Saturday, September 18, 2010

To market

Out of curiosity, we visited Tg Pagar Wholesale Centre to see if we could pick up cheap vegetables for tomorrow's cookout. June was looking for bittergourd to experiment with -- the old folks are going to be her guinea pigs.

Apart from us human traffic in this huge market space, there are steel dollies, fork-lift trucks and bicycles transporting cartons and pallets of fresh veggies that we have to constantly dodge. But despite all this bustle, the wholesalers are by and large very friendly with us and are ready to offer advice and favourite recipes. We found out that the limes we picked to make lime juice were the wrong type -- big ones don't yield as much juice as the smaller dark green ones -- and only use sugar sparingly because it doesn't take as much as we think to make it palatable.

June got a recipe for her bittergourd along with some storage tips: if they're already ripe but you're only going to cook them tomorrow, cut them in half, remove the seeds and they will not become over-ripe when tomorrow comes. With that, the auntie sold us her entire stock of four remaining bittergourds for $2 the lot.

At the fruit section we discovered this melon, a shipment of which had apparently just come in. Upon inquiry, we were told that it was a Spanish melon (I couldn't get a better translation) and that it only makes an appearance once a year. How fortuitous for us to come a-visiting on this very day! $8 a fruit, thank you!

They weren't kidding. The inside is white, looks and tastes like winter melon, but so very sweet and juicy! Best eaten cold. Also, best shared with many people because this is not a fruit one can eat in quantity. The flavour is that rich.

Edit 1:

20 Sept 2010

We've been had! Turns out our Spanish melon is nothing more than a Spanish variant of the Chinese hami melon. They're selling it at Giant at $5.95 each. Welcome to another episode of 'Two Turnips Buying a Melon'.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Make them first!

S'poreans are not producing enough babies because, according to the DPM, we are waiting to achieve a 'perfect life' before we feel secure enough to make those adorable little copies of ourselves. His advice: make them first. Life will never be perfect anyway, so get on with it! This, of course, is hot on the heels of PM's recent national address in which the PM presented the same exhortation.

Look, I'm not against the making of babies. In fact, I'm all for making lots and lots of babies! It's a fantastic process, but what does one do with the end product? The responsibility of having to personally look after each one for 25 years of their natural lives is a more effective contraceptive than a rubber prophylactic soaked in a vat of industrial-strength spermicide.

Anyone want to discuss how we as a nation have become too responsible for own own good?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zombie tsunami

The most successful video game turned movie franchise has to be Resident Evil. 'Afterlife' represents its fourth instalment, opening with Alice taking revenge on the Umbrella Corporation for unleashing the un-deadly T-virus on the world.

Being the only successful host of the T-virus, Alice has superhuman powers... and she remembers everything. By this time, she has evolved into an unstoppable force who has brought "friends" with her into Umbrella's Tokyo headquarters. Poor Umbrella security, it's a massacre.

The demolition of Tokyo could not have taken more than 20 minutes of screen time. There's a problem when the protagonist wipes away her antagonists so easily -- the conflict gets too easily resolved. It's all well and good to feature chicks with guns and katana and throwing stars mowing down the opposition, but there has to be an element of danger, or at least a chance of being defeated to maintain the audience's interest. Alice in her mutated state is not interesting at all. Not for long, anyway.

Fortunately, events transpire to revert Alice back to her human self for the remainder of the movie. Now she has to rely on her courage, wit and survival skills alone to stay alive. And now things get interesting. Hooking up with a handful of survivors in LA, she has to devise a plan to get them to safety -- a dubious-looking container ship off the coast offering infection-free refuge -- but they have to get through the entire undead population of LA to get there.

With the undead pounding on the gates of their fortress seeking the only fresh meat in the city, for Alice, Claire, Chris and company it's run and gun a la Left 4 Dead. The situation is completely hopeless, undead pouring through the survivors' last defences in a literal zombie tsunami. It takes great teamwork, ingenuity and impeccable timing to pull off some dramatic escapes. The weak and indecisive, however, are punished for their hesitation or unwariness with a swift and gory demise.

What I like about 'Afterlife' is that there is no hope of victory. No celebrations, no medals at the end, just a sense of breathless relief before the next insurmountable wave strikes again. This is one enemy that cannot be taken head-on, hence there is no dishonour in a fighting retreat. Escape and skin-of-the-teeth survival is the game, no illusions about that. Resting on one's laurels is fatal.

This idea resonates with us because this is how we experience life. Challenge after challenge, daunting odds, threats at every turn; it's all so overwhelming. We may wish for superpowers to help us cope, but there's no such thing. Instead, the more realistic option is to find the right friends who share the same goals. Watch each other's backs, move in the same direction and develop a near-telepathic teamwork that will accomplish what one cannot alone.

Such a struggle, life is. When do we ever get to rest? The answer is, as long as we want to stay alive, never. There's plenty of time to rest when we're dead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I watched a play in Mandarin!

Had to go catch Theatre Practices' 'Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral' to see how the original production company envisioned this very difficult and abstract play that our own NYeDC produced a couple of Drama Nights back. For Mel and me, the biggest problem was that the whole play was staged in its original Mandarin instead of the English translation we were familiar with. We had to rely on the subtitles provided to get us through the night.

As best as I could figure, the set was the hold of a shipwreck from which ten survivors have to escape. They have no idea who they are or why they are there, only that some external force is playing some twisted games with them. In between survival games, the survivors entertain each other with their recollections of Zeng He, the Eunuch Admiral.

That they are stranded with nothing but the clothes on their backs is an excellent reason for them to rely on mime to help tell their stories. Hence, the stylized movement done with precision and care, simple, minimalistic and very clear. But that also was an odd thing because the publicity materials call this production a 'kinetic interpretation' but the visuals were mostly static. It was like pose - chunk of text - ensemble pose - more text - more posing - etc. As far as artistic direction went, it was more tableau than theatre.

It was a very well done tableau, though. The initial set was claustrophobic but opened up in various places to create new and surprising play spaces and levels. With the interaction of the performers, the beautifully coloured lighting design and a couple of other surprising effects that temporarily changed gravity and another that added a visual component to a change in weather conditions (trying to avoid spoilers here) it was like looking at a pretty talking picture book. Though we were totally reliant on reading subtitles, we didn't miss much action 'cos when we looked back at the stage it was usually the same image that we took our eyes off last.

This production wasn't much fun. The interpretation was deadly serious. If there was any attempt at humour, perhaps it was lost in the translation? But then the audience wasn't laughing either, so I guess not. Overall, an interesting visual experience, but impact was... meh. Not to make any comparisons, but suddenly I have the urge to dust off the video of our own performance and watch it again.