March 12th, 2004

krazy koati

Why can't a woman be more like a man?

Bright and sunny. I had to go to the bank, so I hired Chicolini and Pinky to find the squirrel.

Commercials have started for Channel 8's new sketch variety-comedy show, Return to Jurong Point, which features the characters from the fable ``Journey to the West'' -- a story of people setting off to retrieve Buddhist scrolls and one of the stories commemorated in the Tiger Balm Gardens, as discussed Sunday. What do Tripitaka, Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy do after great, 16-year, arduous journey to the West is done and they have the rest of eternity before them? Why, head to the Boon Lay station, western terminus of the Singapore MRT line, and hang out at the Jurong Point shopping center. Not a bad choice, mind; it's got a cinema, a public library (and public libraries in malls is a really good idea), a used/rental book store, and three VCD/DVD stores with good Region 1 selections. Also it hasMcDonald's answer to Starbucks, the McCafe. And the Jurong Bird Park is conveniently nearby.

Monkey, portrayed by local star Mark Lee, is given in the commercials what looks like a more feminine dress to me, and does that voice-quivering thing that's characteristically female, so I don't know how dopey old westerners are supposed to read its gender. The makeup effects on Monkey -- and less so for Pigsy -- look rather better than they needed for a sketch comedy show, and will probably turn up on the Xenofetish Livejournal community at some point. I don't know if I'll watch it; though the commercials on Channel 5 are in English, Channel 8 is a Mandarin-language station. You can do language-independent sketch comedy, but it's hard, and I don't know whether they'll subtitle. (Many but not all shows get subtitles in one or more languages.)

For those seeking higher culture, the Esplanade Arts Centre -- popularly called the Durians, though the buildings look more like soursop to me -- are presenting I La Galigo, an epic story dating back at least to the 14th century Bugis sea-farers. (The name is not a colonial transliteration, but belongs to a descendent of the characters.) Fewer than a hundred people are able to read the 6000 folio pages of ancient Bugis manuscript. The story, of incestuous twins Sawerigading and We Tenriabeng, born into the third generation after creation and warned by the transsexual bissu priests who guard the ritual and spiritual realms of Sulawesi, actually begins in the womb and contains extensive dance sequences.

The entire performance is itself witnessed on-stage by a transsexual bissu priest -- whose balance between man and woman symbolizes the balance of the play (he gained female spiritual traits after illness and supernatural sign-laden dreams at the age of twelve) -- descended from characters portrayed in the play. I just doubt I'm up to four solid hours of epic and ancient myths.

The Bugis area of Singapore, I note -- at least until the Big Cleanup, so this kind of thing never happens anymore -- was the place where, after dark, merchants would roll out tables and set up instant nightclubs. Thus foreign businessmen and Australian and Royal Navy sailors could come in, buy beers and dance all night with women who were much prettier -- fancier dresses, smoother skin, more tended hair -- than any of the women they could find during the day. I can't pin down the relevance of this, but Bugis is where porsupah found her hotel -- the New Seventh Storey Hotel, which opened in its current location in 1953, and is nine storeys tall -- when she visited two and a half years ago.

Trivia: The only lives lost at Fort Sumter came after the surrender. Source: The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, Bruce Catton.

Currently Reading: Expendable, James Alan Gardner.