Thursday, March 22, 2007

Epiphany! Or, Why Ex-Ballerinas Make Bad Singers


I started singing lessons two weeks ago, after convincing myself it was worth the Friday evening traffic jam and hyperventilating over sounding like a fool in front of the teacher.

It didn't go quite that badly of course, but she did have to teach me how to breathe properly - this being one of the main reasons I decided to take lessons in the first place. The first twenty minutes were a whole new dimension of head - clue - please meet. The concept is actually absurdly simple - relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax, and take a breath.

Someone's said also that the easiest concepts are usually the ones that you don't catch till you're at the end of a long, hopefully fruitful life.

My teacher tried everything she knew to get me to relax and not stiffen up and stand like a military guardsman because that makes for -wrong- breathing. Finally, she gave up and had me go home to practice this at the end of lesson.

Last week started off a little better. Just to check if I was actually getting enough air intake into my lungs, my teacher put her hands on my ribcage and said, Loosen up! Relax! Let it all hang out!

To which my immediate reaction was to look at her in horror and go, ...BUT I'LL LOOK FAT SIDEWAYS IF I DO THAT!

DUH. Ex-ballerina here - back straight, butt in, stomach in. It's an ingrained, worse-than-military instinct which dictates that on NO occasion shall you allow your stomach to hang out like a trucker's beer gut. Straight! Straight! Posture! Plie! Tendu! ...Ahem.

After that little mallet of realization, breathing was -not- a problem any more.

I'm looking forward to lessons tomorrow, really I am. And learning to sing my first Italian song.


On another note --Constance! This drawing is specially for, and dedicated, to you because you are a feisty, spunky, completely wonderful lady just like those Qin women so long ago, and I give you many, many hugs (you know what I'm talking about).

This is (quite obviously) markers, ink pens of varying sizes, and watercolour. I have no idea what possessed me to play with pink shadows, except I had a loaded brush full of pale red paint and I remembered that in the olden days, they used to paint the corners of eyes red for beauty. Then it all suddenly went WUMPF, you have pink shadows on a pale face like a mask. It's an experiment that I think came out pretty well for once!

And now back to trying to sing Debussy's 'Yver' from Trois Chansons d'Orleans for Sunday's chamber choir --oh. Right. Yes. I made auditions for our performance choir's chamber choir two weeks ago! And of course, the FIRST thing we have to learn to sing is...something in French...erm. See my tongue KNOT.

Thank HEAVENS for recordings of Canto Armonico singing the entire thing (and DO check them out if you like fantastic choral singing. Hungarian. Oooooooooooooooooooooh does not begin to -describe- it.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Real Daleks Unite!

My brother, bless him, dug through an old hard drive in disrepair and sent me this:

That's Nikki, taken in 2004. His favourite pose - flattening out like a little roast suckling pig, because the concrete was cooler than the weather. He used to get so dirty if the ground was damp, it drove my aunt (his rightful owners were my aunt and uncle next door) crazy.

I miss him. I think I will for a while. 13 years of having him to come home to won't go away that easily.


Today at the Japanese restaurant, I'm quite sure I discovered the real life inspiration for Daleks - this large clamshell:

It really -did- make me go, "EX-TER-MI-NATE!" when I first saw it! So of course, I had to draw it, though that's becoming such a familiar refrain these days most people I know can complete it before I even have it halfway out of my mouth...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Rainbows and Human Rainbow-Pluses

To everyone who sent their condolences on Nikki's passing, it helped more than you could ever imagine, all the thoughts and the kindness. Thank you so much.

I don't know whether anyone else in my area saw it, but Monday evening, I saw a full rainbow in the sky out the taxi window - and it stayed either alongside or up ahead in the big dark expanse of rainclouds the entire way to my choir rehearsals. It was like driving into a gate, a new dimension, and it made me smile. Despite the rather heavy drizzle. Despite the fact that I waited for the bus till kingdom come and got liberally bespattered with rain. The taxi driver was probably wondering -why- I was craning my head all around like a drunk owl - I was trying to FIND where the rainbow would appear around the next bend, mostly, but I'm sure I looked like a demented drowned rat...

I was reminded of this because a human rainbow appeared on the street and ambled down the sidewalk today when I was waiting for the bus and made me stare. So of course I had to sketch him even if all I managed to catch was his departing, jaunty back:

Trust me, the blue was more electric than that. And yes he DID dye his hair pink just at the edges of his sides like that. Hey, Marcelo and the Sketch Clubbers - this guy could've been one of your 'marks' of the day, honestly! My retinas are -still- burning with the weight of all that clashing colour...

On another note, the operation theatre was way cold this afternoon. Which resulted in yet another of my random 'Let's stop my fingers from dropping OFF with frozen' sketches:

Patient on the table, though I was mostly looking at the lovely folds and shadows. One day I'll master the art of drawing anaesthetic tubes. One day!

R. I. P.

R. I. P.

1994 - March 5th, 2007

Golden labrador retriever, companion, family, and friend

You'll be missed, Dawg.
You were so much part of the family, I can't imagine it without you now.
No more pain though. I miss you already.
Wish I had taken time to draw you for real, because the memory sketch doesn't do justice to just how special you were to us all.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Six Strange Things and Other Matters

And she resurfaces, like a whale...

Yes, oops, a month went by and I haven't posted anything, mostly due to life happening and just a general malaise that's been hard to shake. Chinese New Year just went by, and it was good and vacation filled, and...I think I've calmed sufficiently to be able to write with impunity once more.

So! I was tagged, about a month ago, by the lovely Constance as follows (Constance, SO many apologies. I kept trying to think of what to put down, and it just draaaaaaaaagged and the above happened...) This ought to make somewhat odd reading, I imagine!

RULES: People who get tagged need to write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you are tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1) Whenever I am stressed, I do extensive, in-depth research. I've no idea why, other than perhaps channelling all that extra 'grrr' and energy into something useful is productive. This has included: lion dancing, Kwan Tak Hing (the first actor to portray Chinese legend Wong Fei Hung), the Russian language, Chinese opera, Kabbala and its permutations, quantum theory, historical recipes from the 1700s, and the proper layout of medieval herb gardens. I know. I'm messed up. But it's relaxing for me.

2) I am a film graduate who doesn't like films. That requires a bit of explanation. I prefer working -behind- the scenes of a film, developing the look and putting it together, but viewing the finished cuts was never really a priority. I've always been picky about what movies I watch, and I'm even worse now. When I was still in film school, it was a chore getting me to -watch- certain films because I didn't like them and didn't want to. It's -still- a miracle when I tell my friends I'm going to go see a movie. But tell me you want me to work ON the movie...well that's another story!

3) On a related note to the above, I don't like comedies. If given a chance, I'd rather watch CSI than Friends. Same goes for films and most books, though I do give much more leeway when it comes to books. I'll read Gerald Durrell, whose writing has a lot of comedic gold moments in it, and Roald Dahl, for example. I -won't- read 'The Devil Wears Prada', though I could be persuaded into it with great, great difficulty.

4) I love nattou - that being Japanese fermented soy beans which have the texture of snail slime and a distinctly strong taste. I'll even eat it plain. I have it on good authority that even some Japanese are going to look at me in horror for that. But it tastes great on rice...

5) I am a walking food dictionary. I have an inexhaustible backlog of cooking information, historical and contemporary, residing in some database in my brain. I've no idea how this database got there, because I never really started cooking until I had my own apartment in graduate school overseas. Nevertheless, it only takes a trivial comment to set off a whole chain of connection - for example, a friend of mine mentioned in conversation that he wasn't sure if my combining rice with green peas would taste good. Upon which I promptly cited the example of mame gohan (Japanese rice boiled together with green peas, a little salt, some mirin or sweet wine, and wakame seaweed for taste), Venetian risi e bisi which has, I think, turmeric to be fully historically accurate, Italian green pea risotto, and wound up with rice and peas Southern style (which is really rice and red beans, mostly), as well as a variation called Red Rice that is distinctly Caribbean/Jamaican and can be found in Edna Lewis' classic Southern cookbook, In Pursuit of Flavour -- or was it The Taste of Country Cooking? It's been a while...but you get my point.

6) I cannot integrate, in calculus. Not to save my LIFE. I can differentiate excellently but I can't reverse the process (which is what integration is.) My teachers in secondary school attempted for an entire year to get me to be able to do this, afterwhich they just gave up and asked if I'd like to not take calculus as a national exam. I agreed and thus, I still can't integrate.


On the art front, well - I was horrifically lazy over Chinese New Year, and didn't sketch nearly as much as I would have liked to make myself!

So in the spirit of it still being (relatively) Chinese New Year since the 15th day of it hasn't come around, have a really bad photograph of a Lion Dance head suspended on the ceiling of a cafe I was at for dinner one day (I didn't have a scanner so had to use the digital cam):

Oh, and the three teenagers I was with at the time goaded me into drawing a guy with funny pants, so I capitulated for them, in good humour. The guy's friends kept looking at me weird so I had to pretend I was looking anywhere else but at them:


Man it's good to be back!