Saturday, December 03, 2011

Being Blonde, or, The Lunch Date

For Kenny Mah, because.

Morning text message. I'm half-awake and still drowsy, but reading it makes me smile. We've been wanting to catch up for ages, and today's the day at last, and it -will- happen because we've planned for it and it better, or else...well there's no 'or else'. It is happening, and that's that.

I'm late. Of course I'm late, these days it seems to be a chronic (and unfortunate) trademark. I could cite the bus, or the mosque traffic, but I'll just knuckle down and say that yes, I got out of the house later than expected while seeing to stuff, and my time management needs a lot of work. My brain reminds me you're going to be so hungry given how late it is now. I make a mental note to do better next time.

Next time. I hope there will be a next time anyway.

It rains the minute I get out of the bus, which I should have expected, and stops the minute I get into the LRT station - which I also should have expected. Never mind, I'm there at the agreed meeting point, and there you are, reading (a totally unnecessary purchase, you tell me, but I understand. My bookshelf is testament to this.) I always forget how tall you are till I hug you. Then again, I'm short. It evens out.

So there's that little adventure of the stuck parking ticket, and the impossible maze that's the parking lot exit and a car window that refuses to cooperate winding back up. You try to apologise, but me, I don't mind. It's good to be out of the house, it's good to be not thinking so much about crap, it's good to be with you, and that's all there is to it. I'm an adventure magnet. These are what memories are made of.

Indian food. I love it, so do you, and this is a part of town I've never been in before - even better.

Lunch comes. I talk too much. I always do. Even more so when I get a little nervous, but today, that's not the case. Why am I trying to be sensible and profound when I know I'm nothing of the sort? When I catch myself it's already too late, I've prattled on like a ditz and I think, oh gods, stop being blonde you idiot, this isn't Wicked, you're not Glinda. If this were a date, it'd never get off the ground. You don't seem to mind, for which I'm thankful; your company is relaxing, which is what I badly need right now, and it always is wonderful to catch up with you in person after so many messages, texts, and emails.

There never seems to be enough time to say everything that we want to say. My conversation is like a scratched CD, skipping from place to place to topic to other topic with bewildering speed. I only realise this after we finish lunch. If I'm not blonde, I'm doing a pretty convincing imitation. You carry the conversation as calmly and serenely as a palm-fringed oasis. Gods, I wish I had that sort of poise, something I mentally make note of to learn before I get mistaken for a hyperactive child off medication.

It's days like this I miss, conversations and company like this that I crave desperately when things go awry and when stress levels create their own overwhelming Richter scale. You put things in perspective, and for that I am so grateful. For a few hours at least, the knots in my psyche loosen and unravel, and the world seems much more bearable.

Thank you. Today was a much-needed gift. The next time, I'll be punctual - and less blonde.

Photo credit: Waterfall Yin

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Socratic Creed of Examinations

...which explains why I am neck-deep in examinations until mid-December, and why I have turned into even more of an elusive hermit than before.

I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to survive the next two weeks, when none of my coursework seems to want to come together, my vocal exam pieces are complete disasters, and my musicianship homework is in a shambles (granted, I did procrastinate on numbers 1 and 3 so it's no one else's fault but my own.)

If Socrates were here, I'd assassinate him without hesitation. Or remorse.

Which probably means it's time for bed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Drama, Texture, and Smoking Brides

Kim Klassen is amazing with textures. I stumbled onto her page by accident through reading something else, and I was hooked.

Enough that I stayed up till 4am for two days messing around with textures and photographs. This of course is intentional sleep deprivation but I'm not blaming anything except my magpie attention span for it.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

This post of Kim's caught my eye, especially Day 1 - Adding Drama. So I dug out some photographs I took when I was travelling in Austria for the World Choir Games this year, and had a go at it.

Which (after some instruction tweaking as I'm using Photoshop CS2 rather than CS4) resulted in this:

I nicknamed this lady the Smoking Bride for obvious reasons. She seemed to be somewhat annoyed as well, apparently waiting for her wedding car driver, and she did tend to speak rather loudly (though whether that's just a language thing or actual annoyance, I couldn't tell. I went by the cranky expression.)

And because I couldn't leave well enough alone, I tweaked the photo with one of Kim's textures, added in some gorgeous brushes from Annika Von Holdt, and voila - vintage ephemera ahoy:

After years and years of resistance, finally I seem to have caught the Photoshop bug. I don't know whether it's good or bad - the last thing I need is a new distraction, with production, graduation, and exams coming up...

Ah, heck with it. I'm filing it under Rest and Relaxation.

And yes, THAT'S my story and I'm STILL sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Inspiration Room Challenge: Rococo Nouveau

So. There was this challenge photograph posted one balmy day by the brilliant Deryn Mentock. (All right, it was mostly hot and muggy here, but I'm taking artistic license here. Liberally.)

With the photograph was an immensely eye-opening and wonderful link on how to make a colour palette. Don't go there if you don't have time to spare. It's addictive, this colour palette business. I was supposed to just mosey over and look, but I wound up spending the rest of the hour working on the colour palette because it was so fascinating.

Which resulted in this:

...and, after some precious lessons on why it is not a good idea to start working on challenge pieces after midnight on a long day (crooked wire, bad wraps, even more crooked wraps which now litter half the finished work), THIS is the result:

And now onto better photographs when I'm -not- trying to wear a piece and take a picture. Details on colour scheme and various bits of the piece:

The pendant is half an earring that I bought and never used, so I recycled it.

Clasp detail at the back, the best I could do because I was lying on the floor at a really funny angle trying to take this!

The clasp proper. Ignore the crooked wrapped link, move along, nothing to see...

Originally I thought it looked Gothic. Then after I finished the piece, I realised it wasn't Gothic, nor Classical Gothic, it was Rococo. So Rococo Nouveau it is!

And now off to post the link because for once, I actually finished a challenge ON TIME. Amazing. I hope the new owner likes it as much as I do!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revisiting Once Upon A Time

From the old Noir Files dated back a few years:

There's always tragic endings in noir but there's always the most
memorable kisses. If I was Vivian, would you be Marlowe then? One kiss
to last a lifetime - maybe that's how it feels, under a stark white
moon with shadows like grey cats in the dark.

Tonight is a dime-store pulp novel - the hard-boiled detective with his infinite cheap cigarette, the dame with soot-black hair and tulip red lips, and the eternal dark in a small, stifling room with tawdry furniture just before the prelude to a kiss. The sheets are down, the rain is pattering like whiskery possum soft-shoe. There's all the time in the world.

And maybe - just maybe - the world turns on a kiss that's still waiting to be given and all that time, all those words, are just fillers till it happens.

Once upon a time, I could actually draw. And I could actually write stuff worth reading. Maybe that's a hint to get a kick in the pants and start practicing both again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Words and Pictures

These days I'm more inclined to let pictures do the talking for me, so here is what I've been up to of late:

An attempt at Deryn Mentock's beautiful Boho Hoops; she's Da Woman, a fantastic teacher and a great mentor. Next time you offer this class, I'll be there!

Subversive Lace: Blue Buddha Boutique's Staggered Japanese Lace bracelet. 0.5mm, 0.6mm and 0.7mm rhodium-plated copper rings. It's subversive because of the enamel skull at the clasp behind...

Like so... keep the clasp centered when I wear it.

And of course, can't forget:

Caipifruta in Graz, Austria, for the World Youth Choir Championships this July!
Photo credit: Tracy Wong

With Grupo Chorus from Brazil - some of my favourite people in the whole world. Caipifruta + Grupo Chorus = GrupoFruta/CaipiChorus. Viva! Viva!
Photo credit: Tracy Wong

So folks, that's what I've done and where I've been, and that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


...I wonder whether it's worth pouring in so much effort for things, only to be proved a second-rate coach/operator/person time and time again. Because despite all my dreams, maybe that's just about as good as I'll ever get.

It's a wonderful feeling, knowing you always let people down.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not To Scale

I don't want to live to scale - small life, small box. I want to live large, dream big, make it count.

I want to live, not merely exist.

I don't think it's too much to try for.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Dangers of Being Fred

I tend to have surreal conversations with my friends. Today is no exception, with the result that a chat about art prompts interspersed with random bits about Cthulhu plus my distinct lack of drawing practice, birthed this little monstrosity.

The prompt, incidentally, was 'Fred'. No, I don't know why this came to mind. My mind is a scary, scary place, as evidenced by the appearance of John Constantine in My Little Pony trench coats.

I suspect need a SAN check now.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Importance of Being Uncomfortable

Part of my sketchbook project - never tried Victorian lettering before and might not try it again!

This year, I set myself a resolution to make myself uncomfortable.

Not in the 'sleep on bed of nails every night and torture myself with really bad music' sort of way. More of a determination that if something comes along that isn't creepy, makes me panic at the thought of having to do it, and has the occasional makings of the impossible, I'll jump in and give it a shot.

There's a rationale to this twisted logic as crazy as it sounds.

It all boils down to this: I'm a person who abhors change. It was fine when I was still in university, but a series of moves across three continents in succession gave me a distinct disinclination towards upheaval. Stability, a place to come home to without having to constantly live out of suitcases - more and more, that got to be something imminently desirable. My gluten intolerance only compounded this, as travelling on a gluten-free diet? It gets hairy sometimes, and I dislike being ill even more than I dislike upheaval.

For the past two years though, I've been restless and fidgety, and I couldn't quite pinpoint why. Not until last year and only because I had to sit down and be brutally honest with myself - I'm discontented. I miss doing things that I used to. I feel stuck in a rut and creatively unfulfilled, and all in all, it was leading to a downright spiral of depression. The biggest reason? I'm afraid. I see new things and I think oh, that's great, but I'm too much of a coward to step up and say, Sure, why not.

The move to this new place last year was the beginning of a sort of mental shakeup. New place. New life. New things. Why was I still sticking to my comfort zone and bitching, when really, whose fault was it?

So this year? I've accepted two teaching positions that terrify the -crap- out of me. I don't feel capable, and I don't feel comfortable at -all- taking them because of the age groups involved - but the only way I'm going to grow is to stretch myself and -make- myself do it.

I've registered for an online jewellery class taught by a wonderful friend and mentor even though I'm scared stiff I won't do well and that I might have difficulty getting a butane torch and I might burn the place down due to stupidity. If I call myself an artist, I need to expand my skills - and being a cicak under a rock and bewailing my lack of 'em ain't going to get me anywhere. So it's kick-myself-in-the-butt time - knuckle down and just do it.

I'm trying to jab myself into resuming learning one new language. I figure if I want to say I'm bored, I can at least say it in the lingo of another country, which will make it slightly more interesting.

And I took a bookbinding class way out at the other end of the world this January because even though it was a crazy commute and I had to end early to go back to teach, I figured it was worth it. I've wanted to take that class for years. What's a little difficulty getting there anyway? Composers like Bach and Scarlatti -walked- to the next TOWN to hear concerts - that's harder than taking the LRT and making two or three changes, right?

Be less lazy, more forgiving, more productive, learn more stuff I've always meant to but haven't - that's what I'd like for this year. And let's not forget achieve very hard but not impossible things, like a win for Caipifruta at Graz this July for the World Choir Championships.

The importance of being uncomfortable - it keeps you from stagnation, and the pain of an overly large backside.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The New Year Rising and the Helm of Dreams

For Kenny, after reading about libraries and Neil Gaiman's marriage

How I loved him. Every night, waiting so eagerly to slip into sleep, easy as a scalded peach slips its skin – but of course, he was only a figment of fiction and I could hope, I could dream that perhaps I’d see his eyes as I’d written in a story so long ago.

Dream’s eyes. The Corinthian had none, only sockets capable of so much blood.

How she loved him, Jade the White-Haired. She’s found in no canon other than the long-forgotten annals of role-play in the Endless’ extensive universe – a demon in the shell of a scorned, betrayed girl, each tattoo on her beautiful, tebori-marked body a soul that she’d claimed. And of course, she fell in love with eyes that were pools of shadow with glimmers of light within. She didn’t mean to, but she did, and every night in sleep she would wait to see them. Hope for them to appear.

Her secret that she likely carried to the ends of forever, this. When the role-play universe of that world ended, she walked hand-in-hand with Dream and vanished into the distance, united at last with the one she had grown to love so well. I like to think that she was happy at last, and that she gave him pleasure too, the time they spent together.

A beautiful fiction invented to keep out the cold, to quote Vienna Teng’s beautiful ballad Blue Caravan. I too wanted to escape the mundane and search for the exotic, the fantastical, the greener grass on the other side of some mythical pasture far across the sea. Well. I can’t say ‘wanted’ when I still do, really.

The legacy of Dream’s Helm, isn’t it? Finding it buried in the corners of the mind deliberately left untouched for years, not being able to resist the temptation to pick it up and slip it on despite the bony spine, the bulbous skull, the alien, almost frightening appearance.

Because in the end, the need to dream, to wish, to yearn for, is sometimes as necessary as breath. Old desires, long-suppressed, sternly forgotten against one’s will, bubbling slowly to the surface in an instant of unexpected trigger – news of an old friend, now a successful author and recording artiste; the marriage of a writer/artist whom you’d always harboured a secret crush on; the jet-setting, exciting lives of acquaintances and more friends; the plans of dear ones.

None of it bad, of course, no such thing – in fact, you’re thrilled for them – but the secret little yearning reaches its tendrils out and tugs at the heart, whispering, ‘You wanted that life too, many, many dreaming ago. Now look where you are...’

So many heart-burnings. So many acid recriminations against the self, against the workings of the life you’re leading, against how mundane it all seems compared to the rest.

And yet – and yet – a little small still voice floats up from the depths of the envy abyss yawning in front of you, like hope in Pandora’s box.

Lives, it says. Your students. The lives you teach in this new life you’ve begun by accident and continued by choice. The ones that you can perhaps can make a difference to, the ones whom you have made a difference to.

I weigh them, as I’ve weighed them again and again – my life now, my students, my work, against the words I always dreamed of writing, the unknown artist I dreamed of marrying, the life I might have had if only I’d stayed in another country instead of returning home.

And what I know now, as I knew then but refused to accept, was that contentment is learned. It is a decision not based on the heart, but rooted in commitment and the surety that a life can count, if you make it do so.

So I sit here, holding Dream’s Helm between my hands – so heavy and smooth, this marvel of bone and memory! – and I wish the abyss away, close it with a decision. I’ll do it many, many times in the days and months that make up the year.

Because whatever else I might have dreamed and yearned for, this life counts, and I make it count only if I seize each day, each year of it and keep moving on. More often than not it’s plodding and trudging, but I have made my choice on what I value and what matters in the long run – and with that, comes contentment and peace with myself.

The Helm is heavy on my head, comfortable even. It promises flight and new dreams and even journeys into the past, pleasant or unpleasant. Oh I’ll indulge, I know - I can’t help it, I might even linger a little in those dark, familiar depths.

But I won’t be confined there. I must keep moving. Because in the end, life is short and the lives along the way are precious, and there is work to be done – and that, I think, is what matters.