Friday, October 19, 2018

Brussels Sprouts & Spaghetti

It was the man's turn in the kitchen for dinner. One of them regular evenings when he could get off work at 5pm. He wanted to grill the two pieces of flat fish in the freezer. He had bought them earlier from Tekka Market because they looked fresh and nice. I didn't think they were of that great quality, but since we weren't feeding guests, they would do.

I was tasked to buy vegetables. Pounced on a pack of young Brussels sprouts in the supermarket. I love those and it's so fuss-free to grill them at home. Of course they went into the oven to be caramelized. Simply toss the sprouts in salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Caramelized sprouts go so well with everything.

Carbs were needed. I was hungry. The stomach hadn't adjusted to light dinners yet. It has been strangely craving for light meals in the day, and heavier flavors in the night. Since I've no fondness for tomato sauces or cream or even white wine gravy, a staple pasta at home is wholewheat spaghetti done alio e olio with anchovies, a ton of garlic and chillies. Mmmm. Of course the down side is bringing out the skillet to give a final toss. It's worth it though, and it's really not that difficult to sort out. The pasta ends up piquant and ridiculously tasty.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


I looked at the date and blinked. Wow. This is our ninth year of marriage. Time has simply flown by. To be honest, if you ask me, it has been all good times. There has to be more than love.  I've always thought of marriage as a partnership. A sync of mindset and values. The man and I do not share a religion. I have mine, and he's mostly eschewed being Jewish (our country's stupid race classification system) or Christian, and leans towards agnosticism (that's not atheism). Our partnership seems to work well. Checks and balances.

I don't rely on the man more than I rely on my closest friends. He won't be able to breathe! I'm sorry to burst the bubble, but he isn't 'my best friend, my rock and my everything'. He's certainly trustworthy and dependable, and he gives excellent counsel. My dearest friends do too. But I do not expect more of him than I expect of my friends. There has never been a question of how I'd feel if the man is out of my life. I would miss him, but I would do just fine alone. It's fun to have him around, and I appreciate him the same way as I do of the faeriefolk.

I've always told him that when he weighs significant matters in this life, please take into consideration my opinions, but do not place me as a permanent priority. Priorities shift with the seasons of life, and I understand desires and wants, and those should sometimes take precedence over 'we'. Never make decisions 'for me' if there's any thought that I am holding him back. Make decisions for himself and the greater good, because I'd do the same. Underlining this process would be deep respect for each other as life partners, against the backdrop of pragmatism.

The man and I are cognizant of all that we have been blessed with. We've also got an incredibly tight circle of good friends. By God's grace, for as long as we are able, we will live our passions and serve our communities. For these, I give thanks. The word 'husband' isn't just a word. It's also a concept, and I'm not sure that I embrace the traditional or Catholic definition of it, i.e matrimony or sacrament. Hence after nine years, I still refer to the man by name, or just 'partner'. And this partner whom I'm in love with, still makes me smile.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Late Night Salsa

Made it to the late-night performance at 10.30pm to catch the girlfriend in her dance segment. Literally sprinted from the Esplanade to the salsa school's anniversary show venue. I knew that time would be tight and I'd have to run from venue to venue, so I wore flats that night. Teeehehehe.

Also caught a few other acts for the night, and I truly cannot differentiate between salsa classic and modern, bachata and kizomba and all that. I don't have a salsa bone in my body; I'm just happy to watch people dance it now and then.

I didn't ask the girlfriend anything about her performance. I would be in the audience, so that any questions could be answered then! Oof! Grinned when the music came on for her segment. Not that I knew the music so well or what the team was using, but from a recent prior conversation with other people taking Spanish language tests and such, and being forced to listen to some Spanish EDM and other songs, I just happened to recognize the piece as an improvised version of 'Te quedas te vas' by Mojito Project & Romy. 😂

It was very nice to see shimmering shiny costumes and happy faces neatly executing all the steps. For so many people in this item, it was a fairly clean performance. Try dancing a four-minute segment without stumbling or having a hand out of sync. She has always loved salsa and it's only in the past few years that she begin dancing the genre seriously, and made the performance team, and practiced for some fun shows (as an amateur as opposed to a professional career lah). Tonight, all her weeks of hard work culminated in this performance. I knew she spent long hours at practice sessions and was thrilled to cheer her on in the audience!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

da:ns 2018 :: Nederlands Dans Theater 1

Nederlands Dans Theater 1 (NDT 1) presented four pieces of work at Esplanade's da:ns festival. I couldn't miss the dance company's performances. I love their contemporary pieces. I loved Crystal Pite's 'The Statement'. The music was more of a spoken word thing, with its script (originally a one-act play) written by Jonathan Young. The dancers wore suits and danced out the power play around a conference table. It was very dramatic, loads of power struggle, unmistakably familiar, and indeed very Machiavellian.

Of course there was a piece set to music composed by Philip Glass- NDT artistic directors Sol León and Paul Lightfoot's 'Shoot The Moon'. The dancing was arresting, but I'm not too keen on the story of pain and fractured emotions. The choreographers also showcased 'Stop-Motion', a portrayal of loss and grief and expansive motions. The closing and final piece of the night is set to music by Max Richter- which I thought was very unimpressively typical NDT style, and rather clichéd.

There was also Jeff Buckley's music set to Marco Goecke's 'Woke Up Blind'. Not interested in the story either, since it's of young reckless love and lovers. But I liked those two songs- 'You and I' and his cover of 'The Way Young Lovers Do'. Beautiful dancing and choreography, but two pieces totally took my breath away. Bravo!!! What a magnificent night of dance!!!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Are Your Memories Yours?

It was a little unsettling to read Dan Chaon's psychological thriller 'Ill Will' (2017). Hazy childhood memories blocked out by trauma, recovered memories of adults, Satanic rituals and exploration, etc. More so, it's a horror story of what might go on behind unsolved homicides. (Reviews here, here, here, and here.)

Protagonist 41-year-old psychologist Dustin Tillman is losing his wife to cancer, and has to raise two teenage sons by himself. His adoptive older brother Russell ‘Rusty’ Bickers has been released from prison after 29 years, exonerated of murdering their parents, uncle and aunt decades ago in the summer of 1983. There was a sensational trial whereby sexual abuse and Satanic occult rituals were thrown up.

It's now 2014; Dustin can't remember what exactly happened the night of those murders when they were so young.  His twin cousins Wave and Kate were present too, and their parents were murdered alongside his. They had to give their testimonies too. Wave then distanced herself from Kate and Dustin. He worries about what Rusty would do to reclaim lost time. He remembers how abusive Rusty was as a child. Dustin finally finds out that his younger son, Aaron, is wrestling with a heavy heroin addiction.

A parallel plot runs when Dustin's patient, Aqil Ozorowski. He’s ostensibly a police officer placed on medical leave, but with no available medical records. Aqil insists that they investigate a series of youth drownings (in rivers) which that he thinks to be the work of a serial killer. All these add up to Dustin being snowed under a ton of emotional pressure and baggage. In the end, Aqil was his only friend and was along with him for the last ride to Chicago. Aqil is creepy, and we discover that he is really, the serial killer of young boys. He literally preyed on Dustin and his son.

The narrator changes from Dustin to the younger son Aaron Tillman. He also forms a phone relationship with Rusty after he got out jail. Towards the middle of the book, we readers begin to understand why Wave are not on friendly terms with Kate and Dustin. More accusations flow, and we learn a different perspective of their parents' murders, and more telling, how Dustin might actually be the villain. Then Aaron goes missing. The narrator becomes Rusty. Rusty apparently has a kill-list, and thinks himself as the murderer who got caught before he actually killed anyone. Towards the end of the book, after more tragedies happen, everyone dies, and it becomes a third-person narrative, telling the story from the perspective of older son Dennis Tillman.

So did Dustin kill everyone? Or his dad or uncle did, and then he just came in to move things around and made the crime scene change? After a while, as a reader, I can't tell what is fact or hallucination in this world anymore. I was quite tickled by how books are printed nowadays. They set the layout to emojis too. To me, it's unnecessary, but I suppose it's whatever that sells the books in order to catch readers' attention.

I DID NOT do it. 
I know I did not do it. When I looked at it logically, I had no reason to kill them. I had no motivation, I actually loved my mom and dad a lot, and my aunt and uncle were fine. 
Yet there have been fragments of things. Contradictory images. The truth—my real memories—had always been infected by fantasies or daydreams; the two things kept flipping, shiting, so I had never been certain what was being recalled and what was being imagined.  
This was the thesis of my dissertation, in some ways: that experience is so subjective that multiple things actually do happen. That we can't experience objective reality. Not exactly a useful stance for a court of law, my professor, Dr. Raskoph, said. 
The mind has its unknown mercies and ministrations, many sealed chambers, she said once, and she smiled and put her palm on the back of my hand. We were talking about self-hypnosis, about hypnosis as therapeutic practice. Some people's entire lives are directed by trying not to remember something.  
And so now, of course, it comes to me. When I think of what Rusty might have told Aaron, the old dream comes back, settling itself around me, and it's still as vivid as it ever was. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

da:ns 2018 :: 'Until The Lions'

I couldn't miss Akram Khan Company's 'Until The Lions' at Esplanade's da:ns festival. The synopsis told us that the dance takes its name from Ugbo proverb, "Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." The performance is based on poet Karthika Naïr’s book 'Until the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata'.

The book re-worked the original epic and tells the tale of Princess Amba, eldest daughter of the King of Kashi, who was about to choose her husband in a public swayamvara ceremony. Warrior Bheeshma, son of the Kuru King won all battles and intended for Princess Amba to be his half-brother's (Crown Prince of Kuru) bride. What follows, you can totally google, but basically it's a tale of mercy, spurned love, revenge and anger. Princess Amba, filled with the desire for revenge, is reincarnated into the male warrior Shikhandi, but who has the memories of the woman he was in his past life, and is still tied to the burning vow of revenge against Bheeshma. And when warrior Bheeshma met Shikhandi on the battlefield, he recognized him as Amba.

I loved the story, and the dance, and the brilliant performance! Choreographer Akram Khan picks the characters to suspend them in time, lending them new voices and emotions that the book and its words and re-telling don't flash out. The dance took its roots from the choreographer's background in kathak and contemporary movements. But it's also theater. The three dancers (Rianto/Indonesia, Ching-Ying Chien/Taiwan and Joy Alpuerto Ritter/Philippines) were violent, fierce and war-like. They danced on a cross-section of a giant tree trunk, and that was nicely done. No clichés. The set is designed by Tim Yip/Hong Kong (who won an Oscar for Best Art Direction for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Xin Heng Feng Fish Head Steamboat at Whampoa Market

Toddled down to Whampoa Food Center and Market for fish-head steamboat at Xin Heng Feng (新恆豐粿條攤、黃埔夜市魚頭爐). I've eaten at two other fish-head steamboat stalls in this market, but apparently this stall is the best among all. It's located on the side of the morning market, and in the nights, there aren't many stalls open at this block.

We ordered an ang go li head. I have no idea what an ang go li is. I thought it's supposed to be a red snapper, but apparently it's a gold-banded snapper, or commonly known as 'gold-bands'. Whatever lor. It was fresh enough and tasty. We had eggs and mui choy (preserved Chinese mustard cabbage) along with the meal. S$40 covered dinner for four persons.

Couldn't believe we did that though. It was a blistering hot day and we didn't mind sitting in heat again for dinner, having HOT SOUP, with pieces of charcoal still spurting flames at the bottom. Hahahaha. Went to cool off with dessert of chendol, and lingered over our bowls. There were regular versions and one with durian (eiooow). I literally had one mouthful of shaved ice. SO MUCH LIQUIDS SLOSHING ABOUT IN OUR TUMMIES.

Xin Heng Feng (新恆豐粿條攤、黃埔夜市魚頭爐)
Block 91 Whampoa Drive
#01-14/15 Whampoa Market
Singapore 320091

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Dew Drop

I've noticed a number of rather big water droplets in the early mornings on the leaves of the plants, and occasionally on the patio rails. There usually hadn't been rain the night before, and no water drips through to land on these places. I assumed it was just condensation or plants doing what they do.

Then I realized it's dew. And grinned. Somehow, that sounds more romantic, and seeing nature's creations in whichever way always make me smile. My body clock has shifted to an earlier start. This year, I'm usually up by 6am, so there's plenty of things for me to enjoy about the quietude of early mornings. There's something magical about the hour before dawn, the pitch darkness and street lights, then the gradual brightening of the surroundings from the rising sun.

That day, when the sun began to lit up the patio, and I sat out enjoying the quiet morning with my coffee, I noticed one green-ish water droplet on the rails. I thought it was a sparrow that crapped on my railings again. Yeah, I have this pair of 'pet' sparrows that live in the shrubs in front of my patio. When I stared at it closer, the green hues were not uhhh bird poo. They were leaves! Three tiny leaves that slid off from the bushes with the water droplet and landed on my rails! How beautiful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Strawberry Shortcake for L

This woman, she doesn't just have us friends over at her dining table to feed us wonderful homecooked food, and spoil us thoroughly. She packs food for us to take home, and she also turns up at our homes bearing gifts of wine, and dessert.

The other evening, she came over with a box of tarts from Tarte by Cheryl Koh. It was my first time sampling them. I've heard so much about the tarts, but obviously I never bothered to buy any to even try, and neither have I bought any for the friends. She thoughtfully bought two tarts that she knew I'd actually take a few bites of. Hurhurhur. She was spot on. I really liked the fresh lemon curd topped with meringue and the one that's a predictable satisfying dark chocolate. There was a mascarpone and cream cheese, and I forgot what the other one was because I didn't take much of it... earl grey salted caramel maybe.

She was slated for some heavy work traveling. But we couldn't let her birthday pass without getting her a cake. The timing was perfect. Before she flew off, we fixed up an impromptu dinner. We had a chance to get her one whole decent strawberry shortcake plus a birthday candle. We did just that.

Many wishes for your birthday, dear L. We love your generosity of heart, and how you always refresh our souls with your cheerful gifts. 🥂💋