James Batcho, PhD | Singapore: Making New Making Strange
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Singapore: Making New Making Strange

BUSAN. I’m just now catching my breath after a quick trip to Singapore (plus a brief stay in Shanghai). No, I’m not referring to the quality of the air (more on this later). I was there to attend a conference for the journal Moving Worlds at Nanyang Technical University, where I also presented a paper. The conference was titled “Transcultural Imaginaries: Making New, Making Strange.” I think I successfully hit on all but the first word in that title, as the Asian/Western aspect of my paper on animation sound design got cut for time purposes.

These events are always better when you know some people in advance, and there was a significant EGS connection there. It’s good to attend paper readings and panels with friends to follow what they’re doing and thinking about in their scholarly pursuits. And then there’s time spent at the bar, talking over ideas that meet in the intersections of the grand and the full of shit. And I mean that in the most positive of ways. Both arenas are necessary to get the noggin twisting in new ways.

The food was of course glorious, as was the atmosphere. It wasn’t my first time in Singapore. I went there with my bandmates in 2009 to play music and travel around Malaysia. We stayed at a friend’s house that time and didn’t actually venture out into the neighborhoods much. What I remember of the place during that visit were the strange and beautiful chanterelle-shaped trees. This time we went to Little Italy, Chinatown, the waterfront, and twice daily traversed the long journey from the city to the NTU campus. On our last day there, the fires from Sumatra had arrived in force. The air was bad enough on that day, but it looks from the news reports that I got out just in time.

This may sound incredibly trite, but I want to mention it anyway. I’m always amazed at the kindness of people when you travel to their home country. We were not only welcomed but entertained and escorted to and from the conference by genuinely kind-hearted people. They didn’t have to do any of this, but they did. And in Shanghai, an intentional 15 hour layover, I was met by three of my students who live near the city. They had heard I was going (via Facebook) and insisted on meeting me at the airport and showing me around. Not only that, but they insisted on paying for everything, despite my aggressive efforts otherwise.

And now things turn toward work and preparation. I have to revise this paper for publication, get the print version of my book out, and get ready to leave this country.