mental indigestion

One For My Baby February 10, 2011

While researching on American Bar at The Savoy in London for a writing assignment, I became intruiged by its glittery, jazzy past. It’s no wonder that its current head bartender, Erik Lorincz, whom I interviewed a few weeks back kept talking about how he felt so privileged to be part of that legacy. In particular, I liked the stories from past head bartender Joe Gilmore, who has served up cocktails to Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Ingrid Bergman, Neil Armstrong, Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin. I was equally stoked to learn that the “Joe”  in one of my favourite Johnny Mercer jazz songs, “One For My Baby” is that very same Joe Gilmore himself.

Frank Sinatra captures the romantic nostalgia of being a bartender perfectly with this live performance of One For My Baby. His preamble is just as poetic as his rendition.

“Some of the songs are songs of sadness, basically – unrequited love and loneliness. This is a perfect one representing that kind of description. A man in this case, a guy whose lady is gone and he’s been hurting for about a week and a half, sitting in a small room, never venturing outside, drinking up some bad booze. Then one day he says, “I’ve got enough.” He takes a walk, a stroll, about say around midnight or a little later, and he falls into a small bar, where only the barman is there. He’s just looking for somebody to talk to. By the way, he’s slightly bummed, didja ever get that way? No? Nobody? Aw, c’mon now.”

It’s quarter to three,
There’s no one in the place ‘cept you and me
So set ’em up Joe
I got a little story I think you oughtta know

We’re drinking my friend
To the end of a brief episode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

I know the routine
Put another quarter in that machine
I’m feeling kind of bad
Won’t you make the music easy and sad

I could tell you a lot
But it’s not in a gentleman’s code
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

You’d never know it
But buddy I’m a kind of poet
And I’ve got a lot of things I wanna say
And if I become gloomy, please listen to me
Till it’s all, all talked away

Well, that’s how it goes
And Joe I know you’re gettin’ anxious to close
So thanks for the cheer
I hope you didn’t mind
My bending your ear

But this torch that I found
It’s gotta be drowned
Or it soon might explode
So make it one for my baby
And one more for the road

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The Oliver Tree December 25, 2010

Filed under: Inspiration,Life in general,Mopey mops — mel @ 11:40 am

A Christmas photo streamed in from Facebook ends up being a personal symbol for this particular period of my life. This has been the most painful period of my life thus far – the kind of sadness that you know will change the entire DNA of your soul and outlook in life. Pardon the melodramatic overtones; I promise I won’t launch into a self-pitying tirade.  In the meantime, here’s the said image:

Oliver Tree Dec 2010

Ok not the perkiest of pictures but this gloomy, chilly tree brings me cheer and hope nevertheless. This Burr Oak tree is situated at the Katy Trail in Columbia, Missouri, where I spent the happiest time of my life as an exchange student. Now I know the Midwest is usually not a dream destination for many, but this little campus/agricultural town has been my utopia for all the wonderful people I met and its unpretentious, scenic beauty. And this tree has always been the epitome of what I loved about this place.

Memory #1: Winter is almost ending and the Olivers (and that’s why I call it the Oliver tree) invite Vanessa and I over to their house which is along the Katy Trail. Vanessa cooks curry while I cook braised pork (something learned only the night before from Eric, a Malaysian student who had the necessary condiments). After dinner we go for a walk and come across this tree. I touch its trunk and take in a deep breath. “It has an old soul,” I declare mystically but no one is really listening as Vanessa and the Olivers are discussing the strict health regime of going for a run every day. (Incidentally, the above photo is from Dr Richard Oliver, who was the Dean of the Physiotherapy at that time and the kindest, nicest host around who kindly “adopted” me even though I wasn’t a health science student under his charge)

Memory #2: It is the beginning of spring and Vanessa the health nut manages to rouse me into going cycling one weekend. Gyfer (another helpful Malaysian student) insists on accompanying us two ladies. We rent bikes and my bike is too high for me and the the meant-for-male seat really kills my butt. We have to make many rest stops because of my problematic butt and one of the rest stops is back at this fateful tree. Gyfer insists on taking a photo at each rest point (there are a lot of photos of me crouch-squatting on the ground, whining) and he snaps one of me at the tree. “Maybe this one you try posing with your bicycle?” he requests of me politely. Below is the result – I may look quite miserable but it’s really just the physical pain. Overall, I really enjoyed myself that day. Cycling for one whole day – I’d like to be that fit again.

Oliver Tree March 2001

And at a more existential level, I notice that both images of this tree show it bare, without a single leaf. But it’s always been there all these years, this Oliver tree, living and breathing, and even in its botak state, it radiates so much presence and soul. And this is how I’d like to be even during the dark, empty times of my life. Realistically, I know that really, what I’m now is just a shrivelled, withered stalk, but I’m reminded of this verse:

“She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.” Proverbs 3:18 (It’s actually talking about wisdom, but isn’t it cool wisdom is interpreted as a feminine entity that all women should try to emulate?)

For now: it is a time to die, a time to kill, a time to break down, a time to weep, a time to mourn, a time to cast away stones, a time to lose, a time to rend…but this is just a season of life after all, and there will also be times ahead to be born, to plant, to laugh, to dance, to heal, to love.

Oliver Tree in Bloom

Blessed Christmas, everyone.

 

Angsty English August 26, 2010

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 10:29 pm
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For the past week, I’ve been on a rather surreal adult learning course where everyone around me could not really speak English. They are all lovely people, and I thoroughly enjoyed their company….but I felt terrible how I kept wincing in agony every time I heard the English language being crucified (e.g. “The staffs there can helps you, I likes it there because they put the very nice smiles on.”) What was even more disturbing is that the people sitting around me could not spell so they practically copied everything off my workbook just so they could get away with passing the course.

Most of these people are mid-career people, some even in management positions. I really wonder how do they get by with e-mails or reading business documents or  giving presentations for that matter? I’m so, so, so perturbed. After this, I’m actually really doubting that English can pull it off as a first language in Singapore.

However, because these said course mates could not really communicate in English, they did not have much choice but to tolerate my half-baked Mandarin. I bet they were wincing pretty hard too. And I’m starting to understand why the Chinese-speaking camp does not want me to torture their ears with my garbled Chinese.

And you know what’s even more scary? The so-called “next generation”, because of some weird form of language education they received, are not getting any better in terms of English AND Mother Tongue literacy.  In the end, this society has a lot of people not being really good in any kind of language. And with a limited grasp of language, it means a severe shortage of self-expression and meaningful communication.

I’m not sure why, but I find this thought so absolutely terrifying! 😦

 

Absolutely Absolute July 14, 2010

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 10:37 pm

Different realities, moral systems, perspectives, relationships, experiences = eternal conflict external and within.

Why do humans become more stubborn the more they  realise how uncertain and relative life is?

It’s our own undoing sometimes.

 

Stop being greasy about the oil spill May 29, 2010

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 12:26 pm
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©2010 The Straits Times

While Crisis Communications 101 may teach you that it’s important to reassure and keep a lid on the panic pot, in the case of environmental disasters – there is simply no point trying to pretend that things are not as bad as it seems.

Widespread oil patches? Check. Cancelled water activities? Check. Stench of oil that reached beyond the coastal areas? Check. Lots of dead animals? Check.

With such apparent empirical evidence, and coupled with the fact that whatever is left remaining of Singapore’s eco system had already been in such a fragile state before 2,500 tonnes of crude oil spilled into the waters, no one is going to believe the motherhood statement that “environmental impact is minimal“.

For all that spewed rhetoric about environmental sustainability, renewable resources, garden city and “greening”, this incident has just shown that nature-related issues are only in the agenda of the authorities if it helps to boost tourism and the economy. What’s really needed at this point: good ol’ honesty about just how dire things are. And the whole nuclear energy thing may need to be reconsidered too since toxic waste disposal is obviously not one of the country’s forte as yet.

Post-rant note: Fortunately, certain members of the public are taking the initiative to lend a helping hand. Check this Facebook page on “ground-level”  updates on the situation, as well as upcoming clean-up activities.

Another case study of denial: Is Singapore the worst environmental offender? Yes says NUS study, No says the Government

 

Imbalance March 25, 2010

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 3:23 pm

Lopsided

It’s amazing how asymmetry is so prevalent in our lives – almost like a universal law. I write better with my right hand. I stretch better with my left leg. My right eyebrow has a bald patch while my left eyebrow is too bushy. I park better on parking lots on the left. I only start cycling with my right foot.

And yet, what amazes me more is that despite such empirical evidence, human beings still get so absolutely unnerved when an unequal equation occurs e.g. Effort ≠ Output, Affection ≠ Reciprocity, Fervent prayers ≠ Blessings, Diligence ≠ Income, Exercise/Diet ≠ Weight Loss.

For this reason, I have a hypothesis that the earth is metaphysically not round – but rather an  irregularly-shaped lump with these strange mammals trying to balance things all day long in absolute futility. And what happens? More unnecessary collapsing occurs.

p/s: I’ve been watching lots of Big Bang Theory and some Sheldon must have rubbed off me. I’m also trying to disguise some personal angst using semi-scientific jargon.

 

At this point November 1, 2009

Filed under: Mopey mops — mel @ 11:39 pm
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I think I have tried
But it has not been enough
For you deserve more