When giving in to pressure ruins innocent lives

Pressure from family and society. Coupled with one’s own shame.

I was thinking of this subject, gay men who not only deceive themselves, but innocent women into marrying them to uphold an image, after I watched this heartbreakingly sweet video by Doug Locke for his song This Could Be Us.

Of course, my interpretation of the video is only mine.

The song is great too.

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Doug’s video reminded me of another one with a related theme, for a Malay-language song called Bukan Wanita Sempurna (Not a Perfect Woman) by the massively talented Malaysian singer Ning Baizura. It was released in January this year.

I first saw it a few months later but didn’t feel like noting it here even though I thought it was groundbreaking in terms of storyline, because the execution was pretty bad and cheesy. I just cringed at some parts of it. It’s too bad because I adore her. Ning’s voice and delivery is really something special, and as a performer she just stands out to her fans.

This video is an example why. For more than twenty years now as an artiste, she has always been known for her originality and uniqueness, so I’m not surprised that she’s the one who rises to the occasion to tackle this subject that is considered very sensitive for many in her audience including Malay-Muslims. Because it’s so radical is why I wish the end result was far better, to do the noble intention justice.

I do like the spoken words featured in the beginning, setting the tone for what’s in store.

(Love is a commitment

To always be honest

To be able to accept all flaws)

There is a very beautifully sensitive and compelling review of this video by Pang Khee Teik, an arts programme director who is also co-founder of Seksualiti Merdeka. It’s more than just a review, it’s a profound analysis which I would be so flattered by if I was the producer or director of the video. Click here to read.

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Please note: I think it’s heinous for a gay man to involve and hurt innocent people like wives and children just because he wants to hide his homosexuality, whether due to pressure from family and society or whatever else, especially if he goes on to have affairs with other men behind his wife’s back. And especially in today’s society where there is enough freedom where you don’t have to resort to such extremes.

Having said that, I wouldn’t condemn anyone. Everyone has his own personal story. For example, not all gay men discover they are gay in their teens or twenties, but later in life. So some of those who marry women may discover they are gay or bisexual only after they have done so.

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Related:

Depressing signs

I’m putting here pictures of three that I came across and snapped in the past few weeks.

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The first one below was taken at Ikea, and it just cracked me up when I saw it.

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Probably laughed way more than I should, but I was just so tickled by it. I was thinking, why the hell is such a sign necessary? Why would anyone think that a toilet bowl in a showroom is a functioning one, and why would anyone there want to use one in the open in the first place?

Then I thought, ahh okay, it’s for those crazy parents/grandparents of young kids who I’ve seen before letting the kids relieve themselves in public, like into a drain. And hey, these days, even in Singapore it’s not just the kids anymore, going by the stories in the links below.

So, yes, that sign (complete with acrylic sheet covering the whole toilet opening so nobody can insist on peeing or shitting into it! haha!) in Ikea is sensible, I guess. I shudder to think if such signs were originally brought on by any smelly messy incidents, whether in Singapore or in any of their hundreds of stores elsewhere in the world. Eeww. Poor cleaner.

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A blogger I follow, Laura of Texas on Thames, who is an expat in Singapore, featured a similar Crime Alert sign in a post just recently where she wrote about staying attentive in Singapore even though we have a low crime rate. I was just commenting on her post about how such signs seem to be appearing with more frequency, which is worrying.

So when I came across this yet another new one just last week or so, it’s such a bummer. I mean, these signs themselves are great because they serve such an important purpose, but at the same time when they start to seem more common to me, it does seem to point to an increase in crime, generally. And, ugh, ‘obscene act‘. What is that, like a flasher? How rude. My sympathies to the victim, and I hope the authorities apprehend the offender soon. I think usually I see the alert for ‘shoplifting‘ or ‘housebreaking‘ or something like that.

By the way, this Crime Alert sign was placed outside Botanic Gardens MRT Station, Exit A. (for if by any chance anyone reading this was at the time and place and saw something,)

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The third sign I snapped made me sad too. It was captured on a public bus.

“No assault on bus captain.”

(Perhaps for another post on another day, but by the way why are bus drivers in Singapore called bus captains? To give the occupation a fancy name? If so, why? And would that mean we look down on bus drivers, so much that we need to give them a fancier sounding name, to make the job look better? I just think that would be friggin’ ridiculous. Driving a bus is not just an honest and decent living, but honorable. The safety and lives of hundreds of passengers are in your hands every single day.)

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There must have been some ugly incidents for the bus company to deem such a sign necessary, and the thought is just depressing.

Just a couple of weeks after I saw the sign above and wondered about it, I read about how in Penang, Malaysia last week, a bus driver was stabbed by a female passenger, for not acceding to her request to stop by the roadside. Please be warned that the photo of the victim contained in the following linked article is graphic, showing blood: Rapid Penang bus driver stabbed by a passenger.

Damn. Imagine being attacked and injured so seriously, but as the driver you still need to think for everyone’s safety, so you have to struggle to stop the bus safely even as you’re struggling to fight off your assailant.

Looks like Malaysia should follow Singapore’s example and put up “No assault on bus driver” signs to remind passengers to control their temper if riled up by the drivers, if they haven’t put up such signs already. How bloody screwed up, that all these signs are necessary.

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Update 17 October 2014: Related: Unemployed man jailed for punching bus driver (Stomp.com.sg – 15 October 2014)

Of burning down houses or keeping lovers warm

I really like this spoken poetry thing, or spoken word, rather. Well at least the bunch of videos I’ve been watching earlier this evening, one after another. Maybe I came across the art form before, I don’t remember, but a post from Gaybros led me to the following video featuring this gentleman named G.Yamazawa.

He just blew me away. It’s almost painful to hear his words, yet I’ve watched it a few times now.

I’ve felt a phrase fall out of my mouth like an atom bomb without knowing the effects will radiate for years.

I wish I can say I’ve only been the recipient of such atom bombs. It’s always better to be hurt than to hurt. But I know that, just as I’ve been hurt, over the years I too have said some awful things to some people I wish I can take back but of course I can’t.

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Another one I really enjoyed, because I can relate to it as well, is the following featuring Kevin Yang.

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He’s ready for his close-up

A few days ago, I was browsing through Stomp, a Singapore ‘online journalism web portal‘, and came across a hilarious Thai ad for Watsons, a health and beauty retail chain with many stores in some Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

This is not the first creative ad from Thailand I’ve enjoyed. I think I have come across quite a few so far.

This one promotes their beauty products, and it just cracked me up. I like it a lot. It’s funny thanks to the cute, impish actor who was perfectly cast for his role.

 

Down With Love (2003)

This post is part of ‘The Essential 60s Blogathon‘ hosted by Nuwan of the blog I follow No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen, which I’m delighted to take part in. I love both movies in general and those set in that decade. The music too. Fashion, art, interior decor. Fascinating stuff.

First I had to decide on the movie, and I wasn’t sure which I had seen that qualified. I looked through several Wiki pages related to films set in the 60s. I spotted Little Shop of Horrors (1986) in one list. That’s one of my favourite musical films, which I had actually already written about a bit here. I finally decided on the romantic comedy Down With Love. Seeing the title put a smile on my face as I remembered how much fun it was.

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A fun, fluffy chick flick that had me tittering merrily because it’s such entertaining silly fun. Set in New York City in 1962, and starring Renée Zellweger as writer Barbara Novak and Ewan McGregor as journalist Catcher Block, this movie pays homage to Hollywood romantic comedies of the early 1960s, like the movies of Rock Hudson and Doris Day such as the much-loved Pillow Talk.

Barbara Novak arrives in New York City to promote her book ‘Down With Love’ at a publishing house, a self-help that persuades women that they don’t need men and that they should be as free as men are to enjoy sex without commitments. The male executives at the publishing house refuse to publish her work. Barbara’s editor Vicki Hiller (played by Sarah Paulson, more recently seen in the TV series American Horror Story) decides Barbara could ask Catcher Block, a journalist and notorious playboy, to help her promote the book. Catcher, however, is too busy with his conquests and keeps postponing their meeting, infuriating Barbara.

Barbara and Vicki manage to get the book published without his help (but with Judy Garland‘s! More on that later.), and it becomes a worldwide bestseller. Catcher is now intrigued by Barbara and wants to meet her, but now it is she who blows him off. When Barbara proceeds to embarrass him on television by naming him as an example of ‘the worst kind of man‘ while discussing a chapter from her book, Catcher vows revenge. He intends to prove that Barbara doesn’t really believe what she preaches in her book, by making her fall for him. Taking advantage of the fact that they have not met and she does not know what he looks like, Catcher poses as a simple and sweet gentleman to woo her.

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I absolutely love the 60s aesthetics, especially the interior design but also the entire look and feel of the style. The production sets of the apartments and offices are delightful, especially the nifty James Bond-esque elements of Catcher Block’s apartment so suited to his playboy character. The magnificent visual spectacle is one of the aspects of this movie that entertain me most.

Another main draw is the performances by all four actors; the two leads and two main supporting actors, the abovementioned Sarah Paulson as well as David Hyde Pierce, whose best-known work I think is as Dr. Niles Crane from the TV series Frasier which I really enjoyed. Here he plays a similar executive-type role, as Catcher Block’s boss and best friend Peter McMannus. It was fun watching these actors take on the script and comic acting style of romantic comedies from the 60s, in keeping with the spirit of the genre from the era.

Ewan McGregor is an absolute joy to watch here, as he usually is in any movie. An incredibly talented actor who has taken on so many varied roles, his Catcher Block is all cheeky smiles and charmingly wicked. It’s a more boyish portrayal of a ladies-man compared to the more manly quality of Rock Hudson’s roles, and a charismatic performance I enjoyed very much. He has great chemistry with Renée Zellweger too. At the end of this entertaining battle of the sexes, there is an unexpected twist, delivered in an impressively long speech in one take, in a sweetly ditzy way that I can’t imagine any actress other than Renée pulling off, all breathless and squinty eyes and all. Her adorable performance here is really under-rated.

As is the whole movie. Down With Love is not very well-known, I believe, and it did not perform very well at the box office when it was released in 2003, which to me is a great shame. It was something ‘new’ and interesting; an unconventional, smart and stylish offering in the romantic comedy genre. It still is.

Below is a video of Judy Garland singing a song called ‘Down With Love’ in 1964 for an episode of her The Judy Garland Show. A captivating performance that was cleverly scripted into the 2003 movie as a promotional event for Barbara Novak’s book which led to its global success.

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Related:

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The Essential 60s Blogathon_Easy rider

This Ramadan, I was taught kindness and forgiveness by a Catholic.

Ramadan is coming to a close. I was thinking of this holy month. Of what it means to me. If I had learnt anything more of myself from it this year. I even typed ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ online, hoping to read posts of what that means to other Muslims. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that without a doubt, the most impact an individual has personally had on me this Ramadan is Mr. Sim Siak Heong, who is a Malaysian Chinese and a Catholic. Through his actual actions. Not just words, or prayer, or advice but through actual deed.

67-year-old Mr. Sim was the victim of a terrible road bully incident earlier this month, where he had accidentally hit the new Peugeot car of 30-year-old Siti Fairrah in a car park in Kuantan, Malaysia. She not only got out the car and heaped abuse on him like some crazy thug, and demanded cash on the spot, but hit his car repeatedly with a steering lock.

Thankfully it was recorded on video. It was very painful for me to watch the video as I can’t help but feel really bad as a Malay and a Muslim. I also felt angry that a senior citizen was abused so badly. I actually had to pause the video several times and considered closing the page, but I forced myself to watch it till the end. I am glad for the existence of the video recording. I look at it as a valuable lesson and reminder of what can happen if I experience rage at someone but fail to control it and rein it in.

Each time I watch the video, I am reminded yet again of how lacking my character is compared to Mr. Sim’s. Because he forgave her, but as for me I don’t know if I could, if it had happened to me, or worse, a loved one especially an elder relative of Mr. Sim’s age. And amazingly, not only did he forgive her, he expressed sadness when she was subsequently charged and punished by the courts, saying that she did not deserve the punishment. I read in this article that he said:

“I feel sorry for her. She doesn’t deserve it at all.”

“I have forgiven her and I urge the public to do the same. There is no need to condemn her anymore.”

I hope the person who took the video pats him or herself on the back for doing such an important public service. It’s because of the video, which understandably outraged a lot of people, that the police pursued the case. Siti Fairrah was fined RM5,000 and ordered to do 240 hours of community work after she pleaded guilty to intentionally causing damage to Mr. Sim’s car.

Kudos to the Malaysian police as well for still going ahead and taking action against her despite the saintly Mr. Sim declining to lodge a report, even when the police advised him to do so. And to the general Malaysian public online regardless of race and religion who condemned the road rage incident. And yes, to Siti Fairrah as well, for admitting what she did was wrong and for apologising to Mr. Sim publicly.

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I’d like to put here an excerpt from a beautiful post I came across on a site called Islamway.net, as I was surfing around online finding and reading what ‘spirit of Ramadan‘ means to other people.

Ramadan is a celebration of God’s guidance to humanity, through the Quran, which is a guide for doing good and a warning against evil. In order to bring the soul into harmony with the Quranic ideals of belief and virtue, fasting is prescribed as a way for individuals to come closer to God and to lift their souls to new heights of piety. In doing so, the entire human body is able to transform itself into an agent of positive moral and social change that seeks to replace miserliness with generosity, anger with patience, revenge with love, and war with peace—in effect, replacing good with evil in the world.

Of course, kindness and forgiveness are for all times, not just Ramadan, but I feel that’s when we Muslims, as we fast, are more reminded to think and do more for the lesser off and to reflect on our character.

When I say ‘spirit of Ramadan‘, I am also referring to virtues like patience and calm that Mr. Sim had displayed when confronted with such an ugly face of road rage, and the provocation it challenged him with.

I think it’s such a beautiful thing when we are taught these virtues from people of other religious faiths or even people with no religious faith as well. It reminds us that there must be mutual respect. Because at the end of the day, life comes down to treating everyone else the same way we ourselves wish to be treated. That sounds so easy and logical, it sounds so easy to remember, yet strangely and unfortunately it’s apparently so easy for some of us to forget.

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I can’t seem to find a decent photo of Mr. Sim. This one is taken from a still of a video. From forum.lowyat.net, via Google Image. Click to go there.

The following video is the Astro Awani interview of Mr. Sim from where the image above was from. It’s in Malay.

http://youtu.be/ti_Ch8ITkyc

I just sighed in sadness when I watched it. Damn, what a terrible thing to have happened to such a kind soul.

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“I am a Catholic. In our religion, and in all religions, it teaches us to love the ones who wrong us.”

 - Sim Siak Heong

Thank you, Mr. Sim.

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Related:

Children’s books featuring gay families to be destroyed

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Update 19 July 2014 – Some good news. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has stopped the National Library from destroying two of the children’s titles, specifically ‘And Tango Makes Three’ and ‘The White Swan Express’, issuing the order that they be moved to the adult section instead, where parents can borrow them for their children. However, a third title, ‘Who’s In My Family?’ has sadly already been ‘pulped’.

To read more on this development, click on this link to go to the AFP News article I got the information from, via Yahoo! News Singapore.

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I’m deeply disappointed by the news I came across on Yahoo! Singapore that our National Library are going to destroy some children’s books that depict families with gay parents.

What happened:

Two children’s books ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ and ‘The White Swan Express‘ were removed after a member of the public, a Teo Kai Loon, had e-mailed the National Library Board (NLB) voicing his concerns about them.

A Yahoo! News Singapore article reported that:

… In supposedly two days, NLB responded to Teo’s e-mail complaint, stating that the books have been withdrawn following his feedback. NLB emphasised that it “takes a strong pro-family stand in selecting books for children” and “when library visitors like yourself [Teo] highlight to us any conflicting content within books, we review such books thoroughly and withdraw them from circulation”.

The response was signed by Tay Ai Cheng, the assistant chief executive and chief librarian of the NLB.

A member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore”, Teo then posted NLB’s response to him on July 8. He did not include the contents of his original e-mail complaint in the post. In the post, Teo called other members of the group to “continue to scrutinise the catalogue and not allow such children books to go under the radar screen”. He also encouraged people to email NLB if they had any concerns, saying that the NLB takes swift action, “all within 2 days”. However, Teo’s Facebook post in the group has since been removed.

What disturbs me:

That the books are to destroyed, instead of simply being given away to people who want them, which would serve the same objective of not having them on the library’s shelves anymore.

I simply don’t understand why the books must be destroyed. To me this reeks of a book-burning exercise, which is shocking and extreme. As a gay person, heck as any thinking and feeling human being, to me it’s like making a damning statement, in this case against gay parenting and therefore gay people.

I don’t care to ever be a parent myself. And so when I read or hear of condemnation to the idea of gays being parents, I admit it’s something that just whizzes by me as just one of the many injustices that is part of life. But not before it slashes me up inside in tiny painful cuts in ways you will never know or understand, unless like me you are a gay person who grew up with straight parents, in a ‘straight environment’, not to mention religious even, but who still suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of people who considered themselves straight, who led straight lives. It happened over a number of years in my childhood.

I’m not traumatised anymore, I function alright. But to be a grown adult already in my 40s and still be weighed down with malaise and sorrow by vivid memories of those episodes that still hit me out of the blue every so often, there is always a bitter smile or laugh in me when I read or hear ignorant and prejudiced people thinking that the safe wellbeing of children depends on whether the parents are gay or straight.

Anyway, whatever, these are just my own scars, from my own experience of my own childhood, which of course also contains happy memories as well. The opinion I want to express here is just that: if we don’t agree with something, that’s fine, but why to the harsh extent of ‘pulping’ such books that are sympathetic to what we don’t agree with?

And what a sad waste of books and money too. I wish they would just give them away to the adults who want them.

Why my grief

My sadness and disappointment stems mostly from that I was very fond of our National Library. I have always loved it and never took this noble public service for granted, even before I started travelling especially to some of our neighbouring countries, where even the most basic public infrastructure like proper pedestrian pavements can be messed up, let alone luxuries like public libraries which are practically non-existent. (After travelling, I consider our libraries a luxury.) I think I have mentioned in this blog a few times how I love and appreciate our National Library, for example in this post here.

Hence the deep disappointment. Now It’s like the love is suddenly tainted or something. It’s like now I feel I might have to reluctantly let go a friend I’m actually fond of. Because how do you remain friends with someone you can’t respect.

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The books in question:

The three titles to be pulped are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, (2005) written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole.

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A photograph of parent and blogger Joyce reading ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ to her daughter. Added here 14 July 2014, with her kind permission. From the excellent review of the book from her family blog TOT: HOT OR NOT. Click image to go there.

From Wikipedia:

The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life when they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

The book has won many awards but also been at the center of numerous censorship and culture war debates on same-sex marriage, adoption, and homosexuality in animals. The American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged.

The following video is a wonderful narration of the moving story, from YouTube user John Mark Johnson.

 

2. The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption (2002), written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki, illustrated by Meilo So.

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Image as seen on The Online Citizen. Click image to go there.

The story is about children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents. A description as seen on Amazon.com:

In China, the moon shines on four baby girls, fast asleep in an orphanage. Far away in North America, the sun rises over four homes as the people who live there get ready to start a long, exciting journey. This lovely story of people who travel to China to be united with their daughters describes the adoption process step by step and the anxiety, suspense, and delight of becoming a family. Told with tenderness and humor, and enlivened by joyous illustrations, The White Swan Express will go straight to readers’ hearts.

Click here for a sweet and delightful review of the book.

3. Who’s In My Family?: All About Our Families (2012), written by Robie H. Harris, and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

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An image from the book ‘Who’s In My Family?’, as seen on walker.co.uk, via Google Image Search. Click to go there.

A description of the book from Goodreads.com:

Trusted New York Times best-selling author Robie H. Harris continues her series for preschoolers with a look at the many kinds of families that make up our world.

Join Nellie and Gus and their family — plus all manner of other families — for a day at the zoo, where they see animal families galore! To top off their day, Nellie and Gus invite friends and relatives for a fun dinner at home. Accessible, humorous, and full of charming illustrations depicting families of many configurations, this engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful

Click here for a review of the book. And here to go to the website of the author Robie H. Harris.

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Some of the voices defending the books:

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Other related articles:

 

 

Hello beautiful

As a gay man, as any man really, I’ve never given a serious thought to raising a kid. My partner feels the same way. I don’t like children, actually, haha. I mean I don’t dislike them or anything (except when they continuously misbehave in public, in which case I blame the parents who should be controlling them, not the kids themselves as kids don’t know better) but I just don’t care for them, and I definitely never wished to be a parent. When I’m around babies or kids of friends and family, I can stand maybe five minutes of them before thinking, “Okay, I’ve politely acknowledged your kid by smiling and waving at it like I think it’s adorable or something, now, uhhmm get it out of my face, please?

But damn, I just melted looking at these pictures and reading the story on Buzzfeed. I can’t relate to the parenthood urges of these people, who I don’t even know, but I’m just so happy for this couple. Them, and the kid with dads who obviously love her very very much. And the generous surrogate lady (who is married with two kids of her own) who helped to give them such a precious gift. Frankly I would be nervous if I were one of the dads that she would suddenly decide she’s too attached to the kid to let it go.

The special moments were captured by Canadian photographer Lindsay Foster and the dads are BJ Barone and Frank Nelson from Toronto.

According to the Buzzfeed article:

BJ and Frankie were shirtless when they held Milo for the first time because skin-to-skin contact is said to be beneficial to newborn babies.

I’ve never heard of that, and I think it’s just beautiful.

Prego Restaurant

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I haven’t visited Prego for years, more than a decade. It used to be a firm favourite with me and Bert. We first came across it about twenty years ago around when it first opened I think, when the space it occupied used to be under one of the Westin Hotels formerly there. Westin Stamford or Plaza, I forgot which. Now the hotel there is called the Fairmont.

So it brought back some nice memories when we went back with a couple of friends recently. The fact that Prego is still there after all these years is remarkable for Singapore, I think. But it’s pretty stunning that even the interior is the same. Now that’s incredible. Commercial space here like malls and restaurants get makeovers frequently, some every few years. From interiors to even entire building facades, it can seem crazy even for locals how frequent and fast things change, let alone for repeat visitors like tourists.

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The shock of yellow is a tad gaudy to me but I guess it goes alright with the rest of the colour palette. I love the potted bushes of rosemary.

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I so love that they kept this travertino floor at the foyer, and the waves of happiness kept rolling over me when I realised they kept everything I remember about the place.

I don’t know why I was so darn happy. It’s just a restaurant. I think it’s just that it’s so unusual for things to stay the same in Singapore, and for such a long time. Things keep changing here, to keep them appealingly fresh, I suppose. But how do you really sink in the memories that you can treasure and let them take root, when the places these memories are crafted around seem disposable. At the back of your head you are already thinking the place won’t last, and you would soon be forming new memories with the new things that will take over the space. After a while there are just too many of them, so you allow all these memories associated with the same space to be filmsy and disposable too.

So when I walked in again, and saw that things were the same as it were twenty years ago, Prego ceased to be just a restaurant. It became snapshots and voices and laughter from years ago, the food we ordered, what we liked and didn’t liked. The faces of the friends we dined with. The other people we brought there. I even remember a few of the waiters. Not their names or what they looked like, but some things that were said or did to earn smiles or frowns. Crazy, the amount of memories. And now imprinted even more deeply in me, to be cherished for many more years.

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I don’t remember the awning and similarly striped wallpaper, but the rest of the restaurant looks exactly the same as I remember it, including the chairs.

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We went for the ‘Sunday Semi-Buffet Lunch’

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Just a glimpse of the buffet line. There was actually a big and very tasty selection of appetisers and desserts. I was too shy to go around taking photos of the spread, and it would have been disruptive to the other people getting their food.

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Part of the buffet is this long list of dishes you order ala carte. Just tick what you want and hand it to the waiter. Limited to one dish a person at a time. When you’ve had that, you can order more. This was a very good idea, as we were beginning to be stuffed by the time our ala carte selection arrived.

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They even kept these Mediterranean style plates I remember! If not the same ones, they at least kept to the same design, which put yet another smile on my face. These four dishes are our first round from the buffet ala carte menu.

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Beer barrel tables! I want one, if only I have the space for it at home. And painted so prettily too. Cuteness overload.

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The windows used to look out to the street but not anymore, so I guess the hotel had claimed the space outside to expand its interior. The sayings above the restaurants are yet another thing I remember and remember liking. This one is “Troppi cuochi sciupano la minestra” which is “Too many cooks spoil the broth“.

‘Prego’, the name of the restaurant, means ‘welcome‘, by the way.

A couple of lovely Saudi princesses with their lovely dogs

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Princess Jawaher, 38,  on the left, and Princess Sahar, 42. Credit: IB Times Photo by Tom Porter. Click image to go to source.

I love this photo from an International Business Times article written by Tom Porter, which I came across via Yahoo! Singapore. The story itself is sad. According to the article, the two princesses claim that they have been kept imprisoned in mansions in a royal compound in Jeddah, along with two of their sisters who are held in another mansion. The women said this has been going on for thirteen years, and that they had been placed under gradually closer confinement after criticising the country’s inequality. They were seeking help by relaying their situation to the media via Skype. I hope they get the help they need, their family issues resolved, and the freedom that must be entitled to all.

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I’m fascinated by the photograph. It would make an arresting painting as well. Except that the baseball cap worn by Princess Jawaher spoils it a bit. Nah, just kidding, the red cap actually makes it even more interesting.

And those gorgeous dogs! Muslims with dogs! Rare to find such instances, in my view. And my opinion is that it’s because of the prejudice and discrimination of some Muslims against other Muslims who like dogs. We used to have a dog, Ras, a German Shepherd, for almost a decade until he died from sickness in 2003.

This also reminds me of two articles I came across a few months ago, which I wanted to note here but I was too busy. The first was a heartbreaking story of an elderly Muslim couple in Malaysia who have been valiantly battling prejudice for years as they run a shelter for stray dogs, and the second was of a young Muslim lady who I think was also doing the same, also in Malaysia. I can’t help but feel so proud of these three people. Continuing to do what is right despite the harrowing challenges.

I’m also proud of one of my elder brothers and his wife, who live in Malaysia. They once told me how there are some stray dogs roaming in packs outside their house, and how skinny and hungry these poor creatures look. So what do they do? Keep a supply of dog food they buy from the supermarket. They offer this and a bowl of water for the dogs when they pass by, from behind the safety of their gate. My heart was bursting with pride for my brother and sister-in-law when I heard this.

There’s a related post that’s a good read from a site called IslamicConcern.com: Link here. The site is sponsored by PETA, by the way, which is the ‘People for Ethical Treatment of Animals’.

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Anyway, back to the photo. A few things capture my attention:

  1. The easy affection and obvious fondness the princesses have for their pets.
  2. Vice versa. In this photo, the dog beside Princess Sahar looks very fond of her.
  3. The bust sculpture on the side table. I wonder who it depicts.
  4. The terracotta floor. Indoors! I love terracotta tiles, especially indoors. Most people like it only outdoors. I’d love its warm and rustic look inside the house as well.
  5. The beauty of the princesses. Princess Jawaher is really pretty. So is Princess Sahar, but in this photo Jawaher reminds me of Italian actress Monica Bellucci.