You know the evening's off to a good start when the host half-bellows at his wife, "You leave Lana cake where there might be ants?"

Don't worry, there was plenty of ant-free Lana cake when we cracked the box open a few hours later.

The good thing about buying a 1.5 kg Lana cake for just eight people to share, is that there'll be leftovers to bring home afterwards.

Related posts: The Lana virgin, Lana cake for lunch, I am a Hobbit



(Almost) live from Dhaka

During my lunch break, I dipped into my RSS feeds of friends' blogs, only to find that the only person I know in Dhaka is out shooting (photographs of) the military/paramilitary mutiny going on.

I hope she's all right.

Edited to add (March 1): She is. And she has updates, from Thursday and Saturday (1, 2, 3).



I love watching TED talks and I love this one I saw earlier this week, with writer Elizabeth Gilbert taking about creativity and genius and snatching a bit of the divine.

And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get psyched out about that, is: Don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cock-eyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment through your efforts --- then, ole. And if not, do your dance anyhow and ole to you nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it: ole to you nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.
But you really ought to watch her entire talk to appreciate what she's saying.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer (abridged)

Seven seasons, four minutes, one gambolling piece of music.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (Abridged)

Thanks, Wahj (who found it via io9).

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Things that make me smile

Find your own bodhi tree

  • Text message from a cute guy.
  • Email from a publisher offering me Work I Want Very Very Much (details to be announced after negotiations are concluded).
  • Good meeting with an existing publisher for the marketing strategy for our book.
Yes, I'm a writer. Yes, I have books coming out this year.

Gosh, this feels good.

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What writers do

I'm still getting used to introducing myself to strangers as a writer. But it always feels disingenuous for me to imply association with someone like, oh, say, Haruki Murakami. Who is this kind of writer:
I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it. [...] I fully believe it is the novelist's job to keep trying to clarify the uniqueness of each individual soul by writing stories -- stories of life and death, stories of love, stories that make people cry and quake with fear and shake with laughter. This is why we go on, day after day, concocting fictions with utter seriousness.
From his acceptance speech for the Jerusalem Prize, which is well worth reading in full.



Not yet, but ...

Last night, I dreamed that I was surrounded by family? friends? former work colleagues? --- a lively scene, and then it turned out that I had clean forgotten it was my birthday but they were all there to celebrate it. There might even have been a cake.

Later, I said to someone, "I should have made a speech. I mean, I'm 35. I should have made a speech."





I worked all day and then took one picture while I was out for dinner.


From the incredible Indexed: puttering can get old.

(Venn diagrams were one of the few things in math that I didn't have trouble with.)



It never rains but it pours

After several days of whining venting to friends about my creative ennui and other things, I finally made a Plan --- or rather, diverted my whinging into Step 1 of a Plan --- which was to kick off tomorrow for a personal creative project.

All the repining must've also helped with the camera-constipation, because after I decided to walk home from Parkway Parade via the beach/East Coast Park today, I "saw" a picture as soon as I entered the underpass leading to the park and was instinctively pulling the camera out of my bag before the thought (or image) had cohered in my brain.

Go towards the light

And then I just knew that I would be taking more pictures on the walk home.

Stay on the bike path! Unstable coastline I Unstable coastline II
Find your own bodhi tree Unstable coastline III Unstable coastline IV
Waiting "Keep our parks beautiful and litter-free" Abandoned

But alas for my newborn creative impulse. When I got home, I was diverted by work --- specifically, several emails and phone calls requiring immediate attention or work done in the next few days, which means that Step 1 of the Plan is being postponed to next week. Even uploading these pictures and writing this post had to wait till I was done with work for the day.

It never fails, does it? One moment I was working at 50% capacity and cavilling about having no creative focus; the next moment, as soon as I'd formed a plan to use the other 50% of my time more productively (other than taking long lunches and catching up with friends as I've been doing), Real Work shows up knocking peremptorily on my door like an Internal Security agent, demanding that I get back in line.

But I am taking pictures again.

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Still ennui-fied, as I put it to a friend a couple of days ago, but there are things to be grateful for:
  • Story published in Hemispheres.
  • Recipe attempted successfully.
  • Studio 60 watched in its entirety at last (only two years late).
  • Good, good late-night conversations (post-nap, post-Korean food, post-research trip to bookstore).
  • Good, good friends.

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(Pun on the previous post about "25 Things" not intended.)

I've been feeling somewhat off-kilter since I moved house. I know why: I love the apartment, but work-wise I have nothing major lined up at the moment, so I'm filling my time with kucing kurap (literally 'diseased cat', metaphorically 'unimportant') assignments that pay the bills but leave me feeling blah at the end of the day. I don't have stories to tell when people ask me how I'm doing, but I still do the kucing kurap work because everyone's murmuring about the recession and how the money's drying up.

All of which leaves me feeling like an ant toiling away in the fading summer (not that I know any grasshoppers).

I also haven't taken any photographs that I really like since I got back from Vietnam, and that really bugs me. I have my camera with me almost all the time, but I never see anything I want to take a picture of. It's like that particular creative muscle is settling into entropy and I can't think of what would jolt it out of its flaccidness.

At the same time, I've been yearning to play the piano again because I want to do something creative that doesn't involve the internet or writing. The main obstacle to this plan is the cost of not only a piano (even a secondhand one), but also the cost of moving it into the flat where I've living and any future moves. A friend tells me it costs $50 per floor to move a piano around and I live on a very high floor; I'm definitely not making enough money to cover that.

Yes, yes, I should quit whining and get on with doing something creative for myself. I should sit down and work on those novel/short story/film ideas I've been dawdling over for years and always say I have no time for. If nothing else, I should write up the overdue recounting of last year in books (as I've done since 2003) --- but the truth is I'm embarrassed at how few books I read in 2008.

I know eventually I'll emerge from this stasis, but for now I can't say I feel thrilled about it.

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Okay, it's officially passé

When the "25 Random Things About Me" Facebook meme is all over the mainstream media, viz.:
... then the window has officially closed on me responding to any of the friends who tagged me for the meme on Facebook.

If you must have some random "facts", go read some of the old memes from my blog archive.

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A little water rationing

Not exactly, but I did spend some time last night filling various jugs, bottles, the kettle, one basin and one stockpot with water. As Serene noted in response to my Facebook status update that I was hoarding water, it was very much a flashback to those Good Citizen (in Chinese, 好公民) or "moral education" lessons in primary school about saving water.

I was hoarding water because a warning notice came last week, saying there might be a "disruption of water supply" today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. because they were gonna be tinkering with the water tank in my block of flats. In the end it was only a three-hour disruption, so that was three hours in the afternoon when I couldn't pee and couldn't drink water (because then I would need to pee) and couldn't wash the lunch dishes.

Now that the water's back, I have heaps of water lying around and no plants to pour them into. I'm tempted to leave the big basin of water out for as long as it lasts, since the cats seem to be perfectly happy drinking from it.

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