Shots from Vogon Poetry Night, an evening of bad poetry at a lovely little feminist Chinatown bookstore cum cafe called The Moon (I saw one of the staff bruleeing marshmallows behind the counter!). Steph, Atiq and I took it as an opportunity to delve into our old notebooks to read our juvenilia--for me, it was old copies of Eye on the World and First Words and onewinged--and it was strange but empowering to be able to repeat the words of someone less than half my age, so silly and in so much pain, and be able to reinvest energy in performing that voice (though with a layer of irony for protection). Atiq won the night, really, with his "roses are red" incantations from secondary school, though Wei Liang's bizarre preambles, Steph's drag persona as an Oxford educated straight-boy slam poet, and Shivram's SG50 poem also brought down the house. Was originally gonna cabut after my set, but my advisor Boey Kim Cheng gave me an extension on my essay, so I was like yeah I owe my presence to the literary community and sat my ass down all night. #sglit
Brand Singapore: How Nation Branding Built Asia's Global City, by Koh Buck Song. First referred to this because of its notes on how the Sang Nila Utama legend has been instrumentalised by our post independence government as a founding myth. Turns out the text is quite useful for citations in my essay on #singlit as a cultural export (e.g. how the gov wants to be known as a creative city, not a nanny state, but the censors just can't keep their black highlighters to themselves) #yishreads#sglit
Singapore Bicentennial Team: Singapore history is rich and in no way less interesting than that of other nations!
Myanmar: Um we had a king 2000 years ago who wanted to have sex with his mother and got turned into a monkey
Mum bought some hairy crabs from China! They made weird snap crackle and pop noises like rice crispies in the fridge. Now my fingers are all pruny from eating them steamed with ginger. #yisheats#chinesefood
Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking, by Tim Dean. The Queer Book & Film Club is discussing this on Thu night... and of course I knew it was gonna be controversial, but damn, I didn't realise how compelling the argument would be.
Dean is a philosopher, but he writes accessibly, arguing that barebackers are mainly practising a form of sex based on informed consent and therefore these risky practices shouldn't be deemed more morally reprehensible than any others we might not want for ourselves; also that ensuring the survival of gay lives through safe sex is not so different from ensuring the survival of gay lifestyles through unsafe sex; also that bug-chasers' desire to become infected creates a form of kinship, just like the way heteros create kinship by barebacking and getting pregnant (hence the now common term in American gay erotica, "breed my ass"). It's left a real impression: during Writers Fest I accepted a leftover kaya toast from Ivan Coyote (who's suffering from a cold), and I freaked out a younger gay man by telling him it was tantalising imagining I might be ingesting a famous writer's virus. #yishreads#americanphilosophy#queertheory
Yesterday was the last of my required PhD seminars! (Yes, the last: after this I'm done with my six-seminar requirement.) CJ Wee Wan-ling has been guiding us through Cultural Studies using readings by FR Leavis, Theodor Adorno, Frederick Jameson, Susan Sontag, Goenawan Mohamed--also a video by G-Dragon, because the internationally commodified pop culture of the K-wave is the most recent and fascinating manifestation of what happens when art and capitalism collide. The class is pretty mixed: we've students from China, Macau, Portugal and Singapore, and Wan-ling's noted how a decade or two ago, a grouping like this wouldn't have gathered to study big ideas unless it was in Europe or North America. Also some words from The Internationale, which is how I feel working on my final essays right now. #culturalstudies
#icelollyproject 282: watermelon-green grape-pineapple. Amazed I haven't done this before!... but it turns out this isn't that amazing. None of these ingredients was very sweet: the watermelon made it taste subtly salty instead.
Late pics from the #swf2018 closing debate: This House Believes Singaporeans Are Better Off with Social Media, featuring Daryl Qilin Yam overstepping his time and bending the rules about PowerPoint slides while the Opposition states him down ruthlessly (and was there ever a better encapsulation of Singapore culture than people glaring at a Chinese cis gay man dominating a platform)? Seriously, in spite of the wildly un-PC statements at times, this was the most entertaining and gender/race-balanced Closing Debate I've attended, and I was a speaker at the very first one in 2009, in which Teng Qian Xi stammered and Alfian Sa'at grumbled humourlessly and I attempted a performance intervention with a Balinese mask, so it's wonderful to see how it's developed--and also how queerness at the festival's become more open, less taboo, to the extent that Daryl could use the official closing event to complain about being gay in Singapore and enduring such abuses of social media as Truelove.is. Also took a shot of the media in my row, since Umapagan laughed every time his fellow countryperson chairperson Shamini Flint celebrated her Malaysianness, and Olivia Ho got saboed by me when I outed her to Shahrul Channa as an ST journalist. Oh, and a pic of Danielle West explaining to Suhaimi Yusof why comparing influencers to sex workers is highly insulting to sex workers 😂 #sglit
The Descent of Monsters, by JY Yang. Another fascinating addition to the Tensorate Series, which also brings the revelation that Yang--just like Ovidia Yu and Shamini Flint--is fond of the detective novel genre as a form of revealing the world they've built. Read as a reference text for my Cultural Studies essay, which is due next Friday. Gonna write about Yang as a cultural export, a la K-pop. #yishreads#sglit
Shots from Things That Go Bump in the Night II, which was supposed to be a horror reading at the witching hour of 5pm, woooo. Christina Sng, Inthan Paramaditha and Natalie Wang kept on topic: they read twisted versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella and a SingPoWriMo poem based on my pantang prompt 😁. But what I'll remember just as much are Judith Huang's insistence on improvising a story with a Barbie doll as a fairy godmother to guard against the room being bugged by the government, as well as Clarissa Goenawan's confession that her greatest fear involves being made to feel like she doesn't fit in because of her speaking English as a second language, and how she's evolved from being a Singapore Writers Festival participant to a volunteer and now finally a writer. I don't think my reading of "Suburbia" worked that well--I fumbled with my buzzer app and the story was too weird for a lot of folks to understand at the beginning--but then I was (and am) still messed up from someone stealing my bag of books from the Green Room. Photos of me by Danielle West! #swf2018#sglit#indonesianliterature#australianliterature
Couldn't miss How Drama's Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap X, a 10th anniversary performance of their 31-playlets-in-60-minutes sketch comedy series that began in 2008. (Reviewed several of them on the Flying Inkpot and The Straits Times!) Nice to see some familiar sketches as well as welcome new commentaries, e.g. I Beg to Defer, contrasting Joseph Schooling, Ben Davis and Kevin Kwan's NS deferment statuses; also Talking to Children About Penguins (prob not new, but new to me) in which a mother improvs the end of And Tango Makes Three to fit heteronormativity. Also got gala gift pack, including a keychain which you can use instead of a 50 cent coin to release your supermarket trolley! #sgtheatre
There's so much cool stuff that happened at the Arts House today, but I wanna specifically document the all-queer panel of The "I"s in Identities, featuring Ivan Coyote, Amanda Lee Koe and Cyril Wong, with a helpful but slightly confused straight ally Khoo Sim Eng as moderator. Ivan broke our hearts with their readings of essays about affirming trans identity without dysphoria; about weeping on the phone with their dad over the Pulse shootings. Amanda shocked us with a memory of holding a secondary school friend's hand at Somerset and being accosted by a middle-aged man with hellfire pamphlets. And Cyril made us cheer with his tales of scoffing at missionaries at his door, refusing to educate confused army mates about the nuances of his sexuality, and generally being unashamedly queer.
Cyril: If you want to put me into a box, OK. If it makes you feel less alone.But I don't identify as vety much when I'm on my own. I identify as an animal that has a lot of sex.
Amanda: Me too!
Ivan: Me too!
Cyril: Cyril: I'm living on borrowed time. So many of my friends who are trans, gay, lesbian, have felt it's too hard and just jumped. So before I get too flippant about any categories, I remember those people.
Born to be an imperfect woman, I'm very sorry, by Kitty Hung. This was the chapbook of English translations the author gave out at the gender panel I moderated. Gorgeous, glitteringly evocative commentaries on womanhood, and social/political oppression, in the form of memoir, short story, poetic meditation. #yishreads#hongkongliterature
Caught Charlene Shepherdson and Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips's In the Twine: A Tapestry of Stories last night. Gotta be honest: I wasn't really engaged until halfway in, when Charlene started to talk about her dead grandma and wept; before that, the search for roots was too abstract, too unfocussed, with movements appearing more languid than charismatic--the whole story of how they applied for 23&me DNA tests to find out about their heritage wasn't described till near the middle, either, and it wasn't till the Q&A that they explained precisely why the results were unsatisfying (seems they don't have a good Southeast Asian database yet). This was why I asked for more stories, real or imaginary, during the Q&A, after which Huzir Sulaiman delivered a riposte that I wasn't getting the way the piece turned the conventional heritage narrative on its head by exposing the void in answers. (He and his group enjoyed it heaps, by the way.) Ooh, also supper with Mohan's scientist friend Sangyu and her lover/programmer/potter Jeremy, and a rainbow bridge over the river. #sglit#sgtheatre#swf2018
#Icelollyproject 281: abiu-grape. Yeah, I know this looks like ass, but it was really nice and sweet! Should've sliced the grapes though. They went in whole and were full of seeds. (Or maybe I used them because they were overripe? Can't remember; this has been mouldering away in the freezer for months.)
Spent last night at The Ghost in Your Head, an immersive theatre experience by Global Culture Alliance, turning the Arts House into a haunted playground of dead authors. It didn't work completely: in some rooms, actors wandered around solo, repeating quotations, which was underwhelming before a crowd, though at least Eileen Chang's room had a full mahjong table and Miss Havisham's room had unlimited tea and macarons. (I think Sheila Wyatt, who played Miss Havisham, may have gotten sick of me quoting Lewis Carroll at her, even though it did fit the theme of her Mad Tea Party). The best events were in the Play Den, where a "live" radio show featured quotes from Pu Songling and Mary Shelley (he read from the Painted Skin, in which a woman brings her husband back to life; she read from Frankenstein, in which a man brings a monster to life); later, German performance poet Rike Scheffler created a marvellous digital soundscape using the words of Sappho, Gertrude Stein and Bertolt Brecht. Also fun was the Chamber, where an artist remixed your voice reading Charlotte Brontë and Tang Xianzu on love; and Gallery II, where we created obscene fridge magnet poetry from the words of Li Bai, Du Fu and Coleridge. But really, we needed more performers, more chaos, and dare I say, a more diverse image of cosmopolitanism than one dominated by imperial Chinese men and 19th century English women. #sgtheatre#swf2018