For You, Daddy!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Boy With The Dragon Tattoo(s)

So you met the dragon tattoo the last time. He has more. Dragon tattoos and other tattoos. But never mind those. Now, meet Bestie Boy.


Toasting his daddy at (his) Daddy's birthday do two months ago.


It is Bestie Boy’s birthday the day after tomorrow. Friday, the 17th of February.

One of our shared interests is music. Coincidentally, our favourite genres are Rock and Classical. I have formally studied the piano for 8 years beginning at the age of seven.  Bestie Boy played the drums in his teens and went for drum lessons at the age of nineteen. Today, he still plays the drums well and I cannot play the scale of ‘C’. Thank goodness, my life does not depend on it. Despite the short duration of formal training, Bestie Boy is far more knowledgeable about both genres – Rock and Classical music. “Well, I don’t hafta be great at something to enjoy it”, mutters the jealous one. Um, yes, me.

Earlier, I used to listen to heavy metal only when I was in an angry mood.  Below, I will paste our correspondence regarding my foray (for pleasure) into this often misunderstood and maligned subgroup of rock. 

Bestie Boys words will be in his favourite green and mine in brown.

Bestie Boy: I’m attaching two Moonsorrow song files. They are from an album called ‘Kivenkantaja’ (meaning ‘Stonebearer’ in Suomi) by a Finnish heavy metal band called Moonsorrow. Actually, this album is one of my favourites. It would definitely warrant inclusion on a ‘desert island discs’ list. 

Moonsorrow is probably one of my all-time favourite bands. They write epic, sweeping, majestic, long, soaring, musical sagas; exactly the kind of thing I love.  

I’m eager to hear what you think about the songs. Feel free to branch out into other Moonsorrow stuff, but I’ve chosen instrumentals because the vocals are usually very harsh and it’s a bit of a barrier for most people. 


Song: Tuulen Tytar     Artist: Moonsorrow     Album:  Kivenkantaja


Tuulen Tytar (track 5) is the best example of that ‘epic’ sound I just love. 

MeI like the opening piano trill and love the piano bits throughout. I’m not a fan of bagpipes, not right away at least. The bass creeping in at close to 2’ caught me off guard. Two minutes is a long time for it to show up. I love how the stage explodes with fireworks at almost 3 minutes. I enjoy monastic choir chants, so that was a nice interlude. I wasn’t fooled by the lull in pace and volume after that. My anticipation was rewarded when the bass burst back in. I’m with you on the ‘epic’ sound of this song.  


Song: Matkan Lopussa     Artist: Moonsorrow     Album:  Kivenkantaja


Bestie Boy: And the final track, Matkan Lopussa in this album is just a beautiful song. I’ve no idea what she’s singing about,

Me: I like Matkan Lopussa simply because it opens with soft, but noticeable bass strumming, and has a consistent heavy thump all through. When the chorus joined the lead female, it took me back to my concerts in music school. I just feel like twirling around the room, Vienna waltz style.

Bestie Boy: but I’ve never been one to care much for lyrics.

Me: Me, too! I just don’t notice them unless they’re hammered repeatedly like the chorus. But instruments? I pick up on little strings or pipes or drums doing their thing in the background. I know of people who don’t hear the instruments at all and pick up the lyrics very easily.

Bestie Boy: There’s something about both tracks that encapsulates a cold, ‘wintry’ feel. With most Moonsorrow songs, they have an ability to evoke strong images, which is a quality I admire greatly in music.

MeI did not read your comments before I listened to the songs closely because I did not want to be influenced by your opinions. I’ve added them here so that we could see how we enjoy the same music, but interpret it quite differently. I find that interesting because I used to think that there was only one way to “see” music. For me, it wasn’t cold or wintry, but soothing at times (prolly because of my familiarity with classical music) and vibrant at other times (the rock influences parts).

I really like the name Moonsorrow. I will name something after it; my next stray pet probably. 


Song: Weight of Wind     Artist: Borknagar     Album:  Epic


Bestie Boy: Also attaching a natty little instrumental by a Norwegian band called Borknagar that came on Jango (an online free ‘radio’ station) the other day. For some reason, that piano riff has stuck with me since I first heard it. 

Me: Love the Weight of Wind, too. A winner from the opening bar. The single synthesised whine promised an extravaganza. And it delivered! Deliberate, powerful, furious. The short, staccato drum rolls in the beginning were another nice touch. Pure rock (metal?) with generous splashes of Western classical and some sprinklings of Middle Eastern rhythm.

I never knew metal would sound this good. When I’m mad (as in angry), I play metal off the online genre specific stations, but those songs are just noisy. I can enjoy them only when in that foul mood, but these songs that you’ve sent just blow apart the image of metal that I had.  

Off the audio and onto some visuals.

This photograph from a few years earlier is one of my favourite pictures of Bestie Boy. Despite looking right into the camera, it is a very natural shot.

Warning: Display of skin ahead.


Bestie Boy is the inked one on the right. With Best Bud (from primary school days) when on holiday in China.


I like how tired he looks. So tired, he’s not concerned about slouching or not smiling for the camera.

Back to our chat about music.

Me: So why were you so keen on my Moonsorrow feedback? Did I win a prize to join you for their performance in Berlin?

Bestie Boy:  Well, Moonsorrow are probably my favourite band du jour, and even perhaps longer than just un jour, maybe of the year, the decade…. who knows. I just wanted to bounce some of their more accessible stuff off you and hear the response. When I say accessible, I mean, stuff without nasty rasping lyrics, which I find is usually the first barrier to (uninitiated) people’s enjoyment and understanding of metal. I’m glad to see it’s widened your views on metal.

As Gandhi* (probably) would’ve said himself, “To change one person’s perception is testament enough that the journey is worth making”.

Touché, Bestie Boy!

*That’s a little dig, if you will, at me because my e-mail signature is, no, not my blog URL ( NO!), but this Gandhi quote:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi



Thank you, The Book of Terrible  and mj monaghan  for commenting on my last post. Thank you, maze a dayPHOTOBOTOS.comThe Book of Terrible  and mj monaghan  for liking my last post.


P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Enter The Dragon

A belated Xin Nian Kuai Le*!

* ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin Chinese. The popular version around the world is the Cantonese ‘Kung Hei Fat Choy‘ and varitaions of it because the Cantonese speaking diaspora emigrated in larger numbers and earlier than the Mainland residents. Cantonese is spoken mainly in Hong Kong, Macau and the southern Chinese provinces.

Last week, Monday, the 23rd of January 2012 to be precise, was Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year as it’s known to a large part of the world. This is the Year of the Dragon.

Paper cutting is a traditional Chinese art form.


Thank you, Ben van Wijnen, for permitting the use of the above image from your website.


During my time in China, I spent one Spring Festival (Chinese New Year, remember?) in Baise, Guangxi Province with one of my closest Chinese friends and her family. My friend’s English name is Cher. Baise is not a tourist hot spot, although it is politically significant for some uprising at some time. What made all the difference to me is that the small city was not overrun by tourists as is the norm during that holiday period, and that traditional life was still untouched there despite the central parts of the city being bulldozed by China’s unrelenting modernisation.

Spending the most important Chinese festival with a Chinese family was a unique and unadulterated experience. It was made all the more special by Cher, who is truly ma chère amie. She takes after her parents, who I began calling Ba and Ma (the Chinese equivalent of Dad and Mum) after a week because they doted on me as much as they did Cher and her older brother, Rong. (Unlike most young, urban Chinese, Rong didn’t get himself an English name.) Out of habit, I kept teasing Cher and Fan that I was the favourite child. (Growing up, Big Bro and I would scrap over that title, while Big Sis quietly earned it.)

Spring Festival Eve is the pinnacle of the almost month long preparation period. New Year’s Day itself is a bit of a damp squib compared to celebrations like Christmas, or even Diwali (Hindu New Year) and Eid (the most important Muslim festival) when the actual day is the highlight of the festive period.

My Chinese New Year family


The big dinner is on Spring Festival Eve and this is it. Cher is holding up a ready-to-be-devoured zongzi.

Zongzi is one of the many varieties of glutinous rice dumplings. Zongzi are wrapped in a particular variety of leaves and steamed. The savoury variety has a meat and/or veggie filling; the sweet variety has nuts and sweetened, dried fruit. These dumplings are the main food of the Dragon Boat Festival which occurs sometime in June, but some Chinese families eat them at Spring Festival, too.

This is a special version of zongzi that Ma makes only for Spring Festival. The stalks of a particular herbal plant are burned, then powdered with a mortar and pestle. When the ash is rather fine, the glutinous raw rice is mixed in and pounded as well.

Ma has weak eyesight and is short of hearing, so Ba does most of the cooking. He is an excellent cook! I had eaten a lot of good food during my time in China, but I can say, hands down, Ba’s were some of the tastiest meals I’d eaten in China. Deceptively simple looking, not long on preparation time, not heavy on ingredients, yet the outcome every day was a veritable gastronomic delight. I tried hard to learn the recipes, but there were none in the manner that I am familiar with. The kitchen was not very large and Ba would have all three stove burners going while busy washing, chopping and dicing the ingredients. I tried to keep out of his way, but observed and tried to remember as much as I could. Now, all I can remember is how fantastic it all tasted! 😦

On Spring Festival Eve, at midnight, we all went up to the rooftop of their 5-storeyed home to watch the fireworks display that ushered in the new (Chinese zodiac) year. It was a novel experience for me watching the midnight sky light up at that height. It was much better from up there, I think. I don’t enjoy fireworks as much as I used to. Now, I even avoid watching them if I can because that short lived pleasure comes with a high environmental price tag. 

Spring Festival Day proper is not a home affair per se. Families go out to the park or wander around town. Both meals of the day are very scaled down as compared to the previous night. The day after Spring Festival or Chinese Boxing Day as I called it, is for visiting relatives and exchanging gifts. And so a-visiting we went! For three days, we went over to close relatives’ bearing fruit, packaged snacks and live fowl in pretty little bamboo baskets! So cute!

And now I’m not in China anymore. 😦

The Chinese characters stand for Zhongshan, my home city during my time in China.


I miss China. I miss my friends, the food, the very different life. I sent the above photograph of mine to my Chinese friends for Spring Festival. And I got a whole lotta dragon fire burnin’ love back my way. 🙂

These are not Chinese dragons, but Celtic dragons. They’ll do for the purpose of this post.


I love the shaded work on Bestie Boy’s “scar tissue” as he calls his ink art.

The Spring Festival period ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival which falls on Monday, February 6, 2012.

From me and my pet Celtic dragons on Bestie Boy’s back, may all kinds of fiery goodness blow your way in the Year of the Dragon!


Thank you, Cheerful Monk, and The Book of Terrible for commenting on my last post. Thank you, Vikram Roy, and The Book of Terrible for liking my last post.


P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.

 I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat! 

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