Friday, 27 February 2015

Mourning Deceased Celebrities, & Are Their Lives Any More Special Than Ours?




The deaths of Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy recently this week and in 2014 of Robin Williams resulted in an outpouring of emotional grief throughout social media. 

The 3 stages of grief we undertake is as follows: a) the speculation and rumours, b) the confirmation of their death & the shock and finally c) the public mourning & outpouring of grief. After all, celebrities are normal human beings too with real feelings, just like us. It's just that what makes them different to us is they have the fame, the spotlight shining on them that goes along with their talent. Or for many reality TV stars, lack of talent. 

Then comes the public acknowledgement, with people posting messages on Facebook and Twitter saying how s/he has impacted them on a personal level. It is like looking up to their favourite celebrity as if they were a member of their own family.  

When celebrities and public figures die, when someone you have looked up to for years dies, a part of you dies as well. At first, it is a difficult pill to swallow. The grieving process can take a while to occur, whilst you are processing your feelings of sadness towards him/her. 

Yet in spite of this, I remind myself of this one thing: that I don't think celebrities in general are any more special than us. Just because they can sing, act, dance, present, play an instrument doesn't mean they are entitled to be treated like royalty that they are. 

This is not to say their Twitter and Facebook feeds deserve to be bombarded with online abuse from other users.

Celebrity deaths make us ponder what if they had been still alive today, what else would s/he accomplish, how much more could they have done to remain talked about by the press and the fans. 

On the other end of the argument however, people will say it is silly to get upset when a celebrity dies - it comes across as being embarrassing & they are often accused of being melodramatic. Sure some do overreact to their deaths a little too much than expected. & yet we ask, who are you to tell me I shouldn't care, just because I don't know them personally as a friend or relative? Because when s/he has done something that made you smile or happy, on your favourite movie or TV show or made you download their song on iTunes, you do take their death to heart. 

Because what they did meant something to you personally, and that can't be ever ignored.  

There have been celebrities who have died as well, of whom I wasn't a fan of, or of whom isn't, or wasn't following their work when they were alive. So for me, unless I am a fan of their work, it's unlikely I will grieve, because I don't know them as well as others do. 

But we also have the other end of the argument that asks, 'some famous people died and people rallied around to offer their condolences, but when soldiers out in the Middle East are killed against terrorists as they try to keep the peace, some young kids in Africa or in the Middle East dies, or are physically abused every week, no one bats an eyelid about them'. They rarely get recognition or the press coverage. 

Or around the world when hundreds or thousands of individuals are killed by terrorists, their deaths are overlooked and not seen as being important enough to be seen by millions. 

A death is still death, no matter their status or recognition. 



(Robin Williams) Source: NY Daily News/ Reed Saxon AP  

It is an acceptance of tragedy to mourn the passing of somebody you idolize and looked up to from the public domain, just as much as a friend or relative you have loved who died due to illness, murder or by accident. Our only connection with celebrities, is as fanatics. But we approach it as if they were a part of our family, that they are an extension of our immediate family. In coming to terms with their mourning, you are confronted with the realization that when they are dead, they are dead; that they can't enter and return in your life again in physical form. 

Only their spirit lives on. 

And for many of us, we are scared of dying. It is a word we don't like to hear and the thought of it worries us. We don't enjoy thinking about the day when we pass away through old age, or die from a disease, an accident or medical complication. It's why people like myself don't like talking about death, because it is a terrible thing to happen to all of us as human beings. 

I don't like talking about death; it's a hugely unnerving and emotive subject at heart, and I just want to focus on the positive and take life, one step at a time. But I would be a fool to dismiss that it doesn't happen. Because it does - and it will happen to me. 

Though in withstanding all of this, getting older comes with age, experience and many other things and we need to make the most out of it as we can. 

When the time comes for death to come knocking on our door, that we have to prepare ourselves for it, and possibly the afterlife as well. 

Our relationships with celebrities is a give and take thing - we love them, we respect them and what they do, we also criticize them when they do something terrible & we obsess about them. We cling onto them because of who they are, because we enjoy the work they do, what they have achieved in the past, and in the present, and what they mean to us, personally. 

We connect with famous people of whom we share similarities with, of whom we aspire to be like and in looking up to them as role models. 

For all our Facebook shares and likes, Twitter retweets, the ultimate loss of that person is personally felt by his/hers family the most. And it is they who experience the sheer pain & tragedy. It's an emotionally painful ride from beginning to end. 

So that answers my question: celebrities lives and deaths are no more special than ours, but as fans of that celebrity, when the inevitable does happen, you can't help but feel sadness and grief that someone, who you feel has influenced you throughout your lives, no longer exists. Inasmuch as our friends and relatives. 

Human life is a precious thing that we need to cherish more, especially when time ticks away fast, each and every year as you get older. And time, in particular, isn't always kind to us, which is why it is important to make the most of our lives when we are still living. 




Saturday, 21 February 2015

Comment: Junk Food Kids: Who's To Blame? The Parents

Junk Food Kids, Part one
Channel 4
Synopsis: a third of UK children are overweight or obese. This series asks how the epidemic happened & what can be done.  



There is good food and bad food. There is also a difference between eating too much fat, eating a regular balanced diet and eating very little. For anyone experiencing being overweight, obesity is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode. 

The term 'Fat' sounds harsher than obese, but it's still the same thing regardless. 

As difficult as it may be, eating healthily and responsibly, is not impossible and the occurrence of childhood obesity, is mostly down to the parents responsibility, or lack of responsibility. 

One of the doctors says it's nobody's fault - well, i'm sorry but i digress: the fault and blame lies with the parents of these children. I'm fed up of people refusing to hold themselves to account for their actions that lead to dire consequences, when it comes to the state of theirs or their own child's/children's health. The ignorance of these parents, especially throughout this programme, astounds me. 

You put crap in and don't exercise, you get crap out. & the blame shouldn't be directed at the manufacturers. They are not the ones pointing a gun to their heads, saying 'eat this'. Insofar as to where I stand, I don't follow diets, and dyslexia is a major concern as well, but at the same time, eating nothing but sugary and high cholesterol foods does no wonders to one's physical state. 

To see a 5 -year- old child have HALF of their baby teeth taken out, is depressing and grim. And horrifying, - but this is the harsh reality of the situation we are facing, and we also need to address this matter, urgently. 

It's all said and done to blame and accuse Americans of being overweight and fat, but when people of your own country, especially here in Britain are also obese & more and more of them turn to burgers, crisps, fizzy drinks, chips etc, this doesn't become an American issue, any more; obesity becomes as huge as a national and global epidemic, inasmuch as dyslexia. One has to confront their own realities and tackle it, rather than to deny or dismiss that obesity doesn't happen in the UK. 

To think of such a thing as that, is plain ignorance. 

There was a 13- year- old girl named Pavia who weighed 9 stone, which by my calculation is 126 lbs. Yet she was reluctant to do anything about it, in spite of her mother's pleas. She was very childish and acting immature and stubborn. One scene whilst during a visit to the doctor's, she was seen playing on her cell phone, instead of concentrating and listening to what the GP was saying. It angered me. She was being disrespectful, obnoxious and rude by paying no attention, whatsoever. 

Do I feel sorry for the parents? In this programme in particular, I feel difficult to do so. The parents are to blame, because they are unwilling to find fault and not see the dire consequences of their actions and decisions. The title of the show asks 'who's to blame?', and in my eyes, it is the parents. 

What their parents are doing to the kids, as well as by failing to intervene and stop this problem from escalating, is just a form of child abuse and neglect in my eyes. They are in denial of the situation, and their kids are emulating it. 

In one scene, the mother and daughter were out shopping at a supermarket and the daughter was snacking and eating food, without paying for it. Surely this is theft. Saying: 'I can't blame a parent.... it's nobody's fault', I find that absolutely incredible, because by saying this, the doctor in the programme is endorsing the idea that it is okay for parents to continuously give their young children junk food. I was not happy about that. 

The solution in curbing the problem is simple: to tax junk food, make fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, nuts, fresh produce more readily available and cheaper. Not just in supermarkets, but market stalls too. Rather than limit food choices, it's all about having a balanced diet. It's possible to have burgers, chips, fried chicken, sweets but only in moderation. It's good to have them as either a treat, or just once every few months or weeks. 

As for educating people on obesity and healthy eating, I don't really know how much more education they actually need. Only some of them need informing, the rest is just common sense and personal responsibility. We are responsible for our own actions, regardless of the state, & of the people making money out of selling unhealthy junk food. We are the ones who choose and decide what to buy in the supermarket, in restaurants, fast food places and what to put in our mouths

And saying you choose not to eat fruit because it is boring, is a lame excuse. 

It is frightening to believe that these young children and teens, who continue to eat their way to an early grave, will die before they become 30 years of age. Should they carry on the way they are doing right now. 

Unfortunately, for these parents, as well as some of these teenage children such as Pavia, who are obese, setting boundaries is not a priority for them. They just don't think, they just act. If they love their children as much as they claim and say they do & want them to have a longer life, then they wouldn't allow these problems to continue throughout. 

Junk Food Kids was a compelling documentary that also angered me at the same time. Angry not at the producers for uncovering the truth about the existent childhood obesity and health issues.... but angry at how horribly horrific the situation has become. 

I am happy the programme makers decided to do this, because not only does it expose our hypocrisy by calling Americans fat and our people in Britain healthy and thin; it demonstrates that we too need to confront the obesity crisis head on, and tackle it. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Ranking My Favourite Goggleboxers

Gogglebox, the programme that made TV watching fun, is back for a 5th series (or season as it's known in the US) on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm.

A massive success since its debut in 2013 here in Britain, we just can't get enough of our favourite telly watching couch potatoes sitting in their living rooms, watching television programmes and films and talking about them, candidly and openly. Gogglebox has made for compelling and insightful television. And with a compelling and entertaining show, comes the true-to-life personalities that make the show the fan- favourite commercial and critical hit it is today. 

And those personalities can be found listed below this post. 

Here are my favourite people that have appeared on and starred on Gogglebox, in order of preference, along with some of my favourite lines from the series: 



1. The Moffatt's - Scarlett especially; Scarlett: on Take That's Gary Barlow avoiding tax: 'this is the only interesting thing I've ever heard about him. This is Gary's idea of being a rebel'. On the good- looking Canadian magician on Britain's Got Talent: 'so a bunch of Hungarians won it last year. And now we've got a Canadian. Britain has no talent'. On Stevie Richie doing 'Footlose' on X Factor: 'he's just one of those creepy men that if he came up to you in a bar, you'd tell him to f*** off'.

As series 4 went on, I found Scarlett to be one of the most interesting people on Gogglebox & a highlight of the show; witty, amusing with some cracking one-liners. The Moffitts have been a surprise hit last series, and mostly due to Scarlett. I could see her as a proper stand-up comedienne, when and after this show ends. 




2. Sandy and Sandra - when Sandy tried to use a whip and it hit her in the face, when Sandy tried to do a catwalk showing off her clothes and fell over, Sandy to the rat: ''oi, piss off!'', 'we can do it, we just need more time' on Countdown. So loud, raucous, happy yet hilarious at the same time, thanks to Sandy. As OTT as their reactions to shows are sometimes, it's part and parcel of their bright and colourful personalities.

In addition to their love for food and ordering take-aways every night. Although mind you, I'd worry about a case of type 2 diabetes, given all that junk food they consume.  




3. Chris and Stephen - Stephen: 'Beyonce and Solange, put the 2 together and what do you get? Blancmange. Stephen: 'I want some bitty', Chris: 'don't be gross'. Stephen: 'I'd get one star and that's my dinner sorted. f*** the others', Chris: 'That's because you're selfish'. Quirky, funny, camp but not too camp in a way that comes across as off-putting. I like that they enjoy mucking about and having fun, and not taking everything too seriously. Which is good for a series like this; especially during times when the show becomes too serious. Stephen is hilarious whereas ex-partner, Chris's reactions are cute and endearing. 





4. Leon and June - Leon: 'he's a dickhead', 'can't stand him', 'he's an idiot', 'she's too thin'. 'Very attractive Nigella. Well busted', *June rolls her eyes*. Gogglebox is about watching people watching telly and commenting about it, but the show also has a range of people from different backgrounds and hailing for different generations. I love Leon and June - Leon acting like a mischievous little boy and long-suffering June rolling her eyes in despair at the things that come out of his mouth. 

They seem to be very down-to-earth people and in a sense, they have defied the stereotype of the elderly being ignorant, narrow-minded, only caring about their own interests as an old couple. When they criticised UKIP, I couldn't help but have a smile on my face. 




5. Stephanie and Dom - they've become more tolerable. I didn't like them in the first series, but over time as the series went on, they have eased up and are not as 'stiff upper- lipped' as they were when the show first began. They've also toned down the snideness as well, in regards to their personality. Which rubbed me up the wrong way during series 1 and 2. Always have a glass of booze in their hands. Steph on the Full Monty: 'Must remember that when I next go to the Co-Op'; Dom on BBC1 David Attenborugh programme: 'anyone want a shag?, anyone want a shag?'; Dom and Steph on Dr Christian on Alan Carr: Chatty Man: Dom: 'He's funny. He's got a sense of humour'. Steph: 'well you'd have to if you were looking at knobs all day' (referring to Dr Christian being homosexual) 




6. The Siddiqui's - Baasit on Mastermind: 'It's like, when the camera is on you, look as if a family member has died'. The Siddiqui's and the Tappers are the two most normal sets of people on the show. It's good. The Siddiqui's aren't boisterous, over the top and loud - and that is a good thing. And their dry sense of humour has worked wonders. It's definitely what this show needed. 



Jenny and Lee - Newcomers in series 4, we haven't seen much of them on screen. But from what we've seen so far, I like them. They are nice people. Hope to see more of these 2 in series 5. 


David, Kai and James - see Jenny and Lee 




7. The Vicar Kate and husband, Graham - Kate on Noel Edmonds buying the BBC: 'you can't expect to be the saviour of the BBC if you can't even pay the TV licence'; On internet trolls jailed: 'wow, how bad does it have to be for them to go to prison for 2 years? Someone called me a b**** midget the other day'. A lot of viewers dislike her, but I actually find her to be a breath of fresh air for the show; Kate is outspoken, tends to hit the nail on the head with her views on various matters, and won't shy away from expressing what she thinks. 

Even though she is a reverend, and religion is a topic that sometimes divides people, she hasn't come across as being narrow-minded to me or said anything so far that has annoyed me so far, anyhow. She tells it like it is, without being a religious bigot. 


8. The Woerdenwebers & Silent Jay - Ralph: 'I can't get my head around why guys wear female clothes', Viv: 'there's a photograph with you in a bra', Ralph: 'yeah, after 50 pints'. Like any other normal family but it is Eve's boyfriend, Jay who has been receiving the most attention out of the lot, given he hasn't said a word whilst onscreen. It would be nice that in series 5, we will see Jay break his silence and talk, although I wouldn't keep my hopes that high. They seem nice, nonetheless. 

9. Linda, Pete and George - Linda: 'you wait until they realise they have knackers in their mouths'; I was a little disappointed that they had to leave the show, due to George taking part in Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5. I liked them. Linda was amusing at times, Pete was lively. 




10. The Tappers - see the Siddiqui's, although Amy needs to calm down a bit. She can be quite a handful and is very hyperactive. The mother, Nicki and the daughter, Amy are the loudest of the lot, compared to the son, Josh and dad Jonathan. Yet I find them to be all right. 



11. The Malones - they're okay. The dad is in a way funny though.

12. Bill and Josef - as intelligent as they are, they lack personality and don't bring anything new or interesting to show. I wouldn't miss them if they were never to return. 



Sunday, 15 February 2015

Cantonese Isn't Dead: The Argument For It

It impresses me to see people speaking Chinese, be it Mandarin or Cantonese. Regardless of whether they are Chinese or not. Such as Canadian Dashan, who is the most famous White guy in China and the most famously 'more- Chinese- than- Chinese' foreigner in China.

I can only speak Cantonese, but not very well. It is when I listen to someone speak it, do I understand what they are saying, even if my spoken Cantonese isn't that great. My sister's Cantonese is far better than mines, -which is sad for me I know-, but I will continue trying to get better at speaking it. Whereas my Mandarin is non-existent. I can't speak or understand it. I consider my first language to be English, as I am British- born and I have been using English for all my life. I can speak, read and write English. I converse with my siblings (who also converse in Cantonese to my parents) in English as they were also born in the UK, as well as to my sister-in-law who is Chinese and speaks Mandarin, but speaks English really well. My mother, who was born in China speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, the same thing with my father, who was born in Hong Kong, although he is more fluent in Cantonese. He can also speak and communicate in English.  

For me, Cantonese sounds more fluid, expressive, smoother, whereas Mandarin sounds choppy, rough, and in a way, annoying in a high pitched tone. It has 8 or 9 tones compared to Mandarin, which only has 4 tones. I would also say that with Cantonese with the pronunciation of words, some of them do sound similar to English, even though the meaning is not the same. Likewise, the word 'gai' means chicken in Cantonese but as written and pronounced as 'gay' in English, of course, this refers to either a person's sexual orientation or that they are happy or jolly. 'Gai Dan' translates to egg in English: 'gai' >> chicken, Dan >> being egg. Eggs are hatched by chickens and with that you get 'gai dan'. 


Above: how to say and pronounce family members in Cantonese with English written pronunciation

The writing styles share similarities with Mandarin, but the similarities do end when it comes to its grammar and pronunciation. It is also argued that unlike Mandarin, written Cantonese does not have to mirror spoken word Cantonese. Because of this, written Cantonese text looks exactly the same as Mandarin text - yet verbal wise, it is pronounced differently. 

The Chinese government along with Hong Kong, should actively promote both Mandarin AND Cantonese as the main dialects or languages, whichever you want to call it. Not one over the other. And not by excluding Cantonese outright. 



Illustration by Pang Li/China Daily 

This mandatory enforcement of Mandarin in Guangdong speaking areas of China, as well as Hong Kong by the Chinese government makes me worry about the future of Cantonese - we need to preserve this dialect for future generations of Hong Kong based and overseas Chinese communities. It is a part of our culture and we just can't let it slip away. 

The widespread use of Cantonese outside of Hong Kong by American born, British born and Australian Born Chinese is still prominent today. Many of us bi-lingual British born, American, and Australian born Chinese grew up speaking Cantonese and English at home. And for Canadian Chinese, French as well; making them tri-lingual in Cantonese, English and French. Currently, there are 70-100 million Cantonese speakers around the world. 

Most British born Chinese have origins from Hong Kong (be it from one or both parents, who are originally from Hong Kong) when it was formerly a British colony up until 1997, which could explain why many of us claim Cantonese as our first or second language. 

And Cantonese is (supposedly) the main dialect of Hong Kong. Etymologist Dr Chen once 'claimed' in HK (Hong Kong) Magazine that Putongua - the official Chinese name for Mandarin- is not even a naturally evolved language, but a language imposed by the Chinese Communist Party. 

To underestimate the influence of the Chinese Cantonese culture is a grave mistake; the Chinese food served in restaurants around the globe in Chinatowns, is of the Canton variety. Many Chinese films and movies, especially those during the 1980s, were made in Hong Kong with spoken Cantonese. Today, overseas born Chinese still speak and converse with their elders in Cantonese. A language or dialect is only declared dead, when the populations of those people stop speaking it, altogether. It hasn't happened, and thankfully also. 

Whenever I go down to Chinatown in Central London, I see there are still Cantonese speaking waiters, shop assistants, alongside Mandarin speakers. 

During the time when China took over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom in 1997, Hong Kong with Cantonese still flourished, all in spite of being under Chinese rule. It may not be as widely spoken as it is these days, but as long as TV shows on TVB still air programmes in Cantonese, it is not going to disappear overnight.  

Speaking of TV stations and channels such as TVB, I would like to see more Cantonese -based TV channels available on digital satellite in the UK. Unfortunately in the UK, TVB Europe only exists as an online TV service, and not on Sky and digital TV platforms. Whilst it is a good idea to have an online TV service, many British Chinese and Chinese living in the UK access TV through their TV sets and digital set top boxes. We do have CCTV-9, Phoenix PCNE, but the content is mostly in Mandarin. In the US, they have TVB as a separate cable channel, in addition to ICN TV & Asia Television Home Channel. 

Directv in the US offers Cantonese and Mandarin TV packages, something that I wished we had in the UK too.  

China and Hong Kong are fighting a culture war - the dominance of Hong Kong in the 1980s and early 1990s produced movies resulted in the growing usage of Cantonese as a spoken dialect. China on the other hand with Mandarin, has been playing catch up, and they have in many respects, succeeded. 

Most linguists would argue that Cantonese is a language in itself; and in spite of people saying it is harder to grasp and learn in comparison to Mandarin, I just think it's an excuse used by certain people to support Mandarin and denounce Cantonese and its years of cultural history, altogether. And add to that argument, by further highlighting China's role in society, because they are a super power. That is why lots of people are championing Mandarin, whilst overlooking Cantonese. 

Why, you ask, learn and speak Cantonese, just because China has billions of people who speak Mandarin, compared to Hong Kong who only has over 7 million people?

I'd say you should learn, because many of us overseas born Chinese, for instance, speak Canto and it would be cool for us to converse and get to know each other through Canto.  

Like all languages and dialects, Cantonese is not that difficult and impossible to learn and understand, as long as you commit to it and practice and practice. The more you enjoy using it and speaking it, the easier it gets. As a native speaker, yes it's easier if you are Chinese and your parent/s is or are Hong Kong Chinese, because you pick it up from the day you first speak it to your parents or to other native Chinese people. 

Cantonese was the oldest dialect for thousands of years before Mandarin. It was widely spoken by millions of Chinese and used in many Chinese-based TV shows and movies. Some examples being Jackie Chan's Police Story and Big Trouble In Little China, years before Mandarin so why get rid of it? English has existed for centuries - yet nobody calls for it to be abolished, so why should it be any more different because it is Cantonese? But again, this is a super power-thing we are talking here. The UK and USA for instance are countries with enormous histories and pasts, and in spite of English - the UK used old English, whereas it appears that the U.S doesn't have an official language , English is the most widely spoken language. 

And China are going about it the wrong way by not giving people more choice and more options. Having only Mandarin as the only lingual choice, not to mention its total disregard shown towards Cantonese, just doesn't cut it for me and drives a bigger wedge in the Chinese community. Languages and dialects can and should co-exist alongside each other, that Cantonese and Mandarin can work alongside, despite the tonal differences. 

Yet even more unfortunate is that in Southern China, use of Cantonese in the media, by way of speaking and being used in newspapers, has been banned. Where else in the world would you have another country that bans a dialect/language and anyone and everyone is forbidden in speaking it, anywhere? That is just insane. 

A future without Cantonese, is virtually unthinkable; if it happens, an integral part of our Chinese culture would be gone - therefore, why can't it co-exist alongside Mandarin, because it should. 






                                        

Friday, 13 February 2015

Valentine's Day Superficiality: Why I Dread This Occasion The Most



Valentine's Day is anti-romance, capitalistic, materialistic, contrived, vapid and an attempt to take advantage of people's emotions and feelings, in expressing their love for their partner. 

Love and romance are both personal in nature; it's supposed to be heartfelt, come from the heart and genuine, and shouldn't be used to degenerate and belittling a couple's love and affection. 

Why anyone needs to express their feelings and love through material objects, no matter its value, is something I don't get. Because a couple's love means more, rather than just 1 day and by giving or receiving a Hallmark card with a big fat heart and message on it. 

Sure enough Christmas is as guilty of being too commercialized as Valentine's day; however, I dread Valentine's Day the most, because it toys and plays with people's personal emotions and feelings when it comes to romance and love by glorifying it to the max. In a shallow - type of way. 

Relationships are a big thing, marriage is too.... whereas with Valentine's Day, who really needs a special day to celebrate and remember the true importance of love and romance? The definition of the true importance of love and romance can not be defined by a card, box of chocolates, sex, jewelry and a couple of roses, and by one day of the year. 

I also dislike how it puts pressure on people to get together with someone, even if you are single, and yet, currently you are not ready or do not feel ready to be in a relationship. 

You know what? Being single, you need to have love and respect for yourself first, before you are in a committed relationship with someone, and then when the time comes, if and when the right person comes along, it will happen. And that is not (always) on Valentine's day. In this case, putting your feelings first, is not being selfish - it just shows that you're not going to be pressured by anyone, or any event or day telling you you need to find your boyfriend, girlfriend and later jump into bed with them. 

It's funny people assume it's only single people who loathe Valentine's day, but there are some couples, who feel a relationship isn't something that should be turned into a commercial hype-fest. It's also funny when people assume being single is considered a bad thing altogether. 'Single' is a word that describes a person strong and confident in themselves, who enjoys their independence & freedom, without being dictated and relying on other people. 

Valentine's Day is a bit like giving someone an ultimatum, but with its image shrouded by superficial pap. It is the season of do-or-die - if you don't accept, then chances are, it's over for the pair of you for good. 

If you decide to part- take and fall for all that commercial clap-trap, you are seen or accused of only showing your love for your significant other, because it is the thing to do on February 14 of every year. If however, you don't do anything and don't get him/her anything on the big day, you run into arguments with them. 

It's the one day in the whole calendar where the entire world, and universe tells you to be with someone on this day, and if you don't, then to them you are nothing. Well, technically, not nothing, but you are not in the same league as them. And with that, you are made to feel miserable. 

It's the one day where it makes married people, people with boyfriends, girlfriends look great, and single people look like fools. 

There are 364 other days of the year to express your feelings to your partner. You can choose other days to be with each other's company, and without shoving Valentine's Day down your throat. 

I am not here to change your mind about Valentine's Day - if it is your type of thing, be my guest. I don't particularly care. 

Just ponder this thought: it's better to appreciate that you have someone at all or as a single person, valuing your true self as a human being, rather than valuing and evaluating your relationship with your partner, based on one ceremonious day of the year. 

Sorry cupid, but no thanks. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Illustrated A-Z Guide to Chinese New Year


Source: Pentauser - London's Chinatown in  2011


What Is Chinese New Year?

An important public holiday for overseas Chinese diaspora and native Chinese people in China and Hong Kong celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. In China, it is called the 'Spring Festival'. The holiday was a time to honor family and ancestors. With the adoption of the (Gregorian) Western calendar in China in 1912, the Chinese joined in to celebrate January 1st New Years Day. 

The first day of the Chinese New Day is the first month of the traditional Chinese calendar, the lunisolar calendar, where the date indicates both the moon phase and time of the solar year (Chinese New Years Info)

Chinese New Year runs from the end of January until mid/late February every year and it is an occasion for Chinese families to meet up. However, not all countries celebrate it at the same time, and not all countries celebrating it start and finish on the same day - in the U.S and Canada it runs for 15 days, the UK for 3 days and Australia for 7 days. 

This year in 2015, the Spring festival falls on Thursday February 19. We also have a Mid-Autumn festival that begins in either early or late September every year, but it is tends to be relatively low key in comparison to the Spring festival. 

The Chinese zodiac calendar is made up of 12 different animal symbols representing each set of years that are marked with characteristics of each animal, the Ox, Rat, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Monkey, Sheep, Rooster, Tiger, Goat, Dog & Pig. Your Chinese zodiac animal sign is correspondent to your year of birth. 

In the run up to the new year celebrations, homes are cleaned to help rid of evil spirits and bad luck, which may have arisen during the previous year, as well as decorate their doors with Red decorations. Elders gave money to children, hence the red envelopes containing money. These 'rituals' that were carried out were meant to bring in good luck (History.com). 

In some instances, there will be a religious ceremony honoring heaven, earth, family ancestors and gods.

Like Christmas, Chinese New Year is a time of spreading goodwill, happiness and good fortune; it is in many ways our version of Christmas, as many - if not all Chinese are not Christians. 


Why do we celebrate it?

The origins of the new year festivities are based on century old stories and folk tales. Many years ago, there was a small village, where during every Lunar New Year's Eve, it would be terrorized by a dragon called 'Nian' - a Chinese word that translates to 'Year'. One year, villagers discovered that if they put up red decorations around their homes & set off fire crackers to create loud noises, it would help drive away the dragon, Nian and he would stop attacking them (Why Do We Celebrate Chinese New Year)

But Chinese New Year is also about Chinese people spending time with family and friends and celebrating and spreading our culture, eating Chinese food, receiving and exchanging gifts, watching the spring festival gala - which is the equivalent to the Thanksgiving day parade in the U.S - playing mahjong (something I don't do) and talking about their plans for the remaining year. 


Ancestors - honoring and paying respect to the dead by lighting incense and burning papers 

Source: Chinese Family Adventure 

Bell ringing 

The bell tolls at Hanshan Temple in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China 2009 

Source: Xinhua & China Daily 

Chinese 

Decorations hung outside doors to bring good luck, spring couplets 



Evil spirits

Festivities


Get together with family 



Source: Web Certain 

House cleaning


Incense burning - In China, burning incense sticks is a form of communicating with the Gods and spirits. 


Jade 


Kung Hei Fat Choi (Happy new year in Chinese Mandarin), Gung Hei Fat Choi (Happy new year in Chinese Cantonese) 

Lion dance

Source: Pok Ching Hai 

Mooncakes 



New year's eve dinner 

Oranges - along with tangerines are considered symbols in Chinese culture. Tangerines in Chinese means Luck, Oranges in Chinese means wealth. The Orange colour also denotes Gold, henceforth, it is a meaning of good luck and wealth (Cultural China)


Image Source: Sead Sweet

Public holiday 

Q......

Red envelopes and lanterns, Red is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture 


  


Spring festival 


Tradition/s 


UK, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand - countries with huge Chinese communities and which have China towns in various regions and cities that celebrate Chinese New Year


Virtues 




Wishes


Xxxx

Year of the (fill name of animal)


Zodiac 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

My Favourite Regional Cuisines


*Source: World Cuisine Recipes

last updated: February 11, 2016

I'm a foodie fan, and food and culture go well together; it is the heart (and stomach) of one's nation. Good food provides warmth and comfort, after a hard day's work. It brings family, friends and people together. Not only does it provide nourishment, and makes us full, the origins of those dishes have a story behind them, as well as cultural and geographical significance. 

My relationship with food has nothing to do with dieting and weighing myself. I mean, I know when my stomach feels full, I can't eat any more and I am always wary of what type of foods I put in my mouth. 

Living in a multicultural city such as London, I am fortunate enough to be exposed to cuisines and dishes from all around the world, - although I am quite critical of the fast food places that serve burgers, fries, fried chicken that get passed around as the only available type of American cuisine being served to customers.  

The best world/cultural cuisine can be best found in areas in or around the town or city that contain migrant and ethnic communities such as Chinatown around the world, Southall in West London, UK. Sure there are Indian and Chinese takeouts and restaurants outside of the central part London, Manchester, Birmingham, New York etc, but if you want the good stuff, you'd have to travel far. 

I love food, and not speaking in terms of being a fatty - which is something I am not. When people say they love food, it's not always about being greedy and putting on weight and stuffing their faces with unhealthy sugary, fatty foods. It's about being open-minded about the different cultures of food they have been exposed to in person, trying them out and enjoying them. Appreciating the effort being put in to cook it, as well as the final end product and enjoying the taste and flavours.

We all eat for different and special occasions, during breakfast, lunch, dinner, as well as during snacking. At weddings, ceremonies, in restaurants, food food joints and at home. I pretty much like any type of cuisine, I'm open with it - I'll try anything and if I don't like a particular type of food or dish, then I wouldn't eat it any more. Such as liver, kidney, sheep's blood and animals that I see as pets, I would not eat those. In Peru, they eat Guinea Pigs and whilst it is one of their signature foods, I see them as pets that are meant to be looked after, - and not as something to be devoured. Cheese is a bit of a weird one for me, as I don't eat it unless it is melted on bread or toast, pasta/spaghetti or on pizza or covered with fish or meat. I'm usually not someone who hates a particular type of food when I haven't tried it, i.e. a picky eater.  

With spicy food, I like it when it is not too hot - I don't mind Indian and Mexican food, as long as it doesn't burn my mouth. Although I still end up drinking water or some other beverage to wash it down. 

Food culture transcends race and ethnicity, nationality, religion, culture, history; it acts as a symbol by signifying a particular culture or region for instance, and thus, it's why people have a strong relationship with food, as it ties in with other things outside of the culinary landscape. Like I said before, trying out and eating different cuisines in turn makes you learn and understand their culture a little better. There is no need to travel overseas just to consume Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Jamaican food, when there are restaurants that serve those types of food in or around where you live. 

American, British, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Spanish, Brazilian, Italian, Portuguese, Tex-Mex I love them all. Well, with Japanese, it's okay. 

By going in with an open mind, try a bit of every dish and by then, you'll figure out what you like and don't like eating. And the foods you enjoy eating, you'll order them again and again. 



American - the cuisine of the United States of America; American cuisine and Chinese cuisine share one thing in common: the image of its food is that of burgers, fries, fried chicken, doughnuts and sweet and sour dishes, egg rolls, noodles, fried rice. But if anyone is open-minded enough to know that American food is so much more than that and has regional dishes from different States and regions. 

Unfortunately, the American food served here in the UK mostly comprises of fast food, and so therefore, because of places like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, people in general think American food is crap and just your standard fare of fries, burgers, fried chicken. But it's not, and some of its dishes include vegetables such as Collard Greens, sweet potatoes (Yams), corn. I would like to see more restaurants that offer the type of food that is served in the South, mid-west, north east and central of America. 

I'd take regional American food over the usual fried chicken, fries, coleslaw, burgers, any time. 

Cajun and Creole

Clam Chowder


Boston Baked Beans - variety of baked beans sweetened with molasses or maple syrup & flavoured with Salt pork or bacon

Apple Pie

Gumbo

Dirty Rice

source: Johnsonville 

Seafood Boil


Po boy Sandwiches

Jambalaya


Oysters Rockafella

Red Beans and Rice - Louisiana Creole

Soul food 

Black Eyed Peas

Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Okra, Sweet Potatoes



Cobbler

Cobb Salad



Tex-Mex - Texan and Mexican fusion cuisine - burritos, fajitas, quesadilas, tacos, Texas caviar 




Chicken Fried Steak




Can we have more of this type of American food in Britain and around here in London, & less of the Mcdonalds, Burger King and KFCs, pretty please? 

Chinese Cantonese - when people outside of China think of Chinese food, it tends to be of the Cantonese variety from Hong Kong. It is one of the 4 main types of Chinese cooking and is predominately savory that utilizes vegetables, meat, fish, rice and noodles. Cantonese cuisine gets a bad rep, because of dishes such as won ton soup, egg rolls and sweet and sour pork/chicken get more attention and is eaten more often compared to other Cantonese and Chinese dishes. It's flavourful that uses minimal seasoning, the dishes are varied with snacks, rice, meat, fish, noodles that it's more accustomed to my tastes. Cantonese food is more than just sweet and sour, won tons, egg rolls, although I wouldn't touch frogs legs, jellyfish, shark fin soup. 

It is arguably my favourite type of Chinese food, but I also like the other types as well.

Prominent Cantonese dishes include: 

Dim Sum - small portioned dishes that are served during breakfast and lunch time, they range from egg tarts to shrimp and pork dumplings, sticky lotus rice with meat and chicken feet with black beans 




Steamed spare ribs with fermented black beans and chilli


Water spinach with fermented bean curd and chilli 


Ho fun noodles - you can have it fried with Beef, beansprouts, soy sauce and green onions, or with beef, beansprouts in a thick gravy

Roasted and cooked meats - Roast Peking duck, roast pork, crispy pork belly, soy sauce chicken, Orange cuttlefish 



Source: Foodspotting 

Clay pot rice

Steamed Sea Bass 


Broccoli in oyster sauce 

Fried tofu with meat 

Red or Green bean soup 

Milk Tea

Source: Food Spotting

Egg Waffles 

Source: CNN


Lemon Chicken - like the Orange chicken dish that you find in many US Chinese restaurants but with Lemon sauce in place of Orange sauce. This originated in Hong Kong.



Source: City Wok 

Steamed Egg Omelette



Source: Phong Hong Bakes & Cooks 

Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) in Oyster Sauce 



Source: Cafe Nilson 

Fried Hairy Gourd Melon with shrimp and noodles 


Source: Roti N Rice

Lobster Noodles 


Source: Dish Maps 

Turkish

Doner Kebab - I enjoy eating these, especially the chili and garlic sauces that go well together 



Lahmacan - thin flatbread covered with a layer of spiced minced meat, tomato, pepper and onion 


Etil Pilav - rice with pieces of meat 




Iskender Kebab - long strips of lamb cooked in tomato sauce served with rice and pita bread 

Durum - a Turkish burrito of lamb, chicken or beef, it's basically everything you have in a doner kebab - salad, sauce, meat - but in the form of a wrap



Baklava 




Italian

Lasagna and pasta



Source: La Vinoteca Eatery 

Pasta and beans

Ravioli

Pizza

Risotto with lemon and green beans

Cotoletta - breaded veal



Source: Guides Kitchen

Carne Pizzaiola - meat with peppers, tomatoes in olive oil, is served with pasta or rice

Chicken Cacciatore - Chicken with tomatoes, onions and herbs



Source: CBC In The Kitchen

Stuffed calamari in tomato sauce

Panettone 




Korean - first time I tried Korean food was when I was in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2014; it was nice with flavours that weren't over-powering. I definitely prefer it more than Japanese food, as the flavours, textures and appearance, was and is similar in many ways to Chinese food. Likewise, Kim-chi is similar in taste and texture as Za Choi, which is a type of pickle mustard originating from China. 

Kim-chi

Japchae - noodles that look very much like vermicelli - thin, transparent threads made from sweet potatoes

Gimbap - Korean sushi

Jeon - Pancakes

Galpi - pork or beef ribs 

Bulgogi - beef marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, scallions, black pepper and cooked on a grill

Steamed chicken and vegetables with cellophane noodles in Gangjang sauce

Steamed egg omelette 

Brazilian - Whilst my time in Sao Paulo was pretty difficult and not so enjoyable, one of the few highlights was the food. I really liked it - and though it can be too filling for some, who don't like eating too many carbs in beans, rice, there is a wide selection of dishes with a few native desserts as well.

Rice and Beans stew with meat called Feijao 




Cheese Bread



Source: PopSugar 

Chicken Croquettes

BBQ meats



Source: New York Streetfood 

Acaraje - deep fried patty made with black eyed peas, oil, onions, filled with peppers, minced beef, onions, prawns/shrimps

Pastel - similar to Cornish pastries filled with assorted meats


Portuguese


Egg Tarts - almost identical to the Chinese custard egg tarts in appearance but flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla 

Piri Piri chicken 



Source: Tourism Kit 

Caldo Verde 

Folhadas - meat or cheese stuffed pastries

Cod fishcakes 

Steak sandwich 

Alheiras - sausages made with bread and chicken 




Source: Catavino

Caldeirada - fish and seafood stew cooked with tomatoes and herbs

Clams

Salame De Chocolate - dessert in the shape of salami sausage made with chocolate, biscuits and eggs

And in addition to this list, here are other cuisines I am very keen on trying out too:

Columbian

Valluna - pork cutlets/chops in breadcrumbs 

Ajicao - A type of Chicken and corn soup 



Source: Recipes 4 Us UK

Bandeja Paisa - similar to an English fry-up in many respects; grilled steak, fried egg, sausage with avocado and banana chips



Source: Bandeja Tipica Columbiana

Tamales - ground corn steamed or boiled in leaves, can contain chicken, beef, sweetcorn & other vegetables 

Manjar Blanco - type of leche, a dessert spread made with milk and sugar 

Arepa - type of cornmeal bread 

Lechona - roast pig stuffed with rice, peas, onions and spices 

Mondongo - soup made with tripe, broth served with rice, avocado, bananas 

Potatoes with cheese 



Peruvian

Ceviche - seafood soaked in lemon juice with chilies 




Tacu Tacu - beans and rice fried topped with breaded fried steak and onion salsa

Arroz Con Mariscos - seafood rice

Causa - casserole of potatoes and avocado that can include meat or fish and/or hard boiled eggs

Lomo Saltado - Chinese Peruvian fusion dish of stir fried beef, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions with soy sauce served with rice 



Source: Huffington Post

Pollo A La Brasa - Peruvian style roast chicken marinated in pepper, paprika, red peppers, garlic, cumin (and soy sauce) 

Choritos a la Chalaca - steamed mussels with vegetable medley and corn 



Source: Cafe Carmo

Rocoto Relleno - stuffed peppers with meat and melted cheese 



Source: Provecho Peru


Dominican Republic 

Mangu - boiled and mashed plantains with red onions

La Bandera - beans, rice and meat stew



Source: Book of Days Tales 

Tostones - fried plantains

Passion fruit juice

Sanchocho - meat and vegetable broth 

Dulce De Coco - coconut macaroons 

Quipe/Kipe - deep fried bulger rolls filled with meat, beans



Source: NBC Latino

Chenchen - ground corn

Habichuelas - dulce made with beans, sweet potato, sugar and coconut

Pica Pollo/Aroz Con Pollo - Dominican fried chicken



Source: Dominican Heat 

Croquetas - chicken croquettes

Chimichurri - Dominican burgers made with ground beef or pork served on water bread and garnished with lettuce and a Marie Rose type of prawn cocktail sauce called Salsa Rosa



Source: Dominican Cooking 

Asopao De Pollo - similar to a gumbo, contains meat and rice 

Lechon Asado - roast pig 

Pastelon De Platano Maduro - version of English Shepherd's pie, only it is topped with mashed sweet plantains instead of mashed potato



Source: El Fogoncito 

Locrio - type of Paella 

Espaguetis or Spaghetii a la Dominica - Spaghetti Bolognese Dominican- style 




British

Beef Stew and Dumplings 



Shepherd's Pie 


Toad in a Hole 

Source: Tesco

Kedgeree

Source: Good Gobble! 

Cornish Pasties

Source: Good to Know

Apple Pie and Custard 


Bread and Butter Pudding 


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