death by paper cut

{January 24, 2012}   genuinely good company

i am not a big fan of how chinese new year typically is. i loath the tacky looping dong-dong-chiang yammering that is now made more grating with the techno remix. i detest even more the acutely materialistic core of the festivities and the preparations leading up to it because beyond the gathering of kith and kin is the quintessential need to “get it right” so that prosperity might follow.

well-wishing is all about getting big-better-best grades, property, cars, holidays, look, stature in quantifiable measures and each annual gathering is the time to measure up and be found wanting. there is an enormous pressure to look good and make looking good look easy.

it does not help that chinese variety shows host the most imbecile and demeaning programmes. a few days ago i chanced upon a taiwanese variety lunar new year show that puts celebrities through challenges for entertainment. that is quite the standard template, however this one challenge required of a female celebrity – without any pants – to hold a pair of red panties and repeatedly pull up the undies to her waist and strip them off again and again till she attained a certain number of “stripping” which was then retardedly cheered and applauded.

is it supposed to be symbolic of getting some in the year of the dragon?

perhaps these lucky panties selling at $1.99 each at Giant Hypermart will usher in some luck down south…

CNY Panties

…which will then hopefully result in conceiving a dragon baby which will – according to popular belief – be the embodiment of all that is good and successful. It doesn’t matter that these babies born to asian societies will ironically face tremendous competition and consequently the attendant scarcity of resources simply due to the sheer spike of peers in their batch.

but many seem to be in denial of such cause-and-effect than not. with such a predictable phenomenon, businesses cash-in on this opportunity, for example: clearblue.

Clearblue Dragon Baby

a large chunk of chinese culture is kitsch and commercial.

i think it is really up to the individual to mine chinese new year for authenticity and meaning if chinese new year is supposed to mean quality time with friends and family and sincere greetings. no doubt, it is easy to find good food, but as we grow older, it is harder to find genuinely good company to share it with. and the truth is, in singapore, good food can be found everywhere everyday.

i define genuinely good company to be people who matter and who can skip the small talk. true, we need to start somewhere, and small talk might be the beginnings of deeper relationships, however, i don’t think chinese new year should be the place and time to scratch at the surface of superficiality. the relationship should be cultivated through the year and chinese new year would then be the time to reaffirm these ties and the opportunity to put aside the time and effort to prepare something extra special. this is in the context of singapore where we do not need to fly inter-state to meet each other.

and there is the unique situation that the chinese people have as the largest ethnic group in the world because we form about a fifth of the entire human population. this situation i think is more interesting as an overseas chinese or with the chinese diaspora because then maintaining tradition and family (read: racial) ties strengthens the identity of the community over food and and well, more food. also, the definition of family changes from blood relations to simply friends from all over the world practicing a similar understanding of customs although hailing from different countries of origin – almost like religion.

in singapore however, where the majority of the population are chinese, i don’t feel the same inclination to partake with the same level of chinese customs as i did living in melbourne.

however, what i did experience during chinese new year this year makes it hard to top because i spent most of it with genuinely good company. reunion dinner has always been a small affair and the smallness in the number (about 10) makes it less necessary to fill awkward pauses with banter. we had both steamboat and the stir-fry electric pot to cook on the spot. cooking on the spot makes eating very active, as in, you need to decide what to cook, when the pieces of food are ready and if the food has disappeared into the bottom of the steamboat or fished out by someone else. you snooze, you lose.

it actually isn’t all that competitive because there is usually a mountain of food left over and we’ll be stuff to the brim.

Reunion Dinner 2012 12

Reunion Dinner 2012 13 Reunion Dinner 2012 16

the real madness begins the next day when a few large families descend upon my home (5 room HDB flat) to pay their chinese new year respects to my grandmother, the oldest living matriarch in the order of hierarchy. the kitchen will work at factory-like pace and efficiency to churn out food for about 40 people who will visit over a span of three hours. i don’t really help out at the kitchen, at most i offer chinese new year snacks and refill the drinks. and because i’m so disinclined at small talk, i don’t.

my niece and nephew however, are good subjects to photograph to keep me looking engaged with the festivities.

CNY Day 1 Visiting 11 CNY Day 1 Visiting 18

CNY Day 1 Visiting 19 CNY Day 1 Visiting 30

to escape from the claustrophobia, i furtively made my way to the geek’s. after watching a bit of hilarious wipeout, we had a walk in the wide open spaces of bishan park even though the drizzle began to develop into a light rain. it was really refreshing and liberating.

about 2km into the walk, we stopped by the spanking new mccafe in the middle of the park for a hot beverage by the alfresco dining area. the light rain continued, but my mood was anything but dampened.

the geek had hot chocolate and for good measure, the barista’s coffee art handiwork was the chinese character “ji” for auspiciousness. the geek was particularly pleased about this. i think it was cute and i do appreciate its thoughtful aptness.

CNY at Bishan Park 6 CNY at Bishan Park 1

CNY at Bishan Park 3

that night, we returned to my home for a small dinner with my immediate family. the spread was very different and i think even better than the steamboat the previous night because of the rich savoriness of the variety – beef rendang (simmered over night), buah keluak with pork ribs, mee goreng, left over beef strips stir-fried like bulgogi, and home made cheng tng for dessert sprinkled with an abundance of tender, loving care.

CNY Day 1 Dinner 3

CNY Day 1 Dinner 5 CNY Day 1 Dinner 4

again, i loved the smallness of the dinner party and fun the geek and i had watching the quon dynasty marathon on cable. i kept pointing out how my mom is a worrywart like amy. geek time and genuinely good company ftw!


debbie says:

Hairpee CNY @steelwool, *sings damn loudly DONGDONGDONGCHIANG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*

Patricea says:

Those who want a Dragon baby should have started trying 9mths ago! If they begin trying now, may end up being a Snake baby ;p

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