Saturday, December 08, 2007

Rocks, Geology, and Alabaster

Sometimes, epiphany takes getting whacked on the head with the clue stick and the absolute obvious. Normally, this happens in the shower. At least, for me. The only answer I have for why this is so, is that my muse, Poggy the Green Hamster, lurks in the darkest recesses of my bathroom. Given there aren't any darkest recesses in my bathroom bar the cistern and the sink, the how remains an unknown factor and I'm happy to leave it that way. Really. Safer not to ask why.

Today's epiphany took the form of realizing that it's been far too long since I did any form of art at all for fun. I mean, sketching and all IS fun, don't get me wrong, but doing a piece, however crappy, for the sheer joy of it -- erm. I can't even remember when. And given I've been so caught up with costume designs, sketching practice, observation practice, art for a purpose...being frivolous suddenly seemed like a real good idea.

One particular personal project that I've been researching has been to do with alabaster. At least, it was the inspiration for playing with textures and colours and trying to do something with puddles of light. She suddenly turned in quite another direction from where I originally thought I wanted her to go, but if looking at her reminds you of something like lamps and puddles of light, then I got what I wanted.

It does remind me that I've always sucked at anatomy and I really -should- study it but I've no idea how.

And I have no idea why she kept insisting she be called Alabaster either. Next time they say 'Go explore uncharted territory', I should warn them that the inside of my head is a dangerous place.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Triumphant Return of Molly 'Guppy' McBass and Other Misdemeanours

First, the news everyone's been asking about:


The category that we were in, the Asian Open, has no medals - they just have diplomas, and there are 10 categories to each diploma. So we had a Silver V, which, considering we have been practicing for just 17 sessions for this (just over a month after our production ended), is good enough for us at this point!

One of the other choirs that took part from Malaysia - the Dithyrambic Singers - did the entire country proud by taking the Gold in the Asian Championships for the Contemporary Music category. We went -nuts- cheering and waving the flags we'd brought, and hearing the national anthem being played like that was experience I wouldn't have missed for the world. Never thought I was that much of a patriot but apparently competitions like this just bring it out in everyone!

Secondly: I've been absent for longer than expected because EVERYONE came home with a parting gift from Indonesia - the flu. I've never been this sick for ages; it's been almost 2 weeks and I'm practically the new choir bass at the moment. I -did- manage to take some 80+ photos in Jakarta but I haven't uploaded them yet - I will though at some point and toss them up.

So in order to play catch-up (and inspired by Marcos, Marcelo, Armand and Paul Lasaine's -gorgeous- work over the past few days), here's a snippet of the stuff I managed to sketch while being indoors with the competition choirs just about every day. The selection here is an entire afternoon's worth of choirs who competed in the Musica Sacra and the Mixed Vocal Ensemble categories; they were back to back in the same hall. If you're wondering why I was sketching when I was supposed to be listening to the choirs, well - a) after a while you do get sleepy when there are such lovely soothing songs b) I'm a lousy photographer at that distance.

The pink scribbles are fairly self-explanatory for each of the choirs; their costumes, I must admit, were -fabulous-. For larger images, click on the picture.

Maznur Chorale Kupang had an eye-boggling array of traditional costumes; this was only two of the many they were dressed in. I had to pick and choose -quick- before they finished singing their 4 songs and went off-stage.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Up Up And Away!

And I'm gone for the Asian Choir Games from 4th - 11th November, and thus netless!

See y'all in a week! And hopefully with good news...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shoot The Brain. It Won't Shut Up.

The problem with only having time to work on costume plots at night is that night goes into the early hours of the morning far too quickly for peace of mind.

Ergo, currently. It's 3.30am, I'm supposed to be up for a full day at about 8am, and my brain refuses to shut down because I started work on the costume plots for the Christmas play at about 12 midnight. I'd have done them earlier but I honestly didn't have time till after rehearsals tonight.

This is what I have for the general meeting tomorrow - a really off-the-wall eclectic mix of styles that include the last Dr. Who season with Christopher Eccleston, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Mad Max, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Gackt the Japanese rock star, the 5th Element, and Britain's SAS.

Yes, I'm mad, why do you ask?

This chap's a character design for a piece of writing. No, I don't know why I named him Tequila, but his sister's named Voodoo Vivaldi, so my brain must be in 'generating punk band names' mode already:

And now, dear heavens, I stumble off to try and SLEEP before I wake up like death warmed over...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fifteen Second Goldfish and Other Travellers' Tales

Taking the bus to get home from the city is like putting a goldfish out in the middle of the Autobahn and telling it to stay alive - and avoid getting run over. I have to take 2 buses to get home from work: I change off at one small, rickety-looking bus stop right smack at the side of a hellacious highway crossing and board the next sardine can to hell --I mean, highway to --well. You get the gist.

Yes, it's really that bad. There are people who can vouch for this, Constance being one of them.

I firmly believe that there is a Conspiracy afoot between the bus companies what own these trundling air-conditioned tin cans on wheels, and the corporations who build low-cost flats and condominiums. Actually, any sorts of flats or condominiums, really.

How many people can we squeeze into one of your buses? Don't worry about breathing or any amount of personal space...what's that? Oooh, 15 people standing only, not a problem, how many did you say you managed to fit in on top of 25 seated? 60 standing? Goodie! Make a note of that, Herman, for the next block of flats we're designing, we can afford to make 'em smaller with this sort of data as proof...

I have counted 60 people in a minibus designed to carry only 35 people. As I happened to be wedged under someone's armpit while the minibus in question was negotiating a 45 degree slope, I can put this down to personal experience. We won't go into the headache-inducing lovely smells that form a permanent part of these delightful character-building jaunts. I'm getting spasms just remembering this evening.

And the High Ups and City Councillations of Doom wonder why their campaign to Take Public Transportation and Save the Environment, Cut Down Traffic Jams, is about as effective as a limp sock being furiously shaken around by a rambunctious pup with bad breath.

Hullo there, I'm back after almost a month's absence, or so I've been reminded by a friend! There has been far too much going on in the Unseductive Real World, to whit, in point form:

1) The Big 5th Anniversary Concert - which went fantastically with 3 sold-out shows out of 5! And the best part of that was getting to meet the absolutely wonderful and lovely Constance who is even wonderfuller and lovelier in person. She is an amazingly talented artist, illustrator and a great writer to boot, go check out her site and fall in love. I promise you will!

2) New job - Yes, new job! I am now the administrator for the choral academy my choir sings under. And I'm loving it, despite being busy with copyright stuff for publishing scores, getting ready for the Asian Choir Games in November (which ain't that far off, eeeee), and handling a few last-minute gigs for the children's choir. I have access to pianos at work. I can practice the piano at work! How cool is that?

3) Post-apocalyptic costuming - Christmas is coming up and I'm costuming again. This time it's Post-apocalyptic 'Blade Runner Twelve Monkeys Dragon Tiger Gate Film Noir World' costuming and I'm actually excited about it. Hey. I get to watch movies I like while doing research. Mmmmmm. Movie night with my co-costumer! It's going to be a ton of work but it's also going to be just -great-. I can put some of the Cirque du Soleil style costuming tips to work in this one and be vastly wild and creative, which is lovely...

4) Writing - After being poked repeatedly by about 6 people, my brother included, I am slowly piecing together some writing that I might be able to throw at a publisher for consideration. I am terrified. It is not something I've ever had the guts to do but guts, glory, and lots of gore should provide entertainment for someone even if it's not me. I might need some test readers, should the time come around *cough cough cough*

5) Art - Nowhere as much of it as I should have, but for fun and to justify me keeping this blog, I present to you my latest two pieces: the Fifteen Second Goldfish and the Sushi Bar Lady.

This is pretty self-explanatory from the scribbled notes. I must add that these were the cutest, fattest goldfish I've seen in a while, orange and black, and they were too darned cute to resist pulling out the sketchbook for. (Yes I carry a sketchbook to dinner. Don't ask. I carry a sketchbook EVERYWHERE.) It's a great way to convince everyone you're insane, if they ever had any doubts. Also, fish swim really. Really. Fast.

I was at a cheap sushi place for dinner. This lady was sitting opposite me, so I tried to scribble her very quickly without being seen - in between spoonfuls of clam-and-tofu soup.

More to come later, I promise (yes Marcos, I didn't get eaten by the evil black hole what eats email and socks!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fleur, Concert, Concert, and CONCERT!

Meet Miss Fleur, everyone.

Doesn't she look sweet? Such a lovely shade of in-vogue shocking pink too - Elsa Schiaparelli apparently made that the in-colour in the 1930s! I spent a bit of time putting her outfit together for her lovely escort, who's taking her to his film noir themed university ball tomorrow evening. I'll admit it's the first time I've ever put together a coordinated anything for a pink feline, but I love Fleur and it was -large- amounts of fun. She'll be the belle of the ball, I swear - the flash was a bit bright in the photo but I wanted to catch the purple-and-silver marabou trim I found her. I had feathers all over my room after getting her wrapped up in that, but it was WORTH every bit of it.

Hello everyone, yes, I've been absent forever it seems! This, however, promises to be the eventual fruit of our choir's labours (click on it for the larger view):


27th to 29th September 2007 - 8.30pm
29th September 2007 - Charity Matinee, 3.00pm
30th September 2007 - 3.00pm

The Actors Studio - Bangsar Shopping Centre
Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya
59100 Kuala Lumpur

RM47 (middle seating) & RM32 (side seating) - Adults
RM32 - Children 12 years & below
Tel: 603 2094 0400 / 603 2094 1400

Celebrity Fitness memberships worth RM1,000 to be won and 14-day FREE trial passes to be given out at every show!

The Young KL Singers turn 5 this year! Anyone who's able (Constance! Can you make it? Would LOVE for you to come!) please come and support, we've worked -really- hard and put together a really great show.

More of a proper update soon - namely, Hell Week next week when we bump into the theatre space properly - but...FLEUR! CONCERT! BUSY!

Thursday, August 30, 2007



Oh. My. GOODNESS. It feels so wonderful...

More updates and news later but in the meantime: FREE AT LAST! FREE AT LAST! THANK GOD I'M FREE AT LAST!

And just for memory's sake, here's some last moments in the operation room a week ago, trying not to freeze to death in there, and all I had was a ball point pen:

My boss doing an open case. He moved too fast for me to finish it so it's half-past-six, as they say...

Tomorrow? I'm sleeping in! WOOO!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Candle, Candle, In the Night

Somehow, Mr. Murphy of Murphy's Law fame always finds me just when I think life will be a -bit- more settled...

One of the things he sent along last week was a blackout that lasted about an hour in weather that could easily steam wrinkles out a shirt, humidity-wise. Not that the heat was far behind either.

So I decided to be productive, as I've been artistically -barren- for a few weeks and that always puts me in a bad, bad mood. Or at least as productive as weather a fish wouldn't feel out of place in would allow. And that's the thumbnail below:


We had a candle on the glass table outside; the reflection was too good to pass up. Now if only I could remember my exposures from film class...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Saddle Up Your Horses...

...we've gotta trail to blaze. Or so go the words to Steven Curtis Chapman's 'Great Adventure' but at any rate, I've been saddling up for a great many things happening, hence the abrupt absence. Many apologies! Didn't mean to worry people...

Summary of events as follows: Choir rehearsals, chamber choir rehearsals, concert rehearsals and rehearsals and rehearsals and food poisoning and rehearsals and work and back spasms and agony and stress and get the point. I'm out every night for practices of some sort or another! But this should slow down after this week when my performance on the 30th is over.

Speaking of which! Constance! Just for you, here is the information on when the next performance is!

The Rojak Interludes: A Night of Original Compositions
with Suk Yin, Tammie and Max
featuring not just alternative rock songs but also blues, swing, funky pop, and all that jazz…
TIME: June 30th, 8pm
VENUE: Young Choral Association
114A Jln. Burhanuddin
Taman Tun Dr. Ismail
60000 KL
(Same row as CIMB bank, above Star Enterprises stationary shop)
ADMISSION: Donation RM10

Would love to see people there; it's my debut as a main performer! I am Scared. This is a fact. I'm still trying to finish writing one of the four songs we're each singing...

And because I feel terribly guilty about not having sketched a -whole- lot during this mind-destroyingly stressed period, I attempted to rectify this today by trying to draw Sergeant Frederick 'Saint' Jackson and Corporal Dayang Suleika Tangywn Hafiz. I've nicknamed them the Adrenaline Junkies, because for them, a -good- date means going landboarding till one of them (Suleika likely) falls off from the vibration and bounces on the tarmac a bit, or dropping out of parachutes from High Altitudes. It's rough, and it's not good, but it's a -start-:

Now to try and relax so my back doesn't -spasm- so badly I have to lie down...

PS: Surf's Up is OUT in theatres here! *cheers* Guess what I'm planning to go see when I have a spare moment!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Artistic Brainworm one that absolutely -refuses- to allow you to go to sleep until you've sketched that tantalizingly fascinating pose on the PoseMania site, and done a chibi (super deformed Japanese overly cute style of drawing) caricature of Whisper in the Deep Shadows.

And it's 4am on a workday.

I really, really shouldn't encourage my mind to do that but over the years I've gotten accustomed, to paraphrase part of My Fair Lady.

That being said, since my brain isn't listening to me when I demand that it give me the rest of the two new songs I'm writing --wait, what am I talking about, my brain never listens to me -regardless-. This is going to worry me because June 30th, apparently there's a singer-songwriter recital and I'm going to be one of the singer-songwriters featured - just got asked this morning if I was interested.

So like a total numbskull I said SURE I am! Let me know! 1st of June Choral Festival performance, 11th August Acapella Festival competition, and Jakarta practices not withstanding...

La dee dum dum da. I'm a masochist, I am. I have absolute confirmation of that now.

While I beat my brain into some form of failed submission, here's this (very early) morning's work:

Study for Oracle kneeling, and if she looks like she's floating, she may very well be...

Random Pose of the Day on PoseMania. A lot shorter timewise than the above, which was about 15 minutes (and that's too long.) This was 5 or so, even with pencil outlines. Maybe a little less even!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hipy Papy Bthudththudh!

...and that's A Very Happy Birthday in Commonspeak for the rest of everyone!

Happy birthday to my brother! He's spunky, talented, a -kick-ass- drummer and audio engineer/producer, good-looking, and one of the people I admire most in the whole wide world.

Have a great day, bro --about time you had something -good- happen to you and I am SO GLAD you got that Tama Masai!

Sis, with a promise of More Things Later.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Curse of the Abyssal Heights

How in the world can a choke hold be so difficult to draw?

More specifically, when the person -giving- the choke hold is a few inches shorter than the intended victim - every picture reference I've Googled around for generally has the choke hold giver as -taller- than the poor chap they're trying to suffocate.

Times like this, I'm convinced I really, really don't know how to draw and should go for some classes one day but they'd probably toss me out for knowing -no- theory at all. Thankfully, I did find two photographs to sort of play around poses with, or I'd be sunk.

The subjects of the entire sketching rigmarole are two Abyssal characters for a random Exalted game a friend and I are playing - his is named Whisper of the Deep Shadow, and mine is the Pale Oracle of Dry Bones, known as the Pale Rider to everyone else. Oracle is taller than Shadow, and there was one instance where, on their first meeting, he sneaked up behind her and got her in a choke hold. Accursed height differences!

Anyway --here they are. I'm not proud of how long it took, but in the past I'd never even have been able to pull something like that off with any reasonable amount of success, photo references or not. So that's something I'm very thankful for - artistic improvement!

(Yeah I know. Two posts in one day. Miracle! Well, also, it's a public holiday. That's what I do on public holidays - nothing of consequence AT ALL. RAH!)

Passport Office Serenade

And she emerges from the buried depths of the slough of days and stress. With a mallet of doom. And a shield called 'ALL STRESS MUST DIE!' and a sword named 'GO AWAY IF YOU DON'T NEED IT NOW'...

It -has- been a horribly stressy and busy month, with work taking up the biggest chunk of it, and choir and chamber choir coming in a close second - but those are RELAXING busy chunks of it. Our first chamber choir performance will be end of May now (Constance! I'll give you a date when I remember it!) and then the acapella competition got pushed up to August 11th --and then June is the vocal student recital I'm supposed to take part in, July is -my- co-recital with one of our tenors, and November is Asian Choir Games in Jakarta...

Yeah! Breaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathe. Zombie shuffle. Breaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathe!

We're in the process of booking flight tickets for the Asian Choir Games, and since booking flight tickets to Jakarta on Air Asia now requires a passport number, I took the day off Monday this week to go perch in Purgatory *cough* --I mean, the wet market *COUGH COUGH* --I MEAN the passport office to get it seen to. There's inevitably a line outside the door even before it opens at 8am, so I was advised to go there early to avoid too long a queue. That would mean waking up at 6-ish, getting out of the house latest by 7am, and voila, things ought to be a little less harried.

So of COURSE, I overslept.

The sight of a woman blurrily looking at her alarm clock, giving a SCREECH to rival all the banshees in every castle in Europe and leaping out of bed like someone poured pink paint on her hair was probably highly amusing for anyone looking in from the outside. I think I got out the door in a record 10 minutes, give or take some for finding my keys and cursing how long it took to get the padlock on the front door open.

The passport office resembled a fishmarket with queues enough to go around the world circumference and still have room to spare. And more people were arriving, and there is only so much space in the world, however big an office is built, to accomodate JUST so many people.

And this was only 8.45am.

It's possible to get one's passport here done in 2 hours after you make payment, so the process is actually very -fast-. It's the -waiting- time and the lining up that takes forever and many braincells dying.

So what do you do when you're stuck in the simmering, muttering, wet-market atmosphere of a million bodies all grousing about wanting to pick up their travel documents fast?

If you're me, you pull out the mp3 player, the choir scores, and treat the people sitting around you to the glorious strains of 'Oklahoma' - specifically the screechy soprano special chorus section at the end. Or the tongue-twistingly fast Mongolian Horses. Or 'Caro Mio Ben' (Ale, that's the name of that Italian song I'm singing now!) get the picture.

And after that? In revenge for all the crankiness being sent your way, you blithely pull out a sketch pad and sketch the CRANKIEST section in the waiting room. Ignoring the -glares- sent your way.

Mind you, I was impressed. The officials were so very nice and helpful and cheerful despite the awful crush of people. It's the people they were -serving- that were grumpy and irritable.

Anyway to cut a long story short, 3.45pm I got my passport, hauled my butt home, and went to choir rehearsals till midnight.

But that's another story.

And here are the sketches to prove it (no, they're not great, but I was BORED...)

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!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Vignette a'la Abstract

My friend Marcos posted these wonderful pieces and the black-and-white abstract apparently has a story to it. I looked at it again today, and this little short vignette floated to mind.

So Marcos? This is for your abstract piece, inspired by the lovely lines!

Once Upon a Springtime

It wasn't that he liked being the Grim Reaper. Times changed, even fashions changed and if his current attire looked like he'd stepped out of a gritty, film noir underworld, it wasn't really his fault. Even Death had taste, and trenchcoats suited his style. Black fedoras, while cliche'd, at least hid his hollow features and as for his small ebony-handled gun - well, scythes were so outdated. One had to keep up with the times after all, even if one didn't like them.

And springtime, despite Death's very considerable poker-faced abilities, was the worst. It made him morose. All this talk of buds, birds and bounty got on his nerves and reminded him that he was possibly the only one who had never enjoyed any of the benefits the season was supposed to bring. Cats have kittens, dogs have puppies, bats have bittens, so carolled poet Ogden Nash, but Death didn't have any of these, and on this particular balmy day he felt suddenly very lonely.

Loneliness begets action. So Death went for a walk in the park, and the first thing he noticed was how very blue the sky seemed to be. Some child had let a red balloon drift into the air, and it hovered, like a bright crimson eye, just over the pale leafy tops of some very tall trees. There was a scent of flowers and freshness in the air, stimulating like a nerve tonic and chasing away the cobwebs in winter-fogged brains. Why, Death said to himself, I never noticed how nice it smells out here, like earth and green, growing things.

A few children ran by, laughing, candy floss in hand. A robin, engrossed in its acquisition of a worm, paid no attention to the trench-coated presence passing by. It was an odd, disturbing feeling, and Death noted it with a measure of surprise. It was a novelty, to be ignored thus. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about it.

Even before he saw her, he heard her. She was singing a little tra-lala-lira-lay, sitting on the back of a large winged stone leopard by the fountain - a bright splash of colour in her white flamenco dress with red stripes. Oh, she said with a bright smile when she saw Death, could you please help me? - this poor leopard, his wings are frozen into stone. He would lift off like a feather if only he could break them loose.

The girl smelled of mornings and new hopes, her glossy hair the sheen of purple-black grapes ripe in the sun. In the distant recesses of his mind, a faint memory uncoiled and formed itself into nebulous rememberance. When I was still young, he said to himself, surprised. Why, I still remember after all these years.

He touched the leopard's sun-warmed wings. On the grey stone, a vein of cracks bloomed, widening until suddenly, like an eggshell cracking open, pinions blue as the sky spread and broke free. The girl turned to Death. Thank you, she said quietly. He's been waiting for years to be able to fly again.

Death looked at the girl for a very long time. I don't know how to fly, he said gravely. Will you teach me? The girl looked back at him solemnly and he noticed how her eyes seemed to contain every shade of sunset and sunrise, every missing second and every lost dream he'd ever come across in his travels. Of course I will, she said, it's easy, and she took Death's cold, gloved hand.

A little gust of wind blew away the clouds. The red balloon watched with its bright eye as a stone leopard soared towards the welcoming sun, wings fading into the sky, carrying on its back Death and the Maiden hand-in-hand that Spring morning, once upon a long long time ago.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday of the Dissonances

It's past midnight, I've just gotten back from the most wonderful performance by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Australian group The Song Company, and I consider it still the 20th, since I'd intended to put this up yesterday and not managed to. Artistic liberties and such, you know?

Today is the second anniversary of my grandmother's passing.

It's also my birthday.

It was a long ride home in the taxi the night of the 19th. Bumpy, half-lulling darkness, punctuated by rain. My father had told me to come straight home after work; the doctors didn't hold out much hope for her any more. She could go any minute, they said. So I went, on sheer blind faith that she would wait, that somehow, she'd hear me praying again and again, God please don't let her die before I come home, I have to see her, I have to tell her I love her one more time.

A week ago in the hospital I'd stood by her bed and looked into her tired, dull eyes. I told her that I was going back to the city because I had to work. And I told her that I would come home.

Three hours later, taxi paid off, wet from the drizzle outside, I stood by her bed again and I told her, "Grandma, I'm home now. It's ok. You can go if you want to. I'm back. I promised and I'm here." She was already in a coma then. Had been, for several days. My aunts from the US were all home; I was the last one to arrive.

I wanted to believe that she heard me, that she knew for the very last time that I'd kept my word and she could go easy.

That morning of the 20th, 2.15am, she slipped away. No fuss, no drama. Her tired, cancer-ridden body just quietly shut itself down, and let her fall asleep for good.

She gave me the most precious gift - that of knowing she loved me, she heard me, and she waited. With all my heart, I believe she hung on because she was waiting for me.

Two birthdays later, I'm just home from the most wonderful Song Company concert, having been enveloped in music for an entire evening. Just home from having been 'happy birthday'd' by the girls of my choir and my choir director outside the Philharmonic Hall - complete with dissonant harmonies and theatrical showgirl finale, no less. Just home from one of the most special evenings I've had in a long time. I managed to almost trip going downstairs, but caught myself in a twirl on the bannisters; the Song Company tenor who was going down at the time almost caught me. Almost! Part of me wishes I'd let myself fall, so he would have!

And of course, I couldn't leave without having sketched some of the proceedings. That Moleskine is a treasure; there's something about it which makes me want to take it everywhere and record everything of interest, like a life journal in pictures. Alia, thank you -ever- so much for giving it to me. It's like a new dimension, added to my marker exercises.

Last birthday I was singing with the choir, and sick as a dog the entire way.

This year, I got to sit down and -see- a fantastic symphony and a choir. I got serenaded three times by various friends - church, online, and choir - and have had a weekend (I work Saturdays. Any full weekend is a treat.) Not only that I get to go home to visit my parents for an entire -week-!

In three years of birthdays now I'm back in Malaysia? This is definitely the best of them all.

And to everyone who's innundated me with birthday wishes? Thank you. SO. MUCH. You've made this day wonderful.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Moleskines and Pen Heaven!

A couple of days' absence from the sketchbook and pens generally make me entirely too bad-tempered for words. So even though I've been tired, I've been forcing myself to sit down and concentrate on some drawing. And I had a lovely time with Damascene here, which did wonders for my lousy mood:

But that's not the best thing that happened over the last few abysmally horrid days though...

Two days ago, a wonderful, wonderful package dating from December 2006 finally found its way to me. It was from an even more wonderful artist friend who not only gifted me with TWO! TWO! Moleskine journals, she also packed me a batch of new sepia pens of various brands to try out.

Of course I couldn't let that opportunity pass up, right? Only yesterday happened to be Wednesday, and I was supposed to be in operating theatre taking down clinical notes for my boss...

The Moleskine, incidentally, is small enough to slip into my pocket.

Presenting, tongue-in-cheek, what happens in between operations when a certain shivering artist is too cold to stand around on one foot any more, and has nice new drawing pens to try out:

There were a lot of fascinating wires on the anaesthetic machine, that's what those tubes are part of at the far right bottom. I just couldn't draw the stupid machine, there were too MANY wires and things.

She's wearing a lead apron - we were doing a case that involved some small amount of radiation with x-rays.

Our instrument table. There was a lot more on it, but I only had time to get that much before I had to scribble clinicals.

I had a LOT of fun but I've decided that at least for now, I like calligraphic chisel-tipped markers a lot better for getting texture. Still, those sepia pens are -lovely-. They made a beautiful henna pattern on the page I scribbled up today.

It's good to be drawing again. The last few days were -really- depressing, and when I'm depressed, I don't draw - but if I make the effort to, I do feel a lot better.

I really need some whelks!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dragonfly Afternoon

My back is much better now, and I'm officially off painkillers unless there's more pain on movement. I'm also off the heating pads and I'm able to walk around and bend so that means I'm well on the way to recovery. Which is GREAT. You never quite realize just how much the back is used in everything till you can't -use- it.

I was walking upstairs to the apartment today when I saw a really colourful dragonfly settled on one of the steps. When I bent down and touched it gingerly, it flew up rather drunkenly and landed on the concrete wall near the bannisters. I really need to learn to gauge distance better when I do closeups (yeah, I had to cheat a bit and use a sharpen filter).

Just couldn't resist the interplay of those gorgeous colours. Who would have thought something so small could be so bright and bonny? No wonder the children talk of Faerieland.

The dragonfly was, for some reason known only to itself, trying to do a headstand. I spent about ten minutes taking a few other (really bad) photos of it. When I left, it was already gently fluttering its wings, long slender body straight up to the sky and all the weight of air supported on its bulbous head and huge eyes.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ring Out, Wild Bells, The Year Is OUCH

As if the New Year didn't have enough in store already, I ended up having to get an injection for my back yesterday so I could move without creaking into tiny pieces onto the floor. Though it was rather educational to see the look that poor doctor gave me after I explained that no, the muscle relaxant I'd tried and the two tablets of prescribed painkillers did zippo, nada, zilch for the pain. When I actually had to stop and think whether or not this was pain that could be classified as 'severe' - I have a very high pain threshold, if it's not debilitating, I don't consider it severe, usually - I could almost see the thoughts in his head: 'I've just found a masochist in my clinic for New Year. Just. My. Luck.'

To put it in perspective, one tablet of abovementioned painkiller takes away my migraines just fine.

And I did go to work today.

I suppose that's why I sketched this girl - because I felt as blue and as in shadow as she did in that photograph.

But as Marcos reminded me though, it's two double-oh seven. That's kind of nice to contemplate, as much as I love Casino Royale.

Tomorrow's going to be better. At least, I keep telling myself it will be. After all, there's always sketching.

And whelks.