Monday, March 30, 2015

SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS MAR 2015

I walked around the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens for some snapshots, after visiting the tribute community site to Lee Kuan Yew. The weather was initially cloudy but the sun came out later. I have two other posts about the gardens, HERE and HERE. If you go during the weekday afternoons, the gardens are practically empty.
First off is the Swan Lake. The pair of white swans were hiding in the corner.

Mr. Terrapin who is someone's abandoned pet - just like his pal over at MacRitchie Reservoir.



Here is one swan, near the lily pads at a bridge.

The other swan was hiding along the bridge, curiously looking at me.


I just wanted a picture of this spot. The swan was directly below this scene.
Some orchids.



Bonsai area.

Towards the sundial - lily pond area.

Back in the 80s or early 90s, I recalled there were rose bushes lining this area, I think it was called the rose gardens, but roses don't thrive in our climate so they probably got rid of it.

There were newly installed retro swings in a part of the gardens. They were quite nostalgic, my neighbour had one exactly like this in their garden (except it was silver), and mine was a larger version with more intricate details and different shaped. My brother and I played on it often and imagined it was a spaceship. Unfortunately, my dad sold it off for scrap metal when we moved.
Vanda Miss Joaquin orchid.

The Vanda orchid section.

Sculpture installation at the desert succulents section.

A shaded benched area with water fountains.

This is my favourite area called the Plant House, built in 1882, featuring climber-filled trellises so I am going to feature more photos of it below. I like it because back in the 90s it was quite disheveled and looked abandoned being located in a secluded corner, I recall it being full of moss on the floor and a creepy vibe; there were huge trees surrounding the area that darkened the garden and possibly full of spiders because you would be walking into webs, and there were many squirrels running on top of the trellis. However it is now clean, trimmed, and the trees are gone, so there are no more squirrels.

Water lily pad within the compound.

Second area within the Plant House with ferns.

The area extends much further in with more ferns and greenery.

Friday, March 27, 2015

LEE KUAN YEW TRIBUTE AT BOTANIC GARDENS

Just came back from the Community Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, initially I had planned yesterday to join the Greatest Singapore Queue Ever at the Padang to visit the casket held at Parliament House, and had been keeping close tabs on updates at the RememberingLeeKuanYew Facebook page so I can set out when they finally say the queue is 4 hours or less, but the queuing time will not let up. Just for notes, I never ever participate in what Singaporeans deem 'our national pastime': queuing! Not for food, not for freebies, not for whatever that isn't compulsory because it is a waste of time, but this one memorial is an exception.

Since 8pm last night, the queuing time was estimated at 8 hours, and pushing to 10 hours right now as I am typing more than 24 hours later! I got up early this morning at 5.50am hoping to catch the 6am first train to City Hall MRT, but alas, at 2am to 6am the Facebook update still read "As of XX hours, the estimated waiting time is up to 8 hours. Members of the public are strongly advised not to join the queue."!

For folks going alone and cannot get into the priority queue, I suggest going to the other 18 community tribute sites listed - shorter queues, better atmosphere, but it's up to you if you'd like to see the casket in person. The casket is said to be located far away from the public viewing spot and don't think one is able to see his face unless you are very, very tall, and I'd would very much like to see his face than the wooden coffin's side, if not, then the tribute community sites will suffice.

Two reasons why I chose Botanic Gardens - one, I am going alone and will probably need to use the bathroom within the 8 hours should I head to the Parliament House, and no one can hold my spot - that is, even if I find a stranger who would do me this favour, I'd probably lose him/her in the massive crowd (am also not good at recognising faces). Oh yes, kudos to the orderly queues and kind volunteers dishing out free snacks, umbrellas, flowers and drinks.

Second reason is, the Botanic Gardens is serene, quiet, beautiful, green, and one of Mr. Lee's favourite spots and he also played a major role in the greening of Singapore. Whenever visitors arrive in Singapore (me included when I return from my trips), there's always this exclamation: "It's so green!" There are tribute sites closer to me but I was more keen on the atmosphere at Gardens.

There is a shuttle service at Botanic Gardens MRT to the Botany Centre - a mini bus, so they can only sit a limited amount of people per time. Intervals are about 15 minutes. You can walk if you want but the park is quite large and you'd probably be sweaty by the time you arrive at the tribute site. The queue was very short when I got there, and paid my respects in 10 minutes. However, schools (hundreds of primary, secondary school students and even kindergardeners) came after 12.30pm which was the time I got out, so the queue started snaking around and probably extended the waiting period much longer. They do it in small batches - like if you were family or the same school or colleagues, you go together. I requested a lady in front of me who was also alone, that we should go to the front together so it would not be so awkward that I hog the whole scene for myself. We can also help each other take photos.

This is a section outdoors (non-aircon but shaded tent area) where you lay your tributes and flowers. I think it has grown immensely after this photo since I saw many students bring more flowers.
Part of my condolence note. I did not bring flowers so drew them.

The Botanic Gardens is a lovely place, I went around the park later on and took many photos. Will share that in my next post.

Some people might expect me to share my own tribute of Lee Kuan Yew. He has his fair share of critics and there are already abundant articles both criticising and defending his policies and method of government, which are more articulate than anything I can come up with.

All I can say is, my father was a staunch supporter of the People's Action Party and Lee Kuan Yew, having witnessed the progress of Singapore from poor third-world country to first-world in one generation. Whenever election time came by, he always said, "No need to think, just vote PAP!" Right off the bat I would say he was biased - but then the other choices were not that great either. My father is 8 years younger than Lee Kuan Yew, died aged 81 in 2012. Note we were never rich, we were poor since my father did not hold a proper job, and my mother barely had any education. However, we enjoyed the fruits of Singapore's prosperity and success, and I remembered the 1980s as particularly stable, optimistic and prosperous while he was still the prime minister. I also watched his National Day Rallys up to 1990 even though I was too young to understand everything. Last night there were rerun clips of his speeches, wow talk about nostalgia and familiarity from childhood days, now that I finally understand what he was saying, I can see his foresight was spot on twenty years later.

No man or country is perfect, and Mr Lee has a few questionable policies in my opinion, I think he deserves all due respect because he governed the country well and worked not only for himself, but also for the country. There's that chinese saying "病入高慌,不下猛药不见效" (when in dire sickness, if you don't use harsh medicine, you don't see results).

Considering Singapore was a sickly, impoverished, chaotic country in the 60s, there was much at stake; Lee Kuan Yew with his stern, acerbic comments, sometimes unpopular and 'draconian' (as some western media call it) policies, he did what was required to do to attain his goal of pulling Singapore out of that mire. Also we don't have any natural resources other than the human workforce (no oil, no mines, no agriculture, no land, we buy water from Malaysia), so you are all in it together or sink back to third world. One effective thing he did was rally the forlorn, confused people together to work towards a common goal, no they don't have the luxury or sustainability of pursuing individualism or liberal ideals because the most important thing was to get themselves out of that poverty rut. Now the generations after are enjoying the fruits of their labour and contributions (I think more good than bad).

Each country is different, a system may work in one county and fail in another; Lee Kuan Yew's system - bringing in aspects of Western democracy and merging it with Asian values worked well for multi-ethnic Singapore, also being a tiny little island in a good location helped. Asians still place a great emphasis on discipline, hard work, social order and education, it's just that way.... ingrained in our psyche! Likewise, our system will never float in the US - not that I want the US to be anything like Singapore. They each have different strengths and weaknesses.

We working adults like to say the government runs our country like a business (growth at all costs) and Singaporeans are a bunch of robotic workaholics who complain all the time but dare not protest publicly, having a lack of entrepreneurship and creativity, averse to taking risks etc. Just have your 'iron rice bowl' and don't rock the boat, work harder, be more productive if you want more money. Save as much as you can for your old age, because the government does not have welfare, so work even harder and longer till you are 80! I do gripe sometimes about our current government and their crazy pace of inflation. I guess that's the tradeoff for success, although the lately widening income gap is very worrying and we can hardly keep up. I have to mention on a side note is, setting up a business in Singapore is a breeze, although rental rates are incredibly debilitating to indie shops.

And all those things about encroaching on our civil liberties, it exists to some extent although I do not find it a major concern, I'd rather have some limiting order in place so I can work in a stable environment. Personally, I need an orderly society to do my art in peace and run my business smoothly. I also don't want to hear other people criticise my faith, and I will never do it to others either. Others may thrive in a chaotic environment but I am not one of those.

Oh, and some foreigners like to point out we are such a closed society that you might get caned if you get caught chewing gum. Really? Where did you read that? I don't know if they are joking, or being sarcastic or really believe this nonsense. I bring back chewing gum all the time from overseas. Who in the world is going to arrest you for having chewing gum?! You're not selling it in your store, just for self consumption. Just dispose of your gum properly or else lol.

Although yes, you can still say/write whatever you want if you dare to, or feel strongly against, just make sure you can substantiate your claims so you don't get sued for libel/slander, especially if it involves any of the major politicians - they do have deep pockets and far reaching networks. And don't go waving your hate slogans around - people need to show respect for other people and show some restraint. Having the 'right' to spread hate speech at the expense of someone else? Bad idea and distasteful, and may incite violence or tit-for-tat. Some civil liberties limit is necessary thus, enough blood has been shed over intolerance.

Anyhow I don't know if I am a typical Singaporean - yes and no, maybe not the super-typical Singaporean since I am in the creative industry and my upbringing is quite different from my peers; coupled with being a 'millennial' - that ignored cusp generation that does not identify with either Generation X or Y; but I can see some aspects of my behaviour (both good and bad) as being a byproduct of Lee Kuan Yew's governing:

Working all the time, results-oriented, efficient, neverending upgrading of skills, tertiary educated without a huge student debt, organised, clean, I like greenery, health conscious (partly because one can't afford to fall sick), self motivated, nerdy type. Also timidness, I avoid taking risks and prefer to take the safe pragmatic route - trying to work on that (again, good or bad?).

The most useful aspect I'd like to thank Lee Kuan Yew is enforcing bilingualism - first the neutral English as common spoken language, and particularly Mandarin. In the past I hated studying mandarin and was very bad in it since I never spoke it at home, but it has come in useful now and after initial years of struggling and partly due to paranoia at failing my exams, I finally managed to wing it. I found it a pity he eradicated dialect from most media though... am trying to learn back Hokkien dialect. Also Singapore streets were very safe (still is, but I am more careful now), so I have been traveling alone from school since I was 9, many kids here do so. Even at 2am when I was 12, I did so without worry, nor did my parents - only thing is I had to pass by the creepy graveyard in the dark every time! So that safety (no, I don't consider it a false sense of security) may have resulted in certain naivety in the past - though I learned to be more wary now. There was an article about a China commentator mocking Singaporeans being the most gullible (read: stupid) of the ethnic Chinese because we got used to honesty and very little corruption, and fall prey to Chinese scams (good or bad?). Anyway even so, we can all practise this: "害人之心不可有,防人之心不可无" (refrain from hurting others, yet guard against those trying to hurt you).

Anyhow I think I've strayed from said topic and typed more than I wanted to so shall end here. RIP & thank you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

COLOURING WITH MARKERS ON INKJET DIGI STAMPS

I am going to do a quick tutorial / experiment on alcohol-based markers coloured on inkjet printed digital stamps. Some crafters hesitate to use digi stamps and rather stick to rubber stamps because of the issue of smearing or smudging of lines when they use markers on printouts. It is a bit of trial and error, to each his own! Previously I thought a laser printer would solve the problem of smeared lines when using my Copics but the smears persisted. My initial impression was alcohol-based markers dissolves toner so don't know if I didn't wait long enough or needed to heat set it further. Some people have had luck getting laser-printed lines to stay put, you should try both out anyhow.

Since most inkjet ink is water-based, I also worry about it smudging. I am currently using an Epson inkjet printer (XP-402) with its Epson Home Claria inks (model 177) - thankfully I did not have any problems! In fact I sprayed fixative at first to seal the lines but that seemed to make blending difficult. In this blogpost, I did two tries - one with fixative and one without.

First let's look at the one sprayed with fixative. You may get different results depending on the inks and markers you are using. I am using ordinary cartridge/ cardstock paper in A4 - it is called Drawing Block paper here in Singapore, the inexpensive common kinds they use at school.
I use the Workable Fixatif by Krylon, sprayed it on the printout, and waited for it to dry.
Copic and Prismacolor markers.
I coloured her skin first. The photo doesn't show it as obviously, but the colours don't blend, especially if the colours are from different hues. I used Copic 'Pearl White' (yellowish) with a layer of Copic 'Skin White' (pinkish) and did not like the effect at all. After that I tried out the blender directly on it (I know, wrong way of using lol) and made things even worse! I can't tell for sure if it was due to the fixative sprayed earlier.
If you look at the flower headband I used two pinks from the same family, so they blend okay. In this case perhaps dry media work best if you need to use fixative. Or just use one tone of marker colour. Anyhow I ruined the picture (see the disaster on the arm on the right and part of her face ) and decided to experiment with some colour pencils and soft pastels while I'm at it.
My colour pencils (just ordinary ones) are waxed, so the pastels do not stay on top of areas that has pencil marks on it. Put the soft pastels on first and then pencils. Again, I did not like the effect lol. My pencil leads are hard from being old, I might get new better ones.
The digistamp "Toga Fairy" is available in my Etsy shop:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/227203390/

Next is the no-fixative-on-printout experiment, pretty straightforward so I'll just show the finished result since it was night by the time I finished colouring. Reprinted the image on a new sheet of cartridge paper and waited for it to dry. Coloured with markers directly on top and the lines stayed put! The Epson 177 model ink cartridges are not too expensive and in the lower priced range. Quite happy with my printer by the way - it's got wifi. This time I didn't use Pearl White for the skin.
This is after I have done all the colouring with markers. I was careful to avoid the lines as much as possible and not press too hard just in case.
This is the finished piece, after adding some pastels and colour pencils. After that I sprayed fixative to secure the pastels.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

MOVIE RECOMMENDS - House (Hausu) 1977

A few days back boyfriend showed me some screenshots of an old Japanese horror movie he just watched called "Hausu ハウス" or "House" from 1977. He said I might like it - old-school, 1970s music, bluescreen surreal stuff, like a retro horror manga, kitsch. The movie is currently viewable at Hulu Plus.

I asked, "oh like the Umezu Kazuo Hyouryu Kyoushitsu 漂流教室 (Floating Classroom) horror stuff where heads and eyeballs fly all around and kids eating one another?"

"Yeah something like that."

Ok, checking out the trailer:

Hahaha.... totally Japanese old-school wierdness, I'm in. The style is what I'd like to do if I could make a horror movie lol.
Credits:
Director/Producer: Obayashi Nobuhiko 大林宣彦
Screenplay: Katsura Chiho 桂千穂
Story: Obayashi Chigumi 大林千茱萸
Cast:
Oshare (Gorgeous) - Ikegami Kimiko 池上季実子
Oshare's aunt - Minamida Yoko 南田洋子
Kunfu (Kungfu) - Jinbo Miki 神保美喜
Fanta (Fantasy) - Ohba Kumiko 大場久美子
Gari (Prof)- Matsubara Ai 松原愛
Makku (Mac) - Sato Mieko 佐藤美恵子
Merodi (Melody) - Tanaka Eriko 田中エリ子
Suito (Sweet) - Miyako Masayo 宮子昌代
Ema Ryouko - Wanibuchi Haruko 鰐淵晴子
Oshare's dad - Sasazawa Saho 笹沢左保
The story:
Oshare (or Gorgeous in the English subs, though I think 'oshare' means fashionable) has a new stepmother named Ryoko, and not happy about it. Missing her dead mother, she writes a letter to her maternal aunt who lives in an isolated house and asks to visit for the summer vacation. Her aunt agrees. Gorgeous invites 6 other school friends to join her. The house ends up eating them in various gruesome but psychedelic ways.
My review:
This movie is one strange specimen. Mostly nonsense but I have watched other crazier Japanese horror rubbish and Hausu is actually not that incomprehensible and pretty straightforward. The house and aunt is right off the bat 'not right'. It doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't treat its audience as idiots - meaning, the movie expects viewers to take its wierdness as normal without explaining itself. Just look at the names, easy to remember, thank you I do think that was a good idea although entirely cheesy and caricature-ish. Of course in real life I doubt girls with such clashing personalities will ever hang out lol. But don't think too much into it because it really is all in fun.
Director Obayashi Nobuhiko decided to utilise whatever creative concepts came to his mind. The wierder the better, it was experimental and almost student-work type. Great for people with short attention spans lol. He worked as a commercials director so that was evident in his style perhaps.
It is graphic intensive; including pop and psychedelia, manga style illustrations, superimposition, visually strange ways of getting killed - if I say you turn into a watermelon and get ate, don't question it. And don't blame me if the piano swallows you up, you should have ran when your fingers got chewed off by the keyboard... sorta stuff. 
None were especially gory because they were animated and resembled drawings. I found the overlay and blue paint chroma technique interesting, I cared more about the graphics than the plot itself. They also have a movie-within-a-movie scene, and even some shoujo elements! However if you mind nudity, please take note.
I understand how some people may show disdain for this show, it is one of those genre types that you either love or hate. I am biased because I like pop oddities - which is why bf recommended it in the first place... oh and a horror movie with a kitty!
I enjoyed the visually-pleasing atmosphere, and the ladies were eyecandy. The performance by the girls, however, was poor, the plot didn't make quite much sense, and the script was simplistic, but they were amateurs (the actresses act as if they were in a commercial) so I didn't mind it, it made this show lighthearted and comedic despite the gore, or maybe it wasn't supposed to be this cheesy but a serious look at household appliances finding ways to eat girls.
According to Wiki, Toho greenlighted the script because they were tired of making losses on comprehensible films, so they allowed this to happen to give the youth demographic a shot at a plot that didn't make sense. The plan worked because despite bad reviews from critics back in the day, the film was successful amongst the youths and has somewhat of a cult status now because of its originality and uninhibited creativity. Understandably no one wanted to direct the film so Obayashi did it himself when Toho allowed him to do it 2 years after approving the script (his daughter came up with the story).
Spoilers alert:
Talking about favourite girl, she is obviously Kung Fu. No, not because of her itsy bitsy shorts and her pretty face, but because her personality was appealing and better developed than the other girls who were more like giggly stick-in-the-muds. She was the only one heroine who fought back (cute riffs when she comes on too) and had more brains - even more than that Prof. She was also a superhuman - being decapitated by the lamp, without a top torso, her legs had the ability to become a separate entity and do a flying death kick. Take that! Too bad her legs didn't win the cabinet lol....
As for memorable scenes, I give kudos to the piano eating Melody up, it seemed more detailed than the other girls' death scenes, with a bit more visual effects and props. They used many cuts (both film scenes and her method of death) but she didn't actually die like a normal person would (same goes for watermelon girl). Her head still reacts even when her body was clearly in pieces. Her acting was terrible though lol.
If you find the screenshots interesting and you're keen for visual surrealism, old-school effects and don't want to use your brain too much, I recommend checking this little horror movie out!