Monday, April 11, 2011

Norman Rockwell

I love Norman Rockwell, I love his illustrations, they bring out the kid in me - not that it takes a lot to do that. My aunt is American at heart, she loved New York, she loved the US, she loved American culture and American films. Back in her posh apartment a stone throw from the Eiffel tower in Paris, she lived the high life of a career focussed advertiser, a lot like Don Draper. Her apartment wasn't exactly child friendly but having no kids of her own and lots of money, she always bought great gifts for my brother and I. Going to her place was cool, she had Monty Pythons films, MASH and best of all Tex Avery - can't go wrong with Tex Avery. The next best thing was her book of Norman Rockwell in the midst of her collection of hundreds of LP records.

I spent hours seating on her sofa flipping the pages, studying every detail of each of his illustrations. They were sweet, innocent, more than pleasing to the eye, they conveyed feelings and reminded me of something I lived or would live. So I was well chuffed when I received the newsletter from Sommerset House promoting Norman Rockwell exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery and we made it just in time before our holiday and before the show ended.

I like this one, it's the day in the life of a little girl from breakfast, swimming, play, party, date, first kiss and sweet dreams. Rockwell drew the same with a little boy.

Le telephone arabe - not sure what it's called in English - when rumor goes around and the story gets twisted and when it goes back to the first person, it's a different story.

Ain't that just lovely!
Baignade Interdite in French - No Swimming in English - possibly one of Rockwell's most famous illustration.
The Picture Gallery had walls and walls covered with framed Saturday Evening Post covers. Just awesome. Shame I could not get my aunt over to the UK in time to see this, she would have loved it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A very overdue farewell

Alex, Julien, Justin & Janet for my 25th birthdayJustin Tan Seng Kooi
12 June 1972- 03 October 2010
friend, brother, son, lover, boss, colleague, astronomer, engineer, visionary, giver

I met with Janet and See Ming, I had not seen Janet since I left Malaysia in 2005, after long embraces and complementing each other on how well we looked and how well we were, we sat for coffee and See Ming excitedly prompted me to tell them 'everything I remembered about Justin!' I kindda guessed he'd make the main focus of our conversation but somehow the memories half faded by the years, still fresh from the grief - all came rushing together and stumbled messily upon one another in my head and I could not seem to be able to mutter any one story!

Justin was a good - no - a great friend. He was the kind of man you meet once in your life and they instantly touch your life. I met Justin in October 2000. I came out of Xavier's office, he was going to give me the Marketing job - See Ming had just left them, he called upon Jet to get me into the job and introduced me to Justin who was going to be my boss. He looked scruffy, he had big hair, torn jeans and his all-time favourite white tee-shirt and a big grin on his face. He always grinned that big cheeky smile like a kid. Fast forward a couple of months and I got a bit more into my role and worked a bit closer to Justin, Mark and Mickey. At the time Alex was doing a lot of due diligence and worked late every night, so I had nothing better to do than hang around the office, have dinner, get back to work, but never quite working, more like hanging out, listening to Justin boucing some business ideas and other BS while strumming his guitar.

Justin always surprised me at his outlook on life and his approach to people and matters. He never took anything quite seriously but at the same time made everything and everyone seem like it was the most important thing or person in the world - that was a gift all on its own. His mind was as tidy as his appearance and office was messy. He compartementalised his life: friends - work - hobbies, it took a bit to get to know him and his friends and his hobbies outside of work.

Two of my favorite memories of Justin are:

He liked his work, he disliked meetings - they were a waste of valuable work time, and as such he disliked going to PIKOM - I think it was every Tuesdays, he'd always look for excuses not to attend the meetings. But little by little he'd be missing more often than usual, I remember asking Emily, his PA at the time where he was going all the time, she said he had some business at Pikom - that arose amusing suspicion, Justin was very private so I would not even think of asking him directly, a couple of weeks later and Sam went to a function with Justin and reported back that Janet and him had been flirting openly all night. Haha! Janet was PIKOM secretary, it all made sense! It would only be a few weeks later that he'd be admitting to it and another month later before he introduced Janet and I. Turned out Janet was indeed as fantastic as he was and that they'd be making the wonderful couple they were.

Justin had a bike, I had my kancil, so when we went out for drinks, I'd be driving. One night, he took me on a wild goose chase around KL, he needed to pick up a friend somewhere. When I saw the friend I could not help but notice that his friend was even scruffier than he was if that was ever possible! We went to a rat infested street in KL for teh tarik and mee goreng. Turns out the friend was quite interesting too as were all the people Justin surrounded himself with. Later, Justin asked me to stop behind what looked like a terrible motel - he went in and I stayed chatting with the man (I can remember his face, but not his name or what we talked about). Justin came back out and the man bid us goodnight and went on our way. As we drove away, I asked Justin who he was. Nothing prepared me to what I was about to learn about Justin... The man was an ex drug addict, just out of rehab, he had no job, no money and no place to go. Justin was his 'big brother', visiting him regularly at the rehab, so he was still looking our for him, he gave him money, and arranged for a place to stay at a brothel while he found himself a job. I knew Justin was very generous but I had no remote idea What a selfless man he truly was.

Another one of his passion was astronomy, and some of the most fun arguments we had was me trying to argue that the universe had some sort of influence on our lives and that there was something greater than life but Justin disagreed - Mr No-Nonsense. More fun arguments came out from his philosophy, he had views on relationships that I could not understand. It was only years later that some the things he said started making sense. He was my 'quit smoking buddy', we put on weight and dieted and started smoking again together. We had some cool debates about life, people, relationships, dreams versus reality and commitments.

Justin had something to do with me leaving Malaysia. He became CEO, became empowered into a role he did not want, had to step up to the challenge, turned Extol into a new dynamic and efficient model, had the chance to implement a new structure and vision, but had no time for friends. Combined with a couple of other reasons, I knew I'd miss the times we spent together and thought that if I was away - at least we'd have a good reason not to be hanging out. Still, he always kept a special place in my heart and I was always looking forward to seeing him again when visiting Malaysia.

To date, and in spite of the love I have for the men in my life, Justin is possibly one of the most extra-ordinary man I have ever met and I am lucky enough to be surrounded by some very wonderful people indeed. I shall always look up to him for the simplicity of his brilliant mind and his beautiful heart and his childish grin and laughter. I hope he knew. Miss you dearly Just.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cooking with Pum

I ended our holiday in Phi Phi with a cooking class at Pum's cooking school. I met with two lovely young American travellers one of which was heading back to the States, the other heading for Borneo after teaching English in South Korea for a few months. Noi was our chef, he was teaching us three Thai favourites: Red Lipstick, Green Lipstick and White Lipstick, respectively Tom Yum, Curry Curry and Tom Kha Gai (chicken in coconut milk soup).

Here's a recipe for you to try (if you can find the ingredients)

Tom Yum Goong
Prawns x a handful (2-3/person)
Water x 340ml
Galangal root sliced x 4-5 pieces
Lemongrass (sliced 3-4cm) x 1/2 stalk
Kaffir Lime Leaves x 2 (you'll know when you find it cos it smells amazing!)
Thai Shallot x 1 (I use normal shallot)
Small green chillies x 2
Fish sauce x 2 tablespoons
Sugar x 1 tablespoon
Lemon Juice x 1 tablespoon (we used a lime pressed it for its juice)
Chilli paste x 1 tea spoon (or two if you like it hot!)

In a pot, bring the water to a boil and add the chilli paste, mix well
Add the fish sauce, sugar, lemon juice and add the herbs, stir well
Bring the soup to a boil and add the prawns
Done. Enjoy!(PS: Libellule, je te donne ma recette du Singapore Fried Mee Hoon des que je suis a jour avec mes updates!)