now this one's a GEM.
Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 31
Παρασκευή, Ιανουαρίου 30
Show's opening tonight - Rashomon. Based on Kurosawa's film, it tells various conflicting accounts of what happened in a rape and murder set in late 11th or 12th Century Japan, in the Late Heian period. Want some analyses of it? Here and here. The play's being staged by ACSian Theatre - the drama club of Anglo-Chinese Junior College, my old sixth-form college. What do I do there? I used to coach them for drama but this time I'm a musician, providing about ten minutes of flute music before the show, in order to set the mood. It's just a flute and drum, and I'm improvising in the style of Japanese Court Music. If anyone who attends the production thinks what I'm playing sounds absolutely horrid, tuneless, dissonant and out of tune, you're absolutely right. That's how Japanese court music sounds. In fact, what I'm playing is already a more tonal and tuneful version - I can perceive neither tonality nor melody in the original stuff.
When I first read accounts of the western missionaries having to sit through endless hours of Japanese court music and complaining that they'd not heard anything so horrible in their lives, I thought they were just ignorant westerners who couldn't appreciate the beauty of Asian things, even though they said they wished they were back in Cathay (China) where the music was tuneful and entertaining. Then I heard Gagaku, and I realised they were right. Coming from an environment with Vivaldi and Handel, being forced to endure hours of this must have been truly torture. Pity that so much skill (these musicians were trained for years) should be spent to produce such a hideous result. There is, however, one undoubted advantage in Japanese Court Music. There are people who can hear no melody in Chinese Classical Music. Such a person should attend a concert of Gagaku, with all the traditional instruments and dances , and then attend one of Chinese music the next night. If, after their horrid wailing, he can still find no melody in our Chinese dances and songs, he must give up looking for a tune in anything. If you're still game, have a look at these sites, which explain Gagaku - hereand here.
Just so you know, a traditional Noh orchestra consists of a flute (noh-kan) and 3 drums. We're working with one clay drum (a small doumbek from egypt), and I'm playing two flutes - one is a renaissance flute in D, made of maple wood, and a smaller chinese bamboo flute.
Apparently, Japanese Court Music is supposed to be a descendant of T'ang Chinese Court Music, and an immediate descent of ancient Hokkien Music from the Fukien province of China. I find it hard to believe the Chinese could have ever had such hair-raisingly awful music, and that when the Japanese in the 9th Century were aping Chinese culture, they tried to imitate the Chinese stuff and didn't quite get it right. There's no other explanation for it.
Let Taxi Drivers Run The World!
In other news, since I suspect none of you read my online buddy Serge's blog, I'm reproducing his entry of 28 Jan, which is quite worth reading.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
This is war
Video clip - in negative black and white but very disturbing.
Commentary: This is a graphic depiction of the killing produced by warfare. The people who are shown being shot appear to be unaware that an Apache attack helicopter armed with a high-speed 30mm cannon is firing explosive rounds at them. When they are hit, they disappear.........presumably blown to bits. The clip first aired on ABC news in a show which questioned the "morality" of shooting the wounded man trying to crawl to the "safety" of the road side.
It takes about a minute (with cable modem) to download the clip.
It is EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.
...I don't celebrate killing anyone, but think that it's important to see. If those being shot had the Apache helicopter, I'm certain that we would be seeing Americans being turned into chunks. I AM disturbed that they shot the wounded man, but it it is conceivable that he was crawling toward an anti-aircraft missile or RPG.
Mission to Mars
Spot on. I'd thought of sending him there myself but that'd only mask/treat a symptom, not face the problem (after all, he's only a sock puppet). Still, very funny.
Serge also runs A Conservative Site for Peace, under which his religion page is also well worth visiting.
Πέμπτη, Ιανουαρίου 29
Too busy to write something on my own today, but here's a little something from my Spiritual Father, Fr Serge Keleher of Dublin:
My mother swore that a friend of hers who liked to knit once copied some Chinese ideographs from a menu - she didn't know what they said, but they looked pretty - and incorporated them into the design of a sweater which she proceeded to knit for herself. The first literate Chinese she ran into while wearing the sweater nearly dropped dead from laughter - the sweater announced that "this dish is cheap but delicious"!
Τετάρτη, Ιανουαρίου 28
Not Quite the Wisdom of the Fathers
"If you can't remember where you left your keys, what page numbers you needed to read for tomorrow's class, or whether you left the stove on....just go do your prayer rule.
I guarantee you'll remember it all and much more besides. Worrying about tomorrow's schedule while trying to pray yields even more spectacular memory recovery results."
-- quoted from "Hidden Benefits of an Orthodox Neophyte Prayer Life" by Karl Thienes (who isn't likely to achieve unceasing prayer let alone 20 consecutive minutes of focused prayer without the grace of God and bloody miracle!)
Τρίτη, Ιανουαρίου 27
Have a look at this: Children Upset By Pheasant Shooting
"There's nothing wrong with hunting as long as you eat and/or otherwise use what you kill. The hypocrisy of modernity also strikes me - time was in America when many 12-year-old boys had small hunting rifles and wouldn't think of hurting another person with them. Now they and their parents play violent video games simulating multiple cold-blooded murders (scary sight I've seen: a 9-year-old playing a computer game realistic and graphic enough to train soldiers and cops), and chances are the same people react as described to children seeing the reality behind eating meat." - Link and comment from my friend's blog - Serge, otherwise known as the Young Fogey at A Conservative Blog for Peace
Where do I stand politically?
Variously. Have a look at Lewrockwell.com and the Spectator and you'll get an idea.
I'm in favour of tolerance. In that sense I'm a liberal - I believe in letting a gazillion flowers bloom, and only plucking out weeds such as communists, anarchists...
I support foxhunting and hunting in general. Cityfolk ought not attempt to interfere in the lives of countryfolk, lives that they neither understand nor care to.
I'm anti-war in all cases.
Bush is a monkey with very little brain, and Blair is just as bad.
I'm a monarchist.
I don't believe in legislation treats people of different sexual orientation unfairly. On the other hand, I believe that legislation must not deprive us of our rights of free association - we have the right not to have beliefs we don't accept forced down our throats. I.E. I'm all in favour of some sort of civil legislation allowing homosexual unions, so that certain legal rights of inheritance and suchlike may be extended to the partner. On the other hand, if anyone tries to force my Church to have priestesses or give gay unions a blessing, I'll be among the first to be martyred in her defence.
I'm elitist - I believe in maintaining standards of decorum, language, intellectual rigour and dress. I'm a young fogey. What's that? Look here.
I believe men and women are equal but different, and it's silly to pretend the two genders are good at the same things.
I have the mind of a Mediaeval man - I believe God intervenes actively in creation, hence I believe in miracles, relics, visions and suchlike. And yet I live firmly in the current century. Give or take 500 years. Ok, more like take 500 years... but who's counting?
I don't believe in the equality of cultures. Ebonics does not have equal footing with Shakespeare. The "cultures" of sub-saharan Africa have produced no important literature, music or contributions to the world - I refuse to place these various Bongo-bongoland savages on par with India, Greece, Rome and China.
Ok, off my soapbox for now.
Soundtrack: Ana Caram singing "The Girl from Ipanema".
People wonder why I'm such a fan of The Spectator - here's an article that I agree entirely with. Read the Spectator, read it often. A journal whose sole criterion for article inclusion is elegance of expression cannot be anything other than a pleasure to read. The Spectator is unashamedly elitist, and so am I. Someone's got to keep the standards up.
Δευτέρα, Ιανουαρίου 26
Spent today lazing at home, watched live Divine Liturgy (that's what we Orthodox call the usual church service) broadcast from Moscow. Cheryl Ho called me out, so we hung out at Liat Towers Starbucks, watching the world go by. Jared Kok was there. He's a prime example of "i'm trying so hard to be cool that it's painful to watch me" syndrome. With his bit of black cord twisted around fingers and hand, with a silver cross dangling from little finger... then i asked him "Officer yet or not" he went "not yet... wed!" and did a little "heels-together and fingers touch shoulder then salute" sort of thing. I swear, I so wanted to say "beam me up, scotty!" I won't even mention how his voice has dropped two octaves into the attempted sub-bass region, and how he claims it's due to his smoking.
I want to watch Bollywood Queen. Meanwhile, here are some Indian-inspired links!
Ever heard of Indian Superman? Have a look at that page, it sounds hilarious.
TEN CHINS NO MORE!
Don't be deceived by the pretty pink cover of the Bollywood Workout - this is high impact! If you've ever tried to imitate Shah Rukh Khan sexy moves, this is the ultimate exercise video for you. Utilising a combination of Bollywood and Bhangra style dance moves and aerobics, the instructor Honey Kalaria (an expert Indian Dance choreographer) guides the viewer through a range of typical dance movements, with plenty of arm waving, hip and bum thrusting. The music is strongly East-West, in Hindi and English, and the sight of women in the video dancing slightly out of step and sweating is strangely comforting. One even had a roll of flesh around her waist - yippee! Now you have an excuse the next time you're caught dancing along to Aishwarya Rai's routine . Available in PAL VHS (£12.99) or DVD (£14.99) from Amazon.com - coconut trees and saree changes not included.
I've been asked why I don't put my favourite recipes up. It's simple - they're my secrets, and a magician never reveals his secrets! But seriously, it's best to just watch me do them in person, because I'm one of those people who never follow recipes exactly, and I don't use exact measures. I work with quantities such as "meat for 6", "a dash of this", "a pinch of that", "a handful of googbley-gook", and thus there's not much point. If you guys want me to list recipes that have just a list of ingredients in vague amounts and directions, okay... just let me know!
Κυριακή, Ιανουαρίου 25
Was at a wedding earlier this evening. A lesbian 'commitment ceremony' to be precise, in a home. It was sweet, I've known one of the brides since I was 17, in Junior College. At the end, they threw both bouquets... and I swear, one of them was aimed straight for my face. So I got it. That means I'm next in line for a lesbian wedding yes? :D
Zhi came back on monday, will see how he's settling in and when we can meet up. No, he's not on the "possible marriage partners" list.
Σάββατο, Ιανουαρίου 24
Alrighty, it's time for a book and film update.
I've just finished reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, all three volumes of it. Needless to say, I didn't read it in Russian - my resolve not to read works in translation weakened in this case. Arkhipelag Gulag, as it's called in the original Russian, is a compilation of experiences and anecdotes about the Soviet prison camps and the injustice and inhumanity of the Communist system. No one can read it and continue to think that Communism is not a creation of pure evil. It's very very depressing, but worthwhile reading. One of the most monumental accounts of one of the cruellest ideologies of history,this book should be read by all. Layer by layer Solzhenitsyn exposes the hideous system of imprisonment ,death and torture that he refers to as the 'Gulag Archipelago'. He strips away that the misconception of the good Tsar Lenin betrayed by his evil heirs and exposes how it was Lenin and his henchmen who put into place the brutal totalitarianism , which would be inherited and continued by Stalin. In fact the only thing that Stalin really did differently was to introduce a more personalised ,Imperial style of rule but otherwise carried on the evil work of Lenin. It was Lenin who imprisoned the Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) , Mensheviks,Social Democrats,Social Revolutionaries Anarchists and independent intelligentsia and had many killed. In this way he completely destroyed all opposition to Bolshevik hegemony. Under Lenin the persecution started of anybody convicted of religious activity and the complete destruction of the church in Russia. And it was Lenin who began the genocide of whole ethnic groups that would later gain momentum under Stalin. Under the Communist system all that is spiritual or not purely material in nature is destroyed.And we discover what a horror Marx's idea of 'dialectic materialism ' really is. But I cannot describe the horrors which Solzhenitsyn outlines in this book :the hideous tortures,the slave markets selling of young women into sexual slavery. Solzhenitsyn describes how the prison system of the Tsarist system was compassionate by comparison but the mild abuses of Tsarist imprisonment where reacted to with a shrill outcry that never greeted the horrors of Bolshevism and Communism. As he says in his ever present biting sarcasm "Its just not fashionable,just not fashionable." And even today,even after the fall of Communism in Europe (though its iron grip remains strong in parts of Asia,Africa and in Cuba) its still not regarded as fashionable to highlight the horrors of Communism as it is to do so for other human rights abuses of this and other centuries
A really silly film that's probably never going to make it to Singapore is Bubba Ho-Tep. The premise is quite simple - Elvis didn't really die, he swapped places with an Elvis impersonator, and is now rotting away in a home for the elderly. Pair him up with a black guy who believes he's JFK and that aliens replaced his brain with a bag of sand. Add an Egyptian mummy who hides out in the home and terrorises the residents, turn our JFK and Elvis into heroes... and you've got Bubba Ho-Tep. It looks hilarious, I'd love to see it on the big screen, but I'm not hopeful.
Another one that's looking good is The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, which seems to be a parody of all those B-grade horror films. Watch the trailer, it's a scream.
Finally, there's Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ - about the last 24 hours of Christ's life. Filmed entirely in the original languages (or so Gibson thinks- more about this later) of Latin and Greek and completely faithful to the Gospel accounts, it should be quite interesting. My only gripe with the film is the languages used - Pilate speaks Latin, instead of Greek, which was the language of administration and common intercourse in the Eastern parts of the Roman Empire. Worse still, he pronounces his Latin in the horrible 18th Century Italian pronunciation, instead of any of the historical pronunciations. I can't comment on the Syriac which the Jewish characters speaks, because I don't know much Syriac. The film's going to be very very bloody - have a look at the trailer (from an unofficial site). Nevertheless, it's a good effort, and I'm glad he's decided to be faithful to the Gospels, including the crowd of Jews shouting "His Blood be upon us and our children". I think the Jews who protest the film should just get over it - it happened.
Παρασκευή, Ιανουαρίου 23
The formal uniform Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers wear to dinner... "Mess Kit", I think it's called... uses a pre-tied bowtie! Good gods, now that's shocking. Anybody with a smidgin of taste would know pre-tied bows are beyond the pale. But then the SAF has never been a particularly classy place. But then I've always been a elitist snob. ;)
The prize for cheesiest Chinese New Year song must go to the new one which uses the melody from Jingle Bells, and replaces them with mandarin words. I'm not kidding. Try singing it: "Gongxi ni, gongxi ni, gongxi gongxi niiiiiiii"
I was in shock for about 10 seconds when I first heard it. Half my brain was telling "oh it's a Christmas song" and the other half "it's Mandarin, it's clearly going Gongxi ni". Took me a while before both sides compared notes and I realised what was going on.
Now, the Chinese have created so many beautiful and exquisitely tasteful things in history... why is it that when it comes to Chinese New Year, all that good taste goes straight down the drain in favour of complete in-your-face crassness? The communist period didn't help either, I suspect. Jan Wong's book "Red China Blues" mentions how the Finnish Embassy in Peking would keep all the hideous official gifts in a special room, dubbed "the chamber of horrors". In case you're wondering, it's a great read.
Πέμπτη, Ιανουαρίου 22
Here's an interesting bit of information. Seems Shanghainese in Hongkong used to dip their prawn crackers in oyster sauce. I tried it for the first time in my life today, and it's not bad, though slightly salty.
Τετάρτη, Ιανουαρίου 21
I swear, if I hear any more "Tong Tong Tong Chiang", I'm going to scream. No wonder suicide rates go up around this time of the year, it's the annoying Chinese New Year music. I'm convinced the constant barrage of questions - "do you have a girlfriend yet? When are you getting married?" - also contribute to it.
Was in the MRT (the Singapore equivalent of the Tube) the other day, and there was that horrible piped music "tong tong tong chiang". As if that weren't bad enough, some Ah-Lian (the Singapore equivalent of an Essex Girl) took out her mobile phone and played her ringtone (also "tong tong tong chiang") in time to the music. Obviously she felt it was the height of coolness. I was practically clawing at the doors and screaming "LET ME OUT!!!"
Woke up at quarter to 11 today, and nearly screamed the house down, realising I'd be late for my 11 coffee-breakfast appointment. Got there at half-past 11 and then Yen called and said he'd be late, finally arriving about 12. Oh, gay boys. It turned out a wonderful day to be sitting at Liat Towers, watching the crowds go by. The crowds, of course, included many extremely fine examples of the "cute jock" type to which Yen and I are both so fond. These included several ruggers, swimmers and waterpolo players, who all came by to say hi upon noticing me. Ah, yes, it's good to be a venerable old Buddha into whose temple all and sundry feel obliged to enter and burn incense to upon passing.
Kerr-Chinh came by at 1 and joined us for lunch (el cheapo from Burger King). Kerr-Chinh I've not seen in some 5 years, since we were both in the same camp back in NS. He's quite a character too, having known me since ACS and ACJC, but we never really hung out. I hadn't realised it was his gang who started the Sailing Club in ACJC, having graduated from ACS and finding no such activity in ACJC. KC quite kindly bought me lunch as an apology for being dreadfully late, even though I protested (not too vigourously, it must be admitted).
Since people have been asking me to, I'll try to update this blog more often.
Here's another drink recipe for those who also keep asking me for them. Today's drink is Bellini, also known as a Peach Bellini. Invented in Harry's Bar in Venice during the early years of the 20th Century, it's named after the Venetian Settecento (that's 17th Century for you illiterati) painter Bellini. The recipe itself is very simple. Start with White Peaches. White peaches are Chinese in origin, the sort one sees in Chinese paintings, a pale yellow-white with a very pronounced pink blush. They were introduced to the West only with Marco Polo's travels. Puree your white peaches, then strain. 1/3 strained peach puree with 2/3 prosecco (or champagne or any sparkling wine) in a shaker with ice, shake, then serve in tall champagne flutes. The key to this drink is the peaches - they have to be absolutely fresh, and packaged peach juice or peach puree is not to be used. I got quite addicted to this drink last summer when I was working in Florence - it's light, fruity, sparkly and very very classy. Do not try to make it stronger by adding vodka, grappa, peach schnapps or suchlike - it's a fallacy to think double the alcohol, double the fun. Adding too much alcohol merely spoils the taste of the the drink and the balance.
Τρίτη, Ιανουαρίου 20
Learned two lessons today.
1) Never trust people simply because you went to school with them. A former schoolmate is now a dentist in a Government polyclinic, and I asked him if he could do some minor work on my teeth. Now, I asked him that since the Government polyclinics have waiting lists of months, and I can't really afford to pay more than public health service prices (Dad's not paying for it, I am), if he could fit me in somewhere. He said he's moonlighting in various private clinics, so I should go look for him there. Which seemed fair enough, and he knew I was asking because I'm not exactly the richest person around. So alright, I go look for him in Toa Payoh this evening, he does two small fillings, we small talk, and then the nurse writes out a bill for $120. Ouch. Talk about being fleeced. There's a saying we have in Cantonese, which works out in Mandarin pinyin (because I have no idea how to enter Chinese into a blog) as Yi2 Ren2 Xin1 Bu4 Ke2 You3, Fang2 Ren2 Xin3 Bu4 Ke2 Wu2 - which works out to literally to "Suspect People Heart Cannot Have, Defend People Heart Cannot Lack". It's difficult to translate but it works out to something like "A heart full of suspicion is bad, but a heart on guard is a necessity". Expensive lesson, one I shan't be forgetting.
2) As soon as I came out of the Dentist's room, I showed my touched-up front teeth to mum and dad, and we talked about it in Shanghainese, as is our wont when speaking in public and not wishing others to understand or overhear. There's this lady standing at the counter waiting to be served, her head whips over and starts staring at us. It seems she'd just been fleeced before me, and she walks over and asks us how much we're being charged. In FLUENT Wu Language (of which Shanghainese is a version). We nearly fall over and die, as the reason we speak in Shanghainese in public is so no one can follow... anyway, we have some trouble understanding her as she has a thick accent of some sort. She claims she's from Soochow (that's Suzhou for you pinyin nazis), but her accent wasn't a Soochow accent, it was far too country peasant. Lesson? Don't assume no one around understands you when you speak in another language.
Follow up to that last bit. Mum (who was born and spent her childhood in Shanghai) recounted the time when she was in Hongkong (this is in the 50s) and in a bus with another Shanghai girl, and this young Indian chap, black as night, sat next to them. The two of them spoke to each other in Shanghainese about how bad he smelled. After all, who would expect an Indian fellow in Hongkong to understand? Later that evening, there was a gathering of airline staff (mum worked for a short while in HK for BOAC, the precursor of British Airways) and guess who was there? Indeed, that very Indian chap, who turned out to be the fiance of the Air India manager, born and bred in Shanghai, the scion of an Indian family that had lived and worked in Shanghai for several generations and had only just come out of Communist-occupied China. Needless to say, he spoke flawless upper-class Shanghainese. Mum was so embarrassed.
Κυριακή, Ιανουαρίου 4
Alright, updates coming soon.
I can't find the recipe anywhere on the web, so as a service to humanity, here's a recipe for a drink I learned the last time I was in Venice. The name is "sgropino" - the "s-" prefix meaning "dis-" and "grop" meaning "lump" in Italian. So it works out to something like "dislumping", and it's meant to be drunk after a heavy rich meal to get rid of that lump in your chest.
Place a scoop of lemon sorbeto/sorbet/sherbert in a tall glass, add one measure of grappa or vodka, top up with prosecco (or any sparkling wine). Voila, you have Sgropino.
2 oz Vodka or Grappa
2 cups of Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine or 2 oz Champagne- doesn't matter which, as long as it's not dry stuff.
2 cups lemon gelato/sorbet/sherbert
Mix all in a blender for 30 seconds
This gives you about 4 servings - or 2 large glasses.
I've done variations including substituting various sorts of sherberts - orange, pink grapefruit, mango... then in place of the prosecco, simply using lambrusco or when feeling indulgent, champagne. Honestly, I find lambrusco works better because it's sweeter. One favourite variation so far is Mango sherbert, grappa, pink lambrusco.
Oh and Happy New Year.