Monday, February 27, 2006

Incident At Long John Silver's

For those who had dined in Long John Silver's before will be very familiar with the "good service bell" next to their exit. Diners are often encouraged to sound it when they feel that they have been offered good service. However, I think that they should install a "bad service drum" or something in equivalent for dissatisfied customers as well

Last Friday, I was having my lunch in one of their outlets when all of a sudden, one of their service crew came up to me quietly and tap afew times on the table. I didn't know what he wanted, but my instincts told me that he wanted to collect back the tray, and hence I lifted up my elbows from the tray. I was right; he took the tray and left quietly. Moments later, I saw this man repeating the same actions to teenager who was sitting a few tables away. That teenager's mind did not react as fast, and he was staring blanking at that man. I couldn't tell if that man had spoken a single word at all or not, but I saw him pointing at the tray. The teenager finally understood his intention and gave up his tray, apparently feeling bewildered by this whole incident

I really wonder what kind of service attitude is this, especially in a popular fast food restaurant like this. Even those elderly cleaners at foodcourts would ask for permission politely before clearning my trays! I was a bit unhappy with this incident, but I wasn't about to go make a fuss out of it just because of one rude service crew as I feel that the overall service of the restaurant is still quite good. I just hope that I will not bump into service personnel with such poor working attitude in future!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sorrows Of A Cyclist

This morning I cycle to work as usual. As I was approaching the end of the kerb, I decided to switch over to the main road. Before I move out, I looked back to check for on-coming vehicles, and the road was clear then. However, the moment I inched out onto the main road, a car zoomed past me so fast and close that I could almost feel the sides of his car brushing against my legs. I can swear that if I had moved out for another 5cm, I won't be here blogging already!

Being a cyclist in Singapore is a pathetic thing, as they are not welcomed anywhere. If they cycle on the pavement, the pedestrians will curse them, and they cycle on the road, many vehicles (especially big ones like buses and lorries) choose to not see them and push them to the edge of the road. I am not exaggerating, but speaking from my own experiences.

There was once I was cycling on the pavement back home. In front of me were 3 women walking with their back facing me. The pavement was already quite narrow and yet they were still walking abreast! I rang my bell from afar so that they would have ample time to react. However, they did not hear it. I kept ringing and ringing, till I was just inches behind them, but they were still walking in a single row and chatting away. I decided to cycle off the pavement and onto the grass patch. The sound of my bicycle wheel somehow caught their attention, and one of the ladies exclaimed "Xia Si Ren!" ("You frightened me!"). I was very pissed off, as it's their fault to treat the pavement as their "Grandfather's Road" instead of looking out for other road users! However, I couldn't be bothered with them, because I know inconsiderate and selfish people are the worst people to reason with.

On another occasion, I was cycling along Victoria Street, trying to keep as close to the kerb as possible. I, being a driver too, knew how frustrating it is if a cyclist in front of me keeps zig-zaging into my vehicle's path. However, though I was considerate to other road commuters, other road commuters were hostile to me. Buses just overtook me and pulled into the bus stop just inches ahead of me, lorries making left turns at traffic junctions although I was already starting to cross the road, cars trying to squeeze me into the side drains of the road. There are just too many horrible experiences to say!

Singapore is really a very unsafe place for cyclist and there are always reports of cyclists losing their lives on local roads. I myself am worried of my own safety too, but there's nothing much I can do. I don't expect the government to build cycling paths all over Singapore, but I do hope that the relevant authorities will do something to bring awareness about the situation of us cyclists to the public. If everyone can spare a little more thought for others, wouldn't the world be a nicer place to be in?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I Had A Dream - Weird Dream!

Last night I dreamt of myself riding on my bicycle but both my brakes could not be depressed. It is not a nightmare, but more of a weird dream. In fact I always have weird dreams that simply make no sense. Like there was once I dreamt of myself inside my previous naval vessel gliding through the sky above Bukit Batok. I did not know why I can dream of that, especially so when I lived far away from there! There was another one which is even more ridiculous. I dreamt of myself sharing a table with a stranger in a restaurant, and when our drinks came to the table, the stranger took my drink and drank it. I was very angry, and splashed him with his drink. He did not respond to my action, and hence I splashed him away, with another cup which came out of nowhere. This action went on and on, from cup to mug and then a pail (all appearing from nowhere as well!). Suddenly the ceiling gave in and water started pouring in and forcing everyone out of the restaurant (like a scene in Titanic) and then everyone started singing “Where I Belong”. I’ve told this dream to a few people and they simply laughed at it. They attribute it to being too stressed out at work, but I thought stress only induce nightmares and not dreams like these? But anyway I don’t usually think too much about my dreams. It’s not a sign or omen anyway!

Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe: An Epilogue

Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe had ended their series of performances successfully on 11th February and had taken the morning flight today back home.

It was a pity I could not make it for their final show as I had a Chinese New Year function to attend to, but I heard the response from the audience was very good. In fact their last few shows were almost full-house, even though these shows were re-runs. Generally, I’m very satisfied with their performances. Amai had even suggested them to aim for the April-May slots in future if they were to come again, as it coincides with the birthday celebration of the Temple God. If Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe can get to act during this period, it would mean 20 over days of performances for them.

Actually, performing for 17 days in a stretch this time round is already a challenge for the troupe, as they don’t even perform more than 10 days consecutively in the same venue. Many actors were actually very panicking during their performances because they do not have sufficient time to rehearse and memorise their dialogues and songs. Some even had to rehearse last minute by the side of the stage just before going out. Imagine if they were to act for another 10 days! That’d mean more stress for the crew, and the faster they run out of shows to put in future. In fact, it was said that Xiamen Municipality Opera Troupe is supposed to come, but they couldn’t as they’ve ran out of shows to stage here (They have been here in 1999, 2001 and 2004).

This April-May, Taiwan’s Ming Hua Yuan Opera Company was rumoured to be the invited troupe to perform for the Temple God’s birthday celebration. It’s not hard to see how rich and influential the temple is to be able to engage foreign troupes to perform for so many days. In fact, many Hokkien opera troupes, local and abroad, are eyeing on this temple, because rarely can you find such a grand Hokkien opera gala. For local troupes, some would rather cut down costs from their performances elsewhere to replenish their costumes and props just for their show in this temple in order to boost their popularity.

Back to Zhangzhou opera troupe, I have very good impression of the troupe, as everyone is very friendly and does not put on any airs. However, what will become of them in time to come is a question. I’ve seen actors from some other troupes who had become arrogant over the years and it really put me off. Some of them are not even great stage actors in the first place! Some become arrogant partly because of the strong fan base they have in Singapore. Singaporean audiences in general can be very fanatic and some would offer gifts and money to their favourite actors. Some are even willing to take them as god-sons and god-daughters! It is little wonder that they become more and more proud, because they have been pampered too much and thus turning them into materialistic people. Hopefully the actors of this troupe do not become like that, or else I’ll be greatly disappointed!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Meeting Up With Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe (part 2)

There was no work today, but was told to go back to the office at 11 o'clock for an "opening ceremony" (a ceremony to just report to office at a auspicious timing and do a little bit of work before calling it a day). Since I had quite a bit of time before that, I thought I might as well head for the photo shop first to develop the photos I've taken over the past few days watching Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe's performance

I returned to the photo shop at 3pm to collect my photographs, and my heart sank when I saw my works. Many of the shots looked grainy, and some were so bad that I decided to take them off. I really hate my camera, as it is uncapable to taking pictures under low light conditions like a theatre performance. Either it gives you grainy pictures, or a blurred image

Putting my disappointment aside, I went next to the temple at Arumugam Road to look for the crew of Zhangzhou City Xiang Opera Troupe. One of their actors, Haibin, had actually asked me to go earlier so that he could teach me how to secure a "shuai fa" (long bunch of hair hanging from the scalp for male roles). However, when I reached the venue, it was all quiet. I found out from one of their admin crew that it was their rest time. I decided not to disturb his rest, and I sat at a corner and wait. Soon, some of the actors started streaming into the dressing room to prepare for their "ban xian" show which was scheduled at 5pm. As usual, Yuxiang was the among the first to start her makeup. Director Wu came in shortly after and I let him have a look at my photographs. Soon, everyone was flipping my photo album. They liked the photographs I had taken, and it somehow made me feel better. Xiaoyi, who had a mp3 player, even deleted some of the songs in it so that she could store the digital pictures I had taken of her

I went to look for Chen Bin in his room but he wasn't there. Instead I saw Ng Lim, an ex-actor with our troupe, as well as Weixiong, the scenographer. Weixiong was labelled as "first grade scenographer" by Amai and Mulan, as he single-handedly take charged of all the props and scenography works in the troupe. He told me it is a very tiring job, and if he has the chance to take a breathe, he's rather catch some sleep as well. And he doesn't just take charge of the scenography. He had to act minor roles on stage as well, and also to double-up as photographer at times. He had to do promotional and archival works too. He admitted it was tough, but he had to press on for the sake of his family and infant child.

As the time slowly approached 5pm, I decided to head for the stage to take pictures for their "ban xian" show (ceremonial show whereby the actors dressed up as various deities to give blessings). However, the show did not start until 5.30pm, as some of the crew thought it was to be held at 5.30pm. The ceremony ended at around 6pm and everyone proceed to the dining hall for their dinner. I did not want to dine with them, but the crew insisted that I eat with them and hence I obliged. I saw Haibin still working on something at the dressing table and hence I went over to take a look. He was mixing his makeup base. I was suprised by what he was doing, and asked him why couldn't he just buy a ready-made base instead. To which he replied that those ready-made ones do not have shades that matches his skin tone, and hence he prefers to do it himself. "Soemtimes for the passion of the arts, one really have to forgo his meals!", he said. Xiaoyun, who was just standing nearby, quipped that Haibin could just have the makeup base for dinner instead

At the dining hall, I saw Yaling with her makeup totally removed. I was suprised as she was supposed to be the lead for the night's show. I asked her about her makeup, and she replied that all the perspiration will ruin her makeup, and hence she'd rather remove them for now and then draw again after dinner. I'm impressed by that, as there's no way we amateurs can do that for time reasons. Throughout the dinner, everyone on my table (Xiuzhen, Yaling, Jianghai, Xiaoyun, Xiaoyi and Yiling) were speaking in Zhangzhou dialect, and I couldn't really understand fully due to their strong accent. Somehow I heard something like placing bets on 4D numbers. I didn't know they like to play such games too! Xiaoyun, who wasn't outstanding on stage, is a bubbly girl offstage. During the meal, she kept exclaiming that Singaporeans must be deities and consuming exlirs for food as Singaporeans don't seem to age easily and that they have such small appetite (refering to me, Amai and Mulan

After the meal, I went back to the dressing room to wait for Haibi, but he was nowhere to be seen. Hence I just sat aside observing how the actors dress up for their show. The dans were rather neat, as compared to those in Xiamen troupe. Although the wigs they used were of inferior quality, they looked alright on stage as they know how to comb and style them. Xiamen troupe's dans looked more messy as many of their actors simply mixed their real hair with clip-on ponytails and ready-made buns, and sometimes it can be real ugly. Some actors do not even use add-on ponytails even though they do not have long hair

I waiting for a long time before I saw Haibin strolling in. Obviously he had forgotten the agreement he made yesterday, but as it was close to the start of the show, I decided to come back another day to look for him. So today was sort of a wasted day as I did not achieve what I wanted to do, but at least I've managed to understand the people there more!