latest book

So Yishun Library just opened while we were here and I homed in directly on their singlit section. Nobody else showed much interest except a young boy who was there poring through the Singapore Ghost Stories. I picked up an anthology – Under One Sky, and so far the most brilliant thing I have seen in it is this:

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So cute. I confess the shorts translated from Chinese were lost on me (even after translation!) in that I did not see the point of some of them but I did like the one with the paper menagerie. I read it at the dentist and almost cried right before it was my turn to be seen, which would have made the dentist understandably antsy if his patient were in tears before her teeth were even fiddled with.

The ones translated from Malay were also meandering with not much of a concrete plot, just themes woven together to evoke certain moods. So this poem is still my favourite. Yishun Library is super snazzy now with little reading nooks (with individual lights you can turn off and on), loads of magazine cubbies, and a ton of people already using it; it was as if it was never closed (I went on opening day).

Northpoint has also become a veritable food haven with restaurants I actually like! Of course after 20 odd years of living in Yishun they only decide to up their game when I am about to move away. There’s Din Tai Fung, Sushi Tei, London Duck, Canton Paradise, 4fingers/Bonchon/Jinjja chicken – three korean fried chicken establishments. We don’t even have one in Seattle and there are now THREE in Yishun.

Of course even with all those restaurants I asked X to venture further with me to Yishun Park where there is a famous har cheong gai. Our JC music teacher joined us (since we all live in the north) and he finally got a free meal out of us in exchange for the torture we subjected him to back in JC. I used to go over his notes and worksheets with green and red squiggly lines for spelling/grammatical errors and bounced them back to him. After the rather excellent Ah Tan chicken wings we took a bus back to Northpoint and he gave us a most uninformative tour of the place in which he basically pointed at restaurants and said “So here’s some food” and “There’s some more food…”

Of course halfway through he tried to get me to quit my job and to join him and X at MOE teaching music/planning the music syllabus, and also to help him screenwrite some of the shorts he wants to film/produce since he thinks my language skills are decent and we have established that his sucks. Every time I meet this guy or talk to this guy the odds of being asked to do creative work for him (for free, in my limited spare time) are very high. He thinks I’ve been wasting my life away studying math but I showed him my wooden adult mobiles (he has a v. strange brain in which he doesn’t know many words or technical terms for objects, in this case ‘mobiles’, but once I namedrop Alexander Calder we both reset to the same page. So one sorta needs to know how to hack his brain before any comms can be established.) and baby origami mobiles and he thinks I should sell them on Carousell under the Baby Toys section. He says that they will sell (I never doubted that) from $50-$100 apiece, but I have barely had any time to actually make some for commercial purposes (even though I have already designed a logo for my etsy shop, but that’s about as far as I’ve got :P). So far I have only made 3? for young kids that I actually know (or whose parents I know), and one for ourselves. He still has our work and the H3 projects we did in 2007 in his cubicle! Crazy! Is he a hoarder? I barely remember what I wrote back then.

In fact the other day Z told me his mum found a review I wrote of the book she gave me for my birthday last year and I could hardly remember that I wrote any such thing.  It has not even been a year since  I posted that. I don’t normally review books since I’m not really interested in reviewing books but that lady made me so pissed off with her rhetoric that I gave her a one star on Goodreads and basically warned everybody off buying her book. Which I guess was not the best thing for Z’s mum to find considering it was her gift :P Apparently I had written three extremely harsh paragraphs taking the entire thing apart and she got his entire family to read the review and they were all bemused. I felt bad after Z told me so went back to see what I wrote but everything was justified so I stopped feeling bad really quick :P


The Seven Friendships

They were friends from the first look
the first day of work and friends
they would remain. Not lovers.
Never, though they thought of things
to whisper about all day.
At night, when they sat at home
hunting for something to say
to their actual lovers,
they longed to be back at work,
where the home life they described
to each other seemed larger,
funnier, more colorful.

They were playful as gods and,
at the same time, serious.
Once, in a car, on the way
to a conference, they worked out
the seven possible forms
of friendship between people
who aren’t related by blood.

First: the fortunate friendship
of two who feel equally
attached but not attracted
to each other. No desire.
Instead, equilibrium,
a reliable membrane,
keeps them wholly separate
while holding them together.

You can always tell these two
in the kitchen: they can share
a cutting board — two different
sharp knives chopping two different
vegetables, and no one gets
in anyone else’s way.

Second: the friendship founded
on suppressed desire. All
the accessorizing takes
the place of real nakedness.
The servant’s invocations
to his master; the master’s
adulation of the slave.
Michael Jackson / Liz Taylor —
yes — Regis and Kathie Lee.

Letter writers are the third,
their correspondence floating
safely above and beyond
their problematic bodies
like a vial of scented oil.
They use each other without
apology — an excuse
to shape the simplest moment
into something memorable
ending with “Write soon, write back,”
that frank plea for affection.

Then there is the electric
communion that’s awakened
between two people vastly
different in age, like the
dowager one of them knew
who’d had to wait ’til she reached
ninety to meet a young child
she recognized as herself,
the adventuress she’d been.
At long last, the right playmate!

Fifth: the fireproof friendship
that has survived desire.
This includes all the ex-wives
and ex-husbands whose shared grief
unites them as love could not.
They drift back to each other,
grateful for a cup of tea,
for someone who remembers
that their first dentist in Troy
collected brass hose nozzles.

Next, a love of argument —
not bickering or nagging,
but the brainy brakes-without-
pads kind of arguing, no
attachment to conclusions,
no transparent right and wrong,
just the delirious pleasure
of competing for airspace
with someone you trust never
to take you personally.

And the seventh form? Friendship
based on the exchange of gifts,
preferably ridiculous.
Someone would get the idea
to buy odd salt and pepper
shakers, and once he’d purchased
the first set, a whole history
of silliness could begin.

That was when they stopped counting
and pulled off the interstate
on the way to the conference.
They found a small antique store,
Junkian Analysis —
really! — and in the windows
pairs of perfectly ugly
salt and pepper shakers shaped
like airplanes and bowling balls,
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
They liked the ceramic clams,
the Taj Mahal in Bakelite;
they loved the milkglass cabbage,
the jaguars, the shooting stars,
the stainless state of Vermont
side by side with New Hampshire.

A lovely poem in an equally lovely collection by Erica Funkhouser I found in a used book store in San Diego.
How nice to think of you and another suspended in equilibrium, at once together and apart by a membrane. Like larvae in an egg sac, snug and with nowhere to go. It reminds me of Katherine Mansfield’s

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

We started packing for our annual trip back today. Z is an excellent packer, loads of plates and bowls were tucked away into spaces I did not know existed. We usually try to concentrate on bringing back ceramics/glass since the rest can be shipped home with negligible damage. The house is a mess, and despite that I have asked Zh to come over on saturday to play gostop with me since I have huge withdrawal symptoms ever since Hr left. It was very nice to pick up where we left off (in 2015!!!) and to think that we might be back in Singapore at the same time for several years. Especially since a certain someone has informed me of tentative plans to move to Sardegna soon after we return to Singapore. What is that about even?! It’s almost as if she can’t bear to exist in the same country as me. How rude.

Z is reluctant to ever move again once we move back :P We will see how that goes. He says if I insist on moving away again he will sell all of my stuff and my painstakingly collected plates. We all know how successful he has been at getting his way in the past, so I’m not exactly worried about that.

Apparently I might make a return trip (alone) later this year to check on the renovations and he just realized that he will a) starve and b) have no one to bug. I haven’t decided if it’s nice to have someone depend on you for stuff. One the one hand it is nice to be needed/appreciated but on the other it’s kind of a pain to have to keep thinking ahead and preparing for meals. When I am left to my own devices and alone I’d usually resort to takeout :P Or reheating some junk in the freezer.

We got a free hunk of raclette on Sunday and that made me really happy. Granted, it’s American raclette but still. Free raclette!

I would love to visit an antique store called Junkian Analysis! So cute. Z has similarly corny names for all kinds of things – his dream Indian restaurant would be called Second to Naan, and his dream shellfish restaurant would be called Pot de Clam.

Is it weird to have a kid just so you’d have a third person to play Go Stop or other board games with? I think the returns are too low, it would take 14-15 years before that kid is old enough to understand the board games that we play (I had to check the age ratings of our board games once) and it would probably take less than a year for me to resent that kid for taking up too much of my time/attention/sleep. H recently posted an article on maternal regret and it seems highly worth a read, especially for all those moronic cloistered christian women in Singapore who keep pestering me about having kids or who claim that I will change my mind.

Kids’ books

You can never go back – on loving children’s books as an adult, says

Handy found a means to circumvent the social inconvenience of haunting library kid’s sections, though: having kids of his own.

this, while a pretty good reason to have kids, seems to be extending social inconvenience to an inconvenience that permeates all aspects of life. I’d rather haunt the children’s section alone like a creepy stalker, thanks very much. Most people probably do assume I am checking out books for my kids. I don’t know why so many people (particularly in church or family) seem to be overly interested in our offspring. Someone recently mistook an instagram post for a baby announcement. Most friends who know us know how anti-natalist we are and would never assume such a thing. So there is a clear divide between our close friends and all the other people who are the instagram audience and two different things are being communicated all the time.

I’ve recently started reading One More Thing, by B.J. Novak – it got off to a slow start with an alternative hare and rabbit tale (I am not a fan of fables, with all their moralizing) but got subsequently much better with “‘The Something’ by John Grisham” in which one of John Grisham’s books mistakenly gets released with the publisher thinking that ‘The Something’ was the title he wanted instead of just a placeholder for his typical lofty titles, which he hadn’t had time to come up with yet. John Grisham found out that his book ‘The Something’ was number one on best seller lists in his newspaper and shit hit the fan :P Almost Simon Rich-esque. Harvard must be doing something right.

Been too lazy/busy to start on christmas cards (and I really should, if I want to send them out at all) – instead I’ve been busy making luggage tags with Japanese maple leaves and my new Amazon Basics laminator. I looked up whether or not I could relaminate something (that had little air pockets) twice and this forum that told me I could (and I did) also informs on how laminating machines are not allowed in schools without excessive checks and then devolved completely into a principal bitchfest. “Is your principal my principal? Because…”

In other news, made 12 inarizushi today with a little packet of onigiri spices I brought back from Japan (you just mix it into the rice with sushi rice vinegar etc.) and tuna mayonnaise in the middle and inhaled like 10 of them throughout the course of the day. Got a huge inari craving yesterday while we were at uwajimaya. I’m all out of sushi vinegar though so can’t get my next fix until we go to the asian supermarket.

The ending of the article:

Handy ends his survey of child lit with E.B. White, whose terse brilliance has yet to be surpassed; he was similarly successful at writing for adults. The grand tear-jerking finale of Charlotte’s Web is technically the spider’s quiet death, but I’ve always struggled most with Fern’s declining interest in Wilbur the pig’s survival. She’s grown too invested in riding the Ferris wheel with a boy named Henry Fussy. White “doesn’t condemn her for it,” Handy notices approvingly, since “Fern’s interest in boys is as natural and inevitable as the change of seasons.” White doesn’t wish to stunt his heroine’s growth like other children’s authors might (C.S. Lewis infamously shamed Susan Pevensie for leaving Narnia behind in favor of lipstick and nylons when she came of age).

I understand Fern’s falling for Henry Fussy. I’ve fallen for more than a few Henry Fussys myself. But her abandonment of unsuspecting Wilbur still hurts me in a way a Henry type never could. I guess it’s the ache of innocence—the kind of ache that doesn’t have anything to do with lust or greed or any dark desire, but with deep-seated childhood fears. I don’t want Fern to leave Wilbur behind, because I feel as though she’s leaving me, moving on from our days of lounging in the barn amongst earthy smells, two lazy friends sat in the sun. At the same time, I know that I am Fern, and I’ve abandoned Wilbur a hundred times over, following the same societal and biological pull of romance and progress. I’ll probably be torn between the two all my life. Maybe everyone is.

Huh. I’d never thought of Lewis’ portrayal of Susan Pevensie as “shaming” but now that I think about it, that’s exactly what it is. I did feel a veneer of disdain toward her while reading the series. Omg all these children’s authors are just playing with my mind.

Dorcas, Fay, and Simon

From the third book in the Miss Buncle series, which I first started reading about 10 days into our honeymoon because I felt bad bringing such a thick book (Miss Buncle’s Book) along and not touching it. So I read about 2/3 of it on the eurostar from London to Bruges and the remaining 1/3 in the hotel at Bruges. Bringing addictive books is not in general a good idea for vacations because then you never feel like leaving the room and exploring.

I discovered to my delight that there were several more books in the series (at least three more), and that the Seattle library had nearly all of them! Here’s the most adorable excerpt from the book:

(Jerry is the female housekeeper of Ganthorne, cousin to the children’s mother. The children are Simon and Fay, with Fay being the youngest, and Dorcas being their nurse.

“We can’t come to tea the day after tomorrow because it’s Mummy’s birthday,” said Simon, wiping his mouth.

Jerry was disloyal enough to feel rather glad that the pleasure of her cousin’s company at Ganthorne was to be put off a little longer. “Oh yes, so it is,” she said. “What are you going to give Mummy for her birthday?”

Fay raised a milky mouth from her mug and said, “A pin!” and then she laughed uproariously, for she had her own peculiar sense of humor.

“It’s a book,” said Simon, ignoring her completely. “We’ve bought it between us, Dorcas and me. We’re going to write in it.”
“It’s a Bible, really,” said Dorcas. “It seems a funny sort of present, but–”
“With pictures,” said Simon.
“Pictures of the devil,” said Fay. She hesitated and then added, “Three devils, there was.”
“Oh Fay!” cried Dorcas. “It was Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego!”
“Why was they cooking them?” asked Fay.
“You’d think she was a heathen,” said Dorcas after a moment’s silence. “But she really does know lots of Bible stories, Mrs. Sam.”

“She knows about Daniel,” Simon declared. “You know Daniel, don’t you, Fay?”
“The lions et him,” said Fay with relish — and she took a large bite of cake to show how it was done.
“Silly, they didn’t eat him!” cried Simon.
“He et the lions, then,” suggested Fay a trifle doubtfully.
“Fay thinks of eating all the time,” explained Simon.
“I was wondering what we should write in the Bible,” said Dorcas, looking at Jerry inquiringly.

“I know what to write,” Simon declared. I’ve seen it written in a book before. It’s the proper thing to write in a book. Daddy has a book with that written in it and he said it made the book more valuable– that’s what Daddy said.”

“What is it?” asked Jerry and Dorcas with one accord.

“With the author’s compliments,” said Simon proudly.

Friday Night Live

We just went to see Jesse Eisenberg at the Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle City College tonight and he was magnificent! The best friday nights we’ve had in Seattle are invariably spent listening to some author talk about his work. The last time I had such a fantastic time was when Neil Gaiman came to town. The atmosphere is so zingy, everyone around you is SO bookish and buzzing with the excitement of hearing choice gobbets from the author himself and getting to ask him intrusive and personal questions and getting his autograph. It is lovely being surrounded by bookworms! And Jesse Eisenberg is one of the funniest authors I’ve ever met. His book reads a little bit like Simon Rich, but faster paced. He read 3 restaurant reviews from Bream gives me hiccups, all of which were wonderful, and he kept laughing at his own jokes which was hilarious :P Like he was reading it for the first time or something, he kept having to pause to giggle; it was awesome. And then he was joined by Sherman Alexie and they had a wonderful conversation and Q&A session about everything under the sun, including how much they love being Jewish and Native American respectively because there are fewer restrictions to things they can say. Eisenberg was saying how he compared something to genocide the other day and never had he been so happy to be Jewish after that.

They also bitched about where they get inspiration for their “evil” characters. Eisenberg said he overheard the following in a pharmacy the other day and never forgot it:
A: *cough*
B: Bless you!
A: (pointedly) It was a cough.

and he was all “Who does that?? Who does that?!?” Alexie’s anecdote was

lol. A member of the audience asked Eisenberg if there were any projects he had worked on halfway and then just abandoned altogether, and he was like, “lots” and threw the question to Alexie:
Alexie: Oh you know, several
Eisenberg: At what point did you decide to abandon them?
Alexie: They were complete novels, actually. But they were terrible.
Eisenberg: Oh, that’s not such a great time to decide to abandon something. Publish it anyway! Grove’ll never be able to tell.
Alexie: (laughs) Oh no no no, it was completely terrible.
Eisenberg: Sell it! Just don’t say that part!
Alexie: One of them was actually called “Disco Inferno” and was filled with Dante-esque references.
Eisenberg: Sell it to me. I’ll publish it
Alexie: Yeah, right, under Eisenberg books
Eisenberg: Eisenberg book. Just the one book. The book cover will be a picture of me naked with a disco ball above my head.
Alexie: OK, I’ll bequeath it to you in my will, you’re still young, you can do anything you like with it after I’m dead.

From the Risalum Listserv that recently revived, I just found out that Julie Orringer used to stay in Risley! I LOVE her books. She is a fantastically deep writer with an excellent grasp of human emotion. I think I always kind of knew that she went to Cornell, but I didn’t know she stayed in the same dorm! I haven’t read all their emails (there are a LOT of them, just like the listserv when I stayed in Risley) but the few that I have have been hugely informative about the lovely little castle I used to call home for two years.

Episode 1

Bing rewards gave Z and I each a free 20 pg 8″x8″ photobook so I used it to make this. (We had to pay for shipping etc.)

It seems extremely difficult to embed a shutterfly photobook on wordpress :/

I will be making another photobook with my pasta recipes soon! (i.e. after finals, which are next week.)

Drew the cover design in 15 minutes in Fresh paint yesterday and am rather pleased with the results:
coverpage copy

New phone

I finally got a new phone! It’s a samsung galaxy s5, and I got it cause Kim Soo Hyun is endorsing the brand haha. Although technically real fans of his would be boycotting Samsung round about now because they didn’t put KSH and JJH together at their roadshow, but I’m not really a diehard fan of the both of them. They have great chemistry, but I couldn’t care less that they appeared separately in the roadshow in Beijing. Anyway a lot of people I know also use this brand, and it seems decent enough. Not sure about its photo taking abilities yet, because I haven’t really tried it out. I’m probably only unboxing it and setting up the after I’m done with work, since it’s got a camera and I can’t exactly bring that to the office.

So all the typical retailers (Singtel, Starhub, even the Samsung shop) carry the 16Gb model for something like $988 and the 32Gb one for $1068. The reason we were buying it in singapore is because LZ needs to use up his flexi dollars haha, he’s got about $200 odd to use and we haven’t really got anything to buy. We found this quiet little shop in Far East Plaza called Mobile Square that sold the 32Gb model for a mere $845, more than $200 less than in the Samsung shop. With his flexi dollars that’s nearly $400 shaved off the original price, and I’d only be paying something like $600 for it. Which is still more expensive than ALL the phones I’ve ever bought in my entire life, combined. (There were probably 5 nokias in Singapore, one motorola (maybe $50) from Best Buy, and then another two nokias from AT&T which were like $15 each, and another nokia (£14) from the Orange shop)). I don’t really get why it’s more expensive than my ipad, but whatever.

I also finished reading the Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. In three days. I don’t know how long I stayed up last night to finish it (didn’t check the time), but I was super tired this morning. It’s really not fair of an author to not conclude his second book satisfactorily and make the reader wait until the 3rd book to get any sort of closure. Gah! I was totally going to stop after the 2nd book yesterday so I could get cracking on this literature review but wound up starting on the 3rd book because the 2nd one ended with a cliffhanger!

The series was both disturbing and violent and portrayed the male species to only have one good egg in every carton of ten. I wonder if this statistic is roughly true. Or perhaps only in Sweden? I do find Singaporean males a lot more inhibited than in other countries (but perhaps it’s cause I only know the nerds), but I can’t imagine any of my friends would commit an act of violence against any woman. People who are not my friends, especially the creepy guys at work, I find them more than capable of anything really. Just a few months after I entered one of my colleagues remarked over lunch that he could see the bra strap through the blouse of this random girl sitting in the canteen. I was shocked. How on earth was that work appropriate? And wtf did he have a mental age of 3 or something. He was 27 that year, mind you. I guess I started despising him (among others) ever since and he has given me no reason to stop.

The antagonists in Larsson’s novels are much more sinister than this, although neither has excusable behaviour.