Singapore blogging blues

[Disclaimer: I wrote this post after drinking a can of Baron’s Strong Brew Beer, and only after I finished it did I see how high the alcohol content is. (I’m amazed they actually sell it here.) So I am not responsible for anything that follows; blame it on Barons.]

It is infinitely harder to blog in Singapore than in Beijing, and I am really facing a dilemma. Everything here is so status quo, so…predictable. The weather, the news, the weekends. (Yes, of course the weekends are predictable, because the only thing to do during the weekend is shop and eat.)

That is actually a compliment, of course. It’s what many societies strive to be — harmonious, workable, under control, contented….(boring?). It’s great for Singapore, but it really sucks for blogging.

China, of course, is a Western blogger’s paradise. So much there is, to the average Westerner, extraordinary, incomprehensible, a true shock to the mind and the senses. And, thanks to our friends in the CCP, life over there never ceased to amaze me, from the ubiquitous deification of Madman Mao to the insane rituals of the annual Party Congress (which this year was made just a bit more insane than usual — if such is possible — by that devious little pathogen we call SARS) to the machine-gun-toting guards who stand in front of the national TV station buildings (without a tightly controlled media, the Party stands naked and vulnerable)….

No, there was never a shortage of blog material in the PRC. In fact, from my memory bank alone, I could blog about China for years and years to come. If my mother and my current boss didn’t read this blog, I would tell you all stories that would make your hair stand on end. I wasn’t happy living there, but God, I miss it, at least from a blogging perspective.

I am jealous of Phil and Conrad over in Hong Kong, where they’ve got the best of both worlds; they’re a stone’s throw from all the lunacy over in the People’s Republic, and they’re in the center of a vortex, witnessing “history in the making” as Hong Kong wrestles with defining itself in the wake of reunification with a very foreign mother country. They have blog material handed to them on a plate, with a red ribbon tied around it.

And then we get to Singapore. Work, eat, shop, watch sanitized TV, sleep, work, eat, shop…. Sorry for whinging, but it’s getting on my nerves lately. It’s really nice, really comfortable, really pretty. But there’s no Wan Chai, and there are certainly no demonstrations in the streets, no political upheavals or convulsive controversies.

My day begins each morning with my alarm clock going off; a radio clock, it is tuned to the only classical music channel in town, and like everything else in this city-state-whatever-it-is, it’s maddeningly predictable. There are rules (and if anyplace loves rules, thrives on rules, it is Singapore). Each piece of music will be no longer than 10 minutes. There will be no complete symphonies or complete operas or complete musical works of any kind: only 10-minute-long, instantly digestible, pleasant, bite-sized nuggets of music. A movement of Eine Kleine Nacht Music; a cheerful excerpt from a Beethoven Symphony; lots of happy, innocuous 10-minute pieces by Teleman and Haydn (whom I love, but not in little chunks). Pre-digested and pleasant. Never any brooding Mahler or dark late Brahms or sensual Wagner. Not in Singapore.

So that’s how the day begins, with some classical cotton candy. Again, it’s sweet, but it definitely doesn’t match my sturm-und-drang temperament, my thirst for the broadest spectrum of emotional sensations, from the bitterest to the sweetest, from those blinding sunrises to those dark, disquieting midnights of the soul, where one’s mind can romp about and pay homage to what D.H. Lawrence refers to as the “dark gods.” There are no dark gods in Singapore.

Singapore. What is there to blog about in Singapore, except the difficulty of blogging here?!? I don’t know, but what I do know is this: I had better think of something fast or this blog will be cancelled for lack of material. God, what a challenge! And it only goes to underscore the basic nature of man, to be unsatisfied wherever he is. After all, in China I longed for stability and comfort, and now that I have it, I long only for chaos and pandemonium. No, I can’t win.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

This post reminded me of something Paul Theroux on Singapore. He pointed out that after living there for a while he understood why there were no famous Singaporean writers, and likely never to be any.

July 22, 2003 @ 12:30 am | Comment

He had a great point. The place is squeaky clean and utterly devoid of controversy — an element that a lot of good expat blogs thrive on. And the people tend to be complacent; there’s no outrage, nothing to “write to the editor” about. So if this blog is going to survive, I’m either going to have to take lots of weekend trips to neighboring countries (Singapore’s location is perfect for that) or turn it inward and just offer commentary of life and love and politics. The latter defeats the whole point of an expat blog, which is, at least to some extent, to give readers a taste of life in an exotic land….

July 22, 2003 @ 1:03 am | Comment

It’s true, there is a lot to blog living in the PRC. I have two blogs up and there still a lot left to go. In September, I’ll be the sole Amerian working at a British International School. There has gots to be a helluva lot of stuff to write about.

What about the option of moving to Hong Kong? Or, gasp, back to the PRC! It seems to me that you’ve caught the China flu.

Whatever you do, just keep writing. There is a lot to be said for expatriate blogs writing on current events.

July 22, 2003 @ 2:15 am | Comment

No, I’m not heading back to China anytime soon, unless you can ofer me a cushy job in Shanghai. I have some unfinished business in the US, so that has to be my next big stop. And I’m also bound (at least morally) to stay here in Singapore for at least several more months. I’ll just have to make the best of it.

July 22, 2003 @ 4:30 am | Comment

Hey, I think I may have found something for you to blog about.

Great new look btw!

July 23, 2003 @ 10:12 am | Comment

Thanks for that great link, Vaara. I’m on it now.

July 23, 2003 @ 1:37 pm | Comment


Ha ha ha, that bad …yah. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m not sure whether these links will help : Forum (er..they use Singlish instead of English )

Btw “tasty” new look, yum yum !


July 23, 2003 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

Did you go to WOMAD last weekend at Fort Canning Park? I would like to hear about that.

Despite the sterility and censorship characteristic of Singapore, there are still human beings in Singapore, who, no doubt, are worth writing about.

Expat writing from Malaysia. Plenty to blog about here. Am fixin’ to start a blog soon, if I can figure out how.

September 5, 2003 @ 5:28 pm | Comment

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