Unquitting the blogging habit

After nearly a year of not blogging regularly- the idea scuttled by the demands of the newsroom I joined in April 2011, so to speak- I feel the burning need to do so again, just to keep myself in the habit of keeping the words flowing, always.

For now, I will blog here, but I intend to move all my blogging activities to a consolidated arena very, very soon– pretty much as soon as I get around to porting my misshallelujah.net domain to WordPress. There is a dire need to do so as I am getting a story pubbed in a fairly major anthology (by my estimation) and my author bio will point to that destination, so I better fill it up quick. (The site itself hasn’t been updated since, I don’t know, 2010. It is also mortifyingly unprofessional.)

Pretty much going to be a collection of You Can’t Shut June’s Inner Voice Up essays. Basically the same nonsense that makes up my Twitter account, except unfettered by the constraints of brevity and about 150% more shamelessly self-indulgent.

Run away.

Wolf At The Door Launch Party!

Last Thursday evening was fantastic. I would say that it marked my first foray to The Garden Slug, an excellent place-to-eat that I’ve been dying to go to for months thanks to the rave reviews from the portion of my Twitter list that seems to be perpetually entrenched there.

But that was not even the most exciting part of the evening. For the best part was that I was there to attend a book launch party for my friend Joyce!

The short of it: at the start of April, Joyce had her urban fantasy tale Wolf At The Door released by Lyrical Press as an e-book. It’s a tale about Chinese werewolves in Singapore– not the traditional European manwolf concept currently perfusing the market, mind you, but wolf spirits that have taken on human form as per Asian tradition (see the legend of Madam White Snake, and huli jing, etc.) Really fresh stuff, a nice UF take on tradition & cultural clashes.

To celebrate the release of her book, Joyce had readings, quizzes (with prizes!) and signings! Good times all around.

Joyce & a printout of the gorgeous book cover!

More pictures & deets of the event after the jump!

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A Night of Classical Music!

OK, I’ve been telling people that I don’t blog much about music. Maybe this is about to change. Especially since I’ve been thinking about getting back to my college habit of songwriting.

On Tuesday, thanks to a lovely invite from the folks at The Pigeonhole, I got to spend an evening appreciating classical music with some representatives from the Singapore National Youth Orchestra. It was basically a session to celebrate the relationship between the SNYO and Lanxess, a German chemicals company, as well as to raise awareness of an upcoming SNYO concert. But it was fun!

The gathering was small, intimate– about 10-15 bloggers were present, a few speakers from SNYO, and some of the talented teens who play with the orchestra. There was some discussion on music in general. There was a game of Taboo that was about classical music. I won prizes! For things like being able to identify Beethoven’s Fifth and knowing that Mozart has chocolate balls named after him (they are called Mozartkugeln, you can get them in Austria & Germany, and they are frakkin delicious.)

And then, of course, there was highlight of the evening (for me, at least!): the solo performances by the three talented young flautists who had recently returned from a study trip sponsored by Lanxess, where they spent a week training with renowned flautist Andrea Griminelli. I used to be a flautist in my teens–I even played with my sister’s school band at one point–so needless to say I greatly enjoyed the performances. My personal favorite was an improv of a piece from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which was a tune I vaguely recognized. Probably because I used to hang out with out with people who loved that sort of music when I was in school.

One of the speakers present spoke about why he liked Debussy’s work, making  a salient point about understanding history and humanity through music. He talked about how Debussy’s Paris of the late 18th century was a global cultural hub, with exposure to cultures from all over the world, and how Debussy’s music absorbed all that (“like a sponge”, he said). A zeitgeist of a sort, a time capsule. I found the sentiment simultaneously common-sensical and profound.

Darrell Ang, conductor of the SNYO and SSO, shared some personal anecdotes about the difficulties he had in pursuing music as a full-time career– he came from a humble background (as some would say) and struggled greatly to fund his studies in conservatories abroad, as Singapore did not have such facilities back then. Given how important I personally think music is to our lives, it makes me glad that kids these days have a lot more opportunity to pursue music as a career should they choose to.

Anyway, if you want to check out the SNYO concert that’s coming up, here are the deets:

LANXESS SNYO CLASSIC 2011 “A Musical Chemistry”

(cos Lanxess is a chemicals company… get it, get it?)
Time: Thursday, 21 April 2011, 7.30pm
Venue: Esplanade Concert Hall
Ticket price: $9 (excluding booking fee)
The orchestra will perform pieces by Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and an original composition by Darrell Ang; with special guest conductor Alexander Polishchuk and acclaimed violinist Lara St. John. For just nine bucks! When a music nerd on my t-list heard about this he was absolutely delighted. (“Lara St. John for $9!!”)
Since the SNYO website was spitting out Bandwidth Exceeded errors the last time I tried, here’s another link that has plenty more information on the exact line-up of the concert. Barring work, I’ll be there– maybe you will be, too!

ETA: Whoo! Here’s a working link from the Lanxess that has more deets about the entire collaboration! http://lanxess.sg/en/lanxess-snyo-classic/2011-event/2011-event-highlights/

 


 

Next up, I think I’ll be doing that Radiohead 101 post that I’ve been planning since it has come to my attention that an obscene number of people I know on Twitter HAVE NO IDEA WHO THOM YORKE IS. This is not acceptable! Blogpost will ensue.

PSA: Regarding my role in HYBRID, the spec-fic anthology

Earlier today I tweeted that I was dropping out as editor of Hybrid, the spec fic anthology we were planning. I said I’d blog the reasons why.

So. Here I am.

Did you believe me?

Because: April Fool’s!

No, of course I wouldn’t just drop out of the anthology team like that! We’ve already put in so much effort in organizing and promoting it. Submissions have already started to come in! I wouldn’t abandon my team just like that. That would be sad and unfair. Hell, I’m going through a crazy job change right now and my 4-year-old MacBook Pro just fried itself dead and that still isn’t deterring me.

So, fret not. I am still ON LIKE DONKEY KONG. And there’s a month left for submissions: don’t forget that we close for submissions on the 30th of April! Writers: get cracking on those stories! And the rest of the team: GIRD YOUR LOINS for the madness that will be MAY, JUNE, AND JULY. We will be busy, and we will most likely die a painful and lingering death, but at least we will be in it together.

(If you need a refresher: Information about Hybrid INCLUDING submission guidelines.)

ONWARD!

Much Ado About A Kate Spade Bag

(Or, Sexism? In My Politics? Well I Never!)

Here we go again.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus of sorts– rushing to submit a novel manuscript to these guys (who will most likely get a good laugh out of it, and nothing more). On top of that, I told myself that I’d stay away from commenting on social/political issues, because that wasn’t the reason I started this blog for.

But something’s happened in the past week that I just can’t let go. So here I am, putting on my flame-retardant suit with another one of them ranty blogposts.

The scoop: Several days ago the ruling party announced candidates for the upcoming General Election. Of chief interest, apparently, was Ms Tin Pei Ling, the youngest candidate to run for Parliament since the last one (both at age 27). Naturally, this caused an uproar amongst the politically- and not-so-politically- inclined Netizens: wow! So young! Who is she? Never heard of her before.

In rolled in all the predictable responses. The first wave: comments about her looks. As a matter of fact, that is how I heard of her first– from a retweet of an online news article by a guy friend, together with a comment that we finally had an attractive female politician. (Yes, I did point out to him that his sentiment was rather missing the point of politics; he did say he was aware of it, so there’s that.) Ruh-roh, we’re not off a good start.

Then, joy: someone went through her Facebook profile and dug out a photo of her doing the infamous V-pose with a Kate Spade bag. Accusations of being frivolous & too cutesy to be taken seriously are dumped in by the bucket. One of the radical opposition sites here ran an article that questions her relationship history, her motivations for marriage, her choice of honeymoon vacation… really? Really? Oh. Really. Oh dear.

Thankfully I was not the only one who was, by this time, getting alarmed by the direction in which the discourse was going. Siew Kum Hong, in particular, put out a brilliant post urging Singaporeans to focus on policy, not personal issues. This was linked on Twitter along with a sentiment that approximated, “oh look, we can’t criticize her anymore”, because, really, that’s exactly what the post said.

And so it went, on and on ad nauseum. I still see jokes being made about Kate Spade bags on Twitter. There is the occasional critique that is based solely on policy issues, but so far every one I’ve seen comes from someone who is specifically responding to the brouhaha (and therefore the impetus for the criticism was not independently derived– in other words, I’ve yet to see someone come in fresh on the issue and directly talk about Ms. Tin’s political views, instead of other things). At this point, the loudest notes in the discourse–the biggest words floating around in its cloud, so to speak–are still directed at her as a person, and not her political stances (or lack thereof).

Of course, there is the sentiment that these attacks come from legitimate criticism of a rigged, unfair system, one in which the ruling party’s untested & unknown candidates with zero governing experience (like Ms Tin) can walk a sunny landscaped path into Parliament while opposition candidates with far more credit on their resume have to hack through fire and thorn bushes and climb over mountains to get there. That’s fine! I agree! It isn’t fair! Except that the bulk of it isn’t criticism of the system– it’s personal attacks. Not only that, it’s personal attacks of a nature exclusively directed at women: “gold-digger”, “slut”, “too sexy”… and on.

So far, none of the other male political candidates from the incumbent party have managed to generate this amount of chatter online. I’m not going to say that Ms Tin’s gender is the sole reason for all this controversy–her age and inexperience definitely play a huge role in this as well[*]. I am going to say, however, that her gender is influencing the type of criticism being aimed at her, particularly the loudest and most vicious parts of it. And I would say that I’m disappointed by it, except that I’m not. I’ve really come not to expect better of people.

And that’s sad.

[*] Notice that I’m not even touching the difference in social expectations of the capabilities of inexperienced young men versus that of inexperienced young women– watch how we worship the cult of the innovative, forward-thinking, whatever-saavy young (male) entrepreneur…

Signalboost Post #2: HYBRID, an anthology of Singapore speculative fiction

So, sometime last year, a few of us–part of the Speculative Fiction Writers of Singapore mailing list– thought it would be a swell idea to put together an anthology of speculative fiction in time for the Singapore Writers’ Festival this year. Things transpired, we met, we had a good discussion, and in the end the concept of an anthology based around the theme “HYBRID” was born.

Now, here’s the part where you come in. WE WANT YOU! Or rather, we want your stories, be they scifi, fantasy, or related genres. Hybrid is accepting submissions until midnight April 30th (+8GMT), and we welcome all. SEND US YOUR STORIES!

In a nutshell, what we are looking for are short stories, 2000-6,500 words in length, sci-fi/fantasy/horror/alternate reality/related genres, themed around the anthology concept “HYBRID”, and preferably linked to something about Singapore, or life in Singapore.

Will the stories actually be published in a book?
Yes! That is our goal. We intend to have an actual real can-pick-up-and-flip-through version of the book out in time for the SWF in October this year. How we’re going to manage it, I have no idea, but I think it involves superhuman feats of endurance at some point. There will, of course, be an e-book available as well.

I’ve never written/published anything before. Can I still submit?
Absolutely! We’re not looking for big names, we’re just looking for good stories!

What are the chances my story will get submitted?
We have no freaking idea. It really depends on the number & the quality of the submissions that we get. As a guideline, we’re looking to feature between 15-20 stories in our book.

Will I get any money from it?
That depends! We intend to split the royalties from book sales equally amongst all the authors, but there’s no guarantee the book sales will even cover the costs of printing & distributing the books. You might get back enough money to buy yourself and a friend a nice dinner at a restaurant. Definitely don’t expect the anything that will help with a new iPad or e-reader. Welcome to the life of a writer!

 

Anyway, just to let you know, I’m the Chief Editor for this project, so if you see me losing copious amounts of hair during the months between May and July, you’ll know why. It’s because I’ll be driving myself nuts chasing my team/my writers/the printers/various other people trying to get it all together… why I do these things to myself, I don’t even know.

So! If the sound of this project interests you, head on over to the SUBMISSION RULES AND GUIDELINES page where you’ll find tons more information, as well as ideas on what we want/don’t want. If you have friends whom you think might be interested in this sort of shindig, send them a link! And of course, if you have any questions, please do send them to specfic.sg@gmail.com where one of us will try our best to answer it.

That is all. Thanks for listening!

Signalboost Post #1: Sunday Eclectica, a flea market of crafts & art!

So recently I was asked by the lovely folk at The Pigeonhole if I wanted to set up a stall at their flea market on the 13th of March. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve been tweeting Instagram photos of the little plush dolls that I’ve been making for my sister and my friends.

What is the flea market about? Here’s the brief from the info pack they gave me:

“Sunday Eclectica is a permanent fortnightly series of flea markets at the Pigeonhole promoting local DIY arts and crafts and local independent fine art. Sunday Eclectica warmly welcomes seamstresses, artisans, craftsmen, jewelers, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, and artists in general.”

Sweeeeet. Sounds like the kind of place to find amazing handmade trinkets and collectibles. I like it already!

The low-down: there are 17 little stalls available to rent on the premises of The Pigeonhole.The flea market runs from 2PM to 8PM, every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month. And the rents are fairly reasonable, too, the cost of one slightly fancy dinner. If you are a craftsy/artsy sort of person (and I know there are folks who read this that are!) and you have stuff you’d like to sell, you can contact the.pigeonhole.sg@gmail.com for more information.

And of course, if you’re like me and have an interest in crafts, then the inaugural flea market on the 13th of March is THE thing to check out. Sunday Eclectica even has a tumblr— go on, follow them, you know you want to!

As for me, I don’t think I’ll be selling plushes at the market anytime soon. Aside from being really ugly, they take too much time to make. Unless I just bring two and sell them for thirty dollars each, or something. I doubt anyone would pay for that! I am, however, looking into making t-shirts. Maybe I’ll bring some t-shirts to sell further down the line!

ABOUT THE PIGEONHOLE
The Pigeonhole (52 & 53 Duxton Road) is a book cafe & dynamic arts space promoting local NGOs, music, film, fine arts and performing arts.

The Pigeonhole boasts a diverse variety of old, second-hand and rare books on topics ranging from religion to popular culture to botany to politics. Apart from an eclectic array of exciting arts programmes devoted to local independent art and music, the Pigeonhole also serves aromatic espresso, tasty gourmet sandwiches and salads and a globetrotting range of whiskies, wines, ciders and lagers. The Pigeonhole is proud and honoured to support the good work of local homegrown NGOs and non-profit organizations.

Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or on their blog.

Regarding that “EPIC WIN” forum letter response…

Edit: I have noticed (and it has been pointed out to me) that in my original posting I mis-attributed the letters to the Straits Times, when they were actually published in the print & online versions of Today. The post has since been corrected.

The backstory: a lady by the name of Grace Leong writes in to the Straits Times Today forum complaining about a risque womens’ lingerie advertisement on a public billboard. A gentleman by the name of Gary Ow writes in a clever response about lighting and photography that would be funny as a joke while having a drink with friends, intellectual gibberish on a semi-formal forum in a national newspaper. The response gets circulated around with great cheer on the Internet, notably by local blogging rockstar Mr. Brown.

I.. am not happy about this.

Click to enlarge

Alright. Let’s have a look at the two letters. The first one, by Ms Grace Leong, is riddled with issues. I will not deny that. Assuming that all women would be “too embarrassed” to look at the ad is… problematic at best, horribly horribly stereotypical at worst. And her horror that children and teens will be exposed to the same ad sounds a lot like a “think of the children, they’ll be corrupted!”-type argument (even if this point has salient truth in it–just not about OMG SEX IS DIRTY EW). But her last paragraph–even if unfortunately worded–brings up a good point: the lingerie ad objectifies women. And that is Not A Good Thing.

Mr Gary Ow’s “response”? To completely ignore whatever points she made and instead going on about lighting and focus of the photo. Of course! You’ve got me; I’ve seen the error of my ways now. It’s totally okay to objectify women because the photography is beautiful and it pleases the men who look at it. Mr Gary Ow must be patting himself heartily on the back right now, he’s so clever, mocking that silly hysterical woman’s legitimate concerns.

Thanks for underscoring exactly what Ms Grace Leong was trying to say, you brilliant man you. Her argument wasn’t even all that sound, but your response perfectly, perfectly exemplifies why this sort of advertising is problematic and has wider implications for society. Round of applause! You’ve outdone yourself.

But no. The story just doesn’t end there, does it? It’s not enough that the one of the nation’s biggest newspapers gives exposure to opinions of this level of douchbaggery. When the response letter gets circulated about Twitter (multiple times on my own timeline), not only does it get lauded as an EPIC WIN REPLY (epic win , you hear that women? The menz have spoken!), it also gets tagged with the ugly undercurrent of “good on that man for one-upping that prude“, with all the delicious implication that there must be something wrong with that woman who wrote it, because she isn’t enjoying being turned into a sexual object!

And when I start pointing out these things on Twitter, the epic game of Sexist Joke Bingo begins. “Maybe he didn’t MEAN to be offensive!” “It’s just a joke, I found it funny, why are you taking it so seriously?” “Can’t you just take it as a compliment?” With a bonus side of Oppression Olympics, and then, after realizing I wouldn’t quit about it, threats of unfollowing, “scary feminists are oppressing me”, etc.

Sigh.

I wish we could talk about male privilege in schools.** I wish we could teach kids the hard truths about how much women still suffer from being boxed into the roles that patriarchal society has prepared for them, and that even though great leaps have been made in terms of gender equality we’ve still got a long, long way to go before we get there. Even if they don’t agree with any of it, at least people will be less prone to assume that I’m attacking them personally when I point out their privilege or misogyny. It’s not just about you, really. This is everybody’s problem.

And yes–before I start getting responses that go “But I’m a woman, and I thought that letter was funny”, we did talk about that as well. And it boils down to this– whether you thought it was funny or not, it doesn’t change the fact that this is still a horribly sexist letter that was published in the most widely-circulated English-language newspaper in the country, in the forum pages which have, in the past, been shown to have enough influence to trigger changes in public policy. Just being a woman doesn’t exempt one from contributing to sexism against women, at all. I know plenty of sexist women. Some of them are even worse than the sexist men I know.

But how can a woman be sexist against women, you ask? That’s because we’ve been all brought up in this environment that still says women must be like this and men should be like that. And it gets to you. It really does. Even I am not immune to their insidious effects. Every day, starting from when we were little girls until we become middle-aged aunties and then old ladies, we get bombarded with messages that a our worth is tied to our looks, that to be beautiful and thin is the key to happiness, that the measure of our femininity is how attractive we are to the men who look at us. Hundreds and thousands of messages, from TV and movies and magazines and advertising on the side of buses.

Including scantily-clad, titillating lingerie models on billboards in very public arenas.

Think about that.

ETA: My friend Jo has written a long, thoughtful (and somewhat forceful) piece about the issue as well. Check it out: War of the Genders

**In fact I wish we could talk about all kinds of privilege in general. Straight privilege, class privilege, and (in the case of Singapore) Chinese privilege… but of course we couldn’t have that since Singapore is a meritocracy and privilege doesn’t exist at all, you just have to work hard hard and you will get to the good things in life.