her voice booms of wisdom at the beginning and end of each episode.

I have no narrator in my life, no one's wrapping up my scenes, no one's giving me the moral of all my few stories. Hey! That's something Meredith would say.

But yes, I feel like a Meredith. Because Meredith thinks too much. Meredith makes a big deal of everything. Meredith tries to understand things that she shouldn't bother with.

This is why Grey's Anatomy is such an excellent show. A character to suit your every mood. Relate to the show no matter how you feel! Sad/cynical/perky/happy/goofy/philosophical/cute/nonchalent/assholic.

Let me type something i think Meredith would say.

"You see, I believe, no matter how humble you are, no matter how realistic you try to be, no matter how low your self esteem is, you never really truely believe that you're dispensable until it happens. Being dispensable. It has a nice ring to it, I think. And even after I know it, I still refuse to believe it. Power of denial people, witness the power of denial and naive optimism all rolled into one."

I lack a metaphor. Tequila takes away my metaphors.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


If I manage to get a team together, I so totally gonna take part in the Singapore River Raft Race next year.

Like, totally.

Why? Because its the most fun I've witnessed in Singapore for a loooong time. It beats everything on my list so far.

Oh wait, there is no list. Hmm ok its the only fun thing I've seen in Singapore so far.

Its friggin' hilarious people! I think I will die laughing on my raft. They will have to fish me out.

1. Parody of Raffles!
2. Parody of Sang Nila Utama!
3. Parody of Sang Nila Utama and Raffles!
4. Aeroplane!
5. A CAT!
6. Sinking Blondes!

Er ok maybe I won't be contributing much to the fun or creative part, but I still think it will be hilarious. Its all in the details! We won't win the race, but dammit we'll give 'em them a show to remember!

Witness, just one small slice of the hilarity I saw this morning:

Ok fine, its the you-had-to-be-there kinda hilarity. These three kiddos were paddling away and completely tired out by the end of the race. The the one on the left sits like a little king on a little throne.

And, my boat is so gonna kick this boat's ass.

I liked how the emcees poked fun at everything.

[During the 'International Race' the Brit team swerved in the direction Brewerkz]
-"Oh it looks like the Royal British Navy are going off-course!... yeah you Brits are just gonna head straight for the beer aren't you."
-"That's supposed to be a cow??? Oh boy you guys sure ARE creative."

-"Just to remind the tourists, these are NOT the boats you will be on if you sign up for the Singapore River Cruise.."

Anyway, I was at the event for another reason altogether:

Spot the odd butt out. (Er, its not me)

Brother's 2nd body building competition.

So, with one healthfreak-brother and one mother-marathoner in my family - I guess I have to accept that genes are all dad's.

Witness! The similarity.

My mom and I quite enjoy exchanging jokes like "i told you he's senile" and "Woodbridge lost a patient again" when my dad laspes into this fuck-care-i-will-sit-where-i-like mood. He really really doesn't care. And well, neither do I.

Interesting note: the sheer number of cameras I saw on display today at Clarke Quay made me want to hide mine. I don't know why! It must be an ego/pride thing.

They were ALL carried by men. With spiffing new Lowepro bags and tripods. You know what they say about short men syndrome... the cameras seemed to be fulfilling some kinda similar purpose. Maybe it was because so many of 'em had huge zoom lenses screwed on.

Ah whatever! I wonder what gaping hole of my personality my camera fills up.

I miss cheap BW film.

This is my favourite pasttime too.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Yeah I know I've been such a utter bore.

You know who's not boring? My cousins Reuben and Reagan.

Violent tendencies aside (ultraman and what not), they totally outclassed me.

"No! First you must come down from the sky!"
"Oh ok but which missile you use?"
"Use the pink missile. Its very fast one."

Of course, I can't understand half of their ultraman jargon. I'm sure they sensed this, and thus tried to switch to a topic which they assumed I'd understand - fashion.

I tried asking him which of two shirts belonged to him (the other would be his brother's).

"Oh so if your korkor picked the red one, that means you take this blue one?"
"Its not blue."
"Huh? It's blue what."
(disdainfully) "It's dark blue."

Wah lau. He's four, leh.

I wonder if children have any concept of age. They think my grandma's 6, my aunt's 12, my mom's 11 and my uncle's 10. Hm.

I used to think that I would never allow my kid to play with guns/missiles/bazookas/cannons/any-form-of-weapon, and preach to him the positive-ness of world peace and what not.

But what if this turns him/her into an outcast in school?

"OK! All of you take the gun then we go and hide and this group must try to kill this group!"
"No, my mummy says not to think with our penises and to think with our head. We must be peaceful."
"My mummy says there are too many wars going on."
"... Ok you next time ah you don't play with us."

Speaking about violence, I found out on the Nat Geo channel last night that:

1. chimpanzees eat other smaller monkeys and they like the taste of meat
2. chimpanzees have taken unguarded human babies and eaten them (Uganda)
3. chimpanzees form patrols to go out and look for other chimps in their territory, and then will beat these chimps to death (not to eat).

Other than knowing how to use a stick, tendency towards violence for the sake of violence is something that we thought only humans had.

I also watched something on elephant rage. Where seemingly tame elephants turn on their owners and kill them.

Er. I think I would do the same too, if I had a bloody ball and chain tied to my hind leg which doesn't allow me to walk around my concrete room while thinking about how they killed my mother.

Rambling on.

I watch with half-amusement, half-amazement at this supposed "drama" unfolding with Singaporean bloggers. Oh man. I mean, seriously? Seriously!? Maciam highschoolmeangirlsbitchfest. Who's willing to bet a certain Ms Luo with ST will pick this up?

If so serious, file police report lor. heh.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ok so here's the deal. I've been a real wreck the past two days. I've done nothing but to sit at home in some kind of completely paralysed state procrastinating on everything that I have to do (which is a lot) watching and downloading god knows how many episodes of Grey's Anatomy.

And I watch myself in this horrible state of what I call loserish-ness like some concerned, appalled third party, seeing myself growing more and more stressed at the amount of work which I fail to do and yet cannot still unable to find any will to do it.

Oh boy, I really wish they gave out prizes on procrastination. Then at least I'd have something to show for it.

And now, having wasted another day, I am so completely stressed out I resorted to a shot of tequila at FOUR in the afternoon.

This is all completely my fault. Lack of discipline, lack of self control, lack of a sense of responsibility.

And you know what? No matter how stressed I am ( I suspect it will get worse) I still don't care. My heart's racing, not because of too much coffee, but because I know all these FYP things I gotta do and haven't gotten around to doing, I'm ready to tear my hair out and yell at people, but I still don't care.

I'm not depressed or sad, I'm not in some kinda self-pitying state. I feel like I'm in some kind of state of denial, but I don't know denial over what.

Maybe I just need a good tight slap. I thought Shyam delivered that (in spirit) the last time, but I guess I'm so incorrigible I need it on a regular basis.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I love Grey's Anatomy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I am so stressed right now something in my head's gonna blow!!

I'm not sure its such a good strategy to reassure myself that I actually will get to continue with my project AFTER i hand it in. DEADLINES stress me.


Sunday, January 08, 2006


A whole lotta babbling to do. This is what happens after one day devoid of human contact!

But wait! First, a utterly useless piece of information: Dave Barry's brother, Phil, lives in
Sunnyvale, California!

After spending half-a-day lazily scanning through books at the library, this is one which really left an impression:

by Philip Toledano

and this:

Kerry Skarbakka's series, "The Struggle to Right Oneself", Aperture's Summer 2005 issue.

BUT! The real bloody kicker of the day was the frenchie that terrorized me in Media Culture and Analysis class a year or so back. Simul-your-head-crum lah!

I picked up the book because my the smallish size of it looked easy to handle and I really was damn tired of all these enormous photo books with its sprawling photographs and immense waste of white space... but ya anyway... Luc Delahaye's
L'autre :

A series of photographs of unknowing people in the French subway. Because I lack European sensabilities, I failed to appreciate it. Till I read Baudrillard's essay hidden at the back.

It was titled "Poetic Transference of Situation", which of course in any typical circumstances would be enough academic gibberish to make me close the book and throw it away in horror, because we all know I only bother entertaining gibberish like this and this.

But ya, thanks to that class, I remembered that Mr Frenchie (and all academics lah) has this incurable illness that makes him believe his otherwise coherant and rather intelligent observations will not be understood by the mass population unless he dresses them up in as many unnecessary words as possible so as to make easy reading an impossibility.

Anyway, I very much enjoyed his critcism of contemporary photography, which he claimed to be afflicted with "the image virus". Serious bashing.

He thinks Delahaye's work signifies a reversal of sorts, where "It's no longer, 'Reply to my questions' but, 'Tell me what questions I am to ask you.'"

Which contains a "glimmer of a solution to the problem of our notorious 'lack of communication', to the problem of the non-response of the Other.'

He goes on to explain, that we impose "forced signification" on what we photograph in an attempt "to ward off the emptiness and fragility of exchange".

"Few photographs escape this forced signification. Few photographs do not short-circuit the otherness of the object - that minimal chance of an upsurgance of otherness - by forcing a signification upon it or, in other words, by mediating it through an idea of one sort or another - in particular, the ideas of objective reality and testimony or witness."

Ok, nevermind, no need to go into his whole thing about what is reality blahblahbla

He says what we do now is a very "moralizing photography" which is "unable to render the real... it presents only the shameful version of it", "an abusive representation of that which does not wish to be represented."

Wah. Kenna bash.

"Contemporary photograph, operating as it does in the name of forced signification, knows only how to capture banality... in the guise of testimony, the photograph has become a security video..."

More bashing!

"..raiders and predators who plunder customs and cultures, faces and landscapes that are really none of their concern. Having nothing to do with them, they don't even really see them. And those who are to view their images do so in the same distant offhanded manner."

The solution? Along the lines of Delahaye's work:

"Good photography, in this way, takes its leave of misfortune and the aesthetics of misfortune to reveal what is neither of the order of morality nor of 'objective' conditions but remains indecipherable within each of us.... it bears no witness to anything."

Well, he's not really saying anything that new regarding objectivity/reality, but at least he offered an alternative.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Kenna Crystalled.

Woken up this morning from my post-Brewerkz high by a 6319 number... which turned out to be a Crystal from TNP, and not Malcolm begging me to go back to work. Dammit.

I swear I remember her saying she's Crystal NEO, but I only know of a Crystal CHAN... but anyway, she somehow knew about my trip to Banglaland, and she wanted me to comment on the recent Xiaxue Controversy (is there any other kind) regarding Bangladeshi workers.

Really, I thought that people should've learnt by now not to take ANYTHING that woman says seriously.

But yes, back to this Crystal journalist/reporter/writer person, I'm really sorry but you already pissed me off when you started your interview by saying you wanted to check if "rape and molest were common in Bangladesh" like you supposedly heard.

Oh my god! I had no idea I knowingly let myself travel to such a horribly barbaric country. What kind of an idiot to you have to be to let those words pass from your mouth?

Ok, nevermind. You aren't the only one who thinks like that anyway.

I admit I was sleepy and cannot remember properly the exact words. But I do remember:

- When I didn't answer your question like you'd expected, you were completely stumped, and proceeded to ask me again and again in the hope that I would give you a more positive answer.

"So were you ever harassed?"
"You were never harassed?"
"Did you walked on the streets by yourself?"
"SO.. you were never harassed?"

- You asked the most endearing questions ever.

"Why were you there?"
"I was on an internship"
"Oh, but why Bangladesh?"
"Because I wanted to try a new culture."
"Oh... but why Bangladesh?"

You're real cute, girl.

I think I went on a little rant about simplifying cultures and generalising an entire country based on a few.. but I really don't think that'll find its way into the papers.

"Oh so you think that Xiaxue was over-generalising when she said.... etc etc"
"Yes of course. And so are you."

I am damn uphip. Even my own father has been to the MOS.

Horrifying sms received at 6 pm:

"Ministry of Sound
Damn hip man drinks
on the house till 9 pm"

He called me, half an hour later, sounding a little bit lost, looking to speak to my mother. "Wah this place quite big ah?" Hiyah, its some official dinner function thingy lah.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My image of how things should be remains pretty simple, people should have food and a (solid) roof over their heads, a chance to go to school, and not be forced to do anything they don't want to do.

I'm aware of the perils of imposing one culture's standard of living upon another, and I'm really not about to go down that path.

And yes, of course acknowledged selfishness (and thus awareness and the ability to take control), is better than noble naivety.

But it still isn't enough for me. I can be pouring gratitude out of every pore as I take my picture and do my interviews, I can think and pray for them every night, and realise how much realise that they are so much better people than I am for letting me turn them into subjects...

Acknowledgement is the first step, of course. It does all those things you said, it keeps you humble, keeps your motives in check, you realise you aren't the matyr riding in on a white horse to save all these people. Of course not.

But then what? And, so what, really?

As I said, the boy in the picture, why would he care that i'm grateful that he let me take this photo?

The only person who feels good about this acknowledgement is ME.

So really, all this comes back to making yourself feel good about what you're doing, satisfying your conscience, alleviating your guilt.

I do actually have a point. I'm not putting journalism down for the sake of doing it. I'm exploring another option, one which seems to be the better thing for me to do, but I'm not sure of myself so I don't feel comfortable talking about it.

Anyway, I'm in no place to judge anyone else by myself. And of course, Ghim is right, we should all choose to change things the way we can. And may I just add, in the best way possible.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Jess changes her mind. Again.

Some day, I hope I will look back at all that I've written and note some PROGRESS.

My god, my belief in things are so amenable and temporary that it scares me. Even though it only includes the items that lie on the periphery of my belief system, and not my core values, its so utterly frustrating to have absolutely no faith in what you think is right, because you know you will prove yourself wrong sooner or later.

Anyway, the latest in Jess's ever shifting landscape of life, is that she's starting to think her head has perhaps been too high up in the clouds and obscured by all the pretty fluffy things.

Believing that I do journalism because I want to help?

The effectiveness of a photo or story is so utterly limited that I really don't know why I've been deceiving myself. Yes, of course there's always that slight chance of making an impact somewhere, but is that really enough to satisfy me?

I always used to reassure myself with the lasting words of Peter Fryer "You'll never change the world, let's not have any illusions. But for me, if somewhere out there someone's mind is changed, its enough for me."

Er, maybe just one mind is aiming a bit too low, doncha think? And so what a bloke in Europe now thinks that oh dear he'd better send off some money to Pakistan because the poor kids are in tents. Is that really all you hope to achieve? Or slog off my whole life to get that one earth-shattering-photo-of-the-year. Just one? Or maybe two?

Looking back at all the great photojournalists, yes they've done their part to raise awareness. But how much of what they did actually made a difference to the people they photographed? How much tangible help did the people receive?

If I'm poor and hungry, I don't give a damn if someone in Europe knows of my existence. That would really mean nothing to me. SEND ME FOOD. GIVE ME A JOB. ANYTHING but to become a discussion point over the dinner table.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you want to get things done, maybe its best you do it yourself.

And not through a pen/camera, not through your editor/website/newspaper/magazine. Through your own hands and sweat and everything.

My camera suddenly makes me feel selfish. Photography suddenly seems so selfish to me.

Will Update as my Mind shifts.

No, he really doesn't care what you think.