Thursday, May 23, 2024

A visit with Henry Moore

Of course, the famous sculptor died thirty-eight years ago, so the visit was to his estate and workshops in Hertfordshire. Yet, his spirit still seems to be there, inhabiting his giant and miniature sculptures, at peace with the farmlands of the estate, and still cherishing the eclectic collection of items in his house ranging from small Rodin sculptures to shells and walrus tusks. 

The Henry Moore Foundation now owns the 70 acre farm and the massive sculptures dotted around it. Hoglands, the Moore home, and its contents still belongs to his daughter and it's forbidden to take photographs there. All of it is an amazing perspective into the life of a great artist.

His works often feature women, particularly woman and child, with strange empty volumes and undulating boundaries that are reminiscent of the topography of the farm. In his later years he became exceptionally wealthy as his massive works were in great demand for public spaces. Nevertheless, he lived frugally. His home is comfortable but basic, certainly not the residence one would expect of a millionaire. He gifted the estate and all the sculptures to the Foundation to avoid it being chopped up for death duties.

The story of his move to Hertfordshire is also intriguing. After visiting a friend there in 1940, he returned to his home in Hampstead to find it destroyed by shrapnel from a German bombing raid. His friend invited him back to share the house, and slowly Moore found it possible to buy the whole estate piecemeal.

Let's just wonder around the farm.

Out in the paddock, sheep visit the sculpture named in their honor

While some way off, the hills seem to flow naturally to Reclining Figure

One is also able to visit Moore's workshops which he built to carve his miniatures and build his full size pieces. Once again it seems as though he has only left for a while and will soon return to continue the work.

Moore's working sundial,
which he made himself

Then, finally, there is the gallery that he created from a derelict barn to house the tapestries he commissioned from sketches of his own work. But that is another story.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Singapore Through The Eyes (& palate) of Grace Koshida! (Part 2)

Ovidia-every other Tuesday
Thank you to Grace Koshida for sharing Part 2 of her Singapore experiences!

To recap, Grace Koshida is from Ottawa, Canada, and will be Fan Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime 2025. An eclectic reader of all crime genres (with a soft spot for P.I., police procedurals and culinary cozies), Grace is a Netgalley reviewer with over 600 reviews to her name. Over to you, Grace!
Here are the Singapore dishes I ate during my trip to Singapore:
Duck noodles, Hainanese chicken rice (twice), bak chor mee, fishball noodles, wonton mee, satay (twice), laksa, fried carrot cake, ice kachang, BBQ stingray, char kway teow, hokkien mee, oyster omelette, chilli crab, roti prata, prawn mee, nasi lemak and kaya toast (twice) - not named kaya toast graphic is under red MAKAN-MAKAN.

April 29: Spent half a day visiting the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Free admission. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the extensive gardens cover 82 ha (200 acres) and has over 10,000 species of flora and some wild fauna. I was so excited to see my first big lizard in the wild!!

The National Orchid Garden (separate admission ticket required) was a highlight. WOW, so many beautiful hybrids, over 2,000 orchid hybrids grown on site.

It's been a great morning but I am getting hot & tired, walking outside for 3 hours in the heat & humidity. It's 34C/95F feeling like 44C/110F at noon. I went to ADAM FOOD CENTRE, which is accessed by walking on an overpass pedestrian bridge from the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
This smaller hawker centre focuses on halal food and Indonesian food.

The large steamed Hainanese chicken rice plate (6 SGD) came with fragrant rice & a small bowl of soup. Both grated ginger and chili sauce were condiments. I also had a mango soursop juice 3.5 SGD.

April 29: evening. Gardens By The Bay Supertree Grove free sound & light show was amazing. Tonight's theme was retro night. ABBA, Grease, Beatles music.
I bought a cute MAKAN-MAKAN SINGAPORE EATS melamine plate in Chinatown (see above!)

April 30: I visited Kampong Glam, another ethnic enclave easily accessible by MRT. First highlight was visiting the Sultan Mosque, built in 1824.

Then I explored the shops on Arab & Bussorah Streets. There were many fabric stores and shops selling beads, buttons as well as rugs and pashminas. As for food, there were Turkish, Lebanese and Middle Eastern restaurants. I had a tasty lamb kofta lunch with homemade lemon ice tea,

There were murals and eclectic art on Haji Lane
and dinner was a steaming hot bowl of fish lor mee for 5 SGD at Hong Lim hawker centre.
Egg noodles coated in a thick gravy, topped with 7 pieces of battered fried fish, a half boiled egg and green onions.
May 1: Labour Day in Singapore.
Was not sure what was opened on this holiday, so I spent a half day at Changi Airport's JEWEL.
The rain vortex is the world's tallest indoor waterfall, 40 m/130 ft high. There are 7 levels of shops, restaurants and attractions.
On L5, the top level, I visited the canopy park, hedge maze, mirror maze and canopy bridge!
For lunch, I had my first laksa (see plate dish!) Yummy, and not too spicy!
May 1 evening: Night hawker walking food tour
First stop at Lau Pa Sat/Satay Street.
Our group of 10 ate chicken and mutton satay, fried carrot cake, hokkien mee (seafood noodles), fresh sugarcane juice, and a peanut pancake.

We then walked to the Esplanade and caught part of the MBS Spectra light show

before heading to Gluttons by the Bay hawker centre where we ate chicken murtabak with curry sauce, and banana fritters with a pandan dip.

DELISH!! Very glad that I had a 20 minute walk to the closest MRT station back to Chinatown.
May 2.
After doing a load of laundry Thursday morning, I spotted some more murals by Yip Yeo Chong.

Then I spent several hours at the Peranakan Museum. I wanted to learn more about the melding of different ancestral cultures of Chinese, Arab, Indian, European and others in SE Asia.
There were 3 floors of exhibits focusing on ceramics and food culture, batik, beading and bridal jewelry and FUKUSA, a temporary exhibit of Japanese gift covers. I liked seeing the hairpins that were described in the Aunty Lee book that I was reading.
I found a Michelin recommended Nasi Lemak stall near the museum and ordered a chicken wing plate with a side of mackerel otah for lunch.

Another MAKAN-MAKAN plate dish.
May 3:
Breakfast with a kopi o for only 0.90 SGD and a Michelin award-winning handmade curry puff for 2 SGD.

Then met Ovidia for a bak kuh teh lunch at Song Fa. The queue was long at 10:45 am for this Michelin-award winning place.

I was still looking for an ice kachang dessert. No luck at Chinatown so we travelled by MRT to Koufu at Commonwealth MRT.
That was a refreshing cool treat and another MAKAN-MAKAN Singapore dish.
We then traveled to Holland Village to visit iconic Thambi Magazine Store which was closing after 80 years in business.
We both bought some magazines and gave the family our best wishes.
May 4:
Thunderstorms with plenty of thunder, lightning and heavy rain from 7:00 am.
Flash flood warnings. I traveled by bus from Chinatown to Tiong Bahru Market which is supposed to popular on weekend mornings. One positive about this heavy rain was a temperature of 26C/78F.It was the coolest morning I experienced while in Singapore; Queue was in place for Michelin award winning prawn mee stall. My medium prawn mee plate (6 SGD) came with large prawns, squid, pork and 2 types of noodles.

I squeezed the calamansi juice but avoided the red chile paste. DELISH Still hungry, so I ordered a small oyster omelette for 5 SGD.
Both dishes were MAKAN-MAKAN Singapore dishes.
And I still needed a hot kopi o (1.20 SGD)!
Dishes to try on next trip: Yong tau foo, chendol, nasi briyani, thosai, char siew rice, rojak!
[Back to Ovidia: Thank you, Grace--and I hope you come back real soon!]

Monday, May 20, 2024

XX vs XY

 Annamaria on Monday

All of my siblings are XYs. I, on the other hand, am an XX. Having grown up with three brothers (one 16 months older than I, one 9 years younger, and the third 15 years younger), I have always had a perfect observation point from which to study the males of the species. I also had a wonderful dad, and a gaggle of sometimes nice, but sometimes pretty nasty uncles and mostly boy cousins. I think this is why I have always had easy friendships with boys and men.  I got used to them at an early age.

I am telling you all this because I am concerned that some readers may take what I have to say today as misandry. It is not. I do not look down upon, much less hate men.  Not at all! What I am reporting on today are scientific facts. 

But before I get into that, I do confess that I have been joking for many years about the comparison of people with XX chromosomes versus XY chromosomes.  Whenever women friends complain about the shortcomings of the males in their lives - husbands, boyfriends, bosses, etc. - it has been my habit to point out that we have two X chromosomes, and they have an X and a Y. I then postulated that the so called Y is really an X with a piece missing. Consequently, males of the species do not always react to the world around them with the wisdom of a woman.  Hahaha. I got a lot of laughs with that line.  All of them from women!

Then, I heard about the book The Better Half, subtitled On the Genetic Superiority of Women, by  Sharon Moalem, MD. PhD.  Dr. Moalem is a geneticist and in his book, he reveals in detail how that Y in men actually is, so to speak, an X with a piece missing.

He noticed, at the beginning of his medical career, that challenged baby girls were much more likely to survive their difficulty than boys who were similar in all other ways.

Eventually his research went deep into questions of why and how having a woman's immune system or having two X chromosomes give women an advantage.  As it happens, damanged chromosomes cause a lot of the problems that crop up in human lives.  In the book, Dr. Moalem uses the metaphor of a hybrid car.  "In some situations being gas powered is better; in others electric works better.  When the damaged gene causes a disease, a little girl's body can reach out to the spare and heal itself, where the boy child often has no such option.

A great deal of female superiority comes from having an immune system boosted by the stuff in that piece the guys are missing.  The longer life-expectancy of women, which is universal among humans, generally speaking keeps us healthier longer.

Throughtout most of human history, men were considered the stronger sex.  Perhaps this is because they are generally taller and have stronger muscles.  In times of famine however, the females' storage of protein in fat is much more efficient and helpful than those big muscles, which cannot keep their owner alive.

There is downside to the strength of the female immune system.  We XXs are much more likely to have auto immune diseases, such as lupus.  I myself have two, and a ton of allergies.  I blame my hyper-active immune system for all that.  But I also credit it with the overall state of my health.  

The doc's book explains all this science in an easy, conversational style.  I highly recommend it.


When it comes to XX vs XY, I still can say vive la difference! I can also say I have always been glad to be a girl. Thanks to Dr. Moalem, I can now  tell you why.