Πέμπτη, Ιουνίου 23

Ah, My Lute, How I Have Neglected Thee!

I picked up John, my lute, today, for the first time in about a year of neglect... laid him on my lap... and tuned him up - he's only dropped about half a tone in pitch, which means he's acclimatised and stabilised in this tropical heat and humidity quite well. I played a few pieces... a few slow ones, a few fast ones... the touch is still there, though the fingers aren't as fast as before...

and as I was doing a bit of fast-ish passage work, a fret broke.

Confound it.

Never mind, they were old frets anyway. For those who don't know, the frets on a lute are tied-on and moveable. Oh, and my lute is named John after John Dowland.

After this year or so of shameful neglect, I suppose John's long overdue for some maintenance and upkeep. I think tomorrow I'll re-tie a set of brand new frets. I'll also give him a good polishing... and perhaps order some new strings!

John's a pretty 7-course Renaissance lute with a mensur of 61.5cm, dating from the 60s or so. Awfully wide neck (which I intend to have replaced at some point). I think after I'm done polishing and cleaning it up, I'll post some pictures of it on the blog.

---

Meanwhile, some amusing links:

Cabbage in Korean Baseball
!

Snapple's 20-Ton Popsicle Melts in N.Y.

Σάββατο, Ιουνίου 18

The Greek Mass Society

AKA the Society of St Pius I is now here!!!

Παρασκευή, Ιουνίου 17

The State Song of Virginia

words and music by James Bland

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There's where the old darkey's heart am long'd to go,
There's where I labor'd so hard for old massa,
Day after day in the field of yellow corn,
No place on earth do I love more sincerely
Than old Virginny, the state where I was born.

CHORUS:
Carry me back to old Virginny,
There's where the cotton and the corn and tatoes grow,
There's where the birds warble sweet in the springtime,
There's where this old darkey's heart am long'd to go.

Carry me back to old Virginny,
There let me live 'till I wither and decay,
Long by the old Dismal Swamp have I wander'd,
There's where this old darkey's life will pass away.
Massa and missis have long gone before me,
Soon we will meet on that bright and golden shore,
There we'll be happy and free from all sorrow,
There's where we'll meet and we'll never part no more.
--
That, my dear readers, is the official state song of the state of Virginia in the United States of America.

References to 'darkey', 'mass and missis' (master and mistress)... and the general romanticised view of slavery may be noticed. As one can imagine, there have been multiple attempts to get rid of the song. However, the problem is that it was written by a black man, and anyone who tried to get rid of it was accused of racism. HA!.

More Quotes

He who sings well, prays twice - St Augustine of Hippo.

St Augustine never heard Britney Spears - Edward Yong.

Chinese factory worker can’t believe the shit he makes for Americans

FENGHUA, CHINA—Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the "sheer amount of shit Americans will buy."
Full story here.

-from Serge's Blog

By Asclepius, It Works!

Soundtrack: Premier Concert, from the Concerts Royaux by François Couperin - played by Robert Claire, Davitt Moroney, Jaap ter Linden, Janet See.

It is now seven in the morning, and I'm up - with the slightest neckache. The reader may be well forgiven for thinking this to be unfortunate and saying 'Oh, poor dear'. In fact, this is the best morning I've had in over a week.

For about a week now, I've been waking up not only with a stiff neck, the muscles and tendons linking my head to my shoulders were severely inflammed. If you're thinking exquisite pain, you're on the right track. Not only did it hurt like !@#$%^&* to turn my head in any direction, and thus I had to turn my shoulders as well, but the tendons hurt with the lightest cough or movement in any direction.

The pain would go away (usually) through the day, and return in full strength at morning (it functioned as an alarm clock of sorts), so I naturally assumed it was the fault of the pillow. This would've been odd, as I've been sleeping for the last 9 months or so on a pillow of buckwheat shells that provides fabulous support and comfort. Nevertheless, I tried switching pillows - no relief, and the pain came back in the mornings.

Chronic pain ain't no fun, and with an acutely painful stiff neck, I was not, as they say, a happy camper.

Yesterday, the pain got much worse, and I was in agony all the morning and lunchtime - I *HAD* to go get painkillers (which being timed release would take a while to set in). Then, after lunch, Dad and I remembered a Chinese Doctor (as in one who practices Traditional Chinese Medicine) who's helped me with various ailments in the past - the guy's slightly pricey for his area, but not too bad when one compares him with doctors all around the island. So, alright - we went to him.

The guy observed my pulse (the pulse tells the practitioner which meridians may need stimulation and which may need to be subdued in order to bring the patient to a state of balanced health), then did about 30 minutes of tui-na. He used his hands, elbows and forearms in various ways mentioned here - which initially produced acute pain - the inflammed tendons and muscles did NOT take kindly to being forcefully manipulated and deep pressure being applied to them. Then as he rubbed and pressed, the pain subsided, and I found I could move my head with a far greater range of motion than hitherto. Next, a point on my hand and elbow were pressed hard for a few minutes - the same repeated on the other arm - the pain continued to subside and the neck movements were becoming easier. The treatment finished with about 20 minutes of acupuncture - two needles, each inserted into the back of the hand sort of right between the knuckles of the ring and last fingers, and a slight throbbing electrical pulse applied by means of two electrodes. The doc said the pain shouldn't come back, but that I should have a follow-up session of the same on Sunday afternoon just to make sure, and consolidate things. I was slightly fearful that the effect of the massage would be temporary, lasting at most a few hours, and also doubtful that the pain wouldn't return. Nevertheless, I was glad for the relief, and $35 (slightly more than £10) wasn't too much to pay for the instant relief.

The most amazing thing was that the pain left, and did not return all afternoon or evening. Sure, the neck remained a bit stiff, but NO PAIN! I went to bed slightly hesitant last night, feeling sure the pain would return by morning. Surprisingly, I woke up this morning with nothing more than a slightly stiff neck, and the tiniest pain.

I'm well and truly amazed. If any of you guys have backaches or suchlike, I'd recommend giving a Chinese Doctor a try - the medicine's only herbs, and Tui-Na massage therapy is non-invasive (often described as acupuncture without needles)... and Acupuncture's good too!

Τετάρτη, Ιουνίου 15

The Joy of Learning Arabic

Oh this sounds like fun:
I do not recommend chewing gum in Arabic class, because a host of noises articulated in the back of the throat makes it likely that the gum will end up in your lungs. Arabic has one "h" akin to ours, and another that has been described as the sound you would make trying to blow out a candle with air from your throat. That's not to be confused with another sound, the fricative kh familiar to German-speakers as the sound in "Bach." There's also 'ayn, a "voiced pharyngeal fricative," which is like the first sound in the hip-hop "a'ight." Unwritten in Roman-alphabet transliterations, it's actually a consonant that begins many common words and names, including "Arab," "Iraq," and "Arafat."

But the ferociously unfamiliar grammar sets us all adrift. Arabic is a VSO language, which means the verb usually comes before the subject and object. It has a dual number, so nouns and verbs must be learned in singular, dual, and plural. A present-tense verb has 13 forms. There are three noun cases and two genders. Some European languages have just as many forms to keep track of, but in Arabic the idiosyncrasies can be mind-boggling. When Karam explains that numbers are marked for gender—but most numbers take the opposite gender from the word they are modifying—we students stare at each other in slack-jawed solidarity. When we learn that adjectives modifying nonhuman plurals always have a feminine singular form—meaning that "the cars are new" comes out as "the cars, she are new"—I can hear heads banging on the desks around me. I want to do the same.
Full story here.

Age-Old Boys' Choir Eases Up as It Seeks to Survive

MONTSERRAT, Spain - Europe's oldest boys' choir and one of its finest, based here in a monastery atop steep limestone cliffs 25 miles northwest of Barcelona, is struggling to survive, a victim of its own traditions.

For centuries, parents brought their 9- to 14-year-old boys to the choir and its music school, known as the Escolania of Montserrat, then part company for most of the next 11 months. But in recent years, fewer parents in Catalonia, this northeastern region of Spain, have been willing to send their children away for so long. When only 8 students were admitted last year from a pool of 20, the fewest number of candidates in recent decades, it was clear the future of the school, which dates to at least the 13th century, was at stake. This fall, the school will reopen under greatly relaxed rules governing student life. Down the road, it is planning the most radical step of all: the admission of girls.
Full story here.

Nice to know they're easing up on entry restrictions, but sorry to hear they're allow ing girls into the choir. Anyone who's worked with both boy trebles and girl trebles will know the difference - letting girls into a choir of boys will spoil the tone.

Κυριακή, Ιουνίου 12

Two Quips

Monsignor Dante to Pope Paul VI when the latter asked him to act as MC at a reformed papal liturgy: "But Holy Father, what is there for me to do? You have destroyed it all."

---

"Heretics and schismatics, like the lower forms of life, tend to propagate by division" - Dom John Chapman [whover he is/was]

Σάββατο, Ιουνίου 11

Practicing that Low C

Soundtrack: It is Truly Meet & Right, harmonised by Sergey Trubachev, sung by the Male Choir of Valaam Singing Culture Institute.

For once I'm offering some music on this blog - click HERE for a bit of Russian Church Music. The text in Slavonic (with translation) may be found here.

What's interesting about that piece is the low C (65.406 Hz, two lines below bottom of Bass clef) that the basses sing - that's exactly the low C I'm practicing to sing in the Divine Liturgy by Trubachev which the Male Voice Ensemble of the London Russian Choir is recording in October or so. The piece has never been recorded or published (we're singing out of manuscripts), so this should be fun.

That low C has been quite temperamental of late. Years ago my lowest audible note was D, but about 2 years ago I discovered that the C below that would appear (though very softly) after a lot of warming up. Recently, the low C makes appearances early in the morning, and after a good amount of warming up, it's reasonably loud and resonant.

I'm singing deep and low (that sounds like a Negro spiritual, no?) to make sure that low C is in good shape for October! So as it stands, my bass range goes from that low C to the E above middle C, making me a true Basso Profondo (Italian for profound bass)/ Basse Noble (French for Noble Bass)/ Schwarzer-Bass (German for Black Bass). Whee!

It's interesting having a low Bass voice in Singapore. For some strange reason, most Asians (Orientals, in current British usage) seem to have rather highly-pitched voices. Perhaps it's a cultural thing. That might explain why heads turn whenever I open my mouth in public - the low bass rumble is unusual. But then again, it could be that I speak slower than the average machine-gun Asian, and enunciate more.

My friend Anthony thinks it might have to do with the physiology of the average Asian male - stereotypically smaller than the average Caucasian or Negro. I, on the other hand, at a height of 178cm/5'10" and a weight of NEVER-YOU-MIND, am large (read: FAT) enough to match most of them. Which leads me to a horrifying thought - could this lower extension of my range be due to my size and girth? Opera singers who lose too much weight notice their voices shrink in range and volume. What happens if I DO lose weight over the summer and the voice goes with it! AAACK!!! Do I REALLY have to choose between the 31" waist and the voice?

In other news, I've found a place to fence in Singapore - and I'm taking sabre lessons. Pity the place is at the far eastern end of this island and is hell to get to by public transport...

The 4-Variable IQ Test

Your brain: 80% interpersonal, 80% visual, 220% verbal, and 20% mathematical!
Congratulations on being 400% smart! Actually, on my test, everyone is. The above score breaks down what kind of thinking you most enjoy
doing. A score above 100% means you use that kind of thinking more than
average, and a score below 100% means you use it less. It says nothing
about how good you are at any one, just how interested you are in each, relatively. A substantial difference in scores between two people means, conclusively, that they are different kinds of thinkers.




Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice, which I think is obvious:


  1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 80%.
  2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 100%.
  3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 200%.




My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 60% on interpersonal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 45% on visual
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on verbal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 4% on mathematical
Link: The 4-Variable IQ Test written by chriscoyne on Ok Cupid

You Should Date An Italian

Just for the fun of it, I did this quiz...


You Should Date An Italian!


You love for old fashioned romance, with an old fashioned guy

An Italian guy is the perfect candidate to be your prince charming

If your head doesn't spin enough, just down another espresso with him

Invest in a motorcycle helmet - and some carb blocker for all that pasta!

Which Foreign Guy Should You Date? Take This Quiz :-)



NO THANK YOU!

Forgive your enemies

The Sunday sermon was, Forgive Your Enemies, and toward the end of the service, the preacher asked his congregation, "How many of you have forgiven their enemies?

About half held up their hands.

He then repeated his question. As it was past lunchtime, this time about 80
percent held up their hands. He then repeated his question again. All responded, except one small elderly lady.

"Mrs. Jones?" Inquired the preacher; "Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?"

"I don't have any." She replied, smiling sweetly.

"Mrs. Jones, That is very unusual. How old are you?"

"Ninety-three." She replied.

"Oh Mrs. Jones, what a blessing and a lesson to us all you are. Would you please come down in front of this congregation and tell us all how a person can live ninety-three years and not have an enemy in the world?"

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said: "They all died... I outlived them all!"

The Fall of The City

Why 'The Fall of The City'? Well, today is the 29th of May in the Julian Calendar, and 29th May 1453 is the date when Constantinople (known as The City) fell to the invading Turks and the last Christian Emperor of the Romans, Constantine XI Paleologos, died bravely defending Christendom and the Roman Empire. A sorrowful event still to all Christians, lovers of Byzantium and the Classical world. Odd that I should still feel this event so personally and strongly. I only give some details of the event in this post - the rest may be found online.



More information on the Great Martyr & Emperor Blessed Constantine XI Paleologos may be found here.

Worth quoting (here in extracts) is the speech he gave to the defenders of the City - Gibbon called this 'the funeral oration of the Roman Empire':
Gentlemen, illustrious captains of the army, and our most Christian comrades in arms: we now see the hour of battle approaching. I have therefore elected to assemble you here to make it clear that you must stand together with firmer resolution than ever. You have always fought with glory against the enemies of Christ. Now the defence of your fatherland and of the city known the world over, which the infidel and evil Turks have been besieging for two and fifty days, is committed to your lofty spirits.
...
You are aware that the impious and infidel enemy has disturbed the peace unjustly. He has violated the oath and treaty that he made with us; he has slaughtered our farmers at harvest time; he has erected a fortress on the Propontis as it were to devour the Christians; he has encircled Galata under a pretence of peace.

Now he threatens to capture the city of Constantine the Great, your fatherland, the place of ready refuge for all Christians, the guardian of all Greeks, and to profane its holy shrines of God by turning them into stables for fits horses. O my lords, my brothers, my sons, the everlasting honour of Christians is in your hands.
...
You, my comrades in arms, obey the commands of your leaders in the knowledge that this is the day of your glory -- a day on which, if you shed but a drop of blood, you will win for yourselves crowns of martyrdom and eternal fame.
Constantine's speech, in whatever form he delivered it, gave new heart to those who heard it. When the shades of evening began to fall people moved as if by instinct towards the church of the Holy Wisdom. The soldiers stayed at their posts on the walls.

But others, Greeks and Latins alike, crowded into the great church to pray together for their deliverance. Common fear and common danger worked more of a wonder than all the councils of the church. Orthodox bishops, priests and monks who had loudly protested that they would never again set foot in their cathedral until it had been purged of the Roman pollution, now came to the altar to join their Catholic brethren in the holy liturgy.

Among the celebrants was Cardinal Isidore, whom many of the faithful had branded a traitor and a heretic. The Emperor Constantine came to pray and to ask forgiveness and remission of his sins from every bishop present before receiving communion at the altar. The priest who gave him the sacrament cannot have known that he was administering the last rites to the last Christian Emperor of the Romans.

A full account of the Fall of The City by the historian Nicol may be found here.

Taken from Katolik Shinja is this extract from pages 71 and 72 of The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, describing the events of that terrible day:
Outnumbered by more than twenty to one, the Byzantines maintained a brilliant but hopeless defense for seven long weeks. In the early hours of 29 May the last Christian service was held in the great Church of the Holy Wisdom. It was a united service of Orthodox and Roman Catholics, for at that moment of crisis supporters and opponents of the Florentine Union forgot their differences. The Emperor went out after receiving communion, and died fighting on the walls. Later the same day the city fell to the Turks, and the most glorious church on Christendom became a mosque.
Joshua says he can hardly read that last line without spitting. I know exactly how he feels.

In memory of this sorrowful day, I quote (with translation) a folk-song sung by Greeks referring to this event. The language of the song, from the perspective of the Classicist, is quite interesting, even though it's in an older form of Demotic (Modern) Greek, anyone who's studied Classical Greek should be able to understand it :
Σημαίνει ο Θεός, σημαίνει η γης, σημαίνουν τα επουράνια,
σημαίνει και η Αγιά Σοφιά, το Μέγα Μοναστήρι
με τετρακόσια σήμαντρα κι εξηνταδυό καμπάνες,
κάθε καμπάνα και παπάς, κάθε παπάς και διάκος.

God rings the bells, the earth rings the bells, the sky rings the bell,
And Holy Wisdom, the great church, rings the bells,
Four hundred sounding boards sound out, and two and sixty bells,
For each bell there is a priest, and a deacon for each priest.


Ψάλλει ζερβά ο βασιλιάς, δεξιά ο Πατριάρχης
κι απ' την πολλή την ψαλμουδιά, εσειόνταν οι κολώνες.
Να μπούνε στο χερουβικό και να 'βγη ο βασιλέας,
φωνή τους ήρθε εξ' ουρανού κι απ' Αρχαγγέλου στόμα.

To the left the Emperor is chanting, to the right the Patriarch,
And from the thunder of the chanting, the columns were shaking.
And as the Emperor began the Cherubic Hymn,
A voice came down to them out of heaven, from the Archangel’s mouth:


Πάψετε το χερουβικό κι ας χαμηλώσουν τ' άγια,
παπάδες πάρτε τα ιερά και 'σεις κεριά σβηστείτε,
γιατί είναι θέλημα Θεού η Πόλη να τουρκέψη.

Cease the Cherubic Hymn, and let the sacred objects bow;
Priests, take the holy things away, extinguish all the candles:
For it is the Will of God that the city fall to the Turks.


Μον' στείλτε λόγο στη Φραγκιά, να 'ρθουνε τρία καράβια
το 'να να πάρει το σταυρό και τ' άλλο το βαγγέλιο,
το τρίτο το καλύτερο την ΄Αγια Τράπεζά μας
μη μας την πάρουν τα σκυλιά, μη μας την μαγαρίσουν.

But send a message to the Franks (the West), and let them send three ships:
The first to take the Cross, the second to remove the Gospel,
The third, the finest, shall rescue for us our Holy Altar.
Lest it fall to those dogs, and they defile it and dishonour it.


Η Δέσποινα ταράχθηκε κι εδάκρυσαν οι εικόνες
"Σώπασε κυρά Δέσποινα και μη πολυδακρύζεις
πάλι με χρόνους, με καιρούς, πάλι δικά μας θα 'ναι".

The Holy Virgin was distressed, the very icons wept.
"Be calm, Beloved Lady, be calm and do not weep for them
Though years, though centuries shall pass, they shall be yours again."
There is a legend, which I fondly half-believe. Now, the priests who had been celebrating the morning liturgy at the high altar when the Turks broke in were never seen again. A legend soon grew that the celebrant had been observed to disappear into the wall of the sanctuary taking the chalice with him. The wall that closed behind him will reopen for him on the day that Constantinople once again becomes a Christian city; and the liturgy so rudely interrupted on the morning of 29 May 1453 will then be resumed.

"Σώπασε κυρά Δέσποινα και μη πολυδακρύζεις
πάλι με χρόνους, με καιρούς, πάλι δικά μας θα 'ναι".

The reader, if he is honest, will admit that the Turks have no place in the European Union.

Πέμπτη, Ιουνίου 9

French Limerick

Il était un homme de Madère,
Qui cassa la tête à son pere.
On demande 'pourquoi?',
Il répondit 'ma foi!
Vous n'avez pas connu mon père.'

Can someone translate this please?

Τρίτη, Ιουνίου 7





You Are 24 Years Old



24





Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.




Dammit, I'm supposed to be 16 forever!!!

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative

75%

Fundamentalist

63%

Postmodernist

44%

Idealist

38%

Romanticist

31%

Existentialist

31%

Materialist

13%

Modernist

6%

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Shanghai's Jews & Mum

Soundtrack: Twenty-six Variations on 'La folia di Spagna' by Salieri, played by the London Mozart Players.

If you get access to TV in Singapore, there's an excellent Chinese-language (Mandarin, to be precise) documentary on Sunday evening at 6.15 on Channel 8. Last Sunday, the folks and I watched the first part (of a few, apparently) of the documentary.

Quite, quite fascinating, I must say. While there was a sizeable Jewish community in Shanghai from early on, those were there for business reasons. During WW2 and the pressures of the Nazi menace in Europe, some twenty thousand Jewish refugees flooded into Shanghai. Why Shanghai? As the rest of the world closed to desperate Jews seeking escape from the Nazis, Shanghai remained one of the rare free transit ports. Shanghai required neither visas nor police certificates. It did not ask for affidavits of health, nor proof of financial independence. There were no quotas.

Restrictions were put on immigration in August 1939, but still they came in droves as war consumed Europe and other avenues of escape closed. Thousands arrived in rags, with neither entry permits nor any means of support. Housing for latecomers was extremely sparse -- hundreds languished in temporary shelters.

It was a constant struggle, but the community took care of itself until Pearl Harbor in 1941. Foreigners from Allied nations were sent to prison camps. German and Austrian Jews, the largest group, were considered stateless refugees, and were confined to Hongkou ghetto in 1943. "There was no barbed wire and it wasn't heavily patrolled, but adults needed passes to go out," says Hirsch, American director of a group called the Council on the Jewish Experience in Shanghai. Yet, with all its deprivations, Hongkou was like summer camp compared with ghettos in Europe, where Jews were penned in by the Nazis, who eventually sent most to their deaths.

To be sure, there were hardships aplenty in Shanghai, where the influx of tens of thousands of impoverished refugees overwhelmed the abilities of the existing Jewish community, as well as the ruling Japanese, who eventually herded them into the Hongkew ghetto. Food was scarce and survivors vividly describe suffering through the bitter Shanghai winter in rags and homemade sandals. Unlike in Europe, though, the Jews in Shanghai's ghetto fared no worse than the population around them. And there was no policy of repression or genocide.

Quite to the contrary, the Jews flourished in Shanghai for a time. They opened so many German bakeries and Austrian coffee houses, one area of town was dubbed Little Vienna. Those enterprises included 68 fabric stores, 50 coffee houses and restaurants, 26 economy shops, 24 groceries, 19 tailor shops, 14 book shops, 12 porcelain shops, 9 drug stores and factories, 9 electrical appliance shops, 8 leather shops, 7 jewellery shops and 61 other shops including shoe shops, photo studios, rubber factories etc. Those were only part of all the enterprises built up by Jewish people.

As some of the exiled Jews were teachers, editors, reporters, writers, painters, musicians and sportsmen, they became active as they settled down. They opened schools, organised playing teams, built up the moving library and they even started the band and football teams. It is worthwhile to mention that even under such hard conditions, the Jews unexpectedly published tens of newspapers and magazines.

Jewish musicians from Europe dominated the Shanghai symphony, and soon there were theatrical productions and newspapers in a myriad of languages including German, Russian, Polish and Yiddish.

More at Jews of Shanghai.

This prompted Mum to tell me of her memories of those Jews in Shanghai. Mum, as a child in Shanghai, lived on Xiafei Street (today's Huaihai Street) in the French concession. Mum's piano teacher was Jewish, and during the war, lived in that ghetto (though with a pass to go out during the day). Mum tells me that her famiily remained quite rich through the war. Indeed, they must have been - for Grandmother arranged DAILY piano lessons (remember this is during WWII) with the teacher so that the teacher could come out daily and earn enough to feed his family. Mum recounts that the piano teacher (she has long forgotten his name) was desperately thin, and was always hungry. Grandmother would always have the servants (yes, that's a plural) fry up a large plate of fried noodles or rice for the teacher - Mum recounts he ate it with much relish. In addition to paying him in cash, Grandmother would tip him something like 5-6 eggs daily, so he could bring them back for his family. Mum says she can still see the look of gratitude on his face daily.

Mum also remembered how there were huge numbers of White Russian (as in Tsarist, not as in Bielorussian) emigres in Shanghai all through her childhood. These emigres were desperately poor and constantly hungry. I won't go into that now, except to mention that one of the daily tasks Grandfather Frank and Grandmother Therese laid down for the servants to perform was that twice a day, together with cooking meals for the family, they were to cook up two large pots of fried rice with bits of vegetable and eggs or sometimes soup with lots of plain rice. These were distributed to the Russian refugees who'd line up twice a day outside their house (which incidentally, was not far from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in which St John Maximovitch was Bishop).

When asked why they did that for people they didn't know, Granddad Frank and Grandma Therese replied, 'these are people too, and we can afford it.' They could certainly afford it - all through WWII they ate white rice (with meat and veg!) daily and had brown rice once a week, not because of any attempt at economy, but as a slight penance to remind themselves that it was wartime and thousands didn't have enough to eat.

God bless the souls of my grandparents for their charity.

Back in SG - a round up

Soundtrack: Overture to 'Cublai, gran kan de Tartari' by Antonio Salieri, played by the London Mozart Players. Surprisingly good stuff - the 'Kublai, Grand Khan of Tartary' is a bit adventurous for an operatic subject, I must say...

Drinking: G&T. Slightly overdid it on the lime and the gin, but hey... it's all good... *HIC*

My friend Natalie (a stunning chinese babe, witty and tough as nails, and a lawyer too, for all you singles out there...) who calls me wise (why, I have no idea), had this to say on her blog:
When someone's unreasonably bitchy or nasty to you, it's a reflection on them and not you. P'raps they have an insecurity or a complex about something. Perhaps they're having a crappy day and need to take it out on someone else (and they're the sort of person who needs to take things out on someone else and you're a sitting duck). Whatever it is, if you haven't done anything to warrant the nastiness, stop thinking or feeling bad about it. It really isn't you this time, it's them.
I really must remember that.

May I introduce my longtime acquaintance Alex Au's social commentary page Yawning Bread? As he says,
'This site contains articles that I jot down on various subjects that interest me. Many of them are about gay issues from a Singaporean point of view. I hope you find them interesting and thought-provoking.'
Interesting recent essays include:
  • Keeping Singapore Cool
  • How not to publish a Gay Guide to Singapore
  • Every which way you look, it's a relic.
  • Poor English in Singapore. Overseas readers of my blog should not mistake me for the average Singaporean when it comes to linguistic ability (immodest as that sounds). The average Singaporean is excerably bad at English, as this article shows.

    I've just discovered www.medievalbookshop.co.uk - Bargain books on the Middle Ages and all related subjects! Pity they misspelled Mediaeval and used the American Medieval, but oh well...

    In other news, there's the new spoof Ask the Pope blog, quite amusing.

    I've been doing some spring/summer cleaning - it's amazing how much dust accumulates in 4 years. Heh. I've evicted EVERYTHING from my bedroom... furniture, flags...even posters. Thoroughly swept and mopped floor, then systematically cleaned every piece of furniture before allowing it back into room. Then went thru books - and took out from boxes and left on shelf those I'd likely need... and those that were out and I won't likely need I boxed... and now everything outside room (landing and living room's a mess) is being vetted thrown out or cleaned before re-entering room...

    10 years of junk (stuff from secondary school!) got thrown out... and stuff from 2 exes...

    I feel good! Particularly with regards to the stuff from 2 exes - I'm the sentimental type - there were bits of wrapping paper and ribbons from presents, receipts from dinners together, silly things of that sort - even the tin can from the first drink one of them bought me nearly 5 years ago now.

    Moving on feels GOOD!