Wednesday, December 29, 2010

sugi cake

This Christmas season, I have been thinking about Sugi Cakes - my way of holding on to a sense of myself amid a whirl of other people's Christmas needs and neuroses.

I have, in my collection of recipes, a recipe for Sugi Cake - semolina cake - that came from a handwritten book of recipes given to me by the aunt of an ex-boyfriend. She gave it to me as a sign of affection and welcome into the family. The boyfriend and I broke up later that year and the book has since disintegrated and been lost. But I copied this one recipe into another book for safe-keeping.

I made this cake once, a long time ago, within the first few years of my arrival in Canada. Perhaps I needed to hold on to a sense of myself amid the whirl of arriving in a new place. At that time, freshly departed from Malaysia, taste memories still sharp, my confidence in my ability to translate/adapt half-remembered words and measurements was high.

But I now look at the recipe with the antiquated measuring system and the imprecise names - kaundor? - and cannot so easily find this confidence.

Here is the recipe. Only ingredients. No instructions.

Sugi Cake
1 kati sugi
1 kati sugar
1 1/4 kati butter
1/2 kati kaundor
2 pieces preserved nutmeg
1 piece preserved lime
1 teaspoon rose essence
1/2 kati ground almonds
4 tahils flour
1/4 kati raisins
30 eggs
1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves
1 wine glass brandy

I invite you to experiment, adapt, improve and share your results.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

le bout du monde

Tofino for Christmas.
I am on the edge of the world, surrounded by water, salty and fresh.
in the interrogations of time past
time future
time present,
I seem to have gotten lost.
While crossing the water on the ferry (perhaps the early morning darkness was a contributing factor), I fell into a funk of irrational heartbreak. 

But yesterday, at the end of a journey through a storm of biblical proportions, there was a gift from the gods: a magnificent sunset to remind me that the present is full of joy and love, despite minor irritations.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


It has been a while since I have read to Junhong. For the last couple of years, it has been David who has had, or has insisted on, the privilege. Instead, Junhong and I, as our reading ritual, read our respective books in bed or on the couch together, exchanging interesting tidbits as they come along. Last week, however, he was felled by a bug and was in bed for 2 days. When I offered to read to him, he, in the spirit of nostalgia for babyhood,  requested fairytales. So I read him "The Young King" by Oscar Wilde and cried while doing so. Then I read to him from the Book of Genesis. We both agreed that God was a punitive asshole.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Recently, in order to become a better clown, I went to see a therapist.
I told this to May Lyn, who thinks it is amusing. (See, already my strategy is working).
Then she told me (in the in-between language that we speak together),
"Between you and me, you clown ce n'est pas possible. Tu n'es pas assez tragique".

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day of the dead

My love said to me, I want to love you a long time.

Then he branded me.
Or maybe it was the other way around.

Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present
                                                  (TS Eliot)

On my heart, death and creation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

birth day

Today, as I turn 46 and am thinking about how clown, dance, failure and heroism intersect in my childhood, I was offered this:

The baby is a bundle of ruthless desire. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010


In St. John's, Newfoundland recently, while at the Festival of New Dance, I saw Martin Bélanger's piece Spoken Word/Body.  In it,  he offers us a piece of text which he wrote a long time ago. He tells us, however, that we should know that he is ashamed of it. He is only putting that text in the piece because his collaborators insisted upon it. Then, he says, seeing as he is being paid to perform and the audience has paid to watch him, it is only fitting that he should be the one who is humiliated.

Shame and humiliation in an arena of commodification.

In that little scene, we are all implicated in this ritual of performance - the performer, the audience, the exchange of money. And by calling it for what it is, we are then able to see past the ritual and perceive the real pain and truth contained in the shameful text without feeling as if we have been manipulated by shameless sentimentality.

The following night, while in the middle of my own performance, I realized that in fact, The Whole Beast is full of things that I am ashamed of. The shame is about speaking the truth about yourself. And the line that divides the shameful from the shameless is very, very thin indeed.

To dance the truth is to dance on the treacherous edge of a very sharp blade.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

obstacles and desire

Dancing with Jung-Ah is an exercise in extreme faith and humility.
I am a crippled mortal next to a mythical creature.
If dance is an adjustment around our obstacles and our desires, then my body is the obstacle, Jung-Ah's dancing is what I desire. And I must have faith that the adjustment is enough. Because the attainment of that desire is impossible.


Someone said that the flat floor was a form of colonialism. The colonialism of straight lines and linear thought on a world of curves and complex textures.

While at Shangri-la, Jason's secret camping spot, a spot that requires bushwhacking through the forest, that requires climbing down a cliff while hanging onto dubious trees and even more dubious ferns, and finally a precarious hike upriver over sometimes-slippery rocks and boulders; it occurred to me that being there was a process of decolonizing my body.

A process of re-awakening my body to its inherent capacity to attend to and negotiate the complexities of the world.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I am collaborating with Steven Hill and Jesse Garlick on a performance contraption that will be an intersection of clown, dance and architecture.

Jesse offered us Martin Heidegger's thoughts on dwellings: that a dwelling should address the sky, the earth, yourself and the divinities.
Hence, we are trying to construct a dwelling that does all that, plus ask: can you build a dwelling out of materials, obstacles and desires?

It feels like we are trying to build a utopia.
Like all utopias, it will be full of failures.
And failure is where the clown and the dancer meet.

Perhaps I shall finally learn how to be funny.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Yesterday, I ate my first peach of the season. Blessedly, because it is rare to find a good peach even when in season, it was perfect. Thus, I announced, perhaps with a fair bit of hyperbole, that it was better than sex.

Junhong, who eats liver, sweetbreads, kidneys and chicken feet with gusto, but is fussy about fruit, tasted a sliver with trepidation and said, "THIS is better than SEX??? It's nasty!!!"

At 12, approaching puberty, he has a poor opinion of what lies ahead.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Years ago, whenever I flew from the home that I knew - Malaysia - to the home I adopted - Vancouver - I would weep copious amounts of tears, my heart breaking painfully (for a loss of wholeness that never was) for most of the journey across the Pacific. Then I would arrive and the toilets at the airport would be clean, the salty air would seduce me, and it was as if Vancouver were an amnesia-inducing anesthetic.

"How can I tell if love of life is not a delusion? How can I tell whether a man who fears death is not like a man who has left home and dreads returning? Lady Li was the daughter of a border guard of Ai. When the Duke of Chin first took her captive, she wept until her dresss was soaked with tears. But once she was living in the Duke's palace, sharing his bed, and eating delicious food, she wondered why she ever cried. How can I tell whether the dead are not amazed that they ever clung to life? (Chuangzi)

Lately I feel as if the last 20 years of being in this place, I was really still leaving that place: unable to properly see this place from the clutter and tangle of the things I carried.

But now, finally, I am arriving in this land, into this land. I arrive into a beauty hewn by violent geological upheavals. I arrive into a present made by violent upheavals and displacement of peoples from their land.

I arrive into a clutter and tangle of violence and ruptures that are so painful that we long for the anesthesia. We long for amnesia.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

awesome, great and scary

A few months ago, when I asked Natalie Lefebvre-Gnam about why she danced, she confessed that when she was younger, she just wanted to be "awesome", thereby reminding me that sometimes it was just that simple.

Last night, while eating dinner with Lisa Milloy at a French restaurant in Berlin (Bandol on Torstraße, for those of you who care about these things), I was reminded that awesome wasn't always so simple.

When the owner/manager came to clear the plates, and asked if everything had been fine, I said, It was AWESOME. And, Wie sagt man AWESOME auf Deutsch?

He said something in German and I think he was saying that there are many meanings and perhaps there wasn't the exact same word in German (So precise, Germans). He came back later and said, as if to share his discovery and maybe to ask for clarification, "Awesome means great and also means scary".

How delightful!
How wondrous!

Because recently, Marion and Janet, after watching The Whole Beast on video, had said it was "scary". Which means it is awesome.
And because in Natalie's confession, one can find in the youthful desire to kick ass, the desire also to be scary.

And because I am reminded that great food and great dance, like great sex, reminds us that life is great and scary.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I am busy processing thoughts about the architecture of obligation in performance spaces. I cannot articulate it yet. In the meantime, I discovered a delicious snack.

Cut up an avocado.
Drizzle with honey.
Sprinkle with salt.
Toss to coat, if you must.

When I was pregnant, I ate, everyday, an avocado drizzled with heavy cream.
I got very fat.
The above recipe will make you less fat.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Objects and Matter

I have just returned from a trip to Malaysia, which included a 10-day workshop with Malaysian artists, Jacqueline Ann Surin, Anne James, Hari Azizan and Tiffany Chew. We paid attention to our bodies and made objects out of energy. People came, sat among the objects and watched us move among the objects. They, in turn, left behind them imprints of their presence.

Photos by Jason of Tasik and Sungai, Burung dan Ikan.

while at home

Here is a conversation with The Nut Graph, via Jo-Ann Ding.