Friday, 5 October 2018

A Vegan's Guide to Surviving China: Xian and Chengdu Edition

Open-air restaurants in Shidai residential block, Chengdu. Photo credit: Rick's Photo Thing (RPT)

Around a year and a half ago, I read a Guardian article with the provocative title 'Free range is a con. There’s no such thing as an ethical egg'. As a long-term vegetarian, while I was aware of some of the issues with factory farming, I had been somewhat reassured by labels such as 'free range' and 'organic'. The article confirmed what I think, deep down, I had already suspected but hadn't known how to address given that so many veggie alternatives are heavily reliant on egg and cheese ingredients. It made for an eye-opening, unsettling read. I shared it with my partner, proclaiming, 'I can't eat another egg again in good conscience.' We decided to trial a vegan diet almost immediately.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Nana by Ai Yazawa Book Review: A Very Unconventional Love Story

Note: This post contains spoilers.

After 21 volumes and 80 chapters, I've finally come to the provisional* end of a manga series whose characters have taken on the familiarity of old friends. Endearing, relatable and, at times, hopelessly infuriating. Saying goodbye to them was accompanied by a quiet sense of loss I'm sure the two Nanas would implicitly understand. So what was it about Nana that made me stick with it for so long?

Nana follows two young women who move to Tokyo in search of their dreams at key junctures in their lives. A frivolous airhead who attaches herself to men too readily and a fiercely independent punk rocker set on making it as a lead vocalist, on the surface, Nana K. (a.k.a. Hachi) and Nana O. share little more than a name and the same train journey. Nevertheless, they make an improbable connection.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Perks of Being a Publishing Postgrad

Photo credit: Rick's Photo Thing

Last September, I started a new chapter in a book I had convinced myself I had long since finished. Resuming higher education through an MA in Publishing wasn't something I'd mapped out as part of any five-year postgraduate plan. Though I had toyed with the possibility as a recent graduate, this was more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. Besides, I wasn't exactly grief-stricken to see the back of late-night essay-writing frenzies and endless grade-chasing. While I went on to pursue journalism training, this turned out to be one of the most unbalanced and stressful periods of my life. Why, then, was I potentially putting myself through something like that again?

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


The interviewer looked me in the eye and smiled. "Where do you see yourself five years from now?"

"When will people stop asking me this ridiculous question?!" I groaned. "How am I supposed to know?! Anything can happen! Life can change dramatically in one afternoon, one year, let alone five! Having goals is one thing, but why do you have to put a timeline to it?!"

Alright, I didn't say that. Out loud, anyway. I certainly thought it.

There are two questions I never know how best to answer: "Where are you from?" and "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?"

From this article
I grew up moving between towns, cultures, and countries  I spent my formative years in England, South East Asia, and the United States. Thanks to my parents' work as pastors and missionaries, life could be shaken up overnight  an exciting, sometimes heart-breaking reality. Occasionally I wondered if I was alone in my struggle to answer questions about my origins and future, in my uncertainty about where exactly I fit, and in all the paradoxical pains and joys of my highly mobile existence.

Thankfully, an eye-opening read, and my Master's research and thesis which spawned from the book's inspiration, helped me to understand that I was not the only one with such an experience and its complicated side-effects.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Halloween Storytime: The Intruder

Enter if you will, gentle reader, pull up a stuffed armchair by the fireside and join me in a true tale of small-town terror.

As young teenagers, one of the biggest and most important obstacles my friends and I faced was convincing all our parents to allow us to stage spontaneous sugar-fuelled sleepovers and backyard 'campouts'. We would listen to cheese-rock ballads on a temperamental Walkman, play pass-the-buck-style dramatic storytelling games, conjecture wildly about our dream futures and generally achieve little to no sleep.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Love Your Shelf Book Club #2: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Photo credit: Rick's Photo Thing

With Sarah and Lynette


Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being given the squeeze by a blackmailer and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood's two wild, devil-may-care daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out – and that's before he stumbles over the first corpse... (Penguin re-issue edition)


L: Money – everyone's doing something for money. I think this book is set in the 30s, right? Depression era. So money is pretty high on everyone's mind. And honour – family honour and Marlowe's own honour code, which I thought was interesting; he's an honourable man even with his 'dirty' work.
S: Ooh, I like those. I thought that, too – it's interesting that Marlowe is shown to not just be in his job for the money and has his own code of ethics. There're the classic noir themes: moral ambiguity, cynicism, fatalism, treachery, corruption...
L: Yes, cynicism was a big one I noticed, too. I wondered if that theme was also linked to the Depression era (which I believe is when a lot of noir classics are set). And, of course, corruption – no one is innocent, everyone has some sort of angle or connection. I thought the ending was quite dark, in line with the cynicism.
S: Definitely – there's that postwar pessimism and darkness that is consistent throughout the book, despite the wry humour.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

The Pursuit of Work–Life Balance

Photo credit: Rick's Photo Thing

I remember the first time I had to study through the whole day, stopping only once I climbed into bed, defeated and dreading starting all over again the next day. I had been plagued by a particularly bothersome high school assignment for my least favourite subject, biology. It was the early noughties, and my household had no internet access; our only reference books comprised an outdated encyclopedia collection that pre-dated World War I. I particularly remember the intense dismay I felt at the knowledge that I wouldn't be able to play my recently acquired copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that night.