Tuesday, May 03, 2016

So Beach Slang Played In Seattle

After all that drama onstage in Salt Lake City about a possible break-up, and missing Idaho's show, Beach Slang decided to fulfill their Seattle gig. It was really 42-year-old frontman James Alex's angst. We get it. It's a painful lonely road for bands struggling to find that balance between doing what they love and making ends meet. :(

The man and the friends were super relieved and enthusiastic about Philadelphia punk rock band Beach Slang. Me, less so. Got dragged along to the gig anyway. Between drinks and dinner, we caught snippets of supporting bands Hannah Racecar, then Dyke Drama, and Potty Mouth.

What a refreshing venue this is. Small but could hold up to 350 people, The Vera Project holds events for all ages, and that means no booze sold on premises. Gigs start earlier at 7.30pm and end before midnight even on weekends instead of the usual 1am at many show venues.

Beach Slang put on a good show. Nothing crappy about their music. I thought the vibes between the band felt all new-ish and wounded. Like a band getting their act together after a big fight; as though they'll decide whether to break up for real after this tour. 50 dates all the way till September in US, Canada and Europe. That's how it is. Bands commit months to touring and it does take a toll. It can be tough to get up and put on the stage persona. Meltdowns are inevitable.

All the best, Beach Slang. We appreciate what you do. To happy things.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Insignia Series :: Book 3 Southeast Asian Fantasy

I've seen the Insignia series floating around on digital releases (Book 1 'Japanese Stories' in 2013 and Book 2 'Chinese Stories in 2014), but never bothered about it. Now that cavalock has a story inside, I downloaded this 2016 anthology of seven short stories- 'Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy (The Insignia Series Book 3)' edited by Kelly Matsuura. (Purchase for £1.40 on Amazon Kindle, or Smashwords at US$1.99.)

Set in Southeast Asia, Book 3 holds seven fantasy stories themed in two parts. Part I Adventure / Folktales sees stories written by Celestine Trinidad 'Horse Feet'Sheenah Frietas 'The Third Eye'Eve Shi 'Interlude', and Melvin Yong 'The Island'. Part II Adult / Literary Tales and Joyce Chng 'Running from Shadows'editor Kelly Matsuura 'Never Seen', and Eliza Chan 'Spirit of Regret'. They're fairly enjoyable, more so when I read them deep into the night with eerie shadows thrown by the reading lamp.

Melvin Yong's 'The Island' is the longest story of all. It also wraps up Part 1. Grinned as I read about protagonist Mark Yeo and his quest which arose from the discovery of his late grandfather's old letters. The author is obviously a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos. The story references fish-like humanoids, and the Esoteric Order of Dagon, nicely meshing the worship that oddly came to Melaka and Singapura in those years when superstition and paganism reigned supreme. (Read Lovecraft's 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth'!) Except these new developments are set in contemporary Singapore, on Pulau Satumu (where Raffles Lighthouse sits. Its name means 'one tree' island) on the fateful night of the winter solstice. The story can only end in one way after so much drama- of Mark leaving his human form, becoming part of the Deep Ones and perhaps heading off to Y'ha-nthlei.

There was an almost reassuring sense of relief as I viewed the final moments of my mortal existence. Somehow, I understood that the life I had led for over three decades was coming to an end, and a new, eternal one was about to begin. 
By now, the salt water has reached my parched lips. The remaining creatures encircle me and together, we enter the ocean. I can feel my thoughts, my emotions, my very humanity starting to dissipate. A feeling of peace comes upon me. And then there is something else: an eons-old intelligence, vast and powerful, crawling into me. 
I welcome it. 

The writing is fine overall, except it can be a little stilted at various junctures. There are a number of typos that leapt out jarringly- say in 'The Third Eye', right at the start of the story, it went "She had too many dream and aspirations.", and in 'The Island'pulau suddenly became "Let me guess, the island is Palau Satumu and the local is my grandfather?". Typos like that are difficult to catch unless a larger number of proofreaders go through the book.

In Part II, Kelly Matsuura's 'Never Seen' talks about The Twelve, a magical circle of mages made up of young women who never marry or have children, and are destined become mages in, I think, Vietnam. The young women are deflowered by a King Amnuay, and aged overnight into a seventy-year old woman. It's suggested that young women are more fixated on physical beauty and youth, and once they age, they acquire a different type of beauty, inner strength, wisdom and awareness. The mages learn the spells of their ancestors and call the mists to protect their island and kingdom.

Young maiden of beauty no more, I join the circle of crones. I hold their wrinkled and shrunken hands, and drink the awakening potions they serve me. They sing, not quite the melodic chant of the monks last evening, but a warm, enveloping sound that tells me I'm accepted as their sister. 
We never speak of our lost allurement or envied traits—we are now all the same. Mothers of the new people, advisors to the king, and high mages of the fae lands.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Hip Workouts in WA

As usual, I was scanning through the list of barre and pilates studios to sign up with these few weeks. Was flipping through Seattle Met and its February article about '10 of Seattle's Best Fitness Communities' threw me into fits of laughter. No wonder somebody called my fitness regime this year "hipster". LOL.

Well, it isn't as though I've just jumped on the bandwagon or follow trends. I've been doing various iterations of the same fitness regime for like...almost four deacdes. Dohhh. Once you've been a competitive gymnast/dancer long enough in school, even with injuries sustained, you'll never want to lose that flexibility and strength. I might train less now because there isn't a hard goal and I don't aim to be competition-ready for whatever. But I don't stop with the daily stretches. Never.

Anyway, the article. This short paragraph about barre tickled me loads. The last two lines-

Most people at the Capitol Hill studio wear official, branded socks. The busy lobby before class can feel like sorority rush, where a casually chic Lululemon dress code is unspoken but almost uniformly followed.

WHAT? I do like my fancy gym gear, barre and pilates. :P I don't need rippling muscles or well-cut abs. But it's hard not to be trim if one stretches daily. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CORE. Like my core is probably stronger than yours. *dissolves into peals of laughter*

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hey Spring in Seattle!

The weather forecast in Seattle promises to be kind. By that I mean temperatures in the range of 13dC - 24dC with some rain. Rain is the norm here. Whether we get that gorgeous sun totally depends on the fickle weather and Murphy. It was a mild winter—the plum trees and cherry trees bloomed in late February and lasted all the way till now.

Love this direct flight from Taipei into Seattle on EVA Air. Makes me feel less zonked than if I had to garner energy to deal with the domestic transit at LAX (from Tokyo) or SFO (from Seoul). With the ESTA on repeat visits within six months, I didn't even have to queue up at immigrations to talk to a human. I simply touchscreen-ed my way through, printed out my own 'immigration check-out' slip, shimmy to the shuttle to baggage claim and got out of Sea-Tac Airport within 20 minutes of landing.

No issues with locks on suitcases. Because, cable ties. WOOOHOOO. Sorted out the check-in at the hotel, picked-up our data-SIMs, and checked out information about the possibly mad weekend of May Day protests, Sounders and Mariners games and the Alaskan Way viaduct two-week closure, etc. In fact, the crazy friends sent a list of 'things to note in WA'. Hahaha. They damn free lah. I can get the information online, but it's much appreciated because the locals can get more in-depth stuff and the friends will know the sort of details I'm looking for.

Then crashed our friends' kitchen for dinner. Gotta pick up my rain boots too. Nothing elaborate since we just landed, although not too tired, we weren't at our finest witty best. Hahaha. A one-dish meal always works. The friends had earlier brought out the giant pasta machine to roll out radiatori. Fat and squat. So cute. They made a puttanesca of sorts. Convenient and delicious. Mmm. Much love and laughter. Hey spring in Seattle, nice to see you.

Friday, April 29, 2016

National Kitchen by Violet Oon

Violet Oon's Peranakan dishes aren't crap lah. It's more of how her kitchens execute the dishes which can be inconsistent on a day-to-day basis. The issues at the restaurants seem to be more operational. I was okay with the interpretation of food at her restaurant at Bukit Timah. Of course if you visit, expecting flavors of Guan Hoe SoonPeramakan or the old Baba Blues, then you're going to be sorely disappointed.

There're so many mixed reviews about National Kitchen by Violet Oon that I had to try it for myself. It's small, but beautifully done up. But the wood and tiles don't help with controlling noise levels. It's very noisy at both lunch and dinner. Kinda tempted to wear ear plugs and tonight I did. Well, dunno about you, but I've gone by a few times and enjoyed the food at National Kitchen. No pork or lard used. Menu offerings also hold familiar items from Violet Oon's Bukit Timah restaurant.

Took the man to the restaurant for dinner when he had a window between conference calls. I knew he'd appreciate the Guinness on tap here. Heh. Tasted pretty all right. Orderd conservatively. The kuay pie tie were dependably nibblelicious. The man was pleased with both beef rendang and sambal eggplant. Spicy enough without the overkill. Happy to see my favorite buah keluak noodle (spaghetti) on the menu. It was still oily at the bottom though. Ugh. I wish the kitchen would go easy on the oil.

Had to order idly with coconut and tomato chutney. We were curious! While the idly were the tiniest ones around, but they were surprisingly decent. (Can't beat Murugan's lah.) The idly were, how should I put it without going into the technical details of how to make idly/idli and what makes it good... anyway, they were sour enough. Yup. Sour. The surprise was the fish curry that came along because we randomly asked for sambar, but of course they didn't have it. The servers were so lovely to give us a small bowl of nicely tangy fish curry on the house.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Back At Bollywood Veggies

On weekends, it's always a pleasure to go on a walk to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, then to Kranji Marshes and stop at Bollywood Veggies for an early lunch with the friends. The morning was overcast but the skies held. Not even a drop of rain. Made for a very perfect stroll all the way to an early lunch at 11am.

Can't help ordering the same items each time we eat at Bollywood Veggies' Poison Ivy Bistro- the Indian vegetarian platter. The sambar is good. We ask for sambal belachan too. Pretty decent. Since it was a table of four, we made it to the dessert platter of kueh, and could even buy additional loaves of banana bread and jackfruit bread to take home.

To be honest, the food is average. Oddly, we like it enough to return a few times a year. I really enjoy the food, the weirdly wide variety of menu items, the company and conversation. Also, we take comfort in knowing that majority of its ingredients are supplied straight from the farm and cooked fresh with little salt and oil. The relaxed atmosphere of the bistro amongst the green is such a gem. Its air-conditioned indoor area is much appreciated too. Driving up here is always a breeze. It's as close to the 'countryside' as we can get.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sometimes it Snows in April

Too many of my childhood music heroes have died. This year hits especially hard. 2016, you're breaking my heart. The year began with the death of David Bowie, then Maurice White, Glenn Frey, and others. Then Prince. We aren't even at the halfway mark of 2016. :(

There's a feeling of loss, not the deeply personal sort obviously. It's a sentimental loss without regard to whether these musicians are assholes in their private lives. I look at the scene today and mourn of the passing of an era. There's talent aplenty of course, but few musicians have taken the world by storm as David Bowie or Prince did. The flamboyance doesn't quite match up to these legends now gone. Unless we only remember them because of how their music accompanied our teenage years and through all the angst.

With Prince's passing, I feel old. He has got 39 studio albums and so many fantastic songs. Hard to pick just one favorite song. 'Starfish and Coffee', 'Thieves in the Temple', 'Diamonds and Pearls', 'Cream', and even the cheesy 'Kiss'. Had loads of fun tinkering out the tunes on the piano and the guitar. The man has been on the guitar strumming songs non-stop. Well, a welcome change from Guns N' Roses during the Coachella weekends. I've got a very soft spot for 'Purple Rain'. I don't quite take to the movie though. Eioow. The man made me watch it again that night. It's really... 80s horror.

Remember one of Prince's most epic performances? Done in the downpour. The 2007 Super Bowl XLI in Miami. Prior to this year, apparently it has never rained during a Super Bowl. Ha. Miami. Woah. Torrential rain and gale-force winds. Made us swoon when he covered Foo Fighters' 'Best of You'. Hurhurhur. Com'mon, Dave Grohl is way better on vocals and drums then the guitar. When Prince broke into the solo for 'Best of You', it was the most amazing thing.

(link to NFL's video of 'Prince's Full Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show'; 12:33min)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Cafe at National Museum

Not quite a fan of Food for Thought's (FFT) bistros. As meaningful as their causes are, their service is patchy across outlets, and food is middling at best. For years, I thought it quite crap, even at its price points. Especially the outlet at Botanic Gardens; nobody really goes there to eat. Recently, the kitchens seem to have improved. One fine afternoon, we settled into an easy meal at its National Museum outlet.

Menu has been revamped. The service staff that afternoon were quite lovely. Food came correctly, and fast. The grilled tofu mixed mushroom salad wasn't too sad and came with tempeh crisps. The garden city vegetable aglio olio was all right. Good on them for upping vegetarian options and making them more robust than the sad strands offerred by the old menus.

R had no complaints about his crispy curry chicken with creamy wongbok slaw (which was really a big piece of deep fried chicken chop with curry mayo dip at the side), and salt and pepper fries. Hahahaha. It was brainless and very edible, he said. No comments on the basket of spam fries. Ma Ling luncheon meat thick cut fries. Woot. It's my guilty unhealthy indulgence. As long as the fries aren't miserly-cut and fried to a sad thin crisp, it's fine by me. There's now soy beef brisket on mash with sweet potato crisps, and a Foochow-style red rice wine chicken leg with mee sua. Both dishes were pretty tasty. Skipped the bits of chicken because I only wanted the mee sua and hard-boiled eggs. 

No dessert. The table went for milkshakes- good old Milo Dinosaur and Horlicks, and declared them absolutely divine. Okaaaay. Many have said that FFT's pancakes are nicely done, and have been good since day one. Lost on me. I don't like waffles or pancakes. Hahaha.