#2066| nian nian you yu

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I must admit that I’ve never been *into* Chinese new year per se, probably because the idea of dressing up in tight new clothes and sitting in front of a steaming hotpot in the supremely humid Singapore while long lost relatives grill you on every single life choice you’ve ever made doesn’t quite sound like the ideal long weekend, yes? Try explaining your choice to be a writer, albeit one that’s infrequently, if ever, paid. Besides, the idea of reuniting with family might hold water in a country where you have to geographically traverse mountainous lands to be together once a year, etc, but this is Singapore, where you can get from one end of the island to the other in 30 minutes, flat, 45 if there’s traffic. Any lack of regular contact is, make no mistake, a choice.

All that to say that I thought I knew all that, but time has a funny way of revealing your own naivete to yourself, and it was only after moving across the world and back did i find it in myself to have fun on Chinese new year, to confront inappropriate interrogations head-on with cheeky comebacks and nudges, to harass my deaf grandmother with unnecessarily loud yells which, despite what she says, she enjoys, to unzip my jeans in the car after all the cny eating to my parents’s horror and amusement, to take CNY lightly, which in my books, ends up being to take it seriously, to treasure, to hold.

Ah, a cliche? Yes, yes, and yes. Anyway, I wrote about CNY this year more formally on Curbside. Here it is.

x
J


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#2065 | Making the best of a shitty situation

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In a move that was extremely on brand for 2020, my sister fell off a rock wall and broke her arm in two places last year, a thing traumatic and incredulous in equal measure (isn’t breaking a limb something that happens only in the vague realm of ‘to other people’, without ever taking on specificity for most of us?). She’s since had copious amounts of medication, surgery, and physiotherapy, thank God for insurance, and now lives with a red scar down her hand that can only be described as thicc.

She’s young enough that the bone will heal, she will function at close to full capacity again someday, albeit with a smudge more caution and paranoia, but the scar, i think, is here to stay. The scar, smooth and soft, a site of repair, a battle wound, a rope of thickened tissue, silky to the touch, fading slightly, stitching skin together. Let’s celebrate it I said, grabbing a sharpie, going at her, and she groaned, pushed me off, and said, jie, i think the only person enjoying this is you. But she was smiling.

x
J


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#2064 | New Year, Same Lower Back Pain

With each renewal of the calendar year comes the expectation of change, against all reason, which is probably why I find myself ridiculously disappointed in the second week of 2021, still struggling with lower back pain, still plagued with orthopedic concerns, still shocked to find that I do not, in fact, have a completed manuscript draft on hand.

x
J

#2063 | an ode to cheese


I truly cannot get over how much I love cheese. I’ve always loved cheese, of course, but growing up in Singapore it was considered a luxury, and the kind of cheese I was most acquainted with was those kraft single slices, ultra-processed but still good when melted over a bowl of hot sesame nissin noodles. Even those I found to be a treat, when I was a broke undergrad I’d think for a long time before buying a packet because it was five bucks in the grocery store and most of the things I bought were way cheaper than that (think of a massive carton of eggs for 3 bucks, a head of veggies, a box of cherry tomatoes for a dollar). Anyway, all that is to say that when you have no money, nutrition is not at the forefront of your mind, much less small dairy luxuries. When I started working, being able to order a cheese board at bars was considered the ultimate pleasure, it was at Robertson’s Wine Connection and Cheese Bar that I was introduced to things beyond the basic understandings of cheddar and brie. Last year, when I stopped working and moved to the states to pursue my grad studies, I thought having no income for the first time in 8 years would mean the end of my love affair with cheese. Imagine my delight, then, when it was revealed that cheese was available in abundance in the states, that a great hunk of blue cheese could be had for two dollars in the grocery store, that smoked gouda could be procured for slightly over a dollar. What wonder, what joy. Now that I’m back in Singapore, waiting out the virus or my own delusions, who knows, only time will tell, the relative price of cheese has gone up again, and I find myself staring at the price tags in cold storage and ntuc and what not with a small measure of grief. Still, I find that this year more than any other, I have given myself over to irrational purchases, spontaneous buying… for if joy can be had for five bucks, who am i to say no, when so much else in the world around us burns?

x
Jem

#2062| some kind of weather

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On set for Dear Internet

You know, between working on fiction and the weekly Curbside column I do for No Contact Magazine, my appearance over on my own blog has dwindled to a sort of monthly drop-in. It’s not that I’m all outta words, perhaps time is what is in short measure here. I am happy to report that the last quarter of 2020 seems to be pulling through, not just in terms of personal circumstance, but for the rest of the world too. Vaccines, and all that.

With my return to Singapore it seems the accompanying return to screenwork was inevitable, yet it is with equal measures of surprise and delight that I’ve found myself back on set. Earlier this month, Season One of The Public Investigator, the limited-run documentary series I hosted for Clicknetwork and IMDA Singapore dropped, which makes me the eponymous investigator, I suppose, an identity I definitely need to hold dear as I move into various phases of research in my fiction. I also wrote a short-film-esqe episode of the forthcoming anthology series, Dear Internet, which begun production yesterday:

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Love me a good neon light

Goosebumps.

A friend and I were talking, under the cover of rain, which sounds like a trivial detail but seemed important at the time, as if these conversations could only be had when muted by the pattering of raindrops; he said to me that happiness is like the weather, but fulfillment is like the climate. They say the important thing to do is focus on nurturing the right climate, and I laughed, I said, they they they, who is this they. But I suppose the long and short of it is that I have the right climate and the wrong weather, for this year I have been deeply, deeply unhappy, even though the ground is fertile and the soil encouraging, and the pattering of my pen has produced fruit of the most unexpectedly sweet variety, fleshy, cold, and surprising.

J