Monday, February 18, 2019

Punching Up

I don't suppose this article is of interest to anyone who has no interest in this genre of music. 'Heavy Metal Confronts Its Nazi Problem' by Colin Moynihan, published in The New Yorker on 16 February 2019.

This article was a lot to digest. It was in part a comment inspired by a weekend metal festival Black Flags Over Brooklyn, organized by Kim Kelly. It's not a review of the festival, it's tracing the link of how music and politics are now more closely tied than ever.

Held over 25-26 January 2019, Black Flags "... was organized as probably New York City’s first anti-Fascist extreme-metal show. It was planned partly as a celebration of an underground form of music that has traditionally thrived on images of drama and danger, and partly as a response to a subgenre known as National Socialist black metal, which espouses neo-Nazi views and has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as aiming to recruit youth to white-supremacist causes."

I love doom metal. Metal soothed the angst of my youth, it calms my adult aggression. Did I know what I was listening to? Of course? I went to school, I could read and discern between what lyrics read and what adults said in criticisms or reviews. Back then, I was told that it was Satanic and unholy and it's the occult's doorway to hell and such. Duhhh. Now the danger isn't the sanctity of my eternal soul. Of late, the term NSBM has been trending. National Socialist Black Metal. Far right metal. To me, this is not a good thing.

The festival, he said, could be seen as part of an effort to reassert the spirit of metal, which has a history of challenging power and giving people who don’t feel connected to the world around them a place to belong. “The promise of the underground, regardless of the style, whether it’s metal or punk or hardcore or grindcore or whatever, is one of subversion and resistance,” he said. “Danger isn’t about punching down. It’s about punching up.”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The New Hashida Sushi

Stepped into Hashida Sushi for the first time at their new home. What a lovely gorgeous two-storey space. It was quiet and inviting. It almost felt like stepping into a sushi restaurant in Japan. I hope the Mohd Sultan Road fengshui benefits it. So many shops along that stretch have come and gone.

Choices of sake were on point, and since we didn't drive, we went to town with it. By the end of the night, we probably drank two liters of sake.😂 As usual, I requested for no maguro or hon maguro, and absolutely no meiji maguro. No akami, toro, otoro or chutoro. I also skipped ebi. Didn't feel like having it that night. They know my preferred tastes, so at a sushi restaurant of this calibre, they know how to feed me well still. All the hikarimono sushi please. ひかりもの寿司を全部お願いします!

I couldn't stop laughing at the dessert platter. There were some manju and yokan thingies, and dunno what else. I didn't touch it beyond two courtesy nibbles. While the restaurant has never been known for their desserts (let's not quibble about fruits) and mochi, pastries and such, but tonight, A MERLION. REALLY?! You decided to give me a Merlion pastry for the additional birthday touch for 2019. You should have seen how I cracked up.

コノシロ | konoshiro | gizzard shad
(otherwise known as 'kohada' コハダ, which isn't quite accurate)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Sangria & Tapas

Burst out laughing when the girlfriend said we could have an early Valentine's dinner. Hahahahha. She was away and now that she's back in town, she wanted to take me out for my birthday meal. I was like, I'm free on Valentine's Day, take me out! She didn't want to date me on 14 February. Chehhhhh. 😬

Off we went for an easy dinner at The Tapas Club. Of course they would have a Valentine's Day menu. At least this isn't a set menu whereby we're restricted to some stupid pricing and horrible 'special' food items. We could simply pick our preferred tapas and paella from the usual menu. Okaaaay. That sounded fine. Grilled Padron peppers, quail egg and chorizo on toast, and a squid ink paella. I was a happy girl. The paella portions are small, but sufficient for two persons if you also order tapas. At S$26, it wasn't that big a pile of carbs to plough through. Since we weren't allowed to replace dessert with an extra tapas, we picked the standard churros with chocolate sauce. The churros came heart-shaped. 🤨

I was really there for the red sangria. One jug. Woooohoo. I wanted a light cold drink. It had been a long, annoying and searing hot day. Sangria is such a refreshing drink at any time of the day. Tonight, it answered my desires, and the wonderful company soothed away the stress of the day.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Slice of Blackforest Cake

Before the BFF flew out (again), she wanted to have a 'birthday dinner' with me. I asked to eat at Stuttgart Blackforest Boutique Cafe. She was a little stunned because she couldn't figure out what on earth I wanted from the menu since the cafe is known for their meats, and well, pork knuckle, and I'm not the biggest fan of meats.

Well, I had the bigger surprise for her—I wanted to eat blackforest cake. HAHAHAHAHA. It's not often that I have a craving for cake. I like a well-made strawberry shortcake, but they always lean sweet. Haizzz. I wanted this particular blackforest cake because it contains loads of alcohol and a salted caramel base. I’m well aware that alcohol masks the ‘sweet’ profile, and the sugar level isn’t lower than other cakes. There’re a few online bakeries that do a good blackforest cake, but I couldn't be bothered to order a whole cake. I wanted one slice, not many slices. Since it was supposed to be dinner, I might as well find a restaurant with decent food which also offers slices of okay-enough blackforest cake.

The table ordered a platter of meat. Sausages, roast pork belly and such. They skipped the pork knuckle and chose the main meat as a whole small spring chicken. Hahaha. As if that made it healthier. I ordered more sides to nibble on- fries, mash and coleslaw. Picked at bits of meat and that was it. German food is honestly not my favorite thing, and yes I know the cuisine isn't represented by sauerkraut and pork knuckle. The spätzle here still couldn't make it. Spätzle at most restaurants in Singapore kinda suck.

I had earlier called the restaurant to ensure that they reserved three slices of cake for us. I was thrilled to finally get to dessert. LOL After protesting that she couldn't eat one by herself, the BFF ate it anyway. She's the one with the serious sweet tooth. The slice of blackforest cake was absolutely satisfying. Yes, this would do fine. I wouldn't have another craving for this year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Lo-Hei At The Chengs

Hopped over the make some noise to huat the Chengs' new home. It wasn't exactly a housewarming party, and half of us have visited, but it was nice to gather at the Chengs to send out happy sounds to all corners. We did a lo-hei; the Chengs said this was their first lo-hei in the home. Awesome. All auspicious vibes!

Dinner was potluck and full of choices for the various palates- mee goreng, prawn pancake, la la (clams) with white beehoon done zi char style and chye sim with garlic; we brought chicken dhansak (no yoghurt, no coconut milk, no other milk) with basmati rice. J and L brought wines. There was a light Gewürztraminer (I think) that went surprisingly well with the spicy food. It was such a breezy night that we didn't need to turn on the air-conditioning till much later.

Then I got diverted away on a 'house tour' while the people downstairs fiddled with champagne and trotted out a fancy-pants-delish strawberry shortcake. For me. WOW. And they blasted a Cantonese birthday song at top volume like we were at an old-school Chinese restaurant. 😂

My birthday always lurks around the lunar new year. It's not a good thing, depending on how you see it. I try to keep it really quiet. This is a bunch of friends I see often, and during the lunar new year, we seem to always be able to do a lo-hei together at some point within the fifteen days. Oof! They seem to be able to keep catching me with a birthday song and a cake. I've managed to celebrate birthdays with them for years, and many of which are impromptu gatherings. So much love lah.

As much as I don't like being in photos, obviously I still appear in some group photos and such. Photos aren't so bad if we don't blast them all over social media and such. The photos (and videos) I have of this bunch are so heartwarming. I am nothing without the bonds of friendship. If I want good things to happen to myself, then I want even better things to occur in the friends' lives. When I blew out my birthday candle, I made a little prayer and wished for these friends' good health and strength, and for us to ride through 2019 with fortitude and grace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Beautiful Lunch Table

I was soooo happy to be able to make Fri-YAY Fri-Date with Y and Missy. It was a school day and while we could sit at a cafe, it wouldn't be as comfortable in terms of ambience and timing. It would be the best for me to shamelessly ask Y to whip up lunch for me and Missy. I literally did that, and simply turned up. HAHAHAHA.

I was stunned when I stepped into Y's home. She made a birthday lunch for me! She laid out the table so beautifully. All the little touches. OH MY. That made me feel so loved! A party at home is really the best since we could make noise and hang out without being kicked out of any venue. 😃

I was given an entire induction into the world of Nintendo Switch. Very brainless and fun games. Goodness. It really induces you to sit there for hours playing with the television screen! It is something to do, but I didn't want to sit there for too long. This is why I cannot have video games or computer games at home. They're time vampires and I have an insane need to unlock the games' algorithm and not just win, but clearing the final levels. :P

Y knows the size of all our stomachs. A hearty salad of kale, prawns, mango and eggs was so satisfying on this hot day. Homemade dressing of lime, olive oil, pepper and salt. Loved it. A light meal was perfect for us three. It was accompanied by a gorgeous glass of chilled watermelon juice and fruits.

Y had considered making carbs, but I told her not to. I wouldn't be having much unless she wanted them and was meal-planning. The long loaf of ciabatta I brought over would do. I had it cut into half so that we could take out half first. We knew Missy would finish off most of the bread. Hahahah. An active growing girl needs her carbs. Y also sent me home with a homebaked loaf of the most gorgeous fig bread. Wow. This loaf sorted out my breakfast for the week.

I've been so blessed by this friendship, first with Y, then her husband, and of course Missy, whom I always have the most hilarious conversations with. They're such good people and have brought so much joy to my life too, and taught me how to appreciate humans and relationships in the best of ways.

Monday, February 11, 2019

'Cream' by Haruki Murakami

I know, I've said countless times that I'm no fan of Haruki Murakami, and yet I still read his stuff here and there. Read his new short story, 'Cream', published in The New Yorker, January 28 2019, and translated from Japanese to English by Philip Gabriel.

In an interview with Deborah Treisman for the same journal, and this was also translated by Philip Gabriel, Murakami suggested that he might make this "into a series (or a full length novel)."

Although the narrator never solved the mystery of what happened that day, he did learn something that stayed with him ever since. Did having no answer become an answer in itself? 
Sometimes asking the right question is better than getting the right answer. I’ve always kept that in mind in my life, and as I’ve written my stories. 
The story is set in Kobe, where you grew up. What made you choose that as the location for “Cream”?   
It was because the scenery that this eighteen-year-old man sees and the scenery in Kobe blend together within me.

Obviously a sad 'Murakami man' is the protagonist in 'Cream'. He was telling a story to his youth to a friend. The then young eighteen-year-old said yes to an old schoolmate's invitation to a piano recital on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere on a mountain in Kobe. He got the address right, but the steel gates to the venue remained locked, and there weren't anyone else in the vicinity. No cars were parked outside either. It was all very quiet for an event that was supposedly to start soon.

He wondered why did the schoolmate (a girl, obviously) pranked him with such an invitation to a non-event. He went to a nearby park to think it through. An old man spoke to him, and opened the conversation with an obscure statement, "A circle with many centers." It was a line that the young man didn't understand, and the old man continued to literally speak in circles. 
I didn’t think that the old man was off, mentally. And I didn’t think that he was teasing me. He wanted to convey something important. So I tried again to understand, but my mind just spun around and around, making no progress. How could a circle that had many (or perhaps an infinite number of) centers exist as a circle? Was this some advanced philosophical metaphor? I gave up and opened my eyes. I needed more clues. 
But the old man wasn’t there anymore. I looked all around, but there was no sign of anyone in the park. It was as if he’d never existed. Was I imagining things? No, of course it wasn’t some fantasy. He’d been right there in front of me, tightly gripping his umbrella, speaking quietly, posing a strange question, and then he’d left.

I'm not sure if how this short story can be expanded. I'm only a little curious as to why the girl pranked him back then. He only recalled that the girl wasn't too impressed by his piano-playing skills, and wasn't too pleased about having to practice with him for a four-hands recital because he kept hitting the wrong notes. Surely, that's not enough to hold a grudge? But one never knows what teenagers are thinking.

The ending is as obfuscating as any other Murakami story. A circle without centers. I paused rather long to consider that. I imagined the young boy seated on a bench on that afternoon, wondering why, and how that would be the most major issue in his young life. That made my head hurt. The story ends in a question mark, and seemingly concludes that complicated issues will always be looped into an infinite pain if one keeps dwelling on them. I can never understand the author.

“Yeah, of course. Back then, it bothered me, too. A lot. It hurt me, too. But thinking about it later, from a distance, after time had passed, it came to feel insignificant, not worth getting upset about. I felt as though it had nothing at all to do with the cream of life.”  
“The cream of life,” he repeated.   
“Things like this happen sometimes,” I told him. “Inexplicable, illogical events that nevertheless are deeply disturbing. I guess we need to not think about them, just close our eyes and get through them. As if we were passing under a huge wave.”

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Turned 41

While I like the idea of the get-up being separates, with its top easy and its wide-legged voluminous pants keeping me mobile, I was highly skeptical of the red swirls. However, the large swathes of white keep it rather palatable.

I would also have to wear heels with it since I didn't want the pants to be altered. The pants could be matched with other white tops, and the blouse would match jeans. I could wear this set a few times; they would also be useful separate. I stood in front of the mirror for a long time. I would also have to comb my hair. Hmmm. But Ying convinced me to give the ensemble a go. So I did.

Ying The Label named the separates 'Simple Joy Top' and 'Free your Mind Pants'. These clothes are well-stitched and the fabric falls nicely around the bust and hips. I felt rather floaty in it. If I'm obligated to turn up at events, and somehow new clothes are needed, I tend to buy clothes from Singapore designers. Our local designers will always have that few pieces that I can wear and carry it off without looking like a clown.

The set sat in my wardrobe for seven months. I finally wore this top and pants this year to a lo-hei tea thingy, and later on dinner. The red makes it super appropriate for the festive season, and white balances out my need for simplicity. The girlfriends laughed like crazy and said I could wear this out to the usual National Day events, and in fact, I could wear it every year since it's such a classic, and it would then justify the purchase. Ha. Ha. Ha. 🙄

Today I turned forty-one. I'm comfortable in my own skin. I always seek peace in my heart, and pray for strength and wisdom in understanding God's hand in my life. Come what may, this feels wonderful.

Friday, February 08, 2019

A Floral Romper

My wardrobe is made up of whites, blacks and blues; I'm not into any sort of fashion aesthetics beyond checking out their utilitarian value. To be honest, I've never understood how a new dress would make me happy. I find dresses cumbersome because they're absolutely impractical for a street brawl. I'm pretty much a jeans and tee girl.

I don't quite like buying clothes just for an occasion or to attend an event. I'd rather not go. Hahaha. New clothes are bought when they're needed (say I tear a hole in a top or when it's too worn), not for their aesthetic value. There's literally nothing to pare down in my wardrobe since it's still standing at half empty. Yes, the space includes all the bags I now own (pared down from all the unnecessary ones) and will use regularly. I'm not having bags sit on the shelves so that they're taken out only once or twice a year. All my wardrobes in the various homes lived in have always been half empty since I was a teen; I have no problems keeping it that way. 

Wearing cheongsams for lunar new year really isn't my thing. Modern cheongsams are refreshing, but often I'm not into the cut or the fabric prints. Cheongsams are literally worn once or twice a year. They're just not very me. So I tend to give them away after a few months. I learn not to buy them anymore. I keep some (namely those in grey, black, white and blue), but I think they'll disintegrate before they see the light of day again. 

This lunar new year, at the last house visit, it just happened that we girls were dressed in complementary designs and colors. For the festive season lor! Since we managed to catch one another in time, of course a group photo was in order. Always lovely to see these familiar faces and big smiles.

I've worn Dorothy's clothes for many years. Her old rompers didn't fit me. (Too short and ridiculously tight at the crouch, and no pockets.) But her new romper design does- she pulled the crouch longer, and made pockets. So I bought one, in this most unlikely fabric swirl from Dotted Line. Honestly, I'm not sure I'll wear it again. LOL I tend to shy away from florals and such. But I suppose it doesn't hurt to have them. Although I do chuck them out after two  or three wears because I just can't stand the florals and colors. (I don't even like cut flowers or potted plants.) My dresses tend not to have many embellishments, folds or frills. I cannot deal with extras. 

The romper made me a little dizzy. I felt damn awkward in it, but at least I didn't look like a walking angpow. I couldn't deal with the entire block of florals and decided that a swathe of black was needed to break it up. I put a belt across the waist. It was great- movement isn't restricted at all. The romper's fabric is thin and didn't induce buckets of perspiration in this sweltering heat and humidity.