03 | D is for…

Maple and Market
“1919” from Maple and Market

To say the very least, the past week has been “eventful”. Finding out how stomach-turning the allocated modules will be wasn’t a great way to start a new semester. Having two days’ worth of kitchen work, on the other hand, was consolatory. A hectic beginning and sleep-deprivation left me in a semi-mortified state, but friendly encouragement and hypnotizing myself that “every bit counts” keep me going, as always. I have complained too much about my business modules, so I’ll just mention how fortunate I am to have opted for a philosophy module. Reading Plato’s dialogues and navigating the ethical fog never seemed so interesting, and just maybe, credit goes to the bleargh modules.

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”  Woah… sounds like a General Paper topic. (Actually it was, they love Wilde don’t they?)

Let’s move on from the mundane stuff… to more mundane stuff? I passed by Ion Orchard yesterday night, and there was a series of charity advertisements on the walls which caught my attention. I can’t find the name of campaign on the internet (there, there… the elusive everything means nothing concept), but it pictured children sleeping in their elaborately decorated bedrooms. They had blankets printed with the figures of doctors, basketball stars, firemen etc. superimposing on their tiny growing bodies. It said “every child deserves the right to dream”.

Now… There is absolutely no bones to pick on that, but it brought me to a line from one of Neil Gaiman’s poems in Fragile Things:

“If I were young as once I was, and dreams and death more distant then,”

It’s bizarre how we regard the act of dreaming as a prerogative of the young. They would if they could and they should (this is what taking a philosophy module does to you). What I meant to say was that children dream and we don’t, or that we no longer believe in them. Some of us still do, but then there are duties, drudgery, disappointments, decay, disease, death… you get the point.

I was in a quaint café (everyone seems to be saying this these days) – Maple and Market, sitting by the window with a piccolo latte and a Kaya-Gula Melaka-Coconut cake. This pâtisserie was opened last April by Sarah Khaw, a friend of a friend. My friend told me to check the place out almost a year ago, when I was back in Paris, and I only managed this spontaneous visit until now, guilty as charged. Still the place was lovely, sitting right beside a hawker centre under the flats, seemingly out of place. The glass windows overlooked a small road alongside a patch of open green, such rarity in this sardine-packed concrete jungle. It’s not a grand surprise, but intriguing still, that cafés like this are popping up in the most unlikely places. We can learn that from ecology, about niche specialization, or something like that. Anyways, it’s a dream-come-true in that tiny ‘niche’, with her dedication and penchant for details translated into the small little things and the food. The coffee wasn’t extraordinary but the cake, it was surprising balanced. Le gateau was more amercain than français, but still I liked it. You can go really wrong with those flavors – I’m not a big fan of this combination, but it was made just right that it doesn’t run you over like a truck would.

And then it did. A truck hit me. An 80-over-year-old lady was trying to cross the small road with the help of another two. She had a walking-crutch on hand, but she didn’t use it. She was trying not to use it. Her helper and the other stranger presumably, were all hands and legs, and she herself was in pain, beyond reasonable doubt. The glass of dreamland’s windows didn’t protect me. It struck me hard, especially so when I’m having a cake and a cup of fancy coffee, with the company of a kinfolk magazine.

These days, when I see the elderly reverting to taking baby steps, or the handicap in some sort of discomfort, I am reminded of how real and how close pain can be. Not that my back hasn’t been giving me some sort of problem already. Increasingly, it is difficult not to despise how people paint lives in such romantic, dream-like ways. I never liked kinfolk. Then again, I never hated it.

Now, some of you must think that I’m not making a lot of sense. The person who writes about pursuing some dream more often than not, who composes photographs with more care than necessary, who loves Paris still despite all its grunge, is now putting down romanticism a.k.a kinfolk-iness?

It’s a love-hate relationship.

In retrospect, she was trying to walk, without the crutch. Perhaps she still dreams of walking by herself one day. Dreams, they may be luxuries for the rich, but they are also sustenance for the poor, and motivation for the rest of us. Everyone deserves the right to dream.

P.S. I really don’t mind receiving a kinfolk issue as a birthday present.

Maple & Market
34 Cassia Crescent #01-82
Singapore 559160
T: 6348 8068


#10 Grim

The past week has been rather ‘mortifying.’ It started off with the Boston bombing, followed by the Texas explosion. Earthquakes terrorized Iran, then Sichuan, China. The threat of H7N9 lingers on, as well as the ricin letters. It was an easy week to give up faith for the future.

I am not trying to downplay the sufferings of all these victims, but it is usually the bad news that are reported, and the good news shrugged off. In part due to my current employment status (waiting for school), I have followed the news quite habitually. I would have my breakfast over the morning news – only to have my appetite dampened.

It is grim, but I’ll have to start with this upsetting article. The dark side of Dubai. This came from way back, but it recently re-surfaced on my facebook feed. It reminded me to think beyond what can be seen, sometimes to see the ugly truths.

On a lighter note about news, this graphic artist, LOGHIFICIO, renders intriguing illustrations from headlines.

A Sad Tale Of A Missing Stormtrooper.

Another photo series, somewhat bittersweet. In a few elaborate photos, Matej Peljhan sketched an Imaginary Adventure of Luka, a boy who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

In ending, a flip-through of a collection of photographs by Petri Artturi Asikainen. He photographed one man and one woman from age 0 to 100. There is such a long journey ahead.

100 YEARS IN TOKYO, flip through from Petri Artturi Asikainen on Vimeo.

#9 Persuasion

At last, back again on my sunny island. The chilly weather in Seoul was reminiscent of the cold winter in Paris, but instead of ‘going solo’ this time around, I was with my family. In fact, Seoul isn’t one of my favorite cities for reasons I shall reserve to myself. Personal experiences only serve to perpetuate stereotypes. Nonetheless, I could use some family time after my absence for three months. It was a food trip, at least for me, in addition to catching the scores of cherry blossoms tree that line the streets. I wasn’t particularly impressed by these flowers, blooming in their copious amount, but that’s one thing off the ‘100-things-to-see-before-you-die’ list. My mum and my sister did some shopping, ‘some’ being an understatement to mask my partial discontent having to wait for them among the deluge of cosmetic products. Family time.

Anyway, it’s been some time for a ‘Take 5’, so I’ll come back to it, but in a slightly different format. I am extending the scope beyond art and design, so it’s pretty much just a collation of five things that I have found intriguing. It will be clutter with more words, as you have seen. I’ll cut to the chase.

First, an art installation by Ann Hamilton at Park Avenue Armory. The Event of a Thread. I don’t pretend to I know these artists at all – it’s a start, of nothing serious, just some dabbling. This was way back, stuck in my cache folder. Impressive by itself, made more so with this film by Paul Octavious.

Another interesting post from Inspirational Geek. Van Gogh Tilt Shift Photography.

Having tasted a deal of pastries in Paris, it is easy to disregard what we have back home. Nonya kueh. I can imagine people who have always lived with sophisticated cuisine giving scornful frowns upon plates of such wobbly Peranakan pastries. Food, shouldn’t be judged by how complicated it is, or where it came from. It is, however, difficult to be free of such prejudice. Bias affects taste, to some extent. This article on BBC magazine has done some justice to these delicious kuehs.

Google Street View Hyperlapse from Teehan+Lax Labs on Vimeo.

A recent discovery, Google Street View Hyperlapse.  Teehan+Lax Labs came up with this stitching programme that puts together street view images from Google Maps. You can make your own at the website, but be discerning when choosing the route, because I’ve tried it for an expressway spanning Singapore, and it was underwhelming. Somewhere with more nature works better. That just goes to show how a Garden City (or from a recent development goal – ‘City in a Garden’) pales in comparison with what the world offers out there.

I’ll end with a thought on the advertising industry. We can criticize the industry for all its lack of substance for all we want; it remains part and parcel of life. I can’t be certain what makes an advertising company successful, but if I have to advice a friend paving his/her way in the industry, I’ll recommend something associated with the cosmetic industry, especially so in South Korea, the Land of Cosmetics, as much as it is the Land of Kimchi. How did I come to this conclusion? Well… Advertising is all about persuasion (in my very limited perspective), and these cosmetics companies pulled off with their successes convincing women (and men of course) to put anything on their faces. Some things that some will never dare touch in their original form. For instance, snail cream. Here’s an article: Katie Holmes uses Snail Slime to keep her skin in top condition. That’s just one example. Bee venom, snake venom, 24k gold, truffle oil, clay, some elusive element from the periodic table and so on. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find a kimchi facial mask some day. Perhaps you can eat it before, or even after.