Here and There

Here’s what I’ve been up to recently.

1) We celebrated the Hub’s birthday.

My surprise Cameo video for the Hub worked out! He and I are both yuuge fans of the LOTR movies, especially the first. We used to re-watch The Fellowship of the Ring all the time; it was our top choice for “movie-in-the-background” – times when we were busy with other stuff but wanted something interesting on TV that we could passively listen to. The Hub and I agreed Sam was the real MVP of the saga. One Valentine’s Day, the Hub even signed off his card to me as “Your Sam” (does that make me Frodo in that scenario?!).

Anyway, when I saw Sean Astin was on Cameo I grabbed my chance. The Hub never guessed!

A screengrab from the Hub’s Cameo message.

I highly recommend Sean if you’re thinking of getting a Cameo (provided you’re a fan, of course). He started off with a Marilyn Monroe-esque ‘Happy Birthday’ song which was pretty funny. You could tell he took the time to personalise each birthday message a bit. I only wrote Cameo a sentence or two about the Hub and Sean was able to build on that for a 5-minute-long video. He even managed to squeeze in his iconic “Po-tay-toes” line at the end. Sulit.

Other things we did on the Hub’s birthday: a nice omakase lunch at one of our favourite Japanese places capped off with drinks at Raffles Hotel. We both wanted to try the original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar but found out the bar was temporarily closed; the hotel was serving cocktails at the Raffles Courtyard instead.

We were seated and comfortable when I opened the menu and found out that an Original Singapore Sling costs S$35 (around Php1,300 or US$26). I reasoned to myself this was the first and probably the last time I’ll be trying it so… okay. Fine.

According to the menu, a Singapore Sling consists of Widges London Dry Gin, Bénédictine, Raffles Signature Grenadine, Luxardo Cherry Sangue Morlacco, Ferrand Dry Curaçao, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, and Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.

Our drinks came with the obligatory tray of peanuts. (Traditionally, the peanut shells are thrown on the Long Bar’s tiled floor.) It was good, but was it worth S$35? The jury’s still out on that one.

2) I realised parts of the old Sentosa monorail tracks haven’t been demolished.

One of my most enduring childhood memories was a short trip my family took to Singapore in the ’90s. It probably got stuck in my head because the trip happened during a school week. I felt like I was playing hooky from school the whole time, and it felt good.

We had a day out in Sentosa Island. Back then, VivoCity was non-existent and the distance was wider between the main island and Singapore. There was no Boardwalk to cross. The Mount Faber Line cable cars were already around, but we took a ferry to the island.

I remember the breeze on our faces as we rode a monorail in Sentosa. Unlike today’s Sentosa Express which only stops at four stations – VivoCity, Resorts World (where Universal Studios is), Imbiah (for the nature walk), and Beach station – the monorail in my memory looped around the island. I even recall passing the giant “Sentosa” logo while on the train. The monorail ride experience and the rest of that day – a visit to a SeaWorld aquarium, a wax museum, musical fountains in the evening – is probably one of my core Joy memories haha.

The old Sentosa monorail, decommissioned in 2005. (Source)

Imagine my delight then, when I discovered while walking on the Imbiah trail the other weekend that parts of the old monorail tracks were still there! I don’t know why I never noticed it before.

Does anyone know why some parts of the track weren’t demolished?

3) We walked some more.

We had dinner at Robertson Quay in one of our favourite Middle Eastern restaurants (so far it’s the only place we found with kebab koobideh that approximates our beloved Alounak).

It was a balmy evening and it seemed everyone was out and about. So, we took the opportunity to walk from Robertson Quay all the way to Clarke Quay.

The Old Hill Street Police Station on Clarke Quay

We finally reached Boat Quay where we caught the bus home.

Think critically dear readers,

The Saddest Song

Because I’ve been in A Mood lately, I’ve resurrected an old Spotify playlist I made of all the sad songs I could think of.

I chucked everything but the kitchen sink in there, so my playlist ranges from ’80s power ballads (I distinctly remember when I was in preschool crying on the school bus every time I heard Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ on Manong’s radio — opo, every time), OPM songs that vividly remind me of my real-life break-ups (Sugarfree’s ‘Kwarto’ — each line was on point, even the dusty jacket in the corner), to indie (‘Your Ex-Lover is Dead’ from Stars is a favourite… “And all of the time you thought I was sad / I was trying to remember your name” …*mic drop*).

Anyway. I’ve been listening to this playlist a lot recently. It got me thinking about what the saddest song ever written could be.

My gloomy playlist certainly had a lot of promising candidates. Who would win the Saddest Song award? Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ (“I wish I had a river I could skate away on” always gets to me)? Would it be Abba’s heart-rending entry, ‘The Winner Takes It All’? Adele’s painful, plaintive request in ‘All I Ask’? How about Alanis Morissette’s ‘So Unsexy’ (to anxious people like me, this song always struck far too close to heart)? (As you can see, I got stuck on letter A.)

Then my random playlist shuffle landed on ‘A Letter To Elise’ from The Cure.

Don’t get put off by Robert Smith’s goth look and crazy hair. Have a listen with your eyes closed.

From me and you, there are worlds to part
With aching looks and breaking hearts
And all the prayers your hands can make
Oh, I just take as much as you can throw
And then throw it all away
Oh I’ll throw it all away
Like throwing faces at the sky
Like throwing arms round yesterday
I stood and stared
Wide-eyed in front of you
And the face I saw looked back the way I wanted to
But I just can’t hold my tears away the way you do
Elise, believe I never wanted this
I thought this time I’d keep all of my promises
I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about
But I let the dream go
And the promises broke, the make-believe ran out

The quiet, aching resignation in those lines. Hay.

Here’s a soothing, gentle cover version from Goh Nakamura.

How about you? What’s your go-to sad song?

Think critically dear readers,

Featured image by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

Yesterday Once More

I’m a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to my favourite music.

My philosophy on music – as with life, in general – is that it’s worth trying anything at least once.

A quick look at my Spotify playlists shows it runs the gamut from The Beatles to the Backstreet Boys, Diana Ross to Death Cab for Cutie, Nancy Sinatra to The National, Wilson Phillips to Weezer, Pare Ko to Part of Your World. I love them all.

(Side rant: one of my pet peeves is people who dismiss whole genres or artists just because it’s “mainstream” or “pop” or from Nickelback or whatever. What does that even mean, anyway?

Music is a deeply personal experience. Just because a person’s musical taste doesn’t conform to our particular idea of what’s “cool” is no reason to dismiss her/him or the music altogether. We’ve all stopped being anxious high schoolers long ago – by now, if you’re still judging people by whether they’re a Belieber or not then you’re the a-hole. Everyone is unique. If we all listened to the same songs the world would be a much more boring place. Ok, rant over.)

*

I recently came across an old NY Times article written by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz called “The Songs That Bind.” By crunching Spotify data on how frequently every song is listened to by men and women of each particular age, Seth came to a fascinating conclusion: the majority of us, when we are grown men and women, predictably stick with the music that captured us in the earliest phase of our adolescence.

That’s right – the songs we were listening to as our voices cracked and our hair grew in strange places are most likely still going to be our favourites when we’re in our 30s or 50s. More specifically, these are the songs we liked at the ages of 11 to 14 (for women) and the ages of 13 to 16 (for men).

In my case, this seems to be true. I have a soft spot for a lot of ‘90s era pop and alternative music. I can still belt out, word for word, the lines to nearly all the songs from the Disney Renaissance movies. The lyrics from the tracks on the early Now That’s What I Call Music! albums are forever etched on my subconscious, it seems.

Interestingly, I also realised I still listen to a lot of the songs I was exposed to at that age – not necessarily from the ‘90s. I’m talking about the music my parents listened to. They controlled the car radio and what played on our home stereo on lazy weekends – which meant a diet of Billy Joel, The Jackson 5, Jose Mari Chan, and ABBA. The Manhattan Transfer, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins, and Air Supply were staples. The Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack was a family favourite (“Give me a kiss to build a dream on and my imagination will thrive upon that kiss…”).

The sound of nostalgia, for me

One of my continuing favourites from my parents’ playlist is the Carpenters.

They had a song for almost every occasion. Slow start to the week? Rainy Days and Mondays. Your boy ghosted you? Please Mr. Postman. Imminent alien invasion? Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.

I remember dedicating – privately, in my diary haha – the Carpenters’ ‘Goodbye to Love’ to an unrequited crush (opo, ma-drama na po ako since nineteen kopong-kopong). Karen Carpenter’s smooth vocals and the sweet innocence in some of their ballads contrasted with the tragedy of her early death, and lent some of the songs a haunting quality.

Suffice it to say, I was already a bit of a Carpenters fan. I was pleasantly surprised then, to come across the 1994 tribute album If I Were a Carpenter on Spotify.

The Carpenters with Chibi eyes (Source)

I was already familiar with Sonic Youth’s emotionally charged version of ‘Superstar’ from the movie Juno (another awesome film soundtrack btw). I dug around and found it actually came from If I Were a Carpenter, a whole album of ‘90s alternative rock bands covering the Carpenters’ hits.

Apart from Superstar, my favourites include Dishwalla’s cover of ‘It’s Going to Take Some Time’ (it put me in a very ’90s mood), Shonen Knife’s ‘Top Of The World’ (had a joyful Ramones sound to it which I liked), and The Cranberries’ rendition of ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ (mainly because I like Dolores O’Riordan’s voice haha).

It’s especially tricky for tribute albums to get the formula right (*ehem* a certain Eraserheads tribute). They can’t just sing the song as is, otherwise it’s no different to a ho-hum karaoke version (at best) or a poor copy of the original (at worst). They can’t render it too unrecognisable either, because they’ll leave the original band’s fans disappointed.

I felt that If I Were a Carpenter hit all the right buttons – it was a fresh take on songs I loved, with the distinct vibe of the era I grew up in. What a trip down memory lane. The feeling is best captured in the Carpenters’ own words:

All my best memories come back clearly to me

Some can even make me cry, just like before

It’s yesterday once more

How about you, what’s your favourite music? Has it changed since you were younger? Let me know in the comments!

Think critically dear readers,

Featured image by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash