Monday, June 26, 2017

58 Questions and 58 Answers

I read Naoki Higashida's 'The Reason I Jump' (2007) years ago in Japanese. (で東田 直樹の「自閉症の僕が跳びはねる理由」)

The 2013 English translation is done by novelist David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida (who are parents to an autistic son), so I went through it again, just to look at the nuances. However, in this case, the author's thoughts might not be fully represented in a translation no matter how much of it is kept to the original spirit of the story. Not going to nitpick at whatever though. (Reviews herehere, here, and here.)

Diagnosed with severe autism at age five, the author was 13 years old when he 'wrote' this memoir by spelling words from a Japanese alphabet grid (40 hiragana letters). Ten years later, now 25 years old, and is managing his autism well. This isn't a book about the autism experience or anything medically related. This comes as close as one can to telling the world what Naoki Higashida possibly thinks and feels. Every autistic child and adult is different.

Q32 When you look at something, what do you see first? 
But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image sort of float up into focus. What part of the whole image captures our eyes first depends on a number of things. When a color is vivid or a shape is eye-catching, then that's the detail that claims our attention, and then our hearts kind of drown in it, and we can't concentrate on anything else. 
Every single thing has its own unique beauty. People with autism get to cherish this beauty, as if it's a kind of blessing given to us. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we can never be completely lonely. We may look like we're not with anyone, but we're always in the company of friends.

I occasionally work with special needs children, and see autism fairly often in the adults on my care roster. I salute the parents for finding strength and faith in raising them, caring for them often till they're adults as old as I am. As much as some of us are introverted, and heavily so, we're not autistic, so please don't say we're 'almost' autistic. It's a terrible description of ourselves, and of others. Or when dealing with bad behavior or unaccepted social norms from adults, we jokingly try to explain "Maybe she's autistic!" That's really not how we should speak.

Q57 What causes panic attacks and meltdowns? 
But of course, we experience the same emotions that you do. And because people with autism aren't skillful talkers, we may in fact be even more sensitive than you are. Stuck here inside these unresponsive bodies of ours, with feelings we can't properly express, it's always a struggle just to survive. And it's this feeling of helplessness which sometimes drives us half crazy, and brings on a panic attack or a meltdown. 
When this is happening to us, please just let us cry, or yell, and get it all out. Stay close by and keep a gentle eye on us, and while we're swept up in our torment, please stop us hurting ourselves or others.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Benjamin Francis Leftwich in Singapore

The venue's kinda sucky, so I didn't have high expectations for Benjamin Francis Leftwich's show. I last saw the singer-songwriter in Shanghai, and that was a good one. Bought tickets at the last minute since we were curious and had nothing else planned for the night.

Because it's Hard Rock Cafe, and gig-goers are restricted to the ground floor; nobody, except for the front could see the musician very well. At least Hard Rock Cafe is bigger than the original Blu Jaz Cafe. The show could have been so much better if the sounds of cutlery and plates clanking weren't so distracting, along with the hum of conversations over the songs.

Tonight's show wasn't exactly disappointing, it was fairly enjoyable, but I felt it was just a little thin. The singer-songwriter came on at 9.40pm and played a 50-minute acoustic set. No effects, no backing tracks, no other instruments, no additional musicians. The sound was surprisingly decent. Somebody did a great job on the mix. His vocals shone through. He opened the show with 'Tilikum' and 'Pictures', did some new tracks in between, and ended the evening with the one song I really wanted to hear- 'Atlas Hands'.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Wholefood Kitchen

After hearing J rave about it for months, we finally made it to The Wholefood Kitchen for lunch. The eatery is located at the food center on level two above Bishan bus interchange. It's right at the corner next to the drinks stall; you can't miss it. There isn't air-conditioning. J had warned us it would be warm, and we adjusted our clothes accordingly. Sitting under the fan and sipping a cold drink or iced water cooled us down too.

The stall also bakes savory and sweet loaves which come out later in the afternoon, and probably need to be pre-ordered. Things like chocolate orange goji swirl wholemeal loaves and muffins, and a curry and mushroom loaf, and a black sesame, banana and coconut loaf. They sound so good. These might just be desserts I don't mind eating more than two mouthfuls of. I'm happy to have healthier options in a food center. I understand that the operating hours might shift in July and August. So gotta check back with its Facebook page and IG @thewholefoodkitchen_sg for updates.

The table shared all the dishes. They were delicious! We had assam tofu with curried cashew, curry green lentil veggies bobotie, and a wrap with a filling of beetroot and chickpeas. The menu offers a token dish of meat- in the form of kung pao chicken and hummus, of which you could choose to have it in a wrap, on an onion bagel, with salad or with brown rice. Or plain. The smoked salmon avocado with egg might be quite the standard choice when nothing else interests the stomach.

The curry green lentil veggies bobotie is the special of the week. Its Facebook post informs us that it's made up of green lentil, celery, carrot, apple, tomatoes, mango, pineapple, nutritional yeast, cashew, brown rice puff, coconut, citrus , herbs and spices. Full of tasty things! Unlike the traditional South African bobotie recipe, this version doesn't contain eggs. I struggle to describe it, but it's kinda like a vegetarian meatloaf generously filled with plenty of ingredients. Loved it!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

No Bear Came Along

Atlas Coffeehouse was bustling at lunch. We stepped in close to 2pm, and it was still crowded. The good thing is, the bistro takes reservations, so we had a table secured. Food came fast enough and whatever we ordered turned out pretty decent.

I had the Atlas Superbowl which was filling enough for the stomach. The bowl consisted of happy items that the stomach didn't mind- toasted quinoa, crispy kale, Shimeiji mushrooms, marinated cherry tomatoes, torched butter corn and rosemary chicken (gave the meat to the girls). There were savory foods for the girls. Had a vegetarian farmer's pasta and Atlas hash with bacon, Italian sausage and an egg done sunny-side up. Y and R declared the matcha waffles good. The standard sort of waffles came with matcha caramel sauce and matcha ice-cream.

R had a new little sheep, and took it out with her to lunch. The sheep came onto the table and had a sip of our beverages. But she had to go back into the bag when the food came. Our little table was full! And of course we didn't want the sheep to accidentally fall into the plates and turn brown or orange.

I keeled over in mirth when Y told me that R was enthusiastic about meeting for lunch, but was immediately a little sad, and later on, she asked if she had to return Ed the Bear even though it isn't the end of the school holidays. She perked up when told she didn't have to do that just yet. Awwwww. The girl is 9 years old! At some point, she won't want Ed the Bear to visit her during school holidays anymore.

No, my dear R, not just yet. You can't keep Ed the Bear forever, but you're very welcome to keep him till a week after school starts. The bear did request to stay on to hug you through the first week of school after the holidays. Oof. 🐻💛

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Overeat

Over the weekend, I completely over-ate and overdosed on carbs. Stir-fried kway teow, rice vermicelli, and the worst of them all in the form of white rice because there was curry. Thai cuisine for three straight meals in a row over two days, of which one was a rest day from exercising. Felt totally bloated. Indigestion symptoms loomed. The stupendous burps. Dammit. Haven't had that in a while.

Based on my body weight and all that, I only require 1800 calories a day. Not that I'm fanatical about counting them, but my stomach knows what it can well, stomach. I kinda roughly know the portions that ought to be eaten daily. Like I said, I don't want to drop the weight because I want to gain muscles. I was simply greedy and stuffed everything in without much thought. Oops.

Besides sipping ginger water, I wasn't going to eat more things to get rid of indigestion. Gotta work off that burn. My next two consecutive pilates classes weren't going to cut it. I'd need to put in cardio too, before the usual cardio days. Wasn't keen on running. Scrambled to look for cardio-intensive classes at the gym to zip into the next morning.

Managed to go for a barre class + pilates. Then the next day was some circuit thing + pilates. Sure it was a sweatfest; surprisingly my heart rate didn't go berserk. I didn't feel like puking. Didn't embarrassingly burp through the classes. I felt fine. Like, balanced. Was totally up for boxing the third day, and finally, the digestive system quietened. Yay! Gotta watch my diet for the week. This would teach me to over-do the carbs and food portions again. 😃

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Morsels at Dempsey

I've always been fond of Morsels, but haven't had the time to visit its new home in Dempsey. Found a date to hop in with the man's parents for lunch. I was tight on time and for once, I couldn't do a venue recce prior. Could only take a look at the photos on the internet and trust Petrina's sense of aesthetics! So we just told the parents to dress light and casual. Took the parentals out of their comfort zone (for both food and venue) and showed them awesome mod-Sin cuisine at Morsels.

It was grey and rainy all day. But luckily it wasn't such a thunderstorm to make walking outdoors unpleasant. Parking is less of a headache too. This new larger space is just as cosy, keeping its casual vibes. The placement of the tables and chairs and high ceiling made it more comfortable for diners. Grinned when I heard Benjamin Francis Leftwich's songs as background music. Either part of a playlist, or the person choosing the music is a fan. (He's playing in Singapore this Friday at Hard Rock Cafe.)

When we have a table of four, it's definitely time to try every dish possible! Ordered more or less everything on the menu. Hurhurhur. Had to have the Brewdog's milk stout 'Jet Black Heart'. So good. It was a seriously smooth sable stout. Portions are small, but great for sharing among four persons. It would have been a wee much for two.

The wild Sri Lankan tiger prawns sat on toast with green harissa aioli egg salad, fermented celery and bombay onions was full of umami and was definitely a good brunch bite. The familiar charred house-poached octopus on squid ink pearl rice risotto, salted egg sauce and tobiko was still as gorgeous. The burnt somen with monkey head mushroom dashi, pickled woodier, charred corn and sugar snaps was quite fun. Ume-sake braised black angus beef short ribs was ordered because the man's father loves his beef. It sat atop a delicious Okinawan sweet potato. Yummy!

Made it to dessert only because three people on the table are keen on sweets. Hehehe. Its signature Milo tiramisu was a winner. The jackfruit done in three ways with coconut yoghurt, almond nougat brittle and brown butter crumble was really cool. Coffee was super decent. I don't know if the parentals enjoyed the food, but they certainly didn't seem averse to it!

Monday, June 19, 2017

What Kind of Dreamer Are You

Strictly speaking, this is a book targeted at a much much younger age group. But hey, I am drawn to beautifully illustrated books, and who's to say I can't enjoy them.

Once in a while, I buy these happy books, in hard cover. They're not that thick, and not too difficult to keep. The shelves for these books haven't been filled up. Heh. Author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds' 'Happy Dreamer' (2017) is one of those books that I spotted in a Seattle bookstore and bought it immediately for keeps.

The little boy in this book is a dreamer, sharing with us how he dreams, and why he is sometimes sad. He tells us that there're so many different types of dreamers out there, and the best way to be a happy dreamer is "just be you".

I don't think I have happy dreams when I sleep. At least not the candy fluff, popcorn and rainbows. For as far back as I remember, at least for those dreams that could be recalled upon waking, they always have something to do with vampires, zombie apocalypse, fighting monsters, and such. Teeeheeehe. I love them! I could dream in episodes over a week! But it means I get interrupted sleep. Boo. Mostly, my sleep is dreamless.

Sure, a few flips and the book is read in five minutes. The words are minimal, and the concept is simple. But that isn't the point of such a book. It needs to be lingered over and mulled upon. I went back to the cover page, looked at every corner and have a think before turning the page. Ahhh dreams. Childhood dreams and adult dreams. The book even ends in a happy picture of multi-racial children being themselves and exploring their dreams, and infinite possibilities.

We should make time to do this.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

OMG, Those Muscles!

Robin Wright as General Antiope. [📷: Los Angeles Times.]

There's all the talk about Patty Jenkins and the success of recent release 'Wonder Woman'. It's mostly about Patty Jenkins, and how she made the first blockbuster film for the DC extended universe (DCEU) in a long while. The Marvel cinematic universe has beaten DCEU hands down so far. I'm gushing about the Amazon warriors in this movie.

I adore the scenes in Themyscira. The mock combat and training grounds on the island. That battle scene at the beach. I was completely mind-blown. I kinda shut out everything after that. Now, Themyscira. Amazonians. Female warriors. The months of training the cast would have gone through to get those muscles, and many exuded that grace and power that seem to only come from a lifetime of practice. Many are professional athletes. Even nine-year-old Lilly Aspell, who plays young Diana, is quite the acomplished rider IRL and loves eventing. The Amazonians included former Team GB pentathlete and long-jumper Jenny Pacey, Nigerian heptathlete Moe Sasegbon, Swedish kickboxer Madeleine Vall Beijner, pro boxer Ann Wolfe, martial artists Mayling Ng and Samantha Jo and CrossFit champ Brooke Ence.

To fill out the female army’s ranks, the filmmakers scoured the world of professional sports. The casting directors visited gyms and attended CrossFit competitions. They scouted basketball and volleyball players and pro dancers. 
~ The New York Post, 1 June 2017

Six months of toughening up for the roles- horse-riding, weights, circuit-training, fight and weapons training. Woah. Not for the faint-hearted. The muscles and fighting stance tell the whole story of what had gone into creating them. Needless to say, I'm completely inspired to hit the gym harder. For me, the star of the show is 51-year-old Robin Wright. She is amazing as General Antiope. Look at her fire those arrows! My idea of her as compelling and politically-ambitious doyenne Claire Underwood ('House of Cards') is completely gone, replaced by the feroicous and skilled General Antiope in full battle regalia.

When I read the stories of the actresses, how they had trained for these scenes, and their heartfelt stories of bonding on set, I'm now hoping for a spin-off movie just about Queen Hippolyta and her warriors, and Themyscira. Yes, fangirl here. Hehehe. Hopefully it doesn't follow the Greek tragedy arc (of Heracles, Thesus and Hippolyta). The suggested origin of the Amazonians in this film is in bits and pieces, but it's still pretty cool.

“I give a lot of credit to Patty Jenkins for creating this vibe, it truly went top-down,” Beijner said. “This movie is about a lot of things, but female power, wisdom and badassery is what’s at the core. And Patty managed to get that out of each and every one of us, as well as a team, or troops. Us Amazons challenged each other while training, only to push each other further and to become stronger. Beyond that, we used our fighting spirit to support each other. There were days we were so tired we could sleep standing up, but we went at it, again and again and again.” 
~ HuffPost, 13 June 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sitting Outdoors in the Shade

Had enough of offices and cafes. Felt a bit stifled. But I had a few deadlines to clear. Or rather the pieces of work had been drafted, but not quite ready to be sent off; I needed to review them before submissions and presentations.

Wanted to work outdoors, and have some good coffee. And not have to wear corporate dresses or pants. Just wanted to sit around in dri-fit gear. Escaped to girlfriend's place for some space, fresh air and secure wifi. It was a hot day. Ate a satisfying one-dish lunch at the corner coffeeshop, then we headed back to her house to furiously type away on our respective Macbooks. Thick black coffee, chilled strawberries and refreshing apples, and a constantly filled glass of iced water. It was perfect! Honestly, when I'm in the right clothes, appropriately hydrated and in the shade, I don't need air-conditioning. At the rate of people are falling sick, sniffling and coughing, I'd rather get in some non-shared air away from a confined block.

In between emails and edits, I stared at the giant tree in the back garden. It was in bloom. Pink flowers. I know there're two big trees there, but I've never really noticed it till today, because of the pink flowers. The trees are either a pink mempat or a trumpet. I couldn't tell. *shrug* The girlfriend doesn't know either. Heh.