Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Break | Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

“Would you like to consider a relationship with me, based on a premise of love?”

This is a book about the passing of seasons and a friendship which blossoms into an unexpected yet touching romantic relationship. It is a celebration of food - tofu, miso, edame, sake and mushroom hunting in the autumn - and the frequent habits formed in a local bar that shape something bigger and more beautiful. It is about two lonely souls who find themselves in the other person.

Strange Weather in Tokyo is an effortless and understated read. Yet, it is so tender and so poignant. Reading it felt almost cinematic - with each chapter, a quiet scene unfolds, made delightfully atmospheric through glimpses into Japanese cuisine, culture, landscape and literature in the form of Haiku. 

This is a book which oscillates between sweetness and sadness. It is a dream yet it is all too real. It is a meditation on love and loneliness. It is comforting and heartbreaking, and it will linger with you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Magazine of the Moment | Pencilled In

Today, I present to you a stunning gem of a literary and art magazine unlike any other I have so far come across. Pencilled In is a new publication which contains contributions solely from Asian-Australians. It is a publication born out of admirable passion and determination to have the work of talented young writers and artists seen. 

I actually only discovered this magazine as a good friend of mine has one of her pieces published in the first issue and that friend is one of many from my high school and primary school days who is Asian. It's funny, because growing up, I thought nothing of this, compared to what my parents or grandparents may have thought and perhaps still think. And yet, it has only been the last few years that I have become aware of the considerable absence of the 'Asian Australian' voice in contemporary Australian arts and culture. It never crossed my mind, as a young girl, to consider things such as the Asian Australian experience, despite being as close as I was to my friends. Perhaps this is because there was such a lack of representation or absence of discussion. I have heard peers talk about how they feel so distinctly and inherently different from other Australians, despite living here for most of their lives. 

Hearing this, knowing this, saddened me. While I obviously cannot speak on behalf of Asian Australians, it is a reminder of just how much representation matters and why this magazine specifically is so powerful. 

From the magazine's website: 'Asian Australian artists are underrepresented in the Australian arts industry, and have been for a considerable amount of time. Young artists, especially, are feeling the pinch more than ever, and opportunities can be difficult to come by. Many young Asian Australians are discouraged from entering the arts industry by their parents or other family members – and instead, embark on careers in other areas. Even so, we all have that drawing hidden away in a sketchbook, an outline of a story lurking in the back of our heads, or an unfinished poem we never got the chance to revisit. Bits and pieces of art that are eternally pencilled in. Pencilled In, then, seeks to highlight and showcase art by young Asian Australians. It is a chance for emerging artists to have their work published, and hopes to provide a platform for such artists to forge meaningful relationships.'

The pieces in the first issue, including poetry, prose, photography and illustration, are all phenomenal explorations and reflections of the theme 'fear and hope'. Within its pages are the extraordinary ideas and stories by young creatives who deserve to be celebrated. It is exciting to know that such a magazine is paving the way for more diversity in publishing and I cannot wait to read more.

Issue 1 of Pencilled In can be bought here

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

= Podcast Picks vol. 2 =

Since my last podcast post, in which I professed my absolute adoration for the medium, my love for them is yet to peak. The more I find, the more I crave. You can probably imagine my utter glee when I discovered Australian Audio Guide: a self-described 'hand-picked companion to the best Australian audio content' (I wholeheartedly agree). These days, you will find me lurking in the 'Arts and Culture' and 'Food' section, aka the two loves of my life. 

There have been three podcasts that I have been really loving at the moment, so I thought I would share them with you. If your interests also fall within the topics of the arts, feminism, literature and food, then give these a listen on your next commute. You wont regret it!

'A podcast about women's experience as creators and consumers of arts and culture'
There have only been four episodes so far in this series (and at present, I have only tuned in to two) but it has already become one of my favourites. Each episode consists a long form conversation with a prominent female writer or artist in their field and discusses their work, how they shaped their career and musings about the experiences of gender in creative industries. It was the first episode which really drew me in: featuring Baily's Women's Prize winning author Hannah Kent for her debut novel, Burial Rites, I was enraptured by this brilliant woman's intellect and her journey thus far as a successful writer. The second episode I listened to, featuring program manager for the Melbourne Writers Festival Jessica Alice, was equally engaging. As someone who is deeply appreciative of the arts and the women who have made their mark in the industry, this podcast inspires me in a multitude of ways. That is, it inspires me to continue to support the arts and continue to chase after my own dreams, even despite the fact that they are in such a competitive field.

'An experimental podcast of little bundles of love'
This is such a sweet podcast founded by such a simple idea: the reading of letters. In each episode, the host Elizabeth reads out a letter that either she herself or a listener wrote. While short, these podcasts do not shy away from addressing love, loss and longing. Elizabeth's voice is so soothing that listening becomes a wholly immersive experience. There is a distinct profundity that even when whispered or spoken softly, the effect isn't any less heart wrenching. This would make for perfect rainy day listening.

 'A factual food fight'
You wouldn't think there would be much to know about an ingredient such as mayonnaise, but it's outstanding how much I learned after turning into Ingredipedia's first podcast. Each episode of this food focused series delve into the interesting stories, facts and sometimes wacky recipe ideas behind a featured ingredient. While you may initially be mistaken into thinking such an idea is pedestrian (I mean, who would be interested in your everyday, run of the mill pantry products, right?) this podcast is so enjoyable thanks to the highly engaging co-hosts. Let's just say I'll never think the same way about mayonnaise, figs or cherries again!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Slow Down | Make a Bouquet

I had noticed the development of habits. And not the good kind. Not being able to get to sleep, waking up in a panic, being easily overwhelmed, crying more frequently at the smallest of things. I felt I was in a repetitive cycle of feeling stressed, confused and hopeless and I wanted to break it. I've never been much into 'self-help' books, but I found myself reaching for 'The Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle and I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful I found it.

The overarching message of the novel is to live in the present, which is a lot harder than it may seem. Some people dwell on the past, others fixate on the future and where they want to be. I fall within the former. I've never had a 'five year plan' and probably never will. And yet, everything I had been doing in the past few months seemed to be directed towards an elusive future; both in my actions and my thoughts. Eckhart does acknowledge and address the fact that, yes, it is important to plan for the future. But there's a difference between being conscientious and putting your entire life on hold by always worrying about the future you. 'I will be happy when...I will be successful when...Everything will work out when...'

I had become stuck and needed to find a way to claw my way out. And I discovered that the best way to do so is to get back to the basics. I needed to invest more time into creative activities to calm down, so that's what I have been doing. I intend to keep a track of the simple things that have been bringing me back to the 'now' through these 'Slow Down' posts. As Eckhart explains, the present moment is all we have, and it should be made the primary focus.

Slow Down: Make a Bouquet
Make this a weekly ritual. If you're lucky enough to have access to a garden, use it to gather your materials. Otherwise, cheap supermarket flowers are just as lovely. Spend time snipping the stems and arranging the flowers in a vase, paying careful attention to the smell and the feel of each specimen. Find an area in your house to place your vase, ideally a room you spend the most amount of your time. Notice how much joy a fresh bunch of flowers can bring and feel delighted by the small part you played in showcasing just how beautiful they are.

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