Talents

Truth. Multidimensional abilities. But… because… unable to fit into the Grand Neurotypical Circus Libretto…

...autisticook

There are so many things I can do, and do well at that.

A picture of freehand nail art, done on my own nails using nail polishes, showing a drawing of a small gnome with a bright red hat, surrounded by berries and flowers, on a green to brown gradient background

I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my nail art, for starters, and a lot of people have suggested I could do this professionally. I don’t think I’m at the level yet that I’ve seen from professional nail techs, but it’s a special interest and I’d probably get there within a year.

I’m a good cook. Not at restaurant level (mostly because my presentation sucks), but if someone asked me to cater an event for 30 people, I’d nail that. I’m really good with taste and texture and what foods work well together. And I rock beer pairings.

I’m a damn good writer. Mostly blog posts, sometimes essays. Even release notes and user manuals. I’m detailed and structured and I have an awesome command of language. I know how to grab someone’s attention.

I’m a good carpenter…

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clemency & space

 

This morning, I travelled across my little island home from the central region where I live, to the western coast, to the Yale-NUS College library to set up my miniature Clement Space in the City (revised, 2018) installation. It is an impressive campus, not for its size, as it is a small one, but for its compact superficial beauty. There is a sense of crafted tranquility in its manicured greenery, right in the middle of smart modern buildings. Meandering around clean, crisp corridors, trying to find my destination, I wonder about the lack of clear signposts. Is it a deliberate exercise in subtle exclusion, a quiet ‘hint’ to outsiders that we are not exactly warmly welcomed into this carefully constructed environment for the elite? I do not really know, but I did have the thought that Lucy would’ve loved a nice run around the green grass patches, though she’d probably create bald muddy holes in the wake of her greyhound strides. Then another thought following this one was, “Is this beauty something to merely behold, or can we actually use it, run around in it, hug the trees, roll in the manicured grass, laugh, flap, stim and lie on it?” Continue reading

crucial assistance

 

 

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Lucy came with me to the Arts & Disability International Conference today. It was a huge blessing to have her with me, well worth the small ‘inconveniences’, like having to take her outside for potty each time we had a break and thus missing out on food and beverage.

When we first arrived, I made the mistake of choosing to sit in a busy area where people were walking or wheeling back and forth, standing around chatting, and even striding over Lucy, who was laying on her mat next to me at my feet. The lights in the rooms were confronting, to say the least. Lucy took it all in with grace and quietude, and she kept a discreet whisker out for me all the time. I began to feel nervous and agitated from the constant noise, movement and frenetic energy buzzing round and round, and Lucy got up to indicate that we should move to a less busy spot. She led me to the far corner on the other side of the room, and we settled down comfortably there, until lunchtime. Continue reading

I.N.U. Review

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The family decided to check out this new (to us) dog-friendly place on Friday last week. We’d heard that they served really good local style food for humans, and we weren’t disappointed at all. Too many dog-friendly cafes  fail at dishing out good quality human nosh. This one is one of the unusual ones, like The Tea Party at Pasir Panjang, but the great thing about I.N.U. is that they are very near our home.

Lucy was disturbed at the beginning by a small unruly Frenchie named Rufus with an attitude far bigger than his size. He rushed at Lucy, who was nicely settled in her own mat, pawed at her face and attempted repeatedly to mount her. Lucy got up, tried to back away but she was stuck in a small corner and began to look really troubled at the very first launch of this unruly behaviour. I politely requested his humans to please quell their dog – he belonged to a man and a lady, the man completely ignored my requests to remove the dog and did not even glance our way, while the lady came quite reluctantly to remove their dog – but this happened once, twice, three times, four… again and again and again, and they never once offered an apology.

Righto, dog people, here’s some frank advice: if your dog has this kind of problem, please keep him/her leashed, or crated. This is just simple, standard basic decorum. I mean, would you like it if I kept rushing up to you and shoving you in the face and climbing onto you, engaging you in ‘friendly’ wrestling match, when all you’re doing is trying to have a quiet meal in your own little corner? Why should dogs be any different in terms of invasion of personal space, why should my well behaved dog have to put up with rowdy behaviour, even if not aggressive but overtly, inappropriately ‘friendly’?

My poor gentle Lucy was becoming more and more agitated at the unwanted visits (every few seconds) from the dog, and so was I, almost at my wits’ end trying to stay calm and composed while keeping that nuisance away from my girl. Another thing about this kind of anti-social dog behaviour is that the big dog who is the gentle victim is inevitably blamed if their threshold to endure is crossed and the big dog retaliates. What would happen to the small bully if Lucy were not so patient, long-suffering and retiring, and if I had allowed my girl to be continuously assaulted in that way? Whose fault would it be if an altercation ensued and someone got hurt? It was not pleasant at all, and I was just about to enter into the ‘near meltdown’ zone, when suddenly, the manic intrusions stopped.

What happened was something I didn’t expect but was very grateful for. The overly rambunctious Frenchie finally disappeared from view. I turned around to look for him, and saw that someone had placed him in the elevated section near the cashier and behind a sturdy baby/doggy gate. There, within that confined space, I could see Rufus running amok, but at least he wasn’t bothering my Lucy anymore. I presume it was either Cindy, the owner of the cafe or the dog’s own humans who placed him there. Very thankful for that extra space for ‘time-out’, a most well thought out design of space by the owners of the cafe. Thank you, Cindy!

The other dogs there were very well behaved and we made sure our little curious Tiny was similarly kept in check. That is the way playgrounds ought to be, spaces where children can enjoy themselves, interact safely one with another, with adult supervision, and the same applies to doggy-play.

At last, we could focus on food and enjoying our evening. I ordered the beef tendon and brisket noodle, and the others had fried rice, pork ribs, and bak kut teh. This may seem like a tall order, but truthfully, every dish was delicious! The noodles were just al dente enough without being chewy, the broth aromatic and dark, and there was a good balance of beaf tendon, brisket and green veggies. I tasted some of mum’s fried rice, and although I am not a fan of fried rice, I don’t really like my food all mixed up in an indistinguishable mess, but this one was done right – the rice didn’t stick together in a goopy mass, the rice was lightly textured, and I was able to taste the individual ingredients quite clearly. I didn’t manage to take a photograph of the bak kut teh because my brother-in-law ate it all up rather quickly, nodding his head and making approving noises as he went. The pork was cooked perfectly, tender and the marinate zesty with a hint of spice. We had banana ice cream for dessert, but this wasn’t my favourite, as it was a tad overly sweet. Nevertheless, five big thumbs up from all of us (Nula, our helper too)!

Even Lucy eventually had fun – she decided it was safe to have a wander around after the rambunctious Rufus was removed from her vicinity, and got up from her mat to ‘mingle’ with the shorties (all the others were little ones) in her quiet, regal and slightly aloof way. Another delightful detail? The owner of the cafe has two lovely Shibas, gentle and perfectly behaved sweethearts with such adorable curly tails!

We shall return. Thank you for a lovely evening, I.N.U.!

inside clement space

Dogs are amazing creatures. I never wish to anthropomorphise them, because they are more beautiful than human beings in my eyes, so why make them into inferior entities by ‘humanising’ them? No. There they are, inside clement space, the way anyone should be when enveloped in tranquility and equilibrium – around them there may be a hundred thousand different things clashing, crashing, turning, pivoting, whirling and reverberating, yet, there, inside their little cocoons of grace, they lay quietly resting. Renewing. Refreshing. Replenishing.

Lucy Like-a-Charm and her two ‘cousins’ Bizcuit and Tiny. Blessedness.

home cooked by experts

It is lovely to have good meals cooked at home by people who can whip up nosh better than I can. The icing on the cake is that I do not have to lift a finger, and no dishes to wash afterwards. Always look on the bright side of life. 🙂 It’s not always that my peculiar senses fully embrace the eclectic and sometimes strange (to me) tastes, but having that executive function taken care of so completely is a relief, and that makes the smells and tastes all the better, even the dishes I am not as keen on.

Merci Beaucoup! ❤

syncopation

 

 

Sensory syncopation. Buzzing dissonance. Muted vowels. Overwhelming consonants. All this and more, gyrating – determined and unceasing – in the thrilling, vexing and amazing sensory ecology of Hong Kong.

I haven’t been back in 6 years, not since my Haptic Autistry and Haptic HugShrug exhibitions. It was lovely to be back, on old familiar soil, yet with so much vibrant newness yet to explore.

Three lectures/talks, two public and one private, and a great many old friends to catch up with, kept my days buzzing with activity.

 

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A new adventure awaited in Sham Shui Po – gritty, old, traditional and crammed – where I would stay for the entire trip, in a windowless bedroom above the sensory theatre of wet markets, dim sum stalls, cooked and raw food shops side by side, vegetables and fruit, and … fish. I landed smack in the middle of unfamiliarity. It was a deliberate decision, I wanted to experience somewhere different from my old memories of my life in Hong Kong – and I got what I asked for. Picturesque, and I am glad for my nifty Fujifilm X100T, but the olfactory ambience was confronting, to say the least. The smell of pork – raw, uncooked pork – literally envelopes your entire being, pervading the air all the way up into my dark little AirBnB bedroom. Then there was fish, rotting vegetable, overflowing sewers, and human bodies seething with perspiration wrapped in unwashed clothes – thematic elements weaving in and out of the tapestry, as the basso continuo of pork pounded on and on.

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Elderly lady selling fish and vegetables

One picture carved into my mind, leaving me engulfed in a heavy, thick and excruciating wave of sadness and haplessness, is that of an old lady, bent double, sitting on a small stool, selling fish and assorted vegetables, just in front of the strong smelling butchery at the corner. Her catch differed every day, sometimes there were larger fish, other days small ones, even turtles and frogs (for consumption) and dribs and drabs of wilted vegetables and fruits – whatever she could get to sell, I suppose? There is rubbish strewn around the filthy wet street, and there she is, sitting there patiently waiting for customers. I wanted to give her some money, but was afraid she would be offended, and what good would my few dollars do for her anyway? She was there every morning, and I, a stranger and ‘alien’ to this ecosphere, felt a choking sadness, an anguished torment each time I walked by. Hapless. I can still taste the air, hear the soundscape echoing in my head, and see the spunky, brave yet forlorn image of this lady in my mind. Poverty is crushing to witness, and my heart breaks even more because she is so terribly old and frail.
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deja vu

Revisiting memory imprints in the flesh. Back in beloved Hong Kong – ‘home’ for 8 years. Greeted at the airport by familiar soundscape, smells, rhythmic-patterned visuals.

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Hungry, looking for breakfast? Have some piping hot Shanghainese dumplings “xiao long bao” and lemon-barley drink. Sensory jet lag perhaps, the taste of exhaustion is heavy.

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HKIA – Hong Kong International Airport

Time to find the bus to my AirBnB. Walking through the passageway to the bus terminus, ears ringing with sonic imprints from the past, it is a gently surreal experience of orchestral recollection.

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Welcome back to Hong Kong!

It’s good to be back. Confronting sensory overload. Attraction. Repulsion. Amazement. Horror. It’s all here in this wonderful sonic-tactile-olfactory-visual-proprioceptive-challenging city!

softly yet

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Frenetic week. Confronting confrontation. Set aside a tiny aperture of Clement Space – beginning the day with quietude. Breakfast alone… local Hong Kong style, from the noisy lady around the corner with the paper hat – steaming hot dim sum … before launching head on into the chaos of the day.

Ah… Hong Kong… heady, head-smashing, overloading, amazing Hong Kong!

trap

A little sparrow is trapped inside a corner in a large human-purposed shopping mall. It flies around looking for a way out, but to no avail.

My senses connect with the bird in its distress and anxiety, I feel a tingling in my scalp, shortness of breath and tightness in muscles around ribcage. Nausea creeps in before I know it. The taste of my orange juice at the back of my throat has turned into a vile, sickly yet sharp dry metallic-sour taste, like acid burning the sensitive mucosa around my throat. Dryness is setting in and I must remind myself to swallow and breathe deeply.

The poor bird. My mind is working out ways to capture the bird and take it outside. But I do not have a shawl or towel with me, and it is flying too frantically anyway.

The room is tossing and turning in concentric circles around me, and the soundscape of human voices and piped pseudo-jazz music is slowly distorting in my brain into a muffled, slow-motion eerie kaleidoscope of dark purple colours and rancid vomitus.

And the hapless bird continues to fly, round and round, across, up and down.

The humans inhabiting the space, dotted around the room at small square tables, are all too engrossed in either their mobile phones or social chatter. Not a single person averse their gaze to look at the sparrow, not a single expression of concern. They share no empathic resonance with this sorry, desperate creature.

Soon, it will become too exhausted and maybe even crushed by the impact of smashing against windows, and will just fall to the ground and die. A slow, anxious, fear-filled death.

Just a sparrow? Not to me.

A small entity exuding overwhelming pain, confusion and wretchedly forlorn fear. Screaming fear, even. Fluttering. Flapping. Smashing. Falling. Rising. Da capo. Until there is strength no more. Not a twitter. No time and mental space to cry out. Just white hot futile determination. And then, there is silence and life is spent.

My heart feels squeezed tightly like a wrinkled old orange.

Heavy with sadness.

Overwhelmed by elemental empathy.

——

(Shop staff have become aware of the sparrow. Let’s hope something can be done to help the poor creature.)