River Safari with the Hs


[humongous puffer fish]

Technically, two Hs and one I don’t know what: Luke is an incredibly precocious 3-year old boy. He’s got blonde hair and blue eyes, and a great handle of symbols and situations.

The oldest H (henceforth titled H1) was my first math professor at CU, and he was funny and nice and always picked on me to answer questions in class particularly when I was daydreaming. If I ever teach I will never pick on students to answer questions.

This post is not about him, however :P This post is to document all the hilarious things Luke said and did. He looks just like his grandpa for one, with the same kind of teeth (and an “ah pek” look, according to Justine lol)


[Perhaps it’s the sandals. They are the same style as H1’s sandals]

Luke was very good at articulating everything he thought. I didn’t know one could be that articulate at 3 years old. His mother (H2) speaks to him like an adult, which I think helps tremendously.

When he saw the “no entry” sign (the red circle with a white bar, with some text below) pasted on a bamboo gate, he asked “why does it say ‘Do Not Enter?'” even though the words below were actually “No Access”. That was the first time I realized he couldn’t read. He’s so incredibly garrulous I automatically assumed he was literate.

He recognizes letters and knows his phonics, like the basic sounds of each phoneme like in the word “food” but he has a little trouble piecing it together.

There were these spinning blocks next to the Panda exhibit with pictures of pandas on them and also descriptions of pandas. H2 read one of the descriptions out, trying to get Luke to pronounce “food” by giving contextual clues to the word (Luke is very good at picking up context).

H2: “What do pandas eat, Luke? Fff-ooo”
Luke: [with great certainty] “Rocks.” (Well, his mum IS a geology professor)
(based on observation of the rocks in the enclosure :P)

He’s adorable and I love him.


We also discovered that the total amount of bamboo one panda eats in a day weighs about 4/3 Lukes. Good Lord.

He also automatically ran to the height chart to measure his own height for the boat ride in the River Safari. For reference, he’s not nearly tall enough. But he really liked the camera, and spent a lot of time hopping between the ropes, all the while glued to my lens :P

Everytime he saw a street vendor, a vending machine, or in fact, just about anything that requires the exchange of money, he would run forward, dragging H2 there, all the while persuading her to part with her money to buy him something.

(At a vending machine selling bottled 7-up and coke and Dasani water)
Luke: “Mom! I need a soda!”
H2: “No you don’t need a soda, you want a soda, but why would you need a soda when we’ve got water right here?”
Luke: [pointing to vending machine]”There’s water here too!”
H2: “Yes, but we brought our own water in this cool dinosaur bottle, look! It’s got water from when the dinosaurs were alive. Don’t you want to drink the water from the time of the dinosaurs?”

They were hilarious together.

(At the cart selling fishballs and slushies and ice creams and things:)
Luke: [dragging H2 over] “Look! Ice cream!”
H2: “We brought our own snacks, sweetie. Remember? Why do we need to buy other snacks? Those are fish balls, and you don’t want those.”

The fish balls were $3 for a stick of 3, which is daylight robbery.

(At the machines that kids can get into, pop some money in, and the miniature car or ship or whatever will start moving and playing music:)
Luke drags his mum over.
Luke: “Can I go on the ride?”
H2: “It’s $2, Luke. We don’t have $2 for these rides.”
Luke: [running up to Z and me, holding out his cap]: Do you… do you have 2 cents?

Money denominations don’t mean very much to him right now.

Perhaps he has potential for a travelling salesman career.

He also likes crawling on the floor and sitting down.


[I think its great that parents are not so concerned about the germs on the floor]

At the humongous aquarium in the River Safari with the manatees, he was obsessed with keeping his balance while walking on the low metal pole running along the edge of the aquarium, and completely ignored the huge manatees gliding in the waters right beside him. H1 said, “What can I say? Kids’ priorities are just not your priorities.”


[Gourmet Monkey sniffing a piece of lettuce to test for freshness]
The entire time we were in the squirrel monkey exhibit H1 was trying to convince H2 to keep a cute little monkey in her apartment for him to visit when he comes to Singapore.
H1: “Don’t you want a monkey in your apartment? You must want a monkey. Look! How can anybody not want a furry little friend in your apartment?”
H2: -rolls eyes-
H1: “How about one of those red pandas? I thought they were pretty cute.”

H1 also told us about the time he spotted a manatee while swimming off the coast of Puerto Rico, at an unofficial beach. He said it was the first manatee people had spotted there in 50 years, and the inscription near the tank in the River Safari also said manatees love warm water! Also, that 2/3 of the volume of their bodies are all lung (where I thought it was fat).


Here he is showing off his re-entry stamp. He’s so affectionate and precocious, once he just ran up to Z and held his hand so Z could bring him around. It’s nice that he trusts all the adults in his travelling group. When his mum asked him to count the number of people in the party, he went
“one, ” (pointing to himself)
“two, ” (pointing to me)
“three, ” (pointing to Z)
“four! ” (pointing to H1)
H2: “Don’t you think you’re missing out somebody here?”

lol. And then he counted again, and got 6. haha. The thanklessness of motherhood.


When we saw the alligators (actually gharials?) in the Ganges river exhibit, H1 told us about the time (maybe in the last year) where he swam with some caimans and piranhas in Brazil (near Sao Paolo). I guess they must be harmless (the exhibit says that despite their vicious reputation, piranhas usually forage for already dead animals) but H1 said that when he was in Brazil, at the same time that he got into the water, a 3-meter long caiman glided into the water as well. “It really makes you think.”

For most of my other professors I worry about their diet, about how much pizza they eat or how much cherry coke they are drinking, if they’ll get diabetes, or a heart attack. H1 is a whole other character altogether. You worry about him being eaten alive by crocodiles. He certainly doesn’t strike one as a Steve Irwin-type person, but on occasion you can tell he likes dabbling with the dangerous.

Day 3 in Ithaca (4th March 2014)


We spent the entire morning pottering around the kitchen! Woke up bright and early, went to the basement to get my hired help up, and I’d started stripping chicken thigh meat of the bone by about 7am.


I did about 3 thighs before LZ had finished his first one :P, and then Chris joined in the fray.

About 3-4 thighs were slated to be marinated with satay marinade, 1 thigh was earmarked to make chicken yakitori, and one thigh for the claypot rice, which we had somewhat unwisely chosen to start off in a crockpot. Switched a small amount of it to a rice cooker in the end since I’d finished grilling the satay/yakitori and Ze had finished stir frying the bok choy and still the rice had not finished cooking.

(Here’s the satay. Forgot to soak the bamboo skewers, so some of them caught on fire :P. You can see them getting a little charred near the edges of the pan)


And the yakitori with little bok choy flowers :)

I threw about 5 wieners (actually rather averse to the taste of lup cheong) and a packet of rehydrated sliced shiitake as well as several fresh button mushrooms into the claypot rice – american style I suppose. The claypot seasoning (I think from Asian Gourmet House) was not as good as I remember it to be.


Ze diced a cucumber and sliced up a red onion for dipping in the satay peanut sauce – I brought the prima pack version as well as another version that was just the peanut sauce, no marinade. The peanut sauce turned out to be slightly spicy, but no more so than the red onion, which got all of us!


Chris gave us enormous mounds of claypot rice each and Rich very little (for fear he wouldn’t like it) but he asked for seconds and there was none to be had! I didn’t know she had already distributed all the claypot rice that was made in the little rice cooker (that she’d inherited from us) or I would never have finished my portion. She forgot that he actually eats claypot rice – in fact she once told me it’s the only rice he eats, which was why I brought the sauce packets over. He did get to finish the satay though, and Buster never got any :P

I also baked a pandan chiffon cake in the morning –

It rose beautifully but the mixing bowl of the KitchenAid was too small to froth up the 8 egg whites I put into it to their full potential. The texture of the egg white was rather significantly different (creamier) than what I normally get in Singapore, not sure why.

We cut a piece for Buster:

I was too full from lunch to eat any of the pandan cake but I did package a box for Ed and a box for Raghu (since Ed likes green stuff and well, I’m willing to bet Raghu hasn’t seen pandan cake in a long time!) It wasn’t as good as my typical results in Singapore, but wasn’t bad at all. I think actually Singapore’s humidity keeps cakes moisturized – I don’t mean moist, like a pound cake, or a butter cake, but moisturized, like the difference between dry skin and supple skin. Our chiffon cakes actually get more tender because of the intrinsic water content in our air.


The roses I gave her still adorning the table.


I lazed about the house taking pictures of things (like the crystal fob I gave her from the German christmas market a few winters ago) and editing photos until it was 5pm and we finally left the house to take a look at all the prettily painted traffic light control boxes.

Chris says the town council recently hired painters/recruited volunteers from IC or IHS to paint the traffic light control boxes at every intersection (near the commons anyway) with flowers and buildings and things – whatever struck their fancy really.


We left just as the light was waning and while I did get lots of photos, I didn’t have time to pick up the cookies-by-weight at Wegman’s for the bell choir. So after Chris dropped us off at Tab (Ze was meeting Dave for dinner at Chili’s while I was filling in for Rachel at bell choir practice) she went to Wegmans and helped me pick out a box of cookies for the bell choir.

Being back at bell choir on a Tuesday night was like picking life right up where I left off. Everyone remembered me and it was wondreful being able to play the handbells again – their Easter songs are so pretty! And, I got to meet Yuna, who is one of the new girls Chris is discipling. When Dave introduced us on the front steps she pointed at me and yelled “Chris Scriber!!!” haha.

After bell choir we hung around to chat – Chris had helped to buy (and deliver :P) the lemon and raspberry jam filled cookies and several chocolate chip cookies (which were the most popular). I managed to try one lemon flavoured cookie en route from Elmira to Denver and it was…interesting. The bell choir people loved it though, which is what’s important.

Dave sort of arm-twisted me into visiting with him and Eileen up at his house at Asbury Drive with his sad eyes and sneaky words, so after he and Ze came back to Tab, after bell choir (I was tired out and ready to go home), I wound up grabbing a bite at Louie’s (my typical order) and eating in the car while LZ drove up.

(Grilled ham and cheese on white)

I was sort of mad at LZ for not just telling Dave that I was tired and had to go back. Bah!

Visiting with Dave wasn’t bad at all though, Eileen was tucked into a rocking chair doing the crossword, the paragon of elderly contentment. I should like to retire as cosily.

He showed us his bottle collection, model car collection, clock collection, and we visited with each other for awhile clustered around the kerosene heater they have in the middle of the living room. Scenes like this remind me of Mansfield’s Camomile Tea.

After visiting Dave we went on a late night ice cream spree at Wegman’s! Rich drove us out to Purity during the traffic light control box tour but it was closed due to construction! D: It was an incredibly sweet gesture though (and about the pinnacle of his sociability, so one has to grab on to it and appreciate it!) We felt just like kids whom he was bringing out for ice creams, just like how Lz’s mum wanted to bring us for ice creams after service at Bethel one sunday before we left, but the ice cream parlor was closed :/ I felt pretty badly for her about that, and also pretty badly for Rich because Purity was closed just when he wanted to bring us there for ice creams. Anyway we decided to pick up some ice cream at Wegman’s after visiting with Dave because Rich didn’t get his Purity fix earlier – I also managed to stroll around Wegman’s a bit more to pick up 2 papyrus cards – one with Hokusai’s wave for LZ’s dad, and a pretty pink one with flowers. We got 3 pints of ice cream:
– Wegman’s premium dark chocolate – my typical order
– Haagen Daz’s cappucino gelato
– Haagen Daz’s green tea (for Chris to try)

When we got home there was great rejoicing in the household – it’s a pity I didn’t get any pictures of our midnight ice cream party :)

Chris said Rich probably wouldn’t try the green tea when I said I would scoop all 3 flavours into the 4 bowls put out, but when he got his bowl he asked “where’s the green one?” So I gave him some in the end :P I’m not sure he cared for it, but the flavour of Haagen Dazs’ matcha ice cream is too mild for anyone to not like it. It gets totally overwhelmed by the chocolate though.

I guess this is how the Happy Endings Sundae got its name!

p.s. Wegman’s dark chocolate ice cream (only $2.99!) tastes as good as ever.

Lost

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

–e.b.
***

So my grandma died today, in the wee hours of the morning just after my plane touched down in Changi. I didn’t get to see her (alive) one last time. Actually, I think her mind may have been gone weeks ago, so we’d lost a part of her then, and we’re losing the whole of her now.

I haven’t nearly had any time to think about it, really. But sometimes I catch myself drifting off at work, and remember that after my time clocked in the office, I have to go to the funeral, and it’s depressing as hell. I did not bargain for this denouement, but life deals, and you get on with it. It’s easier not to talk about it, so I haven’t really told anyone at work. For future reference, if you have to deal with me when I’m sad, you should just let me get on with my moping. It doesn’t last very long, and there’s hardly anything you can say that will mitigate anything, unless you’re Emily Dickinson or something.

I have one grandparent left! About the grandmother that left us this morning:

She was quite a character. She could speak maybe 5 languages (including various chinese dialects), but only a little bit of each one. So most of the time when she spoke to me it was in a hodge podge of languages, trying to get me to understand, and I understood very little. I guess I regret not picking up Hokkien (her primary language) to speak to her.

She made rather good chilli according to everyone else, but since I didn’t eat chilli for most of my life before I was 21, I have no opinion on this. Everyone mentions her chilli in ther wedding speech though. In other things she’s not such a great cook; her signature dish is red bean soup.

The clearest (and probably most unflattering) memory I have of her is at her House Dedication. Now house dedications aren’t all that common in my church – probably only for old people who used to practice idol worship and who wanted to “rid” their house of all those spirits. The main reason she called the pastor to do the house dedication for her new apartment (back in 2009 or something) was because my maternal grandmother had had the pastor over to her house for chinese new year, and since my paternal grandmother didn’t want to lose out, she held a house dedication. All through the time the pastor was giving his mini sermon my paternal grandmother was whispering to my maternal grandmother and getting out of her chair to settle various things and getting generally distracted, like a twitchy little kid. The pastor had to tell her to shush and sit down lol, which is not easy for a man about half her age. My dad had ordered a catered buffet, so when there was a bunch of food left over (old people don’t eat that much), she actually grabbed a styrofoam plate, loaded it up, and went over to her next door neighbours, pressing the button in rapid succession in the manner you would fire a Para/M249 in CS. DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG-DING-DONG it went, and nobody answered. I was appalled and faintly amused. She didn’t think she was disturbing them at all!

Only my dad and my youngest aunt, and youngest uncle was brought up by her. The two older kids were actually sent off to be mothered by her sister in-law, which I think was quite common in those days when you are poor, so they aren’t all that close to her. Their family is one that is rife with feuds and bad behaviour for many generations, but I guess we do pull together when things like this happen.

She used to pop up outside my apartment when I was young to deliver food and things (that my mother didn’t want). None of us particularly liked the food she brought, but it was cute how she kept popping up unannounced. She had a direct bus to my flat so I thought this delivery service was just for us, but it turns out she did it for all the grandchildren, even all the way in Ghim Moh (when she stayed in Ang Mo Kio). Crazy! She liked giving us stuff, and she also liked giving us money, all the way until I started working.

She was fiercely independent, and was self-sufficient for her entire adult life. Once she found out how much money could be made by subletting rooms in her apartment, she basically rented the spare room out I think even when my grandfather was alive. Rent in Singapore is pretty ridiculous, up to $3000 for a full apartment. I think for a room in a flat you pay about $800 or so. So she had this steady source of income which none of her children can even claim to have after they retired. She was so concerned with saving/making money that she even split her own bedroom in half, renting half of it out to a chinese immigrant. I’m not sure how much of this was legal. It’s amazing how little personal space she cares for, and how enterpreneurial she is. But essentially nobody had to pay for any of her hospital/hospice fees or even for the domestic worker (Hubbard refers to them as live-in servants), which were a song anyway, considering all of her children have retired. I wonder what will happen to the maid now. She was really professional wrt geriatrics.

I am especially sad that she will not be there to see me get married.

Oxtail sammies

Getting Serious Eats recipe newsletters in my inbox every tuesday creates a huge time vortex at work where nothing gets done till I have planned out exactly when I’m going to cook everything in that newsletter. This Tuesday, it was their Braised Oxtail and Gruyere sandwiches with Joshua Bousel’s Red Onion Jam.

So I made this for the cards gang (6 of us, incl. L) who came over to my place last sunday for some 3 little pigs and Resistance :P

To prep for churning out sandwiches and mushroom/gruyere crepes for dinner in under 30 mins, I prepped all the ingredients the day before:

Humongous tub of shiitake, cremini, white mushrooms, shimeiji, and portabella, all sliced up.


Sauteed in salted butter and fresh rosemary/sage to form a ragout. This I can subsequently spread onto the Williams Sonoma’s crepe batter with shredded cheese and it is divine.


We also stewed about 1kg of red onions in red wine, brown sugar, and balsamic vinaigrette to form a pot of red onion jam.


Suitable on anything, really. It was particularly good in my sandwiches.


Here we are assembling the sandwiches – I used some small ciabatta rolls from NTUC – a tad too soft I think. Would have liked them crustier. You can get proper ciabatta from the bakery at Cluny Court. Anyway I spread a good portion of braised oxtail (done in the slow cooker the night before with lots of red wine, vegetables, and chicken stock) on one half, spread the red onion jam on the other half, and then toast it with emmental singles and thinly sliced red peppers.


You can add some cherry tomatoes for extra juiciness. I thought it was lacking in the moisture quotient so I also drizzled some home made honey mustard dressing. onto the veggies:

And here’s a close-up:

All lined up on my chopping board ready to be served:

We stuffed them with mesclun greens with honey mustard so it would be healthier :P The oxtail was really delicious. I would make it again but it’s such a lot of work, and pretty strong tasting too!


And then we had Pierre Herme’s nutella tart for dessert. I’m beginning to see why a sweet tart pastry is used instead of graham crackers- the nutella basically overturns most of the crust :/ I would also advise using fresh nutella, mine was about to expire in about half a year and was super clumpy. Fresh jars of nutella should be silky smooth.


I made four mini tarts and one large one. Will probably revert to using sweet tart crust next time instead of graham crackers! That doesn’t really solve my problem of what to do with all the expiring graham crackers we bought from Cold Storage on clearance – they started outat $9.60 a box (ridiculous!) around christmas time, the price dropped to $4.80 about the end of December, and then became $2.40 about two weeks ago. The boxes SL ordered for me online expire in March, so I don’t understand why Cold Storage imports products that expire earlier and have the cheek to charge $10 for a box.

While playing Resistance I discovered that LZ is a fantastic liar and that I will never be able to tell if he is having an affair or not :S I am very bad at lying and I don’t really like doing it either. I think every time I was a spy, the spies lost the game lol.

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs II

We finally caught Cloudy with a chance of meatballs. It’s a kids’ movie, so the showtimes are always in the afternoons, which means we couldn’t catch it till the weekend – the pain of being a working adult who still watches kids’ shows! I kind of expected a 1.5 hour long hunger-inducing ad about American fastfood (there were no meatballs in it in the end) but most of the food in the movie were personified/given monster characters which was not very appetizing (whenever the cheeseburger or taco roars, all kinds of chopped up vegetables fly out of its maw, which is somewhat disgusting). Also I don’t know about you but I have never felt any inclination to eat something that was alive, it’s as gross to me as Koreans eating live octopus, with it wriggling in your mouth and everything. yech. In keeping with the theme of the movie, we brought a meatball sub in for lunch only to discover that there are no meatballs whatsoever in the movie – I guess we really have to watch the first one to get it.

I thought the plot was actually really weak and implausible (I mean, I know it’s a kids’ movie, but still) – too much good vs evil and the humour was not even very funny. The bits with the animated marshmallows was really cute, and some of the food monster names/drawings were mashed together quite cleverly, like flamangos and kiwis. But if I could go back in time I would not have spent my sunday afternoon watching this!

Rainy days and Wednesdays

The nicest place to be on rainy weekday afternoons, is to be trapped in a Starbucks without an umbrella. You can’t return to the office, so you’re forced to plop yourself into a velvet upholstered couch and order yourself a nice hot drink while reading your kindle (or the wide range of not-entirely-trashy magazines they provide)

I stared out the window a lot, to decide if it was still raining and to daydream. The glass façade of Starbucks is perfect for people watching – seeing people scurry like ants to their office buildings without an umbrella, seeing people disembark from the bus and run for shelter, or watching other patrons in the alfresco area sipping their coffee waiting for the rain to stop like me.

It was my lunch break, so there was no hurry to leave. It feels funny/depressing to grab at whatever shreds of freedom you have at work, sort of like you’re confirming, even embracing, your indentured status. It’s not that I can’t take breaks during working hours either, just that my lunch break is the time I feel least guilty about daydreaming.

There is a barista in this Starbucks who likes to flirt with the ang moh chaps, and there are plenty of them who like to frequent the Starbucks in the Science Park because of all the foreign companies who set up shop here (Reuters,Tuv Sud,…). They all seem to have running jokes with her. I can’t tell if she’s Indian or if she’s black – she speaks with a sort of malay/indian accent and has skin the color of roasted coffee beans – can being around coffee fumes all day rub off on you? Her hair is frizzy and poofy, and she usually wears an orchid in it and uses metallic eyeshadow which works perfectly on her skin tone. Very glamorous.

When I wasn’t one with the couch reading my children’s fiction (The Babysitter’s Club is on the menu for these few weeks – I’ve downloaded the entire series from bookfi.org), I was redreaming a dream I had last night that was so relaxing and joyful at the same time, sort of like being on valium, but better.

How can one resume the dreams they were dreaming?

ILO ILO 爸妈不在家

So we went to see Ilo Ilo last night, the Singaporean film that won the Camera d’or at the Cannes film festival about a little boy whose absent parents lead to his upbringing being taken over by a filipina maid.

The cinematography is a bit shaky and there are not that many artistic stills, and the whole 90s Singapore vibe with our wan grey skies and generally colorless habitat is I think easier to achieve during video editing than color boosting your clips (like the difference between using instagram and photoshop). So I think the main factor that led to its Cannes win is the authenticity of the story telling.

The accents are not masked, he’s got the typical middle-class singaporean family + maid down to a T. The child actor (whose name is actually Jiale) was fantastic at being alternately truculent and sweet – amazing depth for a child actor. I know, Jack Neo’s films are also super Singaporean, but the difference is that his films are intended to entertain the local audience (and do in fact stop there), whereas Anthony Chen’s film is incredibly effective/impactful on an international stage. I tried to watch the movie from a foreigner’s perspective and there were so many amazing gobbets of the Singaporean lifestyle one could immediately pick up –
e.g. our parents’ obsession with status and looking good in front of their extended family members – points out exactly how unaffectionate siblings in our parents generation can be – where things like how much money you put in an angpow is a competition with your siblings! Sibling rivalry does not stop past adolescence, and most of us are not introspective/mature enough to put that tomfoolery behind us. Parents are most afraid of losing face, because for some reason their entire life is lived out on parade for other people to watch and criticize as they please – because older generation Singaporeans will criticize generously and similarly also take it to heart. The range of subjects they like to cover are things like: you put on weight, how much do you earn at your job, when are you getting married, etc. The full spectrum of awkward and socially inappropriate subjects to discuss over a family dinner are usually hashed out within the first 5 minutes. The lack of honesty (as regards the simple things) between husband and wife is quite rampant too, most marriages (in our parents’ generation) made either early or without too much communication between the engaged couple – both my parents and LZ’s parents were unhappy on their honeymoon – my mum and dad were standing on the deck of a boat off the coast of Perth when he complained of the heat from the sun. My mum told him he could go and stand in the shade if he wanted and he upped and left her side to go stand in the shade. (That’s why I think my dad is a bit aspergers-y this way. Everything is literal. There are no double entendres, everything is lost on him). Of course the female interpretation of such an act is that he opted for his personal comfort over her company, and my mum immediately got upset at him for the rest of the honeymoon. For LZ’s parents I think he brought her to Hawaii because it’s far and exotic (which is apparently supposed to be touching) but the thing is his mum doesn’t like beach holidays. There wasn’t even a discussion as to where to go on their honeymoon. Amazing! I am so glad for phenomena like social evolution – our generation is so much more aware, has so much more open communication with each other, and while we definitely have our faults there is no way we would commit those kind of mistakes in this day and age.

And then there is the over-arcing thread of Getting Rich Quick. The parents in the movie are obsessed with it: copying down the maid’s passport numbers to buy 4D, and their son is an amateur bookie, cutting out the numbers of each day’s 4D announcements in the newspaper and pasting them into a school exercise book to spot patterns in the winning digits. This boy is like primary 3 or 4! Many (older) singaporeans now still like to buy lottery tickets with little to zero statistical analysis of the winning digits. LZ’s grandparents still do, but they are pretty anomalous in that they’ve actually struck the lottery (the big one) twice. They like to buy tickets when unexpected/bizarre things happen – following the v. scientific notion that weird events do not occur singly, so you are more likely to strike the lottery when something weird has already happened to you. E.g. they like to buy lottery tickets when one of their grandchildren does a shit on the floor. I’m not very sure how that is in any way a lucky event but then again the Chinese think that sweeping the floor is bad luck because you’re sweeping your fortune out the door so maybe the idea is that cleanliness => unlucky and dirtiness => lucky?

Anyway I am really glad a slice of Singaporean life made its way to the Cannes, and that people enjoyed learning more about it. My only beef was that this was set in the 90s (when we were growing up) – the fashion and hairstyles and all were SO retro, and corporal punishment was still condoned in schools (the boy got caned in front of the whole school). This may have given the impression that Singapore is a backward place, since nowhere in the movie hints that the landscape/mindsets portrayed in the movie could only be observed a good 2 decades back. The only hint of modernity was the park bench that the mum sat on when she picked up the flyer advertising a self-help-your-financial-fate-is-in-your-hands workshop. – those curved and lacquered benches only entered the scene after the abolishment of sandpit playgrounds – so the continuity guy did not do enough research. This 90s Singapore setting was probably what led the film festival staff to classify the movie as Made in China. An easy mistake, anyone could have made it, considering how many things are made in China. If I had to hedge I would guess that it was made in China too.

Anyway here is the actual point of this post: we were watching the movie at Vivocity last night (I booked tickets there so we could pop by Franc Franc plus it’s near to work) and at this point Ilo Ilo is kinda nearing the end of its run. It’s only grossed about $700-800k in Singapore, which is pathetic compared to movies like Ah Boyz to Men, which grossed nearly $7m. And by pathetic I mean the local audience’s taste is pathetic, not that the film is pathetic. Even LZ’s grandparents refuse to watch any Jack Neo films because, and I quote, “his films have no class”. So we thought that the cinema would be quite empty, with just the straggling remnant of Singaporeans coming to kaypoh to see why this movie won an international award at the Kenners. At the end of the movie, the music was cut about 3 seconds into the credits, and there were some TV people holding cameras inviting Anthony Chen (the director) down to the front of the theatre! With him was the actress who portrayed the mum, her 1-yr old baby (she was pregnant in the show), and Jiale! They came down to promote the show and I guess to see the audience’s reception. It was really cool, the kind of thing you only see in movie premieres. They all looked mad different from in the movie – Jiale was like a young hipster with black glasses and a plaid shirt (and much thinner than he looks on camera, so I guess it’s true what they say about the camera adding 10 pounds), and the mum was so skinny we couldn’t recognize her at all.

Their discourse was all in chinese, and basically encouraged us to invite more people to watch, and that from tomorrow (today) onwards, the tickets to this movie would be buy 3 get 1 free. So I’m doing my plug here: Go watch Ilo Ilo! It’s actually good – the acting, the directing, the storyline. If you would like to donate to Projek Ilo Ilo, which sponsors tickets for our foreign domestic workers to watch the movie and see how much we appreciate their contribution to our society, you can go here.