Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Misty Copeland in ABT's Swan Lake

I really gotta stop counting how many Swan Lakes I'll be watching in this lifetime. I bought tickets to American Ballet Theatre's 'Swan Lake' for Misty Copeland. I was quite ready to ditch the tickets if Misty Copeland wasn't dancing on opening night as scheduled. Luckily she did. I'm not going to bother discussing about the ballet itself. The critics can break it down for you exactly how these Swan Lakes differ when different companies present it.

While the corps de ballet were really mesmerizing in Act Three, I was really there to watch Misty Copeland dance Odette/Odile, and for the grand pas de deux(Some friends bought tickets to see Hee Seo on the second night.) She has been dancing these roles for two years since her 2015 debut as principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre (ABT). When I saw her on stage, she was a little underwhelming. Imho, she's a talented dancer, although her stage presence doesn't fully enchant, yet.

More than being a principal ballerina, in today's context, Misty Copeland is also a celebrity who could cross divides and nail the tough conversations. I didn't bother to read her books- 'Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina' (2014) and 'Ballerina Body' (2017). There're enough interviews and excerpts for me to have an idea of their content. All the marketing and hype surrounding her is typical of Instagram times.

She doesn't shy away from discussions about body image, and the issues that conservative strange part of America will always struggle with- race and bi-racial identities. She also overcame stress fractures in her leg to dance at this professional level. I am glad that she broke through the biases of the world of ballet when it comes to principal ballerinas. That alone, is an incredible feat of determination, effort and hard work put into her chosen career. That's not just talent, it's sheer grit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

St Paddy's Day

Technically, Saint Patrick's Day is none of our business, but since our circle of friends include quite a number of Irish, then I guess it's customary to drink to that, over two nights. With a few pints of Guinness, of course. These pints of Guinness will never beat the properly creamy cold draughts in Ireland or the UK; our local versions would have to do.

The Irish pubs at Boat Quay were packed out. People were just looping around the pubs for $10 pints of Guinness. It was insane- I went at 5pm and by 6.30pm, I couldn’t even turn without bumping into another person. Didn’t want to hang around as more and more people got seriously sloshed. Duly fulfilled my ‘one pint’ each at Boat Quay's Molly's and Penny Black, ate a beef pie and whooshed off to another ‘one pint’ at an equally overflowing Muddy Murphy's at Orchard Road. Okay, drinking done. Hahahaha. Three very sane pints.

The next night was spent at an odd little Witbier bar along Balestier Road which oddly serves up pretty delicious tze char dishes. And $10 pints of Guinness this weekend too. Outdoor seating at Witbier bar was better since we were a big group. Anyway their seating is mostly outdoors next to the road. Too much Guinness? Naaah. It helps that many of us are fond of stouts and porters, and dark beers. Our all-time dependable favorites. It’s not as though we only drink Guinness this weekend. It's drunk all year round.

The friends recommended Witbier bar because it was quiet, and food was good. They were spot-on about the kopitiam ambience (‘Uncle’ vibes), toilets (kinda eeeky, try not to go or stay longer than an hour), and bus-loads of tourists going to Value Hotel next door. It was nice to hang out for a bit because the company is always awesome. Food came in zi char style and was indeed unexpectedly delicious. There were prawn paste wings (har jeong gai), fried squid in beer batter, beef slices stir-fried with ginger and clam bee hoon. The beef fried rice and fuyong omelette were great. A table of regulars even brought their own fish for the kitchen to fillet and had it steamed Teochew style. The sambal belachan and sambal belado hijau were spicy on point. I still stuck to two pints of Guinness for the night. I would return again for drinks and its food, and ensure that my bladder lasts for that hour.

Monday, March 19, 2018

About Having 'Couple Friends'

The dinner conversation floated to this 'Coupler' app. It's a couple dating app, yup, matching couples to other like-minded couples. Double dating. It makes perfect sense if a couple is relocating without a ready social network in place, or to a strange new faraway city and you have the urge to fill up the weekends with activities that aren’t part of any boring standard social club run by expatriates from the same continent.

The man and I have never relocated for work. Even if we had, the cities that we would have moved to already hold an existing circle of friends (for us both). Given our interests, we wouldn't have a problem joining uhhh 'hobby groups' to fill our after-work hours. I highly doubt I'll use 'Coupler' or any similar app. The chances of me meeting people from a secret supper club or book club is higher. That's not to say online acquaintances can't turn into friends. They can, and these apps could save us loads of time when doing double-dates and sift out the awkwardness of first meetings by delving straight into complementary interests and views.

You can discount the time if you had studied overseas because when you're a student, you'd oddly have a mushrooming social life, whether you like it or not. I made a conscious choice to stay away from parties, not join any Singapore clubs and hang out alone. Solitude is always preferable. Then I recalled the op-ed in The Washington Post about having 'couple friends' and threw it up for discussion too. It's written by Rachel Raczka and published on March 13 2018,'Why are we so obsessed with having couple friends?' Well, the man and I are not; apparently neither are these friends whom we were having dinner with.

The last few paragraphs from said article in The Washington Post.

This article quoted loads from this book that I don't think I want to read, 'Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships' (2012) written by Drs Geoffrey L. Greif and Kathleen Hoitz Deal. "Greif and his writing partner Kathleen Holtz Deal explored the dynamics of couples and their couple friends, and found that heterosexual relationships benefited best when they were able to connect on a deep emotional level with another couple." I'm not particularly keen on reading about gender roles, defined, re-defined or otherwise.

Well, the man and I like having varied sets of friends who could also be couples. We love them all. (By 'couple', here, I'm not just defining it as a heterosexual pairing.) It's rather silly to stick to one set of 'best couple friends'. It's virtually impossible. You can, but there's no point. The man and I don't even do everything together, much less watch the same genre of shows. We're not stepping into the realm of (leisure) traveling with friends either. (Unless there's a firm itinerary or an end goal to this trip.) That's quite a no-no for me. I've got eccentric interests and strong opinions, and I wouldn't want to ram those down anyone's throat.

We never compare our relationship to another, or discuss what we think of the other couple's dynamics. Mainly because, 'why the f^*k should we care as long as they're happy with each other? It's other people's business.' It's not in our place to comment. On the other hand, there can't be a persistent fight or niggling thought about 'Why can't you be more like so-and-so?' That is the death knell for any relationship. If you continue this partnership wanting more or differently in terms of fundamental outlook, lifestyles, aspirations and values, then perhaps this relationship isn't meant to be.

There's also this matter of 'staying friends with whom' when a couple breaks up. It happens all the time. Depending on who's closer to whom, I guess. Often, the friendship melts away into something distant as the different people find new partners and build up new social circles. It's a fluid thing, isn't it? If friendship happens as they organically do, it happens. If it doesn't, it simply won't.

“Sometimes when you’re in a couple and have individual friend groups and you try to just add your significant other into that world, it can be awkward,” Nitschelm explained. “This way, it helps you start on the same footing with new friends together.” 
Couple friendships aren’t always a positive. Like all friendships, couple friendships can be toxic. House explained that if the connection with another couple is only surface level and not deep, such a friendship “can actually hurt the [romantic] relationship because you might get bored and have a bad time.” 
“If you’re bringing out the negativity in your relationships, you might be bringing out the negativity in that other couple’s relationship, too,” House said. “And they’ll start to realize, ‘Every time we hang out with that couple, we get in a fight, too. Why is that?’ No one wants to be around negative people. It’s entertaining at first, but we don’t want to actually live it. The reason you have couple friends is to feel better, not worse.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Giuseppe X Carlo At Lighthouse

The man and I were invited to a four-hands dinner presented by Chef Giuseppe Costa of Il Bavaglino in Sicily and Chef Carlo Marengoni who currently helms Fullerton Hotel's Lighthouse Restaurant. The six-course dinner came with wine pairing. Okaaay. Wine it would be for the night. I loved it that they chose to serve a Franciacorta (La Valle 2006 Regium) to start. It was a very refreshing change from the usual Prosecco.

The appetizer of braised octopus with carmelized celery was beautiful. Loved it. Carbs came in the form of an arancini (which I gave away since fried rice balls in any form don’t appeal to me), and scampi tossed spaghetti with nettle cream and candied lemon. I was nursing a mildly swollen eye from allergies; had to give away the scampi too, and hoped that whatever left in the pasta and sauce wouldn’t make the eye flare more.

Secondi Piatti came in the form of a red meat and a fish- a seared amberjack with garbanzo cream, sweet and sour onions on a red wine cloud. The red meat was a Nero Dávola wine-braised veal cheek with garbanzo cream, cabbage salad and fennel seeds, of which I gave away half of the bite-sized portion. Wasn’t in the mood for red meat tonight. After ingesting bread at the start, the portions of dinner turned out to be more than suffficient for my stomach.

Dessert was a traditional Sicilian baba in rhubarb sauce, lemon cream and bergamot essence. The baba came in a mini size. Two cute little pieces. I took one bite. The rhubarb sauce was good. That was surprisingly enjoyable. The man was simply pleased that he got to have dessert at one meal. Hahaha. After dessert was served, the two chefs came out to say hello to the dining room.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Healing Crystals and Such

Reiki, singing bowls and healing and protective crystals are so out there in New Age techniques. Beyond understanding its scientific frequency and vibrations, the practice itself is not something I'll ever understand. I get Infinity Stones and Soul Gems. Or if you think a pretty crystal or stone is your lucky charm. However, when you talk about healing crystals and energy points (or 'chi'), cupping therapy, gua sha and all, they fly over my head.

I ain’t gonna sit around while the friends recharge their crystals in running water or moonlight or wave the smoke from sage leaves around the house. I won’t bother with wearing or carrying a crystal around with me for 'protection'. Perhaps it works for some, but it doesn't do anything for me. It's not something I'm into, the same reason why the deeper practice of yoga and its meditative aspects don't appeal because each asana is supposed to open up the corresponding chakra, soothing the imbalance of energies to restore the flow to the mind and body. I cannot.

I ROTFL at glass water bottles touted for its healing properties because of the sealed chamber of crystals sitting in there. Have you seen it? The two-hundred-dollar 500ml bottles?  I'm sure they didn't just suddenly pop up and sound all Goop-ish. These articles about 'heavenly crystal water bottles' on Gizmodo (sent by NatGeo for the magazine's review. NatGeo? Seriously?)Refinery29 (helpfully telling readers all about this trend) and PopSugar (they interviewed Miranda Kerr about her rose quartz bottles) are such a hoot. I was randomly surfing and blinked at how Free People literally has a whole page of crystal-things to sell. Okaaaay. Mind-boggling.

The open mind I keep is for my friends. Learning about these crystals and New Age theories lets me understand the friends' interest and their inner worlds. I want them to explain their beliefs to me, the same way that I'd do for mine if they ask. But I'm certainly not going to evangelize to them. I pray for my friends to find their way through darkness, with their chosen faiths, mainstream or otherwise. We're free to believe what we choose, and I respect that. The diversity and honesty of these friendships I hold dear help me to be a better person.

The corresponding crystals to the seven chakras on the human body, according to esoteric religions.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Two Prata Meals In A Day!

It's been a ton of prata this whole week. Although I get to burn 'em calories, I've got prata coming out my ears. Three consecutive meals of prata were quite enough. Prata coma is real. I don't want to eat another prata till May. 😨

We were in the area at lunchtime and hit R.R Indian Stall at the Lim Kopi kopitiam at Block 107 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4. The stall moved to this new venue from its previous space at Block 252. Didn’t take any photos at this eatery. Some said that the carrot cake (萝卜糕) at this area is good too. Forgot to ask which stall that is, and if it's in the same kopitiam. There’re two kopitiams side by side at this block. And another three more across the road at Block 108.

This location is rather far to casually swing by if we’re not in the area. Apparently this stall is known for its murtabak and Indian rojak, neither of which we ordered. Its prata is middling at best. Neither was the dough wasn’t tasty or the least bit crisp. But its curries were great. The fish curry was piquant and thick. The order of delicious chicken curry came with the thigh meat and bone. Spices were on point.

The table at Springleaf Prata Place.

Then there was dinner at Springleaf Prata Place at Jalan Tua Kong, a prata venue we always default to. These crazy people. They ordered a stack of prata kosong, and another stack of prata with egg. The fish curry offered here to go with the prata is okay; it isn't tangy and not as flavorful as one would expect of a properly broiled pot of curry with fish bones. It's kind of...cursory. It still tasted better than its previously offerred chicken curry which really stank. But its prata is truly crispy. If you care about that, Springleaf does it so well.

I had to order a beehoon goreng putih ikan bilis. I couldn't deal with this much prata!! The table also happily ordered mutton mysore and lamb biryaniAnd as though we didn't have enough prata, they still ordered a dessert prata!!! With red bean paste. Obviously the other people at the table had enough stomach space to polish off the entire plate of dessert. Goodness! 😵

Dessert prata- with red bean paste.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


It takes a certain mood for me to watch stand-up comedy. Not on television, and even fewer live shows. They tend to be not very good, super narcissistic, and often I don’t enjoy their humor or think that their sarcasm is too contrived. The shows are scripted of course. It’s not so much about rudeness, but more to do with delivery and how appropriate those scathing lines are. I suppose stand-up comedians get boo-ed a lot when jokes and punch lines fall flat.

Sat down for ‘Kumar50’ with a whole lot of skepticism. Produced by Dream Academy and directed by Selena Tan, this production celebrating Kumar’s 50th birthday was predictably OTT. The fairly fun and acerbic lines were scripted by writers Joyce Arriola, Sharul Channa and Mr Miyagi. Those extravagant dresses a.k.a costumes that only Kumar could pull off, are designed by Frederick Lee. We were tickled by the Kumar50 menu at the newest outlet of New Ubin Seafood at Chijmes, but didn't want to gorge and rush through dinner before the show. We'll try it on another day.

There were four other drag queens on stage at some point for a song and dance, and plenty of lip-syncing. It was mostly one hour and ten minutes of Kumar, Kumar and Kumar. 50 years of material all about ‘me, me, me, me, me.’ An entertainer, and an industry fixture from days of Bugis Street and Boom Boom Room. Someone who’s fairly observant, delivers all these jokes on race and religion without getting censured by our straitlaced IMDA. Kumar does have pretty good comic timing, however, I can only tahan him in small doses. (And I just inhaled the last five seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race. Woah, the effort. I love Chad Michaels and Sharon Needles.)

Is Kumar still relevant at 50 years old? More than an icon and a voice for the LGBTQ community? Perhaps, to a certain generation, yes. It’s not about the age per se, it’s about the references, topics closer to the heart and what themes he chooses to focus on at this stage of his career. Be warned, his jokes are very very local, full of Singlish terms, and probably take loads of references from the era we grew up in. (i.e, those above 33 years old in 2018 and those who have gone to Boom Boom Room in its heyday.) It's very hard for his show to travel nowadays if we don't 'get' the jokes. If you were born in 1989 and beyond, I guess Kumar and his type of performances would likely be passé to you. 🤭 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Blue Star’s Prata

When N mentioned about the prata at Blue Star Islamic Banana Leaf Restaurant, the man and I were super interested to check it out. Went there for supper after a show. It’s rather far though- at Yishun Avenue 5. Chong Pang. Yishun. YISHUN. Okay, not going to make any lame jokes about it. It’s completely out of the way for us, but definitely worth a return visit if we’re in the mood for it.

The prata bawang kosong was tasty. Something about the dough. Perhaps it’s the extra margarine, or ghee. I don’t want to know. I’m not particular about the crispiness, so this prata was fine for me. But if you’re comparing crispiness, then at least whoever made it that night didn’t beat Springleaf’s and definitely not Mr and Mrs Mohgan’s Super Crispy Roti Prata.

I always ask for fish curry with the prata. Never chicken- that free accompanying curry always stinks when it’s chicken, dunno why. The fish curry here was slightly more tangy than spicy. Still nice. Besides prata, the eatery has a fairly extensive menu of the usual expected dishes. Like my all-time default supper food of beehoon goreng putih ikan bilis dengan telur mata lembu. No stomach space tonight. Next time.

I found the spicy in the gorgeous chicken liver masala. I liked the masala loads, and was thrilled to find two chicken hearts within. Hurhurhur. But no, I don’t take chicken liver or gizzard. Hearts, yes. Oof. This was the star dish of the night for us. Everything was washed down with a refreshing cup of (lowered sugar) ais limau.

Chicken heart!!! 😍

Blue Star Islamic Banana Leaf Restaurant
Block 102 Yishun Avenue 5
#01-127 Singapore 760102
(down the row from the corner where the 7-11 stands, next to Giant)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Soul Carnivores

I'm always iffy about David Mitchell's stories. 'Cloud Atlas' (2004) and 'The Bone Clocks' (2014) did nothing for me, neither did 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet' (2010). Randomly grabbed a book and ran out of the flat. When I looked at it later, groaned when I realized it was 'Slade House' (2015). Okay fine. Let's try this. (Reviews here, here, here, and here.)

'Slade House' (2015) is meant to be a companion to 'The Bone Clocks' (2014). You could google the storyline. If you have read his earlier works, then you'd realize that he's creating a world, and the references in this book hark back at those. It mentions Doctor Iris Marinus-Fenby, who is known as Marinus the Horologist. This character appeared in as a male in 'The Bone Clocks' and is also a key character in 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet'. The author must really like this immortal. In this book, the immortal character is female. Also, soul carnivores. You know this one really well. Soul carnivores are central to this book that spans a time frame of four decades from 1979 to 2015.

Set in London, we have twins Norah and Jonah Grayer, who are soul carnivores. They live in Slade House, home to the Grayer family. The twins were born in the 1800s and in 1930s, hid away in Slade House, placing the estate in a bubble and isolating it from Time itself. They entrap humans with psychic abilities (latent or otherwise), kill them and feed off their souls. They are then embroiled in a fight with Marinus (as a woman this time) who is here to investigate the deaths of all these humans over the decades.

Oddly, I really don't mind this book. I like the plot and flow much much better than the other works, even though it takes many references from the worlds that the author has previously created.

The woman is not here by chance: her appearance is caused by the Script. Dusk hauls me to itself, but now I perceive an alternative fate, I resist. My newborn mission makes me strong, and my mission is this: one day, however distant, I will whisper into Marinus's ear, 'You killed my brother Jonah Grayer - and I kill you now and for all time.' I transverse down with the ponderous snow, the living snow, the eternal snow; undetected, I pass through the mother's coat, her underclothes, her skin, her uterus wall; and I'm home again, my new, warm home, my anchorage; immune to the Dusk and safe in the brain of a foetal boy, this miniature, drowsing, curled-up, dreaming, thumb-sucking astronaut.