lundi 28 novembre 2011

new england is new again

On the 22nd we packed the car, the five of us, and left Charlottesville at 5:30 am, and did not beat the Northern Virginia rush hour traffic...and did not beat the DC Beltway traffic either. (Deirdre you Illinois transfer student, how could you be so optimistic when the Washington metro begins its peak of the peak fare at 7:30 am.) So we talked about New York City, Chicago, Ireland, college sports, in particular lacrosse, and Southern mannerisms.

Southerners warm, northerners cold, they say. Northerners don't know what to do when Southerners chat them up at retail stores and so on and so forth. But then the next day I'm shopping with my sister in Maine and this cashier randomly transfers her conversation with her coworker to us. "I have a date with Tom tonight," she says ecstatically with a rather Carolinian smile, as though to explain her flurry of conversation; and then she and my sister strike up a conversation along that thread, interwoven with discussion of Thanksgiving and turkeys.

And then I remember-- this was always the norm; because even in Cape Elizabeth random adults would always do that sort of New England cordiality thing to you as a child and you the Singaporean would always be at loss for words and maybe it was all fake but hey they're warm memories and New England suddenly feels like home. In Virginia the store clerks almost never strike up a spontaneous conversation with you, and you can feel the wants of life badly pressing upon them; you almost took pity at their condition, as though as it was a Southern version of watching "Save the Children" except replace starving African children with minimum wage store clerks. Iowa is even worse. New England? Home? It's been a long time since I felt this unalienated.

And so I rediscover houses are all so cute close together surrounded by blankets of snow and forest-- a remarkable thing given Maine's vast abundance of land. Urban sprawl was such an utter shock to me in the beginning as a first year in Virginia, staring up that winter the endless box stores that lined Rt. 29 for miles and miles. As the years passed and my friends and I discussed various urban transportation projects to deal with the urban sprawl that I had come to perceive as the norm, the thought would come to me repeatedly. Mottainai -- what a waste! And so I must admire New England values too.

Northern Virginia is so ugly, Rina says. And she lives there. I still think it could be pretty nice to live in Northern Virginia. All those livingsocial deals on fine Indian restaurants? And the Korean supermarts. And the Washington Metro is so relaxing, even as Congressional staffers and lobbyists crowd the train during peak hours. The New York Subway puts you on edge, from the Lexington Avenue train to 7 to sometimes even the Williamsburg L-line (judged the "most romantic" subway line -- but the pretension -- the bad kind -- can really get to you). Ugh. I mean, maybe New England's newfound quaintness will run out for me sometime, but I'm leaving this afternoon. Here's to romanticising.

lundi 21 novembre 2011

I be that man on the moon

there's nothing wrong with uniqueness, says the doctor. it would be a boring world if everyone were to conform to orthodoxy. we all have that within us; everyone has it-- to an extent, it is normal. It is human; and I nod, knowing that familiar feeling oh so in touch with your mortality and human unreliability tempest in a teacup flood of neurotransmitters and flowing, flowing thought; oh wait-- what were we talking about again?

He smiles. It's soft, decidedly not medical, though the hallways outside have that faint smell of alcohol they like to rub all over their sterilised surfaces.

we can't figure it out, we can't figure out, you present a puzzling case (it doesn't fit the DSM-IV) but well, what do you mean I'm sure people have-- get that all the time wouldn't you say so, oh don't they imagine too? oh say I'm not alone

softly the muses stop speaking, and they slowly drift away.

dimanche 20 novembre 2011


that football game

in the past I've watched those who watch the games; they come in droves and drove from hundred miles of away to take our parking spots and set out their tailgates in our backyards with their Mitt Romney bumper stickers. Go Hoos Go. Wahoowa. Ray ray, ray, UVA, UVA. ugh. why is this such a big American pasttime? surely there are better ways to pass time.

and so time passed and the seasons passed and the semesters passed with them and I passed classes but not the players, they make bad passes or something; well I am sure they pass classes but pass games they do not. and remember that one time in second year when USC flew past our asses and laughed at our 7-32 margin, and some week after I was passing by the stadium and it took two hours to pass halftime and the clock kept stopping and the ball wasn't going anywhere. and so I gave the game a pass.

but not if you want to be sociable; they dress up guys in ties and girls in pearls and each home game Sunday the crowds would pass by our residences and the facebook feeds would explode with photos of friends in amazing clothes in crazy crowds of tens of thousands.

but not if you want to be sociable: be a man, man. nighttalk consists of bartalk, and bartalk either has pickup lines, or whether the Redskins will pick up that title or whether the Pats will pick up their failing dynasty and though in a bar they may go on and on and on about players' statistics, don't you go all otaku about indie film, science or art, because that would just be dorky.

in Iowa the summer sun shone high and I grew tan and the prairie grass ran yellow and the World Cup played in South Africa and someone told me they couldn't care much for [international] football, because [real] American football's like chess. oh really? I wouldn't have guessed because I play chess, and it doesn't have heavy brutes in armor and athletes in university busses behaving like there's no one else on them but as time passed I could see how you could appreciate stopped clocks and devious plays and maybe the American pasttime is some sort of celebrated chessboxing

but I could never care for the football games until around this time in November where I ate my fifth helping of mashed potatoes, chicken adobo, ginger-roasted turkey and sticky rice and we sang to four guitars and the Virginia - Florida State game was on and I cared because I liked people and I cared towards the end when we rose up to cheer ensemble or hold our hearts in our mouths collectively agape and we made that touchdown 14-13 oh with a minute to spare but oh Florida still threw devious plays of provoked fouls and incomplete passes and two field goal attempts but oh we won we won-- screaming screaming the room is crazy we hold hands and sing the Good Ole Song. Go Hoos Go. Wahoowa. Ray ray ray, UVA UVA.

samedi 19 novembre 2011

under the spreading pages of history, the nation’s smithy stands.

a demigod graces – us – in the hallways;
his face still shines
like a stone in the sunlight
          his face, shines still
in the textbooks they tell of golden charm
that united an opposition against force of arms
          by stainless steel will
how he sewed together the fabric of a broken nation
with fine acuity, and forty bullets from his Mosin-Nageant
          and an architect’s inspired skill–
in the textbooks they tell of his emboldened heart
for every man a Plan; for every fam a hearth!
I ask thee, dearest countryman:
        who among us should ever desire him to part?
all grace and lenience, almost inhuman, yet humane;
everyone seeks his audience; yet everyone he entertains
loved and feared, a demigod graces us in the hallways.

but you see, the fading jewel of a sagely ancient sits
with forlorn laugh and proud despair
in the seat of youth.
the years of office hang
from the tangles of his fading hair.
the toil never became easier; neither the truth,
that, the problems never cease
there are always jealous enemies
            and even allies must be appeased–
with eyeglassed eyes he reviews
petitions he might choose to approve;
with forlorn laugh and proud despair
he cries, “a little ridiculous! they never improve–”
and smiles a war-torn smile never repaired
“What then should our action be–” the nobles entreat him.
“Should we treat these rogues seriously?”
and with sagely expression he listens to their questions
              like a good leader must–
and with sagely wisdom, they follow the eternal rhythm
asking poison darts, painting over the nation’s sanguine rust


to be honest is often, to be naked;
thus to be fashionable and chic we must dress up our words and play for public prestige
and conceal the intimate and private
it is tempting I must say

I shall keep them
I shall keep them here
where they will be read
when today is yesteryear

We outgrow love, like other things
And put it in the Drawer -
Till it an Antique fashion shows -
Like Costumes Grandsires wore.

(Emily Dickinson, #887)

(I don't know why I say goodbye when you say hello)

everything has a beginning.

I feel myself growing old. slowly is the rust--
cold. cold. I was bold. now you
go from dust to dust.

things that begin.  must end
so things may begin again.
don't be jealous
space is renewed
once more

jeudi 17 novembre 2011

happy pills

the warden you don't know her
she guards she guards; you pace
that song doesn't work on her anymore
nor this one

don't hold your breath
here it comes
don't hold your breath
don't hold--

oh it's just a passing blip
anti-tempest in a teacup
drink them down with soy milk and Arizona tea
a hiccup, some failed stick-up

the warden you don't see her
for now

jeudi 20 octobre 2011


So the 12th Parliament of Singapore just opened, and Opposition MPs are talking about further improvements to the education system. (Finland was brought up as a model.)

In any case, I do have memories of Singaporean education that makes me exactly understand this cartoon.

Teach for America application deadlines are coming up. I am not sure if I have time to apply, or a chance even if I did apply. I grew up a low-income kid myself, and I have this fantasy of a system that would exploit both the strengths of Western and Asian education, while having none of their weaknesses.

lundi 26 septembre 2011

"2 am and she calls me cuz I'm still awake"

fragment of some poem not yet written

this American life is perfect, the way it’s meant to be.
this American life is perfect, the way it’s meant to be.
the only trait it lacked
was Immortality.

there are redneck conservatives, and then there's Asians who buy into the damn idea. Asian parents (luckily not mine!) can be more conservative than Confederate-flag wavers from Alabama.

lundi 8 août 2011

and so the cycle repeats--

Augusttime brings august clouds;
hawkers loud that pour water down
shallow drains, lingering like the August air
that wraps its shroud of august rains
around our callow locks of hair.

I cannot help gazing out the windowblinds.

in the Daily Nurture
I cut out five little Stars and a Crescent
painstakingly traced, though never cut perfectly;
my fingers are stuck together from glue.
"you are Singaporean."
she tells us with knowing eyes
and the stature of high-heeled shoes

and this — I kept in my heart.

Decembertime brings tempered skies—
jumper suits and winter boots
that clamour into teeming hallways, never dry;
with coffee-coloured hair, and hazel eyes
she told me: “Why don’t you go back to China?”

and this – I kept in my heart.

but even the land of nationality
no longer feels completely like home
when you retain elements
which distinguish you from your own
who cry, with black-coloured hair
and heightened, irritated airs:
"hey Slanger. why do you slang?"
"can you stop speaking in your fake accent?"

and this – I kept in my heart.

Augusttime brings august crowds;
blond-hairs loud that pour into trains downtown
their august voices pouring like rain upon shallow drains;
ignorant of our stares.

August brings nationally-themed singing
to music class— and talk of keys and registers
and I mocked, “and our flag was still there,” with irreverence
to a classmate with combed blond hair;
but to my surprise, with fell complexion
and crying blue eyes
he ran away with the sob:
"you are so racist!"

and it was a sob that I could not quell
because it was true.

and this: I keep the most in my heart.

mardi 10 mai 2011

I dislike this new populistic opposition

I definitely still support all opposition parties, but the rise in populism and xenophobia on opposition forums now start to scare me. Parliament -- if you investigate videos and transcripts -- intriguingly, isn't quite a rubber stamp. Or maybe it is. Fine arguments are still made. (Although Harry sometimes shuts things down out of "omg getreal" anti-idealism).

Lee Hsien Loong says proportional representation isn't "the right system for Singapore" because it leads to fractured, polemicised, racialised politics. And I agree -- Singapore's legislature has largely avoided the problems of many western legislatures where these issues dominate needlessly. Yet at the same time he does not seem to address the issue of why religious conservatives are allowed to dominate policy!

If the PAP respected individual liberty and freedom of speech and repealed 377A, among implementing other various reforms, I would be content, rather than side with the strengthening opposition that increasingly shows its growing power. But it doesn't. So Opp I go.

lundi 9 mai 2011

a tale of a child

my first chinese post. yay.

孩子长大的时候, 不再孩子, 可能 思考自己, 青他的爸爸 可以不可以 做这些给他幸福的事?

爸爸 说: “什么?! 文艺?艺术? 调查 我们世界 有神么意思? 你为什么 要这些 不带 国泰民安的事? 癫狂!” 他把 孩子 达到 到 涕泣 为止。

可是 孩子长大了, 不再孩子, 可能 以为自己, 所以 想想很多。 叛乱 很严重, 可是 他只有这个选。

爸爸说: “没感恩!你带混乱!”

可是 他看不懂 他的 孩子长大了。孩子现在是 成人, 可以 找到自己 幸福,国泰民安。 怎么有感恩? 爸爸不让他有感恩, 只要监管。

mercredi 27 avril 2011

two groups

they talk past each other
they really have the same goals
of friendship

everything's not lost

nothing pleases me anymore

well that's an exaggeration isn't it? It's not quite nothing, just the routine humdrum of everyday life. I mean if you took me skydiving right now I would probably be grinning ear to ear and my face would look like I just had an orgasm.

And I wonder that no matter where you go in life, what job you have or what you have accomplished, it all won't fucking matter because you know what? we're human. we have amygdalas. no matter how progressive we are, the basic pattern of our circuits was laid out thousands and millions of years ago.

miles to go before I sleep
miles to go before I sleep

when life is a drag

make instant noodles. with stir fried black mushrooms and ginger.

mardi 26 avril 2011

Secrecy cannot love Forever

your cunning Tongue! and impassioned Hands—
rub into my soul like no others can.
well, hyperbole. if others tried
would anyone rival you in Luxury ?
“No .” comes my tender whisper. a Lie—
for which my conscience lingers. you would be—
the perfect one for Me
if not for social—mores;

Secrecy cannot love
Romeo and Juliet was

hello. it is good to see your sunny face.

five years later it is 10:05 am and oh dear blogging, I have fallen back into your arms. I didn't realise how much I missed this. I mean I guess I thought it was childish and that I had outgrown you... but really you were waiting for me all along. I'm a different person now, yet still the same. The same themes still remain.

-- I really shouldn't be making out with you at this moment in time stuck between six donuts I bought at 4:30 am and 11 am zhongwen class, but I love you. I love you like demonstrators love paving stones that sit on urban beaches. (sous les pavés le plage. je t'aime je t'aime je t'aime)

I guess I snubbed you for that snotty girl facebook, whose face I must still see daily, but you my dear, you have soul. here there are no false appearances, no fronts, no careful cultivation of an image, untaggings and careful considerations. freedom. ziyou. I mean I remember 2003 and 2004 where blogging was like the hip thing to do and my sister did it.

:: checking what remains of my blogroll, which I have no time to fix

oh hey she's still blogging. and Fabriz. and John Foo but he moved and everyone else is gone. but I'm excited. youuu make me happy. do you realise? I did not realise that it was in front of me.

see, I wrote, but I wrote for others, and was constrained. I wrote for me, sometimes. but here I write to you. it's a little different. I mean I'm going to use the little things I've learnt over physics lab this past year to put an analogy: facebook notes are like zero impedance. writing to yourself is like infinite impedance. here making love to you has characteristic impedance and some essence seems to drift forever, timelessly.

I must redress you of course. you look a little shabby. a little worn. a little retro. you have charm. I shall love you again. In semi-public. If we are discovered that is part of the excitement. If we are not, we have us.


I remembered you when I discovered the internet archive of the blog of Singapore's new favourite Opposition minister, Nicole Seah. An ironically it was through a comment of a PAP supporter who for some reason thought that such strong, emotional writing did not portray a strong-willed, talented human being who as a student had many endeavours and conflicts that would surely lay a strong foundation for thinking critically and empathising with her constituency. Well I do. And that makes Ms. Nicole more endearing. Seeing her love of writing, made me remember you.

hello. my name is john riemann soong, aka Evariste, avec l'aspiration d'etre d'une unique sorte de fille. if you remember. I don't think I told you before, but now I don't hold back. I am preparing to write a forceful argument in zhongwen for my 8-minute presentation that will sweep everyone away. just you watch. I have to study for a likely biochemistry quiz though. and do shamefully abysmally late lab reports. new subjects, old tricks, my love.

lundi 28 février 2011

NQR-7-ACE Clementi

it snows above the A-train express
but it was always
. winter below
she smiles to me a bygone street
that once led from the Apollo;
remember once—
she was that bygone kid of that bygone suite
waving from the ninth floor of Toa Payoh
June rains upon a soul aboard the A-train express
from 125 St to Ang Mo Kio
; maybe
. there might be
. a stop for your door.

oh the piano is playing its faraways—
and the elevator streams with those
on their way to places they will be sure
of what they are looking for
but this schoolkid
. always hesitates.
; one day
. he might find once more
. your floor.

it’s a warm midsummer night, strolling
down this street, with all its crowds
tabled. standing. loitering. smoking.
and walking
down to the bus stop
it ambushes with wafting breeze
a ten-year-old heart
that sits amidst lungs that make
twenty-year-old sighs;
the cab driver on Rector St picks me out
and honks to say,
“Where would you like to go tonight?”
and if only I could reply
“Do you know the way
to Telok Blangah Heights?”
where I cried those last goodbyes
before I took that fateful flight
how was I supposed to know?
they never told
of how I would be forever haunted by every set of lights
from Fairfax Metro to Chicago
hoping your face might appear in the windows.

it snows above the A-train express
and past the rattan door the candles glow;
the jacket and suit is probably telling
the evening dress and pearls
his latest exploits in the Orient
ordering those childhood memories from long ago
to go with red wine in polished glasses
while squandering hor fun from Ipoh
oh it’s a strange and familiar feeling
to be on the outside looking in
to know the thing they call exotic
is a place known as

my old Dover Road Estate