Monday, January 26, 2009

And a happy Moo year!

Whether you're temporarily back in the loving circle of family in the homeland,

or recovering from a surfeit of home-made macadamia pralines brought on by an overzealous sister-in-law's festive food gift,

or shivering over a homemade steamboat for one in the wintry Northern Hemisphere...

I hope you'll have a hoof-stompin' start to another great year.

Me? I am not any more homesick than usual (which is to say, not any less homesick, either). I've seen more Chinese New Year decorations in the city, non-Chinese-populated parts included, than you might expect. The only difference is that every shopping mall I step into, driven by the heat into the embrace of free air-conditioning, is not pulsing with the sounds of the classic Chinese New Year soundtrack led by 'Cai Shen Dao' followed by 'Gong Xi Ni, Gong Xi', in an assortment of dialects and accompanied with any number of cymbals and gongs. That pushes the list of New Year thanksgivings up a notch.

This New Year season is definitely different from the childhood ones spent in Penang, days that whizzed by yielding an average of at least 3.4 lions, a dozen butter cookies, a couple dozen chocolate chip, and countless Melting Moments and pineapple tarts each. Not to mention Grandma's very traditional Hokkien cherry cheese squares, my aunt's matchless sugee cake, and that jelly thing that is apparently nothing more than coagulated egg white and sugar. The staccato blasts of firecrackers that sent plump housecats racing for the nearest dark corner, tails afluff and claws on alert. The noisy family steamboats, the New Year's Day breakfast of vegetarian noodles with real veggies and mock everything else, the drives around the island in search of relatives, more cookies, more laughter, shade, an icy-sugary-red-bean-sweet-corn-grass-jelly-attap-seed-bedecked something to bring core temperatures down before the whole family melted into a puddle of festively dressed sludge.

But it's not all different, oh no. I haven't walked into a negative of my life back home. Because the heat, folks, the heat is just the same. I am still wondering where I can get a good-quality icy-sugary-red-bean-and-everything-else something to bring the core temperature down before I melt down into a puddle of sludge, festively dressed or otherwise. Forty-degree weather should be outlawed.

Happy New Year again, and just in case you were wondering, this isn't the lion dance from last night. That was a little chaotic and shot too close up, but in keeping with the season, I thought this clip from the Shanghai junket I took two years ago would do.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The greatest...

This post began life, with a sterile mouse click, as a sarcastic crack at an e-mail I received today. Said e-mail exhorts its male recipients to forward its minimally proven, scantily detailed health "warning" contents to their "wives, daughters, girlfriends". I took issue with the assumption that every guy reading the e-mail had all three of these. And it occurred to me to ask, don't the men in these guys' address books deserve to know, too, of the toxicity of dried mushroom water? And also, what do women who receive the e-mail do, since they are not given similar instructions to inform their nearest and dearest (presumably, only of the opposite sex) of what the press, the medical community, the aunties who gossip in loud whispers at every corner of Sea Park Market have failed to tell us.

> For those of you who cannot read Chinese, this message is to
> warn you against using the
> water you soak your mushrooms in. Most of the mushrooms on
> the market are from
> and are contaminated with chemicals (I think it is carbon
> bisulfide, correct me if I am wrong)
> which are soluble in water. You must discard the water in
> which you soak to soften the
> dried mushrooms.
> Guys, please forward this to your wives, daughters,
> girlfriends.

And, of course, I was riled by the implied sexism of the e-mail, because of course what it really boils down to is: men don't soak dried mushrooms; women do. So guys, your involvement in this only goes as far as forwarding the e-mail, because if anyone is going to end up stiff as a board on the kitchen floor with a puddle of toxic fungus water nearby, it's going to be one of the three women this e-mail assumes are in your life.

So, while we're occupied with boiling things down to their basic content, what's really bugging me about this e-mail is:
  1. the assumption that men don't cook/prepare food, or that only women do.
  2. the lack of detail. What about this chemical is so harmful?
  3. the lack of scientific substantiation. Has anyone been lab-testing mushrooms and finding this particular chemical, in amounts worthy of being mentioned?
  4. that it fails to answer this absolutely unimportant, but nonetheless nagging question. Have people not been discarding their mushroom-infused water?
Anyway... all this should prove that I do have my moments of ridiculous pettiness over the most trivial of matters. As if you needed proof. But my irritation was broken by the presence online of a good friend and hymn-harmonising buddy back home, who sent me a song and told me she misses me. That was all it took for the bubble of irritation to burst, and for me to be reminded of what really matters. More of this boiling down business. When the excess matter of my life has bubbled off into vapour, when the scum of my unresolved character flaws has been scooped aside, what remains?

A writer I know of also seemed to be in the habit of boiling things down to bare bones.

"And now these three remain," the apostle Paul wrote centuries ago. "Faith, hope and love."

"But the greatest of these," he concludes...

The greatest...

That which I hope will be all that remains when my life is distilled...

"The greatest of these is love."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year whats?

I returned their phone calls shortly after the second (watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, didn't hear phone ringing) and hours after the first (cleaning house that I had been sitting). New Year's wishes were exchanged. Movie reviews were, briefly, shared. Food, check, fireworks, check, and what else did you do for New Year's Eve?

And then, "So, what are your New Year resolutions?", where the exchange ended, because I had nothing to contribute, being completely baffled by the mentality behind waiting for a specific time that comes around at the paltry rate of once a year before you want to change something about the way you're living. I'm rather more into February 3rd resolutions. And June 18th resolutions, etc. Like, as and when something negative about my lifestyle bites me, I would like to be able to get out the proverbial bug spray on the spot rather than put it on hold until the end of the year.

But if you're the once-a-year-resolutions type, have fun and all the best.

Another one of those analogy things

So, sometimes it's hot and everything around you is unattractive and unspectacular...

... but maybe that's because you need to shift your sights by a few degrees.

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