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Strawberry Hills forever

21 Mar

Phew! It’s been an overwhelming couple of weeks at work, but I had a day off today. (A whole day off! Er, if you don’t count working till 2 am this morning. Which, let’s not for these purposes. Whole day off!!) So Cephas and I went to Strawberry Hill House!

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Strawberry Hill House is basically a troll house. As in, Horace Walpole was totally trolling via the medium of architecture. This is the only conclusion I can come to about a house that has wallpaper that is meant to make the walls look like they are made of carved Gothick stone.

(The walls don’t look like they’re made of stone. What they do look like is super cheesy!)

Horace Walpole also had a tiny pretty room dedicated solely to fanart of his novel The Mysterious Mother. I wish I was rich enough to build a room dedicated to fanart of my work. I mean, it would be empty, but still, it would be such an optimistic thing to have.

Pictures under the cut!

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Places I’d like to go

30 Dec

Anonymous: places you’d like to travel to if money/time wasn’t an issue.

I might add “also, if visa restrictions and not being able to drive weren’t issues”.

Pictures under the cut.

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Linguistic imperialism and teaching English as a foreign language

26 Dec

Reproducing the anonymous comment requesting this topic in full:

your thoughts on linguistic imperialism and people teaching english abroad, and people in asian countries learning english as a school subject – that sort of muddle
i have a lot of mixed feelings about it (i think it’s possible to teach english abroad in a respectful manner and have a lot of professors that i love who did so, but then again participating in the leftover effects of linguistic imperialism??) and would love to hear your thoughts on it :OOO

I am pragmatic about this, TBH. I have taught English as a second language in Asian countries myself, so it’s not something I’m likely to get too het up about, though I am conscious of the privileges that allowed me to do so. But that’s kind of the point, I guess. In the world we live in right now, being fluent in English gives you power. Being able to speak English that sounds “accentless” to “native speakers”, or that has the right kind of accent, is a privilege.

My parents chose to bring up their kids speaking English for a reason, and I can trace a lot of the benefits and privileges I enjoy in my life directly to being good at English. So yeah, to a certain extent teaching English to people in majority non-English-speaking countries is participating in a messed up system — the whole reason English is there in the first place is because of Western hegemony, right? But most of us don’t have the option of opting out of this system. It is the system we live in. We have to figure out how to make a living and look after our families within this system. So there are two things I think are the right things to do in the circumstances:

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How the Lord of the Rings movies influenced me

23 Dec

vi asked about formative movies.

There are three movies I can think of, and they are (surprise, surprise) the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read the book when I was 12 – I distinctly remember it because it was in the joyous days after UPSR, and a classmate put me onto it. (I wonder who she was? I can’t remember her at all now.) And half a lifetime later, it seemed at the time – but only three years in actual fact! – the movies started coming out, reigniting my enthusiasm for the book.

The movies aren’t my Lord of the Rings – they’re too OTT and focused on fight/battle scenes, and the elves are too pretty, and the dwarves are not taken seriously enough (at least something The Hobbit movies are remedying, though The Hobbit movies are still not really worth it), and I will hold a grudge against Sean Astin for his overacting on the slopes of Mount Doom forever. But I like the movies for what they are, and they played a big role in my life.

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Favourite comfort reads and a new favourite recipe

22 Dec

Anonymous asked about favorite comfort reads, or favorite recipes.

Favourite comfort reads (a non-comprehensive list)

I’m going to specify titles ‘cos it’s interesting to think about which specific books by these authors I like best for comfort reading, but in most cases the authors’ entire oeuvres fall under the heading of “comfort reading” for me.

  • L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. LMM is probably my #1 comfort read of all time actually. OF ALL TIME!
  • Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise
  • Georgette Heyer, Cotillion
  • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
  • Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes
  • Jean Webster, Dear Enemy
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • P. G. Wodehouse, Psmith books (cheating and naming all of them because I can’t remember which instalment is my favourite)

Oddly enough I don’t feel Terry Pratchett really belongs on the list, though I rate him higher than several of these authors in certain respects. I feel like Discworld really shaped my worldview, and showed me that it was possible for books to be genre and silly and fun but also serious and clever – but for whatever reason I don’t seem to have that deep emotional attachment to the books anymore. I still like and value them, but it’s like I’ve taken from them what I need, and don’t need them anymore.

Well, I say that, but if I were to embark upon a reread doubtless the feelings would return!

Incidentally nearly all the books/authors I name above I came to at around age 10-12, which is probably why they have stuck with me. The only two exceptions are O’Brian and Heyer, whom I discovered at around 16-18.

A favourite recipe

DIY chilli “pan mee”

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Weather I like, weather I hate

20 Dec

shati: weather you like, weather you hate?

I am definitely a warm weather person and mostly only like cold weather because there are some very nice fashion accessories that go with cold weather. (Scarves are a great thing. I never got the point of scarves until I realised that they actually work to keep you warm, as well as look pretty. Also boots! Boots are so great.) But I would give away all my cold weather things without a qualm in favour of a life spent in T-shirts, shorts and sandals.

My ideal kind of weather is to be found either early morning in Malaysia, or on a nice British summer’s day. I like unstinting sunshine, blue skies with a few tender puffs of cloud, a gentle breeze, the smell of earth and growing things, and a temperature range of 24 to 27 degrees Celsius.

That’s my favourite kind of weather, but I also like the weather on either side of a tropical rainstorm — before, when the wind starts whipping up the trees and the air smells of rain and grey clouds make the sky heavy; and after, when the world is washed clean and smells amazing and the air is cool.

My least favourite weather:

  • When it’s super cold and grey, but not cold enough for snow
  • When it’s super cold and grey and mizzling indefinitely
  • When it’s only kind of cold and grey, but it’s too cold to go around without your jacket, but when you put on your jacket you get too warm and sweaty — urgh, that is the worst kind of weather
  • When it’s warm and grey
  • Basically the sky should only be grey when it’s raining or about to rain or has just rained
  • And rain should not go on forever, and it should put its back into it when it does happen, and also there is nothing wrong with thunder and if you are going to all the effort of raining you should probably have some thunder and lightning as well, just to keep things interesting

As you can see I am very well adapted for British weather!

Not very scary stories, plus a spooky 1904 Christmas film

17 Dec

surpassingly asked for ghost/spooky stories and/or urban legends, and I was going to write a post last night but then I decided to wait till morning. >_>

For someone who writes so much about pontianak and dead people, I am really easily scared by supernatural things and so don’t know that many scary stories. Because I actively avoid them! I think I write about death (in Balik Kampung, The First Witch of Damansara, The Terracotta Bride, etc.) as a means of trying to make it safe and familiar, to try to make it less scary, as a way of understanding it. Of course … that doesn’t really work …. So I might write stories that make my mom uncomfortable (she still retains the Chinese horror of ever mentioning death even though she’s now Christian, and as I heartlessly remind her, Christians talk about death all the time), but that doesn’t mean I like spooky stories!

My attitude towards the supernatural is that I don’t really believe in it, but am a little worried that hantu don’t care whether I believe in them or not.

The scariest stories I have heard are ones that could maybe be true? They’re definitely told as true stories. So I have a friend who has a membrane around her brain and so can see ghosts (it runs in the family). She’s very matter of fact about it and doesn’t really even talk about it unless you ask, but when we were at a school housed in an 18th century manor in the English countryside, she used to see things in the music hall and floating around the ruined Abbey that I refused to hear about.

Another friend of mine once told me an awful story about how her mother woke up in the middle of the night and saw a thing at the end of the bed. For a while after being told this story I’d lie in bed every night trying not to look down.

The sister of a schoolmate once refused to enter their house because “there was a man in the living room”. Nobody else could see the man. The sister said he was bald and had red eyes. D:

These are not very interesting stories, are they! You kind of had to be there. You may tell me the spooky stories you know, if you like, and I will peek at the comments through my fingers and decide whether they are too scary for me to read them or not. Oh, and here is something spookier than anything in this post:

The Mistletoe Bough

A short film made in 1904 (!), which you can watch for free on the BFI website. Their description:

An unlucky bride is locked in a trunk during a game of hide and seek in this ghostly early silent film. The tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to the 18th century, and was traditionally recited at Christmas time as a ballad. Its ghostly bride, olde-worlde castle setting and shock discovery of skeletal remains make it a Gothic classic. With new music by Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne, commissioned by the BFI.

It’s pretty cool!

Foods that make me think of home

16 Dec

finkelsteingirl asked about foods that make you feel tremendously comfortable or at home just by tasting them.

A list!

Nescafe with hot milk + condensed milk, the way my dad used to make it before my parents got super health-conscious and did away with milk and sugar.

Yau char kway: This is a fried breadstick you dip into your coffee and it is super good! It makes your coffee oily which would be weird in a latte but is OK in kopitiam coffee.

(Continuing the breakfast associations) soft-boiled eggs with white pepper and soy sauce. You dip buttered toast in it and eat the toast and it is so great.

Steamed jasmine rice.

Cabbage soup with fried garlic.

Chicken rice: This is rice cooked in chicken stock so it’s super yummy, served with poached chicken with the skins on and chilli sauce. (Not the sticky sweet Thai chilli sauce that comes in bottles. A different kind!) I actually like it with “black” chicken better (roasted so the skin is brown and crackly) than “white” chicken, but white chicken is the classic variety. One of the few dishes Malaysians are willing to acknowledge are done better in Singapore.

Ipoh hor fun: Hor fun (white flat noodles) served in a broth with shredded chicken and whole prawns.

Mamak-style Maggi mee goreng: Basically just fried noodles, but it’s so nice. So nice! I also don’t know why.

Steamed fish in soy sauce. The fried version is good as well, but it’s more exciting than comforting.

Tomato eggs: My mom always made it with baked beans instead of tomato, so that should technically be the version I recall with fondness, but I don’t like baked beans so I prefer tomato.

Tau yu bak: This is pork belly braised in this black black sauce with hardboiled eggs. The hardboiled eggs are almost the best part because you break them open and pour the sauce on the yolk and it is so nice. (I initially said “the best”, but changed it to “almost the best” because the best is really the meat.) My mom often made it with chicken instead of pork.

I am becoming unsure as to whether this is really a list of my comfort/”think of home” foods, or whether I am just listing delicious things to eat! Might be time to stop.

It’s probably unsurprising that this is all Chinese food (except the Maggi mee? I dunno if the Maggi mee counts) as opposed to Malay or Indian or any other cuisine. I like Malay/Indian/etc. food, but I guess you revert to what you ate at home as a kid when you are seeking comfort.