Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Boxing Cardio Sessions


Allow me to state that I'm not a fan of boxing competitions or shows, or boxing events for whatever charitable purposes. I can't fully appreciate them. However, I do like hitting (and kicking) a bag. I just feel that self-defense knowledge in various forms are basic life skills we all need to be equipped with. As a kid, my parents valued karate and judo classes just as much as ballet and gymnastics. I couldn't skip any classes unless I was ill.

Picked up a new pair of Twins gloves for use at the gym. One does not take stinky gloves on loan at the gym. Eeeeks. You can't get rid of that odor even after three hand washes in half a day. Get your own wraps, at the very least. I already use wraps at krav maga, but those classes are asking us to bring gloves now too. Great. By now, these gloves are completely seasoned; they're being put to very good use often. Anyway, boxing and Muay Thai aren't new to me. I just need to remember to keep them moves separate. :P

These sessions at the gym aren't exactly a boxing 'class'. They're not meant to 'teach' you how to box. Please go to class knowing the four basic punches of a jab, hook, cross, elbow, uppercut. It's more cardio than anything technical. These aren't even similar to a typical Muay Thai session. For those, I die at warm-ups before even hitting the bag. I'm doing this at gym purely for fun, and to inject variety in the weekly cardio. Oh, the music playlist is very listenable. Lots of heavy metal. Yay.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

夕食のために蒸しぐれ魚


Had a craving for steamed fish for dinner and didn't want the usual options Tekka Market or the supermarket offers, and not a yellowtail cheek or garouper or something similar. A Japanese version would be nice.

Went to Hakumai for an easy late dinner. The restaurant had flown in absolutely good fish that night. They were all definitely sashimi-grade, but I wanted something steamed. Picked out the the largescale blackfish. I always call it the 'black fish'. It's otherwise known as meijina (メジナ) or gure (ぐれ魚) in Japanese. Chef Gary suggested to have the gure lightly steamed in soy and dusted with grated yuzu peel. It arrived perfectly done. Cravings fully satisfied. This was all the dinner I wanted.

Carbs came in the form of a small portion of cha-soba topped with uni, ikura and sakura ebi. The kitchen went easy on the truffle oil. Very good, the kitchen has learnt. I'm not a fan of this sort of synthetic truffle oil. No more space for sushi. I ate the entire steamed gure by myself. The additional cha-soba was an additional thing I didn't mind, in case I needed the extra calories at the gym the next morning. 😃

Monday, April 24, 2017

Native Americans Then And Now


I really like Sherman Alexie's 'Blasphemy' (2012). Thirty-one beautiful stories of Native American life in the Pacific Northwest. (Reviews herehere and here.)

There're apparently 16 classics and 15 new stories. But I'm a first-time reader of the author, so these stories are all new to me. The Native American author grew up in the Spokane Indian Reservation. Fictional or otherwise, his stories are raw, honest, scathing, and very real.

These 31 stories don't qualify as light reading. I took two afternoons to finish it because I wanted to read all the stories and its nuances thoroughly. In our context, there isn't any basis of comparison between our colonial past and the Native Americans'. I don't even know which state deems it politically incorrect for people to refer to a Native American as an Indian, although the tribes use it among themselves. I wasn't sure how to write this post without sounding overly politically correct, sheltered or as though I'm appropriating someone else's culture. I've no idea what is construed as culturally sensitive or inappropriate nowadays. These stories are witty, satirical and critical of the white men's exploitation and mistreatment of Native Americans.

The last story in the collection 'What You Pawn I Will Redeem' talks about a homeless Spokane Indian man Jackson, who saw his grandmother's long-lost old powwow-dance regalia in a pawnshop window, but had to come up with nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars to buy it back. The story follows how he tried to come up with that amount by lunch-time the next day.

I've been homeless for six years. If there's such a thing as being an effective homeless man, I suppose I'm effective. Being homeless is probably the only thing I've ever been good at. I know were to get the best free food. I've made friends with restaurant and convenience-store managers who let me use their bathrooms. I don't mean the public bathrooms, either. I mean the employees' bathrooms, the clean ones hidden in the back of the kitchen or the pantry or the cooler. I know it sounds strange to be proud of, but it means a lot to me, being trustworthy enough to piss in somebody else's clean bathroom. Maybe you don't understand the value of a clean bathroom, but I do. 
Probably none of this interests you. I probably don't interest you much. Homeless Indians are everywhere in Seattle. We're common and boring, and you walk right on by us, with maybe a look of anger or disgust or even sadness at the terrible fate of the noble savage. But we have dreams and families. I'm friends with a homeless Plains Indian man whose son is the editor of a big-time newspaper back east. That's his story, but we Indians are great storytellers and liars and myth makers, so maybe that Plains Indian hobo is a plain old everyday Indian. I'm kind of suspicious of him, because he describes himself only as Plains Indian, a generic term, and not by a specific tribe. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Kra Pow Thai Street Food


The friends told us that we have to go to Kra Pow Thai Street Food on the third floor of Far East Plaza. Okay. These friends know our tastebuds; each time they tell us to go eat at some place in whatever city, we will obediently head there. Hehehe.

It was a super satisfying casual lunch. We were all at the gym earlier, had a coffee, and needed more sustenance. Since the restaurant is named thus, their phad kra pow chicken and pork (ผัดกระเพราไก่, ผัดกระเพรา ปอดหมูminced chicken or pork basil stir-fried with rice) were indeed legit and not as ridiculously salty as some other stalls. "No MSG", the kitchen promised. The spices all hit a spot. Our stomachs were very happy.

Kra Pow Thai Street Food has been around for a year or so. Their 'Drunkard Noodle' with either pork or seafood are delicious. I'll have to come back and order its phad thai. They've got a full menu with tom yam soup and green curry and all; these are standard happy fare we can never tire of eating. It's a decent option of food in the area. If you're worried about greasy smells and the sorts, it isn't too bad. The kitchen is sited in one unit, and the seating area is across the corridor in a separate unit. It's pretty all right.

We ate Thai street food in a Singapore mall. The irony isn't lost on us. Especially when the stall has to state it's serving 'Thai street food'. Even more ironic, Bangkok authorities announced that they want to hold a street food festival this coming June, but has issued a statement to ban hawkers on the streets, then two days later, seemingly back-pedaled to grant a partial reprieve to street hawkers in certain areas, and the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) "pushed back against fears that Bangkok was being gentrified in the image of Singapore — a city that relishes orderliness but is often characterised as tame compared to its Southeast Asian rivals." OH GOOD THEN.


Kra Pow Thai Street Food
14 Scotts Road, #03-89 Far East Plaza, Singapore 228213
T: +65 6734 1946
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays, noon to 8.30pm

Friday, April 21, 2017

POP AYE

Beyond knowing that the Sundance award-winning Singaporean-directed film was about a man's journey and search for a later-life identity and redemption, and an elephant was involved, I didn't know anything else about it. I managed to ignore all online reviews, trailers and even the plot summary of POP AYE before watching it at The Projector. I was blown away by how beautiful the film is.

I didn't know it was set in Thailand, or that the film is entirely Thai-speaking! YAYYY! No need to read 'em subtitles! Hehehehehe. I was eagerly texting the friends after that, exclaiming that it's a film of 'our generation' and they should watch it when it gets to Thai cinemas. Or on Netflix. This film will be screened at the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival next week.

I said 'our generation' because the protagonist's journey is one that reasonates with people in the late thirties to fifties. Lead actor Thaneth Warakulnukroh (ธเนศ วรากุลนุเคราะห์) used to be a popular rock singer in the late 80s to 90s. Lead actress Penpak Sirikul (เพ็ญพักตร์ ศิริกุล) was a film celebrity in her younger days; she sings well too. When I first picked up the language in 1997, I listened to a lot of their songs and watched many of her films. Teeeheeeheeee.

Love the final product on screen. Great shots, editing and concept. Very nuanced. What a stunning film by writer-director Kirsten Tan, director of photography Chananun Chotrungproj and editor Lee Chatametikool.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lunch At PUNCH


I like the coffee and easy food at PUNCH. I seem to keep going there in the mornings, so its poached eggs with avocado or mushrooms on sourdough and bircher muesli are my default foods. Never tried its savory lunch menu.

After J kept raving about PUNCH's prawn pasta and seeing that the cafe ran out of it on our last visit, we made it to a late lunch in town again specially for this pasta. In a crazy month at work for her where she had to pull lots of late nights and early mornings, she managed to take these few hours to sit down for a cup of good coffee and freshly made food. Precious time!

And so I finally tasted the tiger prawns and scallop spaghetti aglio e olio at PUNCH. Loved it. The mixture of garlic, chilli and toasted breadcrumbs is a winner. At S$19 for a plate of pasta garnished with three big prawns and two to three scallops, I've got no complaints at all. Although on some days, I'd need to take an antihistamine before consuming it. Those prawn heads are fierce.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sonic Flow™ & Floating

I was curious about the purported benefits of 'floating' and sensory deprivation. I also wanted to know what on earth Amanda has been doing with her many Tibetan singing bowls. Just as well an event popped up for a 60-minute float pod at Palm Ave Float Club. Signed up for a 'Sonic Flow™ with Amanda Ling', and opted to float after the yoga session.

I don't do yoga and have no idea of any sort of flow sequences. I cannot differentiate between vinyasa, hatha or yin yoga. I only know that I must avoid bikram and all hot yoga sessions. So at this yin-yang hatha yoga session, it was more about getting in a light stretch before bed time, and hear Amanda's singing bowls.

It was still a full moon, so I guess a moon flow hatha sequence was apt. Lots of deep lunges. After the gentle stretches, Amanda put us in shavasana to the chimes of the bowls. I spaced out completely, only returning to awareness at the reminder chimes. Unlike anti-gravity yoga where I don't fancy lying down cocoon-like in the hammock and tend to skip that, this round on the floor, I had no idea how long we were in shavasana.

If you're curious about these Tibetan singing bowls and sound healing, check out Esplanade's 'A Tapestry of Sacred Music' this weekend. Shima Healing is conducting two workshops about it. It's complimentary, but an online registration is required to secure seats. The last update on Esplanade's event page mentioned that workshop is fully subscribed.


Put on the disposable foam earplugs provided, turned off the lights and hopped into the float pod. The float pod isn't scary because the cover isn't latched. I could pop it open at any point. Hygiene is good as the water is filtrated before each session, and everyone is requested to shower before getting into the pod. These are individual pods placed in individual rooms with attached shower cubicles. Remember that magnesium sulfate isn't sodium chloride. If you have open wounds, do not float. Also, bring a bottle of hair conditioner. Because, salt.

I don't meditate, but I've never had a problem clearing my mind when I need to. But I really enjoy solitude and alone-time. Hurhurhur. What I'm truly interested in, is how my muscles and eczema-prone skin would react to the Epsom salts in a full float. I already use Epsom salts to soak tired feet and in the occasional long baths. But I've never floated in a pod with 600kg of full-on magnesium sulphate. I had an intense krav maga class the day before. A light stretch tonight and a float felt fabulous. The salts seemed to have eased those miniscule muscle tears. I generally sleep very well, so I can't tell if the float made a difference to my quality of sleep. But at least I didn't wake up with sore muscles anymore.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy 39th BFF!


Celebrated the BFF's birthday with a four-hour volunteer session at Willing Hearts. That was her request for a birthday present, and format of the usual gathering of friends. So the bunch of us got together to do it.

There's no briefing or anything by the organizers. Just sign up online, and turn up at Willing Hearts' soup kitchen in Kembangan, chope your tables if you're a bigger group, otherwise just slot into any empty spaces. It's all fairly casual. The soup kitchen opens at 5.30am, and winds down at about noon. That's pretty much the hours they require everyone's help in the food prep, all the way till cleaning up at 3pm. There won't be a lack of chores to help out with. I was certainly not going to volunteer to cook. I don't think they'll let me anyway. Hahaha.

Lotus roots and potatoes were the order of the day at our washing and chopping station. The earlier shifts probably sorted out all the onions and garlic already. We formed up one table in an assembly line to grab and rinse lotus roots from the boxes, peel them, wash clean and then slice them up thinly for stir-fry. On crowded days, be prepared to stand all the way instead of sitting down around the table. Sure, we were chatting, but we were more focused on productivity than anything else. But yeah, no one was actually counting how much time we took to get through boxes and boxes of lotus roots.

I was slicing up stuff initially, but more peelers were required, so I went to steal a peeler from another empty space and set about peeling a pile. Forgot to bring a peeler for our own use. It's definitely more comfortable to bring your own (sharp) knives and vegetable peelers. Just keep a tight eye on them if they're precious and you don't intend to donate them to the kitchen. Bring fitting gloves if you're iffy about hygiene, washing and all that. Erm, no air-conditioning hor. Dress appropriately- wear covered shoes, no sleeveless tops and no shorts.

May your heart always be this generous and blessed. Live, love and dive safe. Laugh often and drink less. To your health and happiness always and always, BFF. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Wisdom Tree


Had the pleasure of listening to Nick Earls' thoughts at Brisbane's 'A Rock & Roll Writers Festival'. He was funny and honest. I rather enjoyed his panel sessions. Thought I should get started on the Brisbane novelist's series of five stories in 'Wisdom Tree: Five Novellas' (2016). (Reviews here, here and here.)

Titled 'Gotham', 'Venice', 'Vancouver', 'Juneau' and 'Noho', these five stories look at five male protagonists and their families, and the complicated relationships within. The protagonists' ages spanned from four to thirty-forty-something and aged parents at seventy-something. It examines the sacrifices they make, or otherwise. Very well written.

Tough to pick a favorite. 'Gotham' is all about New York City, sick children, absent fathers, rap and hip-hop culture and money, and hang-ups. 'Vancouver' looks at the bond between a ex-football player, now-professor and a boy, now grown adult who has become a writer. It traces their relationship from Australia to Bellingham in Washington State, USA. 'Juneau' tugs at your heartstrings- of a typical stoic and seemingly cold relationship between a father and his son, and the father's search for an uncle Thomas Chandler who had disappeared in Juneau, Alaska in the 1800s. The old man requested the company of his son to go on a cruise to Alaska to seek closure. 'Noho' explores the ties of a family shuttling between Brisbane, Australia and Los Angeles, USA so that the twelve-year-old daughter with natural blonde hair could get a shot at Hollywood stardom. It tells us how the son feels about it- strangely resigned, making the best of it rather than feeling resentful that all the attention is on his sister.

If I have to pick an extract, it'd be from 'Venice'. It looks at the budding bond between thirty-two-year-old Ryan and his four-year-old nephew Harrison. He's bunking in with his talented and recognized artist sister Natalie and dentist brother-in-law Phil and nephew at their lovely home in Brisbane. He's been laid off from his Sydney job. It has been four weeks and counting. He takes over caregiving duties of Harrison while Phil is mad busy at the clinic and Natalie is pitching projects and creating art when she's selected to represent the country in the Venice Biennale. He also takes care of the family's dinner and general cleaning duties.

'So what do you do?' I imagine that line coming my way from one guest after another, and invent a range of answers that are defiant or evasive or untrue. 
But the guests find each other, not me. They hug, air kiss, search for glasses, search for more champagne, laugh like donkeys, grind chips into the rug and almost all show me their backs. They have their people here. This is room that knows precisely how it works, with or without me. I crossed it with a stomach not so long ago. No one is going to ask what I do. 
I put my glass down, pick up an empty bowl and sweep the debris on the coffee table into it—olive pits, a crushed cracker or two, crumpled foil from a champagne bottle.