A visit to the Asian Civilisations Museum for the Raffles exhibition

I saw these ads last Thursday, and recalled reading about how there is to be an exhibition of Sir Stamford Raffles, regarded as the founder of modern Singapore, as part of the Singapore Bicentennial which marks the 200th anniversary of his arrival in Singapore. The eyebrow-raising posters reminded me that the exhibition was to showcase ‘another side of Raffles’, one different and less flattering than the usual narrative we learned about in school.

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But why, though? I don’t understand holding an exhibition on somebody considered a giant in Singapore’s history just to slag him off? Okay maybe not to slag him off but to point out shit he’s done, along with the good, and as the poster says, for us to make up our own mind about things he did, 200 years ago. But why hold an exhibition just to do that? Is he, and for what reason, suddenly on trial in the court of public opinion suddenly after 200 years?

Is it something to do with, or inspired by, the white supremacy or white privilege discussions going on that are on trend for some time now? They are long overdue and I’m glad they are talked about now, and I hope it’s not just talk but will lead to actual equality for the ordinary regular folk of the world, as vague as that sounds. For better or worse I don’t follow them, though. Not ‘woke’ enough and too busy and blissfully ignorant being sheep I guess, working to earn a living and worrying about my future and living my life simply (working hard. Treating others how I expect them to treat me, with kindness and respect. Ignoring and avoiding assholes and other toxic people. Simple things like that.)

I’m not for or against Raffles but just curious about the point of the exhibition. It’s not like anyone among the public worship him or particularly care about him and put him on a pedestal. Well yes, but just a statue, like any country’s more noted historical figures.

Not to disrespect the dead but I think for most of us he’s just a name in history textbooks, and on some touristy places and things. Do members of the public take history all that seriously, anyway? I don’t think so. I certainly don’t. I think most of us know that history is written according to the writer, the victor, the ruler. So yeah, while partaking in the subject, it’s “wow that’s interesting… so fascinating…“, but once I’m done reading, it’s ‘ok, whatever‘. Back to other things.

I wonder if museums in, say, England hold similar exhibitions for, say, Winston Churchill where they present the bad things he is said to have done along with the good. I have read about some seriously appalling things Churchill had allegedly done, this man said to be regarded by many there as the greatest Briton ever.

I think I’m just annoyed mostly because the posters worked on me. Just two days later on my first day off from work, I went to the venue, the Asian Civilisations Museum. This was yesterday.

THE NEOCLASSICAL BUILDING

I’m so glad I went. It’s such a beautiful building and the museum inside is very well done. I found it very interesting and am now keen to make time to visit our other museums.

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Coming from Raffles Place MRT station, I could soon see the museum which was located on the north bank of the Singapore River. Many times I have crossed Cavenagh Bridge and walked past the beauty, and finally I was going inside. I don’t remember when was the last time, if ever, I had gone in.

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Previously the Empress Place Building, it was completed in 1867. Originally planned to be used as a courthouse, it housed instead government offices until the late 1980s. It was gazetted as a national monument in 1992.

I haven’t visited a museum in years, and the more recent visits were all on holidays overseas, like to Italy or Thailand. Well, last December I did pop into the National Museum here for a couple of hours but that was for a specific and small exhibition organised by the Embassy of Italy. I did not take the time to explore the rest of the museum after that.

When tourist friends and acquaintances visited Singapore, none so far had wanted to visit museums and for many years neither did I think to suggest it to them. I think that was due to me bringing an Italian former friend to a museum here a long time ago, with such pride because I love our National Museum, but the rude bugger was snickering and rolling his eyes at a lot of the stuff we consider old here. That was probably 20 years ago but his assholic behavior probably traumatised me or something because no more museum suggestions to tourist friends since then.

EXPENSIVE

I think I read some years ago that our museums are now free for Singaporeans and permanent residents. I must be mistaken. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to pay S$12 for the exhibition, and my partner Bert who was with me and who is neither Singaporean nor a permanent resident, was to pay S$20. Fortunately the kind lady at the reception, seeing our hesitance, gave us a tip that between 1pm and 5pm there would be a flat rate of $5 for each of us, a special promotion for that day. So we decided to come back a while later for that discount. In the meantime we took a stroll around the beautiful historical area which turned out to be such a pleasure, being a Saturday near the business district area. Very few people around and therefore very pleasant.

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Check out the prices for the exhibition without discounts above. Both Bert and I are working adults with no kids to support and we already balk at the prices. Firstly, how the heck are locals, especially from low-income groups, supposed to be interested to explore our museums when the entrance fee of particular exhibitions are expensive. I myself was drawn to visit one after many years only because of that particular Raffles exhibition. If one is prejudiced enough to say that low-income folks are not interested in museums and other cultural stuff anyway because we are not educated enough, well the high entry fee would dissuade even those with interest from visiting.

And what about low-wage foreign workers like our hundreds of thousands of domestic helpers and construction workers. Why can’t we share our museums with them, by having the museums promoted to them and made accessible to them with free entry or a small token fee of a couple of dollars. These people help to build our country, too. Anyone from any economic background, let alone the poor, would appreciate affordable places to visit on an off day, whether interested in art or culture in the first place or not, when forced to work in a foreign land just to send money home to families because there is no work in their home country.

And secondly, I remember visiting the Vatican Museums in Rome, which are MASSIVE!, as in MASSIVELY HUGE!, and just about some of the most important and most revered museums IN THE WORLD, for obvious reasons. How much do they charge? According to their Prices and Tickets page, €17.00 for the whole museum complex and the Sistine Chapel, which is like Singapore $26.00. Compare that to the Singapore $20.00 for the Asian Civilisations Museum here for foreigners’ entry. It’s very expensive.

EXHIBITION: “REVISITING THE SCHOLAR AND STATESMAN, RAFFLES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA”

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A portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles greeted the visitor at the entrance of the exhibition. He was 36 when he sat for this portrait in 1817 at the end of his governorship in Java. He was born on 6 July 1781, off the coast of Jamaica on board a ship under the command of his father Benjamin Raffles. At 14 he became a clerk of the East India Company in London, and in 1805 at the age of 24 he was posted to Penang to serve as assistant-secretary.

If you have any interest to learn about the guy, two sites to start with that have short basic summaries of a page each are Encyclopedia.com  and Britannica.com.

The exhibition, which has been running since 1st February and lasts till 28 April, is in collaboration with the British Museum in London. It consists mostly of Javanese and Sumatran objects he personally collected.

The ‘less flattering’ bits highlighted about Raffles vary in severity. For example, at the beginning at his portrait, the guided tour I was on talked about how a sculpture had been painted differently (the actual sculpture the depiction was based on was featured beside the painting), for example, the position of its left arm was different, and so ‘artistic license’ had been taken. That made me go, ‘Huh?‘. Even today when it comes to artistic license, it is taken liberally, like when films based on books are made. Some purists of the book may get angry, and then discussions on the alleged transgressions may be had. So to me it seems like such a stretch to highlight the painting of the statue. UNLESS of course, if according to the religion, Buddhist statues MUST strictly be represented only in a certain way, and the artist failed to do so, then yes I would agree it was wrong.

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A seriously shocking and horrifying thing Raffles had done that I took away with me from the exhibition was when the British invaded Java in 1811.

Reading more about it when I got home, I came across a review of a book called ‘Raffles and the British Invasion of Java’ by Tim Hannigan which included how the British army of 10,000 redcoats and Indian sepoys conquered the Dutch colony.

…They would remain there for five turbulent years. (The) history-cum-biography explores the bloody battles and furious controversies that marked British rule in Java, and reveals the future founder of Singapore, Thomas Stamford Raffles – long celebrated as a hero, a liberal and a visionary – in a shocking new light, showing how he crushed dissent, looted palaces and incited massacres to further his own insatiable ambitions. The book features the dramatic Battle of Batavia, the sinister British expedition to Palembang, the 1812 sacking and looting of Yogyakarta, and various fights between soldiers and civilians, buffaloes and tigers, and Englishmen and Javanese.

Yep, definitely didn’t know that about the guy.

A review of the same book from Toko Buku also said that it:

tells the story of how the British attempted to bring the full force of European colonialism to a tropical island where Muslim sultans claimed descent from Hindu gods.

…Major histories only give the period a few paragraphs at most.

The whole book starts out with the assertion, often heard even by educated Indonesians, that they would’ve been better off if they had been colonized by the British and not the Dutch. …(It) reveals Raffles – long celebrated as a hero, a liberal and a visionary, ‘the last colonialist it’s OK to like’ –in a shocking new light. Indeed, Raffles made for a very strange sort of hero.

This history features the dramatic Battle of Batavia, the sinister British expedition to Palembang, a series of bloody battles between soldiers and civilians, fights between Englishmen and Javanese and a gut-wrenching duel between a buffalo and tiger. The crux of the literary narrative is the clash and deep irreconcilable abyss between nascent European colonialism and the old courtly culture of Java. In an effort to impress the people of Java with the might of British power, Raffles attacked, wrecked, cowed and humiliated Java’s most powerful and influential native court.

Not only did the British break the power of the venerable Javanese kraton, but introduced opium to Java on a large scale, entrenched the position of Chinese middlemen, set up a strong sense of racial separation between the rulers and their subjects and created the concept of extracting maximum agricultural wealth from the island. One of the most enduring myths about Raffles during the strange half-decade that he spent on Java was that he hated slavery. Actually, the man was not an abolitionist and allowed the trade of slaves under the age of 14 and even kept 77 slaves in his own home.

GUIDED TOUR

I was on a guided tour with another 15 or so visitors. It lasted an hour and I thoroughly enjoyed it (and not because it was free-of-charge, haha). From now on when I visit other museums and galleries I will try to time visits to guided tours, if details are available online. The tour I had here was wonderful because my volunteer guide was good and engaging. She wasn’t just rattling off facts in a monotone, but it was more like friendly banter, more like sharing juicy gossipy tidbits with a group of friends. It was fun (despite being distracted by noisy kids at some points) and made the exhibits she touched on come alive a bit, and far more interesting when reading and squinting at their captions in tiny letters later after the tour had ended.

I’m sorry I didn’t catch my guide’s name. I wish I did. She was a middle-aged Chinese lady. My tour was the 1.30 pm one yesterday, Saturday the 30th.

SOME PHOTOS

To close off this post, here are some photos from the exhibition. Sorry some of the text aren’t clear. I’m just terrible with photography, with any camera but especially with phone cameras.

 

Related:

 

 

 

 

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From the bottom of my heart, “Thank you” to the people of New Zealand

Like many people around the world, I am deeply moved by the display of humanity by New Zealanders in reaction to the terrorist attack that happened recently in Christchurch.

That city had already been hit hard in February 2011 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck. 185 people were killed, 6000 injured and around 170,000 buildings were damaged. Till today the country’s earthquake commission is dealing with thousands of claims from that earthquake.

Almost two weeks ago on 15 March, Christchurch suffered another tragedy when a 28-year-old Australian terrorist and white supremacist, wearing military-style clothing and bearing semi-automatic weapons and shotguns, attacked worshippers during Friday Prayers at Al Noor Mosque. He then drove away to Linwood Islamic Centre located five kilometres away to carry out another attack. 50 people died and another 50 injured. Police stopped and arrested the gunman before he could move on to a third location to continue his killing spree.

The rest of the world is just as shocked as New Zealanders themselves that this has happened in their country, long considered a very safe one. Prior to this, the worst public shooting was in 1990 in the seaside township of Aramoana where a verbal dispute between neighbours ended up with one of them fatally shooting 13 people. However, experts say that right-wing extremism has been growing in New Zealand in recent years.

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I keep reading in the news about the action from the New Zealanders in response to this horrific tragedy. I feel it’s truly exemplary how they have come together, how even in their shock and grief they still express so much compassion and unity, and that the rest of the world can learn so much from this.

We have to remember always that when terrorists attack us, (them and the war-mongering powers-that-be that sponsor and support them including politicians, and journalists, social media activists, and others who benefit from chaos) whether they call themselves Muslims or Christians or whatever, that the purpose of their cowardly attacks is to divide us. To ultimately bring fear and suspicion and hatred so that we turn against each other. They are such a tiny minority and they need many more supporters if they are to further their agendas, and so they continue to kill the innocent to continue trying to sow hatred to try get more people to their side.

Unfortunately there will always be people, a few we might even know, and who are supposed to be educated but who are still stupid enough to fall for the con of the terrorists. These people claim to hate terrorists but are actually serving the objectives of the terrorists by making disdainful remarks about an entire religion or community. Of course, there are also people who already hate certain religions and communities and are using terrorist attacks as excuses to further the spread of their hate. It’s encouraging therefore that they are in the minority. It’s encouraging that with every terrorist attack there are more expressions of support to both victims and the community being put in a bad light because the terrorist is said to belong to it. Nobody with a shred of common sense and decency is going to let these terrorists win by succumbing to the hate they are trying to create.

New Zealand however has taken the response to deny terrorists their objective to a whole new level, and with action as well, not just thoughts and prayers. The world is watching their leaders especially their Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with admiration for her exemplary and firm leadership, as well as regular Kiwi folks who have displayed so much strength and solidarity.

Even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been heavily criticised for showing at his political rallies parts of a video the terrorist took during his attack, made an effort to single out Ms Ardern for praise. (At least 3 Turkish citizens were among the wounded in the attacks. On top of that, in the hate-filled manifesto the terrorist had written, he had called for the assassination of Mr Erdogan along with others such as Sadiq Khan the mayor of London, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.)

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Mr Erdogan wrote that:

all Western leaders must learn from the courage, leadership and sincerity of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to embrace Muslims living in their respective countries.”

I think the Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who was in New Zealand and visited Christchurch (two Jordanians were among those killed) expressed it best in an interview with Radio New Zealand when he said:

“It is simply impossible not to take heed of the goodness, of the kotahitanga, of New Zealanders.”

“And I think that a world at war with itself can only find serenity in the example of the compassion and the love that New Zealanders have shown.”

A quick online check of what kotahitanga means turned up unity and solidarity in Māori, the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, also called Māori.

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There are so many instances of how the New Zealanders, leaders and the public alike, acted so admirably in response to the tragedy. I can’t possibly list them all but here are some of the ones that have particularly stayed with me:

ORDINARY FOLKS EXPRESSING SUPPORT

Linked above, CNN World reported how various communities were helping others, including the Te Atatū Baptist Church in Auckland which announced on Facebook that it was opening its doors to Muslims because mosques had been closed.

As a Muslim I am heartened and thankful the article also mentioned that Muslims have shown heart to others as well, for example raising funds for their Jewish brothers and sisters after the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in the U.S. last October.

I read on Mothership website of the two New Zealanders, remarkably beautiful souls, who separately visited two different mosques to express their support and sympathy on Saturday 16 March, just a day after the attack. Both the mosques have posted about the visits on their Facebook pages.

On Al-Huda Mosque’s page, its chairman Azman Kassim posted that a New Zealander lady named Mrs Kim Forrester, visited the mosque and apologised on behalf of her countrymen for what happened and prayed for the Muslim community. Mr Azman said she need not have apologised and expressed his gratitude for her gesture.

The second New Zealander is an unnamed gentleman. He is pictured below in the Facebook post by Masjid Al-Falah, with flowers he had brought and a note in the bouquet. The mosque said in the post that the gentleman offered his condolences and thoughts, and that he was deeply affected by the tragedy and wanted to express his support for the victims.

The story on Mothership featured the note in the bouquet. It was in both Māori and English and read:

“Kia Raha, Ria toa, Ri a manawanui

Be strong, be brave, be steadfast

E Ihowa Atua, Te aroha noa,

O Lord God, care for us”

Buzzfeed News wrote how just three days after the attack, on the first day school reopened since the attack, thousands of students from various schools in Christchurch gathered at Hagley Park, near one of the two mosques where the shootings took place. They went there after school, bearing candles and flowers for a vigil to pay their respects to the dead and to share how the event had impacted them.

One of the students at the vigil named Heneli remarked:

I’ve never seen so much support from outside of communities. I just love it, to see that everyone’s here, showing their respect.”

And another named Vitorina said that:

“Even though we’re different ethnicities, different cultures, different religions, we care. As one, we all came here, we showed that we cared for Muslims.”

Later that week on 22 March, thousands of the public gathered at Hagley Park to show solidarity with the Muslims. Radio New Zealand’s website wrote that:

Men in suits, women wearing headscarves – some for the first time – patched gang members, toddlers in pushchairs, and hundreds in the traditional dress of a culture less familiar.”

At that same gathering that took place on a Friday one week since the terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said to the attendees:

According to Muslim faith, the Prophet Muhammad, sallahu alaihi wasallam (peace be upon him) said, ‘The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body feels pain.”

“New Zealand mourns with you. We are one.”

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VOLUNTARY GIVING UP OF GUNS

Even before the ban on semi-automatic weapons announcement that came on 21 March, the terrorist attack in Christchurch had moved some Kiwi gun owners to give up their weapons of their own accord such as the following two:

Both persons above have had to put up with pro-gun critics and trolls on their Twitter accounts regarding their decision, but there are also many people supporting and thanking them.

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GUN LAWS

Impressively, it took Ms Ardern just six days since the attack to announce a ban on semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, announcing as well that a buyback programme will be launched to take existing weapons out of circulation. This ban was also supported by the country’s opposition party whose leader, Simon Bridges, said that it is in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe.

This action was stunningly decisive and firm enough to draw praise from two American politicians who lamented that this is the kind of leadership the U.S. needs to protect its people, including schoolchildren. Bernie Sanders, a Senator and presidential candidate tweeted:

While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Congresswoman for New York, made reference to the horrific December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where 20 children and 6 adult staff were fatally shot:

New Zealand is said to have an estimated 1.2 million guns registered to civilians. With a population of about 4.8 million people, the ownership works out to about 1 gun for every 4 people, or about 26.3 firearms per 100 people. In comparison, this is far better than the U.S. which is said to have more guns than people with about 120 firearms per 100 people. However, Australia fares better than New Zealand with almost half the number of firearms per capita with about 14.5 firearms per 100 people.

(On a side note, my mind is ALWAYS blown all over again EVERY. SINGLE. TIME I think of how much smaller the population of countries like New Zealand is compared to Singapore. We have 5.6 million people on our tiny island, so tiny we nicknamed it our ‘little red dot’, while New Zealand, the whole of New Zealand!, has only 4.8 million. These numbers make me feel even more confined and claustrophobic, not to mentioned annoyed, when I’m out amidst human congestion!)

(However, in the spirit of always having gratitude for the things to be grateful for, and this is a MAJOR one, we don’t have guns in the hands of the public. Phew!)

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THE NEXT STEP: WORKING TO PREVENT SIMILAR TRAGEDIES

And now Jacinda Ardern has also ordered a royal commission, the highest level of independent inquiry available under the country’s law to investigate how the tragedy could have happened, and whether the police and intelligence services could have done more to prevent it from happening. The formal inquiry is also to look into the issues of the accessibility of semi-automatic weapons and the role of social media in the attacks.

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Linked above is the full list of the 50 killed in the attack.

*Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un*

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Singapore’s HIV data leak. 14,200 individuals affected.

The records were of those diagnosed with HIV from 1985 to January 2013, comprising of 5,400 Singaporeans diagnosed from 1985 to January 2013, and 8,800 foreigners diagnosed from 1985 to December 2011. ‘Foreigners’ include work and visit pass applicants and holders.

Information leaked include names, identification numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and medical information besides HIV test results.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) was informed about the leak on 22nd January. The person allegedly responsible for this is said to be Mikhy Farrera Brochez, the male American partner of Ler Teck Siang, a Singaporean male doctor who used to work in the Ministry as the Head of their National Public Health Unit.

If you are interested to read more about those two and their alleged criminal activities, here are some details in easy-to-read point form:

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I was so shocked and gutted when I read about it last week. And as a gay Singaporean in Singapore, where there are no laws to protect People Living with HIV (PLHIV) against discrimination, my first thought was that of fear for those affected, regardless gay or straight. Of how if their HIV-positive status are made known to their employers and colleagues, they could still be discriminated or shunned at work if not fired altogether. And then I thought of those who are gay and still closeted, how devastating it would be if all is revealed to their families when they are not yet emotionally ready or willing to reveal they are gay, let alone HIV-positive. And then I thought of how the Samaritans of Singapore and other helplines might need to beef up their manpower because there might be a whole lot more vulnerable people now who might need their help. Yeah, I got crazy-scared for the affected people like that.

I mean, my God, what a nightmare. And it’s happening in real life. And it’s happening in my own beloved Singapore, where we fancy ourselves a first world country. Yet, not only do we still have that horrid law Section 377A that criminalises sex between mutually consenting adult males, and not only do we lack the anti-HIV discrimination laws that would be the decent thing to have to protect vulnerable people against stigma, but we have also now allowed this to happen. I can’t even imagine the heartbreak and anger and FEAR I would feel right now if I were one of those affected.

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I had actually gone for a HIV test at the Anonymous Testing Service organised by Action for Aids, the day after news about it broke on Monday 28th January. I was clueless then about what happened. But if I had known? Then forget it! I wouldn’t have gone for that test. I no longer trust our Ministry of Health to care for my confidential information (and this was not even the first time health records were breached), and by extension, any of our local NGOs. I say this with deep regret, because organizations like Action for Aids Singapore have worked SO HARD for more than 20 years to gain the trust of the gay community and other locals. It’s not their fault that the law makes it mandatory for the HIV-infected to be notified to the HIV registry.

But that’s exactly why I will NEVER AGAIN go for a HIV test in Singapore, in case it turns out positive. My HIV tests from now on will only be taken while on holiday trips in, say, Thailand. If, God forbid, I turn out to be HIV-positive one day and need subsidy for medication, at least it will be MY DECISION to inform some government registry or anyone else, friends or family, and only when I’m emotionally ready to do so. Ideally. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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Irish Soda Bread

I just made some soda bread.

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Fresh out the oven and ready to have some decadent butter slathered all over it while it’s still hot.

Irish soda bread is my go-to bread recipe for about a year now. Simply because it is so delicious. I just love how substantial and dense it is. So lovely to dunk into things like olive oil and curries. On top of that it also has other major bonus points going for it:

  • Quick to prepare, within minutes. No rise time required!
  • So incredibly easy.
  • Just 4 ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk

Well, 5, if you include lemon or white vinegar to make a buttermilk substitute. Buttermilk is not an ingredient I’m familiar with, and I found it is available in the supermarkets here but it’s expensive. It costs quite a lot more than regular milk. Happily enough I have learned I can quickly and easily make my own substitute. It’s basically just mixing in 2 tablespoons of lemon or white vinegar to every cup of milk, and letting it stand for a while so it thickens, about 10 minutes or so.

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Here’s the video where I discovered the wonderful Irish Soda Bread, and the charming presenter Darina Allen. It’s only 4 minutes long. I’ve since learned that Darina is a famous and highly-respected chef and food writer. I like her manner of presenting. I’m not a fan of all TV chefs, some I just find too loud and brash. I guess trying too hard to be interesting. I like the ones like this lady here who is engaging and enthusiastic enough, charismatic but still calm and soothing to watch. And of course the Irish accent is always lovely to hear.

In case the video above doesn’t work, the recipe is also available at: Darina Allen’s Irish Soda Bread. Variations such as turning the dough into cheese scones are also suggested there. I’ve tried the cheese scone version and they were very nice too.

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The loaf I just made is smaller than the prescribed recipe, because I only wanted to make 1 Cup of the buttermilk substitute. The amount of flour I therefore also reduced, from 3.5 Cups to 2.5 Cups.

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To add on to all the things I already mentioned about why I love Irish Soda Bread, I also love the ‘rustic’ look about it, which also puts a smile on my face because anything rustic makes me think of that sometimes-pretentiously-used word, artisanal :-)

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And here’s another short video, on how to make a buttermilk substitute. Really short at only 1 minute and 19 seconds! I love these short videos! I hate it when these tutorials are unnecessarily long because the presenters yak and yak on and on. This one is concise, with another lovely presenter with a lovely Irish accent to boot.

 

Modern table design and flower arrangement at One Farrer Hotel Singapore

I don’t normally go for modern design, but this table at the lobby of One Farrer Hotel near Serangoon Road caught my eye . I like how even in its minimalism, and without any natural material like timber, it still has a somewhat organic character. Which is why I find it interesting.

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The flower arrangement, however, is not my cup of tea. I wonder what statement or look the florist was going for. To me personally this arrangement as a whole looks a little unfinished and untidy, like we’re looking at a work table at the housekeeping department where the arrangements are kept before being dispatched to various locations in the hotel.

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Maybe I’m just too anal and rigid, and have to try to better appreciate designs that are more relaxed and free-flowing. Especially in that modern and stark lobby, a bit of randomness (albeit still controlled in containers) gives a much needed breath of fresh air. And that is always appreciated, as I’m just not a fan of modern minimalist interiors. I just find it so cold and sterile. So, yes, I still enjoyed looking at this bit of ‘contained chaos’. It’s refreshing.

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Anyway it doesn’t matter much how flowers are arranged. Nice arrangements are always appreciated, but flowers are always lovely to look at no matter how they are arranged.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Thanks to an Instagram post by Pink Dot, I find out that today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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According to the Human Rights Campaign website,

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an opportunity for communities to come together and remember transgender people, gender-variant individuals, and those perceived to be transgender who have been murdered because of hate.

Its Wikipedia page says of its origin:

Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, and it has slowly evolved from the web-based project started by Smith into an international day of action. In 2010, TDoR was observed in over 185 cities throughout more than 20 countries

On that Wikipedia page it is also stated that the Canadian province of Ontario passed the Trans Day of Remembrance Act on 12th December 2017. This officially recognizes TDoR and even requires its Legislative Assembly to hold a moment of silence every year on 20th November.

My respect for Canada just grows and grows. They are truly a progressive and compassionate nation.

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On the Human Rights Campaign website, there is a list of women who were murdered in the past year, Memorializing 2018. There are listed under country, alphabetically, with information like this:

Carolina/Camila Angulo Paredes
Buenos Aires, Argentina
29-Dec-17
shot

or

Unknown Name
Manaus, Brazil
31-Aug-18
stabbed

Shot, Stabbed, Unknown, Stabbed, Decapitated / Dismembered, Beaten, Shot, Shot, Tortured, Unknown, Tortured, Stabbed, Beaten, Stabbed, Shot, Beaten, Throat Cut, Suffocated, Beaten and Hanged, Burned, Run Over by Car, Shot, Shot, Beaten, Strangled / Hanged, Shot, Stabbed, Beaten…

And it goes on and on and on. And that’s just the Memorializing 2018 list.

I can’t help but wonder how many of these sick acts were done in the name of religion, by horribly misguided sick f**ks. Many, I suspect.

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I remember what happened to Sameera Krishnan in Malaysia last year, and looked for her name in the Memorializing 2017 list. And there it was:

Meera
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
23-Feb-17
Victim was shot and stabbed

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The late Sameera Krishnan

Sameera was only 26.

Rest in Peace, brave, beautiful soul.

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I can’t help but think of Aleesha Farhana as well, who passed away on 30th July 2011, also in Malaysia. She was not murdered, but I take this occasion to remember her too. She died of a heart attack, at only 25.

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The late Aleesha Farhana

*al-Fatehah*

According to an article from Malaysian newspaper The Star, Aleesha and even her parents had been subjected to ‘scorn, ridicule, and cruel taunts‘. And like her, ‘an estimated 50,000 transgender people in the country are shunned by society and are often abused.’

To read my post back in 2011 which included something about her, click here.

*

Related:

Mitzvah Day: Jews and Muslims working together to help those in need

Mitzvah Day is an annual day of social action led by the Jewish community where volunteer work is done together with people from other faiths. According to Wikipedia, in Britain it started in 2005 when it was introduced there by Laura Marks, who got the idea from the synagogue she attended when she lived in the United States for several years.

For the 2018 London event which was held just this past Sunday, it was held at East London Mosque, where volunteers from Muslim Aid and Stoke Newington Shul cooked 1,000 bowls of chicken soup for the homeless. It is through this particular story on the BBC website that I came across the event. Around the world, 40,000 volunteers undertake similar or other activities to help those in need.

On the Mitzvah Day website, I also learned about its sister initiative, the Muslim-led Sadaqa Day which takes place in March. Sadaqa Day was formed in 2015 and provides another opportunity for volunteers from different faiths to get together for volunteer work.

I was very surprised that such beautiful collaborations exist, and was just as surprised that I got a little teary reading about it, haha.

It’s just that there is so much negative news when it comes to interfaith relations, especially between Muslims and Jews. Of course the various issues involved are very complex and have been so for ages, but that’s even more reason to celebrate, or at least not neglect, the similarities in values we share.

Because, really, the assholes seeking to divide us with hatred and enmity are really such a tiny minority, whether they are terrorists, politicians inciting fear and hatred to win elections, racist people with a chip on the shoulder inciting even more fear and hatred on forum boards online and elsewhere, etc. We have to remember that people in general, the great majority of us from whatever race, religion and nationality, are good, honest folks, who just want to get on with our lives, earning a living for ourselves and/or our families, and who just have no time or inclination for any racist or religion-bashing shit. That’s what I believe.

Related:

  • The Guardian – 18 November 2018 – Mitzvah Day: Jews and Muslims come together to cook chicken soup
  • Mitzvah Day – Jews and Muslims unite again for Sadaqa Day
  • The following video is from last year, featuring the event in Detroit in the United States.

 

One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston – 30th Anniversary

I was listening to her greatest hits album just now, just enthralled all over again for the thousandth time by her voice. And sad at the same time that she had gone way too soon.

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Oh Whitney. What a loss.

When I got to One Moment in Time on Disc 2 of the album above, I realised it’s now been three whole decades since that beautiful song was released. And talking of how crazy-fast time flies, it has now been six years since she left us in 2012.

It was recorded for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. Every time I heard the song I would always think it was for the Los Angeles Olympics of 1988, but checking it for this post, I realise I had been mistaken all this time. L.A. hosted the previous Games in 1984, not in 1988.

Thirty years on it is still THE Olympic Games Song, hands down. No other song from the Games, Winter or Summer, or any other song from other sporting events like the songs from the FIFA World Cup for example, comes close. Written by Albert Hammond and John Bettis, and produced by Narada Michael Walden, One Moment in Time is just so inspirational and just so perfect for the world’s premier sporting event. You can feel the raw grit, the sweat, tears and blood, the crazy hard work, the prayers and determination of the athletes who the song salutes and empathises with. The song is just so breathlessly beautiful, brought to life and imbued with fierce spirit and soul by Whitney’s voice and flawless delivery.

Oh Whitney. *hand on heart*

Here’s a video of a live performance in 1989, thanks to a Youtube user called MJChristina.

 

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Fabulous beef lasagna and fish & chips at Appetito stall, Alexandra Village Food Centre

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It was supposed to be just another quick drop-in at a random hawker centre recently for me and my partner for an early dinner. We were heading to Ikea Alexandra next to stock up on candles, and this place was just across the street. After walking around awhile wondering what to eat, we decided on this particular stall called Appetito.

The food took some time to come, but when it did, oh boy, were we pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. And considering the hawker centre prices, it was not just good but fabulous.

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Bert chose the Beef Lasagna. $7. Look how nice the presentation is with just a bit more effort. The plastic dish was nicer than the usual hawker centre plate with its pretty geometric design. The extra effort on a great visual from the stall owner was much appreciated.

Bert is an Italian who doesn’t normally eat Italian when we eat out here, because he says it normally sucks, or it’s overpriced or both. He prefers to cook his own Italian food, and goes for local fare or other dishes when we do eat out. That day however he decided to give the lasagna from this stall a try, since it was only $7 so not too depressing if it turned out terrible, and also because he hadn’t had lasagna for some time (it’s a labour-intensive and time-consuming dish that he tends to prepare only for special occasions).

He really liked this one, to his great surprise! He said its filling was delicious and rich, the beef sauce was really good and the portion was decent especially for the price. Who would have thought: it was a hawker centre stall that ended up making this Italian happy, and with a difficult dish like lasagna too, not some quick pasta dish. No mean feat.

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I chose the fish and chips (the fries came in a separate bowl which I didn’t photograph). I forgot how much it costed. I think the same vicinity as the lasagna. $6.50 or $6.80 or something like that.

I had never gotten such a nicely presented good ole’ fish and chips plate! I mean just look at the creativity and effort for this humble dish! Suddenly it’s not some humble dish but some ooh-la-la fancy thang; so pretty! With that artfully smeared tartar and mustard sauce and all, so cute; way beyond what is expected from hawker centre fare. For some reason I was just so moved by it, hand on heart. It’s so lovely when business owners put in such effort for their customers. And the fact that this is from a hawker stall, not a cafe or hotel restaurant or whatever, well I was just touched. Because, I don’t know, I guess in a way it could mean people like him believe people who may not be able to eat out in nice restaurants deserve nice things, too? *shrugs* Which would make the effort he put in on the food he serves such a lovely gesture, not just a work thing.

And Oh My God, it certainly tasted as good as it looked. The fish was so delicious. It was hardly breaded. It was all fish. I loved this so much. Damn I need to go back tomorrow.

 

Downtown Line’s Little India Station

This greeted me when I exited the train at Little India station.

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The artwork and design on that wall and ceiling are pretty spectacular. I couldn’t help walking around in awe for a few minutes admiring it all, and snapping a few photos.

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I love it. At each of the different angles I saw it.

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It’s like topography, and a flock of birds, and there is whimsy and magic in it. And a Christmas winter wonderland that’s more Tron City than Narnia.

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