Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Singapore Part Three: Treasures and Temples

I always marvel at Indian temple art because of its almost cartoon-ey aesthetic which, because it is practically a thousand years old, creates expectations in me with my art history background, of something more sophisticated.

It does not have the heroic idealized beauty of Greek figurative sculpture, it does not have the pathos profundity and specificity of Roman portrait sculpture.  It does not have the dynamism of Italian renaissance works.  Or self-regarding wit of more modern sculptural explorations.

It has the folkloric appeal of simplified forms, exuberant color, and slave-ish faithfulness to tradition.

Nonetheless, I love it for it's whimsical, overt affection for its gods and for the feeling that anyone of these characters sharing space on a temple facade could, at the drop of  a hat, take flight.  And LAND in my backyard, or yours.

Sorry the pictures are not SO good, they were taken with an I-phone under less than ideal meteorological conditions.

The other aspect of Singapore that I find SOOOOOO appealing is one's ability to access OLD ASIA.

I have not been to mainland China but my understanding is that further to Soviet style communism which suppressed color and ornament, deeming it bourgeois, corrupt, and decadent, and since the New  Communist China has embraced safe Western  (American)  20th century aesthetics of neutral, characterless, restrained expression in design, that much of the color that is the cultural heritage of Chinese populations has been abandoned or suppressed.  In Singapore it is SO NOT THE CASE.  And I am GRATEFUL.

Mr. Paradis and I, on our last day in Singapore went on a mission to Geylang, an Eastern neighborhood of Singapore and currently reputed to be the red light district.  We were apprehensive about going, but the holy grail of the best execution of chili-crab by the "NO SIGNBOARD SEAFOOD COMPANY" gave us sufficient motivation to set aside our reservations and make the trek OUT.

I WOULD NOT HAVE MISSED THIS FOR THE WORLD!  Geylang is a neighborhood of local storefront shrines, wide boulevards, equally expansive awnings over welcoming sidewalk eateries and color for the pure sake of color, and for the sake of bringing pleasure to those who labor, pray and strive in its streets and byways.

Sadly we were not able to spend as much time there as we would have desired.  Which brings me to another story, and my warning to the wise:  These sorts of "ethnic neighborhoods" in Singapore are laced with open sewers of the raw concrete and 90 degree sharp angle kind.  (So you see, it is NOT the perfect, sanitized and baby-proofed environment that you might envision.)  The storm drains are not deep, but the sharp edges of the drain enclosures can do a lot of damage.

In his zeal to get a picture for Mlle Paradis of this delicious yellow temple with its dragons, because her camera battery had died,  Mr. Paradis stumbled into one of those open sewers, smashed his I-phone and tore up his shins fairly grievously.  With blood spurting everywhere and general pandemonium ensuing.....two exceedingly kind Singaporeans respectively watched over us and Mr. Paradis' improvised bandages of soiled Kleenex, fetched us a cab, and directed the driver to the nearest hospital open on a Sunday.

There Mr. Paradis was cheerily, swiftly and solicitously seen to.  With the Singaporean government picking up fully half of the 200 Dollar tab for medical treatment and urging on us what seemed like a year's supply of anti-biotics and pain killers FOR NO CHARGE WHATSOEVER!!!!!!!

So there Obama Health Care Reform!

And God forbid I ever again make remotely disparaging comments either in private OR PUBLIC about drippy, pale, bookish Chinese kids drifting around shopping malls in Singapore, because, on arrival at Tan Tock Seng Hospital it became quickly apparent to me that THEY are ACTUALLY, well...........DOCTORS!!!!!!!

I realize that Singapore is a benevolent dictatorship.  But in the face of malevolent, corporate incited anarchy, and a VENGEFUL God, which the U.S. seems to be increasingly on the track towards, I will take BENEVOLENT Gods and Governments under serious consideration.

I am also reproducing below, my further comment about why I felt I needed to say something about the past weekend's Arizona shootings.  I am not pure, and I reserve a certain privacy and anonymity to protect my husband, his job and my personal well-being.  But I nonetheless believe that the voices of sanity and reason have to rise above, repudiate and drown out the voices of hate.  Erego:

"Thanks everybody for commenting. I just feel that this is a very public activity that I'm taking part in, blogging, and even though I try to concern myself here mostly with pleasurable subjects, I am a serious person, trying to get on in the world as we all are, and I believe I have a responsibility to publicly reject the negative and irresponsible public behavior we see so much of lately. And I do believe that bad behavior has come from the political right.

I agree that we can't solve the folly and stupidity that mankind is inclined to, but not SO long ago, the U.S. was better than this, and set a better example for the rest of the world. Because of our increasingly irresponsible behavior, we are now a BAD example. And less safe from extremists and stupidity both within and without.

Mary, thanks for saying that I'm brave to speak out. All I can say is that there are people who want me to be afraid. And many of them aren't stupid. My fear would strengthen and serve them. I don't want to be made afraid and I hate myself when I let people frighten me. So I have to say something.

And that something is mostly, YES! WE CAN BE BETTER THAN THIS! 

And that's why I do Passage Paradis. To make a place to remember what is lost and hope I can inspire others to recreate it somehow, somewhere, and to have a place to discover what is wonderful, to honor and nurture and preserve those things so that we do have something of beauty and value to hand on to generations that follow us."


Thanks to everybody who posted encouraging words!


  1. Right ON!!! My fist is raised in solidarity Mlle Paradis. and...I couldn't have said it better myself. Oh, except that I REFUSE to live my life in fear.

  2. Thanks for being real!.. and I agree with you.

  3. wow, so much going on in hte world that is really making me stop and think right now, and this post is another.

    i admire your voice! jx