Uncle After Hours (Bridge Cafe Project, Singapore Arts Festival)

Uncles breaking out into song and dance in an ice cream café? The Bridge Café Project in the Singapore Arts Festival Village is one of those concepts that had me from hello. We dropped by on Saturday evening for dessert and some new dance moves for Alec, and were as charmed as we had expected to be. But I didn’t write this entry to tell you about the experience the ArtsFest intended us to have, but rather the unexpected delight that we happened to encounter later on – a collateral benefit, you could call it – when art left the Festival Village and seeped into life.

You should visit the Bridge Café Project yourself to enjoy the full 3D uncle experience, but if you can’t, there’s a video here. In case it isn’t already clear from the video, the appeal of the experience doesn’t lie in the finesse of their performances but in their unbridled enthusiasm. 

Dancing Bridge Cafe Project Uncles, Singapore Arts Festival

When the uncles aren’t performing, they are exceptionally snazzy café waiters.

Bridge Cafe Project Uncle, Singapore Arts Festival

But wait, you say – this entry wasn’t supposed to be about the café itself, but about some nebulous arty thing that happened afterwards! Get to it!

This is where I introduce you to my favourite Bridge Café Project uncle.

Bridge Cafe Project Uncle, Singapore Arts Festival

I don’t have any better photos of him because I was using a manual focus Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58/1.4 lens with my Nex and let’s just say manually focusing on vigorous dancing uncles is not part of my photography skill set yet. But I hope it’s at least clear that he seems lovely.

After our ice cream we strolled through the flea market area of the Festival Village, and Favourite Uncle just happened to be at one of the stalls, playing a woodblock. Because he could, I suppose.

Later, we watched the kickass musicianship of Soumik Datta and Bernhard Schimpelsberger at the main stage, and once that was done we decided it was time to head home. A now-familiar figure stood at the bus stop, presumably on his own way home now that his duties at the café had ended for the night.

I don’t know if he knew I was filming him. While it would be reasonable to assume that anyone who signs up to burst into song and dance every twenty minutes in an ice cream café is unlikely to be a shrinking violet, he was not (here, or in the café) conspicuously extroverted or attention-seeking. He stood at the side of the bus stop facing away from the few other people there, not seeming particularly interested in the world beyond the umbrella and his fingertip. I wanted to tell him I had enjoyed his performance in the café, but because of this slight detachment I sensed from him, and my own shyness, I didn’t.

Our bus came and we got on. Favourite Uncle didn’t. Without wishing him too much of a delay before his bus arrived, I hope a few more people got to experience their own little moments of unlooked-for joy before he headed home for a well-deserved rest.

Bali: Lovely Lake Tamblingan

As I mentioned, I’m going to write about our trip to Bali more in terms of highlights than according to the sequence of our itinerary. On that basis there is only one place I could start: the beautiful, tranquil banks of Lake Tamblingan. It was not a place we had known to list on our desired itinerary, but a suggestion from our driver/guide Putu Arnawa as a place he personally liked. We had sought Putu out in the first place because he is a photographer, and by now I had enough of a sense of his aesthetic to trust his suggestions. I am so glad we did.

Temple After Rain

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One of the most addictive things about my Sony Nex-3 is using it with old manual focus lenses which you can buy for fairly low prices on ebay. My latest acquisition is a Minolta MC Rokkor-PF 58/1.4. It’s the fastest lens I have, and while I’m sure I need to practice a bit more to get the hang of using such shallow depth of field, the learning process has been kinda dreamy.

Colbar Menu

Cold Glass Warm Air

Lemon Meringue (at Prive Bakery)

Singapore Snapshots (Eunos, Geylang)

While I procrastinate on writing about our rather awesome orangutan odyssey in Sabah, I thought I might as well share some photos I took a while back during various explorations of Eunos and Geylang and never ended up posting. There’s nothing in these photos quite as exciting as trekking through leech-infested Bornean jungles, but I like them because they are souvenirs from sleepy weekend afternoons spent walking around quiet neighbourhoods near our home, doing nothing exciting but happy nonetheless.

A bird shop in Eunos:

Bird Watcher

We ventured deep into the Eunos warehouse district in search of dining chairs to match a $100 dining table we scored off Craigslist. Although we did end up buying conventional chairs, for a moment the idea of dining horses was rather tempting:

Random model horses

You can pay $8 (or more, not sure what the price is now since I haven’t gone there in a while) for Penang assam laksa at Penang Kitchen on Tanjong Katong Road, or you can go two or three bus stops down the road to the food court at the top of City Plaza and enjoy this one, just as good, for $3:

$3 laksa at City Plaza

Anthony Bourdain listed Sin Huat as one of his 13 Places To Eat Before You Die, but he probably didn’t mean from splinters:

Decrepit tables at the famous Sin Huat

I am rather fond of roadside altars. Not sure why. It might be bundled up in that somewhat trite tendency of modern yuppie Singaporeans to celebrate the preservation of traditional practices they have no intention of really perpetuating themselves.

Roadside Altar, Geylang Road

Durians. What to say about durians? I’m actually fairly indifferent to durians, although I do like photographing them. I still think Andrew Zimmern is a fucking wuss though.

Durian stall, Geylang Road

The Old Kallang Airport

The Singapore Biennale is one of those things that can, for a day or two at least, make me feel unequivocally happy about living in Singapore. I usually find a fairly good proportion of the art engaging (though I am admittedly quite a pleb), but what I enjoy most is how each Biennale takes one old, hitherto forgotten building from Singapore’s past and re-opens it for the display of art, often commissioning very cool site-specific installations which make the most out of the particular building’s unique features. I took lots of photographs of the Tanglin Camp barracks at the first Biennale and the old Beach Road Camp buildings at the second Biennale, but in usual fashion I never got round to writing any blog entries and they languished in my hard drive. However, after all these years of failure, I have finally managed to do something for this third Biennale!

The photos in this post are purely of this Biennale’s re-opened building, the Old Kallang Airport. While I have lots of photos of the particular works of art I enjoyed, there’s a certain joy to be had simply from walking around the building which is completely separate from the art you’re ostensibly there to see, and I want to focus on that first. Here’s a thumbnail gallery for anyone who prefers that, but you can also continue reading to get all the photos on one page.

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Jamie Lidell (Esplanade, 18 March 2011)

The only thing worse than being late for a gig at the Esplanade the one time you’ve managed to get tickets in the front row is keeping three other people waiting for you, unable to go in, because you’re the one with the tickets. But soon after we finally got in there, Jamie launched into Multiply and I felt most of my frustration with Friday evening traffic and my own crapness rapidly ebb away. I’m a little burned out on writing about music since the 2010 album list so I won’t write a proper review, but he was immensely endearing, ebullient despite a turnout that I found disappointing, and his band were just as fun to watch as he was. Also, he wore the best jacket ever. 

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Jamie Lidell (18 Mar 11, Singapore)

Tiong Bahru Uncle-Chic

Tan Shzr Ee recently wrote a column for the Straits Times about Tiong Bahru being “uncle-chic”. The article itself is rather mediocre, but it gives me as good enough an excuse as any to share two Tiong Bahru uncles I photographed when we did an anniversary staycation at the Wangz Hotel last November.

Provision shop, Tiong Bahru

Egg Uncle, Tiong Bahru Market

Weekend Snapshots 26-29 November

Koflow, my scratch sensei, at his album launch gig:

Koflow at his album launch gig

Just to mix things up, here’s a video:

After we got back from Koflow’s gig, the Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens I’d ordered off ebay was in the mailbox. I had never used a manual focus lens in my life, but was emboldened by what people had said on various photography forums about how easy it was to use old manual focus lenses on the Nex cameras. Here are some of my fledgling efforts with the lens – I’m quite happy with them, but given that these were literally among the first 20 pictures I had ever taken with manual focus, I’m guessing I could get better with practice.

My friend Yi-Sheng at his 30th birthday party (yes, he’s doing the Mentos and Coke thing):

Yish at 30

After dropping friends off in Balestier around 2 a.m., we went to the bakery. That’s how Alec rolls.

Bakery, 2 a.m. Bakery, 2 a.m.

The last photo is only visible to Facebook friends or Flickr friends, but it’s my favourite one of the weekend. One week before, my mother had gallbladder surgery. It’s keyhole surgery which a sensible person wouldn’t have worried unduly about, but when it’s your beloved mother, even the most miniscule possibility of things not going well can be terrifying. So here is my mother (on Facebook / on Flickr) one week after her surgery – healthy, pain-free, and the best reminder I could ever get that one of the most wonderful things about photography is capturing the beauty of someone you love.

Weekend Snapshots 30-31 October

Due to my blog redesigning efforts I spent a couple weekends in a PHP/CSS fog, but I’m out now and trying to catch up. I am, however, still tinkering with various shiny new WordPress toys, like this way of displaying photos. What do you think? (If you prefer to page-down through bigger versions of the photos the usual way, just follow the “Continue reading” link under the gallery.)

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