Signal Boost: September 2015

Signal Boost

Usually, my posts under Signal Boost features events and submissions happening over the course of the month. However, with the Singapore Toys, Games, & Comics Convention around the corner, and the Singapore Chapter of the 24 Hour Comics Day soon after, I thought I’d make this month’s Signal Booth a bit special.

Global Beards & STGCC

One has humour in his genes, and the other’s just créezy. Both of them are selling comics and short stories at their artist alley stall at the Singapore Toys, Games, and Comics Convention.

Often, I go to STGCC for the great variety found in the independent artist alley, where locals and regional artists alike come together and put out stuff they have created. Wayne Rée and Gene Whitlock form Global Beards, and will be selling their…

  • Full-coloured adventure comic The Yellow Princess (Part 1!!)
  • Pitches, Gene’s collection of art
  • Prompt, a collaborative collection of short stories by Wayne and his friend, Anna (ONLY 55 COPIES)

To find out more about them and their shenanigans, click here.

24 Hour Comics Day

As per tradition, the 24-Hour Comics Day, where comic artists and writers challenge themselves into making 24 pages of comics in 24 hours, will be held on the first Saturday of October. While it starts on 3rd October for this year, registration is still ongoing!

So if you have a side project which is just waiting to be finished, or would like to challenge yourself into doing something you’ve always wanted to do, find out more here. (P/S – JF, the guy who organises this, is super awesome.)

Note – To all Singaporeans, remember to vote on the 11th of September!

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Updates [August 2015]

Featured Posts

This month feels like it went past before I had the chance to finish my laundry list of stuff. However, it has been one of my most productive months yet! The Cameron Highland posts are finally up and I’m really happy to have been able to relive the awesome parts of the trip again.

That being said, these are my favourite posts for August:

Writer-y Endeavours

The proper rewrites and major edits are coming at full speed since our Mentor Access Project is coming to an end. At the same time, I started a 365 Days of Singapore side project, to take a single photograph of something Singaporean on my Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr every day for a year. And as a bonus, I will be writing a flash or short fiction piece on Muse Moment here. I’m also working on a few indie projects, and I hope I’ll be able to announce it soon.

Everything is moving a bit slower now with so many things happening at the same time. But Escape from Reality is moving along, and we should be able to make a few announcements soon.

So until then, hope you enjoy my reviews and short fiction:

Another side note: I have moved my Portfolio Site for my writing to Tablo, so I hope you’ll enjoy my fiction there!

Coming Up Soon!

  • Long overdue post on “The Deep”!
  • MAP Graduation
  • Birthday month!
  • More posts on writing, museums, and board games

And I will see you in September.

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Museum Escapades: Time Tunnel Museum

Museum Escapades

Going to the Time Tunnel Museum was entirely by chance. While researching for our trip to Cameron Highlands, the Tiger and I found this place, but decided against it because it looked like a tourist trap. However, since we had some time before tea during our second day we decided to head down.

Now, we take our words back.

Here we go!
Here we go!

The Time Tunnel Museum is a long, underground building at the side of the main road. Connected to a row of souvenir shops and a café, you paid at the front entrance and then make your way down a level into the museum.

Selamat Datang!
Selamat Datang!
Cycling into the area...
Cycling into the area…

Probably one of the first private museums I’ve been to, the Time Tunnel Museum was able to curate their exhibits according to three main tracks – National History, Regional History, and Personal History.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are greeted with a row of exhibits featuring the Orang Asli of Cameron Highlands, the history of Malaya to Malaysia, the Japanese Occupation, and the fight for independence. Stories were also shared, and a story about a screening of a cowboy movie in Ipoh struck me the most.

The story spoke of locals in Ipoh filling the cinema to watch a cowboy movie during the Japanese occupation, only to be beaten and slapped upon exit because the locals chose to watch a western movie instead of the usual Japanese propaganda films.

Likewise, a setting of a mountain hut (commonly used by rebels or activists in the past) also recounted stories from Malaysians who have lived through the times of communist influence and the fight for independence.

Exhibit on the orang asli
Exhibit on the orang asli
Setup of a hut in the mountains
Setup of a hut in the mountains

Moving on, photographs and write-ups become more focussed, zooming into the development of Cameron Highlands and the towns – Ringlet, Tanah Rata, and Brinchang. Going from the 1800s to present-day, the write-ups featured places like the Ye Olde Smokehouse (1937) and the case of missing silk tycoon Jim Thompson.

Ye Olde Smokehouse in 1937.
Ye Olde Smokehouse in 1937.
Still missing =(
Still missing =(

The final third of the museum, where Personal History is prominent, takes you through the life of a Malaysian through its National History. From the dozens of collections (mugs, toys, typewriters etc…), to the different set-ups of places of the past, visitors can reminisce with items they have used and take photographs with an old-style sewing machine, hairdresser seats from the 70s, or a household playing mahjong with wooden tiles, among many others.

The Michelin Man!
The Michelin Man!
Wide collection of coin banks
Wide collection of coin banks
And milo memorabilia...
And milo memorabilia…
And place-mats...
And place-mats…
Poor dear...
Poor dear…
Hmmm...
Hmmm…
He's forever wanting to do everything himself. Okay.
He’s forever wanting to do everything himself. Okay.

While it felt slightly messy towards the end, it was possibly due to the sheer volume of things on display. And with each section of the museum, it felt personal, instead of just pure curation. It felt like the museum’s owner genuinely wanted to tell his / her story, and share experiences with people as they come to Cameron Highlands.

And as we spent a wonderful afternoon in this place, I hope to do so again the next time I go back to Cameron Highlands.

The Time Tunnel Museum is located along the main road between Brinchang and Kea Farm. You can find out more about it here.

It has been fun!
It has been fun!

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Blanket Fortress Play: Dash! A Whimsical Race Around Singapore

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Since August is the month of our National Day, I felt it was fitting to speak about a game made by local game company Cardboard Island Games and a board game I took a long time to get – Dash! A Whimsical Race Around Singapore.

While it appears to be your run-of-the-mill roll-dice-and-move kind of board game, the game’s characters and mechanics give all players a slight twist.

Setup

Setup is very simple. What you have in your compactly-packed box is:

  • 1 game board
  • 5 race card decks (Follow the colours of the words on the back of the cards)
  • 5 power card decks
  • 1 deck of gold race cards
  • 1 deck of silver race cards
  • 5 character sheets
  • 10 character counters (2 for each sheet)
The three races through Singapore
The three races through Singapore

The game board has an elaborate but easily navigated design. While the objective of the game is to get to the end point first, Dash adds a twist – three race routes. Therefore, whoever reaches the end of the final race first is declared the winner.

Each player chooses a character sheet, and gets their respective race card and power card decks with their character counters.

The Game We Played

One of the most interesting things about Dash is the fact that there are no dice involved in moving each character counter. Instead, players will have to use their race cards (which are numbered cards from 1 to 14) to play a version of Bridge or Dai Dee to decide who should move ahead first and by how much. I broke this game in with the Tiger, Eugene, and Katrina during our Cameron Highlands Adventures.

In summary, the first player call to play a race card has to decide if s/he wants to draw cards or play a race card. Players draw three cards at a time, with their hand limit at 10 cards. If you draw cards, you also sit out of that particular play round.

To play a card, the first player will decide if s/he wants to play a single, double, or triple set. Singles and doubles cards have to contain cards of a single number. Triple sets can be a straight (8,9,10), a flush (all three have the same colour backing), or a triple (all 3 are the same number). The next player will have to beat the first player and the play will continue until player skips reach the last player who was able to play a race card.

Power race cards can be brought into play during a player’s 2nd play of race cards.

To have a clearer picture, playing race cards can go like this:

  1. Player 1 plays straights 2, 3, and 4.
  2. Player 2 draws three cards.
  3. Player 3 skips.
  4. Player 4 plays straights 4, 5, and 6.
  5. Player 1 plays triple 1s with a power card.
  6. Player 2 plays triple 3s.
  7. Player 3 draws three cards.
  8. Player 4 plays triple 5s with a power card.
  9. Player 1 skips.
  10. Player 2 skips.
  11. Player 3 draws three cards.
  12. Player 4 wins the play round.

After which, players move forward the amount of spaces indicated on their character sheets. Depending on how many players played and the mode of play (singles, doubles, triples), the number of spaces differs. Do note, however, that once you’re done with your race card deck, you CANNOT recycle your discard pile, so play carefully.

Running to overtake each other.
Running to overtake each other.

At the end of the first and second races, gold and silver race / power cards are given out according to their finishing position. While these cards may help in later races, what matters the most is finishing the last race in 1st position.

By the end of our first game, the Tiger, Eugene, Katrina, and myself got the hang of the game mechanics, and the habits of each player. Soon after, card trolling started (a.k.a. when players decide to be funny and play singles for a good part of the game so you waste cards at the first race).

Gameplay Winners: The Tiger, Eugene, then me.

We played three games, with each of us emerging winner from each one. While the rules appeared more confusing than I would have liked, it was easy to play once actual gameplay has started. Despite that, I wished there were clearer instructions on how to set traps – that would have added another element to the game itself.

Dash! A Whimsical Race Across Singapore, was created by Cardboard Island Games. For more information, click here.   

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Decode: Adventure: Cameron Highlands 2015 –Adventure!

Decode Adventure

Apart from Steamboat, Cream Tea, and great Night Market food, Cameron Highlands gave us a few adventures which we had the pleasure of experiencing.

With the intent of exploring Brinchang and some of their renowned tea plantations, we registered for a tour with CS Travel (They had a desk at Copthorne) for a half-day tour including Gunung Brinchang (Peak), a Jungle Trek through the Mossy Forest, the Boardwalk, the BOH Tea Plantation, and the Butterfly Farm.

We headed to the Butterfly Farm first to avoid human congestion at the peak. While it was interesting and beautiful, it was but a good start to the rest of the tour.

I was so happy I caught this one in action though!
I was so happy I caught this one in action though!

Gunung Brinchang

The highest peak accessible by car on the Titiwangsa Mountain Range, Gunung Brinchang stands 2,032 metres (6,667 feet) above sea level. After our trip to the Butterfly Farm, we were driven up here to take a good look at the view.

With the range right smack at the border of Perak and Pahang, the knowledge of being able to see two states at one point was rather breath-taking.

Great view from the bottom of the viewing tower
Great view from the bottom of the viewing tower
From the almost fully-rusted viewing tower
From the almost fully-rusted viewing tower

Jungle Trek & Mossy Forest

After a quick view and some photographs taken at the peak, we headed downwards to the Mossy Forest for our Jungle Trek. Now, I’ve been on a few treks before, but those were held either at Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah, MacRitchie Reservoir, or from MacRitchie Reservoir to Bukit Timah. In short, the terrain is quite forgiving.

The Mossy Forest, however, is so named because of the huge amount of moss growing on the trees, therefore attacking the trees and making them weaker. Our Jungle Trek was through a lightly-beaten path through this Cloud Forest.

Upon entering the Mossy Forest
Upon entering the Mossy Forest
The path we took
The path we took
And the Pitcher Plants we kept seeing on the way
And the Pitcher Plants we kept seeing on the way

And since there was no set path through this Cloud Forest, there were no railings, roads, paths, harnesses, whatsoever. Our guide also pointed out casually about halfway through the trek that we were not exactly climbing through the trees, but on the captured, compacted soil surrounding their roots. And the roots were the only part of the trees which were strong enough to hold their ground.

Unless a big-enough group of people decide to congregate on one spot, jump, and topple the entire tree off the cliff.

So yes, it was fun. And yes, it was muddy and damp and cooling. And most definitely yes, there were areas where you either literally clung for your life and pushed through, or you fall off the mountain range.

I managed to take this while climbing down and around the edge of the tree.
I managed to take this while climbing down and around the edge of the tree.

While I wasn’t able to take many pics of this amazing adventure, we had fun. Though I doubt I’d want to try something like this again so soon.

Boardwalk

For those who want to admire great ridge views and still be on steady ground, the Boardwalk further down from the jungle trek might be something better. After our nature adventure, we were driven further down to the Boardwalk, a wooden path passing through the range.

Seeing two states from one place.
Seeing two states from one place.
The view from one of the boardwalk valleys.
The view from one of the boardwalk valleys.

Needless to say, I was a whole lot calmer here.

BOH Tea Plantation

Our final station was the BOH Tea Plantation, where the factory was closed for the public holiday (we went during Hari Raya Puasa). However, we had a great time at the café (check out my review here) and enjoyed the sights of the trellises and exhibits around the area.

Upholding our habit of getting books when we travel, the Tiger and I got a couple of books from the gift shop as well – the Tiger is halfway through his and I’m trying to get started on mine.

Written by Mahbob Abdullah, the books tell short stories set in plantations in Perak, Johor, and Sabah in Malaysia, together with plantations in countries like the Solomon Islands, Cameroon, and Ghana. You can find out more about the book here and here.

Thank you all so much for reading about our Cameron Highlands adventure. Stay tuned for one more post, where I talk about the Time Tunnel Museum – a hidden gem we were glad we discovered.

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Muse Moment: Body Five

Muse Moment

I find myself on a Muse Moment schedule my first week into my 365 Days of Singapore project. For those who haven’t read my post on what I will be doing on my Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, and main site as an SG50 present, click here.

This Muse Moment story for 365 Days is inspired by my constant visits to the public libraries, I hope you all enjoy it.

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Body Five
Joelyn Alexandra

Nothing stirred.

Since they upped the campus body count to four in a span of five days, security was strict. I managed to slip into the library by the skin of my teeth, requesting a list of books from the Reference section, approved by Professor Lau.

I knew our library was quiet. This was eerie. I wasn’t complaining.

The digital clock at the library entrance read 14:03. And the librarian, once stern and piercing, refused to meet my eye. I ignored him and strolled to the psychology shelves.

The four bodies were reported to be found in pairs, all found around the fronts of the dorms or thrown onto public rubbish piles. All four had their student cards pierced into their chest. All four were killed with their twins.

Campus security warned all of us to stay in our dorms, and reduced physical class time until the case was solved. No such luck with the CID. And no such luck in getting the library to myself today.

“I wasn’t expecting anyone,” he said.

“Neither was I,” I said. He put his feet on the ground and closed the copy of Criminal Psychology and Profilers he was reading. I eyed it.

“You can have it if you want, I’m done,” he said, “I was just cramming what I could before returning it later.”

“Thanks.”

I shuffled past.

“So,” he said, “I thought people were terrified of a psychopath killing students.”

“I have a paper in two weeks,” I said, opening the hardback, “Besides, the killer has a type. So I’m safe.”

“A type?”

“Each of the twins was found in the open with their student cards half-buried in their chest,” I said, “Killers cover up. Serial killers leave signatures.”

He hovered as I flipped pages.

“This book is really good,” he said, “It talks about what to look out for in profiling, and even points out details which many investigators miss out. Do you know you can weed out serial killers by just observing the correct mannerisms? Of course, it still chalks up to experience, but…”

“Yeah, it’s a good book, thanks.”

A receipt-like slip fluttered out after my next flip. He and I dove. Catching it first, I looked. A stray borrowing slip found in a library book is a gateway to psyche and personality, an unmarked treasure, if one wills. His hand stayed outstretched. I brushed it aside.

My eyes scanned the scrap, widening with each book title borrowed.

  1. Human Anatomy and Biology … Due Date: 15 July
  2. Annotated Research on Identical Twins … Due Date: 15 July
  3. Criminal Psychology and Profilers … Due Date: 15 July

His hand was still outstretched when I looked up, though his smile had turned into a snarl.

“I wished you didn’t see that,” he said. His fingers gripped around something glinting in his pocket.

I bolted.

I was not going to be Body Five.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed the read! You can read this story again and more of my other works at tablo.io/joelyn-alexandra or just click here.

Thanks for reading!

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Book Bites: CRIME

Book Bites

As I signed at the side of my name, I knew what I was signing off. And as I took the private lift up 16 storeys, my mind focussed only on one thing – I hope we get out alive.

When Raven recommended this event to me, I registered for a spot immediately.

It was set rather late as compared to most library events, but it looked promising, at least from a fiction research point-of-view. So I went down anyway.

The event was moderated by journalist Michelle Martin, and featured forensic scientist Lim Chin Chin, criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan, and author Colin Cheong. Sharing their experiences with the darker side of Singapore, they spoke about being on the investigative front, defending accused people (guilty or not), and how fact, while sometimes stranger than fiction, spawns stories.

Watching them as the spoke at The Pod
Watching them as the spoke at The Pod

As they spoke about major cases in Singapore (e.g. Huang Na case) and their experiences from their own positions – forensic scientist, defense lawyer, news reporter – here were some of the takeaways which struck me the most:

  • In a small country like Singapore, time is of the essence

And it is not just about bringing the criminal to justice and find closure for the victim’s kin. Bureaucracy comes into play and important people want answers, giving investigators additional pressure in trying to look at their cases in the most objective way possible, with the maximum number of perspectives.

When lives are at stake, the margin for error or missing things out due to time is close to zero.

  • It’s not just about the perpetrators or people involved in the cases or crimes, but also their families

It is human nature to judge. And Sunil said something which stuck with me for the rest of the night –

“Accused persons may be found guilty, but you’ll always have innocent families.”

You can argue and accuse all you want, but this quote has more than a smidgeon of truth within it.

Perhaps the reason behind this convenient dehumanization of criminals, accused people, or people appearing at court is a selfish act of judgement. Because without looking at them and the people around them this way, people on the other side of the courtroom fail to become a “them”, and we have to realize these people are, like us, human.

Despite the Q&A somehow becoming similar to a “free legal clinic”, I enjoyed the stories and the experiences recounted by the panelists. With each word the panelists used in recounting their experience, you could feel the sincerity and the passion behind what they do. I was truly entertained and above all, truly informed.

I once told someone I read Crime / Mystery Fiction because it gives you hope – hope that the light at the end will still come despite all the crap which happens, the crap that makes you lose faith in humanity. This session has reaffirmed this stand for me.

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