Updates from Singapore Writers' Festival 2015

I was really excited to be part of an SWF panel! Especially since I've been attending and learning from the festival for many years. Seeing myself in the programme booklet as a presenter felt like reaching a milestone.

At the event, I had a good time exchanging ideas with fellow creatives. Especially fellow panellists Melissa Viswani, Darel Seow, Soumya Ayer, Levene Wong, and moderator Andy Chua. Learning about their work was inspiring and motivated me to do more.

Reconnecting with Roger Jenkins at Singapore Writers' Festival for families, which he co-curated with National Arts Council, felt special. It was almost 20 years ago when I acted in Project S.H.O.P. directed by him, staged at Victoria Theatre. I felt really nostalgic watching his storytelling session at the Asian Civilisations Museum (which was just behind Victoria Theatre). It reminded me of the time he asked us to dramatise a poem as part of the audition. Ah, memories!

Duanwu Dream, Art writing, and SWF!

It's been some time since my last blog update but it doesn't mean that I have been resting on my (imaginary) laurels (if any).

I have just uploaded the images from my land art installation for the joint exhibition "Working title not Working", in Jul-Aug 2015 here. Hope you like them. :)

I have also updated some of the art writing (essay and article) I've written earlier in the year here.

I am also excited about being part of the Singapore Writers' Festival this year! I'll be part of a panel discussing on the role museums play in creative process. The event is on 7 Nov, Sat, at 1 pm, at the Asian Civilisations Museum. It might not seem like much, but as I have been attending SWF as a participant for the past many years, it's exciting to find myself in the programme booklet. haha.

In the meantime, as usual, I'm working on some other projects that are waiting in the wings. Hope to share more details soon!

Happy 50th National Day, Singapore!

A while ago, I was interviewed by a media student for her school project. She asked me what Singapore means to me. Having recently watched a nature documentary on the food chain in the Norwegian forest at that time,  I said something like this:

"To me, the question on what Singapore means to me, is like asking a fish from a stream in a forest, what does the forest mean? Singapore is where I was born, where I've lived all my life, and if I am fortunate enough, it will be where I will get to grow old and die. 'Singapore' is not just a physical location, but its environment, its people, its culture. So, Singapore means to me what the forest means to that fish. "

The thing is, writers and artists are really like sportsmen, entrepreneurs. The achievements of Singaporean artists are the artistic achievements of Singapore, just like how the accomplishments of national sportsmen are the pride of the nation, and the accomplishment of a successful Singaporean enterprise is something for all Singaporeans to be proud of.

When the Singapore Botanics Gardens got awarded the Unesco world heritage site status, all Singaporeans share the happiness. When SIA (Singapore Airlines) and the Singapore Changi Airport, win international awards and accolades, Singaporeans are proud of them too.  

Every Singaporean contributes to Singapore in his or her own way. As an artist and a writer, I work hard in my own way for Singapore too. 

Of Presence and Distances

Recently got to know two young artists, Benny Teo and Zhang Fuming, who asked me to write up an essay about their works for their upcoming exhibition.

Although I am an avid reader of art writing, it's my first time writing about it formally. Grateful to them both for the opportunity and freely sharing what they did with me. I had a lot of fun learning about their creative processes and concepts, and of course, observing them and their art. 

Check out their upcoming show here

Random good links - 18 June 2015

Here are a bunch of interesting things:

Untitled (silverfish and snakes)

Looking at a bunch of paintings on my computer and feel like playing with my pastel crayons but I decided that it's easier to open up a new word doc than to dig out my crayons. The last time I opened my box of crayons, a big silverfish slithered out. Yikes. 

The biggest silverfish I've ever seen was when I was still working in the corporate world. It was around one inch. I won't blame you if you don't believe me. It's uncomfortable for everyone to think that silverfish that big exist. Apparently, they say that silverfish eat protein that exist in hair, and glue. So all that office carpet tiles that are glued down must provide quite a buffet spread. 

If you're reading from an office, that's carpeted right now, try not to think about the silverfish city that lives beneath your feet.

That silverfish must have been too full gorging itself, I think, for it was resting on top of the carpet (maybe it's like their beach, you know), and it was slow enough for me to stick a piece of tape over it to trap it.

That was probably the best opportunity for me to observe silverfish close up. But I didn't. I couldn't bear to, because they were so ugly. Then when I tried to throw the tape away it escaped. Duh.

I think the non-human creatures on earth will only become uglier and uglier. Only then, will we fear it, and only then, will we not want to hunt it down and capture it for gazing. Cockroaches, silverfish, and all the other critters which are ugly and inspire disgust or fear. Butterflies, ladybugs, and all the other sparking, shiny, pretty ones will be caught and tortured. 

The same goes for all the other animals - the beautiful birds of paradise and the colour parrots and parakeets are coveted for their feathers or as pets but perhaps the mynahs and crows are more likely to survive and multiply, although they might not mind being pets. 

Tigers, lions, pandas, rhino, giraffe, koalas, elephants... are beautiful. And then there are snakes. All snakes are quite beautiful.

As compared to like... rats. Maybe rats are not so beautiful.

But maybe I'm just being judgmental and shallow.

Dreams and Persistence

Dreamt of attending a literature-cum-chemistry class at Yale, no less. Concluded something about Popularity of a literary work being a function of Genre + Target Audience. And that parallel lines won't remain parallel because they are positively charged. Huh, right?

Maybe it's related to this link my friend sent to me about Tom Sachs. Which led me to this video: Ten Bullets, which is worth a watch (20+ mins).

My favourite? Bullet number 10. 

Was at a gallery on 9 Apr 2015 and made some new friends, of whom there were two ladies whose contacts I didn't get, Ms Rebecca and Ms CS (and sorry if I got your initials wrong). We were just talking about art and what I do and intend to do, and they were generous with their encouragement and confidence. Thank you for your encouragement. I will press on!

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge (or Ray Kroc?)

Book launched on 14 March 2015

Yes, the Spider with Seven Tau-geh Legs was successfully launched! Thanks again to library@orchard for hosting us and all who arrived to support!

Some other photo highlights here

Please follow my facebook page for more frequently and timely updated news. 

Photos by David Teo (www.davidteophotography.com) 

Rekindling an old flame...

Time flies too fast. I have no problems with it flying, but it's the haste I cannot bear.

Wasn't it just not too long ago that I put this website together? Why do so many of the pages look and feel so outdated already?

Recently, I was asked to go and retrieve a print-screen from my old website/blog thing. Last year, I decided to shut down my story-blog which I had up since 2005 (approx). On that blogspot page, I shared hundreds of flash fiction stories that I wrote to give away freely to the world (not that there was much traffic towards the end when I stopped updating it). I took it offline because I read about how "proper publishers" don't like stories that are already available on the internet for free... 

But I miss it, you know? I miss its simplicity and sincerity in me when I wrote on it... the feeling of writing to write, to share an idea, to have the chance to be read, to amuse, and to be amused. I didn't write on that blog to be a "writer" and the last thing on my mind was about becoming a "published author".

I so much more prefer writing random raw flash fiction stories than blogging about my real life and struggles with creating my websites.

Today on Valentine's day, I shall rekindle my old flame. Open up the blog again and if nobody wants to print those stories because it's already blah blah blah... so be it. And yes, maybe I can start putting up new stories on it. New stories that are like the old ones - born of random ideas, written quickly in one sitting, unfinished, unpolished, diamond-in-the-rough-draft stuff. 

I'm consoled by being able to undo at least this cause of regret.

I'm glad that although Chattering Matterings of the Original Meekfreak is old and dated, I'm not yet jaded.

Sonic Youth vs Kurt Vonnegut?

Re-writing that self-intro/artist statement para. Should seriously keep milestone copies of it and do a retrospective when i'm 52, no, 62, no, 72?

On listing my influences as Kurt Vonnegut...? And being tempted to replace him with Sonic Youth, for honestly, the influence of SY on my writing is way more profound than KV's. I have probably spent +/- one year of my life having Washing Machine playing in the background. And I haven't spent anywhere near as much time reading KV? And yes, it's not really all of SY, but just Washing Machine and a Thousand Leaves. Moping around my formative years, listening to stuff like Panty Lies, Diamond Sea, and learning the lyrics by heart... well, there's no way they don't affect the way I look at the world.  

Time takes its crazy toll
And how does your mirror grow
You better watch yourself when you jump into it
’cause the mirror’s gonna steal your soul
— Sonic Youth, "Diamond Sea"

I mean, grammar is really not as important as rhythm, as sense is not as important as ideas.

And the famous SY guitar distortion "noises". I don't know how to explain that, so here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_Youth#Musical_style_and_influences and here: http://youtu.be/3BZXco773kk. It's a 20 min clip, the singing is pretty much done by the 2:30. Then it's just instrumental until i think like 13:40 for 14:20 then it's instrumental again.

It's about the spirit of experimentation, you know. Not mastery of classics. And that really got into my system, for I was listening to this stuff when I was 14,15? when I was developing my system.

And if not SY, there's at least Black Francis and the Pixies, recommended by Kurt Cobain. I mean, Where is my mind? has been replaying in my head since at least 1999! Before that I didn't even know that people could write songs about things like that! And if you could sing about walking with crustaceans, of course writing about it is not an issue at all! So why do people talk about surrealism or magic realism like it's a new thing?

Jorge Luis Borges and Beethoven

I think it's funny that I stumbled across Borges on a Australian publisher's website, because I tend to think South Americans as being a Western influence, but he came to me from the East.  


In On Writing, Jorges Luis Borges discusses grand ideas. To be frank, I find them difficult because these essays call upon so much background literary knowledge, but it's humbling and enjoyable because it makes me realise that there's so much more to learn and such a long way more to go, in writing. That is consoling. It's like when a child is upset with himself and an adult pats him on the head and says, "it's okay, you're just a kid."

Due to a hereditary disease, Jorge Luis Borges' vision begun to fade in his early thirties and he became completely blind in his late 50s.

How difficult, it would be, for one to hold on to his will due to such a crisis? How devastating for a writer, who lives in the world of written words, who creates worlds with writing?

JLB continued to work with the help of his secretaries, by dictating and being read to. If I don't recall wrongly, some analysts suggested that his works might have become more concise because of his blindness - as he'd have to compose the writings in his head.

He's like Beethoven who lost his hearing but continued to compose music. 


Over time, his hearing loss became profound: at the end of the premiere of his Ninth Symphony in 1824, he had to be turned around to see the tumultuous applause of the audience because he could hear neither it nor the orchestra.

I don't advocate liking writers or artists or any professionals because of their personal lives or misfortunes, nor that one's work should be accorded with more merit because of one's determination or effort. I think our works should be judged regardless of whether or not its creator act like assholes and that it is his/her private business if he/she chooses to behave much lesser than paragons of virtue. If I spend 50 years of my time to create a rubbish work, it's still rubbish. Etc, etc.

But I do admire persons so much more because of the challenges they face and overcome. And I do think that these things help make people more interesting. And interesting people tend to present interesting perspectives and produce interesting works.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for having both my sight and hearing. 

Have you heard of Vocal Slender?

I first learnt of Eric Obuh from the BBC documentary, "Welcome to Lagos". 

Eric is from Lagos, Nigeria. He was an enterprising "scavenger", which is the professional title of someone who worked in the rubbish dump, searching through fresh loads of garbage brought in by the dumpster trucks, for scraps that can be resold for money. Clothes, metal, radios that can be fixed. I like the title, "scavenger". 

He was doing it not just to make a living, but to save up to finance his dream: of becoming a rap artist. In the documentary, he was depicted to spend his savings on studio time, cutting a demo, and getting his picture professional professionally taken to promote his musical talents

I was impressed and inspired by his dedication to his dreams.

Riding on the exposure that the BBC documentary provided, he made it to London. And he is still trying to make it bigger and bigger.

short intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPfviZaY5ow




A new rejection ritual?

RARR! Received Another Rejection Recently. I know, they warned me that it's gonna be crazy. Stephen King had a nail in the wall which collapsed from the weight of his rejection letters. (read: http://calnewport.com/blog/2013/06/01/the-deliberate-rise-of-stephen-king/). But it's tough to go through one rejection after another and still want to press on.

So, I figured I need a new rejection ritual... to pick myself up every time I fall.

Currently, when I receive a rejection, I stare into space for a couple of minutes or hours (depending on how long I let myself dwell on it). I then punish myself by eating a lousy lunch (if at all). That's not very good. I feel like the little part of me that died inside deserves to be commemorated with more, since I really devoted time and effort into the proposal/submission. 

If anything, I should be stuffing myself with fish and walnuts to upgrade my brain so that it can produce better work. 

So maybe, as a new ritual, I should post something positive here - every time I feel that I suck, and feel like giving up. I should find examples of someone pressing on and then press on. (Imagine shiba inu pic inserted here, with "wow, such positive" caption.) It'll create the illusion that there're lots of success cases out there and that my day will come. Never mind that there are actually millions of aspiring writers/singers/artists out there who don't make it...

Sigh. Then again - maybe I'll just knock back a glass of baby formula fortified with DHA and Vitamin E.

Alternative music influences alternative writing.

It is often more difficult to pin down my inspirations. Being inspired is something that happens in an instant, and in the present moment. And the word "inspiration" has too much baggage - promising too much, and the artist can't help but expects too much, and of course, that ruins everything.

It might be more relevant to look into the past and understand and decipher one’s influences. Influences are more fundamental and casual – casual because something may be influencing in many different ways. I'm influenced by Kurt Vonnegut for his content choice and writing style, and I'm influenced by Naruto (anime) for I'm moved by the central characters' spirit and remind myself to be like him sometimes. Through influences, I better understand my preferences, development, and inclination... and from here, I should know what kind of work I am more likely to create and will enjoy creating.

Although I had the regular crushes on members of Take That, I listened to the music of Queen and Sonic Youth. With my first computer and connection to the internet, I actually searched for their lyrics to print out to put in the front of my transparent plastic school file... I read and re-read about what happened that night at the opera and those non-existent panty lines.

So, why do people (myself included) expect me to write orthodox, descriptive prose? That'll be like for someone who enjoyed Sarah Brightman or Mclachlan. And literary stuff? Vivaldi maybe? I listened to nirvana and the pixies and the cure and marilyn manson and ben folds five and REM and... joao gilberto (though i didn't really know what he was singing about...) It was, after all, the glorious age of Napster. 

I write alternative stuff in my alternative style - it's alternative writing, ok?

It was bound to happen.

I should have known that it'd be impossible to keep up with regular blog posts. As a writer - I should spend as much writing time possible on my active projects, and it's difficult to blog about things that happen in my everyday life because everything that is significant enough to write about will be collected as materials for my next book.

In the past few months, lots of things happened. The most significant of which is when a good friend passed away suddenly due to an accident and that was quite something to get over. I got momentarily seized by a sense of "carpe diem" and felt compelled to work harder than ever and perhaps that's why I've finally "finished" Millie - V. 365, and it's such a relief. I haven't reread the story - but i feel that it's a good and close-to-final version and everything that's left to do is editorial editing (as opposed to structural) and buffing the shine on sentences. I can't believe I spent about 5 years on this story. 

Robin Williams died and that kinda prompted me to I wonder what everything all about - everything he did, everything I do... I don't want to think too much about it because I'm afraid to discover his point of view so I shall keep quiet about that.

As usual, with the end of one project, I'll think about starting a bunch more - so i'm in the midst of planning those, as well as on the presentation of Millie and some others i've been secretive about. 

This update is so toned-down that even I'm wondering what i'm updating about. But I guess I should drop in a note to have those checking in have something to check!

Thanks y'all for staying tuned!

I should have a content focus for the blog - maybe to share writing tips - but there are already so many blogs like that out there. How about "what kind of writer are you" to share my research on writing and creative processes? Please do let me know if you have any ideas. hm.

Random good links - Jul 14

No time to go into details, but here are some interesting links. Thanks to friends who shared.

  • http://mattgemmell.com/working-from-home/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits
  • Anti-establishment irony? 
    • http://zenpencils.com/comic/155-banksy-taking-the-piss-explicit/ vs
    • http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryntully/2013/10/14/would-you-buy-a-banksy-from-a-new-york-stall-for-60-not-many-did/
  • http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share
  • Where have all the flowers gone: http://youtu.be/T1tqtvxG8O4
  • Secret life of bipolar I & 2:
    • http://youtu.be/rGDl6-lyfMY 
    • http://youtu.be/uj8hqXd7N_A
  • BBC about lithium: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26993915

Pick one. Pick two.

Btw, my surgery went ok.