Monthly Archives: November 2013

Music, thou art difficult

Sitting in the Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Center now, waiting for the BBC Scottish Symphonic Orchestra to start their performance. It’s called ‘The Rest Is Noise’. Virgin orchestra experience… Hope it’s fun! And hope I’ll make sense of it. Am sitting in the front stalls. That is a good thing, right?

The orchestra is an incredible creature. So many people, so many instruments. I think I am going to enjoy this. This… Symphony. An organic melding, a synthesis of talent driven by discipline. I like watching things where people come together to make something bigger than the sum of its parts. Some musician is making a very amusing noise. It is like a big fart. I chortle internally. Once again, like in Top Hat, it appears that there are not many people in their early twenties… Then again, normally I wouldn’t be here. Am only here cos there was a cheap cheap online offer and I decided, might as well. Lots of older couples. Dump the kids at home and head out eh? And wow! I just noticed there are seats behind the orchestra. I wonder what happens when the audience is behind… Is it voyeuristic? It is like sitting behind the musician. Maybe that is why the orchestra is appealing. Because the bulk of the audience is sitting behind the conductor, and in a sense you are in the viewing position of power. So one feels a sense of control, though it is from a distance, is control nonetheless. The efforts of people at your fingertips… Ah! Viewer pleasure. Film class, what have you done to me? There’s a technical term for it but it has slipped my mind now, to mean the pleasure of viewing. Something-scopic, I am quite sure.

The string instruments are so cool. Violins! Double basses!

I didn’t understand it. I struggle to comprehend… There is emotive response, and certainly the music is designed to foment certain responses but I do not ‘get’ the music like how I would a comedy or a novel. Hmm.

Nonetheless technical mastery is always appreciated. The orchestra handles their instruments like a well drilled company executing fire and movement… Consummate skill and ease.

It is short and I did not fall asleep!

I must say it is quite a visual spectacle to watch the orchestra.

nomnoms for you and for me

a bit of shameless advertising right here

am currently part of a home-oven venture to sell Christmas goodies. am responsible for doing the write-ups and stuff for the food. finally got to combine two things i enjoy very much (food and writing) so here’s the result!

it IS a bit wordy though, might have gotten carried away.

but the stuff is really good. its the stuff that i eat all the time and home and rave about. so now you can get some too (more shameless advertising, all the necessary information is inside the catalogue)

without further ado:

TBB Christmas Bake Sale Product Catalogue

feel free to help in my capitalist, world-domination plans by sharing this with whoever you think might appreciate it

Concerning Purple Light and other NS things

You know what conscription is good for? What staying in is good for? I’ll tell you.

Firstly in the light of all the recent hullabaloo about banning certain lyrics in a rather nice song (I like it, thank you very much), I decided that most of the comments and responses to this action which get the most publicity are those that highlight the negative, blow it up, and continue to flame the establishment.

Is that a sign of a participative populace? No. It is a symptom of a disease, a malady known as Complacency, often diagnosed together with Ignorance, and easily identifiable by Discontent.

Let me first say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with criticizing state policy, or any other sort of larger organizational decision. Corporate growth is organic and to be effective, must rely on a healthy top-down/ground-up tension. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that one of the key components of a well functioning political system (one that is good for the state and the people, and promotes the welfare of both) is a discerning populace. A populace which actively critiques policy, pointing out loopholes, finding nooks and crannies, spotting cracks in the foundation of logic and reason, ensuring sympathy and mercy go hand in hand with justice and pragmatism. But I must emphasize (and this is of the utmost emphasis) that any critique must be made with the intention to build up, rather than to tear down. In short, it must be constructive criticism, guided by the right motives of selflessness and a desire to see the betterment of others. I don’t claim that any solution must be made, but if there is one to be had, then any idea of merit should be thoughtfully offered and then deliberately and respectfully considered in turn. Pointing out a flaw in order to correct and repair the foundations of society, and to borrow a oft-used metaphor, to spin the threads of our moral fiber into an unbreakable cable, is of great importance and necessity. If you have the means to do so, so much the better. Then search out the appropriate and most effective channels to do so, without fanfare, and let the knowledge of your contribution out of the selflessness of your heart be it’s own reward.

But the flip side? Highlighting everything that might be lacking, fanning the flames of gossip by using inflammatory language (as I am ironically doing now), throwing trash into the proverbial fire? Citing negative experiences and adopting agendas that you might not own, but co-opt and align yourselves with in order to further your own argument (if you have a valid one)? Talking nonsense about how clearly black and white moral issues like rape and murder can somehow be linked to the rights of men? Come on… Since when has patriarchy not already been the way of the world?

Pointing out faults for the sake of criticizing the establishment is a truly ignoble and ridiculous thing to do. It stinks of the foul stench of ingratitude. It speaks of the lack of self-recognition, that one is complicit in creating the society that you live in. To breathe such words is to indicate what terrible mists spawn in the caverns of your thought. Surely we have not gained so much only to lose a sense of humanity. This is the part of Singapore that I detest: as much as I love my country and am proud to be Singaporean and to be part of all the lists that we top, to participate in our national idiosyncrasies and to be a willing believer in our forged-but-nonetheless-real form of national identity, I deplore the sense of… entitlement that as a nation, a people, we still have a long way to eliminate. Maybe it’s a economically developed thing. But this entitlement, that the State is somehow beholden to the Individual? That’s ridiculous. One should have an idea of how it is supposed to work. This is a two-way relationship. There is no consumer relationship here, one does not simply purchase citizenship. It is incredibly stupid and short sighted, I find, to be continually criticizing and complaining about higher institutions and the rules that encompass us, without being aware of the larger contexts that make up the world we live in. Laws and rules exist to protect, legislation keeps the undesirable out. The individual has to comply with state directive, trusting that the government that has been voted into power, and vested with the authority of the masses, will make the right decision. Lines like ‘they only care about the trickle-down effect’ only demonstrate how shallow one’s understanding and comprehension of larger social dynamics function. Perhaps then, you should remove yourself from the trickle-down benefits that society has conferred upon you.

This might sound all self-righteous, but I beg you to ask yourself what kind of place you want to live in, and what is necessary, and what has already been done, to ensure that such a world exists.

In short, we all could do with a double dose of Thankfulness, bolstered by a booster jab of Gratitude. Cutting-edge medical facilities and services are what we pride ourselves on: perhaps it would do good some times to not just diagnose ourselves, but engineer a cure.

Now entertain my propensity to go off on tangents as I talk about something else. What I started with, actually.

Why is staying in good?

Because in our modern/postmodern world where nuclear families live in little sanitized flats, separated by walls, we no longer have the kampong feeling. Everyone bemoans the loss of the kampong spirit. This legendary, mythic ethos of friendliness and community. It’s a product of our packed schedules and supercharged, manic desire to complete every item on the checklist. But it means that we only live with family: spend all our time with people who, by nature of their relationships, will always love and accept you for you who are.

This is why NS is good. Because staying in means you LIVE with other people. You spend your lives with them. You develop a sense of other people that only arises from constant community and exposure. You learn to subsume your own selfish desires and quirks to the utility of the larger community. OCS showed me the ugly side of myself: my pride, and my blindness to it. It taught me to be a wee bit more sensitive. Going to unit taught me not just how to deal with people, but more importantly, how to relate with people. Dealing with people connotes a mercenary, transactional process – you’re making a deal with someone. But relating with others? That’s totally different. It means treating others with kindness and tough love and stopping your instinctive knee-jerk reactions. Lessons which I am certainly still learning. But this is why staying in is important:

For Singaporean males, it is possibly the only opportunity in their lives to live with other people.

This means you learn to respect others. To take responsibility for your actions. Et cetera. It smoothens rough edges and alerts you to dirty undersides. If nothing else, it probably is a poor facsimile of what is necessary for marriage… Which is probably why guys who have completed their NS stint are commonly considered to be more ‘mature’. As with all stereotypes, there certainly has to be a grain of truth to it.

This is why NS is good, among other things. Besides all the political and military weight behind an entire policy decision. Because it teaches you, at a very basic and human level, the essential skill (yes, it can be trained and honed and learnt) of how to live with other people. Then all that is left is deciding exactly how you are going to do that.

Matilda wooooooooooo!

Matilda!!!! More Roald Dahl incredibleness. Spoilers abound, you have been warned.

First things first the use of the lighting is supreme. It is precise and deliberate and wonderfully bold and dramatic. It highlights, it underlines, it throws into focus, it describes, it narrates, it motions. Wow! Artistic glory. The use of the light and strobes and shadows… The great part is that it really encourages you to let your senses react and guide your reaction and thereafter trigger your imagination, which is what Roald Dahl is about!

The set is great! Minimalistic I feel, compared to the grandeur of the Lion King set… Well. Matilda doesn’t set out to kill with the set I guess, though it IS impressive. Just what is necessary, not over the top. Whatever the set contains though is used very effectively and efficiently: economy of performance. Now the performative elements! Wow! Super high energy and the movements of the dance give a very visceral kick and power to the performance. The kids are amazing… Young as they are, they are super! Professional and disciplined and just intense. The Matilda actress is very interesting… The character is a super genius, but the truth is that the actress is also genuinely extremely talented. What a commentary on the talents of kids. Some fascinating parallels going on here. Also there’s quite a bit to be said about teaching and how to deal (and not to deal) with kids.

Super good handling of narratives! Interweaving and layering. It’s three different narratives going together at the same time. It’s running in parallel then suddenly it comes together. What a symbol. That white scarf! Symbolic motif of a high order. The physical manifestation of so many levels of narrative meaning. It takes a deft hand to spin so many threads of a yarn but the result is a complex and dazzling tapestry that clothes you in a warm fuzzy feeling. The narrative control is high level stuff… Essays could be written on the interplay and how the narratives work to reinforce each other and deliver all the messages that the performance contains.
The last song? Revolting? Totally blew me away. Michael Jackson echoes, in your face-ness, a blithely wicked celebration of childhood and innocence. All those Thriller-like dance moves! Trunchbull is an absolute gem. Her performance is insane… Absolutely in character.

It’s also very interesting that there’s a lot said about reading and books in the musical, considering that the source material is a book. I love books.

And we got the tickets for 5 pounds! Woot! Queuing 2 and a half hours in the morning was worth it. Student tickets for the win.

What a show! Really worth watching! Extremely impressed.

sigh pie

Tried making apple crisp: baked apples with a buttery crusty topping.

Unfortunately I messed it up… Too much butter and not enough flour, got ratios wrong. Probably handled it too much too. Not enough cinnamon on the apples. Had to dab butter that was oozing out halfway through the baking process! Yucks. Too much butter indeed.

As a result of staying too long in the oven the apples are mush (not really what I was going for), the topping is fail. The crispy top is the only redeeming factor. Underneath the dough-thing is still uncooked and is still wet. Edges are a tad oily. I cut holes and did some decoration with excess dough like mum does on her pies (see I do think about presentation) and was very pleased with my successfully cut out diamonds in the dough that still managed to look like geometrical shapes. And I made a smiley face. Sadly all these have been mishappen and all that is left is a mess. Oh well. One learns from such things.

Have consumed it all, can’t waste good ingredients! With ice cream it’s still alright… Can’t really go wrong with baked apples!