Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dreamscapes

When I dream, they're mostly nightmares. I rather enjoy them though.  Looking at my preferences for movies, tv series and books,, it's no wonder. My nightmares almost always involve some sort of supernatural going-ons in a desolate shopping mall. A siege of humans versus vampires, lycans or zombies.

When the lads and lass of In Each Hand A Cutlass put out a two-track EP and titled it 'Forgetting', I didn't check it out till recently. The two tracks are named 'All We Are Left With Is A Memory Of A Memory' and 'Appetite for Dysfunction'. One could choreograph a contemporary dance piece to each, giving it whichever interpretation one chooses. As I listened, images rose unbidden. I strove to remember them, and willed the subconscious to dream about it in the night. To my great delight, my mind framed out a story that ran like a movie. They involve a simple storyline, gory murders and a lot of insane giggling.



The quiet start of this song. 'All We Are Left With Is A Memory Of A Memory'. Makes me think of a walk through the enchanted woods, full of swirling fog and will-o'-the-wisps. I'll eventually come across this dilapidated mansion and push the creaky hinges of the front door to explore its alluring interiors. 
Then the song slowly shifts to a crescendo and its final intensity. The mansion will be filled full of creepy dolls whose eyes follow my every movement, and whose heads I hack off with two katanas. I determinedly kick the bodies down the stairs to a pile at grand foyer with its swinging chandelier, walk out and set fire to the mansion. With grim satisfaction, I watch it burrrrn. In the roar of the inferno, one could hear faint screams fill the darkness.



The next song is 'Appetite for Dysfunction'. The mind continues the nightmare. Let's call it the 'revenge of the dolls'. From the burning mansion, the dolls rise. Those whose heads escaped the hacking and the fire come after me like evil tendrils. I flee through the woods, branches whipping my face, the undergrowth protesting at the rampage of human and inhuman dolls. In a clearing, I stop and bow low to catch my breath. Then grip both katanas tight, face the dolls and fight. It's an elegant fight. Both sides possessing supernatural strength that doesn't seem to dissipate. Till almost sunrise, the dolls weaken. The sun rises, bestowing warm light through the trees. The dolls burst into flames. I win.  

I awoke feeling...exhilarated. It wasn't difficult recalling this dream. Scrambled for a pen and paper to write it down. Then I listened to the songs again to the remembered dream and cackled like crazy. Well. What can I say? This is definitely withdrawal syndrome- from watching too much of 'American Horror Story' and finishing Season Four. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Art Week and The Naked Finn

Nguan's first solo show titled
'How Loneliness Goes'.

It was the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival and the Singapore Art Week. Plenty of exciting events happened around various venues. Went to view some of the exhibitions and installations. Many were simply amazing. (i.e. Keng Lye's exquisite hyperrealistic resin art.) My social calendar exploded with awesome invitations and some dates beeped reminders for me to be at three events in one evening.

Hanging out at Gillman Barracks placed The Naked Finn back on the stomach's radar. The little seafood restaurant run by Ken Loon and Chef Fong is on its third year of operations and growing very well. Prawns galore. Popped an antihistamine so that I could eat the shellfish.

We filled up the seats at the little bar and ordered almost everything on the menu. The fantastic thing about eating in a group of more than four persons. Heh. I had a strange craving for scarlet prawns. Just one sufficed. A gorgeously grilled carabinero. Decided against sucking out the precious essence from the head. That would probably override the pill and induce all rashes and whatnots to violently flare. Reluctantly handed the head over to the man for his makan pleasure.

Stared at the Mozambique lobsters. These tiny critters are really langoustines, pretty similar to the Norwegian lobsters. Of course the taste differs slightly because of the different waters. Otherwise, they're fairly similar. Mozambique lobsters appeared too. Lightly grilled plain, they kept the moisture and tasted sweet. Salt is served at the side for you to sprinkle to taste. Lovely bites. Altogether, another stimulating and awesome evening with the friends.

Monday, January 26, 2015

「空色ヒッチハイカー」


Alongside English books, I read novels in four other languages too. Maybe five, if you consider written Cantonese in the traditional script a separate and distinct language from Chinese. While I speak and write them on a day-to-day basis with the friends and for work, and check out news sites, it's nice to simply read for leisure. What's the point of acquiring fluency in another language to reading competency and not bury my nose in it? As fluent as I am in these languages, there're certain phrases and nuances I haven't yet picked up simply because I don't 'think' in that language. Reading fiction helps.

Naturally, I also choose 'easy' topics to read. Hurhurhur. Nothing complicated. Which means I tend to pick the same genres to read as in English. Plucked this off Instagram and transferred it here. Instagram tends to annoy me and I keep all of three photos on it at any one time. A book review is wasted there. I rather type it out at length. Japanese is my second language, but I haven't been using it as much. It certainly helped me tons devouring episodes of anime and series after series of manga. Hehehehehe.

I love the physical size of Japanese novels. They seem to adhere to those cute dimensions that fit snugly into the palm while standing in a train. Which means one book fits into all bags. Read and rather enjoyed Tsumugu Hashimoto's 'Sky-Blue Hitchhikers'. 橋本紡の「空色ヒッチハイカー」 Set into seven chapters for the road trip of seven days over seven towns, it concludes with the eighth chapter, an epilogue cutely titled 'エピローグ And what we'll be', and a final comment by fellow writer Takii Asayo '解說 瀧井朝世'

This is literally and metaphorically a road trip of self-discovery of a teenager on the brink of adulthood. 18year-old Akitsu Shoji headed out one summer in his brother's 1959 Cadillac and a fake license. He began the seven-day journey from Kawasaki in Kanagawa to Karatsu in Kyushu, picking up hitchhikers along the way. The seven towns and chapters also detailed the people he met. In Chapter One, the first day at Kawasaki, of course he met a girl (第一日目 川崎―小田原 タンクトップ・ガール), moving on to Odarawa, Okazaki, meeting three more girls from the sector Rittō to Himeji, and a man with a stutter on the fifth day in Himeji (第五日目 姫路―廿日市 吃音男), then Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima prefecture to Fukuoka, and finally to Karatsu in Kyushu (第七日目 福岡―唐津 ファンダンゴ). Entertaining and rather enjoyable. 

One of my favorite lines which kinda summarizes the book's adventures, ideals and thoughts, was said by an old man to Shoji. It translates to something like, 'There's no need to have a point to the journey. It's the right and privilege of youth, of self-discovery.' Indeed, I say.
「あてどもない旅、それは若者の権利だ。」

Saturday, January 24, 2015

'I'm A Ghost in My Own House'

At the beginning of her 12-hour cycle grinding charcoal into fine powder.
Melati Suryodarmo's 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House'.
At the Glass Porch, Level 2 of the Singapore Art Museum.

I'm a fan of artist Melati Suryodarmo. Her dedication to her craft is mind-boggling because it involves all sorts of pain and discomfort. In her submission for the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize, titled 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House', she explains that this is based on her interest of the philosophy of charcoal. "From the tree to wood, from wood to charcoal, from charcoal to ash." 

Activated charcoal to prevent poisoning, but the process of obtaining life-sustaining coal adversely impacts the environmental and the health of coal miners. Coal dust and carbon. Pneumoconiosis. Black lung disease. What's amazing is that Melati Suryodarmo was present (yes, she was a student of Marina Abramović) for 12 hours in a performance space at the Singapore Art Museum where she crunched and ground a ton of charcoal briquettes. I stood in awe, silently watching. Saw her again in the evening. She looked utterly exhausted. Glad the Museum allocated a sun-lit performance space to her. This piece of performance art is as intense as it's also about sending a powerful message.

Choe U-Ram's (South Korea) 'Custos Cavum (Guardian of the Hole)'.  

There're 15 finalists from 13 countries shortlisted for the Signature Art Prize. Since 2008, the Prize aims to showcase the best of Asia-Pacific contemporary ideas "visually and metaphorically". Artworks are presented at the Singapore Art Museum. Wandered around the galleries. I was mesmerized by Choe U-Ram's 'Custos Cavum (Guardian of the Hole)', pictured above. His kinetic biomorphic sculpture moves and whirrs. Like it's breathing. Like "the ghost in the machine." Giggled at Arin Rungjang's 'Golden Teardrop'. It tells of the bloody history behind the traditional super-sweet egg-yolk dessert of the Thailand, derived from the Portuguese ovos moles, now known as thong yod (ทองหยอด). Of "scattered transboundary fragments."

Arin Rungjang's (Thailand) 'Golden Teardrop'.
A spherical sculpture of almost 6000 brass teardrops suspended from a timber and steel frame.

It's a mammoth task to even shortlist these 15 finalists who submitted artworks across mixed mediums. It was pretty cool seeing these artworks before the winning works of Signature Art Prize were selected. Reading about the winners in the news is all right, but it was more exciting to attend the Awards ceremony just to have a guess and hear it first. :)

The Grand Prize (S$60,000) was awarded to Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore) for multimedia 4-channel HD video and light installation 'Pythagoras' where a disembodied voice speaks to the audience. Jurors' Choice Awards (S$15,000 each) went to Liu Jianhua (China) for 'Trace'- porcelain inky calligraphic marks on a swathe of rice paper as a sculptural installation on the wall (called 屋漏痕, wu1lou4hen2, or literally 'water stains on the wall') and Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) for 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House', and the People's Choice Award (S$10,000) went to Yao Jui-Chung (Taiwan) and Lost Society Document for his team's research of disused public buildings in Taiwan, a socio-political commentary comprising a lengthy-video of their records and documentation at each venue and 124 photographs.

What powerful visual art created by the artists. Hearty congratulations all.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bath Salts


The gift smells divine. Notes of citrus and lavender wafted out strongest when I opened the jar. Ingredients include sea salt, Epsom salts, lavender essential oil, extra virgin olive oil, and I'm keeping the other ingredients a secret. Woot.

I'm just going to call it 'bespoke' because it is. Y is experimenting and blended a jar for me. I love this combination of scents because it's citrus-fruity rather than cloying sweet-fruity or sweet-floral. This is my very first jar of bath salts that I didn't have to buy at the shops. Hehehehe. For some reason, everyone keeps giving me tubes of shower gel for Christmas and birthdays but not bath salts.

The little jar sits on the shelf next to the bathtub. But I don't need to draw a bath in order to utilize this gift. I could simply add a few scoops to a bucket of hot water and sink my feet into it. And I have a very nice solid basin for this purpose. This homeblended jar is fantastic for that. My feet are abused on a daily basis. The frequent hot soaks do wonders for the soreness and angry bunions, and also soothe bruised nails. Epsom salt is great for alleviating blisters, kinda clean out chaffing and toenail fungus, or to prevent Athlete's foot. The feet is soaked most days after pilates and parkour. :)

This is a most thoughtful gift. It came with a chic hand-folded star. Love it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

'Everyday / 每一天'


This girlfriend always knows which types of gifts to get for me. She's very clever. She gave me a print from Neighborhood: GOODS titled 'Everyday / 每一天 '. #ampulets When she handed me the tube roll, I didn't even open it. Simply grinned my thanks. I knew what it is. Had eyed it when ampulets posted it on IG, but didn't get around to buying it.

Black and gold ink on marble white tracing paper. Mine's numbered 75/250. It's a simple idea, but so effective, and takes someone with passion to put it together in a simple one page presentation of the 2015 calendar. Clearly, the framing cost more than the print. Five times more. There'll probably be a new print next year. But the point is, I want to preserve this one. Costs are negligible.

It's very nice to simply stare at the framed-up print. One not-that-big page summarizing all of 2015. All the experiences to-come, and all that I will learn this year. It makes seem so easy to breeze through 365 days. I love the idea of the big old tree in the Toa Payoh neighborhood. Trees, mean so much. Of the environment, of shelter, and healthy trees reflect the condition of the soil, pollutants, etc, and that humans are taking care to preserve its roots. It reflects the everyday. The daily joys. Every day. To remember to be thankful for all the blessings in this life.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The BFF is a Little Fish


Dragged the bff out for dinner in the neighborhood. Had plans to have seafood at Pasarbella. The girl has never visited Pasarbella or The Grandstand since she came back to Singapore. Unsurprising, since her travel schedule is crazy as ever. She was curious and got there a bit earlier to check it out. She was distracted by the stores outside the fish and seafood area.

I yawned and went to plonk myself at a bench. She came back with all meats. All pork too. My gawwwd. Win lor. Clearly the BFF was in the mood to eat. Pulled pork sandwich, honey-roasted pork, belly pork with crackling, and beer. Of course she ate them all. How would my stomach cope with ingesting more than three pieces. Eiiiiyerrrr. Hehehe.

Needed to pass the bff an overdue Christmas present too. Just as well that the gift was late. Had time to add on another present. Popped in to the jewelry store to get a pair of earrings to congratulate her on getting her OWD. Yayyy. Onward to AOWD! For years, she had been struggling with equalizing the pressure in the ears, and finally, she's a little fish merrily finning in the ocean.

To more dive trips, girl. Run pre-dive checks rigorously. Dive safe. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Around the Island


So happy that we just saw P and K in Seattle and now again in the new year when they were on a stopover in Singapore. Like us, they love the takeouts from Kedai Makan. On this trip, they wanted to try some local flavors to compare the interpretations dished out by Kedai Makan. We assured them it was close and super satisfying. Really! Our friends love food, do well with peppers and spices and totally enjoy food trails. This is the best time of the year to be outdoors, never mind the humidity. When we're dressed for it, it can be quite a pleasure to feel the perspiration run down the neck.

We weren't surprised when they asked to visit housing estates in Singapore. After all, the city's slick sights could just be another city's slick sights. They did ask if we were a fishing village before the founding fathers took over and made the city boom this way. Had to roll my eyes and remind them that 18th century Singapore was not exactly the boondocks of the Far East. The British colonial overlords turned it into a rather profitable hub for entrepôt trade. By the time founding fathers took over in 1965, we were already quite sophisticated. P and K had two full days in town. We started with Tiong Bahru. Hahahaha. Of course lah. Hipster neighborhood wat. After P and K were done with their morning at Gardens by the Bay and Botanic Gardens, we ate up a storm at Tiong Bahru Market, took a ton of photos and walked around. Stopped for coffee too, naturally, at Nylon

Then we moved on to Woodlands and Toa Payoh. We set them on their own along the train lines to Bishan and Punggol. :P It's easy to get around. P and K have top-notch navigational skills, estates' maps and points of interests, and two phones with local data on 4G. They managed to sort out a happy dinner at the local kopitiam. They sent us photos of many dishes attempted, and actually polished off. I think they had a swell time.