Pine Crane Prolong Year

I purchased this fine piece of analog pixel art (cross-stitch embroidery) from a Carousell seller named Jess and had it framed by the craftsmen at Barakkath Frame Maker in Chinatown. I’m delighted with it!

The Chinese characters are:

松鹤延年
sōng hè yán nián
pine crane prolong year

Pines and cranes are symbols of longevity. The flowers are a kind of peony (tree peonies, moutans, or mudan). They are medicinal as well as ornamental.

See close-up below.

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Buying Books in Singapore 2021

Too much anxiety-inducing news and screentime these last few months, am I right? Grab a chunk of dead tree and travel in your mind to another world, learn a new skill, or come to understand some interesting idea. Your year needs more books. This post will tell you how or where to get them.

See below for lists of:

  • Book Shops at Bras Basah Complex
  • Other Indie Book Shops in Singapore
  • Local Sources for Children’s Books
  • Local Retail Book Chains
  • Local Publishers
  • Local University Book Shops
  • Local Online Booksellers
  • International Online Booksellers
  • Special Book Sales
  • Person-to-Person Websites

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Singapore Siu Dai 1 and 2 by Felix Cheong, illustrated by PMan

Both servings of Singapore Siu Dai offer comics and brief comedy sketches that exaggerate the ironies of life on the island and lovingly poke fun at aptly named fictional characters meant to caricature the island’s people.

Though I can’t help but feel that the target audience consists of people who are familiar with acronyms like MOE (Ministry of Education) and the ubiquitous Singlish speech particle ‘lah’, there’s a glossary that explains these and other potentially opaque terms, noting whether they are Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin or Singlish.

Luckily for foreign readers, one of the entries explains the phrase ‘siu dai’, which means ‘less sugar’, the idea being that these sketches depict Singapore, warts and all.

There’s a third Siu Dai book that I haven’t yet managed to snag.

When I Read Singapore Siu Dai 1 and 2

Singapore Siu Dai 1
Date started / date finished: 17-Nov-20 to 17-Nov-20
Length: 129 pages
ISBN: 9789810788582
Originally published in: 2014

Singapore Siu Dai 2
Date started / date finished: 19-Nov-20 to 23-Nov-20
Length: 139 pages
ISBN: 9789810925499
Originally published in: 2014

The Complete Eh, Goondu! by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo

This is the grandaddy of all the other books on Singlish. This paperback, containing reprints of two originally separate volumes from 1982 and 1986, contains a wealth of acronyms, onomatopoeias, words, phrases, and chants in or derived from English, Malay, and the locally spoken Chinese dialects Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.

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When and Why I Read The Complete Eh, Goondu!

This is a list of Singlish words and phrases with explanations, grouped into chapters.

Genre: Reference (English, Singapore)
Date started / date finished: 26-Oct-20 to 19-Nov-20
Length: 221 pages
ISBN: 9789814328456
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: The Complete Eh, Goondu!

Singapore MRT station names as famous brand logos

Singaporean graphic designer Hang Kwong Lim struck internet gold when he transformed the names of all Singapore’s MRT stations into logos resembling those of famous local and international brands.

My first thought was “Hm, that’s interesting…” and my next thought was “Oh, I recognize some of these,” and my doom was “I think I’ll share this with my boyfriend.” The two of us proceeded to spend over three hours together on Skype puzzling them out.

Some answers were really obvious, some were less obvious, some came in a flash of uncanny insight accompanied by a feeling that was equal parts pride and utter mystification in the face of the veiled mysteries of the workings of the human mind. A few of them, I admit, we got by the simple expedient of using Google’s “search by image” feature. I only looked at answers in Facebook comments for the last two, because TBH I didn’t realize the answers were there.

Keep reading for a complete list of answers and my thoughts on this delightful excursion into the world of branding. Visit the Mothership post first if you want to work out the answers on your own!

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I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Carousell is a fantastic classified ad platform. It embodies one of my favorite proverbs, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

However, to find the treasure, you have to hunt. There are clues, but sometimes the clues are misleading.

In particular, I’ve noticed that people use words for different kinds of furniture in surprising ways.

There are people who use the word cabinet to describe a piece of furniture when it is clearly a shelf—and vice versa!

Deciding what to call something is hard. Especially if you’ve got more than one language rattling around in your brain.

See below for proof.

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Carouspell: A collection of spelling mistakes in Carousell classified ads

Oral language is a blur. We don’t notice, unless we try to sing karaoke and realize we have no idea what the words to our favorite songs actually are, or—worse—that we’ve been singing them wrong with utter conviction for decades.

Eggcorns (plausible malapropisms) are words or phrases that exist thanks to this kind of ambiguity. Wrong song lyrics, in case you’re curious, are called mondegreens.

On classified ad sites like Carousell, language assumptions that pass unnoticed in speech are made visible. You can learn a lot about the local dialect by cataloging the unintentionally hilarious mistakes that local native English speakers make.

See below for examples.

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Carousell, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

All my life I’ve been a fan of buying second-hand stuff at thrift stores, fall festival charity fundraisers, yard sales, garage sales, and online.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many thrift stores in Singapore, and the few I’ve seen don’t have the variety, quality, or ludicrously attractive prices that their American counterparts do. There is no fall festival because there’s no fall. Practically nobody has a yard or a garage. But we do have the internet.

And what is the internet but a huge marketplace? A marketplace of ideas, yes, but also lots and lots of stuff. I love stuff. And Carousell is a great place to get it. See below for why.

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Inala: A Zulu Ballet (Singapore 2019)

I found this performance to be a bit mystifying. It featured the Soweto Gospel Choir and an international fusion dance group. The choir moved around and danced during the performance. Overall, I would say there was a lot of energy and movement and skill, but I felt the lack of a discernible story to tie it all together.

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