#2101 | reading update

So far in 2019:

January

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
The Plotters by Un-su Kim
Travel Junkie by Julia Dimon
A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa
The Effect by Lucy Prebble
The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
An Amorous Discourse from the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie
A Public Space issue 27
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Mary Ventura and the 9th Kingdom by Sylvia Plath

Book of the month

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin / The Effect by Lucy Prebble

Feburary

Book Love by Debbie Tung
Mr Salary by Sally Rooney
Come Rain or Come Shine by Kazuo Ishiguro
Becoming by Michelle Obama
A Thousand Years of Good prayers by Yiyun Li
Certain American States by Catherine Lacey
Waiting by Ha Jin
Heartburn by Norah Ephron
Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Book of the month

A thousand years of good prayers by Yiyun Li

March

Educated by Tara Westover
A Manifesto for Arts Funding by Alfian Sa’at
China is Messing with your Mind by Bilahari Kausikan
The Power of a People by Kuik Shiao-Yin
The Silhouette of Oppression by Kirsten Han
A Good time to be a Girl by Helena Morrissey
The Authentic Lie by Pandora Sykes
Vox by Christina Dalcher
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
I WILL SURVIVE : Personal Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transexual Stories in Singapore edited by Leow Yangfa
The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Book of the month

Edcuated by Tara Westover

It is now April – I have read The Sun on my Head by Geovani Martins, and A Map of Betrayal by Ha jin. I am now re-reading Tash Aw’s We, The Survivors, which is launching today in the UK.

Good times.

x
Jem

#2100 | toit – lululemon vs iuiga tights

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lulu sisters in hongkong

Hey guys,

Good thing this is a personal, and not a professional blog huh, where I can freely express my opinions on workout tights without being mistaken for a professional fitness guru. Tehe.

Anyway, I’ve been getting a ton of DMs regarding my lulus, which I got in January this year. They’re my first pair of lulus, and I find it hard to express just how much I love them – I’ve basically abandoned all my other tights on cardio days, because nothing has matched up to the lulus since. For context, I go to F45 Orchard, which was instrumental to my morning person switch last year, and we do cardio on mon/wed/fri, and strength on tues/thurs. I find that tights are super important for cardio, whereas for strength training youre not as aerobic so the tights dont matter as much. And for cardio, you’re essentially looking for a pair of tights that dont slip – because you’re doing a lot of jumping and lunging, and it’s irritating to have to keep pulling up the waistband of your tights.

The lulus that i got were the fast and free asia fit tights, and there’s just so much to love about them. They have POCKETS. Pockets by the side, mini pockets in the waistband. They don’t slip. They have a lot of fabric tension so they hold your muscles together really well and dont bulge randomly. The material doesnt get patchy when you sweat. And for some reason, you never, ever get a camel toe wearing them.

The only problem (and it’s not a small one) is the prohibitive cost – lulus run upward of 200SGD. They’re pricey for sure, though they apparently last forever, something I cant verify since literally, no one would consider the span of three months to be forever… unless one were stuck in a dead-end relationship or job. Haha. Still, that makes them one of the priciest tights on the market, with no-brand tights (from decathlon?) starting at maybe 30 bucks, and more technical tights (from adidas/kydra?) going for about 80-100+. Double still – despite having tried tights from a variety of brands, I still find the lulus to be heartbreakingly the best. So I wash them the minute I get home on mondays and hang them out till they’re ready for wednesday’s cardio, etcetera etcetera, dreaming of the day i can afford a lulu for every cardio day.

All my waxing on about my lulus had people DM-ing me for reviews, etc, but one person in particular highlighted the existence of a ~lulu dupe~, available on Iuiga. For the uninitiated, Iuiga is a Singaporean brand professing to sell products from the same manufacturers as Samsonite, Muji (which later sued them), L’oreal .. and yes, lululemon. I’m not sure how they’re getting away with blatantly claiming to sell essentially the same products as copyrighted brand names, but that’s a whole other issue.

Screenshot 2019-04-01 12.04.44

Iuiga’s lulu dupes are called ONYX Powerfit training tights, and claim to be from the same manufacturer as lululemon, at a fraction of the cost.

To be fair, they dont claim to be a dupe of the exact model i have, the fast and free tights, but it’s pretty clear if you check out their pictures and so on. I went ahead and bought both this and their ONYX powerfit sports bra. Total damage was about $50+. I got it a week later in the mail and tried it out for a couple of weeks, and long story short, the tights are pretty good, but they’re not really lulu dupes in anything other than name..

The thing about clothing dupes is you can have the same material and superficial cutting, but the devil is in the details, especially for workout gear where technicalities are everything. The ONYX tights are a really decent pair of workout tights, and they feel great (in terms of tactile feel), they have the same side and waist pockets, and the same 7/8 length cut. But that’s about where the similarities end – the fabric elasticity isn’t the same, and the material feels thinner. As a result, you dont get the same compression tights feel as you do with the lulus, and you definitely dont get the same tummy tuck effect, two main differentiating factors between lulus and other brand tights. If youre not someone who works out regularly/everyday, you may not feel a big difference, but if you’re a regular cardio person, especially if you do HIIT, it’s a significant step down. Of course, the price is also a significant step down, so this seems to be one of those get what you pay for situations.

TL;DR, good tights, but not lulu dupes. You can use these as backup tights in between washes for your lulus (if youre an existing lulu person), or if you’re doing non-cardio workouts.

Anyway, if you are getting lulus, go to the store and request a fitting. Lulus expand a bit in the wash so size down when unsure – you dont want to spend 200 bucks just to have tights that are too big! You can wait for sales but those arent guaranteed – though lulu does have a “we made too much” page where they sell their excess products at a major discount. Also, if you’re headed to aussie, the tights are cheaper there, going for about 168AUD (and the AUD is now pretty low, about 1-1 to the SGD, making them way cheaper).

Or – if you happen to be in the states in May, Lulu apparently has an insane warehouse sale. Insane referring to both the discounts and the crowds. You could ask a friend in the states to brave the insanity for you, of course, but would you do it? I wouldn’t.

x
Jem

This post was written sans affiliation to lululemon / iuiga.

#2099 | a desire for amateurism

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bali, indonesia

Roz and I were on set for a new travel show in Bali last week and I found myself thinking of languages and how lacking I am when it comes to fluency. I want very badly to be good at languages, it was a dream of mine when younger to be multilingual. But no – years and years of Chinese tuition, months of intensive German class, a failed fart of a Korean stint, and a disappointing semester of French lessons have unequivocally showed me that different people have different strengths, and language is not mine*. My brain just isn’t wired that way, and as I age I am starting to realise there are some things you just can’t force, and that your body can continually surprise and disappoint you by turns and these turns are just another contour of a nuanced life.

My own envy becomes particularly apparent to me when I spend time around people who are naturally gifted at languages like Roz is. As I lie on her couch I watch her switch effortlessly between Indonesian and English, then Japanese as we dine with her husband, Mandarin as she orders for us, and then Indonesian again when we are threading our way through the streets of Bali, getting us the local, not the tourist price. She will deny it if asked but she has a talent for it. And as I watch her in not-so-quiet admiration I feel both a sense of pride (misplaced, I’m sure, as I have nothing to do with her abilities) and jealousy, I want to be able to be a verbal tourist to cultures in the way language allows you to, I want to linguistically access the heritage of my people in order to understand the decision to expunge it (like yiyun li) or embrace it. Someone I follow on instagram posted an excerpt from Kato Lomb’s Polygot: How I learn Languages recently and it really resonated with me, in particular this line: if someone knows how to play the violin only a little, he will find the the painful minutes he causes are not in proportion to the possible joy he gains from his playing. The amateur chemist spares himself ridicule only as long as he doesn’t aspire for professional laurels. It is true: I have no aspirations for a career in literary translation. I simply would like to converse.

I told myself I would give myself one last shot. It was a university dream of mine to try and learn Malay but I failed four semesters in a row to get a slot in the introductory class. It is supremely embarrassing that as someone living in a multiracial country I cannot speak our national language (which is Malay, not English, contrary to popular belief), all I can do is count to ten and not very consistently at that. Already I am incomprehensible in my own mother tongue, to the disappointment of my very chinese grandmother. Don’t even get me started on dialects. But I have never been someone embarrassed by failure, having developed an unusually thick skin over the years. I guess what I am saying is that I am on my way to becoming a very amateur Malay speaker. I am amassing a repertoire of broken languages. I have a list of things I have failed and am failing at, and that is okay with me.

x
Jem

*hot tip: hacking university life is all about taking classes that would cost a fortune otherwise, I can’t believe it’s free in Singaporean universities to just take whatever classes you’d like. In this way I have diversified for basically no money, which is just as well, since it has only revealed to me the variety of things that I am bad at.

#2098 | a petty complaint about nothing

So this week my trusty MacBook died.

I was sitting in Bali after a full day of shoot getting some work done when I got a call, a call I had been waiting for for a long time. Elation, celebrations, etcetera. And then within the hour, my MacBook, which had been running perfectly for years, spontaneously swelled and burst from the spillover joy (or so I choose to believe). The screen turned black, the machine started heavy breathing, and the keyboard decided it was no longer part of the entire equation and committed harakiri. There I was, with a computer that was ready to be succeeded, and that had not the courtesy of waiting till I’d selected its replacement to see itself out. And my word, how annoying.

I’m annoyed because of how expensive MacBooks are, and how Apple seems to be increasingly unbothered with hiding the fact that they’re taking the mickey out of us. From the decision to change all ports and get rid of half of them, to the new keyboards no one asked for, to removing the SD card slot which has been absolutely essential to anyone who even vaguely deals with photography… it has been a series of why after why’s. And I am more annoyed with myself than anything, for locking myself into the MacOS and being unable to turn to cheaper, more value-for-money alternatives. I do a lot of writing, and I’ve fallen in love with (and therefore become totally dependent on) Mac’s Pages, especially for my more formal work. And while I can technically go back and change everything to Word, it’s hundreds and hundreds of documents I’m talking about..

So yes, I can do it, sure, but as trite as it sounds, there is so much going on right now, and I just don’t have the time or energy to re-learn navigating operating systems or doing compatibility checks for months / years of precious work. In other words, I am paying a premium to stay in my comfort zone, and that knowledge irritates me, the awareness that there is an alternative within reach, and that for a variety of reasons, that I am not reaching out for it.

Part of me knew to just suck it up and get a new one as soon as possible – it’s that time of the year where work is nonstop, and I cant afford to be paralysed by a petty anger at the capitalist machinations of mega brands. And I was relatively lucky – the computer died right before a trip, so I essentially had a day to quickly research the computer I wanted before getting it at the airport (where you can get electronics tax free, working out to an approximate hundred dollar discount off the MacBook). But the more I googled the more annoyed I got: at the convoluted lineup of computers, the fluff and hot air of branding, the clear neglecting of the cheaper, more accessible models. I ended up getting the MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, which is the cheapest MBP available (the basic MacBooks have abominable specs for their price tag) and essentially the iPhone X of MacBooks (newish, but already obsolete), and on top of that I had to get a silver dongle-like thingum from a third party reseller just to allow myself to attach USB cords to my computer. Trust me, I would have done without it if I could, but thanks to the new removal of the SD card slot, I need to get an external SD card reader, which then has to be plugged into a USB port, which the MacBook doesn’t have. Condemnations, seriously.

The real kicker came when I unwrapped my new MBP and tried to pack it into my hand carry. The new MBPs are admittedly very sleek and much lighter than the older macbooks, and I suppose I will get used to the butterfly keyboard eventually, as with all things. But the new MacBook charger, for some damned reason, had elected to get rid of the previously very handy notches around which one could wind the charging wires into a neat little bundle. No, no, organisation be damned. The new chargers now are smooth like a dolphin’s underbelly, with no grip nor notch in sight, leaving the long charging cable to flop around uselessly in one’s bag, inevitably tangling with other cords and wires, such as the stupid additional dongle wire one has to purchase along with the new macbooks. For two thousand dollars you would think Apple would throw us at least a bone. But no. Instead we have: the touch bar.

I know, I know. I’m being petty. The fact stands that I was able to get a new computer more or less immediately after my old one died (major throwback to six years ago, when I was literally bawling in an apple authorised service center because my computer died suddenly and I simply couldn’t afford to get a new one.. I certainly terrified all the sales staff that day, let me tell you, there is nothing quite as desperate as a broke student just trying to pass), and at a discount at that. There are blessings to be counted and I have done the math. But does that reality contradict the one where Apple is being, as they say, a lil bitch? No it does not. And that intersection of irritation is where I currently reside, arms akimbo, waiting for my petty anger to slowly dissipate and melt into resignation, which I can already see creeping towards me from the horizon.

x
Jem

#2097| seismic

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cheapo Harley Quinn
shot on the nikon z6

So much stuff has been going on and life has shifted under my feet; life is, for now, seismic. I am nervous and excited and happy about this. You can probably tell by the totally lost look on my face above. You know how it goes. I relate to Chidi on a soul-deep level. I want to be Janet. I function the most like Eleanor. I need to stop charting my life against television characters, who by now I should know are not units of realistic measure, but points of relativity which morph and phase by the seasons. Even when disavowing the currency of fictional characters I feel some part of me get annoyed at Jason’s existence, and then at myself for being unable to appreciate goofiness as a sort of sincerity. Being serious myself I like serious people. All this was a big distraction. I’ll see you guys in the fall.

x
Jem