Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Man in the Baseball Cap

One of the highlight of coming to Bristol is undoubtedly meeting the man in the baseball cap.

Beyond and above the fact that he is quite a demigod in this arena, one who inherit so much directly from the Nine and bridges the gap to the new generation, there is something special about him.

I think he is hungry.

He is still hungry after more than 60 years and even now desires to keep his edge keen.
He truly loves what he does. For to desire 'to go into seclusion so that he can continue perusing his love' speaks much of this.

He seems to me to have a deep respect and liking for Katsushika Hokusai. And indeed, he much embodies that spirit.

At seventy-three I learned a little about the real structure of animals, plants, birds, fishes and insects. Consequently when I am eighty I'll have made more progress. At ninety I'll have penetrated the mystery of things. At a hundred I shall have reached something marvelous, but when I am a hundred and ten everything I do, the smallest dot, will be alive.

the road goes ever on...

Since the age of six I have had the habit of sketching forms of objects. Although from about fifty I have often published my pictorial works, before the seventieth year none is worthy.

to realize 'your worth', perhaps it is those who have seen the Earth like a sparkling sapphire pea who knows the worth of Everest.

How would I describe a successful artist? Nay, an artist at all?

If Heaven had only granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter.

That is what it is about, to be a true artist.

If I may ask,

for a heart that never satisfied and also never give up,
that I will love my first love more than I ever does in the last days of my life,
that I will still itch to conjure, so long as there is strength left in my hands,
and for the Undying Will.

I heartily wish the man in the baseball cap to find what he seeks and enjoy his years to come, doing what he is pleased with. May he live till a hundred and ten and five years more still, for I would certainly look forward to see more of his magics and wizardry yet.

What a privilege to meet you, in that humble yet all-too-important place.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Pumkin heads

With Halloween near and pumpkins not too expensive, there is little reason to not make crafts out of them, since this is a flat-full of art students. Belows are some sketches we did.

(Of course Ponyo and The Owl are our design)

We carved 2, 1 on each night. Snowy is born on the 25th

while Baby Jiang Shi (Chinese Vampire) come about on the 26th

We think they should meet each other.

And they soon become fast friends.

After all, being a lone pumpkin is not as fun as 2.

We actually find taking pictures of them and their reflections and shadows more enjoyable than carving them and ends up spent more time snapping away.

After spending some time together, Baby Shi and Snowy decides to couple up and become the pumpkin bunny!

As time progresses, they grow even closer - behold the Super Pumpkin Bunny!

And they get so high, inevitably rocketing up into the black night sky!

Snowy had began to shrivel today after yesterday's blazing glorious night. I have plenty of doubts that they'll survive till Halloween's night.

Anyway, here is a short animation of Pumpkin story in Cartoon Brew,
The Pumpkin of Nyefar by Tod Polson and Mark Oftedal

And then there is Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book which I find immensely enjoyable. Now, here are some ghosts and haunting things you won't mind meeting if they'll befriend you.


With autumn rain and chilly winds, there is nothing like being licked by a stranger's big white fluffy spitz on a crowded old train. A dog's hot breath and soft gentle tongue caressing your skin makes the most miserable storm feels like a sunny breeze!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Autumn in Bath

Date of trip: 11 Oct

The days here are those of intermittent sunshine and rain and sometimes when we are really blessed, the persistent puddle of rainwater on the car park's upper floor outside my window would dry completely.

On one such cloudless day, we decided to head over to Bath. The ancient city looks significantly different under a cerulean sky. After having a hearty meal in a Thai Restaurant recommended by my flatmates, we hopped over to a traditional candy shop.

The interior of the shop is cozy and compact. The shelf with rolls after rolls of containers appear remarkably like those in a Chinese medicine store. But here, colorful candies that taste as good as they look take the place of bitter remedies.

Out on the Avon River, swans feed gracefully as their adolescent broods which have yet to attain their pure white plumage swam nearby, looking expectantly at the visitors for food.

The ducks that congregate around the pond up in Universtiy of Bath were even more aggressive when it came to food begging. Should you give a scrap to one quacker, they will soon surround you on every side.

The real beauty of autumn was of course the leafs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that autumn might in fact be more colorful than spring, if in a limited hue.

A tree may sport colors ranging from bright yellow to emerald green and burning red.

I find the burnish gold on pure blue a wonderful combination too!

The last leaf of the branch, fluttering in the afternoon breeze like a candle flame.

Even the crawlers on concrete walls are reacting to the seasons by setting itself aflame.

After our quiet stroll through a poetic wood, we find some little wonders in civilization too - a shop that sells everyday objects in a creatively rendered form. Umbrellas that look like women, leather handbags that look like watering cans, scissors in the form of a duck are only some of the ingeniously designed practical craft works.

I was also happy to see one of King Bladud's pigs in the guildhall market. I highly doubt I can make it there to see them off this coming weekend with the West Bristol Arts Trail coming up. I shall have content myself with seeing just one.

May the seasons continue to be kind.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Slug and berries

Pink berries on green and blue, a natural lesson on color combination.

Note the tiger strips beneath the English slug's underside. Who would have thought this slithering little beast bears the mark of one so majestic.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Of Squirrels at Summer's End

Summer draws to an end. Even a few weeks back, I can see some trees beginning to don their scarlet shroud. With temperature dropping and the rain becoming more frequent and persistent, we are at autumn's doorsteps.

I will start the last series on this summer here (along with the family visit), by introducing the scurrying rodents on Brandon Hill. I don't suppose I will be seeing much of them when winter comes. (Wikisays they don't hibernate, but that doesn't mean they have to be out and active either.)

These endearing critters are everywhere, foraging on the grassy fields under the impenetrable canopy around Cabot's Tower. I manage to capture these pictures while my parents were busy bribing them with freshly bought wheatgerm bread.

Not all squirrels are connoisseurs of bread though, some would not even touch it, preferring nuts instead.

Those who does enjoy the crumbs will have to be quick before flocks of pesky pigeons peck the ground clean.

I do hope to see the native great red squirrels someday. But thanks to these adaptable eastern gray acrobats displacing them in Britain, that will not be easy.

The 2 legged cousins of the chimp had certainly been treating them well, no doubt they will fare much better than the tail of this one.

While I make a terrible botanist, my parents have great eyes for these fragile beauties.

Unlike the rodents, the days of these are numbered. Even though the grass here is evergreen, not many flowers will bloom in winter's chill.

In time, the green barrier that makes walking to campus like passing into Faerie will fade and one will be able to see each side of the railway on that soggy country road.

Welcoming autumn and a new academic year, maybe it isn't far to look forward to Christmas as well.

May the days continue to be kind. As summer have its share of dreadful rainy days, so winter must hold some lovely sunny ones as well!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

London Revisited

Date of Trip: 13 Aug

Since the last trip to London, I've purposed to return to St Paul's one day.

Arriving early in London, Jacq, Kevin and me took the tube straight to Tower Hill and wander around the vicinity of the Tower Bridge. The last time I cross this famed landmark was 12 years ago. It was also summer then and the sun was glaring and hot. Then, I was on a Hop-on-hop-off double decker bus amidst the crawling traffic, still too young to appreciate these English things. Now that I've walked across it, maybe next time I should visit the gallery on top of the tower.

While the weather forecast presented a rather grim day of heavy showers, the weather has been kind if not sunny, perfect for comfortable long outdoor walks. Making our way from the Tower Bridge to Tate Modern, quite a few interesting sights greeted us. Having stayed in the hostel nearby during my last visit, the area is not new to me. But this contraption that seemed straight out of a children's fantasy is still fascinating to look at.

This highly reflective walkway reminded me a lot of Aberdeen.

We passed many other attractions on our walk parallel to the Thames. There is the unassuming London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral by the railway track, Borough Market which is London's oldest food market, the Clink Prison Museum with an iron instrument of horror dangling above the dark narrow alleyway and Shakespeare's Globe to name a few.

Interestingly, Tate Modern and St Paul's sits directly across the river on opposite bank with the Millennium Bridge between them. Bypassing the Tate, I head for St Paul's, hoping to catch the Super Tour. As we neared the impressive ecclesiastical structure, cattle and donkeys (meaning worse than cats and dogs) begun to pelt from on high. We hastily retreated into the doorway, inscribed with the verse,

'This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.'

Apt indeed for a place so wonderfully made. More so, for even now many may find His presence there should they seek. Breathtaking as the interior of the Cathedral is, we are forbidden to take photographs. I did saw someone painting with watercolors at the South Transept facing the magnificent dome, second only to St Peter's in Vatican City. Maybe I should do that some day. I'm sure both the sweeping grandeur of building as well as the many minute and intricate details make excellent painting subjects.

One of the highlights of visiting St Paul's is the Galleries. Ascending the 528 steps leading to the Golden Gallery is not for the faint hearted. Initially, the refurbished steps are wide and spiraling, until a far narrower one leads into the Whispering Gallery (257 steps up and 20 meters from the Cathedral Floor). Waking along the perimeter on uneven floor with paintings and sculptures of Saints and Prophets above and beneath you was quite an experience. If I was traveling alone and have the time to spare, perhaps sitting there and contemplating the things of Faith and the life of our forebear would be most edifying. Although it was said that a whisper spoken against one wall of the Gallery can be heard 32 meters away on the other side of the Dome, we didn't quite put it to the test.

From the Whispering Gallery overlooking the altar and pulpit, the way to the Stone Gallery (376 steps up and 53 meters from the floor) was more challenging and narrower. Once we reached the gallery, the awesome panoramic view of London greeted us.

I like how the street seems to curve like an S from this height. However, I felt the imposing fences an unwelcome boundary, caging us in from an unbroken view of the rich city. Thankfully, this was not an issue with the Golden Gallery.

The dome of St Paul's is actually a dome within a cone within a dome. The inner dome being that of the sanctuary's painted ceiling, the cone supporting the heavy Ball and Lantern and the outer dome visible from outside. The way from the Stone Gallery to the Golden Gallery (85 meters and 528 steps up) was the most demanding yet, far more than that which I encountered in Oxford. Indeed, we have to thread the narrow, steep and winding walkway between the outer dome and the cone before finally reaching pure heaven. There, howling winds threatening to send you flying and the unobstructed view of an important settlement for more than 2 millennia welcomed you. This is London.

The London Eye and Westminster is visible near the horizon.

This direction is the cathedral's main entrance, facing Fleet Street.

Here we have Tate Modern, right across the bridge. The towering chimney looked no more than a match stick from this height. Now, this reminded me of Neil Armstrong's statement, 'I put up my thumb and it blotted out the planet Earth.' I suppose even our blue planet is a mere speck if you are far and high enough.

The Tower Bridge can be seen in the top left corner. London Bridge is in this picture as well, although harder to spot, being hidden among the buildings. (It is not the 2 more visible bridges in front.)

I would love to make the climb again on a fairer day when the sky is blue. How much more impressive would it be then? By the time we descended back to the cathedral floor, we were sweating and ravenously hungry. With the Super Tour starting in minutes, we endured the hunger for another hour and half, contenting ourselves with savoring the juicy histories and stories behind the cathedral at least twice razed to the ground before this incarnation whose dome survived the blitz by grace of God and the relentless efforts of the Cathedral Watch.

The tour took us through the cathedral's history and interior. The Quire and High Altar is beautiful. The colorful mosaic on the Quire ceilings depicting biblical scenes, particularly the creation, stand as an interesting contrast with the plain white simplicity of the Nave ceilings. Among the many memorials around the cathedral, most of them are military personals. The memorial for the Duke of Wellington stood as one most lavishly made.

Two irrelevant but funny things about these man of renown's statues. Anatomically, there is no space for their substance between their crouch. I don't suppose we'd draw men with a V shape between their muscular and manly legs. Secondly, the statue for William Turner does resembles Robbie Williams in certain angles. It was a pleasant surprise for me to know that Lord Frederic Leighton's tomb and memorial is here as well.

Of the many tombs and memorials in the dimly lit cathedral crypt (which my friend describe as similar to White House), Florence Nightingale's memorial is among the most well placed. Although hers was dwarfed by the huge stone tombs in the adjacent chambers, what was the honor to be flanked by the actual bodies of two military demigods, Lord Nelson to the west and Duke of Wellington to the East. Great honor for a great woman indeed!

Christopher Wren's tomb, the person behind this wonderful architecture is simple but powerful. There is nothing like the inscription, 'Reader if you seek his monument look around you'.

While I could spend a whole day or week or month just within these hallowed halls, our drumming bellies and the rest of London's sight and sounds beckoned. Originally, we planned to hit another museum in the afternoon, but seeing that we came out of the cathedral late, we opt to just wander the streets of London. Walking leisurely from landmark to landmark without the pressure of visiting a set target was more pleasurable than I expected. Blissfully wandering around almost aimlessly is also a good way to experience such an overwhelmingly eventful city.

Trafalgar Square was especially packed with the Zoolanders doing their rehearsal for the Trafalgar festival. Moving from the crowd, we made our way to Westminster and the Big Ben.

Across the House of Parliament is the Westminster Lion, another one for my lion collection.

A few steps away stood another modern attraction, the London Eye. The giant fairy's wheel does resembles bicycle's wheels.

The price for a ride in these capsules can be steep. I wonder how many of these are in the World. I know at least 3 now, there should be more.

The evening was spent with Chris, a kin I haven't meet before (as far as both of us can recall). He took us to Harrods as all of us were feigning shy and undecided about where to go. While I care little for shopping there, I do see it as a potential place for future visit. To simply just observe the different details and decorations in the variously themed room should keep me busy and happy enough.

After dinner in China Town, we amble from Trafalgar Square to Westminster for the second time in the day until we eventually ran out of time have have to rush for the bus.

Looking at the Big Ben at night, did I hear someone mention Peter Pan? It was a great trip while so much of London remains to be seen. There are still so many museums and galleries waiting to be visited.

It is great to meet you, Chris. Thanks for bringing us around. I suppose the next time we meet might be years away, in Sydney perhaps.