Obsession obsmession

24 December 2009 at 10:37 pm (Thoughts)

“This happened when I went for a massage after finishing the drafts for the manga. Because I was really sleepy, I was thinking drowsily about “How should the next chapter develop?”, when the masseuse suddenly commented: “Your right shoulder is really tight.” I unwittingly answered “That’s because it’s automail.” Getting confused between the manga and reality…!” – Arakawa Hiromu, creator of Fullmetal Alchemist.

I understand that feeling, that crazy can’t-think-about-anything-else kind of feeling, but sometimes I wonder how good it is for you. When something is so fun that it becomes an object of obsession, is that good or bad? I like to think that it’s a good thing, but then again, we all know that saying about having too much of something good, don’t we?

I guess the simplistic answer would be: if it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s fine and dandy, so have a nice day.

*Photo thanks to Rhj44 on neoseeker.

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A “by fans for fans” kinda thing

20 December 2009 at 8:19 pm (Thoughts) (, )

Quite by accident, I found out that the Comics Fiesta was going to be in Sunway Pyramid this weekend, and I pondered whether to go or not. As a general rule, I avoid shopping malls like the plague on weekends, public holidays and Jusco member days. So it was pretty uncharacteristic of me to decide to get myself out of the door, knowing that I would be heading straight smack into the hellish depths of a shopping mall on a weekend.

I did it anyway. I felt that it was an event worth going to, if only to assuage my curiosity about how it had evolved over the years. I wanted to see the quality of stuff out there as well, and I wanted to see if I could find anything there that could help with my Japanese-language immersion process.

Much as I had all these things I hoped to achieve, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. The last time I went to a Comics Fiesta was way back when it was still held in Sungei Wang. Admission was free then. This time, there was going to be an RM15 entry fee.

Parking in the complex was pretty hellish, of course, but that goes for any shopping mall in the Klang Valley on weekends. I did get lucky, and found a spot within 15 minutes, which put me in a good mood.

But there were no signages at all pointing to the venue, and now that Sunway Pyramid has become quite collossal, I couldn’t find the place even though I asked for directions from Pyramid employees. A few strategically placed buntings would have helped the lost puppies, and perhaps even get the general mall-thronging crowd to attend. It’s RM15 per head—why not try to get as many people in there as possible? But I’ve dealt with shopping malls before (a real pain), and perhaps there were restrictions on the placement of publicity materials on the premises and things like that. A pity.

Luckily, I saw cosplayers making their way to the venue, and I followed a huge, dangerous-looking axe bobbing around in the crowd in front of me like a beacon. Perhaps there should be cosplayers taking turns perambulating the mall and bringing people back to the event like the Pied Piper leading children off to the mountains.

The place itself was buzzing. There was a palpable excitement in the air. All the cosplayers in their finery were posing for pictures, huddling around each other, helping to fix each other’s costumes, and generally having a good time. Inside the hall, there was stuff going on on-stage, there was a huge sales area where artists were plying their wares—drawings, postcards, amigurumi, button badges. The quality ranged. A majority of it looked homemade, which explained the very reasonable prices. They made nice keepsakes. However, there were some very impressive works on display as well. One in particular was by a figurine maker. Forgot to note down his name. Gorgeous, gorgeous figurines. I should have taken a photo but I was too busy gawking at the main figurine on display.

I was happy to see the potential in that room, and how such a small community was able to put together an event like that. It may not have been the most professional event, but it certainly had heart. It had a serious, practical side, too—the organisers had arranged for professionals from the industry to come talk shop. Very nice move.

It certainly has grown from its Sungei Wang days—the MCs on stage were pretty amusing, and the quality of works I saw in the artists’ booth area was promising (a little samey and copycat-ish, some of them, but still quite good). I didn’t find anything for my Japanese-language immersion process, but I already guessed that was going to be a long shot anyway.

My beef (being the armchair critic, there’s got to be some beef, right?) was with the layout of the hall. It needed a major overhaul. First off, the way things were arranged, the hall felt just a bit too big. Walking in at first, I thought things didn’t seem like it was set up yet. The entrance area felt a bit like tumbleweed land. A bit of a void. There seemed to be a real drop in energy right there; after enjoying the atmosphere outside in the foyer, it felt a bit of a letdown. There just seemed to be too much empty space—like they could have put in 20 more booths in there, but they couldn’t find 20 vendors. Definitely a layout issue, because if they had arranged the entrance area in a way that would retain an ongoing buzz there, it would have set a different first impression. The first impression is the impression that matters, after all. The “breathing space” for those who’ve had enough of the razzle dazzle should be at the other end of the hall, not at the entrance.

Still, I have to say it wasn’t too bad an outing for half an afternoon. I’d be keen to see the direction the Comics Fiesta takes. It could go big, or it could stay small. I personally would love to see it stay small but get increasingly more polished. Stick with the stuff that works and improve the flaws that make it look amateurish (like the layout issue). It’s the microscopic details that when done right, no one actually notices, but when it’s done wrong, it’s glaringly obvious.

So, we’ll have to see what the fans will do for the fans next.

Everyone was glad to see Alphonse (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood) at the do.

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The hard way is the only way

7 December 2009 at 10:00 pm (Thoughts) ()

When I first decided to teach, I did it partly because I believed it would make me a better learner. I just didn’t realise how right I would be. I’m not a better learner (yet) but I sure realise how vital it is to take ownership of your learning. It’s all too easy to think a once-a-week lesson will teach you everything you need to know and to leave the responsibility to the teacher, so to speak. I know now on a different level that language doesn’t just happen. Some elbow grease is required, too.

Having a direction helps. I think too often students are happy to let cards fall where they may, with disastrous results.

So here’s to me and my newfound direction. Can I stay the course?

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Dusk

30 August 2009 at 8:00 pm (Thoughts)

Unusual dusk

After I’d fed the dogs, did some of the usual things I did at that time in the evening, I looked up and noticed a strange hue in the sky. It was so striking that I had to take a picture of it. Alas, my picture does Mother Nature no justice.

Golden brush strokes in the skySo I just looked. The brilliant golden orange, lighting up the darkening evening sky. It stayed like that for a few brief moments, and then the darkness of the night took over.

There was a crescent moon that night.

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NaNo dreams

28 August 2009 at 10:36 pm (Thoughts)

ink-quill

I have a ton of things in my Documents folder. Lots of things I can’t bear to delete. Or have just forgotten to delete. I created a misc folder and a lot of junk went into it. I rooted around in there today, and found an effort of mine from NaNoWriMo 2007. I didn’t complete it (let’s put it this way: I was no where near 50,000 words, and that’s putting it mildly). But I did write something.

CHAPTER X

It was a Friday morning. As she stumbled groggily out of bed to the shower, she took a look out the window. The sky was bright and it looked like it was going to be a nice day. By the time she got out of the shower and made herself a cup of tea, she was already running late for work. The phone rang and she picked up, knowing full well it was going to be Shayna on the other side.

“Yoyo, you’re still at home?” Shayna shrieked down the line.

“Yeah, I’m just on my way out. Why do you call if you know I’m running late? Never mind, I’m going to be there in 20 minutes, tops.”

“Fine, fine. Hurry, okay? Really need that folder back. I’ll see you at the shop. Bye, now!”

The line went dead. She looked at the receiver, bemused. Shayna had always been that way. Always in a hurry; always hurrying her. She was that way when she was five, and she was that way now. And Shayna never stopped using her childhood nickname, Yoyo. It was something that stuck after a rather unfortunate incident involving a yoyo and the boy who lived next door. Jared was the boy who was always running around the neighbourhood looking for mischief to get up to. The neighbourhood wives would yell at him whenever he came near. They were especially suspicious of him when their fruit trees were in season. He could never resist the luscious fruits hanging temptingly down their branches. He always took more than he could eat, and he always chose the ones most fiercely guarded.

Joanie had just been given a yoyo by her favourite aunt who was visiting. It was a difficult toy for a six-year-old girl with poor coordination. But what she lacked in coordination, she made up for in determination. She tried for hours to get a hang of the yoyo, and she wasn’t getting anywhere with it. Lips pursed, she tried repeatedly. She was getting frustrated, and her arm was starting to tire. Jared was tearing down the lane on his bicycle when he caught sight of her, perched on a swing, staring at the yoyo with a fierce glint in her eye. He stopped in front of her gate, and watched her as she gave the yoyo a go, and failed yet again to get it to roll back up the string.

“Ha ha! You’re doing it all wrong. Girls don’t know how to play with that. You’d better give that to me.” Jared opened the gate, walking purposefully towards her.

“It’s mine,” she said, putting the yoyo behind her back.

“Okay, fine. I can teach you how to do it right,” he said. “Let me show you.”

“You have to give it back to me afterwards,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he said, tossing his cloth sack on the floor. It fell with a thud on the ground, and Joanie could tell it was filled with fruits. And from the fragrance, she guessed it was probably booty from Auntie Lian’s prized mango tree, which yielded the sweetest, juiciest mangoes. The tree also produced the fewest fruits amongst all the mango trees in the neighbourhood. Auntie Lian guarded them jealously. If you received a mango from Auntie Lian’s garden, it meant you were in her good books. Everyone liked being in Auntie Lian’s good books, because she also had the sweetest rambutans and papayas in her garden. Auntie Lian also had a durian orchard, and everyone liked to say that the durians from Auntie Lian’s orchard was so delicious, it could bring a dead person back to life.

Joanie passed the yoyo to Jared. When he didn’t quite succeed in getting it going either, Joanie decided she wasn’t learning anything from the fraudster and proceeded to attempt to take the yoyo back. Then Jared decided to run. He ran out the gate, got on his bike and went off like a shot, his bag of mangoes forgotten.

Joanie couldn’t believe her eyes. She went straight for her tricycle and put up a chase. Jared was a bigger boy, older by two years, but his bike wasn’t a particularly fast one. Joanie pedalled furiously, almost managing to catch up with him. “Stop!” she yelled imperiously. Jared went on pedalling. “Stupid boy, you stop now!” she yelled. The anger gave her a sudden burst of speed, and she rode right into Jared, making him teeter violently off his course. He tried his best to stop, but the momentum kept him going, landing him right into Auntie Lian’s rose bush.

That was the last time Jared came anywhere near her, or Auntie Lian’s house. He suffered a fractured ankle, a bruised chin and multiple lacerations from the rose bush. Auntie Lian’s rose bush was, of course, famous for its gigantic blooms, which, of course, came with monster-sized thorns. When Shayna heard the story, she giggled and said, “All because of you, Yoyo Girl.”

When she finally reached her shop half an hour later,  Shayna was already there, sitting in her car and tapping her fingers impatiently on her steering wheel. She wound down the window when she saw Joanie. “Hurry up, will you? I won’t go in, just grab the folder and throw it to me,” she said.

Joanie unlocked the shop and went in, depositing her things on the reception counter. The folder was on the nearest table, where Shayna had been sitting just the day before. She took it and went back out to Shayna.

“What’s the big urgency with this folder?” she asked Shayna.

“It’s my damn tax forms. I should have submitted them yesterday but you know how we were talking and I guess … never mind.” She looked in her rear view mirror, a little distracted. “I have to go. See you later, okay?” With that, she wound up the window and drove off.

Joanie looked as Shayna’s car disappeared out of view. Shayna? Queen Efficiency herself forgetting to submit her tax forms? That’s not like her. What’s up with that?

A voice calling her name shook her out of her thoughts.

“Hey, Joanie, are you going to stand there all day?”

She looks over to Micah, her assistant. Dear old Micah, what would I do without her, she thought. Micah dropped into her life a year ago, out of the blue, and she could not imagine life at the shop without her. Micah was only 17 then, fresh out of school, but she was an old soul, wise beyond her years. She was also exceptionally intelligent, and while she had some curiosity about what university life would be like, her family couldn’t afford it. So she decided to work first before deciding later what she wanted to do with her savings.

How nice to have that kind of freedom, she thought.

Perhaps I’ll give NaNo another shot in November. Maybe.

(Image courtesy of http://www.adigitaldreamer.com)

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