some days, some nights
some live, some die
in the way of the samurai
some fight, some bleed
sun up to sun down
the sons of a battle cry
And just like that my world was once again turned upside down.
some days, some nights
some live, some die
in the way of the samurai
some fight, some bleed
sun up to sun down
the sons of a battle cry
And just like that my world was once again turned upside down.
9 Elements of Japanese Aesthetics
1. “Imperfection”: Wabi-sabi (侘寂) is the beauty of things that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.
Wabi is the quality of a rustic, yet refined, solitary beauty. Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age - the patina of age, and the concept that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable.
As things come and go, they show signs of their coming or going and these signs are considered to be beautiful.
Sakura 桜 (cherry blossoms) in spring or Koyo 紅葉 (autumn colors) in fall represents wabi-sabi - they are aesthetically pleasing because they don’t last.
2. “Elegance”: Miyabi (雅) is about elegance, refinement, or courtliness. Sometimes refers to a “heart-breaker”, Miyabi demanded the elimination of anything that was absurd or vulgar.
Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺(Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto, Japan.
3. “Subtle”: Shibui (渋い) or shibusa (渋さ) is a simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. It means that things are more beautiful when they speak for themselves.
A Bizen sake carafe. The beauty of it doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring.
4. “Originality”: Iki (粋) is about a refined uniqueness. It is an expression of simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity, and originality. Iki is also about originality, uniqueness and spontaneity that is more audacious and unselfconscious while still remaining measured and controlled.
Kimonos were simple and minimal, often striped and coloured to deep shades of blues and greys on the surface. However, the insides were lined with opulent silk, designed so that only the sophisticated could recognise their secret luxury.
On the other hand, a geisha 芸者 also embodies Iki - they are beautiful, sophisticated but they don’t have the intention to stand out. They combine sassiness with innocence, sexiness with restraint.
5. “Slow, accelerate, end”: Jo-ha-kyū (序破急) infers a tempo that begins slowly, accelerates, and then ends swiftly.
The idea of jo-ha-kyū is used by Japanese traditional arts such as tea ceremony and martial arts.
6. “Mysterious”: Yūgen (幽玄) triggers feelings too deep and mysterious for words. It shows that real beauty exists when, through its suggestiveness, only a few words, or few brush strokes, can suggest what has not been said or shown, and hence awaken many inner thoughts and feelings.
The Dragon of Smoke Escaping from Mt Fuji (Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎)
7. “Discipline and Ethics”: Geidō (芸道) refers to the various traditional Japanese arts disciplines: Noh (能) (theater), kadō (華道)(Japanese flower arrangement), shodō (書道) (Japanese calligraphy), Sadō (茶道) (Japanese tea ceremony), and yakimono (焼物) (Japanese pottery). All of these disciplines carry an ethical and aesthetic connotation and teach an appreciation of the process of creation.
Hence, ethics and discipline make things more attractive.
Japanese martial arts aren’t about the result: defeating your enemy. They’re about the path that gets you there. They see no value in a short cut — even when the end result is the same.
Japanese tea ceremony: A cup of tea is trivial compared with the process of making, serving and consuming the tea. The process is the art.
8. “The Void”: Ensō (円相) means “circle”. It is a form of the art of minimalism common in Japanese designs and aesthetics. It symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the Universe, and the void.
In Zen Buddhist painting, ensō symbolizes a moment when the mind is free to simply let the body/spirit create.
At first glance, an ensō may appear to be just a circle. But its symbolism represents the spiritual growth of the artist – the brushwork, which include dragging, pressing, and sweeping techniques, reveals the depth of enlightenment he/she has reached up to that point. “It is said to be a picture of the mind” explains award winning calligrapher Shoho Teramoto, “because the circle projects one’s mind directly.”
9. “Cute”: Kawaii (かわいい) is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture. It has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture, entertainment, clothing, food, toys, personal appearance, behavior, and mannerisms.
Nippon Airways’ Pokemon Jet.
Kawaii in Japanese sushi.
To those of you with whom I keep in constant communication digitally, you’ll know that I’ve recently had immense trouble falling asleep with my sleep pattern having been diverged into two short and individual sleep sessions commencing during dusk and dawn instead of the one long period that most people seem to enjoy. There’s nothing I can really do about it these days seeing as I seem to have had this pattern for the last month or so, so instead of fighting it, I suppose I might as well just enjoy it and try to make the most out of it by utilising my time productively.
One method in which I’m most certainly not being productive is that due to the enormous lack of people to speak to or do things with at these odd times, I’ve taken to being a recluse [even more so than normal] and surfing an inordinate amount of internet. I think over the past month, I could recite everything from more than a few Iron Chef recipes to how thorium energy works [I’m not fully convinced it’s the future, but it certainly does have its merits].
A thing I’ve taken to is, as always, doing my research on the discrepancies between men and women, trying to figure out how the game works. A game in which I’ve had dismal success and to be quite frank, abysmal experiences as of late. I suppose it’s a confluence of many things and it probably is my fault. I think I’ve got too many bugs I need to work out before releasing any product on the market. One of my chief issues is that… I seem to have a complete lack of resilience. I don’t think it’s a problem localised to myself as I feel many of my peers have the same attitude, where upon an encounter with the slightest speed bump, we tend to say “ah fuck this shit”.
I’m not sure if it tends from a fear of rejection, being generally disillusioned with the whole concept of affectation or just a trickle down effect of the instant gratification generation that we have become. Or maybe it’s a vicious stew of the above, whereby we’re used to instant results, getting things we want done immediately and without delay. Further to that, the wealth of information and paradigm change in the nature of male/female social dynamics cause us to be ever more exposed to being informed of people whom we view as chumps or betas and an understandable reluctance to be considered one of the deceived.
I do find however, that the average person these days tends to give up a lot faster upon encountering any sort of resistance; I’m not sure how things were in days gone by, but if my parents are any indicator, they sure as shit stuck to their guns and tried to constructively resolve any issues they had. Failure wasn’t an option and I think that’s a key factor in the changing nature of relationships these days. It’s so easy to say “fuck it, just get a divorce” whereby the only real consideration is the split of assets as compared to previous generations with potentially differing cultural attitudes where this simply was not an option and thus forced both parties into resolution.
Similarly and to yet again Obama’s phrase, the trickle down effect of it is that kids and let’s face it, unless we’re prepared to put a ring on it, I think the relationship isn’t worthy of the name, emulate their parents and say “well if it’s bad then we’ll just break up and that’s that.” There’s no incentive to stay or to resolve things and with the constant barrage and variants of the phrase “do whatever you like as long as it makes you happy”, it’s no real wonder that we’re seeking to quit at the first available opportunity.
This isn’t just localised to relationships, the effect is tangible and statistically available in terms of dropout rates over colleges, the average tenure in employment being far shorter than in previous decades and so on and so forth. I’m almost sold that the average human being of 2014 has ditched tenacity for transience and “fuck it, I’m not happy, I’m gonna quit” has become the default solution instead of “yes I’m not happy but what can we constructively do to change that?” that previous generations had.
Of course, both solutions have their merits and can be argued from any number of viewpoints; I do however lament that this general lack of resilience and confidence has further effects whereby things pass that… given some more time… could have worked out. I’m definitely as guilty, if not more so than the next person and part of my resolve for self improvement in 2014, part of Operation Be-Better-Than-You-Were-Yesterday, is to work on this.
I’m pretty blessed to be friends who are scattered in many places all over the world, thereby ensuring that if AirBnB doesn’t work out for me or if I’m feeling miserly, there’s usually a couch I can crash on for a couple of days. I’d go as far as to say I probably have better friends out of the city I reside in than here itself, not just in quantity but in terms of quality as well. It’s hard to reconcile with but sometimes I don’t think I’ve ever found a group to which I’ve truly belonged to anywhere else but Melbourne. That’s probably a flaw of mine, what with the emotional distance I place between others and myself inadvertently and the fact that I can’t seem to initiate anything. But anyway.
A great part of this scenario is that I’m able to converse with them and discuss the myriad of issues facing us and how things are just different ‘over here’ and compared to ‘over there’. It brings to mind the Pulp Fiction scene where Vincent Vega is explaining to Jules Winnfield that "It’s the little differences. I mean they got the same shit t over there that they got here, but it’s just…just there it’s a little different"
Without drawing obvious diametric parallels and comparing Tokyo to Sydney or Singapore to Melbourne, much of that is pretty true, especially in western nations. I realise that this blog began as an outlet for our hedonistic indulgences and there’s a certain irony that because of the fact that the authors are known to the readers, there’s actually a lot of material that our lack of anonymity hasn’t allowed us to reveal. Especially in the last two years; some of the shit that has happened. Jesus. And yet, it’s strange because at no point in time except more so in the last two years have the authors been more focused on the nuances of relationships and the ever-changing dynamic between man and woman. Or man and man if that’s your thing. We try to focus on what we’re familiar with here.
So anyway, digressing aside, it’s interesting to talk to friends living all over the world and it seems a common theme is that despite so many of us residing in bustling metropolis’, none of us can seem to find anyone we like in the city of our locality. It’s an interesting concept, similar to the fact that in the 6 years or so I’ve been in Sydney, I’ve never actually dated a girl from Sydney. Sure there was that one girlfriend who moved over to Sydney but that’s more like takeout than actually eating local. And following from that there were two misshapen relationships where a very real part of the issue was that distance was involved.
It’s not a phenomenon localised to myself neither, it seems that even as the world gets smaller and flights get cheaper… Distance remains an ever present issue. Whether you’re in Sydney and your heart was left in (or kidnapped to) Seoul or you can see the Hollywood hills but you yearn for the Brooklyn bridge… Or your feet are in the tropics but your mind is in London… There’s a vicious irony in there; it must seem so weird trying to explain to someone that despite the multimillion population density of the city you live in…. You yearn for something that’s not there.
I’m not sure if its because we want what we can’t have or if it’s because life is a cruel mistress and Cupid isn’t an adorable cherub but a sadistic BDSM loving demon. But it does make one think doesn’t it?
As promised, though delayed without reason save for this authors lack of motivation, inspiration, dedication and any sort of compensation. Where we left off in the previous post, Part 1, was a short discourse on a person’s pick of poison. With all the myriad of cultures and cuisines on this planet, there’s really no shortage to pick from. A wine from Bordeaux may have more in common with a wine from the Barossa than a wine from the adjacent vineyard; there’s really no accounting for taste.
Perhaps it’s been due to the fact that in recent
months years, I’ve noticed that I’ve been well.. A little tricked, to say the least, about the quality of the alcohol I’ve been drinking. Whilst there’s been the odd great vintage or two or three, most of them have been particularly unmemorable and some have left a downright sour aftertaste. I’ll admit that when it comes to picking wines, simply because I’m rather new to this viniculture game, I’m not exactly sure what I like. I know I prefer vigorous wines over full bodied ones, keeping away from flabby wines like the plague; and I certainly don’t want anything nutty, preferring my wines a little sweet without overt complexities. I know I like my wines clean, with no offending tastes or smells and yet with great depth. I’m willing to compromise as to how spicy the wine may be, but there’s certainly no room for negotiation on its elegance.
P.S. these are actual terms used to describe wines.
The point is that we’ve all got our preferences and despite my inability to really distinguish one good vintage from another, there I was at my local liquor store the other night and realising that I place far too much undue and irrational importance on the packaging of a bottle. If it’s got a fancy label, wonderful! Interesting thin curves similar to those used in ice wines? Even better! A novel way of corking along with gilded paper to wrap the head? I’ll take a case! It saddens me to say that I’ve made most of my budding sommelier decisions simply based on the packaging versus taking the time to read reviews and find out more about the particular vintage. I suppose I’m a little too impulsive and always wanting to be surprised. My peers have on occasion [and I say that conservatively], lamented my taste in wines though I’d like to think that they’re all still palatable, though perhaps not to the exacting standards through which they are subjected to.
Oh look at me ramble on about my woeful inability to tell wine from vinegar.
The fact remains that each of us have differing tastes as to how wine should taste or what constitutes a good wine. That’s an indisputable fact, but what I’d like to point out is that our tastes and ideals are based on perceptions of what a wine should be. In that, is where we differ from each other. Some believe whites can only go with seafood whereas reds with meats whereas some are adventurous and mix it up. Others propose port only after meals, whereas some drink it individually. I have little care for moscatos or other such dessert wines though for some, it is the drink of choice. Whilst I’m not so senseless as to deride the choices of those around me, though I may religiously and repeatedly point out their negative qualities to dear friends of mine, I understand that everyone has a different idea of what they want, need and best suits their palate.
My Christmas wish this year was that you, my dear loyal reader, would find what it is that you’re looking for and that you would enjoy it the way those around you seem to be doing so. Perhaps then, if you, like me, have not found your poison of choice, that you may agree with me that we’re doing it wrong.
Perhaps wine selection should be done with the utmost care, taking the time to find out about the preceding and proceeding harvests, the reputation of the vineyard and the prestige of the area. Whilst I feel that reading a review that someone else may have presented may irreversibly alter your expected perception and I do strongly against that, it’s not always unwise to pay heed to it… Especially if you suffer from my syndrome and grab the shiniest, nicest looking bottle. Not to say that beautiful bottles don’t have beautiful depth and character, but there’s that saying about book covers and judgment.
And as always, even if you’ve made your decision and plucked it off the shelf, don’t forget to allow it to decant. Take your time with it. Treasure it. Pour it into your best crystal ware; if you’ve taken a suitably restrained effort for selection, it certainly deserves your best efforts for appreciation. Swirl it around, breathe deep, don’t just jump in.
It’s true that some alcohols are only good for cooking, some for enjoyment and others for pastry baking. But I guess that’s part of the intrigue isn’t it? There may not necessarily be the one that you enjoy above all else. You may enjoy two completely different drinks in equal measure, though in different ways. But that my dear friends, is another post for another day.
I miss having food available 24/7 and being able to just hop into my car, driving down flawlessly smooth freeways with the music going and being able to gorge myself on incredibly delicious hawker fare. As much as I appreciate the fact that a variety of food must be had, I can’t imagine for the life of me why anyone would eat anything else in Singapore. It would be a lifetime’s mission to eat at every hawker restaurant in Singapore, all of which are varying degrees of excellent.
I miss the convenience of having shops that open past 5pm and more shopping than I can wave a stick at. Though to be fair, I hate the fact that I’m a small or a medium here and in Singapore I can barely squeeze my lard ass into L sized clothing.
I miss Christmas in Singapore, which is ironic considering it’s a tropical place but I have such fond memories of Christmas dinners there with a smorgasbord of food. Gourmand turkey, a huge tub filled with ice and beer, honey baked ham and endless cold salads.
Some part of me wishes that my life took on a very different route and sad to say that in this ideal world, Australia doesn’t really factor into it save for being a once off holiday destination. I wonder how things would have turned out given that situation but I suppose there’s no point in being nostalgic over a hypothetical.
Love is a lot like drinking. You begin slowly, testily, telling yourself that you’ll take it easy but nothing serious and it’ll just be in and out. I mean, everyone thinks they can handle their alcohol much and that they wouldn’t get in too deep. Then for the flimsiest of reasons and a whisper of an excuse, you get persuaded to stay and have “just one more”. Before you know it, you’re feeling fuzzy and warm all over and can’t quite seem to think of anything else but the next round.
Soon there you are doing shot after shot, not quite remembering why you began or what the occasion was but enjoying the moment anyway. You become reckless, making ill informed decisions and not caring anyway because the truth is, you’re having too much fun. Who knows, you may even decide to “take things to the next level” and then proceed on to go to a club, getting yourself stamped with a semi permanent mark and for awhile, it’s all you can think about acquiring. The hottest, most prestigious stamp, indelibly pressed into your skin like a brand of sorts. True, clubs aren’t for everyone and some people have firm views on it, vowing never to step foot into that door and not wanting to believe in the institution of it, but like most people, you just decided to “go with the flow” and now, here you are. Truth is, part of you did want to get in didn’t you?
Within the club itself, you may even choose to sign yourself up to the commitment of a table and bottles; the only real question is…. How many bottles should we have? After all, everyone’s doing it anyway and we all can’t seem to wait for the bottles to arrive. After all, that’s the point of a club isn’t it? Bottle service. So you shuffle from your one coaster bar spot to a lavish spread, believing that you didn’t overpay to sink your buttocks into the plush velvet and that all this really is worth it. But enough about the real estate; the point of such a nest is to have space for the bottles! We kick off with one, knowing full well that by the time you’re anywhere close to halfway on it, you’re already thinking of what to get for number 2. And truth is, once 1 and 2 are done, you deliberate a little before having 3. Sometimes you see some big spender somewhere lavishing enough bottles to start a bowling alley and you can’t help but wonder as to whether it’s folly or he… Really does love those bottles! Or perhaps he’s been pressured into it by some vixen…
At this stage, you realize that things may or may not have escalated too quickly, but you decide it’s exactly where you wanted to be anyway and to just “go with it”. After all, it’s all within your control and you’ve been adhering to the rules.
Only one type of alcohol, God forbid you’ve allowed yourself to mix and we all know that it’s the dark ones that can be really dangerous. After all, you’ve been wise with your choices, declining that innocent looking hazel nut brown shot of 151, what with the horror stories you’ve heard about it. Needless to say, you’ve done an admirable job steering well clear and away from that sultry Hennessy after the memory of an ill advised foray in your youth and sticking almost religiously to your drink of choice. I tend to prefer Asian alcohols, perhaps it’s something I’ve become familiar with though in recent times it appears I’ve drunk more soju than scotch; even though my peers may chide me for having a drink that requires sweetening with various soft drinks to become palatable. Others may choose their own particular brand of poison and perhaps you can’t quite understand, but it’s really all about personal preference isn’t it? Though that being said I think most of us are open to trying everything at least once…Besides, our tastes are ever changing and we all go through phases and oh, what the hell. Who knows why anyone likes anything anyway?
Sometimes the world makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it’s all said and done. I guess what we’re really left with is to pick up the pieces isn’t it?
Sometimes we make mistakes. But ask, if anything was done with a malicious heart or just a moment of weakness. To be malicious is the greatest sin and woe betide those who commit transgressions with such intent against those whom are meant to be their brothers. Father forgive me for those sins I have committed as I may forgive those who sin against me.
Whilst I feel awfully limited at times due to the sheer mediocrity of my kitchen, I often do try to build dishes that I’ve seen online and whilst they’re mere shadows of their inspirations, now and then I do meet with success. I’ll admit right now that my kitchenware is horribly inadequate, what with a lack of a convection oven, an electric stove instead of gas and my lack of ownership of decent pots, pans and the various implements required to create such works of art.
This is in no small part due to the temporal nature of my residence, knowing that I will not reside in this apartment [or city… or continent…] for much longer and it is my staunch resolve that upon settling in somewhere with a degree of permanence, I will endeavour to build a kitchen that would do such dishes justice.
That being said, now and then I do meet with certain successes. Whilst the lack of a hot gas fire or steaming implements means that I am in fact cut off from arguably 90% of Eastern recipes and a lack of a convection oven means that 95% of Western recipes are rendered impossible, I would say that given the right pressure and access to produce, I would be able to produce something edible.
We all have our idols whom we seek to emulate and whilst it may be cliched, I’d have to cite the English chefs, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal as my two sources of inspiration. It was Gordon Ramsay’s approach and attitude to cooking that first got me interested in trying my own and Heston Blumenthal’s technical viewpoints that got me understanding why things were done.
I look forward to the day where I have fresh produce and the time to make some of the more technically complex oils and seasonings required. In the meantime, I shall satisfy myself with thrice weekly renditions of their amazing scrambled eggs. Oh how my eyes have been opened.