Wednesday, 27 March 2013


So the other day my boss texts me at 1am to say, "Hey I hear you've tendered your resignation?" And I'm like, "Ummm no?" and he goes, "Oh. Phew". So I reply: "What's with the gossip when I've not spoken about this to anyone else?"

See, I've had a chat with my boss on my future with the company because I feel like I'm wasting quite a lot of time that I could actually spend being productive musically and creatively, rather than be desk-bound for an additional five hours a day past the important four hours of my work shift. And I told him quite honestly that, with the number of creative projects on my plate, I'm inclined to leave and pursue that, as much as people might criticise me for being "stupid" for giving up good money in Singapore (not to mention the continuing parental pressure to stick with it).

Boss was understandably sad I was contemplating leaving, but here's the fun part: if I haven't said anything to anyone else, and if he hadn't, how did the rumour mill get started? Boss's explanation is "it's an office of journalists", and I suppose this blog does have public access, but... why would anybody bother to look me up to begin with? I don't mind/care, really. As little Jo says, I live dangerously, tending to make things public that I shouldn't. Maybe it's because I don't really care too much about repercussions as long as they're not fatal. But that makes me sound careless and flippant. The point is: if any of my colleagues do come across this blog, great stuff. Welcome. Hey, come and talk to me about stuff, if you think you'd like to! I'm always open to a nice chat! And given how standoffish many Singaporeans are, it would be nice to meet people who aren't. So... yeah.

Anyway, here's my situation now. I attempted to apply for permanent residence, thinking that if I could get it, I could then go part-time at this company and work the four-hour daily shifts. But my application was (none too surprisingly) rejected, leaving me here with an employment pass. I spoke to boss about it, and he says he's actually supportive of the idea of me working a four-hour shift, and said he'd follow up with HR on it to see if I could still do that. (Yes, I do realise the rumour mill could be traceable to HR, though I somehow don't think it likely, what with the thousands and thousands of employees they have to deal with.) Sadly, I can't do the four-hour shift option, because in order for me to work reduced hours, I'd have to go on a reduced salary, but my employment pass is dependent on a base salary line. In other words, if my pay is less than the amount stipulated, I no longer qualify for an employment pass. Which means that, to do the four-hour shift, I'd have to be a part-timer or freelancer. But for that to work, I'd have to be a resident of Singapore already. See the conundrum-drummydrumdrum? Oy.

So right now, I'm still here. Four days till my self-imposed deadline to serve notice of resignation. But hark: I recently found out that in order to qualify for a bonus, I cannot give notice anytime within the month of the bonus pay-out month. And wouldn't you know it, that month is July. JULY! Which means, even if I tender notice on 1st of August, I'd only leave on Sept 1, which is the month where the rehearsals for The Edge are commencing. This means I'd have to have all the work for The Edge as well as Captain Quokka ready during my time here. But with 10 hours a day spent in the office and commuting, I'm tired when I get back home, and it's an effort to switch gears into creative mode. I tried it last night by working on a 2-minute demo recording and a piano score, and it ended up with me working on it for five and a half hours, almost missing dinner (which I had at 9.30pm), and subsequently going to bed exhausted close to midnight. That's all well and good, but when wake-up time is 4:45am, you know it's gonna be a looong day.

So let's see. Two musicals for which I have to record demos and do complete scores -- not just piano/vocal scores but FULL arrangements; plus a church project I'm composing music for that has been long neglected and constantly pushed down the priority list, plus Zak Zebra in Perth in May...? How now, brown bovine? Just yesterday Mum called and asked me to at least stay till July to get my bonus. And she also said, "What if you stay on, and when the time comes for you to leave for projects, you just apply for no-paid-leave so you can come back?" (Mum, that isn't the point. Stop telling me what to do. Stop putting expectations on me. Understand that I want to make my own decisions, but I can't when my brain is constantly in "you must make others happy" mode, which is incredibly difficult to shake, especially when coupled with emotional mood swings that make me believe my own self-worth is meaningless). I'm digressing. Back on track now...

In conclusion...


I dunno. Help, anyone?

Monday, 25 March 2013

Birthday Shenanigans!

Hey all! Yesterday was a big day for me for several reasons. First off, of course, it was MY BIRTHDAY!!! Yippee!! 33! Boooooo!! The day started early with getting picked up to go to church at 8am. It was my first time playing for the Mass at Novena Church properly, and for Palm Sunday no less!

The view from the keyboard.
Doing my trademark during post-Mass choir practice.
Gerard and Geraldine, my former piano teachers, were so sweet. Geraldine baked a chocolate birthday cake, which we shared with the choir members. And later, we headed to the Tanglin Club for a scrumptious celebratory lunch, where I had a roast beef main course and more yummy desert! Awesome!

Cutting the birthday cake!
Cheers! (Note to self: Diet!) Next to me is fellow keyboardist Ryan.
Me and Gerard.

Dessert! Orange crepe suzette!
Me and my former music teachers!
After lunch, Gerard and Geraldine headed over to Bishan and helped me load up their cars with all my accumulated junk, which totalled about eight boxes and a whole lotta other stuff! We commuted to Toa Payoh, where I was greeted by Tze Ni and her sister Lyn, who are now officially my new housemates!! It was a long and tiresome day of moving, but, as Geraldine put it, it was a very good sign that I was moving on my birthday: It symbolises new beginnings, she said. And it started to rain, not too heavily, just after we'd finished bringing the stuff over to my new place. A very good sign, indeed.

My new room!
...And there's even a sofa! Yay!
On the little marble table (reminiscent of  the table that used to be in my room at Dean Road, huh?!) was a little card from Tze Ni and Lyn. So sweet!!! And then they even brought me out for a birthday dinner afterwards, complete with ice-cream birthday cake!!!

Me and Tze Ni.
All of us at dinner!
Lyn and her hubby, Steve.
Toasting with some odd wheatgrass concoction,
compliments of the restaurant.
Cutting the birthday cake. That's dry ice on the plate,
and it's creating an interesting visual effect, is it not?

Turns out the ice-cream cake was rock hard,
which made me want to stab it Psycho style.
Another attempt. Ahhh, there it goes...
After dinner, Tze Ni, Lyn and I took a short walk to orientate me to my surroundings, and then it was time to head back to my new home, where I promptly fell asleep in an exhausted post-birthday stupor. Quite a day, my friends. Quite a day indeed! And as I look upon turning 33 (erk!), I'm thinking it's time to reevaluate who I am and who/where I want to be. I've got more developments and complications brewing in the background, which I'll blog about as soon as things are more solidified. For now, let's just say, there are options on my plate that will determine my future in Singapore and as an artist/journalist in general. Stay tuned. Till next time!!

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Lately I've been following a Facebook page called Peanut's Recovery, and it's about a poor little pit bull puppy in the States, about five months old, who suffers from a condition known as demodex mange, which results in terribly itchy skin, fur falling out, crusty sores and so on and so forth. It's apparently hereditary and poses little threat to humans and other dogs, though I think there's another variant of mange that's contagious. But anyway.

What really caught my attention was a photo of the poor puppy (now named Peanut) that was circulated on FB: the poor thing looked terrible (I won't even post the photo here, but if you're curious, you can view it after my warning that it's quite a heartbreaking image. View it here). Peanut was scheduled to be put down, but a kind soul named Josh was moved by this picture and travelled two days across the US to save her. 

Now Peanut is back home with Josh and his wife, and it's going to be a long, slow recovery, but the human parents are determined to see her through to good health even if it means being subject to Internet abuse by haters and trolls (which has happened and has kept me infuriated and intrigued all day today; I swear, Facebook can be as dramatic as a soap opera a lot of the time!). 

Anyway, here's a photo of Josh and the beautiful little puppy Peanut (who has an older adopted brother named Jackson, who has - like his human parents - fallen in love with Peanut and is both protective and frustrated by her, as well as another doggy adopted sibling whose name I don't know). This is her after just one week of treatment and, more importantly, love... which makes you wonder about the kind of abuse she had to have undergone for the mange to have become so bad, if a mere seven days of care can result in such a drastic improvement. Doesn't hurt that her human Josh is kinda a cutie too, but that's besides the point. If you're interested, check out Peanut's Recovery on FB here

Pic by Adam Hays Photography / Peanut's Recovery. No copyright infringement intended.


Sometimes I wonder about the little things. I'm in the process of moving house (for the fourth time in just over a year) and decided to donate two garbage bags worth of miscellaneous items to the Salvation Army. Called for a cab, and the driver who picked me up was incredibly friendly (not common in Singapore, sorry!) and immediately said "Oh, I donate to the Salvation Army every so often too!" and was more than happy to bring me there, wait for me and bring me back. On the way back he realised he hadn't pushed the button on the taxi meter, and so he said, "Oh well, it's only money" and gave me a reduced fare. "After all, you're donating your items," was his happy conclusion. :)

Monday, 18 March 2013


I was looking out my bedroom window a moment ago and I was suddenly struck by the oddest realisation that I'm currently in a beautiful city, one of the world's most popular destinations, a developed nation that has more opportunities than I probably even realise.

So why do I feel so trapped and helpless?

Something Right (At Last)

Here's something to entertain you: a song that I wrote about a decade ago, which my mate Miller, from Perth, decided to record with a live band and string quartet. For a long time the instrumental track was simply lying about neglected; then recently I got my dear friend Anne-Marie to chuck some vocals on, and here is the end result. Music, lyrics, piano and string arrangements by Nick; with Anne-Marie Manuel (vocals); Daniel Lu (guitars); Christian Irdi (drums) and Anthony Pratama (bass). Music originally mixed and masted by Miller Lo. Can't remember the names of the dudes who played the strings, but if they ever come across this, thank you! ;) Enjoy!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Wat the F*** is this bullsh*t??

More auditions for The Edge are happening in KL without me this weekend. Here's a photo of our producer Dom trying to decipher one of my music scores. Arf arf.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


So last night I received some bad news. But more on that later.

Today I received this in the mail:

Hmmm? What could this be?
Turns out, it was the early birthday pressie I got myself!

YAAAY!!! Drool!
It even came with a free packet of this:

Wasn't sure if I was gonna eat it. Then I thought, who am I kidding? And I ate it.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Closer to the Edge

The weekend that just went by was really fun (albeit exhausting) because I made a whirlwind trip back to KL to meet up with my good friends Dom and Ben for auditions for this year-end's production of my musical The Edge! Whaay-heey!! From 11am to about 5pm on Saturday and Sunday we met with talent of varying degrees, who had to sing a pre-emailed demo song from the show as well as act out a scene. Some of the auditionees were also asked to sing a pre-prepared song of their choice. It was a really good two days, I reckon, although we were still scratching our heads somewhat by the end of the sessions as we weren't entirely certain if we have all six people that we want to fill the roles yet. But I shouldn't say too much, arf arf.

The other positive thing about this, of course, is my foray -- nay, return -- to producing and being more actively involved in creative work after a rather tumultuous past couple of years since FTL (10-minute musicals notwithstanding). I sometimes wonder if my journey to Singapore was to make me appreciate Malaysia so much more. Okay, so our theatre scene isn't as advanced as Singapore's, but isn't that what's exciting about it? That there's still room to make things better, to make a difference? In Singapore, the scene is impressive, but that makes it harder to get into and be a part of. And someone I met over the weekend commented that Singapore's arts scene is, much like its people and enterprises, 'fitting a mould', conforming to the image of what is expected of Singapore practitioners. I'm not sure if this is necessarily true, but hey, an opinion is an opinion. Regardless, I think I needed to be here to regain some perspective that the promise and potential in KL exists. And I feel like I'm all the more ready to go back there and be a part of it once again.

I leave you with some photos of producer Dom and director Sabrina during the weekend. Till next time!

Dom and Sabrina in mid-private conversation. 
And then they saw me eavesdropping. 
In one of the rooms, we noticed Dom's shirt matched the walls...
...And Sabrina's top matched the sofa...
...And my jeans matched the floor.

Nick's Gonna Be On The Moooove Again!

Hey everyone. Sorry for lack of updates. I've been nursing a still-gouty foot (but better than before, thank heavens) and a hacking cough for the past month now, urgh. And I'm currently in the midst of preparing to move house again in Singapoo. But it's not all doom and gloom: I'll shortly be moving in with an old high school friend, Tzeni, whom I reconnected with about a week and a half ago. The last time I met her was in 2000 or thereabouts, when Terry, Debs, Chan Ghee and I headed here to Sg to catch Ms Saigon. She's Deb's friend, mostly, which accounts for why I'd not previously been in touch with her since being here. But recently she emailed me saying she had a room available, and the timing was fortuitous because I'm ready to get out of the new place I'd moved into just last December, primarily because I can't cook and getting food is a pain (literally, gouty and all!), and also because (coincidentally or whut), my health has taken a turn for the worst since moving in (it's the feng shui in there, I tell you! There's bad chi!) ... and also because the landlord, who is a nice guy, is always in the apartment working from home, which makes me feel like I have no privacy to record any of my musical stuff and also because I'm constantly having to be cooped up in my room whenever I'm at the apartment. (That and the fact that he frequently lurks about in his tighty-brief undies, which, y'know, is just a little bit disturbing, and that's coming from me.) So I'm outta there.

I had to do a mental debate (as I oft do, of course) about whether or not to move in to this new place because I'd have to pay $300 Singaypoo dollars more a month. But after some very calm and rational discussion with friends (also known as Nick's Mindless Emo Rant on Facebook), the decision was clear: y'shouldn't put a price on potential happiness. So it's almost RM1,000 more a month for a room... so waaat? If I can be happier there, with Tzeni and her sister as my new housemates -- people to talk to, who are from a common background (i.e. Penangites), and the location is good (MRT and shops directly below, arrrr!), why not give it a go? It'll mean readjusting the ol' budget, but what the heck. So I'm going for it. I haven't yet finished packing and making the arrangements, but as of right now we're trying to see if I can move in by mid-month (i.e. this weekend, augh!) or next week... whatever the case, definitely by April 1, which is when the rental on my current room is up. So wish me luck, boys and girls!

(Oh, here's a little sketch I did at work.)