mental indigestion

Angsty Lit January 29, 2010

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 4:48 pm
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Book of the Year 1996

“It’s everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so–I don’t know–not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid, necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless–and sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you’re conforming just as much as everybody else, only in a different way.”- J.D. Salinger

I was this broody 17-year-old. I felt that no one could understand me. However, when my friend A. gave me this book as a birthday present I practically embraced it. Along with 1984 and Brave New World – these novels represented the epitome of all the oppression and phoniness I felt EVERYONE was about.

Ah, youth and its tendencies to melodramatize everything.

But you know what? Thank God for such angsty literature, of which our phantom menace sides can find an outlet in. And they are good reminders to constantly question the status quo and the facades that we get all too familiar with.

J.D. Salinger – RIP. Thank you for your words which provided me so much solace in my adolescence. I hope you left the world feeling less crap about it.

Pop culture/Hollywood trivia: Zooey Deschanel was named after this novel by her parents, even though Zooey was the guy in the story. But no surprises there, Zooey is such a cute name. And what cool parents!


Soother of the Year December 2, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 10:41 pm

Sondre Lerche

The music of Sondre Lerche featured very strongly in my life this year. I’d heard about him several years ago from my indie-loving friends and downloaded a few of his tracks from Faces Down and Two Way Monologue albums for their quirky, upbeat melodies. But it’s only after watching Dan in Real Life (of which he did the soundtrack for) that I did the “Sondre Lerche Therapy” thing again, which can I say, really works when you’re feeling blue.

This Norwegian dude is like a more intellectual version of Jason Mraz and his songs are the perfect accompaniment to a rainy day. I may not understand what all his existential lyrics are about, but there are always random lines that resonate strongly. Right now, this is my favourite Sondre Lerche song from his latest album Heartbeat Radio, which is about a boy who is cranky about the moon:

What I’ve also discovered, thanks to Youtube, is that he also has a knack for crooning jazz and I bought his Duper Sessions as a little Christmas present for myself. Here’s him singing “The More I See You”:


Sublime Soup September 22, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations,Whee! — mel @ 11:14 pm
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I’m not Cantonese but I love my soups. Especially shark’s fin soup, which no environmentally-friendly plea can keep me away from. Today, I hereby verify that the most fantastic shark’s fin you can get in Singapore is at Taste Paradise at Ion Orchard.

Image courtesy of Taste Paradise

Image courtesy of Taste Paradise

This double-boiled concoction is served in this earthy Japanese stone pot which keeps the brew warm even after 20 minutes (which is probably the time you will take to finish it – the portion is huge!). The texture is thick, but not with starch. Because it is brewed for 12 hours, the fish maw in the soup gradually melts to give it this fantastic rich flavour and consistency (it’s apparently good for your joints too). To top it off, there is this awesome crispy onion roll which you can dip into the soup.

For those who really dig Mother Earth and all that, there is also the green version of this soup  – they use mock shark’s fin and tastes 99.9% like the real McCoy. I can confirm this since I’ve had the green and the non-green one on separate occasions and both left me in a state of euphoria. 

Best to have during rainy days!


The Year of Living Biblically September 7, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 7:42 am

This is a New York Times Bestseller that has bestowed onto me many guffaws, and as such, it is a blessing worth sharing.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by Esquire editor, A.J. Jacobs is really, just about that. But what can be a potentially dry, off-putting topic becomes one long comedy set-up that has just the right doses of sincerity and substantial research to make this an enlightening read. 

I love how how this self-proclaimed human guinea pig who is Jewish “as the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant” comes to terms with growing Moses-like facial hair (see pic above), chucking out mixed-fiber clothing, stoning someone in Central Park, purchasing a shepherd’s staff online and of course following the Ten Commandments. All this is done with the help of devout/”expert” Christians and Jews of varying denominations, of which he makes it a point to interact with and do some immersion journalism, including partaking of a drunken Hasidic dance and attending an Evangelical serpent-handling sermon.

His hilarious accounts are also peppered with some interesting reflections too:

“The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just moderates. Fundamentalists do it too. They can’t heap everything on their plate. Otherwise they’d kick women out of church for saying hello (“the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak …”—1 Corinthians 14:34) and boot out men for talking about the “Tennessee Titans” (“make no mention of the names of other gods…”—Exodus 23:13).

But the more important lesson was this: there’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. I’ve had some great meals at cafeterias. I’ve also had some turkey tetrazzini that gave me the dry heaves for sixteen hours. The key is in choosing the right dishes. You need to pick the nurturing ones (compassion), the healthy ones (love thy neighbor), not the bitter ones. Religious leaders don’t know everything about every food, but maybe the good ones can guide you to what is fresh. They can be like a helpful lunch lady who—OK, I’ve taken the metaphor too far.”


Actual Book Selection August 30, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 1:07 pm
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I’m always a little unsure of what to pick out from the  library or bookshop because I have a very in-between taste in books. Don’t like Da Vinci Code but cannot get through James Joyce. Don’t like to stick to any one writer or genre but then again, not quite bookish enough to keep abreast of the literary scene. But I’m really devoid of stuff to read at night at the moment and re-reads just don’t quite cut it.

Had a chat with Kenny and Karen, owners of Books Actually and Polymath & Crust (ostensibly for a possible article but mostly because I love hanging out in their bookshops) last week and they suggested 10 must-reads which I thought I’d share because it seems like a pretty interesting selection. I’ve only read five four from their list (and thoroughly approve of the “must-read” status) which makes me a little excited that there are at least five six more fascinating reads to explore soon!

Top 5 Fiction Books

No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July by Miranda July

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories by Raymond Carver

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books

A Little History of The World by E.H. Gombrich

On Photography by Susan Sontag

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

How to Cook a Wolf by M.F.K. Fisher

QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman


Honest Words July 23, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 11:19 pm
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No prose has quite hit the spot for me as these two journal entries from two Pathlight lower primary school students.

fingerfireTaken from Beautiful Minds Volume 1: A collection of journals written by students from Pathlight school [You can buy this gem of a book here, definitely one of my favourite reads this year]


Paper cuts June 28, 2009

Filed under: Inspiration,Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 9:55 am
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I actually hauled back quite a number of books from New York recently, my husband’s shopping habits must be rubbing off me. One of the books that I picked up, and would not usually buy if I was feeling more rational, was This Is For You by Rob Ryan, an intricate, poignant collage of touchy-feely thoughts cut out on paper. 

Strange feelings of warm comfort came over me as I flipped through this book . I think this is what real art is supposed to do, no?

Ryan also has an Etsy shop and a real life shop in London selling his works.


South Pacific (My 1st Broadway Musical) June 7, 2009

Filed under: Inspiration,Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 7:05 pm
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There’s really nothing quite like watching one’s first Broadway musical – and I’m so glad mine was the multiple Tony Award winning revival of South Pacific held at the initimate, cosy Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center. I’m not quite sure if I would have felt just as much magic in one of those slick modern pyrotechnic ones held in mammoth venues like Lion King or Wicked. South Pacific was really just right…in a lovely intimate space where I could smell the cigarette smoke from Lt. Joe Cable lighting up on stage even at the back row and all childhood favourite tunes that I used to sing myself to sleep as a kid.

I remember loving most of the tunes when I watched South Pacific as a wee lass though for some strange reason, I did not like  the operatic, French-accented singing of “Some Enchanted Evening” and would fast forward that scene during my repeated viewings of the musical. This time, however, watching it on stage, with all the emotional nuances that only top-class live performances can convey, my heart just melted. 

During the interval, an elderly woman in front of me at the toilet queue sniffed to her friends, “It’s so lovely – these are the songs I grew up with, the love songs when I had crushes at 16. And it’s like hearing them all over again!” 

My old-fashioned soul couldn’t have said it better. And because I’m just so keen about spreading my musical lurve – here’s my favourite South Pacific song “Wonderful Guy” for y’all or you can see a South Pacific medley at the Tony Awards here

“It went straight to my head, my heart. I had to sing it, right that moment. I sat down on the piano bench next to Dick [Richard Rodgers] and began ‘I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love,’ getting more and more excited, singing full speed ahead, waving my arms around. Finally I got to ‘with a WONDERFUL GUYYYYY’ and finished it – and clunk, fell right off the piano bench onto the floow. Dick Rodgers turned his head, looked down at me rather solemnly, and said, ‘Never sing it any other way’.” – Mary Martin (Nellie in the 1st Broadway cast of 1949)


It’ll always be Ella May 17, 2009

Filed under: Inspiration,Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 10:29 pm
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After borrowing all the “mainstream” DVDs from the school library including High School Musical (I heart Zac Efron!) I’ve proceeded to the documentaries and the first one I zoomed in on was Ella Fitzgerald: The Legendary First Lady of Song.

Hearing Ella sing “I get a kick out of you” on my very first jazz CD compilation I bought way back in ’97 is what made me enjoy, no wait, obsess, over old school jazz for a good few years, the only thing that could get me through ‘A’ level mugging. Her voice – just pure unadulterated raw singing talent and a soul which interpreted each song with an entrancing blend of streetwise sassiness and sad innocence. There has really been no female singer quite like her, though it is through her that I have also come to love the other jazz dames like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland and Nina Simone.

This documentary reminded me of her perennial magic. I love it that youtube has some wonderful footage of her live performances because she is even more amazing there than the recordings and I only wish I had been born a little earlier to catch one of her concerts. My favourite video clip is a duet she has with Frank Sinatra where you see a hint of her shyness and cheekiness. Enjoy!


Engineer Cuisine February 2, 2009

Filed under: Kay poh recommendations — mel @ 8:44 pm

Up to now, I’m still not much of a cook even though I have amassed quite a collection of recipe books and even a Larousse Gastronomique, which is really a treasure trove of useless but fascinating information. [For example, did you know that the rare Mouflon is a wild sheep from Corsica and Sardinia and is an ancestor of the domestic sheep?]

I realise that the only bits of cooking techniques I recall are from home economics class, what Julia taught me  and select snippets from cooking shows that zoom in very close when they chop things. 

This is why I think Cooking for Engineers rocks – detailed step by step photos and timeline tables in all their glory. I’ve tried making Garlic Roasted Potatoes (D’s craving) and Corn Fritters (my craving) without much confusion (except for the slight mayhem those popping corn kernels caused). 

The guy who created this magnificent website stays in San Francisco. Olduvai you should make friends with him.