Electric Dreams: Music, computers, and architecture

Just went on another memory trip. One of my favourite movie from a long time ago, bringing together the three things which were to become the loves of my life…four, if you count Virginia Madsen.

Electric Dreams – The Duel:

Hello…? Don’t be shy, that was just beautiful.
Hmm…very smart, but weird.

I loved Virginia Madsen…

Electric Dreams – The Musician and the Architect:

Heh, Electric Dreams was one of my favourite movies at that time. Like Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I could remember all the lines.

And the images of the architect’s apartment and home studio from the movie later fueled my teenage dreams of what I wanted my ideal bachelor’s pad and home/work/play loft and studio to be like.

At that time, I was learning BASIC programming from my older cousin, a true computer and programming whizz, on his Apple II. I loved how he hacked into the Space Invaders game and modified the code to include his own special upgrades: not only were his shields movable from side to side, they had cannon turrets to shoot back at the alien hordes. He turned me onto his favourite hackers movie, WarGames (1983) and we spent a lot of time on his dial-up bulletin boards (basically an early form of the internet) connecting with people from around the world, and shocking my aunt with the phone bills we ran up.
Ah, those were the days… who still remember PINE and telnet chat “instant messaging” before the Internet and ICQ?
Finger you Finger me…


Electric dreams are surely made of these…

Electric Dreams – EDGAR the computer dreams an electric dream:


EDGAR composes a love song for Madeline…

Electric Dreams – Love is love:


Madeline/Virginia Madsen discovers microchips can dream, make music, love…and hurt.

Electric Dreams – Madeline’s Tear:


And the final part of the movie, where EDGAR “signs off” and self-destructs, and the very rousing ending theme song, “Together in Electric Dreams”:

Electric Dreams – movie finale – Together in Electric Dreams:

Ahh, I love the 80s…and San Francisco.


David Suzuki: The Legacy. And of old family homes.

Just finished reading David Suzuki’s The Legacy: An Elder’s vision for a sustainable future (2010).

In this passage, Suzuki speaks of ‘real’ economic value vs intangible property values, and the precious value of Eldership, legacies and old family homes:

Economists tell us that we can’t realign our economic system to incorporate the kind of values that people like me hold, that ‘it’s not realistic” to look to a radically different future, that the economy is the bottom line to which everyone and everything must capitulate.

Let’s consider this. I live in an oceanfront house in Vancouver. I once received a form letter from a real estate agent announcing that “now is a good time to sell your property and buy up.” I began to think about what I would put down as the most valuable parts of the property. Well, my wife’s mother and father have lived with us for thirty years, so my children have had Grandma and Granddad right upstairs their entire lives. That’s what I would list as a huge value.

My father was a cabinetmaker, and when Tara and I were married, he built a set of cupboards for our first apartment. When we bought our current house, I tore out one of those cupboards and installed it in our kitchen. It didn’t fit well, but Dad is with us every time we use it. That went down on my list of values.

My father-in-law is an avid gardener and knowing that I love asparagus and raspberries, he planted them just for me. I put that down on my list.

My best friend, Jim Murray, came out to visit one year and carved a handle for the gate of a fence I was building. Every time I use that gate, I think of Jim. I wrote that down.

My children have brought dead birds, snakes, and squirrels home to bury under the dogwood tree–animal cemetery–and I wrote that down.

I built a tree house in that dogwood tree, and my children spent many happy hours playing in it. That went down as a value.

Looking over that list, I know those are the things that for me transforms a ‘property” into a “home,” and they are priceless. But on the market, they are worthless. And that’s our problem: when we measure everything according to its economic value, those things that matter most to us are worthless.

–David Suzuki, The Legacy

By Suzuki’s standard then, I guess I have failed Mum and Father.

With the above passage in mind, I took a slight detour today to go by where our old family house used to be. In the lots where our house and our neighbour’s house used to sit, now stands a five-storey 40-unit condominium estate with a swimming pool and basement carpark. The estate looks like it had been built to maximize the built-in livable area at the expense of everything else, with the building no more than a couple of metres from the boundary wall. Not a single patch of grass or greenery can be seen – I’m guessing they did not keep the old mango and jackfruit trees which had been in our backyard longer than I’ve been around.
There are many things about the old house I miss; it was a veritable storehouse of memories…maybe too many memories.

My old room with a balcony which gets the morning sun, with a view out onto the backyard where the mango tree stood right in the middle of (this dense old tree produced such sweet juicy mangoes and was a haunt for many many fruit bats; I could always hear their shrieking outside my balcony window at night); the balcony was my favourite lounging and reading area, I would always be there curled up on the plush carpet reading, especially on rainy days – hearing the pitter pattering and smelling the fresh clarifying scent of the rain in the air.

I remember the paintings hanging on the walls, mostly watercolours (though only a few were 山水画/国画 or traditional Chinese landscape paintings) done in the Nanyang Style by the nanyang masters whom Mum studied under. On the walls of the front living hall Mum hung a few paintings of the old Singapore River-scape, with the old sampans and godowns before their cleanup and transformation. These were painted by Mum’s brother-in-law, Uncle LPH, a distinguished local artist with his own unique style, who won a National Day Awards Medal for his contributions to local art (this was before they had the separate Cultural Medallion for meritorious artistic achievements). Mum only hung up one painting which she painted herself, and it was of her favourite animal and subject, horses (Mum loved horses!) and she modestly hung it up only on the wall of the stairway. But the stairway was also where my favourite art-pieces were displayed: on a rosewood corner table sat two smallish sculptures of oxen pulling at ox-carts, with stylized sinews and lines on the oxen straining towards a single direction. I only remember from bits of conversation that it was done by a Taiwanese sculptor during the indigenous Land and People art movement of the 60s/70s.

Under the verandah roof of the back patio was an old-fashioned stone table with a top inlaid with patterned mosaic, surrounded by heavy stone chairs. This was Mum’s and Father’s favourite spot to have breakfast, where they will be tucking into chwee kueh, carrot cake, you tiao, and beancurd from their early morning rounds at the market.

In the backyard along the edge closest to the patio and outside wet-kitchen, Mum planted some chili and lime plants. She always had grand plans to plant a complete herb garden for her own cooking use, but never got beyond the little chilies and limes she would so proudly pluck and cut up, but which actually could not even fill half a small bowl’s worth.

One fine day Father announced he was going to plant fir trees and the very next day, the nursery sent down the trees and gardeners and we suddenly had 5 young fir trees planted in a line along the side wall, just outside the french doors of our dining area. I finally understood Father’s intention later that year, when during a Christmas party we had in the house, while crowded around the dining table laid out with the Christmas feast and food, all the guests were admiring the fir trees with the faux snow Father had decorated them with. Mum and the maid were not so impressed though, with the pines that were always falling off and blanketing the ground all year round.

I remember when I decided I would build my own Japanese rock and moss Zen garden, right beside those fir trees. Mum warned that Father will not be pleased. I replied that’s why I’m doing it now, when he’s out of town on business. I proceeded to remove most of the nice smooth river stones and pebbles from the front lawn and placed them into a satisfyingly zen-like landscape and small rock garden visible from my bedroom balcony upstairs. Father threw a fit when he got back, but the deed was already done – he went and got new stones for the front lawn.
In my defense though, the selling-out was almost inevitable. The old house was already too large and too much for an old man and a domestic maid to manage. And when father suddenly got sick and I had to return to the country on short notice to take care of everything, the initial hospitalization and all the medical stuff, his business and business affairs, his personal affairs, the house…it was a little too much for me. I didn’t want to have to deal with his employees and tenants, with his business associates and his lawyers and accountants; I didn’t even want to have to deal with the gardening everyday…(Father kept reminding me to water and trim his pots and plants, even at the hospital)

I just wanted to lighten my plate and portfolio as much as I could, so when the offer for the house came, I took it.

Sure there are regrets about broken legacies and truncated memories. But sometimes, legacies and memories can be heavy burdens to bear as well.

I don’t have a garden now, and to be within some greenery I have to make my way to it. I don’t have enough wall space now for the art and paintings, so most of them are in storage; but actually, I like my bare walls just fine.

Running up hills, bashing thru trails. And lenses, shutters and revolving doors 旋轉門

The best way to shake off a yellow funk is to flush it out by flooding the system with endorphin and dopamine.

Intent on doing just this yesterday (Saturday), I broke in my new minimus lightweight trail shoes by bashing through the dirt trails and park connectors across the two central reservoirs and nature reserves. Great weather yesterday too, with a spot of dry spell in this current early monsoon season leaving the ground mostly mud-free, sparing my new lime-green togs from getting too worsted on their first day out. Took me most of the afternoon and got pretty dehydrated; but at the end, was as flushed and mellow as can be.

Today (Sunday) started with some early rain but soon cleared up by mid-afternoon. Was feeling none the worst for wear after yesterday’s trail session, so didn’t want to give up this little window of opportunity for another run; after all, the torrential all-day rain of the monsoon season is just about upon us, and dry spells will soon be few and far between.
[Looks like the grueling Smolov squat routine I forced myself to go through over the better part of this year is paying off — even at this age, I feel stronger and faster than when I was a 17 year old canoeist/dragon-boater bounding along the cross-country trail at Macritchie like Brer Rabbit.]

I decided to go ahead and hit the hills with a vengeance. Proceeded to what has been my new favourite running route ever since NParks created a few years back what is known as the Southern Ridges park trail/route by linking Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park, with a series of interesting connectors and funkily-designed bridges (but a terror to maintain! just look at their condition now).

The route is supposedly about 9 km long, but feels even shorter than that. What I usually do is to repeat any uphill climbing section 3 times (at the Vivocity/Marang Trail uphill start-point, at the slopes behind Mt. Faber lookout point with first the lilliputian steep steps then the giant boulder steps, at the nice switchback slope at the other end of Henderson Waves bridge). Then after climbing the steps to reach the top of the Telok Blangah Hill lookout point with its single pavilion and colonial balustrades, and great view of cable cars and Sentosa island to the south and the dense cityscape to the north, take a quick breather to enjoy the view before heading down the hill’s backward slope and turning around at the foot to do one cycle of Tabata/HIIT maximum effort sprints back up the hill (one cycle will be 8 sprints, each sprint take me about 12 seconds or so, then quickly walk back down the slope and rest until the end of the 30 second block before sprinting up again, so that one cycle of 8 sprints should take no more than 4 minutes to complete; but sometimes I chicken out after 6 sprints, especially when I think about what’s in store ahead at the Kent Ridge Park slopes :P). From here on till Kent Ridge Park is an easy but interesting stretch (from the slightly vertigo-inducing bare-metal Forest Walk, to the Alexandra Arch bridge, to the pretty flowers and nurseries of HortPark, and the peaceful Canopy Walk with its central-west view), mostly flat and good for a very slow jog or brisk walk to recover from the earlier exertions and save my lower back from overloading with too much repetitive strain, and to prep for the final stretch ahead.

Kent Ridge Park is where it really gets fun; there are many slopes and steps here but I usually use just 3 of them: one winding slope laid with brick steps which winds around the south-east perimeter of the park (do 3 runs); one straight slope with large and long concrete steps on the upper terrace leading from the public bathroom and rest area (do 3 runs, this one is the easiest, ramp up the difficulty by doing high-knee bounds like a triple jumper); and the final killer slope, the infamous back-to-back double L slope with 50-degree(?) gradients at its worst parts and about 400-500m in length, from the start of the slope at the park entrance at South Buona Vista Rd all the way up the L-shaped service road to the main car-park; even vehicles require 1st gear and howling engines to climb this slope. I do one run of this final slope and then limp my way over to the final event(s): the exercise stations in the middle of the park stretched out over two terraced levels. These exercise stations are pretty old but probably one of the most extensive of all the public parks in Spore, with about 12 or so different stations from climbing ropes to gymnastic rings to all sorts of logs and bars exercise stations. I have been doing bodyweight calisthenics for a long time now but the parks in my east coast area do not have climbing ropes and rings, so no matter how exhausted I am, will never miss a chance to do my rope climbs and ring levers when I get to KR park.

After finishing the exercises on the ropes, rings, various high bars, and parallel bars, I am done…with the first half of the run! Heh, nah, I am really done, what’s left is just the slow jog/walk back to the car at the start-point, but will still try to sprint up all the slopes/steps I encounter on the return trip. The first few times, I did do repeat runs from Vivocity/Marang to Kent Ridge and back, then repeat; but that was without all the intermittent HIIT slope sprints and I was a few years younger then…

And that’s the workout I did today, though because of the earlier rain I started late and the slopes and steps were rather wet and slippery, so took especial care and was pretty far off my usual pace; almost made me miss the 8pm cutoff on the return trip, when the park warden at the HortPark will shut and lock the gate at the path leading to Canopy Walk/KR park.

Heh, don’t really know why I detailed out today’s run; probably still jazzed from the leftover dope and dopamine still coursing through my veins, even after a good refreshing sleep when I got back. I haven’t done back to back long runs in a while, so quite surprised my legs still feel reasonably fresh but I expect the hurting and aching will set in the next few days.


And the song in the head for the day:
[sigh, in the end, you cannot outrun your own memories…]

旋轉門 Revolving Door:

旋轉門(謝沛恩 Aggie)


不說話 以為 沉默能讓時光走的緩慢
不想念 以為 感傷是生活中的小習慣
一個個 心結 忽然間自己解出了答案
一個個 舊友 疏於聯絡也許已有新的伴

一雙手推開時光的門 忘記了關
到幾年後 一個鏡頭就切換

一圈圈迴圈出不同的 情緒片段
想說成熟 要用多少個領悟交換

快樂或 孤單 一天的時光用另一天填滿
凌晨或 傍晚 一樣的天色掠過晚歸的站
夢裡 那個人 遁入另一個夢為誰輾轉
我們的 故事 也落入俗套一去不返

一雙手推開時光的門 忘記了關
到幾年後 一個鏡頭就切換

一圈圈迴圈出不同的 情緒片段
想說成熟 要用多少領悟交換

Yellow and not so mellow. And a little red house at Lorne.

Am feeling a little yellow and not so mellow right now. Strange feelings. Probably too much engagement this past few days, with too many unsolicited updates.

I am politely pleased S made associate director and is too busy with the sports hub project to continue to helm archifest. Am genuinely impressed E is now mother of two and more impressed she got her figure back within two months. Good that P’s fund weathered the last few years and he is still slugging it out though size now dangerously at the survival point. Really glad J left the unhappiness here behind and is carving a name for himself in resorts and landscape design in China. But most of all, I am just glad to know, she is still traveling and looking at everything around her through her quirky lens and doing what she loves…happy feet…

But strangely, feeling a little yellow.

Then this song popped up, with some lyrics that seem to mirror what I am feeling right now. Rather soothing. Thank goodness for little graces…

香格里拉 Shangri-la:



夜空中北極星 迷路的人不恐懼

G和絃的根音 撫平脆弱的心靈

小木屋紅屋頂 地址是一個秘密

香格里拉在那裡 讓我們去找尋


Feeling a little lost and weak.

But I know exactly where Shangri-la, and where that little red house is: at our favourite log cabin on the green grassy hill slopes of Lorne, facing the ocean with the last bits of the winter chill still in the November air; feverishly climbing and pulling each other up the wet steep slopes of Gedong Songo in the late afternoon drizzle, chasing down the last of the nine candi-temples while racing against the fading light and looming mist to shoot the Ganesha shrine with shaking hands and no tripod; losing ourselves amongst the books and clean lines of the art & design section of Eslite-誠品書店 at 2am; and the thrill of being at the MUJI 無印良品 store at 忠孝東路 and picking out pink and blue pajamas and soft fluffy slippers…

Why do we do this to ourselves…

原諒我這一生不羈放縱愛自由 Forgive me, my life and love of unbridled freedom

BEYOND – 海闊天空 (粵) Open Seas and Vast Skies

BEYOND. For me the biggest and the only authentic Asian rock band in the 80s, the 90s, and unsurpassed till this day; even if their music was unfortunately frozen in Time in 1993, with the unexpected passing of the lead vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and soulman of the band, 黃家駒 Wong Ka Kui, at the age of 31.

And the song 海闊天空, was the anthem for me and my band and band of brothers during our teenage years. Like the lyrics to the song, we swore we would never give up our ideals or exchange our freedom for the alluring but soul-destroying rewards the world has to offer. But as one of us wryly remarked during a rare and incomplete gathering some years back, in the end: 背棄了理想 誰人都可以 Betraying our ideals, alas anyone can do it

天空海闊你與我 可會變 (誰沒在變)
The vast skies and open oceans, you and I, will we change? (Who doesn’t change)

And of that our ragged band of brothers, I am said to be the last dreamer still standing, defiant and recalcitrant as before.
But I think not…
Holding onto your willful dreams and proud obstinate Self has its price, and in the end, is the most selfish thing in the world. Its a little too late now, but I wish I had said to my family, my friends, and my loved ones then:
Forgive me, my life and love of unbridled freedom


Alternate MV BEYOND – 海闊天空

R.I.P 家駒 Ka kui


[Made this posting primarily due to sentiments stirred up with my recollection of unbridled college years in previous post.

But actually, I have a whole series of drafted posts on BEYOND written some years back, sparked off by a previous 龙的传人-Descendant of the dragon-themed post, still waiting for the right moment for posting.]

Proust: Of madeleines and tea

Of course, the previous post on Bergson and coloured or involuntary memories can be summed up in its entirety simply by a trite reference to Proust and his famous madeleine and tea episode.


No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

—Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu / Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time

But this linking of Proust and Bergson is not as trite as it may seem. Bergson, after all, married Proust’s cousin, and Proust even served as best man at the wedding. And it is said that the younger Proust had been influenced by the older Bergson who was already an accomplished thinker and writer, and especially by the latter’s writings on time and memory.

All these talk on madeleines and french pastries are making me have the munchies… Not a good combination at this hour.

Henri Bergson: Of images, memories and the “retrospective illusion”

Adding some colour to 陳綺貞’s images and memories…

Of Henri Bergson and to beware the “retrospective illusion”:

We attribute any true affirmation with a retroactive effect; or rather we will imprint a retrograde movement… The consequences of this illusion are innumerable. Our appreciation of men and events is entirely imbued with the belief in the retrospective value of true judgment, a retrograde movement which executes automatically in time…

-Henri Bergson, La Pensée et le mouvant
[Official English title is, strangely, The Creative Mind
hmmm, whatever, couldn’t find a translation anyway]

And of images, memories, and matter/body:

…our conception of pure memory should lead us, by a parallel road, to attenuate the second opposition, that of quality and quantity. For we have radically separated pure recollection from the cerebral state which continues it and renders it efficacious. Memory is then in no degree an emanation of matter; on the contrary, matter, as grasped in concrete perception which always occupies a certain duration, is in great part the work of memory.


Now, at the same time that our actual and so to speak instantaneous perception effects this division of matter into independent objects, our memory solidifies into sensible qualities the continuous flow of things. It prolongs the past into the present, because our action will dispose of the future in the exact proportion in which our perception, enlarged by memory, has contracted the past. To reply, to an action received, by an immediate reaction which adopts the rhythm of the first and continues it in the same duration, to be in the present and in a present which is always beginning again,-this is the fundamental law of matter…


It is distinct from matter in that it is, even then, memory, that is to say a synthesis of past and present with a view to the future, in that it contracts the moments of this matter in order to use them and to manifest itself by actions which are the final aim of its union with the body. We were right, then, when we said, at the beginning of this book, that the distinction between body and mind must be established in terms not of space but of time.


-Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory, Chapter IV: “The Delimiting and Fixing of Images. Perception and Matter. Soul and Body”

陳綺貞: 80%完美的日子 Cheer Chen: An 80% Perfect Day

Being alone, while not ideal, we still can have 80% perfect days.

To view every day and moment through a camera lens… It doesn’t have to be the perfect shot, or even very interesting. In time, everything looks better or at least becomes more bearable, through a yellow-brown sepia-toned cracked lens and faded memories.
陳綺貞: 80%完美的日子 Cheer Chen: An 80% Perfect Day


詞/曲: 陳綺貞

我捕捉 精采的畫面 可是一閉上眼顏色就退掉了
我穿上 最舒適的T-shirt 可是一脫下來身體都僵硬了
我選擇 我最想要的 可是一個人呢 反而笑開了
我丟棄 對我最好的 可是一關上燈 全部都回來了

直到有一天 我徹底昏睡了 我太累了 我放開了
直到有一天 我失去了 太矛盾了 眼淚掉下來了

直到有一天 我徹底昏睡了 我太累了 我放開了
直到有一天 我失去了 太狼狽了 眼淚掉下來了

80% Perfect Day

Music/Lyrics: Cheer Chen

I captured, an interesting shot, but once I shut my eyes the colour fades
I put on, the most comfortable T-shirt, but once I take it off the body freezes and stiffens
I chose, what I really desired, but its only when I’m alone, that I break out in laughter
I abandoned, what was best for me, but when the lights are turned off, it all comes back

Until one day, I dropped completely into a deep slumber, I am exhausted, I am letting it go
Until one day, I have lost it, too contradictory, and the tears are falling

Until one day, I dropped completely into a deep slumber, I am exhausted, I am letting it go
Until one day, I have lost it, too beat up, and the tears are falling

陳綺貞: 小塵埃 Cheer Chen: Dust Mote

A mote of dust, and LOMO memories…
Hidden within our unfinished work

陳綺貞: 小塵埃 Cheer Chen: Dust mote


他在五點十分醒來 他在清晨時候離開
我在這裡 比黑暗更深的夜裡
張開眼睛 陌生人寄來一封信

我在清晨時候醒來 帶著他的暗示離開
我在這裡 我在你昨天的夢裡
一片烏雲 一座神秘的小森林

誰來擁抱我 保護我 傷害我 放棄我
擁抱我 保護我 帶著我逃到黑暗的盡頭
擁抱我 保護我 或是傷害我 放棄我
擁抱我 保護我 帶著我逃到黑暗的盡頭 等著他

他在午夜時分回來 帶著憂傷的歌把回憶敲開
我在這裡 手提著沉重的行李 迷失在我和你未完成的旅行
你在哪裡 一道解不開的謎題 隱藏在我和你未完成的作品


Dust Mote

Music/Lyrics: Cheer Chen

He woke up at 5.10 am, he left at the crack of dawn
The clear glass window is stained with motes of dust
I am here, in a darkness deeper than the blackest night
Opening my eyes, a letter from a stranger

I woke up at the crack of dawn, leaving with the hint he left behind
Standing up bravely at the spot where I fell
I am here, I am in your dream from yesterday
A patch of dark cloud, a mysterious little copse of forest

Who will come embrace me, protect me, hurt me, give me up
Embrace me, protect me, take me and escape to the edge of darkness
Embrace me, protect me, or hurt me, give me up
Embrace me, protect me, take me and escape to the edge of darkness
Waiting for him

He returned at midnight, bringing a sad song cracking apart memories
I am here, with my heavy luggage in hand, lost amid our unfinished journey
Where are you, an unsolvable puzzle, hidden within our unfinished work
Hidden within our unfinished work