..:: Kellog ::..


Thursday, March 25, 2004


My brother tell me dat my email got too much ang mor slant to it. So must put disclaimer: the previous 2 Singapore update entries were actually emails sent to my American friends descibing a place foreign to them. Not that I'm angmoricanized hor. I can proudly proclaim that I still speak in perfect Singlish whenever I want to.

Singlish has different gradations however. My friends lie across the spectrum of Hokkien Singlish to Chinese-English Singlish (within which there are different gradations of how much Chinese or English and how many lahs and lors). I have no problem adapting myself across this spectrum almost unconsciously...My way of speaking has always been reactionary. My problem popped up when speaking to my British teacher from RJC, Mr Purvis, today, where he still very much speaks in his British accent while I struggled to not slip into a reacted angmorized accent and maintain the RJC Singlish (English Singlish) as I'd -hate- to be those 'Western-educated' people who come back with a frickin' ang-mor accent. Accent here, accent there, see buay sian. I seek to eventually come up with a neutral Kelly-accent which is yet to be mastered.

Underlying this is a hyper-sensitivity of the fact of having been influenced by a different culture while at the same time wanting to remain true to my own. Underlying that is the fear of judgements. Underlying that is...??? Mr Purvis highlighted this passage in Silas Marner in class today "there's reasons in things as nobody knows on...though some folks are so wise, they'll find you fifty reasons straight off, and all the while the real reason's winking at 'em in the corner, and they niver see't" What's my reason for this hyper-sensitivity?
kellykelly, 3/25/2004 03:49:00 pm | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Singapore Update 2

Dear all,

It's fascinating re-visiting your own country with the mindset and eyes of a tourist. The place I grew up in suddenly looks so different. And so much more beautiful. I've never appreciated the sheer volume of trees that line the streets here...they are like canopies hugging the streets. Driving in Singapore certainly takes some getting used to too. Given that most of my driving years (3) have been spent driving in California, it's not unexpected that I'm freaked out by how narrow our streets are. I need to brush off the paronoia that my car is going to scrap against the side of the next car. Thank god law-abiding Singaporeans abide traffic laws to the T. Unlike in Taipei (when I last visited it years ago) where it's a heart attack everytime you cross the street.

Given that a normal family sedan (e.g. Nissan) costs about US$70,000 ($17,000 of which is to buy the license to just own a car), I'm surprised at how many people want to own cars here, especially since the public transport system is cobwebs the city with so much efficiency. Then again, being a country 14 miles by 26 miles long, it doesn't take you more than 30mins to get -anywhere- if you have a car. Which makes for a very convenient life.

Convenience and contradiction are the themes of Singapore. Everything is automated here. Every car has to be installed with a fast-track thing (scary for privacy proponents...the government can track every car down??), so you get beep through car parks and pay tolls without having to remember to pay your parking before you leave, worry about lost parking tickets, no change to pay the toll, etc. For the buses and trains, you can leave your stored-value card in your wallet and tap your wallet on a scanner as you pass which deducts money just like that. In no time, the government will insert a chip under everyone's skin so we can move with the utmost efficiency to where ever we need to go in no time because we have so much, so much to do! Hurrah! Perfect efficiency could be the scariest thing.

Getting food is the most convenient thing. The thought of driving for 2 hours looking for a decent place other than McDs to eat is inconceivable here. You are bombarded with food availability everywhere. And great and cheap food at that. It's something that I've lived in all my life, but it took the anomaly of the 3 1/2 years (albeit the most formative ones) in America to make me so conscious of that. Food from all over the world is greedily welcomed. The food courts is a mock-UN conference of variety. There isn't really one "Singapore" cuisine. Its definition is continually expanding from Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese (all of which are an amalgamation of regional and/or colonial histories anyway)/Chinese (Hainanese, Cantonese, Szechuan, etc). Although Japanese and Korean and "Western" cuisines are still considered in their respective categories. You call Hainanese Chicken Rice "Singaporean food" but not Japanese Sushi (a piece of sake nigiri costs US$0.40...yum...). I wonder when "pizza" stopped becoming perceived as Italian and part of "American food". When does that change/acceptance occur?

The contradiction of that convenience of food: Singaporeans are so skinny! Once again, it took the 3 1/2 year anomaly of my life in America to see something that I grew up in, but the proportion of overweight people is miniscule here. Scrawny men are (too) common and the girls are slim. Some of it is a way of life. People tend to walk a lot here. Much of it is food culture. The portions of food here are so much smaller so your perception of how much to eat is different. It's usual to have fruits completing the meal. So it takes food culture and genetics to be 100lbs. But it takes obsession to take it below that. And that obsession is represented in the media: I see ads for slimming-spas, diet pills, diet teas, etc -everywhere-. I guess The Pressure to be Thin is no different from the one in America...the problem is maybe that the girls here are succeeding at it, when they didn't need to in the first place; so the pressure becomes worse when everyone around you in such close proximity get thinner and thinner, proliferating a condition affecting an entire generation.

The pros and cons to close proximity is know by anyone living in any city. I'm loving it for now. The ease of socialization is tremendous. People come outside much more often for some reason. You are in contact with people a lot. Which is inevitable for such a teeny place. But I feel social, not congested. Not yet anyway.

much love,

kellykelly, 3/24/2004 09:00:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Monday, March 22, 2004

Singapore Update 1

I'm back in Singapore for spring break. Below is my mass email:

Dear all,

I have arrived safely in Singapore. Twas a great flight if only because Tylenol PM knocked me out for 10 of the arduous 14 hours from SFO to HongKong...and then some from HK to S'pore.

It feels reallyyyy good to be home! I forgot how GREEN and beautiful Singapore is. Tress line the streets. A lot of new buildings up. And people, little singaporean people (everyone is so skinny here! hurrah, I'm average size!) running everywhere! For the first time, probably because of the jetlag as well, I felt a little disoriented to be home...kept bumping into people...so many neon lights in the shopping centre...and then more people...and food everywhere!...glorious food! In that one food court I went to, there were at least 12 stores, all selling different foods, thai, hainanese, cantonese, malay, indian, peranakan, yes even burger king...I had fried carrot cake/egg/shrimp dish (shared with my parents...cost less than US$2.50) for lunch and a squishy sticky dessert sprinkled with peanuts and sugar...traditional Singapore food that's very tasty (despite what that combination sounds like). The supermarket was filled with stuff to remind people that Singapore is obsessed with her own food. A weird narcissism. Apparently there's an exploding market for pre-prepared mixes of classic Singapore food (currries, noodles, chicken rice, etc)...boxes of stuff marketing themselves as "The Flavors of Singapore!". Almost as if this was a touristy spot, for tourists to bring back some Singapore food that can't be bought easily in their own country (I'm bringing some back for Pat to cook!). But this was a place where Singaporeans go. Although some of these are marketed to Singaporeans..."like the way Mom made it". Funny how it's suddenly popular for people to buy these packaged mixes which are more expensive that what you can get in the streets. Like buying a McDonald's burger making kit for $3 when you can buy it for 99c. But I understand the lure of buying the past: the wave of nostalgia where Mom cooked all these foods for you and young Singaporeans now who can't cook (me!) wanting to re-produce something from the past, the home-cooked meal. But ironically, in that very effort, there's a distinct sense of Americanization in that marketing...pre-mixed and vacuum sealed chemicals, idiot-proof instructions, microwave directions...

When I got home, I forgot how clean a house can be when people don't wear shoes indoors. I slid around the house barefooted, just appreciating what good housekeepers my parents are. When you move out and live on your own, you realize how much effort it takes to just maintain a level of decent cleanliness. And their house is just spotless. Argh. My mummy's looking fine and healthy and recovering well from her operation. I missed them soooo much. Feels so good to walk around a house with your baby, grade school, high school photos up, family pictures here and there, little nuggets of memories...ahhh... Feels good to be spoiled by the parents again...being babied just because I'm here for a precious 10 days (this time)!

Had dinner with my best friend and her family. Food was outstanding again (I'm really not just saying it...). Fried catfish, scallops, deep friend shrimp with caramelized walnuts and salad cream, hotplate tofu, chicken wings, oyster omelet, the works. In US suburbia, you can drive for hours without anything other than McDs to eat...here (cos we're so tiny and compact), you can't run away from food. I have made it my mission to eat something different at every meal, a bite of everything. Too much variety here, too little time....

The weather here feels like Florida weather...we had a brief and heavy thunderstorm in the late afternoon which blew away as quickly as it came. The air is definitely heavy and humid...but for some strange reason, I'm liking it. There's nothing like the feeling of freshness after stepping out of a cold shower into this climate. I love eating dinner al fresco in shorts without worrying about chill.

I look forward to taking the public transport. They build new train lines cobwebbing the city. They have this new card that you can leave in your wallet and tap your wallet on a screen that beeps and deducts money. I'm amazed at how automatized everything is here. Every car has a gadget like the fast track. When my dad pulled out of the shopping center parking lot, the thing just beeped and deducted money from the card! That's what you get with a centralized state! Efficiency...but the potential lack of privacy is scary. It's like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. And I noticed how every car in the parking lot was gleeeeming...all nice and shiny. Given that you have to pay about $30,000 just to buy a certificate of ownership (COE) just to buy a car (before buying the car in itself), and this COE runs out every 10 years (so you have to buy a new car), I'm not surprised that people are protective of their cars and there are not junky looking cars (like mine) here.

It's almost a relief to feel so happy to be home...or to feel so at home at home. The thought of moving back here no longer becomes a task but a desire. I wish to share it with all of you when you visit us.

The novelty of home where the old becomes new...something that only can be re-discovered.



kellykelly, 3/22/2004 05:51:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Not to be Missed (If House Is Up Your Alley...)

Go to www.johndigweed.com Click on Kiss100 shows and listen to the Dec 26 2003 set (Live from the Bedrock Stage @ Global Gathering John Digweed & Sasha). Lotsa classic songs + excellent excellent mix of PQM's U R Sleeping (which can also be heard on Timo Mass' and The Mara Soundsystem's mixes at Yoshitoshi Radio).
kellykelly, 3/11/2004 05:36:00 am | link | 0 comments |
To be Missed

Nooooooooooo....I'm gonna miss Timo Maas and Ken Ishii on the Friday and Saturday respectively at Zouk on the weekend before I arrive in Singapore. F*&ka-doodle-do.

If anyone knows of a good DJ spinning in Singapore on the weekend of 26-27March, the email is kelly@kelchan.com
kellykelly, 3/11/2004 05:09:00 am | link | 0 comments |
15, 13

Watched Royston Tan's 'Shiwu' (15) at the Asian American Film Festival last night and was blown away, by the movie and the director himself.

The movie was excellent, not just because I am Singaporean and was amused by familiarities (e.g. 'Chicken Rice War' is actually an average B-movie; only missing home + familiar sights and sounds made it an enjoyable experience for me), but the direction, soundtrack, and editing were outstanding. The graphic scenes were shocking, but not gratuitously so. In the scenes where the 'Ah Bengs' were fighting at the hawker center with a group of uniformed (presumably RJC) boys who spoke the Queen's English, I could only cower in my seat as a perfect representation of someone who has benefitted from the system.

What impressed me even more after the movie was the question and answer session with Royston Tan, who spoke Singlish while being perfectly comprehensible to Americans (or at least Pat could understand him), who answered questions with the utmost simplicity and clarity and sincerity. He met these boys when they were sent to his drama class for punishment and his commitment to having his work be educational and of practical use (not just for the artsy-fartsies) is quite inspiring. Patrick spoke to him after the session about teaching/assisting opportunities in Singapore to work with underprivileged kids (as what he's doing now) and Royston gladly gave him his card and asked for a contact. Ya never know what can come up.

Many themes in the movie came up similar to those in 13, what with the self-mutilations, body-piercings, drug taking/dealings, negligence, and the search for acceptance. Dysfunctional adolescence is universal.

It only made me realize how sheltered I have been at those ages, only obsessed with study study study, when the next Michael Jackson MTV was coming out, and an occasional movie or two with girlfriends. I knew no boys (what? sex? nobody has sex before marriage! impossible!), no drugs (eh? only those glue sniffing chao ah bengs I read in the papers). One of my favorite parts of the movie was the news clippings about delinquants that mostly say how these badboys "shock Singapore". I remember being shocked (I was quite the shockable one) by every other headline because in my sheltered existence, it was almost incomprehensible that "such things" happen. Was I the lucky one? Probably. Am I lucky to not be (as) sheltered anymore? Probably. Eye-opening can only be good for you.
kellykelly, 3/11/2004 02:02:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Sunday, March 07, 2004


Gosh darn it...What wouldn't I give to be in Miami right now. Digweed, Sasha and James Zabiela in one venue one night tonight. Gahhh.....
kellykelly, 3/07/2004 10:30:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, March 06, 2004


The Sarong Party Girl. Defined by TalkingCock as "A pejorative term describing local girls who will only go out with Caucasians. The stereotypical “SPG”, as she is usually abbreviated, is extremely tan, and skimpily-dressed."

Pejorative it sure seems to be. Surfing through Singapore websites, especially on nightlife, I'm amazed to find incessant references to SPGs in 'the scene'. Like this article about hotspots in Singapore, refering to China Jump as "a mecca for SPGs and Ang Mohs (expats), the type of crowd that’s into rowdy dancing on the bar – its ideal if you are a white guy in mid thirties or you are a asian girl looking for a white guy. The girls there are not that pretty though."

The fact that Patrick will be moving to Singapore with me makes it a more of an interest to me how Singaporeans today perceive interracial relationships. Less of a worry though, my thoughts usually lie on indifference because it's such a non-issue when 2 people are actually in love. Let other people judge lor, I think.

But I have also wondered if that general stereotype is actually pejorative. I have never been one to bother about other people's narrow judgements, given that anger gives weight to the irrelevance of that judgement. After reading TalkingCock's articles on SPGs, my thoughts are leaning greatly on the side of bemusement, which is the best way to view stereotypes. Stereotypes are inevitable, and are harmless if used for satire. In fact, that's all they should be used for. For anything else, stereotypes tend to take on an ugly narrow-minded streak in its generalizations. TalkingCock is such a hidden treasure as with any other good satire because it allows you to separate yourself from ugly judgements and just laugh.
kellykelly, 3/06/2004 11:58:00 am | link | 0 comments |

Friday, March 05, 2004

Suck Away Part II

A follow-up to Feb 18th's post about the Chief Justice's comments about why he ruled for upholding the ban on oral sex in Singapore.

Talkingcock's, Singapore's satirical website, article about this cracked me up. "Give the CJ a BJ"!
kellykelly, 3/05/2004 11:22:00 pm | link | 0 comments |
Be Very Afraid

So we were at the bookstore in Tahoe last weekend. Someone pointed out, "oh, Patrick...St. Patrick's day. Maybe we should get this for Patrick." Upon closer glance at the book, it freaked us all out that the illustration on the cover of St. Patrick looked uncannily like our Patrick.

I just had to buy it. It still freaks Pat (and everyone else) out. I think it's friggin' hliarious.
kellykelly, 3/05/2004 10:45:00 pm | link | 0 comments |

I'm going home to Singapore for spring break! Whoo hoo! After not being back for more than 2 years, and having to pay S$15-25 for any regular (not even a nice restaurant) meal, I've garnered an unhealthy amount of homesickness. I've had visions of walking through a hawker center smelling steaming 50c char-siew baos and slurping on hot tau-huay. And walking around with shorts and T-shirt without the slightest chill. Geez, I am even missing the hated Singaporean weather...that is unhealthy homesickness.

Now that I'll have to leave the States by late 2004, the homesickness (for the first time since I left) is timely. Although I can easily imagine feeling homesick about San Francisco 2 weeks after moving back.
kellykelly, 3/05/2004 08:11:00 pm | link | 0 comments |

Graphing 'entries in blog' (y-axis) against 'level of activity in real life', I'd probably get a reverse U-shaped curve, an n-shaped curve if you may. It does seem the more I do, the more I'd have to say/tell; but there comes a point where events hit you in a torrent where it's kinda hard to chart it down. And of course, the more obvious explanation being that there is less time to sit around at the computer.

But anyway, to stay faithful to the title of this entry, I wanted to start out writing 'If I had a Chinese fortune cookie (ah, the novelties of American-Chinese food never seen in Asia) that said "You will soon come into money" last week, I'd be amazed at its accuracy.' For I did come into money this week.

I got my allowance for the next 3 months (thank you scholarship) and my paycheck for my job as a part-time Statistics grader (thank you Stats department).

Then, I got my $20 rebate from BestBuy for the wireless internet hub I got a couple of months ago. The first time I ever got a rebate back.

Then, a check came from the guy who hit my car about 10 weeks ago. I left it up to faith and trust and took his word that he'd pay for damages, without making any official police report nor insurance claim (he didn't want to get the insurance company involved, which in the long-run would up his premium higher than what he'd have to pay me). 10 weeks later, I never got the check he said he sent. Damm my foolish trust on human decency, I thought. Yesterday, I received a check in the mail that was postmarked 6 Jan 2004, from Bakersfield, which is further south than Tulare where he sent it from. Which meant that he did send the check after all when he said he did, it just got lost in the mail. Which meant that hurrah, there is human decency after all.

Another check came from a voice from the past...or rather, my participation in a spam-y claim where I went "ah, why not?". It was the 'CD Minimum Advertised Price Antitrust Litigation' that I heard about more than a year ago. So having bought at least one CD in my life, I put my name in, for the heck of it. Today, I got a check in the mail for $13.86, with a letter from the Attorney General for the State of California telling me he was "pleased to enclose payment for your claim in the settlement of the (lawsuit)". It's $13.86, which ain't much but it's a good sushi meal. More than that, I was absolutely amused and fascinated that this whole thing actually came to realization. You mean, these internet thingys are actually real? Hurrah! Now maybe there really is that African widow giving me the business opportunity to deposit her millions from her late husband's diamond mine fortune, from which I get a cut out of.
kellykelly, 3/05/2004 07:54:00 pm | link | 0 comments |