‘If we want to live fully, we have to own our story.’
The air is cool at last (hurrah!), and we’re glad to welcome in both the new season and this third issue of being.
To those who have read being before, welcome back and a hearty thank you for returning to enjoy some of that slow life goodness with us. (If you missed our September or October issues and would like a copy, let us know!)
We hope you all enjoy this instalment of our humble zine as we embrace the seasonal change and, as always, the freedom in slowing down.
Cover image: Tin Shui Wai, being
Cover quote: Brene Brown
G O O D S T U F F
If you’re looking for a new way to use leftover rice or risotto, arancini is the one. The Italian snack is a bite-sized ball of deliciousness, easily put together and just as easily devoured. Mix your leftover rice with mozzarella (or vegan mozzarella), then mould the mixture into small balls. Roll each ball first into flour, then milk, then breadcrumbs, and deep-fry until golden. To take it to the next level, mix together tomato purée, dried basil, hot water, and salt for a perfect dipping sauce.
Watch (the Sound)
Hosted by music producer Mark Ronson, Watch the Sound is a documentary series consisting of six episodes, each one dedicated to a particular musical technology, from autotune to drum machines. Along with some of his musical pals, including The Beastie Boys, Paul McCartney, and Lady Gaga, Ronson delves into the history and how-to of each technology, and meets inventors, engineers, and other bods who know about sound.
The cooler weather makes this the perfect time for shinrin-yoku. The Japanese art of forest bathing requires very little: just you and some natural scenery. The purpose is to reconnect with nature and the self, especially in these frantic times. As well as meandering, you might also consider sitting down, closing your eyes, and listening carefully, or taking a moment to breathe deeply and inhale all of those healing plant compounds (some are purportedly more effective than antidepressants!).
N O T E S O N
For most of us, there’s a deep nostalgia in doing jigsaw puzzles. A mainstay of our childhoods, puzzles helped us while away rainy days and allowed our parents some peace. Since the pandemic began, puzzles have become cherished companions for adults, too.
Jigsaw puzzles were initially tools for geography teachers. In 1760, British engraver John Spilsbury attached a map of the world to a sheet of hardwood and used a handsaw to cut around country borders (it was only in the late 19th century that jigsaws were invented and used to cut puzzles, hence the ‘jigsaw puzzle’). His product was called ‘Dissected Map’ and it became popular with teachers and wealthy families alike (King George III was a fan).
Puzzles soon caught on as a leisure activity with makers painting images onto wood before cutting. In the 1900s, cardboard puzzles appeared on the market and went on to reign supreme thanks to the development of cardboard-cutting technology, which reduced costs and enabled mass production.
There have been new takes on the standard puzzle since its invention, such as the 3D puzzle and those that can be assembled to make different patterns. Happily, the sustainable puzzle market is growing, too.
As of 2011, the prize for the puzzle with the most pieces goes to the University of Economics of Ho Chi Minh City for a 551,232-piece behemoth. Mad props to the students who completed it; it takes us peak physical health and mental strength to finish a 1,000-piece puzzle.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
“Make It Better”
Musical-hyphenate extraordinaire Anderson .Paak is attached to a variety of projects but is perhaps best known for his fourth album, Ventura. The funky, smooth offering, which earnt him a Grammy, seamlessly slides between R&B, funk, hiphop, motown, soul, and blues. Nowhere is this hybrid vibe more evident than in Paak’s chosen collaborators on the record, ranging from Smokey Robinson to (posthumously) Nate Dogg.
While Paak’s earlier albums, Malibu (2016) and Oxnard (2018), also defied categorisation, Ventura has an even wider musical scope, melding together all of Paak’s talents, expounding on his unique sound, and leaning towards something fuller and funkier. Since Ventura, Paak has featured on a bunch of singles, and has been slow-releasing tunes with Bruno Mars under the group name Silk Sonic, with the album set to follow this month.
To get a glimpse of Paak’s talent in action, check out his NPR Tiny Desk gig on You Tube (he casually plays the drums while singing).
D I V E I N
We live by them, through them, and sometimes for them. Here’s a little ode to seasons; the pinnacle of natural life, our modern lives, and beyond.
Burnt orange leaves, shorter days, the notorious Pumpkin Spiced Latte; the arrival of autumn seems to be more marked than perhaps any of the other seasons. It’s also the only season to have two names in the English language.
In Britain it’s known as autumn and in North America as fall. Contrary to popular belief, though, fall was neither born in America nor initially the American word for the season; both came from British English and were transported to the U.S.
Autumn was first commonly used in the English language in the 1500s, derived from the Latin autumnus (potentially influenced by auctus which means ‘increase’). Up until then, harvest had been the word for the season. Years later, inspired by poets who wrote about the season’s falling leaves, autumn also came to be known by some as fall. In the 1600s, English travelled to the British colonies of North America, but over time, the variants spoken in the two countries diverged and many words were caught in confusion – fall being one of them. Autumn remained the more popular term in the U.S. until 1755, when fall made its first appearance in a dictionary. At the same time, fall became obsolete in Britain in favour of autumn.
When we talk about the ‘winter of life’, we're usually referring to old age (believing that each season correlates to a phase of life). But our understanding of winter doesn't have to be so prosaic (and bleak).
In Wintering, writer Katherine May proffers that winter is that moment in life when ‘you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, blocked from progress’. In other words, the hard times we face, be it the breakdown of a relationship or the loss of a job, a mental health crisis or a general period of discontent. To believe in this is to believe that we experience winter at various, unpredictable points throughout our lives, not just at the end of them or once a year, as per the natural occurrence of the season.
May believes that such winters are inevitable: ‘We like to imagine that it’s possible for life to be one eternal summer, and that we have uniquely failed to achieve that for ourselves. But life’s not like that. Emotionally, we’re prone to stifling summers and low, dark winters, to sudden drops in temperature, to light and shade.’
The subtitle of the book is: ‘The power of rest and retreat in difficult times’. It might seem obvious that rest is helpful during hard times, but in our current relentless culture and climate, a reminder doesn’t go amiss. ‘We are forever trying to defer the onset of winter. We don’t ever dare to feel its full bite, and we don’t dare to show the way that it ravages us,’ May writes. ‘Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.’
However you see winter, there seems to be one absolute: it’s a time for reflection, recuperation, and replenishment.
Nothing says ‘spring’ like Botticelli’s Primavera, literally — it’s the Italian word for the season. The 13th century painting is an allegory of the most hopeful and eager of the seasons, with each element depicted through Roman mythology.
Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility (also the centrepiece of Botticelli’s most famous work, Birth of Venus), stands serenely in an orange grove. Her winged son Cupid, donning a blindfold (for love is blind), aims one of his love arrows at the Three Graces, a trio of dancing robed women who represent kindness and openness. To the left, Roman messenger god Mercury, in his helmet, red cloak, and winged sandals, holds up a staff of twisted serpents to ward off threatening clouds. He also wears a sword across his body in order to protect the garden. On the opposite side, the classical tale of Zephyrus and Chloris is depicted. Zephyrus, the west wind, is in love with Chloris, a nymph associated with spring. In a decidedly unloving move, he forces marriage upon her, but to try and atone for his sins, he transforms her into Flora, the goddess of flowers. We see this transformation in the flowers that bloom out of Chloris’s mouth. For Flora, spring reigns eternal, best conveyed by her floral embroidered dress, flower crown, and the heaps of flower buds cradled in the folds of her dress.
We’ve just said goodbye to the summer, but now that we’re safely sweat-free, let’s revisit it for just a moment.
Summer in Hong Kong features direct sun and high temperatures, but humidity, in all of its heavy density, rules the season, sealing itself around our limbs like clingfilm the moment we step outside and enveloping us for the rest of the summer.
Fortunately, there is respite — kind of. When we’re flustered and damp, we can dash into a mall, ascend an escalator to heaven (undoubtedly the title Led Zeppelin would've gone with if they’d lived in Hong Kong), and bask in the marvel that is air conditioning. Our sweat doesn’t dry so much as get blasted flat to our skin, but the reprieve is immediate and undeniable. In and out we go, weakening our immune systems, all for a few minutes of sweet cryogenic relief. Of course, we can’t stay in a mall forever. So, when we go outside, we put on a cap and sidle along the shadiest parts of the pavement. Alas, all we’re doing is evading the direct sun and looking like an ineffective spy from an embarrassing ‘80s movie. Humidity offers no true escape.
We should remember, though, that while humidity is the protagonist in our summer story, it’s not the only character. There are also warm seas and blissfully cold showers, bright mornings and BBQs. And we mustn’t forget the overarching theme of this story, too: gratitude. Never are we more grateful than in the summer; grateful for air conditioning, easterly breezes that allow us to sit outside, evening strolls, and the comparatively mild and temporary nature of our humidity that, unlike in some of our fellow Asian nations, doesn't last all year long.
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — Haruki Murakami
Super-author Murakami is best known for his vivid, dreamlike novels, but there’s something equally as alluring about this slim 2008 non-fiction offering. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is really the only fitting title for the memoir (and a play on Raymond Carver’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Love) considering it wends and weaves through Murakami’s relationship with running. The author also leads the way through his daily life and travels, taking us from autumnal Boston to seaside Kanagawa and beyond, each story and snippet woven into the greater fabric of his journey as a runner. It’s warm, clever, and — be warned — may compel you to pull out your running shoes.
R O O T S
Greek mythology has it that, in a Hunger Games-style plot, every nine years the king of Crete sent seven youths and seven maidens from Athens into a labyrinth in which the Minotaur — a violent half-man, half-bull — was kept. One year, Theseus, the king’s son, decided to end this terrifying tradition. He took a clew (a ball of thread) into the maze and, after killing the Minotaur, used it to find his way out. Following this, clew came to mean both a ball of string and ‘something that guides someone out of a difficult situation’. In the 1300s, the spelling shifted to clue, and in 1948, it accrued the definition of ‘something a bewildered person doesn’t have’. Incidentally, the popular British boardgame Cluedo was launched a year later.