Culture Club: Episode Seven

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April 30, 2015 by Wayne.

Previous Culture Club episodes can be found here


So this has been on hiatus for a bit. Not any longer – we’re back!

WE’RE BACK

Also, do join in for MaPoWriMo (Malaysian/May Poetry Writing Month) which starts on the 1st of May.

We’re going to cover a lot of ground today!


Books

Chris Anderson & David Sally – The Numbers Game

The most engaging bit of writing in the entire book is in the afterword – which is lumped together with the acknowledgments.

Overall, it’s quite a disappointing read, especially with all the hype going into it. The results are important and occasionally even counter-intuitive, but ultimately there’s too much fluff and groan-inducing writing surrounding the data. The final third of the book is admittedly a lot better, though. Less bullshit, more insights.

Recommended for hardcore football fans, especially those interested in how big data is playing a (small) role in the development of the sport.

Michel Faber – Fire Gospel

A novella loosely based on the myth of Prometheus, in the guise of a satirical take on the Da Vinci genre. It’s about an Aramaic scholar finding the fifth gospel in Iraq – a set of scrolls written a couple of years after Jesus’ death, ie. before any of the other gospels.

It’s an engaging enough read, but I once again encountered the strange paradox so often found in Faber’s works: he can be an incredibly awkward, stilted writer for a couple of pages, then pull out long passages of the most beautiful poetic prose. It’s very odd.

And of course, there are the bizarre twists and sparks of absurdity that are trademarks of both Faber and the genre he’s satirizing. Satiring? I don’t know.

I guess the major takeaway of the book is that there won’t be any single discovery that will eradicate the plague of religion. Or at least, not any discovery of old scrolls/documents/whatever. There could be a fifth gospel like this that explicitly painted Jesus as utterly 100% human, and people would still rationalize it away by casting doubts on the authenticity, yadda yadda yadda. There’s nothing quite as powerful as the ability of the religious mind to rationalize unsavory details of their holy books.

Anyway, it’s a good read.

Scott Hutchins – A Working Theory of Love

What a book! Working theory of love my ass. More like working theory of millennial-existentialism. And, well, also love. Funny how the two are so often interlinked.

As great as this book was, it hit a bit too close at times. It’s not just the Nick Hornby-style lost protagonist that I identify with, but the girls, the stumbling approach to life and meaning, the broken relationships, heck, even his parents. Painfully enough. When he reflects on purpose, I see my scatterbrained thoughts in the reflection. When he mulls over his relationship with his father, I wince and try to read faster.

All that aside, it’s an ambitious novel that manages to achieve a surprising proportion of its ambition – and good god, that is such a rare feat. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to more of Hutchins’ offerings. He has a distinctive enough style without coming across as overly stylized (cough Nick Miller cough), and I’d love to see what he intends to explore next.

Affecting, engaging and a tremendous achievement (can you believe it’s a debut novel?!). If you’re a 21st century office-drone underwhelmed with life and meaning, you’re going to want to read this. And if you’re not, just read it anyway, it’s great.

The Happy Reader issue 2

It’s not a book. But it’s a magazine about books! Kind of. The Happy Reader is a very new zine started up by the people behind A Fantastic Man, in collaboration with Penguin (I think). It’s pretty rad. The first half of it is an interview with a personality, the second half is dedicated to discussing various aspects of a book. For instance, issue 2 dealt with The Book of Tea and talked about culture and stuff tangentially related to the book.

Honestly, the first issue was a lot more interesting though. Dan Stevens came across as being wonderfully engaging (sorry, Kim Gordon!) and the focus on The Woman In White was more incisive too.

Huge shout-out to Magpie SG for recommending the first issue to me. Plenty of great zines popping up recently, eh?


Cafes

Coffea Coffee – Everywhere

Seriously, Coffea is everywhere.

The branch in Sri Petaling is actually my favourite of all the ones I’ve been in. The layout is nice and spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating and lots of power sockets everywhere. Still no WIFI yet though, as of April 2015. Ah well. Great place to get some work done, WIFI aside. Or it would be, if not for the loud music (not as loud as other Coffea branches) and the shitloads of customers (seriously, this place is packed every night). I’m happy that it’s doing well in Sri P, to be honest. God knows this place could have used a neighbourhood joint years ago. Plus it’s a nice place. It’s just – the coffee isn’t very good. And wouldn’t you rather see an independent place do well instead?

That bullshit aside, this chain brand is far from the best coffee establishment in the city. The peanut butter latte used to be nice – not anymore. The mocha and green tea latte are decent enough not to regret your purchase. The Honduras Comsa is kinda nice, but rarely worth the price tag. Even after the member discount.

The Owls Cafe – Bukit Jalil

First of all, holy shit was this cafe packed! There was a goddamn queue outside. And it’s a first-floor unit too, so rent should be pretty cheap. Owners sure are making bank.

Is it worth the hype? Maybe. Kind of. Not really. Depends. The waffles come in a variety of shapes and tastes, and the ones we sampled were all pretty good. The ingredients are standard-fare, so nothing special pops up from the taste profiles. If you’re in the vicinity and there’s no queue, it’s still worth dropping in to catch up with a friend, though. And hey, the coffee’s decent. Can’t say the same about a lot of places in KL.

Pulp – Bangsar

It’s been about a year since I first went to Pulp (I think) and it’s still one of my favourite spots. Even though it’s way too tiny for its barrage of customers.

I’ve rarely had a bad cup of coffee there. The hand brewed stuff range from good to excellent depending on the beans, the barista and the day. I remember the long black being great too. Don’t think I’ve tried much else there to be honest, especially since I heard the cold brew isn’t that good.

But yeah, check it out if you can find a seat. Ignore the 20-somethings taking snapshits outside, and have a great cup of coffee inside. Preferably accompanied by stimulating conversation.


Food

I previously had a list of food places that I maintained up to early last year, but after a certain point it just got too unruly. As a result, I’m creating a new FOOD PAGE and linking entries to the corresponding Culture Club reviews. Crude, but necessary.

First up,

Anjappar – Telawi, Masjid Jamek, bunch of places

If it’s your first time at this place – ignore the picture, don’t get the briyani. Go with a bunch of people, order individual rice sets (the full one with all the wonderful, glorious sauces), and go to town on a bunch of meat orders. Mutton varuval, chicken 65, lamb brains, you know the drill. Eat until you’re stuffed.

The briyani, you see, while being a great option for a kinda-pricey lunch alone, doesn’t truly reflect what Anjappar is capable of. It’s full of subtle flavours and spices, which means it doesn’t stand out as much as places like Fierce and Tajuddin Briyani (not to mention my personal favourite Jawi House in Penang).

What Anjappar excels in is delivering some knockout main dishes packed full of flavour (and price), coupled with heavenly sauces. Seriously, those goddamn sauces are so good.

Bunga Raya Indah – 41 Lebuh Ampang 1st floor

Taste-wise, it’s a very close second to Sri Ganapathi Mess. In terms of the overall eating experience though, it’s an unmissable unique trip. Food trip. With a handy carb coma t the end.

So the place is set up like a legit mess hall, with long tables where you sit opposite/with random people. Oh and to get there requires walking through a barely-lit staircase up to the first floor. Except instead of a shoddily maintained fuck-bar, you encounter a clean and (in a way) beautiful place of food-worship. I sat at the end and watched the world pass through the window. Also in a way: I was watching the traffic jam along lebuh ampang. But hey still pretty therapeutic.

The food is fantastic here. Mutton curry oh shitttt so goddamn tender god damn god damn. The curry was incredible too, I could just drink it up by itself. Kampung chicken was actually quite mediocre but it didn’t dampen my spirits. Not when everything else was exquisite. Spiced buttermilk drink included. Lapped everything up with my hand, but I’m sure they have cutlery hanging around somewhere. Possibly.

This was a good meal. I suggest you try it yourself.

Guac food truck – truckin around

fish tacos from guac aren’t half bad! prepare for puny portions though. i hear the beef burritos are much better, which made me really sad and i started crying because it reminded me of burrito libre and its crazy long queues during the free burrito promotions and the non-existent lines on all the other days like there’s hardly anyone there it’s so empty even though it’s really fucking good like that shit fills you up so much and it tastes really good namean it’s not legit pure mexican but seriously who gives a fuck i hate when people are all hung up over authenticity like god damn if it’s good it’s good damn i miss burrito libre

Kari Guys – Lucky Garden

Don’t trust the shitty photo. The food here is actually pretty decent! Rm13 gets you mutton peratal (mediocre) with spicy potato (average), stir fried eggplant (nice) and the signature curry (a tad salty but very addictive).

I also liked the interior and the menu design and stuff, so plus points for that. If you’re hungry in Bangsar with an equally hungry wallet, this is a worthwhile place to head to.

KGB (Killer Gourmet Burgers) – Telawi, Bangsar

KGB isn’t perfect, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t my favourite burger place in Malaysia. The Bobcat in particular demands singling out – it’s a perfectly assembled burger with a crispy “crushed” patty, warm gooey cheese and the tangy bite of jalapeno.

Price-wise, it’s up there with all those atas burger joints, but if you can suck it up, it’s usually a worthwhile meal.

Mikey’s New York Pizza – Telawi

I first tried Mikey’s in the midst of exam prep. We went to McD at Bangsar but I popped over to pick up a slice from Mikey’s first. And that first slice was still the best I’ve had from Mikey’s.

This isn’t to say they’re not still good. You’d be hard pressed to find a “better” pizza in KL. It’s just not as truly exciting as it was the first time, as evidenced by my gushing review from Instagram:

Mikey’s is a massive hit from the get-go. Empirical evidence of hit-ness: MBL-like queues, throngs of young hot qts singing praises on Instagram, and most importantly, validation from your favorite lifestyle blogger (me) that it’s fucking awesome.

What’s that? A KL joint that lives up to the hype?

For those unfamiliar to the NY pie, there are several key differences to the Italian version. To cater to connoisseurs and plebs alike, here’s the only one you need to care about: It’s big, and you buy by the slice. How big? About double the size of a domino’s large, or known in layman’s terms as the width of your mom’s birthing canal.

I had the Bianco and holy Jesus yes, it was the best I’ve had in Malaysia. The rich interplay of cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, ricotta and the luxurious splash of goat’s cheese), the compromise between thick and thin crust, pretty much everything was on point. Tastes significantly different once it cools down, but the first half of the slice is heavenly. Why are you reading this shit review anyway? Go and try a slice. A few slices, even. And some waffle fries. Closest you’ll get to poutine, I’ll wager.

They’re constantly introducing new flavours, which is nice to see. And nice to taste. Most recently, they introduced a line of affordable-ish pastas: RM16 or so per bowl. No meat in them, other than the bolognese and the meatballs. Taste-wise, they’re a few steps above Plan B (what isn’t though) and a step below Nosh. Decent enough grub. Our bowls were free, so no complaints there!

Also tried a pale ale from the new craft beers they have in store – all from Rogue in Oregon. It was great but good god so expensive. But great. So great.

Nosh – Telawi

Nosh is a special place. There are plenty of uninspired places that live and die in Telawi; a more rare breed of restaurant is the type that sells very good food at pricey but not extortionate prices.

Nosh, it should be mentioned, dishes out some magnificent desserts. Probably some of the best I’ve tried in KL.

Food-wise, they do a great job too. The penne with lamb puttenesca meatballs was delectable. I’ve had a couple of other fantastic dishes there too, but I can’t quite recall what they were.

Simply D – NuSentral, Avenue K

Yes, it’s now a chain. But it’s a pretty good chain!

The pastas are still the real stars here though (I think, haven’t had them in a while). I took the beef and mushroom burger and for RM15.50 I got the tallest burger I’ve ever tried to eat. Mushy bun and decent patty, but it all comes together rather well. Can’t nitpick too much at that price level. It’s great value.

If you want a quick affordable lunch that tastes pretty good, Simply D is hard to beat.

Soul in Seoul – Sri Petaling

Honestly, it’s a bit hard for me to give an objective review of Soul in Seoul. I go over for lunch so often – it’s a pretty good spot to work on stuff thanks to the fast-ish WIFI, power sockets, refillable corn tea etc etc.

I think the food is pretty good though. It’s not amazing, it’s not Korea-represent top-tier, but it’s good for the price. And…I like it. At this point, it’s almost like comfort food to me.

Wow Korean Chicken – Uptown

No joke – it lives up to the name. An underrated, overlooked gem that deserves a hell of a lot more customers than it currently has. If I were the owners, I’d be looking to relocate pronto.

Fantastic fried chicken – crisp on the outside, oh-so-tender on the inside. And that sauce packs a nasal-cleansing punch.


TV

Friday Night Dinner

It starts out as a slightly-eccentric dialogue-heavy British comedy that’s good for a quick laugh. This isn’t dismissive, by the way, it’s genuinely hilarious at all the right points. It just doesn’t try to be particularly clever about its humour.

Over time, though, Friday Night Dinner evolves into an essential watching experience. The humour is refined, sharpened, even experimented with, and recurring gags begin to be worked in. There’s a wee bit of character development, if only in service of the (increasingly funnier) plots. And before you know it, it’s become one of the best comedies on TV. Certainly a good deal sharper and funnier than anything from Community’s latest Yahoo season.

Young Justice

I love this series.

This was the perfect superhero show before The Flash, SHIELD, Daredevil – heck, even before Arrow. Character development? Check. Clever writing amidst a coherent, logical plot? Check. Surprisingly low reliance on PIS (plot induced stupidity)? Checkity McChecker Sir Checks-a-lot.

It’s all the best bits of X-Men Evolution and the other animated cape-shows that came before it, mashed up into a tragically short two seasons. Seriously, it’s a travesty that we won’t get a third.

To put it into perspective, I was actually rooting for the Young Justice team to show up Batman, Supes and the rest. So yeah. Mission accomplished, YJ writing team.


Upcoming topics in the next update:

emma donoghue – astray

daredevil

sp organic store

tou tou – to be honest i have quite the soft spot for this place. on more than one occasion, i spent an entire day here during the preparation for my final year’s finals.

mahbub

in betweeners

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