Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mosaic Music Festival. Restaurant Week. Good times. Suffering and Death.

Perhaps one day, old and decrepit, immobile and blind and deaf, imprisoned within our own minds, we might remember these as halcyon days when we could come and go as we pleased, to bop along at concerts and cheer and whoop at the good bits, to enjoy good food and the company of friends:

Au Revoir Simone, Mosaic Music Festival,  Singapore, 2010 Au Revoir Simone, Mosaic Music Festival,  Singapore, 2010
Au Revoir Simone, Mosaic Music Festival,  Singapore, 2010 Au Revoir Simone, Mosaic Music Festival,  Singapore, 2010
Tickets to Au Revoir Simone at Mosaic Music Festival 2010 thanks to Heineken Green Room membership. The club lights and the soundman's enthusiasm for turning up the bass was a contrast to their online image of red xylophones, casiotones, pale pink balloons in bare cream apartments with charmingly peeling paint, scrapbooks of pressed wild flowers, The Virgin Suicides, drawing in notebooks, old typewriters, synths, vintage dresses, and nordic sensibilities...from Brooklyn.

Sad Song, The Bird of Music

Or more delicate though similarly incongruous, a pair of real Norwegians in the Esplanade Concert Hall:
Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010 Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010 Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010
Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010 Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010
Kings of Convenience at Mosaic Music Festival 2010.

Kings of Convenience, Mosaic Music Festival, Singapore 2010
Erlend Øye during I'd Rather Dance doing his nerdy best in the non-mosh pit. His dance moves were even more aunty-ishly dorky (see vid evidence below).


Riot on an Empty Street, Homesick


Riot on an Empty Street, I'd Rather Dance

Zensai (five kinds of appetisers of the day), Omakase course, Chiharu Otsukuri (Sashimi), Omakase course, Chiharu
Kurobata no wasabi shoyu yaki, Omakase course, Chiharu
Arani (chopped fish head in sweet sauce), Omakase course, Chiharu Hiyashi tomato, Omakase course, Chiharu
Nigiri sushi, Omakase course, Chiharu Vanilla ice-cream anzu soe (apricot syrup), Omakase course, Chiharu
The Restaurant Week menu at Chiharu being a bit dismal, we went with the omakase course instead: Zensai (five kinds of appetisers of the day), Otsukuri (sashimi), Kurobata no wasabi shoyu yaki, Arani (chopped fish head in sweet sauce), Hiyashi tomato, Nigiri sushi, Vanilla ice-cream anzu soe (apricot syrup). The raw stuff was suitably fresh but nothing was terribly outstanding.

Tartare of Hokkaido Scallops, Wakame and Citrus Dressing, Absinthe (Bukit Pasoh) Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly, Star Aniseed Jus, Fennel Salad, Absinthe (Bukit Pasoh)
French Duck Breast, Sauteed Potatoes, Absinthe (Bukit Pasoh) Grilled Pink Snapper, Salad of Baby Spinach and Spelt, Loster Scented Hollandaise, Absinthe (Bukit Pasoh)
Vanilla Creme Brulee, Raspberry Sorbet, Absinthe (Bukit Pasoh)
Well-executed menu during Restaurant Week at Absinthe: Tartare of Hokkaido Scallops, Wakame and Citrus Dressing; Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly, Star Aniseed Jus, Fennel Salad; French Duck Breast, Sauteed Potatoes; Grilled Pink Snapper, Salad of Baby Spinach and Spelt, Lobster Scented Hollandaise; Vanilla Creme Brulee, Raspberry Sorbet.

Antipasto - bruschetta, caprese salad, parma ham, smoked salmon, suppli, calamari rings, Ricciotti Red Snapper cooked in Acqua Pazza style, Ricciotti
Tagliolini with scallops in spicy tomato sauce, Ricciotti Double Chocolate Cake, Ricciotti
Surprisingly bad food at Ricciotti (China Square Central): the calamari rings on 5 out of 6 plates of antipasto were cold; 2 out of 3 people thought the spiciness of the red snapper overwhelmed any taste of the fish; 3 out of 3 people could not bear the saltiness of the tagliolini; 6 out of 6 people were greatly disappointed by the dry chocolate cake. Arguably, it was the 9 alcoholic units in one body and the paucity of Hokkien vocab in another that resulted in discussions about hanging bak kwa to fend off ghosts of Muslim and Jewish origin, the indignity of being mummified to be stared at by future generations, the time-zone FAIL of international IT support and the uses of vibrating mascara sticks and why such items were an essential part of one's gender-non-specific makeup collection.

The White Rabbit, Dempsey The White Rabbit, Dempsey Mumm champagne, The White Rabbit, Dempsey
The White Rabbit, Dempsey Onion Bread, The White Rabbit, Dempsey
Chestnut and sweet onion soup served with trumpette mushrooms and gruyere croutons, The White Rabbit, Dempsey Roasted root winter vegetables served with poached egg and truffle vinaigrette, The White Rabbit, Dempsey
Grilled vegetable pasta sauteed with garlic and flambeed with vodka, The White Rabbit, Dempsey Chestnut stuffed farm chicken stuffed with chestnut served with carrot puree, cabbage, bacon and thyme jus, The White Rabbit, Dempsey
White chocolate and coconut panna cotta served with a salad of pineapple and mangoes, The White Rabbit, Dempsey Profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce, The White Rabbit, Dempsey
Mostly tasty menu at The White Rabbit accompanied by a glass of Mumm champagne: Chestnut and sweet onion soup served with trumpette mushrooms and gruyere croutons; Roasted root winter vegetables served with poached egg and truffle vinaigrette (it took some time before any one could smell the truffle shaving); Grilled vegetable pasta sauteed with garlic and flambeed with vodka - the pasta itself was bland so each mouthful had to be accompanied by a slice of grilled veggie; Juicy tender chestnut stuffed farm chicken served with carrot puree, cabbage, bacon and thyme jus; good flavour pairing - white chocolate and coconut panna cotta served with a salad of pineapple and mangoes; Profiteroles with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. 100% of the people vowed to return with family and friends in tow, the mother of three lamented that it was too late to hold her wedding reception here.

Truffled mushroom soup, The Prime Society, Dempsey 100% full blood Blackmore wagyu and yuzu carpaccio, The Prime Society, Dempsey
Gunpowered beef, The Prime Society, Dempsey Vanilla bavarois, raspberries, chocolate soil, The Prime Society, Dempsey
More misses than hits again at The Prime Society: strangely bland truffled mushroom soup, 100% full blood Blackmore wagyu and yuzu carpaccio, tendon-y Gunpowered beef with a taste-edge of bak kwa, vanilla bavarois with strawberries and chocolate soil. A hunt for meal fulfilment and carbs had to be conducted after dinner.

shots.cafe
shots.cafe shots.cafe
Some of us needed to make a pitstop and refuel at shots. cafe after a leisurely afternoon on Ann Siang Hill checking out Style Nordic and Fred Perry, trawling through the massive closing down sale at Asylum, browsing Books Actually. The owner, a member of New Creation Church, was handing out a book by his pastor - Joseph Prince's Destined to Reign.

Discussions on motifs in current music and menus have been in heavy rotation these days - whether such repetition points to a lack of creativity or if it is a necessary center around which orbits a coherent universe.

Interestingly, it makes no difference to our relationship with God whether we are helplessly horizontal in bed waiting to be turned by the nurse or having a decent lie-in after a great night out with mates. In all circumstances we are meant to continually respond to him in repentance and trust and obedience.

In good times, all the good things we enjoy - the things that have been made by God, are meant to remind us of God's eternal power and his divine nature (Romans 1:20). But though we thus know God, we do not naturally honour him as God nor give thanks to him; instead we fools exchange the glory of the immortal God and instead worship the things he created (Romans 1:23). Though life is going swimmingly with no hint of God's judgement for our hard and impenitent heart, we are duly warned that if we continue to ignore God, we are storing up wrath for ourselves on the Last Day (Romans 2:5). Do we presume on the riches of God's kindness and forbearance and patience in not executing immediate judgement on us? God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and should not be taken as licence to continue in rebellious sin.

In times of suffering and illness and death, we ought to respond too in repentance and faith in God. This is not to say that a specific suffering or sickness is necessarily due to a specific sin which we are meant to repent of:

1. Suffering and death is a result of sin in general and the attendant fallenness of this world and the humans therein. Rebellion against God and how he designed the world and the innate evil in all humans has resulted in the wrong use of all creation by all people, and suffering and pain is a natural consequence of such incorrect use. Death came into the world because of the rebellion of man (Genesis 3) as a right and just consequence of sinning against God. So we all deserve to live out the results of our choice to deny God as our lord - suffering and then death. When we see a sick person, or when we are in pain or troubled, or when we offer our condolences to the relatives of someone recently departed, we are to remember that something is very wrong with us and the world and we need to turn back to God. But we find we cannot do this on our own and need a saviour to save us from this tragic mess.

2. God tells us that some suffering is meant for the good of those who love God - "God disciplines us for our good that we may share in his holiness" for "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:10,14). Suffering is never good in itself but right response to calamitous evils will work for our good in maturing us in our relationship with God, for suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-4).

This is not to say that we live in a dualistic universe where God the Good and Satan the Evil battle it out day after day and sometimes, God manages to turn a bad situation into something good. Rather the Bible's view is that God is completely and utterly sovereign over everything in his creation.

And as to why God would allow suffering:

How can God allow suffering and evil in the world? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

4. Ultimately, there are many things we will not understand because we are not God. And we are wrong to assume that God owes us an explanation for everything. God has already told us what he is more concerned about: to be worshipped and trusted. (See the Book of Job.)

3. In fact, trouble will specially attend God's people. There will be opposition and persecution of those who are the children of God just because they are his children. After all, we follow in the footsteps of his Son, the rejected and crucified Messiah. So he said "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?" (Mark 8:34-38) and "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you...If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." (John 15:18,20). And Paul warns us "...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

So there is no biblical evidence for the teaching that that a prosperous, healthy life means we have God's favour and vice versa. God did not create a mechanistic universe that is mere cause and effect, he created a universe in which he himself is the only sovereign God in control of all things.

And when Jesus himself walked on the earth, he did not care for a healing ministry even though he could heal an entire catalogue of illnesses and even raise the dead. Rather, he was concerned about teaching about himself and what he would do to save them rather than healing in the here-and-now (see eg. Mark 1:15,21,35-39; 2:2,13; 3:14,22-23; 4:1; 6:1-2,34; 7:14; 8:31,34; 9:30-31; 10:1; 12:1,35). In fact:
There were some present at that very time who told [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,"Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, 'Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'" (Luke 13:1-9)
Jesus' point was not so much that those who suffered were any more wicked than those who escaped such a fate. The assumption was that all deserved to die and that it was only God's mercy that kept them alive to give them time to repent.*

Do we see suffering, illness, pain and death? Are we experiencing great troubles and difficulties? Let these be sufficient warning of our destination in the forever if we do not acknowledge him as God now that we have been given the opportunity to bear the fruit of repentance.

There will indeed be a time when there will be no more sadness and grieving. On this Last Day, all the consequences of our rebellion against God and our abuse of his creation will be reversed, because of Jesus' prior payment for our sins by his death on the cross. But for those who did not, while it was not yet the Last Day, repent and turn back to God, this Last Day will be the first day of eternal suffering and death forever.

So in the unmerited favour of this now-but-not-yet time, let us be put on high alert by God's judgement on Job's "comforters". Their reductivist view that Job's secret unconfessed sins must have caused his sufferings was a great insult to God and presented a great temptation to Job: to confess sins that weren't there in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself; and the Lord would have lost his wager. Their counsel, if followed, would have actually led Job away from the Lord; Job would have been reduced to being yet one more person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.*

We have ample evidence from human history as recorded in the Bible to know that God is good and trustworthy and rightly desires to be worshipped by his creatures, whatever the circumstances of life. So we are without excuse if we do not repent from our self-centered wants of health and wealth and worldly success (even more so if our quest for more faith or deeper knowledge of God or even our "repentance" is with the aim of addressing these wants) or from demanding answers for our situation, and turn towards God and his desires that have already been clearly revealed in his Word.


*D.A. Carson's How Long, O Lord? is very good. John Piper and Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God might also be worth a read.

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