Sunday, 8 October 2017

A post from Uganda

(Actually two weeks ago) Today (yesterday, since I don’t have wi-fi at home) I cooked laksa fried rice and chicken rice for my host family and showed them pictures of Singapore. They liked it, which was great because I low-key messed up the texture of the rice using unfamiliar equipment, and with my host mother letting all the steam out for the laksa fried rice (which I should have used more water anyway) They retired soon after…which led me to another episode of aching nostalgia. It’s as if I have a secret life in me that I have not returned to, a place I’m supposed and do call home. It’s as if I will go back, and see all my friends and family again as if nothing’s changed even though that isn’t true. It’s as if I’ve been wandering for so long I miss the cheesy Changi Airport signs that welcome all traveling, admittedly also upper-middle class, Singaporeans, receive. Or maybe it was just the memories that each photo held, some kind of mysterious but familiar memory of just me and Daphne which tears at me, especially those city-lights on the riverfront. Maybe it’s being tired for the first time of the bigger world out there, with all its glories and failures at the same time. I know that Singapore is not ‘clean’ despite what the stereotypes and the government promise. But it’s still home. This has always kept me tethered, however arbitrary it is. That picture of Ying Yue at the Singapore Art Museum makes me want to read her blog and reconnect, even though I’ve tried it before but I guess my comment was lost. I know too, that I can get that same feeling of personal nostalgia, and I have, walking anywhere alone with my camera. But maybe it’s because those old photos of Singapore were my best of my oldest, they have that defining feature of ‘being there for me’; and I know that nobody else would have taken some of those very specific shots. Maybe because at my core is this melodramatic, pretentious melancholy that I know, when it came down to it, would let me walk out of a party/club if I wasn’t feeling it, by myself (or with Chris), down an empty, incandescent-lit street. I am bummed, although not surprised that the only person who connected with me over ‘the moon and the sun’ by ANECHOIS was Karen. I hope she’s doing well. I think I’m going to try and give Steele a copy of the EP/album since Yggdrasil is literally his door image. Maybe it’s just because it’s no coffee day.

^Wrote that a while ago but never remembered to post it while I had wifi, so I'm at a café now in Northern Uganda to post it. I've had a lot to say since, but as I'm tight on the wi-fi, I decided to just go with it.

Started this draft like 2 weeks ago

Sieving through pictures of Singapore to show my host family was perhaps the most powerful feeling I got to date since leaving my home … a deep and mysterious melancholy so indescribable (not in magnitude, just the fact that I can’t describe it) they must have invented the word ‘nostalgia’ and missing home just for it. To me, even though my family isn’t tight-knit and close, it is still special and maybe it’s the Chinese culture still in me, but I owe a great debt and will always try and be there for my parents when they are old. I say that, not knowing what kind of scenario that may be tested; after all, I am abroad while my dad is at home recovering from cancer.

Thinking about ‘why now’, and maybe it’s knowing that my friends and family back home are living their lives out and sharing and creating memories without me, and that the longer I’m away, the more I fade into their memories…except there’s Whatsapp and all is fine and dandy to a degree/till I get a degree haha geddit? I also miss Chris a lot (duh), I think mostly when I read her blog or feel cuddly. Rwandans are a warm bunch though and hugs are often and soon. My host mother is very sweet and has a hearty laugh whenever I imitate my host sister.

We did a 'processing session' last Friday; it's like a 'do whatever you want summer camp style' time allocated at the end of each week for students to lead some activity, be it etching out tensions (like last week) or building human pyramids. Last week we did a 'toilet paper pass' where we just picked a person in the group to say nice things about in a circle and passed them the roll to pass on to another person. Jack K passed me the roll and talked about how his support group back home was his fraternity, which happens to be Lambda Chi, how coincidental and wholesome is that? I'm so glad he's got great character and setting a good example for a historically problematic institution.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Peux ce que veux, allons-y

‘Rwanda is the Singapore of Africa, small and smart’ -Arsenal shirt wearing neighbour

‘Singapore is a small country, but a big idea’ - ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs George Yeo

I feel like I will not be able to really write out everything I’ve seen or heard that interests me, or that I won’t have the patience to outside of point form. And yet I feel so saturated with cool stories and observations it would be a terrible waste outside of my notebook ‘quickies’. I just hope my subconscious keeps up all this time. I am generally, I think, not ‘surprised’ by much, which makes me quite stoic/stone-faced to many. It was more a surprise to my host family for example, that I have washed my own clothes by hand before in my life, rather than me being nervous or surprised at having to do it here. It is not that I know everything already, but many things I know I don’t really know and so can’t really assume much and so come here and see, which excites and intrigues me, but doesn’t ‘surprise’ me or ‘break stereotypes’. It does help to confirm/unconfirm ‘commonly-held’ stereotypes that I know and gives me something to tell people who do hold them. I am not perfect of course, but it does mean I don’t know ‘where to begin’ outside of listing everything I’ve heard and seen and felt and smelled chronologically. I guess I’ve chosen, like always, to talk in general, in abstract, in weird jumbled blog-bytes.

^Wrote all of the above a day or two ago and have not just started my genocide classes here in Kigali, beginning with a movie called 'Ghosts of Rwanda', focusing a lot on the US perspective (it was made by PBS). I consider myself quite a stoic person who has loosened in outlook because I think it is more humane; the one part that did move me to tears was seeing Captain Mbaye's death in the movie. There can certainly be no heroes in a genocide, but he might have been the closest.

Practicing language is a good thing, because it is hard and it forces you at first. Alors je vais écrire un peu en français et peut-être en kinyarwanda. C'est la raison je n'ai pas publié ce poste plus tôt. J'ai décidé à essayer de faire la conversation avec le gens ici. C'est ce que je dirai: Muraho! Amakuru? Nanjye, ni meza. Nturuka he? Nturuka muri Singapour. Ndi umuyeshuri. Wowe se? Ukora iki?

C'est tout pour maintenant.

Saturday, 29 July 2017


In waiting listlessly for my phone to charge before I try to go to sleep for a nice day tomorrow, I went back to read posts from when my blog was slowing down to its current pace. If I didn't know any better just from reading some of them during the beginning of army, I should think I was actually going through some high-functioning depression, Man, really throws a wrench into when people ask me how army was, and usually I just start reminiscing about the end days and not basic training, when it was really quite... lonely.

Holy crap, I wrote that in a now deleted draft titled 'Montréal'. I wanted to switch my title to what my post is going to be about more... which meant I could actually just have changed the title oops. Ah well I think there is a different feeling (completely irrational of course) of changing to a 'new post', which in the interests of time I won't finish tonight, but maybe on the bus tomorrow...
Don't want to forget about this so I'll insert some placeholder text but keep it... so I guess it's not...
There is a very specific feeling when you end a novel. When you read... the epilogue. I'm on said bus right now and just like the showing, I'm going to finish this post. I'm first going to say a few more words on Chester Bennington's death, starting with what I wrote on facebook:
actually placeholder text? Anyway, Samurai Jack has become my number 1 favourite cartoon, over
I know this random longass post is abit bourgeois melodramatic, but "Linkin Park and its lead singer were especially popular in South-east Asia..." - BBC; so write abit... Singlish abit.
When I was 10, P4, was when Linkin Park was blaring in my classroom's radio/CD-player, actually supposed to be for Chinese listening compre. I think 'was Numb or Faint. Anyway teacher not happy when me and Darren Chong ++ sing their songs, so kena. That's when I shy abit, start to don't like all this nonsense 'angsty satanic shit'. In P5 got singing competition, end up 2 teams, me and Charlie Zhao and my 2 friends Alfred Ang and Dennis Tohin finals. They sang 'In the End', 'Numb' (we sang Where is the Love by Black Eyed Peas). I still listened to their songs, but I felt repulsed because I thought it was 'bad music' for all the angsty guailan kids, so I listened to other stuff more. That was me being angsty and guailan.
"Despite the cascades of distorted guitars that surround him, there are moments in Linkin Park’s discography where Bennington sings as though he’s one-fifth of a boy band or like he’s whispering over the top of an acoustic guitar at a Midwestern coffee shop...It’s like he’s telling a secret to you and only you, never mind the half-dozen other kids still on the bus." - Consequence of Sound
The article I reference above uses Crawling as the example, for me, it was Waiting for the End. This was 2010, after Metallica was blasting in the media lab played by Yeo Tze Yang, appreciated by Marcus Liu. That's when I changed my mind, stopped being a prick about music (and then stopped being a prick much later) I bought Hybrid Theory Meteora and Minutes to Midnight when HMV had a sale and after a nostalgia sesh convo with Rifdi Bin Rosly .
It's a different feeling, honestly kind of stupidly hipster, to listen to old music that people have 'moved past from' etc, made me feel more special lor. Edgy af, then I decided, nvm other people la, liked the sound, liked the clear lyrics, liked to smile when listening to angsty shit, so let yourself have fun. I listened to them in the army, alongside Paramore and Muse. I never properly listened to their later things, but I might soon. I want to say to folks, don't be embarassed about your angsty, edgy, teenage music, some people might give you shit about it, and maybe they don't like it, that's fine. Everyone has their own taste, own problems. There's nothing wrong with having a phase, nor having 'the phase' your whole life, even if it changes from really feeling it to laughing at yourself, and getting the meaning without feeling in real dire straits anymore.
Fast forward, and I find random pockets of people at NU who listen to or 'used to listen in middle school' (I mean more than Numb and In the End) always with that nervous laughter or sheepish grin. Have even jammed a few tunes with Mike Pitorak. Fair enough, it can even come off as angsty white people music sometimes (mental health is not a joke). But it means something important to some people, and that's good enough for me. The magic might have been lost to some when it turned out Linkin Park was listened by so many and not just you, but that also became the point for me and for many - it seems like you were alone with the music, but in fact many people might empathize. For me, it's a whole lot of nostalgia, with a spoonful of eternity, and good friends along the way. For others, the music was welcome sincerity from a lead vocalist with a range and a backstory. K, finish my rant liao. RIP Chester Bennington.
the last airbender and Korra, although they are close 2nd and 3rd. I'd go into full detail, but I don't
Linkin Park is really, in a true sense of the word, cathartic. I gave the 3 albums I had + Waiting for the End another go on the flight from Kansas City to DC, and it was, cathartic closure, something you only feel with a band you grew up with.
think I have the space. Metaphorically, it's like your favourite simple/local/mother's dish over the
Similarly, the end of a movie, this time an indie film set in Thailand, directed by a Singaporean. As one writer put it, paraphrased, it was a conventional 'quirky till redemption' road trip sort of deal but for me was nonetheless wholesome and very charming. Melancholic old men always get to me. It reminded me of Logan, and even though it's concept was unoriginal, the details were fresh, kind of like an extended short film.
technically expert, culinary masterpiece. Avatar was almost too perfect, and the ending too grand.
And then what I wanted to write about most at this moment was the finale of Samurai Jack, in all regards, magnificently noble, if short. A really well-crafted and fitting end that the artistic cartoon deserves in a bittersweet wholesome epilogue - the feeling you get when getting to the end of a long novel, the indescribable, often described anyway as 'bittersweet' - after everything, it ends. After all this time? Always. I want to point out how well done this final season and season finale towards a longtime fan of the show, a show I grew up with and whose philosophy I hold close. Spoilers ahead (don't think anyone who reads my blog watches anyway!)

To start, the very clever writing trick - using the opening of the first 4 season, including the late voice actor Mako's voice to in fact be Aku's propaganda was a rare example of appropriate fan-service. The audience, instead of cringing, feels almost outsmarted in a way and enjoys it thoroughly, like a friend telling a witty inside joke to a friend joke. What follows pretty much follows the same formula in my books - tons of shoutouts/fanservice that at its worst felt only slightly shoehorned and fleeting. They were all mini-flashbacks of the grand adventure, except that instead of being the final 30 minutes of a 2 and a half hour movie, it was the last episode of 5 seasons of masterful storytelling. There's no 'I'm doing this for my friends!!!' type deal here, (cept maybe the love interest Ashi); because 50 years has passed, and Genndy took that plot device seriously. The way Jack finally manages to go back in time is exactly how the 5th season plays out - with the fruits of his struggle playing out and returned by the people he has saved - although it is cheesy, it's written in an artful storytelling genre that feels ok - even the abruptness of his escape, without saying a word to his friends in the future feels realistic to me because other shows might play it out with sorrow, sentimentality, and slow-motion. This is how he was meant to go back to where he really belongs, despite his adventures. This is how he receives peace. While a heroic new beginning in the future is possible and acceptable, I find this outcome much more in line with the show's philosophy of classical endurance.

But it's really the ending that's so great - because of how much it captures the cartoon in real-life, watched by an audience that has grown up. As I've said above, it was poetic, it was bittersweet, it was appropriate and emphatically understood it's audience - probably adults now, watching an old show. Many 'revivals' and 'reincarnations' either change too much or don't change, but Samurai Jack has truly hit the sweet spot with me - by not pretending, and by understanding what watching an old cartoon must feel like. To me, the final episode is a grand allegory - the opening starts with... the opening, the center reminds us of all his adventures and allies, the wedding and Ashi's disappearance, the abruptness and sadness and frustration of not finishing, the gray forest - the absence of the show, so vivid and full with no closure with the young audience growing up in a perhaps dreary world where Samurai Jack and other old cartoons have ran out of time - and the epilogue.

The epilogue is where a colorful ladybug, reminding Jack of Ashi, lands on his hands, and Jack is reminded of a great lesson, the running philosophy of the show, that Robert Frost puts as 'life goes on'. In my opinion, whether intentional or not, this scene evokes a calm feeling of nostalgia and joy - the same that the long-time fan, who has grown up with the show, watched Jack, and Genndy by extension, in their glory, and the final season, while being super important, is also a reflection and epilogue in its fullest. The lesson the ladybug helps Jack to realize is that Ashi may be gone, but his experiences and memories have been lived and created; season 5 may have been but a short and sweet adventure down memory lane, but despite its end, despite any favourite novel or TV show or movies end, the story has been told, and we have been lucky to always hold it in our hearts. The final scene in other words, is one of the most masterfully done epilogues that breaks the fourth wall in an emotionally emphatic way, and could only have been done because of the time jump, both in the show and in real life for the final season. It almost looks intentional, goddamit I'm not supposed to be crying. So many parts of this final scene is reminiscent, classic, nostalgic, wordless, subtle but in full-view... indescribable. It reminds me of how many prior samurai jack episodes end, with the melancholic Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) playing that says 'life must go on'. Jack's quest has reached its noble end, and now our lives must go on - yet it does so in a soft breeze and soft pink of cherry blossoms, not in melodrama or delusions of grandeur.

Didn't manage to finish again so I'm finishing it now, a little tipsy.

#79 Good Endings
Instead of explaining, I'll maybe list examples. They need not be 'satisfying' endings if that wasn't the point.
Samurai Jack
Harry Potter
American Gods
Brave New World
Witcher 3

There are too many to recall comprehensively. The obvious trend being that all of these have been great stories and storytelling, but not all great stories and storytelling have significantly standout good endings in my books.

Monday, 26 June 2017


Things I wanted to talk about in the previous post:
The problematic beliefs of the Uber driver obsessing over The Last Samurai
My broken things which lead to true(r) authenticity
Reactions to stuff I read (news, blogs)
J'ai oublié faire ce texte blanche avant de publier, alors je vais parle un peu seulement. 
It's 12.38pm, I'll start to go down the list so I don't procrastinate more later.
Pourquoi pas? Je vous dis un petit histoire de mon visite à Matt - je suis leur dit qu'il ya un shoppe-
The Uber driver was a local Quebecois who was very enthusiastic about speaking to me in English. It was pretty normal conversation until a song from The Last Samurai Soundtrack came on. An NYT critic once wrote that particularly among Asian-Americans and Japanese especially, the movie and others with the same tropes were 'racist, naive, well-intentioned, accurate - or all of the above'. A variety critic wrote 'clearly enamored of the culture it examines while resolutely remaining an outsider's romanticization of it, yarn is disappointingly content to recycle familiar attitudes about the nobility of ancient cultures, Western despoilment of them, liberal historical guilt, the unrestrainable greed of capitalists and the irreducible primacy of Hollywood movie stars.' Both are excellent summaries in my opinion. The trouble of the film is not that a white man is leading a group of otherwise sort-of-helpless men and in exchange gets some pseudo Eastern spirituality stuff that helps him get over the classic European evil - alcoholism. This is since there was actually a historical figure like that, and it's probably okay to focus on him for a Western audience. However, the fact that he becomes 'the last samurai' is in my opinion, quite cringey just for the fact that the opposite is often not portrayed - i.e non-white characters taking on and becoming some leader figure in a white context (although I imagine there might be some in foreign cinema? The best I gather seem to just be circle-jerking their won culture). I don't think it is an immediate problem if white characters take on roles like that (or vice versa) if the details/traditions/symbolism are all respected. I think the film is on a whole, not perfect but does well in some regards, the issue is the reaction, exemplified by this Uber driver, gave me a whole lotta pause.
-superbe à la marché de Saint-Jean à Montréal qui vendre les huitres. Les huitres étaient trés bien.
"I just love samurai, Japan is the first/next country I want to visit outside of the North American continent." That's all fine, except I probed him further at what else he knows/has watched which is essentially zilch, and I'm afraid he might go in with a pretty simplified/cartoon-ish expectation/image of what samurai were like and all. He doesn't like the 'fast-paced' nature of modern society and thinks essentially that the idealized/romanticized samurai lifestyle portrayed in the film that cured the Tom Cruise's nightmares is where it's at. (O boy modern Japan). I hope he goes in with an open mind.

I'll probably do the next part after I'm settled in my room and all.

Right, on to broken things.
The one time I try (I might have done it before but am forgetting) packing my camera neatly into a carry-on, and it (lens only though, not the body) breaks, so lesson learnt. I was kind of frantically trying to put it back together, even spent a good amount on Ubers to a closing repair shop which turned out to have just ran out of the part they need to fix the lens. Plus, I didn't bring my wide-angle in the first place, which leaves me with two fixed, and pretty zoomed in lenses. I thought about this, sitting on my bed in the hostel, how... I guess truly authentic my trip has now become, since I have nothing but experience and what I can store in my tiny little head now, the wonderful sights, the journeys, etc. This was of course an exaggeration since I've been using my 50mm, which does not take the vastness of some landscapes in (which I'm so frustrated of but it's my own fault), but at least it allows me to switch into pure 'street photography' mode instead. And in fact my trip has been wonderful, not least because I've met some really interesting and wonderful people (and how I wish I saved them on facebook like I did for one, although in a way the superfluous nature of the meeting is its own reward). Then, my charger was lost in a long story which largely involves me trying to be polite. And I guess in fact all my trips have been like that... I'm thinking about the time I took a solo walk in Hokkaido, walking into random shops and all, a bit childlike. Or maybe around Breckenridge, always with my camera (without one broken lens but in a way without its full capacity since I never carry my full set). Musings that have simpered.

Finally, reactions? Maybe should have started with this first, since these fade the fastest. I don't even remember what parts of what I wanted to react for? I'll pen down the conversations before they stray further into my subconscious though. There's John from New Zealand of course, who made me a simple meal with rice and pork near the end and talked about his adventures. There's Amanda(?) from Australia, Martina from Slovakia (but admirably traveling the world place to place), and just now, Andrew from the UK. (Not to mention the cast of characters from Japan, Brazil, Columbia and France.)

I managed to convince a few people I can speak French without arousing suspicion, so I'm happy enough for trying despite the awkward, sometimes distasteful looks, flustered answers... meh maybe not that worth it happiness wise.

Saturday, 24 June 2017


This is perhaps the proper second time I'm solo traveling (unless you count the short time periods in between friends and family in Colorado for example). I was pretty sentimental going into this post but then this pub/bar music is on and I'm a pint in, two pretty aggressively middle class activities (like most of my trips, which is why I prefer to write in private in respect and disagree with Rovik's broadcasting). Don't get me wrong I think there is essentially nothing wrong with travel unless you are arrogant/ignorant enough to believe it is 'affordable' for everyone if you 'plan right' or that it is an option freely available or desirable.
Trying a new line breaking white text things which I think will be fun.
I was thinking about this when Chris talked about Americans who love their hometown to a point of disliking others. Although it's hard to deny that travel will change people, I think the psychological/character effects 'traveler' types attribute to going overseas tends to be overestimated because the group is self-selecting in the first place, much like how 'effective' elite schools are if only elite people get in (so these people were bound to succeed in the first place to some extent). Similarly, one would have to study the specific subset of people who maybe were 'dragged' by family or significant others to travel, having first detested the idea, and then subsequently going through some significant change in perspective to really vindicate the idea that it opens your mind. In fact I think a lot of it really comes a lot earlier.
I will probably have a few of these in each post from now on if I remember.
I'm thinking about the eccentric Uber driver now which ties in to the point a little. Took a little detour reading up on The Last Samurai, a show he was basically obsessed with, in a weird way. I saw weird because...

^ I completed the above sentence but actually had an incomplete sentence before I took a long side-track to read Chris's blog, read about the LGBTQ+/LHY sagas in Singapore, and finally decide that actually, I was pretty comfortable reading/blogging and don't want to spend any more money tonight.

Now I'm back in the room where I think I'm being judged by 2 'almost-sleeping' people hearing me type furiously. C'est la vie d'auberge, non? Merde, j'ai oublié faire l'exercise Duolingo. Never mind I think. I actually feel quite stifled trying to keep my typing noise down... so maybe I'll finish, or even start a new post tomorrow... yea. The latter.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Orange Story

I haven't cried that much in a while, and to think it was one of the most cheesy short films done well of all time. I told myself I'd immediately write about it, and... procrastinated/forgot, so I'm making a post right now before I go back to studying...

The moments a few days past now, so I'll give it a shot and finish it.

The film got to me because it understood in a fundamental way... the deep tragedy of race, nationality, etc. The tragedy is there was so much hope to overcome the arbitrary, only to be so understandably broken. It is the audacity of asking those who least benefit, are most betrayed by them to stick to ideals, and the audacity that in fact, many do that in heroism. It's the contradictions and art of being unexpected. It's the beginnings, the first-movers of taken for granted values, or those still ongoing struggles. You can see it in Judith's eyes, her confusion but realization that she can hold a different image in her head than her mothers, that slow dawning on all of humanity that the science is right - Looks. Matter. Less.


I realize I didn't finish this post at all, but I will now that I got ditched by two groups of people (one group being just 1 person), it is neither people's fault, but still, I wasted a bunch of time traveling and listened to sad music, and now am a little forlorn. Enough to finish this.

#79 Photography
Photography has always been with me since I used that DSLR for sports day in sec 1, I could use a 1000 words to describe this picture making, or I could try and show you how I feel when I take pictures through re-sharing my favourite photographer's work through the link below.