A song for Ah Min

Figured out how to Airplay a ripped DVD from my Mac Mini to my TV. Ok, that’s geeky. But that’s not the important thing. While messing around the files, I discovered a folder containing some ripped movies (mostly from original DVDs, mind) and rediscovered this particular film. 

And I couldn’t help sitting down and watching it through for maybe the fifteen time so far. And I thought, didn’t I write something about it in an earlier life? Is it still around? (You never know with digital stuff.)

It is.

And here it is.

p/s: Yah. I bought the soundtrack too.

<< A song for Ah Min >>

When one is feeling down and in need of consolation and diversion, “C’est la vie, mon cheri” is the antidote. It’s one of the mysteries of life that a weepie would turn out to be such a life-affirming film, and that even though it has the saddest of endings.

I discover intriguing trivia too, upon each viewing. Ah Jie is either twenty-nine or thirty; that resounds because the following year - just days away! – will be the last I can relate to him, age-wise. A career going nowhere, a stubborn streak of self-righteous artistic integrity, an inability to relate to others.. oh, all right, I am reading too much into it.

And I’ve just watched it for the sixth or seventh time, not too much of an addiction, really, considering that it was released almost fifteen years ago.

It’s so much more than the simple story of a star-crossed couple which captivates me.

There is, for instance, the fest of a rojak of a soundtrack which works wonders in conveying the mood of a soon-to-be bygone era, as well as the brilliant supporting cast of Fung Bo Bo, Paul Chun, Sylvia Chang – who happens to be my favourite actress – and Carina Lau among others.

There is the naturalistic, sensitive direction by Derek Yee which somehow triumphs over the cliched plot and that ending you can spot a mile off, and yet draws you in so deeply that you don’t mind a mite.

Most of all, there are the myth-making performances by the leads; for me, Lau Ching Wan will always be Jie, and Anita Yuen is Ah Min.

There are also the evocative shots of night markets, open-air opera shows, street performances all making for a sense of nostalgia. (I used to watch ‘live’ Chinese opera performances when I was a child.) You also get the feeling you could have been one of the oh-so-ordinary people in the film – since when have a leading man and leading woman been so devoid of celebrity? In their dress, speech and manners, they shine with the intensity of gritty reality.

There are the little subtle gems of quotes, of wisdom and truths, sublimely suffused throughout the scenes – that love in itself is a blessing and the ultimate lack of anything tangible does nothing to diminish it, that one must never doubt oneself and one’s talent (courtesy of Ah Min’s laid-back, sax-playing uncle), that we should be happy in life whatever the circumstances, that in the shadow of death, there is nothing so bad which cannot be overcome, and to live is to be free to feel, love and enjoy, as Ah Min says and portrays so vividly. And the sheer pathos as her optimism and zest for life so tragically crumbles later on.

Of the songs, I used to like the jazz jam session best, especially the sax parts, but now it’s been relegated to second place behind the haunting, beautiful erhu-accompanied number by Fung Bo Bo who, as Ah Min’s mother, implores you, too, to be brave and to hold back your tears as she sings.


Toilet zen

My neighbours on the left are a lucky bunch. Whenever they do business in future – big or small – they don’t have to close the window, thanks to their flat layout. Instead they can open up their minds and conduct matters in a zen manner.


p/s: This photo of a sunset over the Straits of Johor (on the right) and Singapore on the left is an approximation of what should be viewable from the toilet windows of the neighbours on my left. Them neighbours haven’t moved in yet (in fact there’s been no sight of them at all) and I’m not about to break into unoccupied flats just to experience the state of zen.

Snaps from Thailand

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal was onto something. And I think Buddha got this thing a couple thousand years earlier.

Actually, the kid gazing, into eternity, at me, looked this way for just one second. 

Maybe two.

I get this feeling that our ruins – the 20th/21st century skyscrapers, concrete slabs, steel frames – will turn out to be much less picturesque.

With a lot of help from friends..

Friends, when they find out, tend to be concerned. Some point me in the direction of comely income possibilities or counsel about retirement shortfalls and other scary consequences. I appreciate it, I do. And then I start to think about the end of days and wonder how doomed we exactly are, that is, those of us unfortunate and hapless enough to still be around mere decades down the road to climate apocalypse, which is, quite a number of us.

Wait. Where were we?

Oh yes. I am touched that my employment status, that is, the kind which will qualify me for CHAS and cheap broadband and other subsidies for the low/no-income a year down the road, causes furrowed brows among friends. 

I wish to reassure: It’s ok. All is well.

Because I have always gotten by, with a little help from friends.

And I mean it.

I have said this before and it’s worth repeating – I have never got a full-time job (as in ever) or freelance/part-time assignment (this one is almost never) on my own, by myself. I’ve never got an offer for paid work via independently applying for open positions advertised publicly (I don’t know if this says something profound about me or about employers in general). I have always depended on friends, contacts, networks to recommend or refer me for such work.

While I’m helping out at Social Collider, I’m also taking on freelance assignments.

So here we go.



Thanks again.

(This post is a result of updating one’s CV and portfolio and removing excess grey hair strokes from one’s avatar and then thinking, hmm, what else do I need to do?)

Lofi feedback

“One finding that surprised the transport authorities is that respondents do not mind a longer journey if it means a better ride. ‘People brought up – can we have Wi-Fi, can we have a more comfortable commuting experience, so I can do something; I can listen to a podcast, I can clear my emails, I can chat with my friends,’ Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary said on Sunday (Nov 25) at a REACH ‘listening point’ (feedback gathering booth) outside Waterway Point in Punggol.” 

Interesting comment from Janil Puthucheary. I look at the commuters on the buses and trains I have been taking for the past year, and they are already listening to podcasts (but more probably music), clearing their emails (not so common), chatting with friends (relatively common) and watching videos (very common but unmentioned) – almost all the time without Wifi. People are already making their rides ‘better’ for themselves, using their own mobile data. And of course, they mind the long journeys, they really do, dear senior minister of state for transport. 

How can we tell? Come, senior minister of state for transport, come follow the typical commuter on a typical bus or MRT journey – you know, the kind which is crowded, standing room only, less than frequent arrivals. Look at the faces of your fellow commuters. Then say, with a straight face, they do not mind longer journeys, if there is free Wifi or other unspecified perks which make for a ‘better ride’. These people simply want to get to work or get home faster. That’s it.

Oh, mother!

I kena Mothership’s attention. (No, am not linking it.)

For the record, my comment/reply on its Facebook page.


I wish to raise these points here:

1. There was no attempt to contact me before sharing and paraphrasing my article on the Mothership site and Facebook page. Yes, I set my Facebook post to ‘public’ – and anyone can view it, share it, link it, etc. But it would be nice if Mothership – a heavyweight social media news site with substantial resources and tacit official backing and presumably some kind of journalistic nous – bothers to ask me first. Because it is basic courtesy? 

And also because..

2. Errors.

“He currently has severe and profound hearing loss, a condition that has progressively worsened since he was a child.”
>> I have severe-to-profound hearing loss. It’s a range. Not severe and profound.

“Yap has been a teacher who teaches deaf children and adults in three schools in Singapore, as well as having taught overseas for six years.”
>> I taught for a total of six years as a teacher of the deaf. I didn’t teach overseas for six years. 

“Yap also said his condition also made him a voracious reader”
>> No, I didn’t say that. It just so happened I picked up the reading habit, as ‘bookworm’ kids do – regardless of their hearing level. 

I was clear enough about these in my original post; I re-read it to check if the misinterpretations and mistakes above were due to my phrasing or word choices – and nope. 

Usage of the term ‘hearing impaired’ to refer to me. 
>> I prefer to be called ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing’. I don’t see myself as ‘hearing impaired’ – which is an outmoded term rejected by many deaf and hard of hearing people who use sign language. Semantics? No big deal? It matters to me and to many others. 

3. Despite everything, thank you for helping get my message out to a wider audience. That, I appreciate too.