Friday, November 25, 2011


The butter. It was superb: unsalted, unpasteurized, from contented cows basking in the sun and grazing on organic grass just south of Alsace (in France, you ignorant cochons!), and it was hand-churned. IKYN. E@L doesn't know which he was more impressed by, the butter itself or the twenty(ish) minutes of description that came with it - but you had to ask about it to get Stepan (we have his card), our Czech waiter, to start spouting forth. And he was thrilled to exposit; he'd been keeping this knowledge in his head and not sharing it until someone like E@L was inquisitive enough to ask.

Why/who would you ask about the butter? Someone like E@L? That would be no-one.

Because Andre is not the type of guy who would merely toss some freshly shaved truffle into a pan of warming (organic, etc...) butter and pour them both over some perfectly al dente spaghetti. No no no, he is the guy who would seep the butter in said shaved Tasmanian - off season in Europe - truffles for two weeks prior pouring that warmed, aromatic butter over the hot pasta. Then he'd come out himself and shave more truffle on top.

Butter. Lots of people, not just Andre, are genuinely pernickety about their emulsified triglycerides. In E@L's cholesterol-rich days of his head-strong youth, his family always used Western Star butter; giant impersonal machinery-churned from the giant machinery-sucked teats of grumpy, kick-you-if-they-could cows, huddled in the chilly breezes, grazing on the organic (50% cow shit) grass in the environs of Colac and the Western District of Victoria. E@L's flatmate eats New Zealand butter - he is an escapee from the East Isles of Australia. Some people like Danish butter, there's a lot of it in the supermarket.

Butter. Important.

The bread rolls were nice too. E@L won't start.


Stepan, by the way, used to work with Gordon fucking Ramsay.


Andre Chiang, Taiwanese, married to a stunning Singaporean(?) lady who officiated on our seat placements, is obviously food-obsessed to a degree well beyond sanity. His molecular-food (as opposed to atomic-food? elementary-particle food?) restaurant is in the Hotel Majestic, in fucked-if-the-taxidriver-can-find-it Bukit Pasoh (ah, pronounced PAY-so, not PAR-so), near to Maxwell Rd, Duxton Hill, that area...

He offered a ten-course degustation dinner last night for Amex card-holders who needed to max out their cards on the one evening.

Yes, dinner cost the equivalent of Greece's national debt and it was allegedly wine matched to various drops from a French vineyard that best remain nameless. (E@L has the marketing manager's card. He is called Stephane, no wonder E@L was confused). The buzz word here is biodynamic (antonym: biostatic?). Only a short time in oak, none of this micro-oxygenation bullsheeeet. Just the grape, the terroir and the wine-maker. Baumé? Why the fuck? We have winemakers with tongues, palates, with noses. Get them to blow them clear, thinks E@L.

Three different types of shiraz. One was called a Syrah, one a Hermitage and the last one an 'Ermitage thank you very much, and this last one decanted. Stephane informed us that to decant the other wines would make them - purses lips, raises eyebrows, rolls hand over hand, shrugs - change too quickly (into a more potent poison one assumes). A little bit of oenological engineering might have helped these ones, they were nice, they were OK, but... The viognier (that'd be white wine) was a more interesting drop, but the 100% Grenache could have done with some shiraz and mondeuse. Sweet red at the end, Hungarian style. Tattinger champagne at the start, that was nice. Somelier Ken-san was, E@L thinks, a tad stingy, but luckily, as we are all quite aware of having had some drink by the end, so he was a wise uncle to us unruly kids. Kids who had paid a shitload of money to get drunk...

Not a completely bad set of wines, but was there any one that stood out as stunning, exceptional, memorable? No way.


As is to be expected in the El Bulli, chemically-inspired restaurants, things were never quite as they seem: what looked like ice-cream was once tomato, the crisp-breads were previously mushroom, that clear gel was once a strawberry or two... That thing poking out what seems to be earth is a carrot-shaped carved fish, wrapped in its skin and quickly fried (E@L thinks) - it was called deconstructed fish and chips. That earthy stuff the fish and the "chips" were sitting in was made of garlic and grated chocolate - OMG, E@L could eat that all night. Already forgotten a lot of the other stuff, oh, yeah, is that popcorn asks E@L - Yes! was the surprised answer, good guess seeing as how you are not wearing your glasses, sir - vanilla mousse and coarsely chopped popcorn. But the truffle spaghetti was E@L's highlight. (btw, what is an octaphilosophy? - check the website.)

Small servings of course: like bikinis, the less material, the more they charge. The steak, about the size of a meat chunk you might get in a Four-And-Twenty pie, was paired to the decanted 'Ermitage. E@L didn't mention it last night, but Andre did managed to squeeze a small chewy bit of gristle into his thumbnail of meat. The fourteen grains of mustard were exquisitely placed however, IKYN. Meh. The single flat spot of the food menu was the unfortunate piece of gristle - E@L was expecting butter-soft wagyu meat, but, OK, move on...

Coffee or tea? Latte for E@L. Black sambucca, no only Pastis, ok, all around. Green tea and a hot chocolate, please, say the others. Hot chocolate? (What the hell is E@L doing with these people? Just accept what's on the menu, FGS.)

Hot chocolate? Stepan hesitated for a second. But when the cogs linked in, he smiled, sweet boy that he is. We shall find some hot chocolate for you sir, he says, certain that this can done. Somebody downstairs (Andre was chatting with Stephane and his guests on their table) grated some of that chocolate used in the earth mixture (not with the garlic hopefully), melted it in warming milk and brought it up in a wonky-shaped cup. You gotta try this guys, says our mate Wally. Bruce and E@L ordered our own wonky cups. Good move. It was sublime. We were, naturally enough, the last to leave.

Change the highlight - not the truffle spaghetti, it was the ex-tempore hot chocolate!


Would E@L go back? Not for a quick, greasy brunch as a Saturday morning hangover cure ($180 for lunch), but for a special occasion, sure. Really, really special.

Bruce had been on the verge of ringing in to ask if he might bring a bottle of his own plonk in (it was a )Relic), but E@L talked him out of making such a fool of himself. Now he wishes he had let Bruce bring it.

He didn't see a wine menu (obviously, this was a pairing) but E@L would be interested to see if anything better, biodynamic or not, was on offer.

Brilliantly interesting food; Andre is a complete wizard and it is not without good reason that this place always rates in the top restaurants in Asia. There is no Michelin ratings in Singapore (Miele Guide -#4 in Asia), but if there was...

Last night, sadly, Stephane's wines let it down - they were just too... pedestrian? Boring? What a pity.


Tonight E@L might whip up some vegemite on toast with a poached egg on top and crack a bottle of Hill of Grace.

Quickly becoming a foodie/wino, what?



We had some of the fancy dishes photographed here, but certainly not all as Andre cooks/deconstructs whatever he fancies each time.

No Sleep Till CPAP

I dreamt that I went to bed earlier than I did. Then I woke and it was earlier than I wanted it to be.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Economy, New Wealth

No idea if I agree or not with the politics and economics displayed here, but it's a fucking slick presentation.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Laos Trip - And Cambodia or Not?

Early next year The Croatia Backpacking Team (TCBT) (+1) are planning on a reunion tour of Cambodia and Laos. Izzy and The Tall Man will be crashing at E@LGHQ over New Years Eve.

I am concerned about the timing of this however, as it means I will be out town for close to 6 weeks, from the week before Xmas in Australia (at home with the FLOs), OK, NYE in Singapore (yawn), then there is the Indochine trip, and finally I am booked (and paid up) for a ski trip to Sapporo over Chinese New Year.

Yes, I hear you crying for me. Life's a bitch for Expats.

In order not to upset the people who pay me so outrageously, I have been thinking that I really should be available at least sometime in that period, so I was pushing lips close together, scrunching up my shoulders and 99% decided to be somewhere near the office in the first week of the year. This means that I would be forced (by my own decision) to skip the Cambodia section of the tour and only meet up with the TCBT in Luang Prabang in southern Laos on the 10th. Have never been to Laos, so...

Part of my reasoning for not being too concerned about missing Angkor Wat, etc... is that I had a holiday in Cambodia 11 years ago. We (my friend Homey and I) had a mildly happy pizza, stayed at the Sharaton[sic] hotel and I paid way to much for a worker in the AEI from the 'Disco Club' in the basement (immensely gross and amusing story about this), and we had a great time overall. Got a $5 shopping bag of dope, looked for AK-47s in the market but didn't see any, were stunned into silence by the horror, the horror of the Tuol Sleng museum.

At Siem Reap we were hijacked from the airport by a taxi-driver called No-one (his parents were killed in the Killing Fields, no reason to dispute this, and he was never named), and I say hijacked as I saw, as we drove away, three other cardboard greeting signs with my name on them. This was back in 2000, just as the new tourist hotels were under construction. We did the usual circuit of temples with No-name as a guide, stared the Bayon faces, stood next to the wall swallowing roots of the giant figs. In those days elephants were walking across the bricks of certain temples, you had to clamber up muddy slopes and grasp at exposed tree roots to get up to the Wat across the way from Angkor, the road across the river was only partly restored and Angeline Jolie hadn't yet raced through the non-existent water-market on a jet-ski (or whatever)...

But I'm having second thoughts about my conscientious inclinations, my loyal employee guilts. This is because I have been re-reading the notes from a friend of mine who did an extensive trip into Cambodia and Vietnam in August. Due to work commitments (new product cross-training, couldn't avoid it!) I missed his 50th birthday party in Sihanoukville. He had a great time, met his current girlfriend in Vietnam, and did some fascinating travel writing - he loves his food in case you don't notice - and this has whet my appetite for repeating the trip to Cambodia after all. (As has looking back at the astoundingly poor quality of my old photos - nts: bring the good camera this time!) And then there's something about the prospect of 50c beers and $1 massages...

So, sigh, thinking seriously of dropping the idea of the lone week at work after all and taking the entire month off for a trip with my dearly beloved TCBT.


Love = Horrible

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

- Neil Gaiman


Have I already posted this somewhere?

Nevermind, it bears repeating.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kamala Beach - The Sense Of A Holiday

As E@L flatmate, P, said on FB - "This Phuket trip is looking like victory already."


Not really because E@L has had two fights with taxi and tuk-tuk drivers already and done bugger all writing.


He has been reading though. We have to admit that we enjoy the reading experience of the Kindle. For some reason or other E@L can keep reading without falling asleep and can read much faster, certainly more rapidly than he has been in the past few years (falling asleep doesn't assist the pace, either)...


It only took one day to finish the Booker winner, Julian Barnes' 'A Sense Of An Ending'. I presumed foolishly - the only way to presume things these days - that the ending in a novel so titled would therefore make sense. MMmm. 'Atonement' this ain't.

More about The Sense of an Ending

I can't say that the emotions driving the underlying story really made sense [*** slight spoiler alert***] and for the life of me I can't see how he (the author/protagonist) could be held responsible for the not quite as bad as that climax. So why her anger and why his guilt and angst? And seriously, how the fuck could he ever "get it", if it didn't really involve him (or only marginally) in the first place, he had not heard from or seen any of them (those still alive) for forty years? Is he supposed to be a psychic? OK, he turned to have been a prick, vindictive and nasty (well, she had just dumped him for his best friend), but he didn't really cause what happened to happen. Or was the fact that it didn't make sense, the true sense we are to make of this ending?

Admittedly the observations on growing up, making you so wonderfully comfortable inside the mind of a smart - but maybe not smart enough - late teenager, and growing old in the mind of a slightly snarky old man were astoundingly good. Barnes is very practiced at this confessional stuff, these meandering reminiscences, and he hits the nail on the head about the vagaries of memory and the resultant unreliability of history, and what this means for his author's story here. "If we were in a novel, this wouldn't happen..." someone, the author Anthony or the author Julian, keeps meta-fictionally observing.

Having been reading Tolstoy opinions on Shakespeare on the Kindle as well, (c'mon, it was $0.99 and I was just skimming) I see that the Great Novelist thinks that the Great Playwright is crap, and that his plays make zero sense and miss the point all the time (the source materials were always better, he says) and what he makes the characters do is simply not how people behave - therefore Shakespeare's famed intuition into human nature is a pile of crock and everyone is wrong except Tolstoy. And I have to admit he makes many good points.

So Barnes is claiming with this meta-fiction stuff, that what the people in his novel do is not what people in novels would do... So as Beckett said, "No symbols where none intended", it makes you wonder, if this is not meant to be a novel, why do we keep harping back to The Mother tipping out a "broken" fried egg... Symbol? Intended? I think so.

Oh never-mind, I am probably way off the loop here. I probably have missed the point due my infernal obtuseness, or I have overlooked some crucial adjectival phrase that would have gelled it together for me.

Please, don't listen to me, it is a GREAT read for the wonderfully funny and piercingly accurate evocations of those smart kids in school thinking themselves smarter than their teachers, the mating game back in those days (60's, about 10 years before E@L fucked it all up, as it were, for himself) and how not to handle re-unions with ex-girlfriends later in life.


The reason it only took me a day (talk about the compression of time - as Barnes does in this book) is that there are only 150 pages or so in the physical novel. Speaking of senses and endings, it is weird to end a novel and not be able turn the book face-down. Looking at the rear of a Kindle is not the same thing. Closure?


But one cool thing with this book on the Kindle is that it came with the best of Barne's observations on life already highlighted so I didn't have to think for myself.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Instant Phuket

Just quickly (which means he'll probably write for the next three hours), E@L has decided over a period of not very long, to drop tools and fly to Phuket. Internet, Wotif, Tripadvisor, Singaporeair, all dot com'd and here he is, packing (and what essential item/s will he forget?)

Work is quiet as a Bangkok trip has been postponed (duh) as has the replacement trip to Kuala Lumpur. And the rain here at breakfast time yesterday meant E@L couldn't get a taxi to frackin' Tampines, so he spat the dummy and sucked it up, emailed his intent (the boss is in Vietnam, so no-one really cares if he is in the office or not, plus he has 40 days of leave to shed) and did all those bookings.

Over the next few days he will be working on writing (it's that immensely disheartening period of NaNoWriMo again, and fuck E@L/Fyodor writes like shit when he tries hard and he comes way too close to the true stories of his buddies and himself, and are probably libelous as well) and reading in a comfortable hotel in a quiet part of Enchanted Isle (Surin Beach), as opposed to reading and writing in a comfortable apartment in the Disenchanted Isle (here).

OK, look, E@L has finished this post already! Like an effort for his NaNoWriMo efforts, it's shorter than expected and leads to nowhere interesting.

Well, moderately interesting...


On The Bedpost Overnight

What is Singapore coming to? Yesterday, guess what E@L found on the sole of the left hand foot of his new walking shoes?

No, no that.

It was chewing gum!

USED chewing gum! Chewed up and spat out chewing gum! I felt like giving LKY a personal call to point out that the No1 son is falling down in his vigilance against the creeping tide of non-Asian Values!


The history, just cheeking it up on Stickypedia, of the chewing gum ban is mouth-wateringly interesting. It was the new MRT subway system that prompted the ban as vandals - aka cheeky kids - were plugging over the sensors which prevented the doors from closing properly. And so it was the Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and not Harry Lee who stuck to his gums [sorry] guns in implementing this crackdown on illicit mastication with Singapore Statute Chapter 57, the Control of Manufacture Act.

But ban chewing gum? IS THAT ALL! E@L is thinking, what! old chums, hardly much of a punishment, eh? Cane the rambunctious little rascals, trousers down, six of the best, never did us any harm. As we used do for your typical common or railroad urban artists, wherever they be from.

The ban is not complete, as sugarless chewing-gum has been available in Singapore since 2004 for it can't be denied, apparently, that calcium lactate can boost the strength of enamel. This medicated gum can only be sold by dentists or pharmacists now and the gum is RFID controlled and DNA tagged. Hand over that ID card you cheeky kid, we've got you sequenced. Any problems with the MRT doors and we'll know if it was you! ... No, stop crying, lad, I was only having a laugh, big boys don't cry, here have a lolly...

(aside 1) Bringing a large bag of chewing-gum packets purchased in the Hong Kong airport in through carry-on luggage is not something E@L would ever unless it was for a pretty lady, because it remains illegal to import.

(aside 2) One finds it a tad ironic to consider that what we are chewing is basically flavored latex (or artificial substitute), and it was on the back of the Malayan rubber plantations that the port city of Singapore rode to its pre-war prosperity.


There was some gnashing of teeth and chewing of the fat during the time when USA and Singapore were going through free-trade talks (remember that hilarious one about Free Trade and Democracy going hand in hand, so funny) at the turn of the century. [I'm looking for reports on the Dreyfus Case, or I go wool-gathering in Antiques Shoppes when I hear that phrase.] Staunch defenders of the Rights Of Man were there to assist our world leaders make the right decision...

Here we see GWB smiling, smirking, leering - what is that stupid look? - as PM Tong stabs himself in the back of the hand with a pointy-nib pen, surrounded by members of the Wrigley's Iraq task force (see below).

--- "In 1999, United States President Bill Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong agreed to initiate talks between the two countries for a bilateral free trade agreement (USS-FTA).[5] The talks later continued under the new administration of President George W. Bush. Details of the closed-door negotiations are unknown, but it became apparent that by the final phase of the negotiation in early 2003, there remained two unrelated issues: the War in Iraq and chewing gum." (from the above linked Wiki) ---


Yes, that's why they were there, because if Wrigley's doesn't stand up for Truth, Justice and the (vaguely formulated - no-one has ever convincingly explained to E@L what exactly is meant by this) American Way*, then who will! And why were Wrigley's brought in, you ask? Was there no wriggle room in the negotiations, couldn't they stretch things more, was there no bounce in their step, were things stuck in the craw and wouldn't go down, would the fruit of the discussion not be juicy? Yes Wrigley's should, indeed, must be involved in the battles which threaten the good of humankind and its salivary secretions. And their long term philosophical profit.

Singapore, indeed everyone should heed the sage advice offered by Wrigley's who fought strongly enameled tooth and nail for the Iraq War Juicy Fruit Concession or JFC [requires disambiguation], when they had this to say, and not tongue in cheek either, about the efforts they put in to encourage Singapore to relax its ban.

--- "There's many examples in our history of things that may have not made short-term financial sense but was the right thing to do in a philosophical or long-term sense," said Christopher Perille, Wrigley's senior director of corporate communications. (ibid) ---

Believe it or not he was talking about Singapore Oral Latex Laws and not the Iraq War. Truer words were never choked upon.


* What about the Asian Values, what about the Singaporean Way? --- '... as a sovereign state, Singapore had the right to formulate its own policies based on its own unique political and cultural values.' ---

Monday, November 07, 2011

Army Of Hello Kitty

Saw this installation at the Singapore Writers Festival last weekend, not sure if was part of the deal or not, whether it was just there... Please turn your sound down, I haven't done anything other than transfer it from my phone to YouTube and all you get is the background white [not a racial slur] noise that is Singapore.

There ain't nothing fancy about the cinematography either, it's just me walking sideways. There is a slight bump near the end where I nearly trip down some steps as I am looking the screen not where I am going.



Thursday, November 03, 2011


Been there

Done that


May have put this up before somewhere. Nevermind. Last few days the paint uncle has been in, taking apart my life and making me put it back together again...

(That's about half the books from the book-shelf in my bedroom. There are four other book-shelves in the living room.)

While cleaning out the guff that is not wanted on the voyage, I found a fair copy of this cartoon inside a large notebook that the prolific MercerMachine wanted me to write my novel in - he is a long-hand composer and wanted to push me this way but I have started mucking around for NaNoWriMo instead... (OK he gave me the notebook four years ago, but what's the rush?) [Typos have not been corrected in that NaNoWriMo entry so it may be even weirder than it's meant to be - rush, forward, keep typing, don't look back...]

E@L (aka Fyodor)

-- p.s. why the hell does Evernote on the Mac not show the fracking word-count?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Economy

The European crisis explained:

The Stock Market explained:

The GFC explained:

etc... nust keep following the Youtube suggestions...


Free Podcast

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