Tags: food

Jason sepia

reader request week #1: writing in singapore

From albionidaho here:

How has living in Singapore affected your writing? (E.g. style, subject matter, etc.)

I started writing about Singapore and Southeast Asia in 2003.

After Clarion in 2002, Janet came down and stayed with me for a few weeks in NC before heading back home to Singapore, and we both knew at that point that it was a pretty serious relationship. I missed the hell out of her and wanted to find as much as I could out about her homeland, so I started doing lots of research. I then visited her in 2003 (the trip on which I proposed), and after seeing the place for myself, I just had to write about it.

Singapore, in one way or another, has shown up in four of my stories: "Air is Water is Air," "Falling Up," and "In Jurong" (all on the submission trail), and "Bogeymen" (forthcoming from Subterranean Magazine). More importantly, my n*vel-in-progress (tentatively called The Tower) takes place on a Singapore-esque island nation called Tinhau, and living here has been incredibly helpful in getting the cultural, geographical, and sociolingual details right (or at least as close as I can).

I also find myself writing more about food, which I'm sure is a result of living someplace where it's such a deep and meaningful part of the culture (and where everyone has an opinion on it).

And I have another--do you ever miss the US?

Hell yes. Although I'm at the point now where I'm not experiencing quite so many culture shocks as when I first got here, I do have moments of, "Why do all these Asian people keep bumping me on the street?" Or, "Has the sun gotten closer to the earth? If it gets any hotter, I may just burst into flames." Or, "Is there any good reason Singaporeans are so loath to speak in complete sentences?"

Other times, it'll be related to my previous environs: "Why the hell can't I find a groovy college coffeehouse like Cup A Joe back in Raleigh?" Or, "Man, I miss Whole Foods." Or, "Why hasn't anyone started up a cool independent literary bookstore like Quail Ridge?"

I also miss being able to watch movies (in the cinema, on DVD, on TV) without the "offensive" bits being censored out by the government. I miss living in an area where almost every weekend there was a talk or reading or event to attend. I miss the fact that bookstores (both the indies and the large chains) discount significant new books in order to lure people into buying them new in the first few weeks of release; recently, I almost bought Rushdie's new novel The Enchantress of Florence, but it was S$48 (US$35) in UK hardcover, and it will most likely never be discounted here.

There are lots of little things that I miss, things of comfort and familiarity. There are also big things that I miss terribly, like my family and friends. I still don't regret moving to Singapore, but it doesn't take away the sting of all the people and things I left behind.
Jason sepia

free cone day redux

I was thwarted in my attempts to get free ice cream from Ben & Jerry's today, as everybody in Singapore also had the same idea. The queue wrapped all the way around the basement of Raffles City, at least an hour's wait for one small scoop of ice cream. Feh. I was tempted, but I've got too much shit to do to hang around in line for that long.
Warhol 1

blog-every-day-this-week week: b&j free cone day

Taking a cue from 2muchexposition, I will be blogging every day this week. Nothing big, nothing profound, just a series of short entries to see if I can do it. With the amount of test and assignment marking I have to do over the next couple of weeks, this will indeed be a challenge. Tune in daily to see if I can keep it up, or if I royally fall on my face!

Ben & Jerry's ice cream is damn delicious, but also damn expensive. Janet and I have it only rarely because of this fact, and so it ends up being a real treat, something special. Dublin Mudslide, Chunky Monkey, yum. So yeah, I'm sitting here drooling on my keyboard while thinking about it, and sighing wistfully.

But ah! Tomorrow is Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day!

Every year, B&J parlors give away free ice cream on one special day, and tomorrow is it! This year is the 30th anniversary of the very first Free Cone Day. Dude, giving away free ice cream for 30 years, that's pretty awesome.

You know what else is awesome? They don't use milk or cream treated with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH); their vanilla, chocolate, and coffee ice cream is made with cocoa powder, coffee and vanilla extracts that are Fair Trade Certified; for nine years they used the Eco–Pint, the unbleached paperboard pint container used to package their ice cream; and they've collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund and explorer Marc Cornelissen to open the Climate Change College.


monday quickies: flu edition

I'm still down with flu, and had to miss work today. I did find out that because I made so little last year financially, I won't be paying any taxes in Singapore, and don't even need to file. (I'm not paying anything to the US either, but they still wanted a tax return.) I also put the finishing touches on the preface for A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, as well as some fun little meta things in the copyright page. I alternated this productivity with deep sleeping; I still feel awful, but I may be well enough to go back to school tomorrow. I'll just have to see.

Closing tabs, so you get some links:

The Big Blog of Marvel, a new group blog for discussions of magical realism, run by Tamara Kaye Sellman. I've just joined as a new member, and my first entry, on Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, has just been posted.

Donate to Clarion. jimsinsd at clarionites writes that "there's a lot of need for scholarship support out there" for this year's workshop. At Clarion 2002, every one of us received some kind of financial assistance through scholarships and donations, and for me, it was incredibly helpful; going to Clarion ain't cheap, and the scholarship didn't cover all my expenses, but it took care of a fair bit, and knowing this meant that I could focus on writing and critiquing, rather than how much it was costing me. So if you'd like to help the next batch of Clarionites in the same way, please consider throwing a few bucks their way.

"Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear" by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele for Vanity Fair (via silk_noir). A lot of this info I knew already (thanks to The Future of Food, barthanderson's blog, and several books on the subject), but it's a really good introduction to the whole agribusiness issue for beginners.

"Could lead to goose-stepping" by Avram Grumer for Making Light. We've only got one side of the story here, so I'm not going to comment, except to say that if it did happen this way, it points to increasing aggression on the side of law enforcement.

"8-year-old girl asks for divorce in court" by Hamed Thabet for the Yemen Times (via haddayr). What a brave little girl. It's truly despicable what her father forced her to do, and what her "husband" forced on her as well, and it took tremendous strength and character to go to the courts and ask for justice. Good for her.

And some from Boing Boing:

For Love of Water: infuriating and incredible documentary about world's water-crisis

Edith Piaf, superspy

New South Park site debuts, with full episode streaming

Shepard Fairey's covers for Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984
Jason sepia

sabbatical, but not what you think

Yesterday was the end of Term 1. And somehow I survived without spontaneously combusting. Yay me.

I finished marking any outstanding tests, input all the grades into the database system, and actually had time to meet with two students who are helping me out next week.

Next week? you say. But you just claimed that yesterday was the end of the term. Hast thou lost thy marbles?

At the end of each term at Hwa Chong, they have what's called Sabbatical Week. This is basically a week of electives, but it's only one class, which lasts the entire morning. The students bid for the sabbatical, and they can take things like Cooking or Film Appreciation or Fencing or Drums. You know, fun stuff. There's even a literature field-trip to England.

I'm teaching a fiction-writing workshop. As I have some experience with these, I think it'll go well. And on Thursday, my friend and fellow USian expatriate Alison Jean Lester (whose collection, Locked Out, was reviewed here) will come and talk to my students.

To celebrate the (nigh) end of the term, Janet and I went out last night for dinner and a movie (like an actual date, even!). Dinner was at an Indonesian sit-down in the basement of The Cathay; I had chicken rendang, and it was phenomenal, the first time I'd eaten it. So good that it may have supplanted laksa as my favorite local dish.

The film was Persepolis, and surpassed my already high expectations, bringing Satrapi's deceptively simple artwork to life in wonderful and horrible ways. I was also surprised at how funny it was; there was certainly humor in the graphic novels, but it didn't make me laugh out loud like the film did. And despite the fact that it was the dubbed (from French into English) version, the voice actors did a great job (even Iggy Pop) and matched the mouth movements well. If you haven't seen it yet, hie thee to the nearest cinematorium and do so, quicksharp.
Jason sepia

lantern festival 2007

Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn/Lantern/Mooncake Festival here in Singapore, and we drove out last night to the Chinese Gardens on the western side of the island to check out the festivities there. Much of it was cartoonish and kind of cutesy, but some of the displays were really beautiful. Janet's dad took a bunch of pictures and I uploaded them to Flickr (starting here).

It was also the culmination of probably a month (or longer) of mooncake madness. Everywhere you went, you'd see them being sold in exquisite and elaborate painted boxes, by street vendors with mobile carts, by restaurants and hotels, in food courts, in mall kiosks. Pretty incredible. And though there were the traditional flavors, mooncake craftsmen have also gotten very creative. A restaurant near the Simei MRT was selling incredible-tasting mooncakes, and our favorites were mint chocolate chip and green tea. Another place made a chocolate and Bailey's mooncake that blew my socks off.