#2086 | blast from the past


today i felt a bit old because i suddenly remembered the time Apple first launched its iPhone and i was walking home from school with my girlfriend Jenna and we were laughing like crazy because we were like, stupid apple is going to fail haha no one is going to buy their phone cos the iPhone has no bluetooth how dumb is that.

(when i was in secondary school bluetooth or infrared was how you transferred files between phones. but bluetooth was better because your phones could be further away: with infrared you had to stick the phones together literally to get any file sent across)

and look where we are today.

i guess we really never know.


#2084 | One of those days..


Top: Pomelo / Camera: Nikon D750

It’s been a pretty unproductive week for me – I think because I’m falling sick. It must be a bug that’s going around because people around me were sneezing and now my brain feels like its made of damp cotton candy, the kind turning slowly to mush and mould. Still, I trudge on to my office everyday, partly because of guilt, I know. Two weeks away from Singapore – tokyo for work then bali for mel’s engagement – and i come back heavy with the guilt of fun. How dare I, i ask myself, be traipsing off having a good time when things i.e. the THESIS is due??! And so everyday sees me in the office staring at stacks and stacks of words and my brain, slowly, turning to potato salad.

The timing of it all, though, has been propitious. I submitted a first draft (the submission is stage four, the first three stages of research, interviews, and writing, have been ugly) literally the day I flew off to Tokyo, in the airport lounge waiting for my flight to depart. Ho hum, out of my hands – and then the week I got back from Bali, the feedback came in, and so I’m right back to stage four, draft two. I found myself grateful for the perfect precision with which the timelines of my academic and commercial life intersected – even leaving me four days in between touchdown and the revised first draft comments coming in so I could finish up work on some commercial projects. Upcoming soon: a Disneysea Hacks and Guide, Tokyo snacks guide, Tokyo convenience store food post, and Mel’s wedding photo journal (which i thought was a waste not to document since it was such a beautiful day!). And if you haven’t already read my Airbnb Audiowalks post on The Last Bookstore, please do because I wrote it when I was down with a Raging Flu.

I guess because of the being sick business, and this seems rather common as with every time i fall sick, I have been thrown into the midst of a Quarter Life Crisis wondering what is up with my life and where it’s going, etcetera etcetera. I suppose I assumed that I would go straight on to the PhD/MFA right after my masters but right now I’m exhausted guys, no two ways of looking at it. And so perhaps a break is in order, but who the hell takes a break at twenty four? It seems indulgent.

I didnt come to the blog for answers, just for journaling I suppose. Which is what blogs were meant to be about to begin with, but we all seem to forget that nowadays. Be back with the regular programming soon guys, i.e. the travel guides, so stay tuned while I go blow my nose again. x


#2081 | REQUIRED VIEWING: Dear White People


You guys. You guys.

I have been obsessed with two shows this past month, the first of which being the heart wrenching 13 Reasons Why, which I’ll admit, I watched because it was produced by homegirl Selena Gomez, who is my favourite pumpkin-resembling-human. Happily I discovered: I loved it. The show has it’s problematic moments, but it also did certain things really well – normalising the casting of coloured characters, for one. Asian characters aren’t token asians, they’re just asians. Same with brown characters. We could use more normalisation of representation, methinks. The most popular girl in school, Jessica, is a brown girl who remains friends with her rapist after the act, showing us that there is not one right way to react after trauma – her way of coping with the trauma did not invalidate her rape, and that was in itself an incredible milestone for television, which has historically used rape and female trauma as a last ditch ratings-grab (ahemGAMEOFTHRONESahem) or plot device for sensationalism. Ugh. So yes. I’m not saying the show didn’t have its failings, but we do not throw away the baby with the bathwater, as they say. Loved the show.

And two days ago, I started on Dear White People, and it instantly became my favourite show of the YEAR.

From its incisive wit and brilliant cinematography, there’s very little not to love about the show. It just became the first show with all minority cast to hit 100% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and while I dont always trust RT, I’m gonna have to agree with them on this one. All characters are multidimensional and real – and social issues that are uncomfortably close to real world ones are brought up and dealt with in a not quite satirical way. The show revolves around black girl Sam White (but not black enough for some of her crew) and her radio show called Dear White People, broadcasted at the fictional Ivy League and predominantly white school Winchester. Within the first five minutes of the show’s opening, we see shit go down as racial tensions come to clash at a college halloween party where students are encouraged to come in their best black costumes – in blackface: niki minaj, beyonce, etcetera. If you hadn’t already realised, this show does not shy away from sticky topics. It’s awesome.

As the show goes on, other characters are introduced and fleshed out, and every single one of them is incredibly compelling to watch. None of them are token characters, and this is refreshing. It is sad that this is refreshing because it shows us just how rare it is that a person of color is not just the sassy best friend but actually the main protagonist who’s life is just as interesting to watch. We can all afford to do better, I think.

What I appreciated most about the show was how damn good it was. Is that too obvious? But it’s true. The show is, at its heart, a damned good show, extremely watchable, addictive, likeable. The entirety of it was so well scripted and intelligent that it said everything I could ever hope to be able to enunciate and allowed me to borrow the perspective of someone other than myself for a hot moment. Despite being clearly a show with a message, that message was never one sided – and the way it navigated the demarcations between stereotype and satire was so elegant it had me blinking in wonder more than once. Difficult questions were asked. Faults were pointed out on all ends. This show is not a blame game – it is a fire starter. And the fire is something we could all use in today’s world to warm us to the sticky things we need to not shy away from.

This is something Netflix has been doing pretty well of late, I think. Combining entertainment and social commentary, to make it more palatable to a wider audience. Jessica Jones was one of my favourite shows on Netflix till Dear White People came out, and I loved how the issue of female trauma was brought up and handled in a non-textbook way. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, written by everybody’s homegirl Tina Fey, was so satirical that it forced us to relook at modern society with slightly more critical eyes. Orange Is The New Black did a lot in terms of mainstream media representation – though I have to say, they still lock it in on stereotypes quite a fair bit. Luke Cage proved that an all minority cast could carry a show, and do it well. Well, until the totally unbelievable villain Diamondback appeared mid-season. And by refusing to dub Narcos and having half the show in Spanish, subtitled in English, it made a huge statement on the privileging of certain lingual experiences and evened out the playing ground, just that bit.

These issues are not new, they have been debated to hell in academia. God knows how many papers I’ve read and written on gender privilege, on the Othering of experiences, of representation in art. But who reads these papers outside the academic circle? Academics can not just keep talking to academics about these things. It will go nowhere. These papers and debates are very heavy to digest but they are crucial, and they need to evolve and take on different forms across cultures and social groups. Collaborations are what I’m talking about, people. This is one of the big plus points to me of social media and also pop culture, the potential to have a widely varied discussion of these things. In my ideal world there will be a job position in a department called Responsible Television where academics are hired by TV networks and to sit in on roundtable writer meetings to raise valid points of debate that can be woven into pop culture. And aren’t we already moving towards that? Academic and author Roxane Gay was appointed the first black woman to write for Marvel’s World of Wakanda, a comic storyline focusing specifically on black and queer characters. It is a start. So much of pop culture – be it television or literature – has given us material to talk about, has widened the range of acceptability, and has opened our eyes to privilege and thus, empathy. And so much of pop culture has the sheer volume of audience with which to do so.

So.. yeah. This was originally just supposed to be about Dear White People, which I just finished binge-watching yesterday, but I got sidetracked as I often do. The point is, go watch it. It is required viewing. I absolutely cannot wait for Season Two.


#2078 | A note on sleep, on time management


I feel like I might have said this before, somewhere, but it’s the kind of thing that needs to be nudged once in awhile, so here I am again.

A couple of weeks ago, Roz and I put out an open call for an Ask Me Anything episode we were doing for Hype Hunt (upcoming, stay tuned!). It was pretty interesting to see how the type of questions we got differed between us, but one of the overwhelmingly recurring questions I got was that on time management. It seems there are a lot of you struggling with work/school, having a social life, getting enough sleep, pursuing your life passions and hobbies… and I can understand how you would relate to me, as I do to you, a person struggling to keep afloat with all that has been going on especially in the final leg of my Masters programme.

A very flippant reply I give most people when they ask how I manage to balance everything is that I have no social life. This is true to some extent – I have significantly cut down on all my social activity, and at the start of this year, I sent out a round message to my different groups of friends telling them that I would be a sort of hermit in the coming semester due to #thesis, not to take it personally, and that I would be back again properly after August, which is when my submissions are. I do miss making plans to go out with my girlfriends after a long day of work, I miss being able to freely commit to a painting class date two weeks in advance, things like that. But something’s gotta give. You can’t have everything. And in any case, it wasn’t going to be a permanent thing – and everyone thankfully was very understanding and supportive and also, they all had their own lives to lead so I flatter myself by thinking that they might miss me too much anyway.

I’m thankful that my work in filming and hosting forces me outdoors and to participate in activities outside the academic, and I’m surprised and grateful that I still find time for spontaneous dinners when my friends are in my office area. So in some sense, I still have that semblance of balance in my life. I think if I didn’t, I would go crazy. All in all – it’s been a stressful year or so, and it’s been tiring. This is not a complaint – I think that life becomes meaningful when you have challenges and from this you grow – but I’m just saying, yes, it’s been tiring. But when I compare working patterns between myself and my two younger sisters, both of which are also still in various stages of school, I can’t believe how recklessly gung-ho I was in my younger days in prioritising what to give up in favour of my schoolwork.

It seems that a lot of kids these days are still championing the you can sleep when you’re dead motto when it comes to their studies. I sure did. In fact, I think it was my MSN byline for the longest time – I’LL SLEEP WHEN IM DEAD, GPA IS FOREVER. Jeez. MSN. I feel old. That doesn’t even exist anymore. But ok, that’s besides the point. The point is, the idea of giving up sleep and pulling all nighters is part necessity and part romanticised, and I have to tell you in retrospect, it’s bullshit.

I’m perpetually trying to force my sisters to go to sleep. My youngest in particular gets very frustrated when I do this, because she says that jie if i sleep i literally cannot finish my work. It’s her A level year, tension is running high. And I get it. I do. This is a problem, that we are loading kids with so much work that they are literally hunching over under the weight of the sheer volume of content they need to memorise and regurgitate at will. And it creates panic, and this mill horse kind of mentality that no matter what, you just have to keep going. I pulled countless all nighters in my secondary school, JC, and uni undergrad days. And I regret them.

Yes, there are friendships forged from the occasional comradeship that a room full of desperate undergraduates studying for finals form, and they do occupy quite a significant space in my nostalgic memory of schooldays. But seriously, if you’re just looking purely at productivity and effectiveness of study, a lack of sleep does you way more harm than good.

One of the most important things someone ever said to me was, just because you’re not sleepy doesn’t mean your body isn’t tired.

I cannot emphasise enough how important and true this is. When your body is tired, it suffers. And it tries to warn you that it’s suffering, so to signal this to you, your mind slows down, you become sluggish and moody, and heck, it’s bad for health, body, and fitness. It messes with your eyesight, it makes you less effective and productive as a worker, and it makes you more prone to depression. On the other hand, sleep regenerates you, refreshes you, and i mean, come on buddy. I don’t have to tell you why sleep is great. Everyone loves sleep. I actually get emotional about getting into bed because it feels so good I could cry.

Perhaps you can trick your body into not feeling sleepy, but this changes nothing about the fact that you’re probably still tired as heck. I think the problem is partly our culture, that we are such a generation of overachievers that we feel like if we can keep going, we should. But no. Im here to tell you that this is terrible for you in the long run. It’s ok to tell yourself that tonight, this is as much as you will do, and you can continue tomorrow. Allow yourself to sleep. Forgive your body it’s failings. JUST GIVE YOURSELF A DAMNED BREAK.

This is the reason why today, I can compromise everything – social life, watching TV, taking a break from my hobbies for awhile, not meeting my boyfriend as often… but I will not compromise sleep. I have experienced first hand how shit it is to be tired all the time. And yeah, sure. Maybe you can give up everything and have enough sleep and still not have enough time to finish your work. Fine. But at least you’ll be a happier person, and more productive, and, you’ll actually get to do the best thing ever, which is sleep.

Keep hanging in there, guys. x


#2073 | hashtag cheryl blossom


starbucks’s new green tea strawberry blossom is ultra grammable

Is it normal to love coffee so much? I really don’t know. I drink it black and cold (like my heart) almost exclusively nowadays, but one must make exceptions, and my exception this week was a sip of shane’s green tea strawberry blossom frap. so sweet. so pretty. so indulgent.

the new blossom frap reminds me of the ever annoying cheryl blossom from riverdale, this new netflix series that i cannot stop bitchin about. everyone i know, and i do mean everyone, is obsessed with it. even my self-proclaimed cinephile friends, and film-maker friends. I’m in disbelief. as someone who grew up in absolute love with cole sprouse (or dylan, i dont care, my affection is interchangeable), devoted in heart and spirit till i was in junior college and discovered sterling knight aka chad dylan cooper from disney’s sonny with a chance, this breaks my heart. i vowed to love everything my boy sprouse was in. but i cannot take riverdale seriously. i just cannot.

putting aside the fact that i told everyone i had no more time to tv cos, yknw, #thesis, i still dont stand up as well to peer pressure as i thought i would. i finally got suckered into watching it by martin who insisted that its surprisingly damned good. thus four hours of my life passed, and at the other end of four hours i came out and yelled at him for another four for making me do that.

firstly what the hell.

is no one in the show at least attempting to be believable? i cannot bring myself to believe that betty loves archie. she looks like she secretly hates him off camera. i have never seen anyone look so unconvincing when declaring to their gay best friend their love for the generic main protagonist. and generic is cutting it too close for comfort – whats up with archie? dude’s way basic. yes ok he’s cute – but so is literally everyone in the show. plus why are we pretending that his songs about heart break are revolutionary and indicative of talent?! hearts get broken, songs get sung. entire careers are built on this trope. ahem taylor ahem swift. this is nothing new. I’m tired of people using artistic endeavours like music or painting or whatever as a crutch that’s meant to symbolise that a character is ~varied emotionally and deep~. couldnt they have been a bit more respectful of female standards instead of making betty and veronica fight over this lame boy?

is the show’s aesthetic that no one can act? is this everyone’s first real role out of acting school? why is veronica always crossing her eyes everytime she wants to look serious? i cannot believe that veronica is a real person. she is very attractive but i think that’s the actress and not the character. who wrote this show? why do the character lines and dialogue feel like they’re trying to teach me something about ~insert hot social issue here~? and what is up with cheryl blossom? is she a fake blair waldorf? why is she so unbelievable as a character? why are all the parents in this show crazy? is this show channeling pretty little liars? when are we going to stop using this idea of male-female-bestfriendship as a vehicle for one party pining for the other? it is totally possible for men and women to be friends without one falling in love with the other. every single time a tv show turns a platonic friendship into a plot device for a romantic relationship, a fairy dies somewhere. tinkerbell, save me.

the only thing i liked about it was the appearance of josie and the pussycats, whom i loved in the comics. but then the representation of josie confuses me too. why is she so angsty? why is she so unnecessarily bitchy to everyone she talks to? wheres all this emotion coming from josie??? tell me!!!!

I was bitchin about this in the car, on the way to supper with my uni friends. the occasion was that emmanuel, who had migrated to hongkong a month ago, was back in town for twenty four hours. and in the car, we were talking about television, and either one of us brought up riverdale, and i went onto this tirade again.

watched episode one and hated it, he said. does it get better?
I’m on episode four and it still makes me want to smack something.
ok never mind then
i dont understand why its so unbelievable emman i really dont. why didn’t they qc the acting a bit more??

emmanuel stopped and stared at me.

its the CW, jem. acting is not their priority. hot people and melodrama is.

and i suppose he has a point there.

so that’s kind of my life update for the week, i guess. been studying, drinking starbucks, and bitching about television. i think school related stress is making me unnecessarily emotional about everything. my boyfriend was looking at emman and i go on and on about riverdale, and he finally said: jem, why u gotta be so triggered?

hashtag life.