Mistress Of Puppets (DIY Slogan Tee)

Every now and then I get it into my head that I am capable of doing crafts. While I do possess some of the qualities of a skilled artisan, such as attention to detail and a certain obsessive nature, I inconveniently lack the “art” aspect of the word. But because Pinterest and the various lifestyle blogs I read make it seem as if I, too, can construct my own chic fashion or home accessories from nothing more than sequins, Mod Podge and an upcycled flour sack, I occasionally indulge this delusion a little further than my level of craft artistry can really justify. (This also happens with food, which is why I rarely photograph our delectably-plated repasts of ragout a la leftovers avec priced-to-clear boeuf et fridge-withered cilantro, and when I do attempt to, it …doesn’t end well.)

But I had some time on my hands a while back and freezer paper stencil tees (there are plenty of tutorials online so I won’t do a step-by-step one – here’s a simple guide for anyone else who wants to give it a try) didn’t look like they could be too hard, so I decided it was about time to try dancing with delusion again. I had a plain black Uniqlo tee, white fabric paint, a craft knife, a Daiso cutting mat, a rather underused iron, and some spongy things I bought from Art Friend, so clearly I had everything it took to construct haute couture.

A little background on the slogan, for those rarely about to rock:

After my friend Matt introduced me to the joys of doing this song in karaoke, it’s become one of the staples of my karaoke repertoire. But since people always seem to find it hard to believe that a female might attempt Metallica at karaoke, I thought it would increase my metal cred to make my status clear on a T-shirt. You know, like those fat ugly guys you see wearing “Sex Instructor: First Lesson Free” T-shirts.

Freezer paper stencil

Read on to see if the finished result is more FAIL or FYEAH!

Art Of The Mix

On Alec’s previous visits here, failing to take him to a performance at the Esplanade was my most glaring omission out of many, but I finally remedied that on Friday. The SSO was doing Beethoven’s 6th, Schubert’s 2nd, and Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave from The Hebrides, and for the princely sum of $21.75 (that’s total, not each), we enjoyed sound so divine from the third circle that even a sub-par SSO sounded great.

[I don’t mean the SSO is generally a sub-par orchestra, I just mean they weren’t really on fire on Friday. There were little timing hiccups here and there; perhaps they didn’t gel with the guest conductor as well as they normally do with Lan Shui. Some harshness in the violins, and I think there was one clarinet screwup. Also the Allegro ma non troppo which starts the Beethoven felt a little too non troppo for my liking, but perhaps I was just too impatient to get to the rollicking third movement.]

My Esplanade bliss is nothing new, but being able to share the place that makes me happiest in Singapore with the person who makes me happiest in Singapore was rather lovely.

* * *

Chinese New Year reunion dinner on Sunday at Chef Kang’s Canton Wok confirmed the fact that not only my mother but my entire extended family seems determined to make my boyfriend fat by forcing multiple servings of everything on him.

I’m not convinced that Canton Wok is “the best cze char in Singapore” as the newspaper articles claim, because I don’t think I saw it at its best on Sunday night. I didn’t have a problem with the ambience – eating on a cramped walkway in the depths of a Hougang HDB estate (a public housing estate) is fine by me – but the service was pretty poor. We waited for more than half an hour to be seated despite having made a reservation far in advance. When the first dish arrived we had plates but no chopsticks or spoons to eat with, cue exaggerated pawing motions at red wine chicken until the staff got the hint. Neither moist towelettes nor lemon water accompanied the crab, so anyone who wanted the rest of their meal to be non-sticky had to venture inside in search of a rather grotty basin.

Food-wise, some dishes were great (red wine chicken, crab with glutinous rice, coffee pork ribs, abalone and spinach), and others were pleasant but forgettable (steamed motherfucking big cod, those brown noodles which I think are called yu fu noodles). I’d like to go back there again to try dishes which were featured in the food reviews and looked really interesting, but weren’t on the festive set menu. But anyway, Alec wasn’t complaining. His mouth was too full.

* * *

And now Saturday. Toxic Jungle Saturday.

The party started off quite normal. True, the birthday boy had chosen to interpret the theme (The Beast Within) by wearing a snake in his crotch, but apart from that everything was fairly civilized.

Jacob and his snake
Jacob’s trouser snake

I hadn’t bothered to tell people other than East-dwellers about the party, but was pleasantly surprised when Kelly and Patrick decided it sounded like an interesting change from Zouk and came along. Karen, who I’d never met, turned up too, en route to Thumper with Ken. Then Ida and David. Then Mayee and Shao and Hwee Yee and Evan.

Since I’ve never been much of a “Circulate, darling!” type, this would have been more than enough people to keep me happily and drunkenly and uneventfully chatting the night away. But Jacob had other plans. Soon after twelve he unveiled karaoke hour, as well as the girls he’d hired to be back-up dancers for the karaokers.

I think the plan had been for karaokers to stand on the small stage in the middle of the bar while singing their songs, and for the girls to then do their thang around the singer. Unfortunately, a problem soon emerged – people were singing soppy ballads instead of songs conducive to girls shaking boo-tay in knee-high stiletto boots. I was equally complicit in this bloody waste, having put my name down earlier for Nothing Compares To You. The girls managed some lesbian slow-dance action to this, but it still wasn’t playing to their real strengths, and I felt guilty.

So when Jacob came round again saying they needed more songs to finish up the karaoke hour, I decided to revisit Toxic. I had expected to sing the song comfortably from my seat, while watching the girls shake boo-tay on stage. But the girls had other plans, and I didn’t feel like forcefully resisting two girls wearing little more than knee-high stiletto boots and little strips of cloth covering their naughty bits. Who knows what may have given way in the course of a struggle.

Forgive me, Britney, for I have sinned

I certainly don’t think of myself as an exhibitionist (at least insofar as anyone who keeps a blog can be said to not be an exhibitionist), but I like to be a good sport. Frankly I’d do it again. The girls were great.

The party went on for a couple of hours more after that. I had fun comparing childhood objects of lust with Mayee and Shao. Got beaten at pool by Alec, fuck! Continued on to Jacob’s place after the bar closed for a prata and champagne supper. Then finally staggered home.

I like weekends.

The Black Forest Of Katong

There I was, standing awkwardly outside Katong Mall at 11 pm on Boxing Day, having just been told by the mall security guard and the 7-11 staff that they were absolutely sure there was no Black Forest Bar in the basement, and in fact that the entire building was closed.

At this point I was sorely tempted to go home, since the wisdom of scouring the dodgy bars of Katong (basically, that would be all the bars of Katong, and there are lots of them) in search of a random ang moh I only knew on the Internet seemed debatable to say the least. Also, the ah peks in the coffee shop across the road were giving me curious glances, even though I was dressed quite conservatively because of a party I’d attended earlier. Also, I had a geography teacher in school who we used to call Black Forest for puerile reasons (it wasn’t racial), and the words still make me giggle.

So there I was. And then suddenly, I spotted a sheet of paper stuck to a wall, with Black Forest Bar and a down arrow scribbled on it, and a little stick figure turntablist. I followed the arrow into the bowels of the building, and when I heard Dizzee Rascal in the distance I knew I’d finally found the right place.

I was a little shy, because it’s always weird meeting an Internet person in real life, and I didn’t drink enough to really reduce my inhibitions either. This was, however, a good thing when Jacob played The Knife’s Heartbeats, because that always makes me imagine thrashing around in suffocating black velvet. Anyway, Jacob and his friends were a lot of fun. I wasn’t just impressed by his record-playing choices, but also his karaoke choices, which included Lemon Tree and It’s A Small World After All. This is clearly an ang moh who truly understands the joy of karaoke.

I’ve never sung karaoke in a bar area, just the tacky faux-opulent private rooms in lounges, but I wasn’t spared. After telling J my number one song for the year was Toxic, I later found it cued up on the karaoke system and the mike thrust into my hand. I did my best but without the air stewardess uniform I felt like a phony. I followed this by mauling half of An Jing with my speech-defect-quality Chinese, and belting out All Out Of Love with Joe Ng. The thought crossed my mind at some point that I was singing karaoke with a voice that had been played on John Peel. My geekiness deepens by the day.

Oh, and Black Forest Bar is unbelievable. It has a pond with actual fish in it, and fake greenery everywhere, and it’s almost completely empty. Alec, the next time you come here I’ve got another so-shit-it’s-lovely bar to take you to!

There’ll Be A Load Of Compromisin’

Karaoke today was a riot of cheese. The boys were in fine falsetto form with several BeeGees songs – Tragedy was especially successful, they even managed the harmonies – and I went on a one-hit-wonder rampage with Superwoman (Karyn White), If Love Is Blind (Tiffany) and Don’t Cry Out Loud (Melissa Manchester) before caving in to my long-repressed yearning for Rhinestone Cowboy.

Chinese songs were, of course, attempted, but my largely stagnant Chinese music horizons rendered me incapable of singing more than the songs I always sing. K Ge Zhi Wang and Qi Zi were mostly ungarbled, but I didn’t fare quite so well on Ti Or Or. I am now trying to decide whether to embark on the almighty challenge of adding Faye Wong’s An Yong to my repertoire. Right now I think it’s one of the most gorgeous ballads I’ve ever heard (in any language) but it also sounds fiendishly difficult.

Halfway through karaoke, I found out that the moot coaches have chosen the speakers for an upcoming advocacy competition NUS is taking part in. I will have to pass the shipping law arguments I’ve spent the last four months perfecting to my teammate, take on a whole new set of issues, and be lead counsel. By Monday. Apparently this is because I am the strongest speaker. I hope the coaches realize their strongest speaker is now strongly tempted to spend the next three weeks curled up under a table in a fetal position.

Jokes aside, I’m honoured by the choice, because I certainly wouldn’t give such a shit-hard job to anyone I didn’t think had the balls and brains to take it on. But it’s possible updates here in the next couple of weeks might be a little thin on the ground, or at least overly link-based.

Insert Crude Obvious Punny Title Here

I was going to write about my steady progress at Chinese karaoke, but really, my trials and tribulations with Eason Chan’s The King Of Karaoke and Stephanie Sun’s Ti Or Or are simply far less amusing than the towering pinnacle of comedy that is the chee bai song. (Translation of “chee bai” here.)

I should clarify: that isn’t actually its name. It has a perfectly normal name in Chinese, which probably means something sappy and innocuous like Our Love Endures Through The Seasons or Without Your Love I May Be Heartbroken But At Least I Can Sing Really Sad Songs About My Loss And Look Suitably Vulnerable In The Video, but after last Sunday it is forever The Chee Bai Song to me.

This is how it goes. It’s simple but effective. They (Terry and pal) sing this sappy ballad with great feeling, but substitute “chee bai” at appropriate parts. So:

“Wo xian zai deng dai ni de hui lai” (I am waiting for your return) becomes
“Wo xian zai deng dai ni de chee bai” (I am waiting for your cunt).

At the big chorus:
“Leng leng de bing yu zai lian shang hu luan de pai” (Cold cold icy rain haphazardly slaps my face) becomes
“Leng leng de chee bai zai lian shang hu luan de pai” (Cold cold icy cunt haphazardly slaps my face).

And so on. You kind of have to be there.

Mind you, their subversive approach to karaoke classics isn’t merely confined to the world of Chinese balladry. A rendition of Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love To You went something like “I’ll make love to you/Like you want me to/And I’ll hold you tight/Fuck you RIGHT FROM BEHIND I’ll make love to you etc.”

First belly-laughs in a long while, which probably says something less than flattering about me or my sense of humour.

Kara Okay

Where to begin.

There’s the bit about this weekend being pretty much one of the lowest points in my life, but I’m still thinking about whether a blog entry would necessarily be the best way of moving on and avoiding wallowing in self-pity.

There’s the bit about being #2 on the Internet for “nature bamboo gal”, which is, like, so not me.

There’s the bit about Chinky karaoke with Terry, where for the first time in my life I managed to sing more than 5% of the lyrics of a Chinese song! I think I’ll go with this. It’s happy and triumphal, unlike, er, the rest of my weekend.

I’ve documented my previous attempt at Chinese karaoke here. A few months later, I padded downstairs for the mail on an early spring morning in London and found two CDs Terry had sent all the way from Singapore. One was a Faye Wong compilation, the other was a compilation of his favourite mushy ballads, both came with tracklistings and commentary including his views on the stupidity of the singers’ names, and I listened to them lots. So the premise of Sunday’s outing was for me to flex my tiny little Chinky song muscles and enter the wonderful world of Chinese karaoke, under the encouragement and tutelage of my Chinky song benefactor.

I didn’t do great, but I did okay! I mumbled my way through Liang Ge Ren Bu Deng Yu Wo Men (I think this means Two People Don’t Amount To Us, but I’m not actually sure), and pretty much the only words I could manage in King Of Karaoke (stop laughing, it’s really rather nice) were its kickass “AI AI AI AI DAO YAO TU!” climax (translation: LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE UNTIL I WANT TO VOMIT!), but I managed to sing almost 70% of my old favourite Nan Ren Bu Gai Rang Nu Ren Liu Lei (Men Shouldn’t Make Women Cry) and Faye Wong’s Qi Zi (I have no idea what this means, but I can read the words and that’s enough), and I’m real proud!

Chinese karaoke certainly has its advantages over English karaoke. The biggest reason for this is the accompanying videos. For Chinese songs you get the actual music video, featuring the actual artist looking pouty/teary/suicidal (but still dee-lish, natch). For English songs you get some really dodgy shots of an “exotic” woman walking in slo-mo along the beach/by a fountain/in a flower garden that look like your granny put them together using all the cheesy fade-outs and romantic lighting filters she could find in DummyEdit Pro. Admittedly, given that all my attention was riveted on deciphering all those bloody fan ti zi (old, massively complicated Chinese characters which mostly resemble the blueprints to the Pyramids; we learned the dumbed-down version of these in school, but actual Chinese nations still use them), I was mostly too busy going “fuck me, that immense scribbly thing is rang?” to really appreciate the subtler points of Chinese music video artistry.

Chinese Kara No Okay

Of my many plebian pleasures karaoke must surely rank among the most intense. On Sunday at Kaka’s house we bawled happily for hours. While his collection obviously couldn’t match a proper karaoke lounge’s for sheer quantity, I was happy enough with Downtown, a Sounds Of Silence duet with Shoop and a couple of lines of Yellow Bird attempting a really dodgy Carribbean accent.

Then we switched to Chinese and the fun really started. The list of Chinese songs I can claim even vague familiarity with is miniscule. In fact, the list of Chinese words I can claim vague familiarity with is almost as miniscule, and the fact that they use fan2 ti3 zi4 (old-style written Chinese, a million times more complicated) for karaoke lyrics doesn’t help either. But I let none of this stop me.

In secondary school there was a Chinese inter-class singing competition, and I got involved in my class item because the chosen song featured a violin interlude, which I was to be playing. In the process I got to know the song fairly well, and till today it retains its sentimental value for me (we won the competition). So I was ecstatic when Shoop found Zhi Ji on one of the laser discs, and we decided we’d sing it. My aforementioned difficulties with the Chinese language meant that most of my participation in the singing ended up like “xi huan ni de ren, drrrrmrmmrrrrrrraaargh CHENG KEN! hrrrrwrrruang de xiao RONG, mmmmmmrrrrrrgnnnnnnn EN!”

That was the song I knew best. Later we found Min Tian Wo Yao Jia Gai Ni Le (I’ll Be Marrying You Tomorrow), where my knowledge of the song ended at the very words Min Tian Wo Yao Jia Gai Ni Le, so I sang that line extra loudly to make up for my other inadequacies.

I love Chinese karaoke.

[Related question: Can anyone in the know tell me who sang Zhi Ji? I think it’s from the early 90s. I’m obviously hard-pressed to give any complete lyrical lines, but I think one, at the end of the chorus, is “dang wo yong you ni, wo de xin zai ye bu xia xue.”]

[Off the top of my head, here’s The Complete List of Chinese Songs Michelle Kind Of Knows, translated to the best of my abilities (in addition to those mentioned above):

  • Wo Shi Nian Qing De Wei Guo Jun (I Am A Young Soldier-Protector Of Our Nation!)
  • Jin Ye Ni Hui Bu Hui Lai? (Tonight Will You Come Or Not Come?)
  • Shi Shang Zhi You Ma Ma Hao (In The World There Is None So Good As Mummy)
  • Ai Xiang Shui (???)
  • Ai Bu Pa (???)
  • Nan Ren Bu Gai Rang Nu Ren Liu Lei (Men Shouldn’t Make Women Cry)
  • Something I can’t remember the Chinese name of, but I think it was called Cupid Love in English
  • Probably one or two Teresa Teng classics

That’s pretty much it.]