Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Captain Shit

I have given my first tutorial presentation today, the first one since I've gone back to school. It's for my Pomo class, the subject I've invested an inordinate amount of time in, since it's the subject this semester I'm most unfamiliar with. I had spent an extraordinary amount of effort and time on this presentation, on an artist who uses elephant dung in his artworks. When I tell people (who are not in the art college) that I am doing a presentation on Captain Shit (a character the artist has created), it never fails to get them asking, "What EXACTLY are you studying?". A guaranteed way to get an interesting discussion going.

It is an interesting class, the lecturer is very engaging, he also happens to be the most attractive male on the art campus, considering that there are very few men in art college, those who are male are mostly young and not to mention, gay. Hence, this guy gets my vote.

Anyway, the elephant dung is incorporated into the works and in most cases, the work is not hung on the wall but propped up against the wall of the gallery, supported on balls of dung. And oh, the dung has been chemically-treated and so does not smell. And I do find his works very pretty and decorative, in spite of the dung... and that's no bull shit.

Monday, March 27, 2006

To Market, To Market

Last Sunday afternoon, we went to the Fish Market. It was full of people (I suspect mostly tourists) trying to get the freshest, cheapest seafood and enjoying a scrumptious meal on the deck facing the boats. We scrutinised all the stalls and bought a seafood platter, some sashimi and some grilled seafood kebabs. Getting a table was a bigger challenge, we finally found one to share at the end of the deck and quickly settled down to the spread. We were stuffed to the gills and slowly made our way to our next stop - the casino.

We took out our capital outlay of the grand sum of $1 apiece and proceeded to try our luck at the 5 cent slot machine. I won 65 cents on my $1 capital, if my capital outlay was $100, I would have made $65, well but it wasn't. So with the fantastic statistics on my return on investment, we left the casino and hopped on the tram.

The tram made its way to the fruit and vegetable market where we got off to get our weekly supply of cheap and fresh veggies. It was a riot of colours with red and yellow peppers, purple eggplants, fresh green leafy veggies, pinkish-orange sweet potatoes, red tomatoes, sweet smelling mangoes, fuzzy peaches, red and yellow-speckled nectarines, deep maroon plums, seedless grapes... We jostled with the best of them, picked and chose our wares. The heckles of the stallholders, trying to attract customers with their competing shouts. It was a hive of activity, a riot of colours and smells. I love going to the fruit and veggies market, and I'm making sure I am getting the necessary intake.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Scholarly Musings

A strange thing happened to me. I was asked by the course coordinator of my Masters program to apply for a scholarship which was open to international as well as local students undertaking this Masters program. To say the least, I was surprised because in my entire scholastic career, I have never been the sort who would even qualify to think about applying for a scholarship. I had always thanked my stars that I was the oldest child of 3, as my other 2 siblings constantly topped the class, or even the junior college at "A" levels as it turned out, and got scholarships. So as the oldest child, I didn't have to live up to the expectations of parents due to earlier standards set by an older sibling. And I never had any hang ups about being non-scholarship material.

So as the story regarding my attempts to procure exemptions in a subject or two, unfolded, the coordinator demanded to know why I hadn't applied for that scholarship. I pleaded ignorance and promised to put in my application as soon as I got my hands on the form. And so I did. In addition, I wrote a letter setting out my background and experience in the arts which the coordinator commented was excellent. I felt pretty chuffed. The weekends spent attending art lectures, writing gallery talk papers, conducting volunteer tours had paid off. The struggles at art class when a piece didn't turn out the way I had hoped for, the preparation for the group exhibitions, hanging up the works, the gallery sitting have all come in very useful.

So even if I don't get the scholarship, it is a nice feeling to be invited to apply. (And you at least get noticed by the relevant people.) Now we wait with our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

All You Need To Do Is Ask

It pays to shop around. And I'm not talking about groceries although I must admit grocery shopping in this country is one of my favourite therapeutic activities. The variety is huge, I get lost amongst the aisles of bread, cakes, muffins, pikelets, crumpets, pies, biscuits and other yummy confectionary. But I digress, shopping for grocery is not the theme of this entry.

Being the by-the-book person I am, most of the time at least, I enrol for the requisite number of uni courses this term. I lap up the advice the student centre tells me regarding how I will positively die if I take up an additional course (which in all probability would turn out true as I also work 20 hours a week). I do my requisite readings for my Pomo class in advance faithfully, as instructed by the lecturer "unless it's a bad week as your dog died, partner left you, house burnt down etc". I post discussion entries on the web to show the lecturer how conscientious I am and have consciously considered the discussion topic of the week and am contributing to the thread.

So I go to class for the last 4 weeks, sit in the library and do my research on days where there is no official lectures, prepare for assignments which are coming due. And the cycle of uni life goes on. Until last week after a role play in the Management class where I had to dismiss someone and I did it so calmly and naturally and blew the person who was being fired ("I'm packing my bags now!"), and 2 other girls who were role playing and eavesdropping next to us, away and earned their proclamation of , "She's so good, you need to hire her as your firing consultant!". It then suddenly hit me, that this was just easy for me, because I had been in middle management for the last 10 years. I had managed 7 people at one point, did my first firing 10 years ago (and I couldn't eat for a week thereafter, but as I said, it gets easier with practice), re-engineered positions out, did the department budget for years, reconciled monthly expense statements, conducted countless performance appraisals and that is why all these concepts were fitting in like an old glove. I was at ease in the class, I was able to contribute, I didn't have to struggle to understand any of it. And then once I had that bee in my bonnet, I couldn't get rid of it. I decided that I had to ask for an exemption from my Management course because I wouldn't be learning anything new.

To cut a very long story short so as not to lose my audience with the nitty gritty I had to go through with the relevant parties in order to convince them I was deserving, I finally received TWO exemptions (yes count 'em, one, two!) - in Management & Organisation and Organisational Psychology. Hurray! I now have to take 2 subjects less in order to get my Masters.

It does pay to shop around, talk to different people for advice. It doesn't hurt to ask...

Monday, March 20, 2006

And We're Back!

After a whole series of frustrating episodes with internet service providers, I finally got myself wired tonight. Even that relatively idiot-proof service was fraught with difficulties. Although the modem indicated it was connected, the error message on the laptop screen insisted it was unable to detect my modem. After several bouts of shutting down and rebooting, and basically finally deciding to trust what I see and ignoring the error message and proceeding to register myself for the internet service (and also several rounds of registration as it never allowed me to get to confirmation stage the first 6 times or so), I am finally online. I have been so thoroughly frustrated by the whole process, there wasn't even much elation at the success. So after 6 weeks and 2 days of not being able to log onto the internet at my convenience, I think my internet addiction has been slightly curbed. I wouldn't say I'm completely weaned off it, since I still trudge to the uni library with my laptop in my backpack practically every morning (including Saturdays) in order to cash in on my postgrad status (and the internet cable access privilege which comes with that status). I think I've got the addiction under control to the extent that it's probably no longer an addiction. But now with my being back online, I don't know if I'll fall back into my old ways...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

I have never walked so much in my life. I think I can safely say that after being here for 6 weeks. In the first 3 weeks, I lost 1.5 kgs. Currently, I am around 2 kgs less than what I started off with. And that is not due to not eating well, on the contrary, I have been eating regularly and decent, home-cooked meals too. It's just the walking.

Under conditions which are generally dry, walking is a pleasure. It's cheap, it's fast (since I live in the city and it doesn't take too long to get to anywhere I want to go) and it's really good exercise. Every day, it's slightly more than 0.5 km from home to school, so it's 1 km plus both ways, through leafy residential areas and by the park. It's about 1.38 km from home to work each way and it's an easy walk along main streets and broad pavements. Going to the nearest supermarket is just under a km one way. Coming home with the groceries is added weight training.

So with all the walking I've been doing, how can one not lose weight? The only bad thing is I've worn out the soles of my painted canvas shoes and my clogs. But I guess that's a small price to pay.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

All In The Neighbourhood

Smudge and Ginger were the first couple of residents in the neighbourhood I met one Sunday morning when I decided to take a slow stroll. They were extremely friendly and enjoyed a good belly rub. So neighbours were nice and friendly - good.

I continued upon my stroll and the next interesting thing was this "green car" which basically looked like a mobile advertisement. It was cute even though it could only seat 2 people. Probably a breeze to park too!

Something above high up in the trees caught my eye. It was a typical Australian parakeet. Except in this case, someone had a good sense of humour... and a very tall ladder. Or crane perhaps.
The architecture in the neighbourhood is interesting. Many quaint, little cottages, Victorian terrace houses, one can almost imagine that you are transported to a different country, definitely not something you would expect to see right in the heart of the city.
The shops are equally interesting, each having its own flavour. As the neighbourhood is fast establishing itself as a design hub, there are
numerous design galleries including the refurbished old church which has been turned into a Design Centre. Retro furniture, antiques, Oriental knick knacks, can also be found in the warren of shops.
The once a month market at the nearby park, was a hive of activity. There were lots of goodies which caught my eye, from Indian silk tunics with flouncy sleeves, to a hyacinth vase with a beautiful glaze. Other offerings include old leather cases, LPs, retro china tea sets, vintage clothing - all one needs is time to explore.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The First Week

I thought this was going to be a walk in the park, I really did. Or at least, a course one could indulge in, at one's own leisure, visiting art museums, sipping wine at a gallery opening, wandering into little design studios. Not a course which would be demanding 8 hours of self-study and research for each subject undertaken.

After the second lecture of the week, I started to sit up and do my maths. It was beginning to look a tad worrying. But at least the first 2 courses were subjects I was familiar with in my past life, law/ethics, management/organisation type subjects.

The 3rd lecture was the only morning lecture I have this semester, so I get up earlier than usual and make my way to school. I didn't realise what I had signed up for was Art after 1990. I didn't realise that was the definition of "after postmodernism". It was an interesting lecture, it was the first subject which was almost completely unfamiliar to me. I felt a little out of it, swimming in an unknown sea, being tossed by the waves, feeling the rip. But it was at the same time, it was exciting. But a whole lot of research laid in front of me, trying to get into the whole "pomo" stuff in double quick time.

The last lecture was on writing. I thought it was going to be not too difficult, after all, I spent my entire career writing. "Not too difficult" doesn't really describe it. What is involved seems like a big production. We are expected to write letters to the editor, articles, interview analyses relating to the big Biennale coming up in June, and edit one another's works and then publish the whole lot in an online art magazine. Apparently, this art magazine is often quoted in other works, and articles in there, survive a pretty tenacious lifespan. Hence, be careful what you write. Sounds like a daunting project. Deadlines, copies, print!

Life has come full circle. In my undergrad days, I avoided the library like the plague. I would rather spend my time more fruitfully, indulging my artistic tendencies (perhaps that was what they were) playing "Pictionary" in the foyer. In my final year, I signed up for more than my fair share of "ice-cream" duty, tending to the ice-cream stall we had (intended to raise funds for the graduating class concert), dishing out big dollops of ice-cream for favourite customers. Now as a post grad student, I am almost a permanent inhabitant of the library, stuck to the computer like a Siamese twin. Indeed life has come a full circle.