30th Nov2011

New York in an Almost Year

by Dorothy

Random quick bits about thoughts and The City from Q1-3:

I guess there is a certain vibe, a certain stigma about New York City. It’s a city on overdrive and it will and can fry your senses if you’re not careful. Mentally, physically, literally, metaphorically.

The city is a curious mix of architecture marvels with history and people. From the eco friendly Hearst Tower, the dimly lit chanderliered entrance of the Royal Palace Hotel, eclectic little shops in Soho and the Lower East Side to the rather sterile concrete buildings of Wall street. The Brooklyn Flea houses a collection of quirky little trinkets and items, and itself is housed in a stately building that was converted from a bank; a stark dichotomy.

Graffiti here is spontaneous and in the oddest of places, narrow subway underground tunnels the top of buildings, each a defiant testament to the people who claimed the space as their own. Not in a tightly controlled environment where a canvas is laid out in front of a curious audience. Like at the Night-festival in Singapore, anyone? Cough. I think that defeats the purpose of it. Don’t think the organizers understood the essence behind graffiti. The only people who should see graffiti being created should be the artists and their friends. Watching it appear in front of you, in a space dictated with crowds of curious spectators watching, with no element of risk, danger or mystery as expected just takes away the soul and experience of it.

I could do a photo series entitled subway trash of still lives – even the trash here somehow manages to look like a still-frame out of a movie.

Ben Stiller walked past us one weekend morning, apparently.

The size of rats vary with the parts of the city – the big black mean ones reside in Manhattan; small furry ones are found on the outskirts. The friendly mouse looking ones live in the Jersey PATH trains. 🙂

If you are anticipating a long subway commute, you probably want to switch your iPhone off while underground if you don’t want to find your batttery at 60 % even before the day has started. Why there has been no serious motion to actually get reception that works well underground or even in various buildings is beyond me. It is kind of like the weekend commute, when basically, the best thing is to expect nothing out of the subway reliability.

Sirens are your lullabies. You grow accustomed to it. The police and fire engines are just, everywhere.

Phones are socially taboo (at least it seems so at most eating spots) or maybe it’s a function of the crazy bad reception. People are engaged with each other here, and with time being such a precious commodity, one notices that cellphones are hardly the focus and the ones whom you meet grant you their attention, for choosing to spend the time.

Colours do not exist in the NYC fashion palette in winter. Everyone wears black black and more black even though the racks have a staple of black, white, red and the occasional electric blue. Who dictated that fashion has to mirror the season? Even within the line at JFK, I was standing out in a bright and (too) happy red.

Unaccustomed to the landscape so distinctly mirroring the seasons, visual cues start to hint to me the arrival of spring. Lighter coats, rain boots, slight colours, (short) skirts. People complain about the heat but hardly ever about the skirts. Do they not see the necessity of the former for the latter to materialize? Thank goodness for the cheeriness of Summer.

The city is edgy, fast paced, if that is your type of fun. Small enclaves of communities exist and in time, I intend to explore these when I’ve gotten my wings fixed. Sometimes the cashier mistakes me for Korean and rattles musically about the items I’m ringing up until I give a polite “I don’t understand you” in English. At other times Korean guys remark really loudly “a Chinese” as I’m trying to get up the steps to dinner in Ktown. I am unsure of the correct response to this so I do nothing save roll my eyes. Ethnicity seems to be a topic of conversation with random people taking bets as to whether you are Korean or Chinese in the most random of places.

Definitely pay more attention to your Chinese lessons if you are still in school, especially if you want to order take out from Ctown. Actually, make that if you want to order food in general. D:

Outside of the tourist belt, there are hardly any children, teenagers or too many old folk. Everyone seems to float around the college age to the young working professionals. And then there are the others, who seem to have decided that being perpetually in Peter Pan mode is their thing. Over 45 and still living like recklessly 25 is just a little creepy. Just sayin’.

There is also the distinction between “the tourists” and “New Yorkers”. Tourists are roadblocks, the grown up children who still find delight in every cranny of the New York environment. New Yorkers are past that – police road blocks and a barrage of media vans and satellite for Osama’s capture or “that IMF guy” being held in an undisclosed location in lower Manhattan? Just part of everyday life, now will you please, not hog the sidewalk so I can get to my cup of coffee/work/you get the idea? Your local news is global here. Something is always happening; somewhere.

I love how people actually care about stuff here.

Photobucket Chivary is alive and well in the city because here is nothing more odd in their senses for a girl to be carrying a shelf on the streets.  People have also been awfully kind to help me move my furniture that I got from them, so maybe I have just been lucky so far. You can get quite a lot out of a conversation in the 30 minutes while moving your desk. So awfully DIY, but just one of those things you do before you succumb to the instant gratification that is Amazon. On an aside, if one ever contemplated never ever having to leave your house, Amazon could fulfill all your hermit aspirations.

Door holding is nice and I hardly get any slammed in my face if I am within close proximity. Anyone who has tried to get into a lift in SG with plently of space, only to have the door closed on you because everyone was too apathetic to press the Open Button will understand this. It’s the little things that count.

What’s better than holding the subway door seconds just before it closes, is having two young teenage guys hold it open for you, upon seeing your approach and not even missing a beat in their conversation rhythm. Equally heartening is having a random stranger call out to you when you are at the far end of a corridor which only leads to an elevator, just so they can wait for you to enter.

Well, obviously there are rude people as well, but perhaps the word is not so much of rude than brash.
Weather is a huge factor here because it dictates your life. It’s the first time weather reports are actually accurate or important. The coats change with the seasons, and rain coming horizontally at you renders normal umbrellas useless. Let’s not even talk about the winds.

Things will go on even if it rains. At the Rooftop films, the organizers quipped that “We’re tough , we’re New Yorkers”, and the show went on. Seats were kept and folded after the show by each member of the audience, ” just so a lot of us can get out there faster”.

PhotobucketThe weather is unapologetically capricious and erratic – winter seemed never ending with the fresh white snow quickly morphing into black piles of slush. There was a brief dalliance with spring and upturned umbrellas. People marginally freaked out over the earthquake aftershocks. Hurricane Irene brought the City to a standstill whilst everyone went stir crazy being confined indoors. Coming from a country with NO natural disasters, you realize you have no clue what to actually do, but you get by. It snowed in Autumn and this surprised the trees in Central Park and many of them broke under the weight.



It seems counter intuitive to find contentment in a restless city, but that’s what New York can offer you, amongst a whole lot of other things. Transience is the only staple. The city has a routine of constant change, and possibilities in anything you believe in, if, of course, you search it out. Or maybe it might find you instead.


The City will speak to you, if you listen to it. The same City, but somehow in a different language for everyone.


^ And more photos, only because they remind…

20th Aug2010

Hello from New York!

by Dorothy

It’s been a couple of days in New York. Great ideas, great conversations being circulated so I’ll probably put all of the thoughts down when I’m back in Singapore.

Given that the heatwave of Summer is probably over, the weather has been incredibly agreeable with me, save for the sauna that is the Subway. I am loving the Summer outfits and feel of the city; quite a stark contrast to the all black or mostly bundled up crowd and rainy, wet streets from the past few visits in Winter and Spring.

Times Square continues to be a full blown assault on the senses. There is really no other way to try and describe this sensory overload – sights, smells, the weekend rush, the PRE-weekend rush, or should I say, perpetual rush…and the very suspect smoke steaming from the underground.






There is the juxtaposition of big branded billboards, and odd billboard like the below…which someone definitely needs to explain to me.




There’s people everywhere right up till late night, dining al fresco, even the solitary old man on the corner table with a chess set all laid out, waiting for an opponent to sit down to game with him. Times Square is swarming with tourists like ants and there are a couple of new interactive billboards from AE and F21.


Social Media

….is more prevalent in New York than it is in Singapore, even compared to a mere 2 years ago, there are perceptible differences.

Very cool – AE plants your mug shot on their space when you make a purchase, and F21 simulates a leggy model taking a picture of the street below, which is, in fact an actual real-time shot of the current crowd. This then animates into a Polaroid snapshot, real-time used in a great way there. There are also the love tweets on F21 related content.




I missed my 24/7 internet so, and only periodically had access to things like Foursquare specials from American Eagle at Jersey Gardens. (Public Wifi, FTW!)



New York is inspiring, even in the strangest of places. It can be overwhelming at first, downright antagonistic in the winter, but every time that I’ve been back it just gets better and better. For some strange reasons.


I still believe that where you are defines who you are to some extent, but it has been a while since I’ve let a place change me. I hear constant calls, still.

But the funny thing is this is also the first time I am here; there; but also home.




15th May2009

Singapore Airlines (SIA): The A380 First.

by Dorothy

I have to say that there is simply no point to this particular post, apart from my waxing lyrical over the A380. We were flying back on SIA from Sydney, and this was our first A30 experience, so it was something we were looking forward to.

Right now I have almost forgotten the very bad turbulence that we weathered to get back home – huge planes, huge jolts = stomach jolts that could rival that of theme park rides. Feeling like the ground has given way beneath you (knowing full well there IS no ground beneath you) is simply not a comforting thought.

Nevertheless, back to the object of focus…the PLANE. While the experience was not as visually arresting as when I first stepped into a Virgin America plane, there were many nifty little features that I liked.

If I had known I could plug my usb drive into it, and what looks like a LAN cable socket, I wouldn’t have had to resort to sleeping off flight boredom. Power sockets on the arm rests on every seat too (nerd essentials for plane survival)!
PDF reader for those who think the provided content is boring. One day when they introduce airline wide internet in the skies, I will be a very happy flier.

Apart from the usual movies, there was news, business book summaries, language learning, and even a mirror on the flip side of the foldable table, which amused me greatly. I really loved how I could pause and play movies, instead of being made to follow a set timing, cinema style, for all audiences, as in the planes of old.

Can’t say I felt the legroom was more than usual, but I suppose the differences only really come into play in First and Business class. 😉

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02nd May2009

A Disconnected Blogger : Sydney : #1 “Some Things Can’t Be Shared On A Blog”

by Dorothy

A Pictorial Overview…

So, things have been a little silent in this space for a while, because I just had an awesome trip to Sydney. And the first thing that accosts me while we head out from the Sydney Airport is billboards, billboards and more billboards. Never really noticed, but when coming home, we don’t really see many billboards in the airport, and that really is rather refreshing on the eyes. I successfully tune most of them out, but one that I really liked was this particular one from Heineken. Excuse the grainy photo – we were moving and high shutter speeds can only do so much.

some things can't be shared on a blog by you.

I know the title of this post sounds rather like an oxymoron – disconnected blogger, but it was a good breather to just disconnect from the Interwebs for a couple of days (although it was also largely through a certain inability to find/stay within the wireless hotspots) and just experience the world. But truly, some things are just difficult to share over a blog (yet another little contradiction as I try to do just that), but I could try to stop marveling over how beautiful Bondi Beach was…

(the two gendered pairs made for an interesting shot)

the eclectic crafts at Paddington that I totally fell in love with,

how quaint the town surrounding Blue Mountains was, how we scared ourselves silly on a railway touted to be at a 52 degrees incline but really, felt like 90…

…or the plush seagulls that stalked and crept up on us while Fish and chips were savoured by the harbour while we ran our toes through the velvet sands of Bondi. It is not funny when you watch them do a 360 degree formation circle around you and start closing in, and I constantly thought of Hitchcock’s The Birds.


And a little drawing for my illustration site in the sands of Bondi. I think I redrew it 4 times, thanks to wave interference, each going higher than the next. So truly, this is a time based illustration.

Hello Bondi

I will end of this first post with the mandatory travel jumping shot. I think I’m getting better at them, but don’t ask me what my feet are doing. I usually let the music and moment take over. T’was only a first try, good enough but I now wish I tried more variations.

So here I am, defying gravity somewhat. Photo courtesy of S!

More thoughts; less pictures in the next post!

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22nd Aug2008

Bitten by the Senior-itis Bug

by Dorothy

Yes, I am graduating next year.

For many of my batch, it will come sooner than that, aka end of this year.

Which leaves me thinking hard about where I want to go after this.

It has been an interesting situation, to have been working when my peers were studying, and now studying when my peers are out working.
I’ve been the youngest in my class, close to the oldest in my class, which has resulted being stuck in some kind of a time vacuum or limbo, in some sense. It has been interesting, if only because it has contributed to a certain fluidity in which I ease into any position. I place markers at personal goals, and not by age. Many seniors feel compelled to do certain things by a certain time. I want to be a millionaire and retire (before 30). I want to get a job (before I graduate). There is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that is what you want, and not something you feel compelled to do, because everybody is doing it. That’s a lame excuse, and makes you seem like sheep.

Having graduated before, the second time round should not seem as scary as the first. But come to think of it, I knew no fear when I first graduated into the working world. It was a come what may, do your best kind of attitude. And look at where it’s taken me.

System hopping
I’ve been in almost every single educational system you can think of, from the strictest, most traditional and academic kind of environment… to the fluid, relaxed and creative sanctuary and of course, institutions that fall somewhere in between. I’ve enjoyed them all to varying degrees.

I suppose the main driver that caused a super introvert like me to throw myself into a system that espoused verbal participation, was the mentality that I wanted to try out something new and break out of my comfort zone. On an aside, I believe that just like learning a foreign language, there is nothing quite as effective as throwing yourself into another country that speaks mainly that language. Only then are you forced to learn, or basically, have to deal with your handicap in various ways. Or sink.

So yes, jumping from system to system was challenging in itself. It would be the same thing each time. Coming in, having to adjust all over again, and then after a while, getting comfortable. I don’t just get comfortable, I get really comfortable. It is always fun to meet people from all walks of life and listen to them, and share with them. And then, inevitably, it is always time to leave.

Let’s get comfortable. (Just not too much)
So N was talking about being very comfortable over lunch a week ago, and I immediately disagreed verbally. Another asked why? I said anyone who is feeling comfortable is never going to move forward. You tend to get so comfortable that you see no need to move from your current position and that is dangerous. I happen to think you should allow yourself to enjoy some comfort, before telling yourself its time to go again.

That is the only way that I can be truly “comfortable” because I’ve accepted change as part of what I crave in the long run.

I guess I would just like to share this sentiment, in which the author states that,

“If the importance of your credential and the prominence with which you advertise it does not decrease with age, you are not achieving or succeeding that much in the real world. Would a successful lawyer begin a letter to a prospective client, “Dear Joe, I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1990”? Of course not. He’d hang his hat on real experiences. Al Gore’s bio on this page doesn’t even mention Vanderbilt or Harvard, two brand names most people would be eager to display. He doesn’t need to. His work speaks for itself.”

How true.

Oh, what’s in a name?
I suppose no one really wants to face the fact that unless you are from an Ivy League school, effectively, the degree that you obtain in Singapore is not that significant when viewed from a global perspective. All that trivial quibbling between the three(or four) universities locally is actually redundant. This post, “Danger in Our Education System, houses several opinions about the state of education locally.

You know, instead of forcing requiring students to go and terrorize help out at the local charitable organizations, it might just be better to have them take modules where everyone gets a chance to travel to a neighbouring country, or some variation of taking them out of their daily lives and opening their eyes. Just to put things in perspective.

If you think about it, corporations could afford to spend less on advertising that just gets lost in the clutter out there or less on their swanky designer furniture, and just pool together their insane amount of resources to help those without the means to just be able to take this trip somewhere. It is just going to translate to better(and hopefully smarter) employees in the long run.

I suppose it is not really in our culture to take a gap year of sorts, to travel the world, to see things and to experience life. This is ironic, when you think about the fact that with Globalization and all that jazz, the world is our oyster like never before. But most people will not have the luxury, but mostly not the intent to “waste” any time on this. It used to be that graduates aspired to get a job after graduation, then it became getting a job before graduation. Now, we’re working even before we graduate.

I don’t know how else to say that rushing to graduate is a worrying trend. Fast trekking to anything is a worrying trend. You can’t get much out of speeding through the learning process, because it still takes ten years to acquire expertise in any field.

Uncertainty and Ambiguity, more Friends than foes
I would also share this mock commencement speech by Mary Schmich, published by the Chicago Tribune, 1 June 1997, possibly forwarded to death, but still encapsulates so much, and of course, sells hope, something of which seniors (or most people for that matter) seem to be in short supply.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

It seems to me, that the people who know exactly what they want to do with their life, don’t really have much of one, because, they’ve mentally limited themselves to the one thing that they (think that they) want to do. I am not advocating a lifestyle in which you just sit around the fire and roast marshmellows. I am advocating the fact that we need to have some openness in deciding what we want to do with ourselves. Given the current times, maybe you might find yourself in a job that did not exist a mere two years, one month ago. These things slip by easily, when you’re happily doing the one thing that you knew you’ve always wanted to do, and not concurrently looking out at what is happening around you. The sooner you realize that the social landscape is now changing faster than you will ever be comfortable with, the happier you will be. The sooner you understand that people (basically, ourselves) are in general really bad predictors of what and why they are feeling, the better off you will be.

But here I am, living in the future again. Guilty as charged. I end with another quote that I distinctly remember from an IDN conference I attended more than half a decade ago, surely. Joshua Davis. He had a really awesome website that I used to frequent. It was called once-upon-a-forest and was a highly experiemental flash based experience, in the age when Flash was still considered a novelty. The only thing I remembered from the entire IDN conference was that he used to put food colouring in his eye (yes, really!), and his phrase,

“If you have one foot in the past and one in the future, then you’re pissing on the present.”

I wish I had the guts to truly live.

Some of you may be shaking your head at this “display” of idealism. Seemingly. If you must have reasons, blame it on the time of the day, on the lack of sleep.

Still, pure idealism, I don’t believe in. But the kind mixed with rationality, the force that everyone purports to align themselves with, just so they can justify their actions.
Now that, is another creature altogether.

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