09 December 2007

The Height Tax

Should we tax tall workers at a higher rate than their shorter peers? The answer — yes — “follows inexorably” from reigning academic theories of taxation, argues Greg Mankiw, an economics professor at Harvard (and former chairman of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers), in a working paper first circulated in April. »More...

Of course I say: 强词夺理. Even if it is my favourite NYT.

02 December 2007

Wounds of the Revolution

Wounds of the Revolution - New York Times
The Cultural Revolution swept away much of the old Chinese culture. Dignity is now defined by money and French and Italian luxury goods.

Well-put. I alluded to this phenomenon previously in »this post.

01 December 2007

9 Days in the Kingdom by 55 Great Photographers

Saw a very nice photography exhibition in Bangkok in honour of the King's 80th birthday (a really big thing there):

Bangkok photo exhibition

It was partly sponsored by Canon and at the exit, there was a fun sign which said:

Thank you for coming to the exhibition.
And now you have to buy a camera!

Loving Bangkok (and not for the shopping)

This time, I really like Bangkok. Apart from a familiarity which allowed a leisurely revisiting of places without maps (a la Paris), it was also helped by a conscious choice to abandon the monolithic and fanatical Asian take to Bangkok (i.e. shopping) and instead focus on a different interpretation of the city.

It was an infinitely more superior experience (even as it was predominantly a solitary one since most people are not interested in this experiment). A cocktail on the the sky-high, open-air bar of Banyan Tree was a real treat after a day of inane corporate-speak, as was the extremely value-for-money pasta at Zanotti and SUPERB Thai food at Baan Khanita. Instead of shuffling straight to Siam square blindly, I noticed how I could stroll out of a Coach store and two seconds later, be prostrating in front of the harmoniously co-existing Erawan shrine.

Then there are the polite and gentle ways of the Thais, the cars that don't assassinate you on the streets, the perfectly tropical weather which was neither humid nor to the point of perspiration, and most of all, the night scenes of working class Thailand that rivals Shanghai's and makes me want to buy a dSLR straight away. (I am getting very impatient at how crappy my Canon Powershot is with night shots.)

Absence often makes me forget, but Southeast Asia is gorgeous.

Post-script: Alright, I'll admit that I don't dig the new Bangkok airport much. I feel like I should like the minimalist steel and concrete structure, but the truth is that I don't. Did anyone also mention to the architects that metal chairs are an extremely bad idea in (cold) airports? I thought I could get some shut-eye while my flight was delayed, but it was just impossible to fall asleep even though I was lying flat across three chairs - they were sucking heat from me like vampires. So at a glorious 1 am, I had to go on a grumpy hunt of non-metal chairs in the airport. I finally found a cushioned backseat of a parked golf buggy to curl up in the end.

St Ignatius Loyola Cathedral of Xujiahui

Courtesy of the Shanghai Heritage group, I managed to get a preview of the gorgeous stained glass that were newly installed in the »St Ignatius Loyola Cathedral of Xujiahui. The original ones had been blown out during the Cultural Revolution:

stained glass and shadowsMore pictures »here.

20 November 2007

Float by Design Mobel

Float by Design Mobel, designed by David Trubridge

My idea of sleeping. Bonne nuit.

19 November 2007

5 Gorgeous Pens for 5 Nobel Prize Winning Writers

via Cool Hunting by Phuong-Cac Nguyen on 11/18/07

[Very appropriate, given that I was recently reunited with my long, long-lost fountain pen again...]


A person's handwriting says a lot about his or her personality; a strong right slant suggests a fierce emotional side while small size might refer to a penchant for details. This idea wasn't lost on Italian designer Cleto Munari, who asked famous architects and designers to come up with with a set of five beautiful pens, each inspired by a Nobel Prize-winning writer. The finished writing utensils with 18kt gold details are luxurious and inspiring to those who take the handwritten word seriously.

To start, Munari asked for handwritten letters from writers Nagib Mahfouz, Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, José Saramago and Saul Bellow, which he then gave to architects and designers Toyo Ito, Alessandro Mendini, Alvaro Siza Viera and Oscar Tusquetstook. The pens are very much based on the designer's interpretation of the writer's style and form.

Designboom has excerpts from the pens' accompanying The Book of Five Pens that show these letters, essential elements for potential purchasers wanting to first connect with a pen before they buy it.

The pens, available in roller or fountain form, start from $550 from Art Brown. At that price, you won't be apt to loan it out without forgetting to ask for it back.

Sent via Google Reader

10 November 2007

Silent films and their live music

A delightful first time with live music accompanying silent films. This was the Blue Grassy Knoll at my favourite bar, playing their original compositions for Buster Keaton and a 1922 Chinese silent film, Labourer's Love. The best part for me was hearing the simulated sounds of shuffling mahjong tiles. Nice!

Wall Street analysis of a woman seeking $500k+ earning man

Update: This and other great Craigslist ads are discussed in a »recent NYT article.

A hilarious dose of »Tim Hartford-ish humor in a Craiglist post - courtesy of a friend:

Woman seeking $500k+ earning man - advice

What am I doing wrong?

Okay, I’m tired of beating around the bush. I’m a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I’m articulate and classy. I’m not from New York. I’m looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don’t think I’m overreaching at all.

Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that’s where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won’t get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she’s not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

Here are my questions specifically:

- Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics - bars, restaurants, gyms

-What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won’t hurt my feelings

-Is there an age range I should be targeting (I’m 25)?

- Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I’ve seen really ‘plain jane’ boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I’ve seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What’s the story there?

- Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

- How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY

Please hold your insults - I’m putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I’m being up front about it. I wouldn’t be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn’t able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

Reply 1:

I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament. Firstly, I’m not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here’s how I see it.

Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here’s why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you’re 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn’t make good business sense to “buy you” (which is what you’re asking) so I’d rather lease. In case you think I’m being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It’s as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as “articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful” as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn’t found you, if not only for a tryout.

By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn’t need to have this difficult conversation.

With all that said, I must say you’re going about it the right way. Classic “pump and dump.” I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

So there you have it. Beauty is a depreciating asset, good thing I don’t have much of that ;)

Reply 2:

Your also came across your posting with great interest. I am a 28 year old Wall Street trader who qualifies as an eligible suitor under your $500k/yr rule. In fact, I make over a million and can usher a woman into a comfortable, true middle class lifestyle (not like those 500k lower-middle class chumps who have to make do with the junior two-bedroom).

I am sympathetic to your goal in finding a rich man to marry. The milk needs to be sold by the expiration date. But since this is premium milk, why would you settle for less than premium prices? I would like to address some of the questions that were previously missed by the other gentleman and provide constructive advice on where to find your match.

I also do believe in the efficient market theory, and am surprised that $500k hasn’t found you yet. There are plenty of rich lawyers, investment bankers and hedgies to go around in this city. What gives? I think the problem might be that you have not been sufficiently focused in your search efforts.

The culprit, I believe, may be that you are also looking for qualities aside from money - such as looks, personality, and a sense of humor. However, men who have those qualities learn at an early age that they do not need money to attract quality women. As the saying goes, if you can get the milk for free, why pay up for the cow?

What you need to look for is someone who is long money, and short the other aspects. They are not easy to spot, since you are biologically wired to overlook and ignore them. However, the next time that you are at a expensive black tie event, and you are introduced to the short, bald, overweight man who fidgets nervously whilst making conversation with you, pay special attention to him.

Here’s an inspirational story for you. An acquaintance of mine who was also an classy and articulate woman as yourself was able to land that guy - who also happens to be one of the top ten guys at Google. This is the type of stuff that gold-digging moms read to their gold-digging daughters at bedtime. Perhaps you need to make a location change to Silicon Valley - miracles like these happen almost everyday in a land where you can randomly throw a rock and hit a rich nerd squarely in his Kim-jong Il glasses.

And as far as his deficiencies go, they turned out to be not so bad. With hundreds of millions in the bank, she’s been able to clean him up and give him a little sophistication. Think of it as a fixer-upper project with a massive budget (and yourself as a visionary real estate developer!). Although, I must warn you, it is a fine line you are flirting with - you must not overdo it lest he begins to attract younger women who are hotter than yourself. The trick is, you need build him up enough to be presentable, while simultaneously manipulate him into believing you are the best that he will ever do! That and having kids will be your insurance against your depreciation (or as I prefer to use the term, milk going sour).

I wish the best of luck on your sales project. As for me, I am also available for a short-term lease. However, for marriage I wouldn’t consider a woman unless she can bring beauty, brains and self-motivation to the table. I do not want to dilute my gene pool and end up raising a bunch of Paris Hiltons.

07 November 2007

Yahoo vs Baidu

Fun ad of Yahoo taking a jibe at Baidu:

English: "If you can search only 100 degrees [Baidu literally means 100 degrees], you might as well search 360 degrees with Yahoo."

But Yahoo probably didn't realize the etymology of Baidu's name, which comes from »众里寻她千百度. So Baidu is not just 100 degrees, but (at least) 1000 degrees.

As my elementary teacher used to say, it's good to do homework.

04 November 2007

The Pei connection

SUZHOU - Five years ago, during a break from tango class, Y had asked me what I would like from Paris. After a moment of thought, I said I wanted a postcard of the Louvre pyramids. At that time, I knew very little about I.M. Pei, only that he designed the Louvre pyramids (which invoked a greater desire in me to visit Paris than the Eiffel Tower*) as well as the Kennedy Museum that I was going to see a few days later in Boston. A photo I had taken at the Kennedy Museum later made it into the first issue of our grad student magazine, so that augured well for the start of a Pei connection.**

Rejuvenated from seeing the pyramids again last month, still so breathtaking even though it was my third time, I finally took the long-procrastinated trip to Pei's museum in Suzhou this weekend.

It was most brilliant use of gray I have ever seen. Single-handedly, it connects the antiquity of Suzhou and the modernity of Pei.

Next time I will pack a picnic and spend the day just looking at the gorgeous shadows.



*I had initially thought of posting a picture of the pyramids, so I poked around my photos for a street-level overview of them. I could not find a single one from all my trips to Paris. I must have concluded that it was much better to enjoy a private moment with the pyramids, than to have a menage-a-trois with hundreds of tourists.

**After coming back from Suzhou, I was delightfully surprised to know that Pei also did my favourite shopping mall and office of three years in Singapore - Raffles City. In fact, the connection can even be traced back further - it used to be my mum's office 20 years ago as well. I should have guessed from his motif of skylight, so classically and effectively used in both Raffles City and the Suzhou Museum.

25 October 2007

Chinese are subtle creatures

It was an exhilarating evening. A well-loved Chinese colleague was moving on to our Beijing office, and everyone that mattered agreed to come to his farewell dinner. despite the short notice. I picked a steamboat place for greater interaction. It paid off - it is difficult to remain distant when everyone is tackling hairy crabs with bare hands and suckling prawn curry off their fingers.

The colleague was a true northerner. He toasted every single one of us with a full glass of beer each and then quietly paid the big bill on the pretext of going to the bathroom. More toasts should have happened for an occasion like this, but our predominantly southern team was generally an alcohol-intolerant one and a married-with-kids one at that. While I was a better-than-average drinker, the context was not appropriate for me - a woman - to make alcoholic advances, even extremely platonic ones, to a man. In any case, our team was already much more chatty and relaxed than any other team dinners I had ever been (which were ALWAYS with the big boss), so I should not grumble.

Slightly bolstered by inebriated exhilaration, a few of us decided to go for karaoke after dinner. I typically do not fancy karaoke since I sing like Miss Kermit, but I readily agreed since I enjoy the company of the other three colleagues and I have often heard that the well-loved colleague (WL colleague) sings incredibly well.

It was true. In general, Chinese are subtle creatures (perhaps not when doing business), so when they say the WL colleague sings incredibly well, he sings like Leslie Chung. The amazing thing is of course he is an extremely down-to-earth man. He is hardworking, quietly knowledgeable and produces good work. His wife and teenage son are in the north, so he has been hoping to go back for the past two years. The few times I have walked to the subway station with him and another colleague after work, I have always been amused by the northern idioms and anecdotes he cites.

I also re-discovered Chinese songs in the 3 hours we were singing. I was reminded once again of how much I enjoy them and why in spite of that, I never play Chinese songs at home: they are so subtly expressive that they strike you at the deepest.

I therefore reaffirmed a personal observation I have always harboured - the Chinese language is able to encapsulate much more in one single syllable compared to English. It is perfectly normal, actually even poetic, to sing in Chinese, "If you walk under the spring rain of Taipei | Hong Kong will also rain | The mood of the walls is getting mouldy waiting for you"*, but to sing about getting mouldy sounds quite strange and banal in English indeed.

After a particularly involved song (Anita Mui's 《女人花》) at the end of three hours, you could see that everyone was thinking about it. Everyone alluded to how it reflected Anita's life, but no one said anything about their own.

The Chinese poignancy hung in the air, but it was one that was not to be pierced.

* Karen Mok's 《双城故事》:"...当你走过下梅雨的台北|香港也会|就连墙壁也为你心情发霉..."

06 October 2007







03 October 2007




29 September 2007

Singapore according to talljoanne

Since I have been getting quite a number of requests for talljoanne tips on Singapore, I thought I'll complie and organize a sticky post from the emails I've been sending. Should be perfect for those of you visiting Singapore for the first or second time! [Updated: Oct 2009]

Directory service for all restaurants mentioned here: http://www.hungrygowhere.com
Fantastic step-by-step instructions on how to get to places by public transport: http://gothere.sg

Walking, Seeing and Doing

»Night Safari. A great, nice out-of-the-city tropical experience. A must-do in my opinion.

Old shophouses of Chinatown / Tanjong Pagar. For the architecture. (Must lunch or dine at Blue Ginger restaurant - see below.)

Little India. Smell the spices and take in the colours.

»National Orchid Garden (the one inside the Botanic Gardens). Gaze at the amazing variety of orchids in this top-class garden. Don't miss the Misthouse. (Note: There is another one called the Mandai Orchid Garden, which is MUCH further but is supposed to be quite nice too.)

Singapore River. (See below section on Clarke Quay and the walk from Raffles Hotel.)

Drinking (combined with some exploring)

Clarke Quay in the evening:
  • Dinner by the river... Tapas Tree, Hot Stones or Jumbo Seafood are good choices;
  • Or a coffee... Sit outdoors at the »TCC cafe, log into our free public Wifi (»virtually everywhere in Singapore now), take a photo of yourself and post it on your blog.
  • Or a drink outdoors... Cafe Iguana, or the bars at »The Cannery;
Singapore sling in Raffles Hotel. Walk towards the Esplanade - our durian-shape performing arts center by the bay. Then go through the underpass walk towards Victoria Memorial Hall. Salute our founder Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Cross the bridge to Fullerton Hotel and have another drink at the Post Bar inside. Think about how wonderful my little country is. If on a Friday, cross the bridge again back to Indochine restaurant by the river and have another drink while listening to live jazz sung open-air.

»Dempsey Road. Old army barracks just off Orchard Road now converted into bars, restaurants and antique furniture shops. Dine under the moon and canopy of huge tropical trees.

Feasting - The Best Part!

»Blue Ginger. Must try. Distinctive Peranakan cuisine (very Singapore / Malaysian, cannot find anywhere else). Go to the restaurant called Blue Ginger on Tanjong Pagar Road. I grew up in that area - in the middle of the city but still charmingly local. Ask the waiter to recommend the top dishes.

Kaya Toast. Kaya is a local jam made from coconut and eggs. Very Singaporean / Malaysia. Ask the hotel concierge to tell you where the nearest »Ya Kun Kaya Toast is.

Chilli crabs and BBQ sambal stingray. Try the »No-Signboard Seafood Restaurant near the Esplanade. You can stroll by the bay after dinner.

Roti prata and street food in general. An Indian slightly fluffy pancake, a delight to watch when it is being flipped in the air! Can be found at foodcourts or open-air food centres. Lau Pa Sat (subway station: Raffles Place) is an easy-to-find place for street food, especially satay. Acceptable quality, but DO NOT eat your chilli crabs here. Stick to Jumbo or No Signboard.


Orchard Road is foolproof but I also like I.M. Pei-designed Raffles City (subway station: City Hall) for more interesting selection of shops and a great skylight. the great When you are in the Raffles City area, wander into Chijmes. An old convent converted to a pub/restaurant district.

For more local buys, Little India and Haji Lane are interesting.

In fact, our Singapore airport is also great for shopping after you go through the immigration! Don't arrive at the airport too late.

11 September 2007

Dr X apologizes he does not have a ppt

This was the subject line I put down a few minutes ago in an email to a conference organizer.

I LOVE it. That singular, lone protest against how we are beaten to death 10 times over by powerpoints.

Dr X is my ex-boss and we are inviting him to speak a conference. He is quirky, maverick, and a bit mafia-like. (To be this when you are in your 50s and in a place like Singapore is nothing short of a miracle.)

But he is also super-smart, very unassuming and is probably the most sincere person (not to mention boss) that I have met.

Often, I wonder how an idealist like him navigates a world like this every day. And sometimes, I even wonder if it will one day kill him.

It seems to me that idealists need someone to help them transcribe between the two worlds. If so, I should like to apply to a classified ad like this:

Helping idealists find space for thinking while wading through the day-to-day
  • Believes in the merits of the Socratic method of inquiry
  • Able to straddle between the ideal and mundane
  • Can convert circuitous conversations into actionable points and powerpoint slides
  • Experience preferred but not required

05 September 2007

Bartering ruffled feathers for lilies

yellow liliesI love love love the smell of lilies.

The worrywart gene is a recessive one

An email to a German* friend I haven't spoken to recently boomeranged with this:

Dear friends,

I'd be away on live firing on:

Tuesday, 14th August 07

So i'd be uncontactable via email. Please sms or call me at +65 - xxxxxxxx if you need to get hold of me.

First thought of a worrywart: 14 August was a long time ago.

Counter-thought of an economist one split second later: Nay, the probability of him forgetting to turn off his out-of-office is higher.

The worrywart patted herself on the back for having come this far over the years. It's now official - the worrywart gene is a recessive one. Hallelujah!

Life is about living the probabilities.

*Alright, not really a German, but a Singaporean who went to Germany for 6 years. German enough!

23 August 2007

The answer must lie in the attempt

On the theoretical impossibility of understanding someone:

If there's any kind of God, he wouldn't be in any one of us - not you, not me, but just in the space in between. If there's some magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone else, sharing something. Even if it's almost impossible to succeed, but who cares, the answer must be in the attempt.

On new art movements:

I value the ones who initiated the China contemporary art movement. Starting a break in style is always the most difficult and best part in art. And this style has become such a distinctive style now that it's what comes to mind when I think of china contemporary art. HK has none and yet some feel that they can look down on china.

Yes, categorical disdain can be quite annoying. I personally don't necessarily like that many of the art pieces at Moganshan Lu, but I always like going to see because I believe that the answer must lie in the attempt, and having the environment to cradle such an attempt.

On straying from the anointed path:

After all these years, I just tell myself I want to try doing photography and see what happens. If it doesn't work out then it doesn't work out and I go back to consulting.

18 August 2007

Save Shanghai Heritage

To borrow the words of Twain -
We ought to be careful... for, once China is civilized, it can never be uncivilized again.

Further reading:
»094 Slaughterhouse Blues
»Artist colony scrapped in favor of luxury goods market

17 August 2007

Days like these, you remember why you were in love

Impossibly blue Shanghai
Shanghai has been impossibly beautiful for the past 10 days. Super blue and clear skies in the day, which turns an alluring prussian blue by twilight.

Days like these, you remember why you were in love.

09 August 2007

This year, HRL seems a bit more loved...

(Last year, the 2-week-old lioness in Shanghai spent it hot and sweaty in Zhongshan Park Carrefour fighting alone with the crowd and cashier… The bar was set quite low...)

By the well-prepared

Happy birthday, you lions! (Provider of the picture below)

Hey Ms Lim,
Here's wishing you a happy birthday albeit somewhat in advance! Hope you have a great year ahead and enjoy your time in Shanghai!
Figured i'd drop a note in advance as I'm gonna be on the road most of next week and internet is expensive and patchy at best in Russia.
Enjoy your birthday! Hope you get great gorgeous gifts and get stupendously drunk at the wonderful birthday bash which i'm sure you're having :P

Dear Lioness,
The Aries and the Bull will be more than happy to join you in the savannah for your bday party!
And what a fantastic occasion to see a Lion ride a pink bike!!!

Your royal lioness ... would you like me to escort you to the palace tomorrow night after work??

btw I saw on ASW that ur b-day is today! So a big kiss today and a biger one tomorrow! A domani! (I think the clock on ASW is somehow jetlagged… It is tomorrow!)

By the midnight-oil burners

Happy birthday to you! Cheering with you for getting another year older and wiser. Wishing I am the No. 1 for the bthdy greeting

(Unfortunately, this beat the one above) Happy birthday… :)

Of course sleeping too, you are a young lion. Happy birthday super Joanne.

Happy birthday and many happy returns for the year!

By the just-in-time delivery folks

Happy Birthday!
I thought about you while i was sleeping .... i knew that your birthday was coming. What a sign, no?
So i hope that you will be granted what you wish for ....
But as some people wrote ... Be aware of what you wish for! :P
Diamonds cannot hurt for sure ... :)

Her Royal Lioness,
I wish you all the best in your Royal Bday... today, tomorrow and until your kingdom last...... translation: until winter (mosquitos will die... all of them!). But look it in the positive way, each year you will renew your army, and one of those they will learn not to bite you ....jejejeje. See you in the evening!.. (Context: See Frequently Asked Questions)

Thanks Royal Jo,
For whatever reason, the e-mail of yesterday did not arrive. But see you tonight!
Prince Charming

Dear Joanne,
my best wishes for your birthday!
Before I congratulate you personally tonight, I have two short questions…

Dearest HH aka HRL,
Happy 27th Birthday! Your plans tonight sounds fantabulous.. too bad I can't join in, Your Royal Lioness!
But, whenever HRL returns to her hometown of Lion City, her humble subject would love to take her out to the jungles (ok, maybe night safari...)
Have fun, miss yah lots and again, Happy Birthday!!!!

Good morning Madam
Happy Birthday to you!! Have a great day, at work and later pampering! See you tonight. Shengri Kuai Le!
(I took half a day off, read the Straits Times while eating bak kut teh, had a short siesta, cycled my spanking pink bike to the party venue, had a hair treatment... life's pleasures can be so simple - just with half a day off...)

By the Facebookers
  • Yo, Jo. Happy Birthday!!!
  • Happy Birthday!!!
  • Happy birthday again… happy bday joanny!!
  • Happy Birthday Jo =)
  • Karen Yu is waiting to wish Joanne Happy Birthday :)
  • Happy Birthday Joanne! How is life! Hope you're well!
  • Thanks to facebook I learnt it’s your birthday. Happy birthday!

By the Better-Late-Than-Never

Happy belated Birthday Joanne!! or Happy Birthday! if it has not passed yet. P mentioned that you guys were celebrating your birthday last night - hope you guys had a wonderful time!


Dear Jo, I think my sms lag… Happy belated birthday… Got a present for ya… :)

Happy belated birthday and happy national day! How's dinner party?

07 August 2007

FAQs about Her Royal Lioness


My dear Inter-Continental Logistics Pricing Analyst,

Please find below some answers to your questions in italics.

----- Original Message ----
From: The Inter-Continental Logistics Pricing Analyst,
To: Her Royal Lioness
Sent: Monday, 30 July 2007 1:54:33
Subject: Re: Her Royal Lioness Celebrates!

Her Royal Lioness???.. please provide a brief answer on following questions:

1) Who is the Royal Lioness?
Please note that the correct title to be used is "Her Royal Lioness", not "the Royal Lioness". Your mere impertinence with this should already have exiled you from the party but Her Royal Lioness is thankfully a benevolent ruler. As for her identity, it is a noble mystery only to be revealed on the day of celebration.

2) Why Royal? is she Princess Crown? or, the Queen? or, the Mother Queen?
She is Princess Crown to Palace No. 1401 of Jing An International Plaza, where she commands over a few annoying mosquitoes which often refuse to do her bidding not to bite.

4) Is HRH related to the British Royal family? or, the Swedish Royal Family? or, the Spanish / Danish / etc, etc?
Note again that it is HRL, not HRH. (Again, the benevolence of HRL prevails over your impertinence…) She is therefore not related to any of those stuffy and passe European lineages. But according to her great-great-grandmother, she may have some savage Mayan blood in her tracing back to Mesoamerica, so do not ever, ever doubt her royalty. (Or doubt it at your own peril...)

5) Bday is on the same day as celebration party?
Of course! HRL cannot find any reason to do it on any other day. Can you?

06 August 2007

Her Royal Lioness Celebrates

Dear 25++ guests of Her Royal Lioness,

Her Royal Lioness is pleased to confirm your attendance for the dinner party,
beginning with some nice aperitifs at 7.30 pm at the even nicer:

Urban Tribe
133 Fuxing Lu near Yongfu Lu

Mark your calendar and see you there,

Aperitifs happily sponsored by HRL; contributions of 100 RMB for the Moroccan dinner appreciated if possible.
Vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions, please let the palace know immediately.

Big thanks to those who bought HRL a spanking new pink Chinese bicycle
and kudos to Ms P for organizing the effort!
(It will be proudly ridden to the party venue and displayed.)

Birthday invitation

26 June 2007

A gorgeous long weekend in Guilin

A gorgeous long weekend in the Hotel of Modern Art in Guilin, courtesy of Ms P's and her family's incredible generosity. Most unforgettable was The Dinner - just our private table of five in an open field of 900 acres, with hills surrounding us in the horizon.

A 900-acre private dining room... C'est magnifique!

17 June 2007

To my good-looking father: Happy Fathers' Day

My father's first time in Shanghai and both our first times on the river cruise. (He was very excited to see the Pearl Tower.)

I really think he ages very well, both appearance-wise and mentality-wise. He is exactly how I aspire to age - simply and graciously...

Happy Fathers' Day.

06 May 2007

So what's been up?

Nudged by Ms T's laments about the uncared-for state of my blog, I finally decided that some re-planting and pruning of my blog was in order to usher the coming of real spring. (Shanghai has been *struggling* to get warm for the entire past month. My poor tropical mama was frozen stiff when she was here.) Half-drafted entries were finished and new ones were started to form the retrospective posts you see below.

It is not for lack of interest that the blog has been neglected. But as I have mentioned obliquely in a previous post before, when time is a highly limited commodity after the fulfillment of work, familial and biological (sleep) responsibilities, it is a constant battle choosing between absorption (experience) and reflection. Just when you think you will dedicate a particular night to writing up something for the blog, you have all sorts of distracting things coming up such as:
  • A marathon cough which refuses to let you sleep properly for days on end. You try all sorts of cough mixtures and remedies, including moving to sleep on the living room cough so that you can be closer to a glass of warm water when the cough fit starts again in the middle of the night. (In the end, a poached pear folk remedy was the one that did it.)
  • The internet suddenly dying on you at 1 am when you are trying to finish the last of your emails. You check all the plugs and connections - nothing wrong. Then you pick up the phone and found no dial tone. The immediate reaction wld be to call up the phone company and scold them but of course, the phone is deader than dead. And no, China Telecoms - who owns THE cellphone line as well as THE landline - is soooo not going to profit putting me on hold on the cellphone when they messed up my other line...
  • You have been hearing about this concept of a private social network called A Small World where you can only join upon invitation from an existing member and worse, only a small percentage of the members have invitation rights. An invitation suddenly falls into your lap and you stay up late to explore the discussion threads in the site because there are some very interesting and cerebral things being said (e.g. the idea of hearing a painting.)

So there, I accept full responsibility that I have not managed to resist / have chosen to prioritize these distractions above my gardening duties. But I believe some of these distractions will one day flower into something for the blog, so stay very tuned...

26 April 2007

An Italian birthday I shall have to match

2007 being his year of the golden pig, Mr M decided to throw a birthday celebration for all to remember.

After a dinner party at his very nice home (food was catered from an Italian restaurant, complete with a waiter on hand to serve wine) , the 20+ of us guests hopped into the 2 stretch limousines that the unbelievably generous Mr M had chartered to take us to our favourite Glamour Bar on the bund. Sipping champagne the entire way, it was a leisurely and rowdy ride in style through the busiest street of town...

This, we decided amidst boisterous chatter, was celebrity.

At Glamour, champagne (yes, more) and cake were waiting and the whole night was peppered with The Three Tenors (his goods friends) bursting into birthday songs spontaneously at least 20 times. And of course such a night could not just end at one location. A little past midnight, we left Glamour in style again in the limos for more inebriated dancing at Attica further down the bund...

This, I decided with absolute clarity at 1.30 am on a Thursday night (after 7 glasses at that), is a birthday I shall have to match. Preferably before but certainly no later than 36 years young!

31 March 2007


Postscript: A slightly eyebrow-raising Ms L asked me if the next line of 落花有意 is 流水无情。 Indeed it is, but thankfully for my heart, that was not the underlying intention - it was simply a small meditation on the petals of Moganshan :) But very nice to know that I can convey such subtle nuances in the future...

29 March 2007

Considering a career change as a tour organizer

Dear Moganshan folks,

Continue to be good boys and girls by praying, but as of now, there is likely to be thunderstorms on Moganshan on Saturday PM, and the weather will turn quite cold indeed getting into Sunday.

2007年03月31日 雷阵雨 多云 24℃ /15℃

2007年04月01日 雷阵雨 阴 18℃ /7℃

(P.S. It is not just the mountain - everywhere, including Shanghai, is cold on Sunday and the cold will continue into next week.)

As such, please remember to bring an umbrella / raincoat, a warm jacket and a book. We may all be cuddling together reading over hot coffee or a glass of wine, looking over the misty mountain.... All very poetic! Card games and good story-telling skills welcome too.

To bring some good cheer to us on a rainy Saturday evening, I have taken the liberty to make a dinner reservation for us at the Moganshan Lodge. The dinner will be:

Boeuf Bourguignonne
Classic French beef stew, heavy on the red wine and garlic, and laced with thyme
Accompanied by newish potatoes, salad or greens

There is not really a choice of dishes, as the Lodge's philosophy is:

Produce is locally sourced or homemade (the bacon is cured by us from the excellent local pork), and we try to avoid waste so dinners for example are cooked to order. The idea is that you drop by during your stay, glance over the simple dinner menu and order in advance – preferably 24 hours(alternatively email “ahead” to info@moganshanlodge.com and we’ll send you the menu). We then buy in the ingredients from the local market and you all eat the same meal.

But if anyone of you does not take beef, please let me know as soon as possible so that I can inform the chef.

I would suggest that we make of the good morning weather to walk around Moganshan and then retreat back tot he Lodge when the weather threatens. Sleep in on Sunday morning, have breakfast served in bed if you wish, appreciate the smell of rain again and perhaps the weather will let up a bit for another stroll before we head back to Shanghai at around 5 pm...

Your friendly tour organizer,

This is what we call the butterfly effect

Read on my favourite Spiegel Online today:

Drop in Executions Leads to Organ Shortage

With the Olympics in Beijing just 500 days away, China has begun cleaning up organ trafficking practices. Not only have exports been banned, but with fewer prisoner executions, a major source of organs has dried up. The result has been a kidney shortage -

In South Korea.

20 March 2007

One more reason to love Glamour Bar

Glamour Bar is without a doubt my favourite bar in Shanghai - in part due to its gorgeous Bund location but mostly because of its never-dying atmosphere. (You know how some bars or clubs start going downhill after 12.30 am? At Glamour, it only keeps climbing up.) Oh, then there is that stylish M logo and irresistible postcards...

(Incidentally, I had met the designer of the M logo once through an acquaintance and we chatted over a few martinis (at Glamour of course). A young, humble and cool Chinese dude - what a great combination.)

I have now found one more reason to love Glamour - the »Shanghai Literary Festival.

Spanning two weeks and hosting three dozen authors from all over the world, the event was a welcome reprieve from the usual activities of checking out new bars / restaurants / exhibitions. Nursing a glass of wine on a Sunday afternoon, sitting back and listening to the Irish-accented readings by the authors, eyes occasionally darting to look out to the Bund, the event could not have been better done. I really liked observing how Glamour transforms from a glitzy late-night dancer into a subdued and refined lady of the afternoons / evenings...

Even better was the fact that Ms P and I got the tickets to the Amy Tan session at the last minute. She is a true storyteller - absolutely captivating and well-worth the 90-minute stand. From the moment she started her talk reading from the »CliffsNotes of Joy Luck Club ("I thought CliffsNotes were only for dead authors! So imagine my horror when I found myself appearing alongside with Shakespeare in the bookstore... I just had to buy it to see what it said about me."), all were smitten by her outstanding storytelling skills. Perhaps, it is only through weaving her signature humour with the formal (in the sense of structural) art of storytelling that she is able to publicly relate the chaotic childhood she has had.

My only lament was that I could not attend the session with Dai Sijie (author of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) - it was in French :(

Postscript: Perhaps inspired by the Literary Festival, I went into a reading frenzy the weeks after and finished 3 books in 3 weekends. Tim Winton's »Minimum of Two, Marquez's »Of Love and Other Demons and Marina Lewycka's »A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. I highly recommend the last. It is so funny (Toshiba apples!) and irreverent ("You no-tit woman! what you doing here?") at the same time as it is so observant and poignant. Comedy and tragedy are often only a fine line apart, but very few authors have the finesse to straddle it well.

19 February 2007

Little red doves across my Singapore sky

(Courtesy of wireless@SG, this blog post is able to go up from a cafe at Clarke Quay minutes after watching the Chinese New Year fireworks... The Shanghai Mui adores the geek-friendly Singapore.)

Fireworks never fail to elicit oohs and ahhs from me, and even more so when I am not expecting them. I had unknowingly picked TCC at Clarke Quay to meet up with Mr E and it was the perfect spot when the showers of golden willows and zig-zag burst of stars came on with gusto.

But most of all, I love the new variety of fireworks this year -

Like little red doves released across my Singapore sky....

Happy New Year!

12 February 2007

My charming little country

It's nice to be back in Singapore. Very nice.

And not having to work makes it even nicer.

Having days and nights at my disposal for two weeks has allowed me to enjoy the charms of my little country more than I ever had in a long time. A full-house Rachmaninoff concert, the new St James Power Station, Oosh and Cafe del Mar, blue skies, juicy big Sri Lankan crabs, super-fresh sashimi, warm sun, delicate little macarons with coffee, workouts in a nice empty gym, wireless headphones in a dentist chair, potable water, honk-less traffic, Chinese dragon dance one night followed by Indonesian dance the next morning...

My charming little country is quite cool indeed.

(Even if it gets a tad hot sometimes!)

24 January 2007

Hurtling towards cruelty

Office. I settled into my inbox and saw the nauseating headline on the CNN news: Executed man's head "just snapped off".

I hated the sensationalism of that headline. But yet I clicked to read the article, breakfast threatening to back up on the oesophagus as I read it. (I did stop short of clicking on the video.)


Bar Rouge. I saw midgets dressed in red John Travolta costumes, hired to dance on bar tops. I hated the gaudy objectification of a minority. But I couldn't help but steal furtive glances at their small bodies.

Shanghai Circus. The finale was »the amazing feat of 8 motorcyclists racing in a cage. As I watched them a second time, my heart thumped and prayed for them. Then, in appreciation of their boldness, I clapped as loudly as I can, even though I know I was abetting the race towards the bigger, the louder, the scarier, the more absurd, the more dangerous, the more grotesque.

Magazine. I read this artist's comment in an »exhibition write-up:
I am interested not in the violence itself but in the spectators who watch from a distance. In traditional China it was common to watch public executions, which were lively events.* This tradition has been passed down and assumed modern forms, whether watching a brouhaha in the street or enjoying cop dramas such as Oriental 110 (东方110) and Court Record (庭审纪实). I feel a lot of people watch others suffering. It has become something of a hobby.
- Shi Qing


All around, it is easy to find the Bataillian instinct of wanting to stare at the sun (even though you know you shouldn't). Chinese parents who contort their children on the streets, Thai shows where women stick all sorts of things into themselves, and perhaps, even artists that purport to explore the theme of violence without falling prey to it.

Nothing is enough for us anymore. We are all hurtling towards cruelty.

* But it is not just the Chinese. The French postcard set, Les Supplices Chinois (circa 1912), apparently contains a series of images of the lingchi (凌迟) which were widely circulated among westerners. Lingchi is death by slicing. Some say that the victim should not die before he suffered more than a thousand slices, or else the executioner himself would be put to death.

13 January 2007


两次错过了去育音堂听 char si lang 音乐的机会,我决定这次就算自己一个人去都得去。

碰碰运气给上海的朋友发了电邮, 竟然有人问津。8点30分,三个女生开始打滴寻找重金属的足迹。


我一向钟爱上海艺术与工业融合的成体,也出乎预料地喜欢这 char si lang 的音乐。


06 January 2007

Our victory from 1968

3.30 am, Nanjing Lu
0 degrees, ears cold.
No warm wisp of breath in sight.

3.40 am, Xikang Lu
The women are out on the streets - solo.
Walking home,
Selling noodles,
Manning the convenience store.
Is that our victory from 1968?

3.45 am, Xinzha Lu
Sober from the cold,
Lucid from the walk.
The men are asleep
(even the security guard)
But the women are awake.

03 January 2007

Right foot, wrong eye!

Played my first game of squash in Shanghai (and at 9 am at that for a sleepyhead like me) after arriving for 5 months. Starting the new year on the right foot, I thought to myself as I patted my imaginary shoulders.

Then this guy comes along to the squash court behind us, and in the tiny rest area between the two squash courts, starts changing out of his streetwear. For most people who wear their sports gear beneath their jackets and track pants, this is fine. But as I was picking up the ball and walking back to serve, I saw this guy strip to his bare skin at the top. (No, he was no hunk.)

Raise one eyebrow. Never mind, somebody's feeling hot, and maybe I missed the news that 2007 is the year of liberation.

A few more strokes and I missed the ball again. As I picked up the ball a second time, I saw this guy stripped to his briefs.


Wait a minute, is it now acceptable to treat a rest area like a men's room? Did I just sleep 2 decades away in the night? Sure, you have funky black briefs with sparkly silver stripes across, but seriously,we don't need to know that...

Starting the new year on the right foot, but certainly on a wrong eye...

01 January 2007

Ciao 2006

Having decided not to pay the exorbitant 450 - 900 RMB (S$90-180) for entry into a bar, I decided to cook up a storm for people who were willing to brave it:

Soup of the Day
Piping-Hot Miso Soup

Chilled Amuse Bouches
Hmong Fish Sauce Noodles
Japanese Zaru Soba
Chinese Vermicelli with Sha Cha Sauce

Out-of-the-Pot Spaghetti in Tomato and Mushroom Base
Singaporean Beef Rendang

Lizzy's Amazing Fudge
Lizzy's Even More Amazing Ambrosia

Ross' Gorgeous Cheese, Olives and Breadstick Platter
Jose's Spanish Olives and Anchovies

Fireworks in the taxi on the way to the bund
A beautiful walk down the river for the buildings that kept their lights on for us
Topped off with gin and tonic when the lights went out...