Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Wall

the wall

larger version here


An afternoon meeting in town brought me near Fort Canning Hill again - always a wonderful place to take photographs, especially at sunset. I went a bit crazy (as usual) - I haven't had the chance to use my cameras for a week now - and maxed out both cameras I was carrying. That'd be 250+ photos - mostly because I was taking shots for composites, which I'm still working on.

This set of photos is of the two walls enclosing the forward slope of the hill. The cemetary that used to be there was exhumed a long time ago, and the gravestones embedded in the walls.

gravestone 1

larger size here


Reading them is like reading the early history of Singapore as a colony. All the names are English, with large proportion of people connected with the Colonial administration - surveyors, engineers, administrators, soldiers and diplomats make up the majority of the gravestones. There are also quite a lot of children's gravestones, like the one above - indicative of the higher infant mortality rate.

gravestone 2

larger size here


I've always wondered about the stories behind each gravestone. The epitaphs offer tantalising hints of the lives they commemorate, but never the whole story. Take Harry Lambert Brabazon, for example. Was he really the East India Company's master attendant on St Helena? Or was it his father, Captain William Brabazon? The wording is unclear. And either way, if father and son were on St Helena, they surely would have have met Napoleon, exiled there? (if you go to this site, a Brabazon is mentioned as harbourmaster at St Helena in the entry for April 12th, 1821, which puts the Brabazons in the right time and place to have met the Big N)

It's funny, but when I took these photographs, I knew I'd post them under the title "The Wall". It only just occured to me why those words crept into my mind: it's Teachers' Day - all in all, just another brick in the wall (insidious thing, this Pink Floyd). The one thing these early colonists have though, which many Singaporeans won't, is that their gravestones will at least be preserved. Most of Singapore's current cemetaries will be exhumed in due course, and there won't even be a wall like this for the people buried there.

tags:
,,,,,

'B' is for ...

spray-painted 'B'
link to the photo

Another photo dredged up from the archives. I remember this one because we had just moved into our new home, and just got our first digital camera. Walking around the housing estate, almost everything was still under construction, and someone had spraypainted in bright red on some green metal boarding. The contrast between the pale-green and blood-red, as well as the organic looking spatter of the spray paint, made for an interesting photograph.

tag:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Singlish Star Wars parody

In the spirit of the much postponed screening of the Star Wars hexilogy that Tym has been trying to organise, here's a link to a local parody of Episode IV:ANH.

Hard to appreciate unless you know the finer points of Singlish, but hilarious if you do.

tags:

dead ants

fallen angel 1

I've always been better at collecting than sorting. My collection of digital photos is as messy as everything I own, and I've recently started digging through them to re-discover good shots I've taken in the past. (also, since I paid for a pro membership on flickr, I've been staring at this 2 GB monthly upload limit wondering how I'm going to even make a dent in it ...yes, yes, I know don't have to upload all 2 GBs, but it just feels so wrong to waste all that capacity ...)

fallen angel 2

These are some of my oldest digital photos, from 2002. One morning, the beach at Mayang Sari was littered with the corpses of these flying ants. The came out after the previous nights rain for their mating flight, and in the morning, they covered the beach, bodies plastered against the wet sands, and in their death struggles, some of them had scooped out little curved hollows in the sand ... the shallow depressions marked the limit of each insects arms and antennae, and were both beautiful and eerie. Looking at each ant, you could see their desperation marked out in the sand by these inadvertant sand sculptures.

tag:

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Mommy's little girl

Iffy looks up
Of our 3 cats, Iffy is the most adoring and needy. Patch has become increasingly hermit-like and reticent; Twinkle is the hooligan little tyke, always getting into trouble; but Iffy is Mommy's Little Girl. She's also the smallest of the 3 cats - older than Twinkle, yet only about the size of Twinkle as a kitten.

It's funny how the cats personalities have changed: as we've added cats to the household at approximately one-year intervals, there's an accompanying shift of roles and personae. Patch was a warm, loving and trusting cat when we brought her in, the undisputed Queen of the house. After she was spayed, she became increasingly contemplative and quiet, spending more time staring out the window. When Iffy was introduced into the equation, Patch's role solidified as the quiet, responsible older sister, and Iffy the demanding little sister. When Twinkle came in, she usurped the Brat position, shifting Iffy into the needy and dependent role, and Patch more so into the position of the reclusive hermit. We love them all anyway, of course.

Overheard in a taxi

Sharing a taxi home with a co-worker, my attention was caught by the following exchange from the cab driver's walkie-talkie:

Unknown Station #1: ... German Bank, GERMAN bank, Jer-mu-nee, not DUTCH!
Unknown Station #2: ... Deutsche Bank ...
Unknown Station #1: ... (pause) ...
Unknown Station #1: (renewed insistency) German Bank. GERMAN bank ...
Unknown Station #3: (harassed sounding female voice, most likely operator) ok, ok, thank you very much, please keep quiet.

It all started up again a few seconds later anyway, despite #3's valiant efforts to keep the channel clear for real business.

Speaking of which, our taxi-driver was a ranter. He kept deceptively quiet for the first half of the journey, but once he found an excuse to start a conversation (his opening was spotting a traffic policeman by the side of the road, which allowed him to start on that perenniel rant about traffic police that cab drivers have), he would not shut up for rest of the journey. This, despite the fact that neither of us once replied to him in any way, or gave him encouragement to go on. But he could really go on. It was more of a monologue rant, with a captive audience, than a conversation.

After 5 minutes of this, I plugged into the iPod and tried to drown out the sound of his voice. Even so, his voice kept worming through on the quieter parts of the songs - it was surreal, like - 99 red balloons I WAS THERE LAST WEEK AND I floating in the summer sky 200KM! TWO-HUNDRED KAY-EM!! everyone's a DON'T GIVE WAY ONE! DON'T GIVE WAY!! etc. My co-worker, far more polite man than I, sat there and took the brunt of it.

tags:

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Overheard in New York

Overheard in New York, is a collection of overhead snippets of conversation. There are some real gems in there, like the following:

Guy: Original flavored yogurt tastes terrible.
Girl #1: You should have seen
the faces he was making.
Girl #2: Why? Does it taste like semen?
Guy: I wouldn't know, would you?
Girl #2: I don't know; I've never tasted plain yogurt before!
--Chelsea Market, 9th Avenue

tag:

Monday, August 22, 2005

Klingon Fairy Tales

I consider myself a bit of a lapsed Trekkie. I started with re-runs of the original series in the eighties, moved on to intermittent viewing of TNG (studying in one country and spending summer in another, I couldn't keep the continuity of seasons up. plus I was supposed to be studying), and completely missed DS9 (that's right: I have not watched a single episode). When K and I got married, they started showing Voyager on cable, and in the first 2 years of our marriage, we watched the all 7 seasons 2.5 times as they looped it. We've just started on Enterprise, which we now learn has been cancelled after 5 seasons.

Anyway, I was quite a big Klingon fan in the old days (I have a copy of Marc Orkand's The Klingon Dictionary and Klingon for the Galactic Traveller, and managed to get as far as "Launch Torpedoes!" before I lost interest - but this was before the internet, and the vast support group of Klingon speakers that have sprung up - perhaps I should try taking up Klingon again ...) so this post from McSweeney's Internet Tendency called Klingon Fairy Tales was quite amusing for me. For example:


"Goldilocks Dies With Honor at the Hands of the Three Bears"

"Snow White and the Six Dwarves She Killed With Her Bare Hands and the Seventh Dwarf She Let Get Away as a Warning to Others"

More, of course, can be found here.


tags:

Moody Dreams

Weather affects mood. No direct research at hand to prove this, but plenty of empirical evidence, and my theory for the weird limbo that was Sunday.

Most of Sunday was spent under a seamlessly grey clouded sky, invarying in brightness and hue, so at any waking point in a day that I spent mostly in bed I could not look out the window and figure out what time it was. I would drift out of sleep, stare blearily at the sky (which is the only part of the outside world visible from a vantage point sunk 2 inches into a cosy bed), and not know if it was morning or afternoon, early or late. And drift right back to sleep. (One valiant attempt was made to get out of the house, but a combination of rain and the inexplicable disappearance of every taxi forced me back indoors)

Days like this make time seem malleable, and bring the past closer to mind - after a while, it feels like the same cloudly day you've been living for a long time. Which probably explains the dream.

In this dream, I was talking to my old tutor from school, Mr Thomas Katzenbach. The dream seemed to have been set sometime after my time in the army (however, see later comment) and before my time teaching, because at the end of it all, he dropped me off at my old home. We were having a little reunion and catching up, and everything was normal and fine - except that towards the end I realised he was driving an army 3-tonner truck. With his daughter. (as far as I know he has a son, born when he was teaching here, but I don't recall him having a daughter) He was teaching her how to drive the 3-tonner. With me in it, looking at this 8 year old girl driving a 3-ton truck.

And that was it. The only other thing of note in this whole dream was me mentioning to him that Miriam, another of his students, was currently in Perth with her grandmother. This last bit stretches the timeline of the dream a bit, since this didn't happen until a bit after, but then again, it is a dream. Oh yes, the truck was left-hand drive (steering wheel on the left, driving on the right side of the road), which is definitely odd for a right hand drive country.

Not the weirdest of all dreams I've ever had, but certainly one that catapulted me back to a completely different timeframe. It made me get out of bed and discover that googling "Thomas Katzenbach" returns too broad a series of hits to effectively search, for example (he left Singapore some time ago, and I've lost track of where he went: it's been more than 10 years)

After a series of weekends spent geocaching, K and I seem to have run out of steam. Other than sleep and have weird dreams, I spent the weekend catching up on watching Rahxephon, which seems more and more to be Neon Genesis Evangelion re-packaged - inscrutable alien invaders, massive destruction, something odd happening to Tokyo, all overlaid with religious mummery to give a gloss of "depth" to a Giant Fighting Robot anime (alright, I overstate the case a bit, given that NGE has a some genuinely sensible bits).

tags:

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Buscasting

I've been listening to this podcast from Birmingham (summary: two people take a bus, and talk. yes, that's it, and its really quite compelling) and the latest episode has a really weird moment (at 8m49s) when the BBC film crew with them tells them to pretend to be recording their podcast, which in fact (as they explain) they actually are/have been all this while ... whereupon they're told to continue doing it, but as if the film crew wasn't there. Which is hilarious, because once you've heard the podcast, you can imagine watching the BBC's version of it, knowing that it wasn't quite as real as its made out to be.

TV has the odd ability to make everything fake - even when its real. We'd rather watch the artificial version than the real version (which is what reality TV is - quite unreal), and rather than stick our heads out the window, as it were, and experience the real we'd rather have it mediated, processed, and broadcast to us. Which is what I do every morning when I plug into the iPod and ignore the taxi driver. It's a good thing really - after all sticking your head out the window runs the attendant risk of having something very real drop on your head, whereas watching reality TV is perfectly safe and not to mention infinitely more sanitary. And not talking to taxi drivers can only do good things for my blood pressure anyway.

tags:

Monday, August 15, 2005

Holy Graffiti

holy graffiti

More graffiti spotted on our geocaching treks. This one was on a lonely tree by the edge of the water. I wonder what was going through the mind of the person who wrote this. It sounds like a declaration, not perhaps of indepedence, but of dependence. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but there seems to be a note of desparation here - it's the exclamation mark that makes me wonder ...

Bamboo graffiti

I also wonder about the state of mind of these people, who carved their names into a bamboo tree. Making your mark on the world is one thing, but carving up a tree seems rather a harsh way to do it. These were all over a bamboo grove: the photo above is spliced from three photos.

tag:

Saturday, August 13, 2005

numbers

3879

One thing that came out of the little expedition last weekend was a series of shots of numbers. It all started with this enigmatic photo here, from a tree on Pearl Hill. What did it mean? Was it simply graffiti, or did the numbers have some significance, and for who? Once I started thinking about this, I kept seeing numbers everywhere.

61-2

In a park in the financial district, someone had stapled "61-2" to this tree. In fact, every tree in this park had a little label like this. The same puzzling questions. It was almost like eavesdropping on secret writing - or realising you've been kept in the dark, illiterate to a series of messages going on around you.

888

At the bottom of Pearl Hill, I walked by a truck, looked up, and realised that it had the number "888" on it - good luck for sure, but slightly out of place gracing a truck full of sand. Making it rich ("fa" - and "888" is "fa fa fa", an insistent call for riches) seemed incongruous with hauling sand around the island. The words sound less hopeful and more desparate in this context.

FH15462M

On Amoy Street, I saw this plaque embedded in the wall - but it was the dirty handprint that caught my attention. The two seemed to fit together quite well, the one orderly and clean in its red and white colours, the other messy and smeared.

FH2239M

The same thing for this one here, standing in a scene of construction, red in the midst of concrete and steel greys.

tags:

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Strays

stray catI came across this stray cat on the way home yesterday. I was amazed by her trusting-ness (not a good survival trait in a stray, which is why it's all the more amazing) - she walked right up to me, flopped over onto her belly, and made it quite clear that a belly-rub was in order.




She was a most obliging model for the next 5 minutes, rolling around and squinting at the camera. I should've had a studio and lights for this one ...

lolling and rolling

After a while, she got up and walked away, without a single backward glance - like all cats. = )

There've been several generations of strays living downstairs of us. The first one we called Radar. She was a character: walked right into the ground floor flat one day, gave birth to two kittens, and walked right out. The foster family took them in (not much choice) and gave them names, but I can only remember Snowball. They still prowl the area downstairs occasionally. There was the skittish cat who gave birth to two kittens in a concrete tub, and who hissed out of all proportion to her size in their defence. We later saw her with only one, so the other must've died. There've been uncounted nameless toms who've prowled through the neighbourhood at one point or another as well. You get used to these strays, and hope that they stay out of trouble, but you always worry what will happen to them.

One of the things that led K and I to take in Patch 3 years ago was an encounter with another stray. This one was a kitten at the coffeeshop, and she climbed right up into my lap and fell asleep there. We talked about taking her in, but couldn't make the committment yet. A few days later, one of the coffeeshop regulars told us the kitten had been run over on the road.

Sometime later, Patch turned up on our doorstep, her fur bald in patches (hence the name) from ringworm, and we took her in, and nursed her back to health. One year later, we saw Iffy by the side of the road, blind from the mucus that had glued her eyes shut, and we nursed her back to health as well. Twinkle's story has already been told earlier this year.

In retrospect, I'm glad we took these 3 cats in: they've more than paid their way by curling up on our laps and purring everytime we need comfort.

(well, most times. cats are, after all, their own creatures)

walking away

"Love is Bastard"

sad graffiti
One of the things about geocaching is the things you see. Besides taking you to places you'd not normally go, it makes you look for, and at, things you'd normally not look at. This enigmatic, and rather sad piece of graffiti was spotted the other day near a cache. There's a story here, but it's confused - one senses that there's more than one writer at work, that someone is deeply in love (or thinks they're deeply in love), and someone else is deeply unhappy about that. There are layers of story - starting from the middle, someone else has added the comments above and below, over-writing (underwriting?) adding and commenting on the previous author's work.

The bitterness in the last line is what caught my attention.


tag:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kite Flying 2

kite flying 2

Here's another photo of kite flying at Upper Peirce Reservoir, from last Sunday's excursion. I like the time-lapse effect: on the left, you can see the boy run down the slope, going after the kite that's grounded, and on the right you can see the pedestrians walking along the path. (click on the image for a larger picture)

Upper Peirce Reservoir is actually a dam (you can see the higher level of water on the right) and standing on the road there, you get the strange feeling of looking one way and thinking you're on the shore of a lake, and looking the other and thinking you're on top of a hill.

One of the problems I faced with this photo was that when it came time to put the montage together I had too many photos on the left and not enough on the right. I had followed the action when I was taking the photos which, on the left hand side, meant I had shots down the hill and of the kites above. On the right hand side, I had only a few shots down the road. In the end, I had to cheat a little by spreading the shots out on the right - you can see that the horizon line is not level. The same has happened to a lesser degree on the left: in order to keep the boy in view, the shore of the lower reservoir has been compressed slightly.

Ultimately, when I put these composite shots together, the aim is not to create a seamless large photo (like stitching a panorama together) but to try and show more than what's possible in a single static shot. In this photo, it's the sense of movement in the boy and the passersby. I haven't tried to go completely cubist yet, and show a subject from multiple angles (the montages are still shot from a fixed position), but it might be interesting to try that one day - to photograph a subject like a cubist painting, from multiple angles, and assembling them into a single image.


and the answer is ...

... a Marabou Stork. (see previous post for the bird in question)

Leptoptilos crumeniferus to be precise. Thanks Anonymous for the tip-off! Yes ampulets, I did think he looked like some mad professor- it's the ruff, I tell you. Positively Dickensian. And to be honest fortycalibernap, when I saw him from a distance, I thought of a secretary bird as well, especially with the long-legged stalking. Evelyn: as per request, detailed information on the Marabou Stork follows in the post. = )

My latin is non-existent, but crumeniferus is such an apt word to describe this fellow - such a rich word to roll around the tongue (try it: "crumeniferus". yummy). A quick search on the net turns up crumen for "purse", and either ferus for "fierce", or inferus for "southern" or "below". I'll stick with "crummy fierce" as a way of remembering this bird.

To quote the Smithsonian National Zoological Park site:
"To the casual observer the massive Marabou Stork with its balding, scabby head and pendulous pink air sac may appear to be one of the ugliest creatures in the world. If this same observer were to notice the Marabou's fondness for carrion and its habit of squirting excrement onto its own legs he or she would probably consider the original opinion to be justified. It takes a real bird lover to see past all of this stork's bizarre adornments to recognize the scruffy charm underneath." Yes ... well ... right. Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting fame) has a book called Marabou Stork Nightmares, which tells you something already.

Here's a few more links to information about the bird in question. In case you're wondering where we saw him, it was here. It's quite a lovely place, and perhaps I am a bit harsh on the poor bird, who's probably a tenant, putting up in temporary accomodations until he moves on to something better.

tags:

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

geocaches and bad tempered birds

bad tempered bird

K and I went geocaching again today, and came across this bird near the second cache we tried.

If anyone reading this knows, could you leave a comment and tell us what species it is? The sign on its enclosure didn't tell us what type of bird it was, except for a sternly worded warning that it was agressive, would bite, and should not be fed. I have to agree: this was the most bad-tempered bird I have ever come across. When he saw us walking into the field, he went straight into a wings up, hunched position, and came charging across to the fence. As long as we lingered near, he'd be prowling the perimeter, occasionally dragging his beak across the fence to make rattling noises as he walked (and suddenly every movie with a prison scene, and prisoners rattling cups across the bars, comes to mind). He even picked up a few twigs in his beak and snapped them to drive home the point that he was really, really mean. The photo isn't the best, but that's simply because he did such a good job of intimidating me that I flinched everytime he came near.

We found the cache that was hidden nearby, and I must say that I'm really grateful for caches like this: this one was within 3 km of where we live, and I would never have realised there was an animal sanctuary so close! The place feels distinctly rural (it's an ex-farm), and there are ducks, swans, what looked like a turkey, rabbits, a horse (very sad looking creature: took a photo and him, and he looked so depressing I couldn't bear to upload it), the abovementioned bad-tempered bird, and a few dogs. Needless to say, besides feeling quaint and country, it smelled beyond two shades of unbelievable.

Anyway, if anyone has any idea what the bird is (and let me summarise: about 1 metre tall when not hunched over and charging, black and white plumage, feathered ruff around neck, bald head except for straggly bits of hair, large beak, bad temper, cold, calculating eyes) do leave a note.

tag:

National Day Photos

Just photos today, with a few comments on the process of taking/making them.

flag waving

A sea of flag waving at the National Day observance ceremony yesterday. Trying to get this photo was a frustrating process: I wasn't tall enough to get the shot I wanted ("eye"-level with the flags, to get a sense of depth through them) and wound up having to take the shots "blind", holding the D70 over my head and aiming as best I could. Not a satisfactory method at all - as with all things that require aiming, like rifles and cameras, shooting blind is woefully inaccurate. I've argued before that with digital cameras, photographers can shoot huge numbers of "draft" shots and pick the one or two that happened to coincide with something interesting, but yesterday this process felt inefficient. A shot that should have taken 5 or 6 tries wound up taking 20 or more. All because I couldn't aim. As my friend put it, this is when you think about carrying a stepladder with you ...

flags

This was a snapshot. I kicked myself after because I realised the camera had been set on smallest picture size: one of the hazards with complex tools (I consider a camera a tool) is the number of options that have to be remembered. Increased choice, in this case the number of options and features built into the camera, mean an increase in the complexity of decision making, and a concomitant slowing down of decisions, or increase in errors, all of which are undesirable when trying to catch a fleeting moment. It's not only digital cameras that have this problem (one of my first hurdles with rangefinder cameras was remembering to take the lens cap off, since it wasn't apparent looking through the rangefinder: after getting that drilled into me, the next one was remembering to put the lens cap back on, especially on the more expensive lenses! then there's remembering where you put the lens cap in the first place ...) but one of the first things I had to do with the Nikon was to "fix" some variables so I could focus on the ones that counted - focus, aperture and composition. Recently, I've tended to leave the lens on f1.8, removing even aperture from the equation, leaving just focus and composition to worry about. It works for the kind of photography I've been doing recently.

The clothes on the surrounding people were already muted in colour compared to the flags, and I emphasised this slightly in photoshop to draw attention to the middle of the image (compare the colour of the flag in the woman's hand to the ones in the middle), which is the point of this photograph.

running from the rain

The weather held good (the ceremony is held in the open) and the rain only came down afterwards (when, as my friend observed, it would most inconvenience us as we queued at the buffet tea!). Looking across to the neighbouring office block, I saw these gardeners in the rain. Two of them continued working as if nothing was the matter; one of them made a dash of it through the rain. This would probably be a more "composed" image if I had gone to the trouble of removing the cables running across the middle, but (a) it would've been too much trouble and (b) I try to keep the post-processing of the image to a minimum, usually just levels/curves and contrast, and occasionally (as in the previous image) colour channels. (b) is partly motivated by a sense of photographic integrity, but is mostly motivated by (a).

tags:

Monday, August 08, 2005

Kite Flying

kite flying
(this image is best viewed large)

Yesterday was just one of those days where the gods of photography smile on you and dump a windfall of shots into your lap.

This photograph came at the end of a long day of failed geocaching, when I was all ready to pack it in and go home, but K suggested we go to Upper Peirce Reservoir, (in retrospect, another excellent idea from her ... I should listen to my wife more) which was where I took this set of photos of kite-flying. It's best viewed large so that you can scroll through and follow each kite down until it reaches the girl at the end, who seems to be pulling with all her might at the 10 little kites attached to the string.

The full story behind the photo starts after a late breakfast at the coffeeshop. K and I decided to do some geocaching, which we've been very remiss at: I had released the travel bug Jesse earlier this year in Canada (explained at the end of this post) and he's made it as far as California now (which isn't all that much closer to Vienna, but he's getting there slowly) but Celine (the other travel bug of this pair) has been on my keychain for the past 5 months while we've procrastinated. We finally dropped her off at the Cherry's Spiridon cache yesterday afternoon, so now that both of them are "in the wild", here's hoping that they'll reunite, somehow.

That was followed by an exhausting hour spent looking for this cache, which we couldn't find (extremely frustrating). We found the correct vicinity despite extremely poor GPS reception (and a diversion to take photographs on Amoy Street: more of that in a later post), but couldn't find the right tree.

We decided to abandon the next one we went for when the GPS indicated it was on the grounds of the Khalsa Association: neither of us look very Sikh, so that was that. (in retrospect, perhaps we should've stopped the car and tried ... who knows ... never mind: next time).

Tomorrow is NDay, and we're planning to return to Upper Peirce, this time with kites of our own, and a picnic. K's sister may be coming along too, with her two little kids, and the dog, making it truly a caravan of fun (don't ask how we're gonna fit all into the car: we haven't worked that one out yet). We've talked about bringing our cats for an "excursion" to the great outdoors, but the truth is neither K nor I would risk our cats outside the house, and especially after the stunt Iffy just pulled.

tags:

Sunday, August 07, 2005

one singapore minute

prata breakfast

Here's my contribution to the onesingaporeminute meme started by mr brown. A composite photo of my prata breakfast at this coffeeshop this morning (with guest appearance by my wife's hand on the right), all taken within one minute, of course. A good old prata breakfast on Sunday morning is about as Singaporean as it gets =)

Photos by other people tagged with this can be seen here.

technorati tag:

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Random Conversations with a Watchmaker

One of the more interesting conversations I've had recently was with a watchmaker from , who are currently displaying at the Raffles City atrium.

I was passing by on my way from Comics Mart (more about that another time, in another blog), and saw the watchmaker, sitting below a gigantic screen that showed him delicately putting together some part of the watch (I later found out it was the balance wheel, and he was putting screws into it) so I stopped by to talk to him.

One of the first questions I asked him was whether watchmaking ran in his family. It seems so much of a craft (rather than a profession) that I assumed that one had to be born into a watchmaking family to be one. As it turns out, his path to watchmaking was quite convoluted, taking along the way a 3 year apprenticeship as a car mechanic, a stint in Brussels working for the EU, a course of study in management, a 3 year apprenticeship as a watchmaker, and the last 6 years working for this particular company. That's a path in life that many of our students here wouldn't dream of taking, roundabout as it seems, but it's led to a man who can repair watches as well as his vintage cars (of which he has 3, and an Audi that he actually drives) and who seems pretty well settled in his career.

I couldn't help but admire a man who seemed to have found for himself (albeit after some searching) a place in life, a place that allowed him to make things. There's something satisfying about making things (as opposed to writing reports, for example), which explains why I make miniature models. The most satisfaction I get is from the ones I , rather than those built "from the box": even for those, the urge is to tinker and improve - to file away the bumps on the turret side of the and add real handholds from brass wire, for example (which I've never got around to doing), or to replicate the anti-magnetic coating on late-war German tanks (which I have). I suppose I'll never have the patience of a watchmaker, but I can certainly admire the skill of a craftsman, and hope to emulate the qualities of craftmanship, rather than work, in my own way.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Lunchtime perambulations

Needing to stretch my legs, I decided to visit the at lunch, reasoning that since it had only just stopped raining, the Gardens would be fairly deserted. Not quite - there were quite a few people braving the intermittent drizzle and (now that the sun had emerged) the muggy combination of noonday sun and post-rain high humidity.

after the rain

There was at least one Japanese tour group, with a tour guide animatedly explaining something that required him to stick his umbrella between his legs in a gesture best left to the imagination. One wonders what the heck he was explaining, and what relation it had to the Botanic Gardens of all places.

There was a Buddhist monk (Tibetan Buddhist, judging by the maroon robes) walking past engaged in conversation with some people, the only snippets of which I overheard were "high monkeys" (from the non-monks) and "huh? huh?" from the monk. I wonder what they were discussing so intensely - perhaps "Darwinism vs Creationism, and Does Buddhism Get Involved in This Messy Debate"?

There were these ducks, who appeared to have come on shore to dry themselves after the rain. One would've thought a little rain would be ... well, like water off a duck's back, really, but still ...

ducks at the botanic gardens

There was a grasshopper, happily chewing his way through a heliconia leaf. There was the tree, still standing after all these years, with the obliging low branch that every child who's visited the Botanic Gardens has sat on at least once.

grasshopper and heliconia

There were various sculptures in the midst of re-landscaping, such as this one of a girl on swing, temporarily trapped behind fencing:

landscaping in progress

and at least one that I'd not seen before, of a lady in a hammock (it's been a long time since I've been to the Gardens)

lady on a hammock

Not a bad way to spend lunch, especially since I wasn't quite hungry anyway.

raindrops