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Photography by Nguan

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A friend recently turned me onto the photography of Nguan, an enigmatic picture-maker who only goes by one name. He was born and raised in Singapore and studied film and video production at Northwestern University. He spent over a decade in the States, photographing such oft-shot locations as New York City and Los Angeles. I was completely taken with his unique photographs of Coney Islandone of New York City’s most iconic—and most photographed—places

Since 2010, he has turned his gaze home, to Singapore. The images in his series Singapore are dreamlike and arresting; what is so striking about his work is not only the soft, warm light that colors each image, “but also for his ability to freeze quiet, almost shockingly clear and uncontrived moments amid such a dense sea of people and history.” His monograph, How Loneliness Goes (2013)is “about those of us who abide in the city… My wish is for this book to wander in my stead, exist as a testament to existence, and credibly proffer the possibility of beauty as a balm for everyday sorrow.”

Read this fantastic interview with Nguan on The Great Leap Sideways.

Follow Nguan on Twitter and and Tumblr.

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PSA: Join Ian, of The Thistle Bindery, and me at this month’s Makers’ Meetup at Makerspace@SingaporePolytechnic! We will be jointly speaking about our book arts’ journeys, our love of teaching, and the importance of community arts.

So, come! The event is on Friday, April 25, from 7:30pm to 10pm. Ian and I will kick off the event promptly at 7:30pm. Admission is free.

RSVP here, if you are on Facebook, or email me! See you soon.

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I read at least a book a week, if not more. I scour the shelves of the library for new reads, or Amazon.com *hangs head in shame* for e-books.

But, I also buy books from Singapore retailers and e-tailers, despite the expense. (New books are considerably more expensive in Singapore than in the States.)

My favorite independent bookstores are BooksActually, Littered with Books, GOHD Books, and Woods in the Books. As for shopping from the comfort of my own home (a necessity, IMO, as a parent), I turn to:

OpenTrolley Bookstore is Singapore’s largest online bookstore, with more than ten million new books at somewhat discounted prices. OpenTrolley offers “quick” delivery of four to seven working days, and allows payment by credit/debit cards, PayPal, and local bank transfer. For shoppers who wish to save on shipping/handling, OpenTrolley allows buyers to collect books at their partner store at Plaza Singapura, 7th Floor. OpenTrolley is where I turn to for commonly-available books, such as fiction bestsellers and travel guides.

NoQ is another large online bookstore, with a million titles at heavily discounted prices (up to 50% off retail). It is the online bookstore of Times Publishing Group, and promises shopping without the hassles of “lining up and queuing”, hence: “NoQ.” Geddit? So Singaporean! NoQ offers delivery of seven to fourteen working days and free shipping (in Singapore), and allows payment by credit/debit cards, PayPal, and NETS. (Full disclosure: NOQ offered me a SG$30.00 store voucher in 2013; I spent it on a cookbook!)

Groovy Giraffe is Singapore’s first online remainder store, and specializes in books for young readers. “Remainder books” are overstock and overprint books, and are heavily discounted (up to 85% off retail). Groovy Giraffe offers delivery of three (!) working days and free shipping for orders above SG$60.00, and allows payment by credit/debit cards and PayPal. I’ve bought a slew of classic children’s titles from Groovy Giraffe, including books that display minor shelf wear and/or remainder markings but are otherwise brand new books, for mere dollars! (A book’s condition is reflected clearly under each book’s description.)

BooksActually and GOHD Books also sell their wares online. BooksActually offers delivery of five to ten working days and free shipping (in Singapore), and allows payment by credit/debit cards and PayPal. I’ve bought several new Math Paper Press releases via BookActually’s online bookstore. GOHD Books offers delivery of forty-eight hours (for books in stock) to seven working days and free shipping (in Singapore), and allows payment by credit/debit cards, PayPal, local bank transfer, check, or cash. To pay by cash, shoppers must collect their books at 175 Bencoolen Street, #01-37 Burlington Square. GOHD Books is my go-to bookstore for used, rare, and out-of-print books.

Where do you buy your books? Did I miss your favorite store? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

nana & bird kids


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I’ve been a fan of nana & bird since 2011. Then, co-owners Georgina Koh and Chiew Ling Tan sold their hand-picked inventory, sourced from their personal travels, from Georgina’s charming Tiong Bahru apartment. I recently visited the duo’s second space in the trendy neighborhood, at 59 Eng Hoon Street, #01-65, to check out nana & bird kids, a collection of designer children’s labels.

Currently, nana & bird kids carries Mini Rodini, one of Scandinavia’s fastest growing children’s wear brands, and Wolf & Rita, a line of boys’ and girls’ shirts from Portugal. 

I’ve been introduced to so many Asian women’s labels by nana & bird; I hope, soon, nan & bird kids will carry unique and bold children’s brands from closer to home.

Connect with nana & bird kids on Facebook and Instagram.

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We spent Sunday evening at “Fun with Music!” a special concert by The Philharmonic Winds, an orchestra that was formed in 2000 and now has more than 70 dedicated members, from secondary students to working professionals.

This new concert, a concert for families under the artistic leadership of Music Director Leonard Tan, featured some incredibly enchanting compositions and two beautiful collaborations.

It was our toddler’s first music concert, and she generally had a ball. She was enraptured by “Cloudburst” by Ministry of Bellz’s sand artist, Lawrence Koh, and a telling of “Alex and the Phantom Band,” based on the story “The Thirteenth Hour” by Kathryn Maslanka, and narrated by virtuoso storyteller Kamini Ramachandran. (I’m a huge fan of Kamini!)

We adults enjoyed “Whistler and his Dog” a composition for piccolo and tuba, featuring Andy Koh and Wong Yin Xuan respectfully, and “A Grand Grand Overture for Three Vacuum Cleaners, One Floor Polisher, and Concert Band.” Yes, vacuum cleaners and floor polishers.

The concert was advertised to be 70 minutes long; it ran nearly 120 minutes! Had I known, I likely would not have bought tickets. And perhaps other parents would not have either? I saw many an antsy toddler and preschooler in Circle 3, where we were sitting. Host William Ledbetter was a quite long-winded and very un-funny, but he redeemed himself as narrator in the ultimate act, “The Three Bears: A Phantasy.”

Connect with The Philharmonic Winds on Facebook and YouTube.

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I spent several hours this weekend at MOMSHOO’s “Knitting Party” at The Substation. Shu Ning and her mother (“Shoo” and “Mom”) make adorable fabric toys and accessories, and now, in collaboration with The Substation, are carrying out Singapore’s first “yarn bombing.” Yarn bombing (or yarn storming or guerrilla knitting or graffiti knitting) is a type of street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.

MOMSHOO is inviting knitters (no experience necessary!) to knit swatches. These patches will then be sewn together to form In the Pipeline. The installation draws inspiration factories and scaffolding, and, once installed, will adorn the foyer and pillars of The Substation. It will make reference to The Substation’s role as a generator of new ideas and a space for experimentation, while recalling the building’s history as a power substation and as a pioneer art space for the local arts.

All volunteers will be credited alongside the artwork. Knitting materials and light refreshments were provided, but many participants brought their own needles!

The party continues on Saturdays and Sundays, April 26, May 10, 24, April 27, May 11, 25. Admission is free, but you must register by emailing registration@substation.org or calling 6337 7535.

Connect with MOMSHOO on Facebook, shop their Etsy store, and view all their creations on Flickr.

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Since seeing our first children’s theatre production, I’ve been scouring the SISTIC website for more toddler-friendly performances. I now have a wad of tickets for theatre, dance, and music shows through to August!

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Earlier today, we caught Rapunzel, a musical theatre production by The Little Company, a division of The Singapore Repertory Theatre. This retelling features long-locked Rapunzel, a chili crab- and chicken rice-cooking witch named Esme, a cartography-loving prince named Montague, and a bevy of zany animals.

Cheryl Tan, who plays Rapunzel, has a sprightly and commanding presence, just perfect for theatre written for wee ones. The music, by Youn Young Park (music) and Susannah Pearse (lyrics), is fantastic; we are still singing several of the songs hours later. And the play features humor and local popular and cultural references to make parents smile, such Esme’s running off to meet Gordon Ramsey.

I found the puppetry to be somewhat clumsy and spiritless, but my toddler’s eyes lit up each time Harriet the Bird, handled by Pamela Imperial, or Chester the Camel, handled by Jejie Esguerra, appeared on stage.

I’ll end with this: as we left the theatre, my child said, “I want to see it again!”

Rapunzel closes on April 30. Weekday performances are at 10AM and 2PM (selected days). Weekend performances are at 11AM and 2PM.

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