Saturday, January 21, 2017

Too Real


I have no more words.

I'll be marching in spirit with the Seattle friends (in about 19 hours, Womxn's March on Seattle) from Judkins Park on Norman Street to Seattle Center. I refuse to concede that it's none of my business because I'm not American. This is for inclusion, diversity and respect, and standing up for the rights of women in my own country as well. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Month When Money Flies Out

Pleased to come home to a beautiful pile of handwritten cards sent via snail mail; there's a second stack of boring white envelopes full of bills and all notices. Ah yes, my birthday is coming. This is when my notices for insurance (policies) renewal come in. Ugh. To remind me of my mortality and how much higher is the percentage of needing to use these benefits which will lead towards an inevitable death eventually. Well, I don't like to pay for anything via GIRO or set recurring automated payments. I very much prefer to take a look at my accounts and manually sort out them bills.

January is also the month I review the donations to registered charities in order to gain all tax reliefs possible before IRAS hits me with the demand for income tax in April. Each year, I swop out these charities. although I gravitate towards funds and campaigns looking after the elderly and the ill. This isn't really 'giving from the heart'. I'm giving to these charities so that IRAS doesn't take my hard-earned moolah, and hoping the amounts contribute towards a well-managed pool required for daily operations by the respective registered organizations.

When I'm done hitting minimum requirements for maximum tax benefits, I look at portioning the budget for donations to Singapore charities or social organizations whose causes I believe in, but aren't IPCs (Institutions of a Public Character). That means these donations are highly personal, and I'm not likely to suggest that the friends donate to them too. Unless I'm very aware of how the closer friends feel about certain movements and similar causes. I don't discount charities based overseas, say shark conservation and all that. Now this tier of giving, is slightly more altruistic. Chances are, they make me feel better about how I don't contribute to advancing social and environmental causes as much as I should be.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Piblokto's 'Imperfection'

Across The Plateau from PIBLOKTO on Vimeo.

Attended Alexius Cai's gig in support of his new album 'Imperfection' under the moniker Piblokto. The last album 'Colourless Fields' (2013) is soothing, and I was curious to hear how 'Imperfection' will be. Alexius said that the compositions in this album became more focused after the birth of his son and diagnosis with brachydactyly, and credited co-producer Victor Low for giving the album much-needed structure, writing and arranging the strings.

It was a full stage at the show. There was Alexius on the acoustic guitar. Then Sean Lam (of 'Hanging Up the Moon'), Leslie Low, co-producer Victor Low (on the double bass), Evan Low, Andy Chia (on Chinese flute) and a string ensemble that included Natalie Soh (on violins) filled the Esplanade Recital Studio with ambient sounds.

The frequent movement of musicians going on and off the stage between each song was a tad distracting. But I supposed it was the nature of the songs that required some instruments to be present and some didn't have to be. Still. It was a short 75-minute show, so I guess it didn't matter that much. It was a very chill evening. For the very last song, they gave it vocals- they covered Beatles' 'Because'.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

D's Birthday Luncheon

Went to Regent Hotel's Italian restaurant Basilico for a birthday luncheon in honor of D. Forgot how awesome its brunch buffet is. Food's still great. Breads are good. There're plenty of meats, lamb shanks (on bone), mushroom risotto, and sufficient variety of food for different diets. Love those fruit juices. I overdosed on sugar from like five glasses of guava and pink guava juice. :P Made all the noise we wanted in the little room, had time to chat with everyone, and rolled out of there at 4pm.

The best part of the buffet- the cheese room. You so need to get in there. Yup, THE CHEESE ROOM. Italian cheeses mainly- cow, goat and sheep. It's a long table filled with all types of cheeses including a 75% Dark Chocolate Gorgonzola from Lombardia. Barolo wine infused gorgonzola, caprino with pepper and oregano from Pietmonte, sfogliato al balsamico, et cetera. Gorgeous choices of buffalo mozzarella from a few towns in Napoli. I portioned out quite a chunk of stomach space for cheese, and those beautiful beautiful beautiful tomatoes. Mmmmmm.

I had forgotten to take the camera and only remembered it when we drove out of the estate. Had to turn back to get it. I didn't want to just settle for photos taken on the phone. The birthday girl gave strict instructions for 'no gifts'. Fine. So I wanted to capture the memories and laughter at luncheon, to make a gift of something warm and happy for her this first month of the year; for the birthday girl to have keepsakes of friendships that have endured through the years. And I can only do that with a proper camera. Ordered D and everyone to pose. They obediently did so. I got my shots. ✌🏻

Much love and with all our wishes to your happiness, D.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

PJ Harvey at Esplanade Theatre

I'm a huge fan of Polly Jean Harvey, ever since the first time I heard her when I was an angsty teen. Her style has evolved and changed through the decades, and I still like her music so much. Her recent ninth studio album 'The Hope Six Demolition Project' (2016) totally blew me away.

As much as I enjoy PJ Harvey's lyrics and Seamus Murphy's photography, I've not read or flipped through 'The Hollow of the Hand', yet. I'll get there before the year's out. Also didn't zoom to Kinokuniya at her signing session to get her autograph on a copy of the book. :P For now, I'm happy to have watched a great first gig of 2017 at Esplanade Theatre.

Accompanied by nine musicians on this tour, PJ Harvey didn't pick up the guitar tonight. She didn't need to. Spot the legends! There's her long-time collaborator and respected musician and record producer John Parish, and there's guitarist and drummer Alain Johannes Moschulski. The band focused on 'The Hope Six Demolition Project', which explained the odd set-up for the drums. They did some fun old songs. So stoked to hear 'Down By The Water' (1995) and '50 Ft Queenie' (1993) live. Woah.

Monday, January 16, 2017

All That Is Evil

Many would be familiar Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' (2001) which was made into a film in 2007 directed by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan. I finally got around to reading Ian McEwan's 1975 collection of fairly morbid short stories 'First Love, Last Rites'.

Incest, children roasting cats on a spit, murder, pedophiles, the author brought out all the dark and twisted realms of the human mind. To that, I'm not sure if I should even call any story within 'a favorite'. But it made for a very good read on vacation. The title story 'First Love, Last Rites' is confusing. It's not creepy. It's like...plain. A summer romance between two young adults that developed into something more steady, and a rat in the walls of their room. I didn't quite understand why. Is it the mundane life that the author is fascinated with or how his characters seem to be so soul-less, but not committing any heinous act or go under torture?

'Conversation with a Cupboard Man' is so sad. Of a grown man who hasn't been allowed to grow up normally because his obviously disturbed mother tried to keep him infantile when he was already eighteen years old, keeping him out of school and literally spoon-feeding him. Till he appears to be mentally sub-normal to the average world outside of his home and comfort zone. When he tries to be independent, society fails him, humans fail him, his demented boss locked him in a huge kitchen oven and turned on the heat. Ouch. He even enjoyed jail-time because he was taken care of and stuck to a schedule. He didn't have to fend for himself.

Ever since the oven, I want to be contained. I want to be small. I don't want this noise and these people all around me. I want to be out of all that, in the dark. Do you see that wardrobe there, takes up most of this room? If you look inside you won't find any clothes hanging up. It's full of cushions and blankets. I go in there, I lock the door behind me and sit in the darkness for hours. That must sound pretty stupid to you. I feel all right in there. I don't get bored or anything, I just sit. Sometimes I wish the wardrobe would get up and walk around and forget that I was in there. At first I went in there only very occasionally but then it got more and more frequent till I started spending whole nights in there. I did not want to come out in the mornings either so I was late for work. Then I stopped going to work altogether. It's three months since I've been. I hate going outside. I prefer it in my cupboard.

The last story 'Disguises' irritated me to no end because of its ambiguous ending. ARRRRGH. Henry's mother passed away and he's taken in by his probably talented and eccentric actress Aunt Mina who makes a big deal of dressing up in stage costumes for dinner. Henry went along with it till one night the Aunt forced him to cross-dress as a pretty lass and she was a male soldier. Henry didn't like it. He was eventually taken with Linda, a new transfer student. That kickstarted the 'rebellion' against Aunt Mina and taking a stand to say no to her emotional blackmail.

She took her hand off his shoulder, she sat on the bottom step, and then, 'And what am I meant to do on Sunday when you're off with all your friends?' This sudden change, he was the giver when before he was the asker, he was standing and she was sitting by his feet, there was nothing to say, he was numb. After a while she said, 'Well?' stretching her hand towards him, he moved a little closer till he was where she could take both his hands in hers, and she looked at him over her glasses, she took them off, and he saw then the moisture collecting in her eyes' rims. That was wrong, that was a terrible thing, a terrible weight on him now he felt, can people be so important? She squeezed his hands tighter, 'All right,' he said, 'I'll stay.'

Sunday, January 15, 2017

ดูคุณเร็ว ๆ นี้ประเทศไทย :: ขอบคุณสำหรับทุกสิ่ง

It was invigorating to feel the breeze in my face, sticking my head right here in the sand, and not think about the world or home. It's also time for solitude. That's probably why I love the sea and diving so much. You're effectively alone in the deep blue. That silence is so awesome.

This particular period really induces an aversion to reading headlines, op-eds, comments and even friends' opinions. I didn't swear off social media, but I'm just not on it the way I usually am. Well, having no cellular signal at sea and sleeping by 10.30pm every night contribute loads to diminished screen-time. This break has given me the headspace necessary to deal with all the nonsense this year.

The MacBook sat quietly for most of the time in Rayong. I can get on it when I'm back in Bangkok. Uploading photos from the camera to the MacBook is easy, but I didn't make a conscious effort to edit photos for the blog because I used the time to either read or take long walks by the beach at sunrise and sunset. I only bothered to scribble notes and drafts to save them to be published later. Hurhurhurhur.

Our lovely huge corner suite provided beautiful private time and plenty of space to sit, read and do my stretches in the mornings. In spite of our stern and repeated warnings, the dear friends took care of our entire bill at the Rayong Marriott. ARRRGGGGGGH. Although we took care of gas, food and spa treatments, it's still not enough to cover the cost of a week's gorgeous accommodation in Rayong. The friends knew it, and insisted, delighting in how it chalked up points for their hotel rewards program. Whatever. I give up. Gaaah. Needless to say, the man is flabbergasted, again.

By now the man has settled into an easy rhythm with these friends. Or rather he's a lot more easy-going than I am. So it's probably tougher for me to take to his friends than for him to take to mine. :P Unless I define a group as 'our friends', then that's cool. Otherwise it's virtually impossible for me to even want to go on vacation with people who can't understand how much admin details, space and privacy I require, because you know me, OCD-maximus, fussy and all that.

I'm so glad to have the chance for an extended vacation with these friends who're absolute sweethearts, and effectively family. Time with them is always precious. ขอบคุณสำหรับทุกสิ่ง ฉันรู้สึกปลื้มใจมาก มันน่าประทับใจมาก ขอบคุณสำหรับความเอื้อเฟื้อของคุณค่ะ 💖💫😘

Sneaked a shot. My soul-sister.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


At the hotel's quiet-enough lounge on the 33rd floor.

All the Bangkok traffic and crowds were a little jarring from the peaceful week in Rayong. 😐 At least I have a comfortable and quiet hotel room to retreat to at The Okura Prestige. I'm not in the city to do mad shopping or anything beyond the usual stocking up of medicines at Boots. Don't have to traipse all over town searching for restaurants or whatever since all Thai food cravings have been satisfied.

Importantly, I get to have a clean meal at the hotel's very decent Yamazato Restaurant. Well, as in light in flavors, and kind to the digestive system. My tummy is already a little upset, so cooked food is preferable. It isn't food poisoning; tummy is churning due to indigestion and uhh over-eating, so it can still take spices and chillies. Heh. Anyway, there're no chillies to be found in this restaurant's menu. Frankly, Yamazato isn't a place for sushi and sashimi omakase. It does cooked food well, and is fine with kaiseki(There're other better sushi restaurants in town.)

I was greedy and went for the kaiseki. Absolutely unnecessary. I'd have been happier with an udon and three other small items. Anyway, my option of kaiseki held eight courses. Couldn't finish them! Ignored my main of a wagyu-whatever three slices of beef and the rice dish which was a chirashi-don, and dessert of chestnut pudding. Ate the fruits. Tummy was fine.