MENTAL STORMS

MENTAL STORMS

What exactly is a ‘mental storm’? This question surfaced in my mind three hours ago when I was listening to MENTAL STORMS from the ENFJ album (LEW, 2018). Everything about this song was magical and perfect – from the strumming, to the vocals and the poignant chords matched with poetic lyrics.

The term ‘mental storms’ conveys deep internal conflict. Of course, internal because of the word ‘mental’, which speaks volumes about some sort of distraught weather condition wreaking havoc in a very personal place – our mind – where mental processes take place.

As someone who suffers from anxiety – not to be confused with Anxiety, the disorder (more information here) – on occasion: before tests, during tests, after tests, receiving results, going for events, taking a selfie – I felt greatly calmed by the fact that someone was singing about mental storms. Because I feel that I UNDERSTAND what this neologistic-term, a ‘mental storm’ is. I feel that I have these mental storms very often.

If I were to define a mental storm it would be as follows:

A tangled ball of thought rolling into one’s mind.

I made the graphic of a ‘mental storm’ as rather representative of the term itself – a literal storm in someone’s mind. I felt calm when I was making it. As mentioned above, I felt calmed by LEW’s Mental Storms as well.

Therefore, I want to posit the idea that talking about our ‘mental storms’ is a form of therapy. I used to think that holding in my worries and telling myself that “this will pass” was a good way to overcome the anxious thoughts that continued to hit all walls of my skull, but it’s really only the most efficient.

Often, we should force ourselves to confront what we’re feeling by laying out each worry on the table – plain and bare – and imagining that the tangled thought ball in your mind is halting and unraveling itself.



It’s safe to say that I’m now a fan of Lewis Loh. He weaves in second person pronouns ‘you’, with lush and soothing vocals dispensing a very thoughtful and lovely message to ‘you’, the listener. Find out more about the Singaporean songwriter/singer here.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS | WHY AM I YELLOW?

I am not rich, nor crazy, but I am Asian. Kevin Kwan needs to complete NS.



I was confused when Crazy Rich Asians debuted in America and thousands of newsites screaming “CRA: AN EQUALIZER FOR THE ASIAN COMMUNITY?” “DIVERSE REPRESENTATION IN HOLLYWOOD” or something along those lines drifted on the interwebs. I wasn’t confused because I am Chinese, I can relate to the idea of Asian representation (adequately and finally happening) – I was confused because I am Asian.

‘ASIAN’ does not mean ‘Chinese’. No, these terms are not synonymous. People can popularize and generalize all they want, but ‘Asian’ is a lovely large umbrella term for those who are Pakistani, Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Javanese, Malay – and numerous other beautiful and wonderful races who identify as ‘Asian’ and are of Asian descent.

So, no – CRA is largely made up of Chinese and displays Chinese culture (mostly) and is therefore not representative of our diverse Asian community. ARGUABLY – okay, other Asian ethnicity was ‘represented’ throughout the movie: the guards/cleaners/blue-collar worker. That does not exactly ‘represent’ much about all of these other Asian ethnicities because their culture was not displayed, their thoughts and values were not adequately talked about and within the show, and the focus was on the Chinese Singaporeans being ‘[crazy rich Asians]’.

That being said, as a Singaporean ABC, I feel that I can talk about this – not  because I’m Chinese (no Chinese privilege here, thanks) but because I am Asian, I lived in America, I live in Singapore currently, and no, my brother will not defer NS like the author of CRA.


My first point is that the fight for equality and changing the minds of us wonderful, wonderful people all around the world is a gradual processs. The fight for equality for those under-represented is a progression of efforts towards eventual positive and desired outcomes.

Hence, I daresay that CRA was effective in amplifying this fact that there needed to be more representation in the industry, in Hollywood, in works of literature hailed as ‘iconic’. But, did CRA warrant headlines that claimed that NOW, ALL ASIANS WOULD BE REPRESENTED CLEARLY?

It’s not wrong to say that Crazy Rich Asians doesn’t represent all Asians – because it is the truth. CRA doesn’t represent the sheer beauty of every Asian ethnicity. It is hard to do that in a single movie and a single book. So I feel that the marketing of CRA as the “first win for Asian representation” is off. The primary focus of this novel and movie would be the upper tier of the Mandarin-speaking population. Hence, those from diverse communities can and should be afforded the opportunity to point out that the movie doesn’t showcase all Asians in equal roles. 

This is a big idea that us watchers need to acknowledge, because the stereotypes of certain Asian ethnicity groups being relegated to lower classes could be perpetuated through a show with such high anticipation. Naturally, when something is elevated to the position of ‘iconic’ and ‘highly anticipated’, we can afford to explain why exactly some stereotypes perpetuated in the movie/book are not entirely true, because this ‘iconic’ and ‘highly anticipated’ work becomes a ‘model’ or ‘example’ for others. Meaning that, numerous people will look upon this work – elevated to a role-model-like position – as an accurate judgement of their perspectives or views towards the Asian community as a whole.

CRA is a marker of progress. I agree with that. Crazy Rich Asians is the first movie with an All-Asian Hollywood cast. That is a big deal. The Asian community definitely does receive some form of recognition, be it due to the fact that its cast is All-Asian, or the fact that the culture and lifestyle of Asian-Americians is sold and attempted to be explained by Kevin Kwan.

Now, I first picked up Crazy Rich Asians in Kinokuniya as a Singaporean myself. I was entertained but not educated about my life as a Singaporean Chinese or an ABC. I actually did not feel that much of a prickling of pride that I was being ‘represented’. Instead, I felt more aware of a very specific type of lifestyle that certain groups of people in the Chinese Asian community may lead! That’s cool.

To me, the ‘ representation ‘ purpose is not legit. Because the book and movie are about a lifestyle and about a narrative of a very specific tier and sector of society. This makes Kwan’s work contribute  towards the purpose of entertaining its audience. The fact that Asian actors and actresses star in the movie is expected because the plot is about a Chinese family – and the stunning performances they pull off are representative of how beautiful and amazing the Asian creative community can be! The plot itself may not be representative – the performances are.



However, I’m kind of concerned about the portrayal of Chinese Singaporeans in Kwan’s CRA. Firstly, because he moved to Texas when he was young and he did not perform his duty to the country by completing NS – effectively, he could not come back (barred) from entering the country, even for the premiere of CRA last night. I think that speaks a lot about how much Kwan may know about Singaporean culture and the internal workings of it – like, he obviously may not know much.

Still. A book about Crazy Rich Asians Chinese. Yeah. It’s entertaining. A movie I would watch. But I’d like to refer to my Singaporean textbook to gain more knowledge about CIMO – wait. ‘Others’? I think we need to work on that, too.



My featured image: all these shades of yellow, and I can’t erase the fact that all are beautiful. Although we’re not yellow. We’re just Asian. You should know that. 🙂

Yourself, in Recovery.

Just five minutes ago, I was thinking of how to answer to an artist friend (who I greatly respect, by the way! Her work can be found here).

The month of June brings a crazy number of things that I need to do regarding the production of Issue 5: AMO, ARMOUR for Carpe Bloom. We’re embarking on a collaboration with this lovely artist. We met, and I followed up.

She texted me asking if she could share the process of her sketches on her social media platforms, and tag us.

My first instinct was to say no. It isn’t because of the quality of her work. It’s simply because the thought that my mind was entertaining was this:

We need to show the best to our readers. I want to drum up the anticipation for the art pieces from the collaboration, by not revealing it until the release of the issue. I think it would be better to ensure that readers see the finalized product before the in-progress visuals.

I typed and re-typed my response to my artist. I did not get far because I changed my mind. What’s so bad about showing people the works-in-progress of even the most special and anticipated pieces? Why shouldn’t we shed light on the behind the scenes of the final product?

Why not encourage people to show their works-in-progress, and garner encouragement along the way to strive for produce the best piece they can?

I re-typed my message and said that it was okay! It would be wonderful! Let’s capture these moments!

I am not okay. As in, as a human being attempting to function right now, I am not okay. I’ve Tweeted about being a mess this week, and I mean it. I am not okay. I am recovering from some adverse emotional occurrences, and I am in the process of accepting that to heal does not equal to ‘moving on as fast as possible’.

I am a  work-in-progress. The whole reason why I told my artist that it was okay was because I am not okay; because currently, I am the opposite of fine and put-together, but I am trying my very best to work towards a point in time where I can be sitting upright and feel like my heart is not going to break at any second. I want to return to the position where I am seated comfortably on a bean chair and shrouded in sunlight, not darkness. Basically, I hope to climb out of this little, too-comfortable period of sadness that is slowly sapping the life out of me.

But I want to show that, y’know? I want to show that we’re  all work-in-progresses because we’re all human. Hence, it is perfectly acceptable to be healing, and it is more than acceptable to capture these moments of healing for yourself to

a) feel proud of yourself when you look back later on,

b) celebrate little successes in your journey,

c) motivate & inspire others to do the same,

d) assure others in their own dark times, that they can move the rock blocking out light from their way.

It’s past midnight now. It’s around now when I start to feel the demons in my head get a grip on my skull and attempt to turn me over, upside down, make me feel like I want to hurl. I’m documenting this here because I’m proud to be able to even acknowledge that this is happening.

I can do this. You can, too. All of us are works-in-progresses and it doesn’t hurt to step back and look at these behind-the-scenes-visuals of yourself in recovery.

 


This post has nothing to do with The Great Wall of China; my aunt took the featured image during her travels there and I found myself gaining peace looking at it.

YELLOW CHAIR: The Last Immigrant

I read THE LAST IMMIGRANT by Lau Siew Mei when I was exhausted by a day of human interaction. Was the best solution to go ahead and read a book that was filled with human interaction? Perhaps not. But I did.

My eyes were nearly shut, so I essentially read the first few chapters of THE LAST IMMIGRANT half-lidded – but Lau Siew Mei’s writing eventually drew my eyes wide; wide-wide-wide-and-awake for the rest of this page-turner of a novel.

The Last Immigrant was the first novel I had designated myself to read from my SingLit haul. But it seemed heavy – not just in size, but in subject-matter. The lazy piece of shit in me reared its head and I left the book untouched for two weeks as I wasn’t ready to comprehend a story-line that talked about characters broken from within.

I wasn’t wrong when I said it was heavy, but I was wrong when I said that The Last Immigrant was difficult to comprehend, because I could. As a human being myself, I could. Lau Siew Mei wrote wonderfully and terrifyingly about the supernatural world and the treachery of our own internal mind’s workings, creating an entrancing narrative of a neighbourhood that charted each other’s lives and were interconnected by voids meant to be filled, or that had been haphazardly filled.

I identified with this novel backwards. The book is about a Singaporean who migrates to Australia – Brisbane – to live with his American wife, Nat. I grew up overseas – California – and came to Singapore as a teenager. Hence, I relished in the feelings of detachment, loneliness and identity crisis brought about by cultural cross-over that left me feeling like a figurative fish out of water – as an ABC brought to Singapore.

Lau Siew Mei quietly and carefully makes the arching flaw in the societies that Ismael, the protagonist comes across to be the fact that individuals need to function as outcasts in order for an inner community to be forged. Ismael’s story of being an outcast is told backwards – it is revealed that his source of lingering guilt and unease was due to a regretful incident of the past, where he’d created the need for such an outcast to feel included. In the beginning of the book, we see Lau Siew Mei artfully craft out a familiar arc of Ismael, a Muslim-Singaporean and a doubly-discriminated foreigner receive predictable treatment when ‘transplanted’ into a society where he was the only one with a different shade of skin.

This is a good novel written about Singapore, but I’d say that a more accurate description would be that The Last Immigrant is a great novel written about a Singaporean’s limits and about how it takes the crushing of a soul to understand the mind and self.

Listen to Reason

Sorry I blocked you on Twitter. I’m just surprised that you even found me again, because I’d taken lengths to try and minimize my presence in your life, after you’d made me feel little in my own skin.

In June, 2015, I still remember running to the sinks and turning on the faucet. I never turned on the faucet with my bare hands in school because the sink faucets were dirty as hell, and we all knew it. That day I clutched the faucet so hard as I turned it to its fullest, letting the rust and dirt seep into my skin as I cried. This was after I had met you. One of my other friends, a reason why you blew up in my face, started yelling in the fourth and third floor toilets, looking for me.

In July, 2015, you sat in front of me, turned around, and started to talk to me like my anger towards you meant nothing. I was fine with that. I was alright until I wasn’t; what a cliche phrase of a cliche fall-out between two best friends. I remember going to your house a year before and getting my neck stuck on your ironing board, having dinner with you, and welcoming your worries with a hug and words of warmth.

In July, 2015, you sat in front of me, turned around, and continued to talk like nothing had ever happened.

I was scared of you. I was scared of another girl smaller than myself because I knew what you were capable of.  It was beyond the yanking of my tie, yanking of my heart strings, yanking of my fears into the spotlight for your own entertainment. It was the fact that you, a human being, had the capacity to turn me into a snivelling creature after I had been the Kleenex box for all your tears. I don’t know what happened.

January, 2016. January 2017. We ended up being in the same class for two more years, and I watched slowly as my own confidence dwindled with every action I took, every time I spoke up in the classroom. I heard every whisper and heard my self two years ago crying in the toilet like a fool over a friendship which only hurt me. September, 2017. I slot it here, in the middle of a paragraph, and not one of its own, because it doesn’t matter. What I did doesn’t matter. We were going to graduate.

That mattered. I wrote out five letters, and gave them to all of you. I gave yours last because you had impacted me the most, and the deepest. I felt my heart burn as if I’d wolfed down a plate of carrot cake in the steaming sunshine as your eyes flicked over the letter, and then raked over my retreating figure.

I felt like I had won. I had survived without killing myself, I had survived. I had survived. I had not gone through with the plan to fade away into myself and into the ground, into the soil of the Earth and never come back, because my best friend had turned her back on me for hanging out with other people. I had reached a point where I was tougher than the envelopes of the letters I gave the five of you; I was no longer for wear-and-tear.

You gave me a letter back. January, 2018. We’re in different schools, and I kept the letter. I am fine with that. I am fine with this.

June, 2018. This story is about me, and of my anguish – somewhat – with an immature friendship that will remain immature, because I do not want to think about it and how it scarred me as a teenager. But the same night as the night I see my best friends again; the same night my best friends traipse down to the pool with me, and pose for silly pictures, my dad behind the camera, and laugh until we cry over boys and backstabbing and silly little burns we felt in lives before graduating together — these new best friends, these best friends I will cherish forever, I mean — that same night, you follow me on Twitter.

I don’t know what to think.


In secondary school, I juggled numerous leadership roles and commitments. Being a fairly friendly child, I had friends, and I liked to make all of them happy. When my social circles clashed – fine, that was a problem – but more often than not, they got along. However, the first and closest group of friends I had made started to hurt me. They acknowledged my growing social life, and made me acknowledge their growing anger. I had tried to reason out with them; but most of all, I tried my best to make sure they knew I treasured them. That I always would.

Of course, we were very young, and I do not blame them for not agreeing with the point of view that I held in favour of their own.

Stricken and afraid of everyone after something very close to my heart was used to provoke me – by people  I had trusted the most — I wanted to close my eyes and die. If it had not been for my parents and friends that continued to stay close to me, I would never have graduated.

I owe it to friends for cracking me. But I also owe it to friends for making me whole again.

Thank you.


So I’m sorry I blocked you on Twitter. But I had my reasons then, and when it’s possible, I’d like you to listen this one time.

Yellow Chair: MINISTRY OF MORAL PANIC

MINISTRY OF MORAL PANIC is an innocent-looking book; packed within its pages are seemingly explosive weapons filled to the brim with gun powder. Do we say phrases like ‘filled to the brim with gun powder’? Is that sentence correctly constructed? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the debut collection of Amanda Lee Koe — a true wordsmith, an amazing author — has packed Ministry of Moral Panic with 14 stories that will splice parts of your soul apart, slam question marks all over your arms, and bring you to your knees in hurt, agony and mind-numbing anguish. No, this book isn’t all about sorrow.

What it is about is precisely why I just wrote the very painful and negatively-connoted sentence – it is about frenzied panic and confusion of what are the right little morals to cradle close to your chest. What is right and what is wrong? Why can’t I empty my heart onto the barren soil and roll myself into a ditch and call my sins refuted? Why can’t I turn back time into a ‘stage 2’ of our relationship, to prevent you from being alone battling Stage 3 terminal illness?

Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe is what I would spectate, after reading it cover to cover, to be about stories chock-full of humanity and mistakes. Both are inseparable concepts that are bound together as tightly as the sweaty hand clasp of two lovers, because I do believe that it is hard to be human without making numerous mistakes in our lifetimes.

However, anybody can write a book about humanity and anybody can leave it on their shelf, untouched. The reason why I will continue picking up Ministry of Moral Panic is because humanity is presented so unpretentiously in Amanda’s writing, so stripped bear of trimmings – sometimes often showing us the process of how us humans carefully glue on precious feathery facades — that humanity’s bareness is almost perversely displayed. The real and raw bits of human life; left to dry under the harsh sun of a finitely unpredictable world promising not success  but more punishment. Perhaps this punishment is deserved; but in most cases the protagonists dangled in front of obstacles in Ministry of Moral Panic are brought plaintive peace — sometimes enlightenment, or an uplifting of our weary souls — and readers are faced with an ending they want to continuously reflect on.

The best part about Ministry of Moral Panic is how provocative and somewhat predictable it is. But books that are predictive are cliched, with a narrative arc we’ve read too often, and are deeply flawed and bad — No, no, hear me out. It is at first predictive — we already foresee the harsh treatment of a transsexual person, for example — with circumstances and wonderfully layered context of a setting sun and a pearly, foamy sea or a balanced relationship, placed around the centrepiece of a story, Amanda Lee Koe’s meticulously-placed foundation of a house (the story) with the most interesting walls one has ever seen.

Ministry of Moral Panic was a book that left me breathless and in a state of panic – I felt like I was constantly chasing after an ending to each story that I could not afford to think of:

Looking back at my experience with reading this beautiful book, I realized that instead of hoping for an ending where lottery tickets are won, the girl gets the other girl, etc, etc, old lovers fall for each other again — I just hoped for the character to attain peace.

Peace for themselves. For the internal conflicts that crash like harsh waves to stop washing over the same, sore spot of a rock. To finally roll the pain of aches that can’t be felt nor easily forgotten away from their heart.

10/10 would recommend if you need to reflect upon many things, such as yourself, and see reflections of yourself.

 

 

 

 

Here’s my MIC Drop

I almost never start stories with a quote, but here I am.


William Longgood, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 1963, once said that “Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination”.

 

This is certainly, without any hint of sarcasm, ‘breaking news’ for me. And I’m being completely serious.

When we were younger and tucked our dolls and stuffed bears to sleep— not tucked into caffeine and candy to keep us up late to finish reports—I often heard the phrase “Chase Your Dreams” uttered around the kindergarten and grade school I went to. In 2002, with my brother, my mother and father gathered our family around and said that a dream had been chase and caught [our family of four was complete]. My father, always someone to chase dreams (and my mother, back in his day) decided that the focus on dream-chasing would be on my brother and myself, and in subsequent years he invented numerous ‘strategies’ for us to easily set our sights on these dreams. I heard the same phrase Chase Your Dreams again two years later, when I had gone to my first book-signing as a Primary 1 pupil for my very own book I’d illustrated and authored, and I remember my lilting, high-pitched voice pitching in an anxious tone, “Chase Your Dreams”.

I grew up in California. I’m a Chinese kid. There wasn’t a cultural gap between my classmates and I, apart from the fact that I celebrated Chinese New Year like they celebrated Thanksgiving. However, I was definitely taught different values and principles from my friends. My Asian friends from Japan and Taiwan and Hong Kong could relate to me, a Singaporean kid. The differences didn’t set us apart from our friends who were blonde and brown-haired and blue-eyed and green-eyed; we were all living along the same suburban California road. It was okay.

I heard the phrase again in Primary 2 and it was thrown around in the backseat of my family’s Lexus, as lightly as the crumbs that filled the gaps of the leather seat, courtesy of my brother and my constant appetite.

We moved across the ocean to the continent of Asia when I was in the middle of Primary 3, and that was when I stopped uttering the phrase to myself. What were dreams and dedication in my life when I, a ten year-old child, felt disconnected from her entire physical environment? I recently wrote an essay on how my country [the one I relocated to] is an ideal place to live in, but I had not felt this way from the start. I was confused and suffering from cultural-shock. I have myself to blame for being particularly emotional since I was young, always forming strong attachments to the Carpet in my House or the Bugs On The Sidewalk or the Walls or my Actual House. Furthermore, due to transitioning between a school in America, an international school, and then finally into a local school here, amidst my longings to go back home to America, I honestly couldn’t even think of grasping the edge of a beautiful, hopeful dream.

Of course, we all have phases, and I guess I grew to warm up to the phrase “Chase Your Dreams” again as I stood on the cusp of growing into my adolescence. I stopped moping around and instead fiddled around with the keys of my father’s laptop, eager to recapture the same heady, blossoming feeling of writing something. I wanted to create a piece that would inspire other people, or at least a piece that could motivate myself—or perhaps, a story I was proud to be able to tell.

 

In the country which I live in, competition is high in terms of academic studies. I threw myself into studying, and while I did not throw writing away, but shoved it aside with a tut, telling myself that writing would have to wait.

I was wrong. As humans, we’re capable of making impulsive decisions, yes, but we’re also capable of multi-tasking and if it means chasing after the red ribbon of your passion while pursuing other things in a high-stress environment, then so be it. You can do it if you try.

You can do it if there’s a dream involved. Chasing your dream is the business of pushing your limits;  you invest your blood, sweat and tears into developing yourself to be a citizen that Society would be proud of, and you come back home to continue reaching inside yourself, to feed a growing dream.  You have to sign a Contract with yourself, in fine ink, to commit yourself towards climbing the staircase which would lead you to your dream, despite the number of steps on the staircase.

You have to empower yourself, and propel yourself forward, in order to open the door on a dream we’ve always wanted to come home to.

 

One of the ways that we can keep our determination flowing would be to an Inspiration Anchor. I’m calling the sources of inspiration in our lives Inspiration Anchors, because they ground us to reality. If we need to hustle harder, they inspire us to do so. If we need to take a break, they comfort some of our senses. An Inspiration Anchor for me would be BTS, a seven-membered KPOP group. Very honestly, their music—which ranges across numerous genres, lyrics spanning many themes that probe at much insight, controversial or unpopular at times—both pushes me and comforts me. Through Mic Drop, the strong beats and addictive hooks thrumming through my earphones enable me to lift my chin and develop a thicker skin to people who exude negativity when it comes to my creative work. Through Whalien 52, I, an extroverted individual, finally find peace with the introvert inside of me, and learn to embrace the occasional scary feeling of loneliness. Jump was the first song I listened to twice off their discography and really taught me about acknowledging the shortcomings of growing up, yet persisting to remember dreams that were once abundant.

 

Inspiration Anchors are important to have because inspiration is the essence that keeps you going on, driving towards your dream. Every vehicle needs a driver, and that is yourself. But a driver, no matter how motivated or determined he/she is to reach a destination with their wheels, is unable to move without the fuel in the tank.

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Winning one of the biggest, most significant awards in a Korean Music Award Show, 2016.

BTS recently caught the eye of many organisations, print media and is the topic of discussion for many talk-shows. The group is known for something very admirable, and something very inspiring—consistently producing their own content, and consistently moving up each rung with an immense amount of dedication and effort. I feel that many people listen to artistes because of their songs, because of the melodies they waft, because of the music. But fans of BTS also listen to their speeches, their words, their advice—the leader, RM (Kim Nam-joon) did give very valuable words of wisdom on learning a new language—and carry BTS’ words with them to school, to work, through trials and tribulations. I moved to Asia without knowing Mandarin, and am living in a country where Mandarin is a language that many incorporate into dialogues and light-hearted conversations with friends. I want to be part of that, so I do try to learn it. Little dreams like that seem to be impossible when I have to catch up with six years’ worth of the language, and it does bring me comfort to hear from RM on picking up new languages.

So really, what I’d like to drop here – besides a mic; I can’t do that just yet – is that my Inspiration Anchor, BTS, really drove me forward to continue living, to continue striving for opportunity, to continue serving the community through creative work, and improving the quality of my work. It’s only in recent years that I got into this group, and I’m happy to say that they’ve “broken” the news to me, in terms of showing me that: Dreams and Dedication do make a powerful combination.

 

 

 

Like Anyone Else

Like anyone else who may want to feel productive or feel “put-together”, I install Chrome extensions like momentum dash. This installation was in an attempt to feel ‘focused’, when in reality I was trawling through Twitter and just having a good time.

Do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do.

Like anyone else, I have an eye for little phrases or quotes that appear on walls, on bags, on shirts – perhaps you also have momentum dash, and perhaps you also enjoy its ‘daily quote’ function. You see, momentum dash provides users with a daily quote below their ‘Hello Y/N’ banner. I’ve been Tweeting the quotes I find inspirational (to myself), the quotes said by people who I find are inspiring (to myself) and relating them to my own life.

Like anyone else, I am subjective. (to myself) is a disclaimer in small round brackets that informs you that I may like the quotes I Tweet, but you don’t have to like them–you may not even find these quotes of any value. My first point in this preamble-example is that life is about subjectivity because human beings are full of life whether we choose to walk around our college like dead potatoes and it is in our human nature to like some things and dislike some things, and other humans may like the things one dislikes; vice versa.

But my second point that I wish to bring across is that like anyone else, I need validation.

I don’t mean that I require someone to ‘fact-check’ me all the time – although I hover dangerously close to that level of need when it comes to doing up speeches for MUN on the spot – what I do mean is that I need my thoughts to be ‘accepted’ by someone. When I’m talking to a friend or to a classmate, I tend to let the words “Do ya get what I mean? Yeah?” slip out and away from my lips like how skin peels from an apple when you put an apple-peeler to its unblemished surface. It’s so natural for me to ask for people’s thoughts on my thought; my anxiety about ‘my thought’ is like an apple-peeler, while the skin that comes off is the question – and the flesh of the apple is the core of my thought.

One day, my ‘apple’ thoughts will sit there on the kitchen counter, completely bare and rid of any skin, waiting for someone to take a knife and slice it all up. When that happens, I feel that my mouth will be shut and I will no longer be writing – because someone will be in the process of slicing all my thoughts up into bite-sized chunks, into the size of apple and the side of apple that they prefer.

Validation. It’s a big word, and for now I view it as ‘acceptance’. We ‘validate’ our opinions against someone else’s conscious stream of thought to ensure that our perspectives are aligned, and let out the breaths we hold when the other person says “Yeah, I totally understand”, and the stars become aligned in the sky, too.

Validation was a thought that slid into the concave of my skull as I was reading VIRGINIA WOOLF by Alexandra Harris.

Virginia Woolf is an authoress (the author of one of my literature books, actually) and the vivid account of Woolf’s life, Woolf’s ambition and Woolf’s background that shaped her as a writer has quickly become something that I thought about all weekend. There were several developments and interactions within the pages of this very ‘Victorian’ book – slightly thicker, cream-coloured pages and a cream-coloured ribbon as a page-marker – that are stuck in my mind because they reflect several Tweets/Instagram posts I saw this weekend.

  1. Virginia Woolf had an acquired taste for ‘friendships’ that either sunk in too deep (Vita, who she actually slept with) and or skimmed the surface (T.S Elliot came over for tea-time, but did not do the talk and talk and talk which she enjoyed doing with closer friends).
  2. Virginia Woolf did not have a ‘passionate’ relationship with her lover, Leonard Woolf – rather, she viewed their meeting (& consequently their gradually warm marriage) as ‘certain’. She was ‘certain’ that Leonard was the one.
  3. Virginia Woolf was able to ‘sketch out the shape of her novel’ – Alexandra Harris proceeds to let a bewildered Me know that her novel was ‘in the shape of an H’, two trunks of lines in grayscale ‘connected by a bridge’.
  4. Virginia Woolf had frequent bouts of sickness as she grew older and the name ‘Virginia Woolf’ became more known on the lips of people – her competitors, publications, sculptors who wanted to sculpt a bust resembling Woolf, etc.

There’s a certain ‘science’ that the passionate authoress seems to rely on; there is a pattern and a structure that can be identified as one journeys through the account of Woolf’s life – and at first I found this strange, because I  never want to reduce the struggle of someone’s passion pursuit to a formula that can be calculated or measured.

This ‘science’ that she followed – or rather, that the events in her life seemed to follow – allowed her to understand herself better, and take breaks from type-setting or over-working when necessary. The ‘science’ behind events that occurred along the thread of her passionate  pursuits (be it love affairs with books, plots or people — or intense rivalries with Katherine Mansfield and passive teas with T.S Elliot) enabled a remarkable routine to form in her life of frenzied and flowing writing.

The ‘scientific’ way in which she sometimes conducted her life and studied other people gave her bouts of passionate writing and foray into wild and unconventional relationships a place in the life of Virginia Woolf.

Her passion for all things literary was, in a way, validated by her scientific approach to interpersonal relationships and sketches of her stories.

The point I wish to end with is this: It is okay to  need validation from anything or anywhere or any system – because ultimately, this validation would push you to feel more comfortable or courageous in what you’re doing.

Of course, the same can’t be said for clearly invasive and obscure validation from someone/thing that you did not even intend to ask for validation from. Validation is not necessary, but it is something that may help us to move on from our mistakes, and serves as just one of the checks and balances which we are able to utilize in life.

V is Virginia Woolf and V is also for Validation. The two are not necessarily inter-related, but there is a certain something about her Vivacious life.

Finally, the aforementioned quote at the beginning becomes relevant:

Do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do.

We have to strike a balance. Of course validation, in healthy amounts, can be a confidence-booster and can be useful and relevant to your lifestyle. However, the ultimate validation is yourself – do you find what you’re doing acceptable? Does it align with your own moral compass? What weighs in for you, and what doesn’t?

Like anyone else, you are your own person. Above all, this is what counts.


No kidding; Alexandra Harris’ writing and meticulous eye to details makes for a brilliant book.

How Many Times Have I Told You

How many times

have I told you to be mind-

full,

 

my father says but this is not

what I had in mind

when I had told myself

numerous times,

Girl, how many times

have I told you

to live life

the way you wanted to?

 

How many times have I told

you that I need those files

returned tome,

don’t you remember

promising this to me,

don’t you remember

acknowledging

and nodding and promising to

someone else

about their whims?

 

Please tell me that you remember,

dear girl, I do not think

that you are the type of

person to forget about your

 

own dream

and the life that you own;

dear girl can you please

be more mindful

about your  life

and more aware about using

your life to live like how

other people want,

exactly like how they would

like you to live,

 

dear girl, in this

world right now, to live

means to live with your eyes closed

and your third-eye open;

the third eye is not the devil’s

nor is it the wandering spirit’s,

but rather it is the window

that the people around you,

who are not

 

you; it is their window

and they want you to

see out of it.

 

How many times have I told you

to return me the plastic case

of papers

of testimonials

of portfolios,

of achievements,

of letters typed neatly

containing all

my hopes and dreams

and aspirations for the future? How

many times have I told

 

you, you, you

don’t need to have a dream

as long as you go on the right path,

then it is okay.

 

It is okay for

you, because I say so.

How many times have I told you,

dear girl,

to live the life you

always wanted to live?

 

None. You have not

told me any of that,

because as myself, my case

is weak, my resolve, shaky,

my eyes, leaking with tears

as I regret all the

windows I looked out of

that weren’t

 

mine to begin with.

The Last Recipe

 What I had expected from The Last Recipe was: lots of narration layered over soft orchestral music, some flashbacks that would take us back to war time, and the struggles of solely one guy – the Chef – the supposed creator of the Last Recipe, the guy who held the Qilin Tongue in his mouth.

I had expected a movie that was centred around the main character at all times, with all of his thoughts and actions influencing how the story would go – maybe he would be running from a planted bomb to cook in the darkened kitchen of another country he had fleed to.

The struggles he bore would be created by the war and himself, and then the story would end by him having a grand vision of a free life, and hence he whipped up the Last Recipe – a dish that signaled his freedom.

That was not the case.

Directed by Yojiro Takita, The Last Recipe was clearly a reflection of the high-quality that Takita — the Oscar Award-winning Director (Departures) — invests into his works. In other words, The Last Recipe took whatever expectations I had and threw them out and above the window — this movie exceeded my expectations.


Special thanks to Encore Films SG for the kind invitation to the 22nd January Premiere. 


 

Firstly, the movie wasn’t about one guy and his troubles – it was about one guy and the trouble another guy caused him, one that would pass down three generations.

The Last Recipe provides meaning to the phrase “the plot thickens”. All events twist and turn and conspiracies with bad intent and conspiracies with good intent both occur simultaneously. To add both of these miraculous plot twists into the same broth and still have tasters of the broth feel satisfied, with a little belly-ache from laughing, is a feat that Yojiro Takita, the director of The Last Recipe (and Academy Award-winning film Departures) should be applauded for.

The movie, as the screen split into its first scene, delivers in terms of creating tension around the main character, Mitsuru Sasaki.

Under Yojiro Takita’s meticulous attention to detail, every single waving glade of glass seems to free at appropriate times when Ken Yanagisawa starts to scream about a brat named Mitsuru not answering his phone. Truly a relatable situation, ain’t it? Ken has this set to him which makes us feel uncomfortable –  he is clearly someone who knows about “everything”, mayhaps all the events about to unfold – but it is clearly not him that is the main character because of that reason.

A gradual shift in lighting makes the transition to a hospice home from an orphanage seem natural – and our main character makes his entrance. The camera pays careful attention to the man’s large luggage; capturing the man’s nimble fingers undoing the clasps and the glinting of the silver trimming against sunlight streaming in from a window.

The contents of the luggage transform into a kitchen set. (Basically, the man sets up a place for him to cook within the tiny hospice room). The man possesses the Qilin Tongue in question – able to recreate the flavour of any food he has ever eaten into a tantalizing dish.

We quickly learn that the man is Mitsuru Sasaki, and he exploits his own talent as a chef possessing the Qilin Tongue to whip up final meals per request of rich clientele who pay  him as much as 1 million yen per meal. Mitsuru Sasaki had gone bankrupt after his attitude with the chefs in his restaurant and his perfectionist ideals had sent both his chefs and his customers to the Exit. he makes these final meals to eke out a living, and to pay off his debts.

The first meal he cooks for us movie-goers is Omurice, and the orange of the egg spreading into a perfect circle in a flat pan looks almost sinful. The camera zooms into the man on the hospice bed; his spoon is trembling as he stares at the fluffy Omurice. Hamada-takeshi is the cinemetographer for The Last Recipe, and his work captures the feelings of people without narration needed – the man’s trembling grasp of his spoon shows how delicious the meal must be imagined in his mind, and how the Mitsuru has a reputation for cooking the most brilliant meals ever tasted.

But Mitsuru cooks with no smile on his face, no glimmer of satisfaction in his eyes. When the meal is cooked, simply asks for the cold, hard cash before taking his leave.

We get no explanation. However, we are rewarded with a flashback.  The movie dives into its first cliche, a familiar one: Our main character had faced opposition to his dreams of becoming a Chef, though it does not deter him from opening a restaurant later on. In a subsequent flashback, we see him working in his restaurant’s kitchen, cold demeanour building up the wall between he and his chefs – the second cliche: A ‘Hero’ who is extremely talented, yet lacks the ability to offer positive interactions with his team. We see more of these scenes as the movie goes on.

I start to think that it’s the typical boy-meets-world and turns Hero sort of plot.


Note that I walked away from The Last Recipe extremely appreciative of the movie’s reinvention of numerous cliches. The cliches were there for movie-goers to fall into familiar, warm plot-lines, but the plot twists and top-notch acting of the actors/actresses  has you willing to endure the cliches for a refreshing story.


While this is not not necessarily wrong, The Last Recipe is actually a grand tapestry of diverse plot-lines woven together in earthy colours that will touch the heart.

Our ‘Hero’ is sent on another gourmet request – this time paying 3 million yen. However, he’ll have to fly to Beijing. Upon arrival, he’s whisked off into a mysterious figure’s quarters – this person is “renown in the Chinese culinary world”, and makes me think that an epic cooking battle will commence. Instead, Mitsuru is paid 3 million advance and sent off to find a recipe for a 112-course feast – leading him to various other places in China, and fighting a battle with none other than himself.

From the moment he is handed the three million, he tells his best friend, Ken Yanagisawa, repeatedly that the gig is “shady”. However, he agrees to it, and the plot becomes more complicated with another new plot-line added to the mix – the story of Chef Naotaro Yamagata, set in 1933, Manchuria. Chef Yamagata is apparently the creator of the Last Recipe, having spent four years cultivating and refining the 112 exquisite dishes that will surpass any other gourmet feast of the land. Once again, each motion in the kitchen is processed by careful camera work, every action performed so deliberately and meant to tease movie-goers’ stomachs into rumbling like thunder overhead.

Our ‘Hero’ Mitsuru and Naotaro Yamagata are both remarkable chefs, but people who struggle to balance their perfectionism in the kitchen, and the relationships with their fellow chefs. This became a problem for present-day Mitsuru, who is in debt. For Naotaro Yamagata, he acknowledges this problem with the help of a well-used plot device: A tragic event. After his wife’s death, he started making dishes with more joy apparent on his face, and forged happier relationships in the Manchurian kitchens.

The cliche ends here for now – Mitsuru makes no “self discovery” after hearing of Yamagata’s tragic story; instead he calls Naotaro Yamagata out for “Running away” and that he was “Untalented” in the first place, if he cooked with the “warmth of family and love and all that” in mind.

Of course, the movie is 126 minutes long, and Mitsuru’s grudging disbelief of the 112 dish creation can’t be it.

Upon continuing his visits with people who were close to Naotaro Yamagata, Mitsuru discovers that the four years of Yamagata and his chefs’ hard work culminate in the betrayal of a chef, the realization of a horrible fate, and the death of the people close to him.

The movie comes back full-circle: Present-day Mitsuru, whose ice king facade is slowly beginning to crack, quickly realizes why he had faced resistance in becoming a chef when he was a teenager. Born with a Qilin tongue, but cursed with the Last Recipe – a literal book of the precious 112 dishes – the opposition he had faced was to protect him from death, an implication of being intrinsically linked with the creator of the historical Last Recipe.

What I love about the movie, besides the high  production value, would be the thematic issues that were introduced. We have oppression of females in the past – even in her supposed own domain; the kitchen – racial tensions in 1933 Manchuria – the Japanese conquered Manchuria and claimed Manchukuo in the 1930s, and the Chinese were not agreeable with this – and an exploration of brotherhood – between Mitsuru and Yanagisawa, Yamagata, Yang and Kamata – in both present-day and 1933. While the themes presented were not fully elaborated on, the plot-threads pertaining to these thematic issues revealed enough circumstance to recognise the significance of each issue with relation the themes. On that part, credit should be given to the Director for exploring such ideas in a story touted as a largely culinary concoction.

Overall, The Last Recipe was one that left me feeling rather full…from the depth of the plot, and from the stunning visuals served in cinema. #Recommend

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

 

Once again: Special thanks to Encore Films SG for the kind invitation to the 22nd January Premiere. Definitely looking forward to another collaboration ❤

Encore Films: https://www.facebook.com/encorefilms/