Sunday, July 27, 2008

Potayto bun, potahto loaf

What do you remember about 1998? This is not a trick question.

I remember:

One of the best years of my life, spent in probably my favourite academic institution of all the ones I've attended from kindergarten to postgrad. I have no idea about its quality now. I think what I enjoyed the most about matric year was finally being able to study in English. Having so much more time to spend with friends; meeting new faces other than the ones I'd seen for the past five/11 years in school. Being the class maths guru, literally, especially if you speak BM. Being told off by my mum for hanging out with the boys too much (even though I hung out with the girls plenty, too). The invention of "hobbying". The frighteningly campy hot-dog-and-burger man at the stalls that eventually got torn down and turned into Asia Cafe.

It wasn't a completely fun year. I remember a lot of travelling between Singapore and KL. I remember being sent off shopping with my grandma as soon as the chemo needle went in my mum's arm. I remember once driving my parents on the North-South Highway in rain so heavy that we felt as though the car wouldn't move forward, and I wondered what my parents were thinking, letting an 18-year-old behind the wheel of that car in that weather. I remember the rest stops and the unheard-of requests for soft drinks, because they made the nausea go away.

And I remember 1998 as the year Klang Valley people discovered potato bread.

It was launched by a certain French hypermarket, and to say the public went crazy is a misrepresentation. They didn't go crazy; they slipped into some strange parallel existence where potato bread was the only thing they wanted, and they would go to any lengths to obtain it. Queues formed at the bakery section, as though the 3x3 blocks of buns were being given out free. Quotas of two loaves per person were imposed because customers had started buying them by the trolley. My family, which was then 75% bread enthusiast, felt quite a sense of achievement whenever one of us had the patience to battle the masses and get our supplies in.

All this I remembered on this past Saturday, a particularly cold and wet one on which I'd spent too much time walking the city streets. What brought on the ten-year-old memory of potato bread? My present, 2008 experience of potato bread. To be precise, as Thomson and Thompson would say, the potato and sour cream loaf I'd spotted in the window of a bakery my cousin introduced to me recently. It called so loudly, I had to take it home. That is the downside to walking around the city well past lunchtime.



I'd expected something like that potato bread the men and women of old fought for: fluffy, yet moist and slightly dense compared with regular bread, with a fragrant sweetness hanging about it. This loaf was nothing of the sort: it was indeed potatoey and sour-creamy, and altogether savoury, complete with bits of chopped herbs embedded in it. And unlike the old-time potato bread, which had potato kneaded into the dough, this had whole chunks of the tuberous stuff that fell out when I tried to slice the loaf. I am not complaining about those chunks; I love the taste of potato in just about any form and for me, stumbling mid-bite upon a smaller piece that escaped the knife gives me a kick similar to finding that your appam had not one but two banana slices in it.

Yes, folks, this is how Ren spends a Sunday night: blogging about potatoes. But how I spent Sunday day is a different story entirely.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Question of the day

I may be a happy songwriter,

but does that necessarily make me a happy song writer?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Happy Birthday!


I know you're a private person and don't like having personal details splashed out for all and sundry, but I hope you'll forgive me this for the following reasons:
  1. The world (well, whichever section of it reads my blog) deserves to know what a treasure of a brother I have
  2. It's at least slightly different from sending an e-card
  3. I have refrained from writing anything REALLY personal, like the Noodle Incident. (Oh wait, that's Calvin & Hobbes. No need to worry then.)
So, here's wishing you a great day surrounded by people who love you, albeit minus one. As my gift to you, here's my '10 Things' about you:
  1. You were the best brother a girl could have when I was a kid. I still remember the nasty boys in the public pool splashing away in terror when they realised they'd been trying to pick on your sister.
  2. You're the best brother a girl could have now. I know we don't get to talk as often as we should, but somehow we still have that ability to know what each other is thinking. (Even if that elusive thought is something as inane as the name of Caesar's major-domo in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath).
  3. You are a phenomenal father.
  4. If there's any other human being on earth who can know what the first 20 years of my life was, it's you.
  5. You speak impeccable Arumbaya.
  6. You've always been a creative cook. I can't forget those cheesy baby spuds, or your first attempt at making hush puppies from the recipe on the back of a cornflour packet. If anyone inspires me now to cook up a good meal with limited ingredients, it's you.
  7. You aren't afraid that cuddling a kitty will make you look soft. (I'd like to see anything that would make you look soft, actually.)
  8. You got me eating animal fat after a lifetime of hating the stuff, and convinced me it would be good for me. (And it has been.)
  9. You have a great singing voice. It's a great speaking voice, too, but I can think of at least three friends of mine that you frightened off just by answering the phone. Not that that's a bad thing.
  10. Remember how Mummy used to pull us apart in those rare fights we had, and tell us "You two only have each other! You'd better learn to get along NOW!"? I'm glad she did, because I don't know where I'd be without your presence in my life.
I thank God for every day of your life and pray that every day to come will be exactly as he's planned it.


Love,
Ren

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Love does the conga

Once again, the (good) unexpected happens.

Right place: check.
Right time: check.

There I was, recording a video of a Project Dance performance. I'd actually stopped recording for a while, but the sound of Latin music had me start again. Then suddenly, into frame, across the audience area, danced a couple who entirely stole the show as far as I was concerned. Their spontaneity and sincerity were so captivating to watch, I didn't even bother recording after they were done.

video
Doug and Cindy stealing the spotlight.

I managed to catch a few minutes of Doug Eltzroth's time this morning to show him the video of him dancing with his wife, Cindy and ask his permission to post it here. I think many of us could always do with a reminder that love needn't always be painfully sought; it does sometimes sashay right across our paths, and if the timing is right, we can capture it.

Time was limited, but I managed to learn a little about Doug and Cindy. They met through a musical in which he wrote some songs and she choreographed. Together they lead Collage, an arts collective that sums up some of the dreams I have for my own life (and that of the guy I end up marrying). It's been uplifting to watch their family in action this past weekend.

Thanks, Doug and Cindy, for being yourselves in the midst of the busyness of Project Dance, for allowing me to post this private moment of your lives, and for your ministry. I've been so blessed.

Upstaged!

Once again, the (good) unexpected happens.

Right place: check.
Right time: check.

There I was, recording a video of a Project Dance performance. I'd actually stopped recording for a while, but the sound of Latin music had me start again. And then, suddenly, into frame, across the audience area, danced a couple who entirely stole the show as far as I was concerned. Their spontaneity and sincerity were so captivating to watch, I didn't even bother recording after they were done.



I managed to catch a few minutes of Doug Eltzroth's time this morning to show him the video (and ask his permission to post it here, which he graciously gave).

Time was limited, and I didn't get to talk as much as I would have liked to, but I did manage to learn a little about the dancing couple. Doug and his wife Cindy are co-founders of Collage, which is an orga
video

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dance, dance, dance!

I am so glowingly happy after having sat through at least four hours of GREAT back-to-back dance performance. Project Dance was a blast.

I'm hoping they'll edit the Sydney performances into a video too, but here's the official video of Project Dance New York to give you an idea of how good today was.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Goooooooood morning, sunshine!

I am not a morning person.

My childhood was marked by almost daily "episodes" (to put it gently) with either or both of my parents, in which I literally kicked (hard) and screamed my way to getting washed up, dressed and out the door to my nanny's. When I was in primary school, I grudgingly learned the art of getting up early, but not of waking up early. They are two very different things. Getting up involves climbing out of bed, brushing teeth, showering, eating, and so on. Waking up involves actual conscious cognition and function... something which didn't set in until at least an hour after I'd got out of bed.

My mum was either a classic Morning Person, or had become one through a lifetime of discipline. (Could that be me one day?) By 5.45 each morning, she'd be out of bed hanging laundry out, making breakfast, and having a coffee and talk with her favourite cat. There was never a school morning when I didn't have kaya toast, or similarly toothsome breakfast, and a hot drink in my own mug waiting for me at the table. By the time I was in upper secondary school, the hot drink had evolved into a chilled combination of Milo and coffee, which she'd make first thing in the morning and stash in the fridge so that by the time I woke up, it would be refreshingly cold. (And this was at least two years before the brilliance of Neslo Ais hit Malaysian stall-goers in a flash of genius.)

Up to now, I haven't been able to get just the right mixture of coffee, Milo, sugar and milk that will give me that taste.

Where was I? Oh. Yeah. I am not a morning person. (This is a VERY RARE morning post!) Although years in the working world have turned me into someone who will both get up and wake up early if required, I still haven't taken to it naturally. Coming from West Malaysia where the sun rises late, by the time I left the house for work the sun would already be well on its way. And since moving to Sydney, I have to say I haven't adapted my internal clock very well to local time.

Which is why it's so amazing that this morning, I was wide awake before 6, watching the sunrise over the city.


I didn't take any pictures, but I picked this one for an illustration because it's probably closest to the view I had, complete with the buildings in the foreground and the horizontal strip of orange light spreading over the darkness... the significance of which I hope to realise in the months to come.

I think the last time I was woken to watch the sunrise this deliberately was in 2006... I can't imagine how much beauty I miss by being true to my non-morning-person nature every day. I hope it won't take another two years for me to catch my next sunrise.

I wonder where the world's most glorious sunrises are...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Life, she's like a chocolate marble cheesecake

Sung to the cheesiest country 'n western tune you can call to mind:

Life, why d'you gotta be
Sweet and bitter all together?
I know, I know,
The sweet's for enjoyin' and givin' us the grins
And the bitter makes the sweet parts sweeter
But why oh why, I still wanna know,
Do you gotta be
Sweet and bitter all together?

Awwww yeahhh... (repeat several times. Banjo accompaniment optional.)





Ask me to tell you the story behind the "song".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Another one of those surprise things

And then there was the time, two weeks ago, when I was walking home from the station and I ran into my childhood.

I had cut through Belmore Park, because I'd observed the previous week that it was a much shorter route and well-lit enough not to be a stupid shortcut. And as I emerged from the park not more than 500m from my building entrance, I heard it. Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, floating across the park and over the sounds of honking, shouting, general city-ing, tapping me gently on the shoulder like a friend I hadn't met in 20 years. Or 13, maybe.

I walked until I found where the music came from: a lone busker, playing to recorded accompaniment. He was good, good enough to make me remember how much I loved listening to classical music when I was younger, starting in primary school up to my late teens. I wondered what had made me stop, and thought of getting a library membership so I could borrow some recordings.

But before I could get round to doing that, in another of those pink champagne moments, I found myself listening to the Sydney Symphony live at the Opera House on Monday night.

It was enough to make a childhood memory smile and scamper away back where it came from.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Why I just won't quit















How can one not be bubbly? Image from Stock.Xchng


Note: I have tried more times than I can count to make the typeface and text size of the following paragraphs consistent. Blogger simply will not obey. Still, better to have an imperfect published post than an unpublished one.

Because life is an experience of the sort where, one cold winter's night in Sydney, you might find yourself walking down Castlereagh St in a hurry, not because you are late but because it is cold and the sooner you reach warmth and shelter, the better. It being a Friday night, you are wondering where you can bring the ex-colleague you are about to meet, because this is Sydney and late-night establishments are few. At least, the type of establishment that offers a safe, warm place for non-alcoholic drinks and quiet conversation. So you wonder, as you bluster along Elizabeth St now, together with the chill wind that appears to be racing with you, where shall we go? And perhaps, you are also wondering if any of the places that are open will also be kind to your wallet, because you have yet to find a job and would like to Save Money while still Enjoying Life. All these things you wonder, and meanwhile, your toes are telling you that canvas slip-ons are not the warmest footwear, and your torso and arms would like you to know that the ensemble of Moschino tee with the sequinned-strawberry-juggling monkey in a tutu and the scribbled words "Multi Talented Girl" on it worn under a denim blazer might be more stylish than a windbreaker but it is also not very warm. But finally you decide that what will be, will be, and what establishment is open (and safe) at this time, will be.
And so you reach your ex-colleague's hotel, and you don't wait very long, and she appears. But what's this? Suddenly you realise that you are having drinks with not one but two ex-colleagues, and their international hosts, and instead of buying her a $5 coffee in some little hole in a Sydney wall, you soon find yourself upstairs at the lounge, having a glass of Mo
ët & Chandon Brut Impérial Rosé, and you walk home with two slightly intoxicated but still very chummy ex-colleagues feeling considerably warmer than you did on the walk out.

So, although life has in the past sometimes given me very sour lemons when I would have liked mango (mmmmm... mango), I have not given up on it and will not, because it sometimes gives you pink champagne when you expected to have to buy it a $5 coffee.

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