Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 :: Seattle

Most of the friends and Aunts avoid having turkey on the festive table simply because they hated how dry the damn bird inevitably turns out, even if it has been brined. They rather stuff a turducken, which makes it so much better. Yup. I suppose decades of eating it make them experts. They always opt for goose or duck. LOL. I'm sometimes okay with duck, but more often than not, I skip poultry altogether.

There're pies, and there's PIECAKEN. Yup. Have you eaten it? *shudder* I'll pass. Sticking to regular pies. Although again, I'm reminded of how differently 'pies' are defined here. Okay. A traditional pecan pie. It's a must at Thanksgiving and many occasions, along with apple or pumpkin pies. You could also put them altogether in a pie too. Homemade chocolate-pecan pies are the best. Lower on sugar too.

As we gave thanks to all that is good in the world, the first line from Chapter 20 of Proverbs threw us into fits of laughter. "Wine is a luxurious thing, and drunkenness riotous: whosoever is delighted therewith shall not be wise." Well, this table didn't lack any sort of alcohol!

We are cognizant to the events that followed after the supposed first feast in 1621 where there might have been other birds on the table besides turkey. We were reminded of how centuries have shifted the officially decreed Thanksgiving holiday to a different tone after 1939.

1 As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever he will he shall turn it. 
2 Every way of a man seemeth right to himself: but the Lord weigheth the hearts. 
3 To do mercy and judgment, pleaseth the Lord more than victims. 
4 Haughtiness of the eyes is the enlarging of the heart: the lamp of the wicked is sin. 
5 The thoughts of the industrious always bring forth abundance: but every sluggard is always in want. 
~ Proverbs 21, Douay-Rheims

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cheers Seattle!

Figured that I would have too many photos of beers; they shouldn't all be posted. Hehehe. I'm really less of an alcoholic than what everyone thinks. Although, it is very difficult for me to say no to a beer in the Pacific Northwest. Too many good choices around. Popped into a neighborhood bar on a rainy Seattle night.

Ordering flights is always a great idea to taste different types of beers, or for a table to share the profiles. They aren't that tiny. A good volume. We could always start with a few flights, then narrow it down to what we want to nurse for the night. I generally end with a porter or an oatmeal stout of sorts. Love that rich brew. It's my kind of dessert.

This was right before Thanksgiving. At least at this bar, everyone seemed jolly enough. Dunno how most people feel about it. It could be either a drag or a joy; pretty much how we feel prior to attending huge family dinners, see humans we haven't seen for a while and be forced to be on more or less civilized behavior in close proximity for two days or a whole weekend. Obligations. I rarely do those anymore. The family I choose to see, is the family I choose to have. Ugh. Luckily for me, my friends are family, proven steadfast and awesome.

Thankfully, in the coming days, the people I've asked to meet with are those whose company I love and opinions I respect. Luckily they said yes and didn't mind my last-minute check-ins about coffee/beer/lunch/gigs/whatever. Or I haven't heard them grouch at me yet. Much love, Seattle.

A selection themed 'Northwest'. 
From left: Georgetown Rogers Pilsner, Elysian Men's Room Ale,
Leavenworth Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen, and Diamond Knot Industrial IPA.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Hello Hello Kitty Plane

Eager to avoid the extra steps of taking a domestic flight SFO or LAX. Both will be crazy during this season, and I'm never keen to miss connecting flights because of prior delays. Didn't fancy clearing through security checkpoints four times either or having to drag my luggage out at either airport and send it to the domestic belt. Decided to fly EVA Air for the very first time. SIN-TPE-SEA. One transit in Taipei and it's direct into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Hurrah.

And as luck would have it, the first leg to Taipei was on a Hello Kitty plane. Zzzzzz. The long-haul to Seattle, thankfully, is free of Hello Kitty. Yayyy. BUT, if I wind up heading to EMP Museum, it has a Hello Kitty exhibition awaiting. The BFF and I should trade cities. She's the Hello Kitty fan on a work trip next door in a city that doesn't seem that big on the cat-with-no-mouth although it hosts loads of comic conventions big and small. If she really likes it so much, she get on one to Paris, or if she has something to do there- Houston. I think the planes change their destinations every now and then. So if you really want to sit in a Hello Kitty plane, stalk its website.

No hope not getting Hello Kitty themed toilet paper...... Even the Harnn toiletries have been customized (quite tastefully lah) with the prints. The nice big pillow had Sanrio characters grinning at me. Like Little Twin Stars and My Melody. I was never into them as a kid, and am certainly not into them now. It was a tad horrific.

Flying one sector less meant saving myself TSA angst. After realizing people stuff marijuana rolls into chunky peanut butter jars, I now understand why my luggage full of bottles of sambal-something and kaya look suspicious. Packed no bottles of anything in the suitcases on this trip. I've also dispensed with the portable locks. (Never use the locks affixed on the suitcases.) The friends kept telling me to simply not bother with locking suitcases. I can't get past the psychological hurdle leh. So I used cable ties. Those did well. All the suitcases got in fine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ed the Bear Goes On a Staycation

Squeezed in a quick lunch with Y and Missy. I don't often see Missy during the year-end holidays as I'm always away these months. Importantly, I've got to send a bear to Missy for his staycation.

This is Ed the Bear who sits in the car with three other bears. Since Missy was a wee one, she has somehow taken a shine to this particular bear. Each time she gets into the car, she asks to hug him. She's super fond of him! On many occasions, she asks to take Ed out with us to the park or to tea. The bear smugly sits on the table and gets carried around by little girl.

Last year, Missy thought that Ed the Bear would be a fun playmate during school holidays. So Ed went to stay with her and got thoroughly pampered. A few weeks back, she reminded the man and I that the long school holidays were coming up, and asked if Ed could go stay with her and her bears. All right!

Along with Ed, I packed cookies and color pens into the tote bag for the staycation. The man was immensely enthusiastic. We bought a little notebook for the little girl who loves to draw. He even wrote a little message to Missy in the name 'ED THE BEAR'. All in caps. Ahahaha. Missy was even more tickled and pointed out Ed doesn't have fingers and won't be able to grasp a pen that well. Oh whatever. He can use two paws and write in caps. Heh.

Ed the Bear will hang out with Missy for the school holidays. Told the bear to behave himself. No idea what they will be up to. Think they're gonna have loads of fun! I'll collect him in January. Hurhurhur.

Monday, November 23, 2015



Chanced upon a series at the library. Six books. Couldn't resist them. Of the Yangtze river and ghosts. Written by Xu Yunfeng, the series is titled 'Yangtze Ghost'. Totally self-explanatory, it contains everything fun and fluffy. Borrowed all six books. The library is fantastic that way. The calendar was packed, and there were many books to be read first, but time was found to inhale them within ten days.

The stories are sited in Yichang (宜昌位于湖北省西部地区) in Hubei province, the stories swirl around the river since the Three Gorges Dam is within its district of Yiling (夷陵區). Although in the ancient times, the entire Yichang was known as 'Yiling'. Cue 'Battle of Yiling' as recorded in the Three Kingdoms. (三国时代夷陵之戰,又称猇亭之战,清代時避諱改稱彝陵之战。是三国时期蜀漢君主劉備對東吳發動的戰役。)

Since schooldays, the protagonist (or rather the author in this case since he used his own name), Xu Yun Feng (徐雲風) and his old friend and classmate Wang Kun Peng (王鲲鵬) are into folklore, supernatural happenings and history. They've kept in touch over the years and re-connect over a series of strange happenings. Xu is an unambitious young man who seems to have a natural ability to see ghosts and be drawn into the netherworld, but he isn't at all keen to become a medium or priest. Readers are told that Xu, while not brilliant in his studies or career, has a life that isn't easily extinguished by erm...voodoo, ghosts or the supernatural. Wang is an accidental lawyer who is more serious about his hobby of dabbling as a priest, shaman, medium or whatever it's termed.

The six books spanned roughly four years, detailing their experiences with the supernatural, the crucial acquaintanceship of secretive sects and its leaders, Master Zhao Yi Er (趙一二,又趙建國), Master Jin Xuan Zi (金鏇子), and student Jin Zhong (金仲). We read about Wang's eventual move to becoming a full-fledged medium under Master Zhao's tutelege, then to work for Old Yan (老嚴) who heads a mysterious national board not unlike S.H.I.E.L.D or probably ATCU. We also learnt of Xu's later acceptance of his psychic abilities and how circumstances forced him to learn the trade. Plenty of ghosts to subdue and all that. The stories traced the murder and death of Master Zhao, changes in Wang and Xu's friendship, their disagreements over how to handle matters of revenge and old and new feuds, etc. The innocence lost, and how reality and fate hit them squarely. And how everything went back on the pre-destined path, and how Wang reluctantly became a medium who embraced his full psychic abilities to transcend the world of the living and the netherworld.

I was enthralled. Was totally caught up in their worlds. Actually declined a lunch and a session of whisky to catch up on the books. No regrets! I didn't bother to analyze the mentions of classic literary novels and its various theories of supernatural incidences, Taoist chants or whatever. Unnecessary. I don't want to know. The series is awesome, if you're into this genre.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Everyone Cooked!

Gathered for a potluck dinner at our hosts' new home. We see one another often. Pretty awesome for everyone to be cooking. Not a competition. All familiar easy foods to go into the tummies. Plenty of food! Everyone cooked and baked. The rest brought loads of beer!

The hosts cooked up a storm too- chicken curry (with no coconut milk and very little oil) and spicy beef stew. Very good! Except nobody brought bread. Couldn't mop the gravy. Gaah. Kale salad, mac n cheese, and very randomly, stir-fried broccoli. Hahaha. All good. Desserts were impossible to photograph. I was elbowed out of the way by deranged sugar fiends. Managed to grab a photo of the delicious earl grey bundt, but totally didn't get any good photos of the tangy apple crumble and irresistible double-chocolate fudge cookies. Those cookies disappeared damn fast man. 

Our contribution was goat biryani. Well, sort of. The man wanted to have goat. Couldn't be totally certain we got it right. Our cooking utensils and pots are not quite what dum biryani is usually done in. But we made do. Googled a few recipes to see what we wanted to draw on. Marinated the cubes of goat overnight, then wok-cooked them for a bit. Separately toasted the cashew nuts, raisins, and caramelized onions and shallots.

Went light on the ghee. Cooked the rice on the stove, let it cool off a little. Then we started layering the meat with the cashew nuts, raisins and onions. Once done, we put the pot into the oven for about 25 minutes to finish. We could only depend on the smell to gauge the 'rightness' of the biryani. Or rather I judged it on the smell. Going by how little was left, it seemed pretty okay. Success, I think.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Bit of Truffles

As far as restaurants go, Prego has been around for eons and we've eaten there often enough to know when its kitchen has hired a good chef and when it loses one. It shows in its food. It's not fancy although it has produced mostly brainless but dependable food. Currently, it's on an okay cycle, considering the discounts offered on the Amex card. :p

Caught BFF for a late dinner at Prego. It has black truffles on the menu. As much as I love truffles, I've been strangely not very bothered about white or black truffles this season. Didn't zip out at first instant to all the Italian restaurants to quaff them white truffles in summer. In fact, I completely forgot about it. I've eaten so much freshly plucked REAL matsutake mushrooms in Zhongdian/Shangri-La that there hasn't been a craving for any sort of truffles. Well, it's also probably because we were gifted two lumps of white Italian Alba truffles by the friends and we ate them at home with freshly made regular or chestnut tagliatelle and tagliolini, grilled flank steaks, lots of soft-boiled eggs and omelettes.

The only pasta that I wanted was tagliatelle, and it was the one thing that the kitchen didn't make that night. GROWL. Reluctantly settled for risotto with parmesan and truffle butter. BFF had the ossobucco-filled ravioli and was very pleased with it. Our orders came with thin shavings of black truffles. Hahaha. All right, a wee two grams with virtually no aroma typically associated with French black truffles.

BFF is currently off beer and spirits, and could only deal with wine. And she always chooses whites over reds. Ugh. Not my option, but two glasses wouldn't hurt. Easily polished off a bottle over a long conversation after dinner. She's been traveling like crazy. So each time she's back, we usually hang out to do the craziest stuff. Tonight was a mild date. Her brains were fried from a long day at the office. Heh. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Final Scene from the Mahabharata

Peter Brook's 'Battlefield' takes its name from the final scene of 'The Mahabharata'. This play opened at the 90-year-old playwright's beloved Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris and has arrived in Singapore as its first stop before heading to Tokyo, then to Europe, India, Hong Kong, etc. It's co-directed by Marie-Hélène Estienne and writer Jean-Claude Carrier(Reviews here, hereherehere and here.)

As a teenager, with none of the critical thinking of an adult, I grimly watched Peter Brook's 1985 super long nine-hour (three plays/each three hours) 'The Mahabharata' in its condensed six-hour film version over three days. Since it wasn't a text for the exams, I refused to read this play in its printed paper version. Reading it in its translated long poem as a textbook was sufficient. :p It has been criticized as a Eurocentric appropriation of non-Western culture. Like it stays within a Western dramatic paradigm. It's a very fine line between ahh...orientalism and how every play in the non-Western world could be brought to life on stage as a sort of Shakespearean play, for the lack of a better analogy.

Dunno about the audience reception in Singapore, but it doesn't seem wildly popular on the theatre-goer's calendar. Bought tickets a day before and I still managed to get front row seats for eight persons. 'Battlefield' is co-produced by London's Young VicLes Théâtres de la ville de LuxembourgPARCO Co. Ltd / TokyoGrotowski InstituteSingapore Repertory TheatreThéâtre de Liège and C.I.R.T. (Centre International de Recherche Théâtrale), and Attiki Cultural Society. Gosh that's a mouthful.

From Google Images. A scene of whether to kill a snake.
Presumably of Parikshit's death and Astika Muni's prevention of the snake's killing. Destiny. 

30 years since Peter Brook's 'The Mahabharata' was staged, the 'Battlefield' looked at the 18-day Kurukshetra War where only 12 warriors survived and Yudhishthira was crowned king of Hastinapur. It's rewarding if you have seen the film or better yet, the original play, read the text, then see this play flagging the last battle in its 21st century interpretation. We live in Asia, and Singapore residents would have grown up with or come across the stories of 'The Mahabharata' either in song, dance or as told by shadow puppets. We should know that the Krishna's discussion with Arjuna on the battlefield is recorded as the 'Bhagavad Gita' is subsumed within 'The Mahabharata'. Right? We ought to have read this epic poem the same way we would have read or at least flipped through a few stanzas of...Homer's 'The Iliad' and 'The Odyssey', Firdawsi's 'Shahnameh' or erm...'Beowulf'.

(I do not like Capitol Theatre one bit. The air-conditioning was weak and there was insufficient ventilation. It was friggin uncomfortable. The acoustics were terrible. The actors projected their voices and yet the stage and ceilings swallowed them up. In fact, I would avoid watching shows staged at this event in future.)

I've to be honest. I don't quite fancy the presentation and narrative of the play. I went in with high expectations and came out disappointed on that score. While Peter Brook's 70-minute 'Battlefield' has simplified the Hindu epic, as well as minimized the appearances of the various characters involved, it didn't lose the nuances of the themes and messages. The minimalist set and backdrop were refreshing. I liked that. The actors were good.

Sure, it's not about the battle. It's about the reflections, weighing costs and the emotions that followed after, and to do what must be done in the relentless cycle of life, and to a large extent, what destiny had in store. The play drew out the process of these thoughts. BUT I simply didn't welcome how it has been placed on stage, and how the actors have been constrained in the numbing aftermath of an epic battle. The part of the Mongoose with supposed audience interaction was simply strange.

Granted, in the manner of staging theatre plays in a digestible format for the audience, this is unavoidable. It's impossible to bring out all the layers and symbolism in any dramatization. Peter Brook shifted the context of it to presumably reach out to different audiences. In this twenty-first century, this staging is relevant. The Mongoose tells us it's not the amount of wealth that matters. It has been told through the centuries. Clearly, history and literature have taught us nothing in the matters of ideological and religious conflict, of diminishing peace, and of a world torn asunder.