Monthly Archives: October 2013

Food/London/dream jobs/food/foodfoodfood

To my small but still growing repertoire of dishes, I have added oxtail stew!! Wooooooo!!!!! Nothing like a hot bowl of stew for breakfast.

That’s what I had for breakfast today. Along with a glass of milk and two chocolate avocrumbles. Avocrumbles are the ultimate best thing… Fresh avocado cubes in crumble (replace half of the flour with cocoa) and oats and chocolate chips and walnuts! Healthy and delicious. I should patent it.

Lovely stuff.

The UK has been kind so far. I am getting blown away by the wind. It is no joke. It blitzes the tips of my ears… Never fear. Army issue goretex will save the day. Tomorrow though overground services are down because of some impending storm. Well we shall see whether it is weather suitable for riding.

More food talk. Now in an attempt to have more veg, I made salad. But in the end there was only 120g of lettuce. The rest of it was baked chicken (shredded), crumbly english farm cheese, walnuts, fusilli, bacon bits, avocado slices. Incredibly filling actually. I was very surprised at its bulk.

Then in my laziness I discovered another wonderful thing to eat. I threw chunks of cheddar on a plate and then dumped chilli con carne over it. Mixed it a bit and put it into the microwave to heat up. When I take it out it’s all sizzling and pizza-ish, and stretchy and looks absolutely delicious (melting cheese has that quality). So naturally what follows is two soft boiled eggs cracked on top of this delectable mess… And then the pasta is done just in time, so it goes on top. Toss. Consume. Ahhhh.

Daylight savings has kicked in and it was an extra hour of sleep. Not that there’s much daylight to be saved…

Well! Time for some very quick chronicling.

Went to Thorpe Park, the UK’s premier amusement park. Well without the sun and street performers it was a very English affair – understated and rainy. After three roller coasters I wussed out from motion sickness.

Went to Windsor castle! Very charming place. My favorite castle so far, better than Versailles I might say! I liked it very much. A reassuring solidity and warmth.

Went to LEGOLAND! Woooooo!!!!!!!! Loved it super a lot oh my i just kept taking photos and photos and looking at things in awe and wonder and it was wonderful and fantastic and the rain didn’t matter and the lego mini land was just mind blowing! My first ever dream occupation was to be a fighter pilot (can’t do that, specs and motion sickness, let’s not even talk about pulling gees…). Then it was to be a Lego set designer. I guess that is also not very possible because it requires incredible depths of technical creativity… A melding of physics and practicalities with the aesthetic and crowd-pleasing and imagination-spurring. Wow! Sort of like writing poetry: keeping meaning and imagination within a set form. A very difficult exercise indeed! Requiring great discipline. Which is why I have never seen the beauty of free/blank verse… Where’s the difficulty in that? It’s all so arbitrary. For those people who condemn themselves to never being able to do this kind of thing, start with haikus! Then rhyming couplets (think in rhyming couplets). Then sonnets and then by then you’re well on your way to entertaining yourself by composing verse. Well then my next dream occupation was to be a writer but I don’t have the stamina for that. So now my future occupation (it was never a dream, but it is certainly something I greatly enjoy and believe in) is to teach! Though in moments of airyfairyness my current dream job is to be a full time menu-namer-and-dish-describer. Which to my mind involves tasting food, thinking of a name for it, describing it in the menu, allowing me to put two things I enjoy to great use! Tasting food and playing with words. Maybe I can do that for all my custom desserts. Which are basically all improvisational depending on what I have at hand, and all involve overloading your senses with as much good things as possible, and lots and lots of dark chocolate. Hot, liquid, melt in your mouth goodness… When they say that honey and ambrosia were the food of the gods they were wrong. I’m pretty sure Mount Olympus and Valhalla order plentiful amounts of the good stuff from their Aztec counterparts… Stormwatch probably has chocolate tablets in their multidimensional emergency response kits, and Space Marines have to drink it as part of their physical transformation. Heck, if Frodo didn’t have the phial of Lorien, I would think a cup of Valrhona would have worked just as well.

So much for short chronicling.

Well then watched Book of Mormon (hilariously offensively good, pretty smart too I thought), bought more cheap books (5 books a pound!), found more independent bookshops (lovely), and saw the lovely autumn colours of Kew Gardens. Now autumn is delightful! All these soft shades of yellows and reds and oranges and tasty looking citrusy colours adorning the trees. If I ever ever make cupcakes they will be decorated in autumn colours. Come to think of it a set of macaroons in autumn colours would be fantastic, no? I also saw these incredible cool fruits. Some sort of berry or grape. They have solved a question that has plagued me for years. I saw a blue fruit!!!! It’s actually blue. And turquoise. And purple. And looks like it is good and chewy. Looks like a tiny everlasting gobstopper. I kept taking pictures of it I couldn’t quite believe my eyes or stop marveling at how pretty it is.

Also, warm apple cider is overrated (I think it’s just me), and there is nothing better than eating an apple with a knife, than eating a toffee apple with a knife.

In other news, contrary to what social media and Instagram and whatnot try to tell you, everyone’s life has equal amounts of nonsense and trouble. Getting my bike stolen was really really angrifying and inconvenient but it’s alright I guess things happen. And sometimes it can get lonely but there are many lovely people around. It can get boring (see computer games are good for you) but there’s always books and things to dream up. And it’s cold and I’m getting this nonsense cold rash thing… But then again. It’s dry so no morning sinus. Whee!

Also, if you’re in Singapore and reading this, I beg you never ever complain again about Singaporean public transport, for it is powered by the psychic gestalt collective of the Efficient Singaporean Mind, and fueled by outwardly grumpy but inwardly angelic drivers and staff, and our trains are actually pulled along by hypercharged stallions of shadow whose blazing hooves on the tracks is the sound you hear when the MRT approaches… Oh man. I can hear my hokkien mee calling to me.

Zach! Where are you? I was made to be consumed with great relish. Please, aid me in fulfilling my life’s sole purpose!

Fear not, good plate of hokkien mee, you are on my hit list for food when I get home. I will slurp you with great relish indeed.

mechanized infantry

My bike got stolen.

I am highly highly ticked off.

I only just installed the rear light, didn’t even use it yet.

That’s 2 months more of saving on transport gone… And the benefits of 15km of cycling every day.

Well I guess this means is going to be 15km of route march every day.

ROARRRR

The Lyceum Theater is jam packed to the point that there is a hint of the oppressive African landscape that Conrad describes in Heart of Darkness. The Dark Continent, they say! The setting of the best animated film 90s era Disney produced. Tonight’s menu is THE LION KING. Simba! Mau and I have wonderful seats in the royal circle. Heh heh heh. As someone once told me art is priceless, and of course when’s the next time I’m coming to London to watch the theater? Et cetera et cetera, other justifications of the price.

I can’t wait for the start… A circle of life indeed! I remember watching the movie in the omni-max in Jurong East. My first ever movie, if I remember correctly.

Oh my oh my oh my this is next-level stuff. The animal/human layering is outstanding. You know you’re supposed to see animals but you know it’s actors but the actors are simply incredible at moving like animals so there’s this double meaning to every movement. And the opening sequence circle of life was just the best thing ever I nearly teared. Incredibly done and well crafted extremely intelligent use of props which double as both symbol and physical representation. Superb sets and costumes!!!!! It’s colour and light and joy in performance. The set is just amazing it creates depth on the stage on a whole new scale like the wildebeest stampede sequence. Then the physical sense of expanded space and the size of the savannah is just mad… Technically wondrous. The set is just glorious I love the props and the very tribal-esque sort of feel that the costumes have. Then there’s some sneaky breaking of the fourth wall and a hint or two of self-referentiality that lends more than a bit of amusement but also displays sharp awareness of the musical’s own status as a performance, a mimicry of another genre. Which of course is a fact that the musical sets out to remind the audience of: that it is a reproduction of the film, unrepentantly so. It doesn’t set out to create a new aesthetic for the narrative, but instead sticks very closely to it. Yet the differences which might seem subtle are actually pretty stark and as a result mark the musical as it’s own representation of the narrative. Oh! Great engagement with the idea of a single narrative as told through different forms… Very agile storytelling here. Oh my!

Something very hard for the musical to do is to live up to the incredible colour and sound show that the screen can display. The sheer riot of colour that you can do on the screen (especially the physically impossible, dreamscape stuff that happens in all epic disney song sequences) can’t be done on the stage due to physical constraints. But they’ve done a great job of pushing the limits! Giant giraffes and elephants. I am absolutely entranced by the way they are ‘being’ the various animals.

Stupendous finish to the show as the circle of life comes full circle. Rafiki is great jester/wise man, fulfilling very much the classic role of the Fool… And has a great singing voice. Hyena costume design is a work of art. Got that floaty post-theater feeling again…

It is a phenomenally exuberant production, full of colour and light,very smart use of it too, something like Hero (the movie), but not to that super stylized level. But the musical certainly understands the effect that if can potentially have on it’s audience and exploits that to the fullest through all the sense-avenues available, to out eternal excitement and gratitude. The makeup on Scar – wow! Small details make big things good.

Charlie and the Sci-Fi/Steampunk Factory

Tonight it’s going to be a chocorific delight! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory awaits. Today I’m sitting up on the second circle… The view isn’t too bad! Though I must say stall seats are too hardcore. When I see the Wonka bars on sale my eyes widen and I immediately buy one. I know it’s just marketing and it’s actually just a Nestle scam but it matters not. After all it is a night of childlike charm.

I remember adoring the book when I read it. Fiendishly delightful and so revealing of human nature. Dahl as usual uses the scalpel of his wit to remove the reflective veneer on society to show us what ugly children we really are, but his tools are treated with a comic soporific that makes it all the more enjoyable once you realize you are laughing at what you were and might still become. When I was a child I loved Roald Dahl… Now, slightly more steeped in the understanding of the mystical literary arts, I find myself slightly unnerved at this magnificent author’s arcanely artless manipulation of our minds, and yet full of awe that though I recognize that he is playing with my mind, I still do so desire to be drawn towards the inevitable end. True greatness! Perhaps it is time to revisit my Roald Dahl omnibus of bedtime stories when I get home. Now those stories are the potential stuff of nightmares, given form on the page and easily dismissible by the conscious mind, but they continue to haunt us in our most vulnerable moments…

Charlie is good! But I think my expectations are too high. There’s still half a show to go though. The emotional fleshing out of the characters is good and the subtle pokes at the condition of youth today is pretty good. Oh I forgot, Top Hat managed to sneak in a superbly funny Shakespearean line and also paid suitable tribute to Ginger Rogers’ dancing skills… With a perfectly placed quote. Not in the original movie, but absolutely spot on. The fun part of Charlie should begin now, what with Oompa Loompas! The set is great, very nicely done, interesting use of moving props! I like the passing train effect. Very simple but elegant. Conceptually though I felt a lot more could have been done with the moving bits: there were very literal. Could have done with more cunning symbolic multilayered meaning woven into the physical movement of the performance. Either that or I just didn’t get what was supposed to happen ha.

Oh it ended very nicely! I like the use of the screen… But I think the beauty of the narrative is that it has to be played out in your head. I found myself imagining the chocolate ecosystem of the Wonka factory halfway through! And did I spot a Star Wars reference halfway through? The satire of Mike Teevee’s ending was incredibly amusing. Death to MTV indeed!

On the whole I think Top Hat was more well crafted… I preferred it. It probably has something to do with where I was sitting also. In the stalls the show is oriented towards you, so perhaps there is a fuller and more visceral reception of the show. Charlie was enjoyable but it wasn’t totally absorbing… But definitely worth watching! My Wonka bar will taste better for the flavours of imagination that it will conjure.

London by night is interesting. It’s literally grey. The sky is grey but interestingly it is a semi-bright grey. I was startled when I came out of the theater. The soft pitterpatter of drizzle and hard street lighting from the backdrop for sharp streets with leaves and cigarette ash ground into the asphalt, lit by warm glow and provided with surround sound from cheery pubs, conversation muted through the windows. Cars and bicycles weave through the streets and the wind is your constant companion. One can understand how Victorian-era steampunk is so engaging! With a little imagination the man in front of me becomes a cyborg, his cigarette a means of propulsion for his metal legs. The umbrella-toting lady clad in a red coat has her black shawl evolve into a spiderweb of body armour, and the heels of her stilettos morph into detachable knives. Her auburn hair is done up in a microfilament net, easily deployable into a cloak of silent death with a specifically coded flick of her head. Twin steampistols slung on her sashaying hips state her profession with understatedly elegant menace, as if the intentionally unconcealed vanes of her umbrella-blade was not enough of an indication: stylish yet practical. This femme fatale is a mercenary who brooks no interference, and if she’s interfering in your business it doesn’t say much for your future, prospects be damned.

Oh dear. My imagination has certainly been tickled. The tube has become mechanical creature-marvel, where techno-organic viruses have caused the giant predatory snakes that dominate the subterranean ecology of the Underground to form a symbiotic relationship with the carriages and the rails that bear them: these snakes have evolved to feed on kinetic energy and consider the concentration of movement in the emotional wavelength of so many people crowded on the Tube to be delicacy of sorts. Highly trained Tube drivers snare these creatures and bond them to their engines.

With the evolution of these snakes, the apex predator has disappeared and now the rats have become truly monstrous, feeding on pollution and gaining sentience that has rendered the government to declare any sewer sub-level below sub-level 8 to be a hazardous Red Zone: unfit for human habitation. Yet the bowels of the city have to be fed their daily diet of coal and river water, and an entire social system has erupted in a rather ramshackle manner in this underground gloom, centered on steampower engine centers as the nexus of this mini-civilization. Some of the denizens of the deep have never seen the light of day.

The people who walk on street-level are barely aware of the existence of this other world, so near yet so far. All the Street knows is that they are in between Sky and whatever is in the Lower Levels should be left undisturbed. In contrast the elite who live up on the superhabitats suspended a thousand meters above Street level, powered by the arcane might of synth-steam engines, great beasts of burden whose natural combustible products of their digestive systems have been turned to fuel the engines that keep the Skyhabs afloat and free of the pollution that rises from the waste-vents which stretch from the bowels of the Lower to giant, foul-smelling mouths on Street. The inhabitants of Sky are all too aware of what transpires beneath their Gothic glass spires, but frankly are only too glad for it to carry on. Luxury is easy to get used to.

Unfortunately while exploring the frontiers of my imagination I have momentarily lost focus on my physical location and hence have to get off the train to reorient myself :( Charlie, you did your job in the end!

Top Hat

My first time in the theater and I am watching Top Hat! Oh that fascinating show… 1935, if my memory serves me correctly, and it was wonderful. I do believe I have blogged about the brilliance of the dance choreography and the use of shadows and whatnot. Oh wait that’s Bojangles of Harlem. Wonder how it will turn out on the stage! I am greatly excited in the extreme. I do wish I had brought a coffee in to the theater though. Next time I’ll bring a bag of sweets of something. Is this a product of my movie-watching training?

The audience is mostly thrice my age or more. Which can be understood given that Top Hat was originally a pre-WW2 movie. This gives me a new perspective on the collective wisdom of humanity concentrated in this theater! Ah! I am but a young sapling in a grove of ancients… Of course there are some other young ones but by and large the heads here are all crowned with the gift of snowy laurels.

It is interesting to think about making Top Hat into a musical… The film has shot the scenes from a bird’s eye view of the stage! One can imagine that one is a member of the audience on the screen. So I could say, I have watched myself before, in a sense. So my past self has watched my future self in a movie, watching a musical. This really messed around with viewer perception and concepts of what reality is. Is all life a performance? From there we can build an argument whose main premise would be life is art. Though another case could be that art is life. From my vague gleanings of my time in visual culture class I recall someone of import in this field making such a comment. Very possibly I am dredging it from my subconscious in an attempt to sound intelligent.

I do wish the guy beside me would take off his coat, it’s entering into my private space.

This theater thing is cool! Interestingly enough everyone is using their phones. Of which I am too a victim. But I shall make the appeal that I too, am involved in the creative act of writing, and as such am excused from the contemptuous glances that all of you are throwing in my virtual direction for using my phone in such a sacred setting. But the truth is it is not different from a movie – at least before it starts.

Intermission now and the show is gorgeous!!!!!!! It is like Astaire and Rogers coming to life. Oh dear when Jerry and Dale dance together in the rain I died from an explosion of happiness. Mass tap dancing!!! Oh my!

There is something very interesting going on here with the audience watching a musical being performed on stage. There are two levels of viewing here… One is as the paying audience, and one is as the audience in the show. Effectively we have been implicitly told that we are part of the performance, and this certainly draws us irresistibly into being part of the entire show. Very very interesting and entrancingly absorbing. I am very happy now, I feel like riding a unicorn through a field of strawberry cupcakes. But back to the part about being an audience on two levels watching a performance on two levels: it makes you very aware of your identity as an audience member, both passive and active in the show. The applause is integral to the function of the narrative itself, and so everything is superbly double layered! This lends itself beautifully to the message of the life/art/art/life theme, and performance itself is becomes performance. Fascinating! Top Hat in London. I wonder if they will produce it on Broadway. That will make it geographically double layered too! But aside from the on-the-fly slightly-shabby and bare-of-evidence literary analysis going on here (though I must say this film/musical dynamic certainly bears more exploration – lion king here I come! And film/book/performance. Charlie and the chocolate factory! I’m getting very excited here) it is simply magical watching the musical. I can’t wait for Cheek to Cheek. Oh dear… I even know the lyrics.

Oh my this is the best thing!! Woo! I love it. Floating on a bed of fluffy popcorn and the air is filled with the smell of caramelized onions! It is very cold air, but still wonderful. Highly stimulating for the senses and at the same time intellectually challenging. Ah! This is how evenings should be spent. Expensive evenings though… My student budget shall be stretched even more. All meals self cooked in order to watch more shows. Sorry no more presents for anyone.

Dance is a great metaphor for a relationship. Seeing how the main characters are dancing! They take turns to lead and they have to be in sync. It takes practice, sometimes you step on each other’s toes, it’s tiring and draining, and you have to orbit each other. You spin each other around and twirl and lean, and support and make beautiful music. It all comes together, climaxes in an infinite moment of perfection, like that of a three-ball frozen in the air, hanging above the rim, just before it swishes! through the twine. The dance of a mother and child will certainly be different from that of a husband and wife but I think the metaphor holds. Maybe people should start going for family dance classes as a means of emotional therapy.