July, July

The start of the second half of the year feels like an opportunity for new beginnings.

These days I am all about the small things. When I look at small things, I think I shall go on living. I am all about enough. It is enough! It is enough!

In a bid to feel less overwhelmed by the volume of content I encounter and consume online daily, I have decided to try reading fewer, and better quality, writing daily. To better commit to this change, I shall post links to two articles here each day.

I am now working in the tech industry and would like to become better informed about the issues around it. From a business perspective, I’d like to learn more about the gaming sector. So I’ll read one piece on that daily. The other will just be something that’s interesting to me.

Here are today’s reads:


Despite all the efforts to increase the number of women in technology, computer science programs in the United States are increasingly male-dominated.

In 2013, 18% of computer and information sciences bachelor’s degree recipients were women in 2013, down from 37% in 1985, according to the National Center for Women In Technology. This has huge implications for women in tech startups or tech jobs in general. The pool is shrinking.

You might assume that the pattern in other parts of the world would be the same, or that it might be worse for women in some places. But you’d be wrong.

Everything is Yours, Everything is Not Yours

Claire always taught me everything is yours, everything is not yours. The world owes you nothing; nobody deserves more or less than the next person.Even as a refugee she always kept one dignified outfit — early on, a crisp white blouse, well-fitting flare jeans, short black boots; later, a brown suit — so she could present herself to anybody, anywhere, as a smart, enterprising young woman, period. She asked no pity, no permission. She was a fact of life, an equal. Nobody needed to know more.

Clemantine Wamariya is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, a refugee – and so, so much more. Here, she tells the story of how she and her sister Claire survived – and survives.

In the year that I am 26, today, a second is added to the calendar for the 26th time. Jupiter and Venus, come together, right now, over me. As always, Keep looking up.

The Komagata Maru in Singapore: 16 September 1914

“Sikhs aboard Komagata Maru”, circa June 1914
Source: Vancouver Public Library

In Singapore, 100 years ago today:

From The Voyage of the Komagata Maru: The Sikh Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (UBC Press), by Hugh J. M. Johnston

I am doing some reading and hope to look further into the Singapore “connection” soon. In the meanwhile, you can read more about the Komagata Maru and Baba Gurdit Singh here: x, x, x.

How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position, by Tabish Khair

“You know, one goes through life and is grateful for the love one gets and gives. It is never exactly what one has dreamt of or what one is capable of. The glass is never more than half-full. But even that is a gift; so many people do not even get that. I have been lucky in my relationships; I have had my glasses filled to half again and again, and sometimes perhaps even a bit more. I have never expected anything more. […]

But when I saw you at Unibar that night, I realized for the first time that, at least for me, the glass can be full. That it can brim over. It was frightening, this knowledge. I tried to push it away. But I could not. I know now that I do not care what you feel; I am grateful to discover that, yes, our glasses can fill to the brim. That it is possible. Just that knowledge is enough, and I wanted to thank you for it.”


I’ve come across a few interesting job postings in the local (Singapore) arts sector recently, and have been sharing the links with friends who are looking, so I thought I’d just put together a quick list here, for ease of reference and in case it’s helpful to anyone.

All links lead to the original job postings I came across.

Asian Film Archive

  • Outreach Manager
  • Technical Officer
  • Administrative Officer

Apply by 31 July 2014 for all three positions.

City Nomads

Emily Hill Enterprise Ltd.

JUICE Magazine

Nanyang Technological University’s Creative Writing Programme

*Soon Lee (Not an arts organisation, but a rather pretty boutique.)

Time Out Singapore

Other Opportunities:

Applications to the National Arts Council’s annual Mentor Access Project, a mentorship programme for emerging writers, close on 31 July 2014, 5pm local time. It costs $500, or $350 for students / NSF / senior citizens. This is the official MAP Facebook page (IMHO, this page is sorely lacking in information and updates).

Apply to the Southeast Asian Film Lab 2014, a writing workshop for Southeast Asian screenwriters / writers / directors. It will run from 8-14 December 2014 and accommodation costs will be covered. Apply by 15 September 2014, 6pm local time.

The National Library Board is accepting applications for its Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship. Apply by 25 July 2014.

The Independent Archive and Resource Centre seeks volunteers to assist with cataloguing and organisation efforts.

I have no personal connection to any of the above organisations, am just passing on the info. Perhaps I’ll do more such round-ups if people find them useful!

On the Ms. Marvel Covers

So I was just rereading Ms. Marvel #4, and it struck me that there’s been some interesting progression with the main (by which I mean non-variant) covers over the course of the first four issues. I’ve been really into the Ms. Marvel costume from the start—I don’t refer to my Jamie McKelvie Costume Design Shrine lightly—but four issues in, I feel fairly confident in saying that I really dig the cover art so far for this series.

What I really like is how, with each cover, they’ve been revealing not just the details of the Ms. Marvel costume, but also conveying Kamala Khan’s development, her transformation, as she grows into this newfound aspect of her identity:

Ms. Marvel #1 by Sara Pichelli

Ms. Marvel #1
Art by Sara Pichelli

The much-anticipated premiere issue’s cover is a cleverly inclusive one: not even the heroine’s whole face is revealed, which is why #iammsmarvel! And so are you! From what we can see, Kamala Khan is just like any other teenage girl: school books in one hand, stacks of rings and bracelets on her fingers and wrist, low-slung jeans held up by a chunky belt (the latter can be seen here but is obscured by the red strip on the final cover). Over at the official Ms. Marvel tumblr, series editor Sana Amanat has written how particular elements on the cover pay subtle homage to Kamala’s culture and faith. This is achieved without drawing too much attention to itself.

And finally, when you start reading the comic you see how beautifully expressive—by turns lively, petulant, determined, annoyed—Kamala’s eyes (kudos to Adrian Alphona) are, and for me this makes the decision to not show her eyes on the first cover all the more impactful.

Issues #2-5 behind the cut; only very very minor spoilers for the series!

Continue reading

Review: “More Baths Less Talking”

MoreBathsLessTalking_hi.resBrowsing for books at the library before my recent holiday, I chanced upon Nick Hornby’s More Baths Less Talking, the fourth collection of his “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” columns in Believer magazine. Hornby has long been one of my favourite writers, though of late I’ve been meaning to reread his novels—High Fidelity in particular—paying more attention to his protagonists’ attitudes towards women (I reckon I might find the dudes a bit laddish, but will hopefully still love the book). Perhaps we have similar pop culture sensibilities, is all, but I really do like Hornby’s nonfiction for he writes in an easygoing, just slightly self-deprecating voice that both entertains and informs, rather than intimidates. When he recommends a song or a book it feels like when a friend casually tells you, over coffee or a beer, to check out a band or a writer they’re into, rather than the overlords at, say, Pitchfork guarding the gates to the Good Taste Club and testing you with secret lyrical handshakes before you can get in. In other words, Hornby comes across as one of those people who’s actually enthusiastic about things they like.

I very much enjoyed reading More Baths Less Talking. Hornby does read widely—both fiction and nonfiction—though I should perhaps note that the vast majority of the titles are by Western authors, or about Western topics (Austerity Britain, 1945-51The Lodger Shakespeare, Lucille Ball…), or set in the Western context. I try, myself, to strike a balance between reading books that are Western and not, but here I don’t especially take issue with Hornby for his selections because the books he does write about sound, for the most part, very interesting themselves, and, I suppose, I empathise with the (pleasurable, if dizzying) dilemma of there being so many wonderful books in the world and not enough time to read and appreciate them all.

The essays in this collection are published over the period May 2010 to November / December 2011. This was also the time period when I first started to pay more regular attention to the publishing industry, to creative writing outlets and to reviews of new releases, thanks to renewed authorly aspirations which were shaped by the writing courses I took with classmates and instructors largely espousing a certain fashionable contemporary literary fiction sensibility—Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Safran Foer, Mary Gaitskill, Lorrie Moore, etc. So it was interesting to read Hornby’s thoughts on works that, if I have already read them, I’d approached with certain expectations in mind, and if I hadn’t, which I fully do mean to read, such as Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints, Colum McCann, Colm Tóibín’s acclaimed Brooklyn, Meg Wolitzer, even John Green.

To the extent that Hornby’s essays are meant to add to bookworms’ already-towering to-read lists, well, he’s certainly achieved his goal. To even my own surprise, I’m now keen to read an extended essay on Celine Dion, a hefty biography of Charles Dickens, and a book (ostensibly) about fishing in Sweden. The last of these I actually did see in an airport bookshop—in Stockholm, I think—on the aforementioned holiday, but English-language books were awfully pricey there and I opted to wait. Still, I hope to write about it next month!

“After all, there is a rough-and-ready agreement on literary competence, on who can string a sentence together and who can’t, that complicates any wholesale rejection of critical values in literature. In popular music, though, a whole different set of judgments is at play. We forgive people who can’t sing or construct a song or play their instruments, as long as they are cool, or subversive, or deviant; we do not dismiss Dion because she’s incompetent. Indeed, her competence may well be a problem, because it means she excludes nobody, apart from us, and those who invest heavily in cultural capital don’t like art that can’t exclude: it’s confusing.”

If this sounds like the kind of book you might enjoy,  I also recommend Hornby’s 31 Songs (published as Songbook in the US), his collection of 31 essays on songs that are meaningful to him. There, too, he demonstrates his love of pop culture and his knack for engaging the reader’s attention and, often, sympathy while relating humorous, heartfelt anecdotes from his own life, and the soundtrack that accompanied them.

(Book cover image from here)