Sunday, September 26, 2010

santa monica dream / 聖塔莫尼卡之夢


On this year’s birthday, I received an awesome gift from Huei—the album Down the Way by Angus and Julia Stone. When I enjoy the songs and draw at the same time, the lyrics conjure up fantastic images in my mind. It’ll be a waste not to use them as a source of inspirations. My favorite song is Santa Monica Dream sung by Julia. Apart from the simple yet moving melody and chords, the story behind the lyrics reflects my past life experiences. Since I am so removed from the those moments, now I can face them with an honest and open attitude. I see the sweetness in the imperfection and know all the time how much I’ve learned from these failures.












Santa Monica Dream

by Julia and Angus Stone

Goodbye to my Santa Monica dream

Fifteen kids in the backyard drinking wine

You tell me stories of the sea

and the ones you left behind

Goodbye to the roses on your street

Goodbye to the paintings on your wall

Goodbye to the children we’ll never meet

and the ones we left behind

and the ones we left behind





I’m somewhere, you’re somewhere

I’m nowhere, you’re nowhere

You’re somewhere, you’re somewhere

I could go there but I don’t









Rob’s in the kitchen making pizza

Somewhere down in Battery Park

I’m singing songs about the future

wondering where you are

I could call you on the telephone

But do I really want to know

you’re making love now to the lady down the street

No I don’t, I don’t want to know





I’m somewhere, you’re somewhere

I’m nowhere, you’re nowhere

You’re somewhere, you’re somewhere

I could go there but I don’t






Goodbye to my Santa Monica dream

Fifteen kids in the backyard drinking wine

You tell me stories of the sea

and the ones you left behind

and the ones we left behind

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What a wonderful week! / 一週美麗大事

這大概是我少數幾次圖畫和文字內容不太搭配的po文,不過有時候也要對自己說:Who cares? 圖片的靈感來自於小楷老穿著哥哥的大鞋走來走去,我不禁想幫他畫張合腳的圖。

Generally, I can’t put up with unrelated images and words, but this is one of the few exceptions on my blog. I guess sometimes I’ll just have to say to myself, “Who cares?” The inspiration for the picture today actually derived from Kai, who loves to walk around in his big brother’s giant slippers. I thus couldn’t help drawing a pair of tailor-made shoes for him.


What made me throw my principle behind? That must be something really awesome. For the first two days this week, I received a box of Czech color pencils from Wenchi and a Japanese picture book from Master Cheng. Today it’s Caterina’s postcard. All of these surprises prompt me to draw harder.


Yesterday Von called me up to wish me a happy lunar-calendar birthday. I asked him, “Are you going to bed right after the phone call?” He replied, “I am going to ‘enjoy’ first.” I was curious about the usage of the verb ‘enjoy,’ so I went on to ask, “What are you going to enjoy?” “I am gonna enjoy a movie.” Hearing the words said with his innocent and tender voice, I bet he must take a lot of delight from the little luxury. I then responded, “Sure, I am going to ‘enjoy’ my Thai drama as well.” Despite the sucking plot that my alluring eye candy falls into a coma halfway through last episode. He’ll regain consciousness in a day’s time…(when the finale airs tomorrow evening)


I considered this week to be superb, but an incident this morning gave me wings, which made me “fly” to work. My family is very unworldly when it comes to sweets and edible goodies. Most of the time the snacks are left intact several days after being placed on the dining table. However, John always comes home with gift packs from here and there. Sharon will smuggle them into my bag when he is not aware so that I can share with my colleagues in the office. When John finds his food missing, he’ll exclaim in shock, “Is it you that took them to school?” Perhaps it doesn’t feel good not to be notified beforehand. Anyway, we discussed this for a whole day on the Moon Festival. John said, “You really love to ‘donate’ food to others don’t you?” I answered, “Why do you have to use that word? Why don’t you say ‘share?’ Group happiness makes the food more yummy, and better yet, you won’t gain weight.” This morning before I left, my lovely dad came to me saying, “Did you bring some moon cakes to school? Take more if you’d like to.” Ha, Sharon had tucked some in my magic bag, as usual. I was really moved by his good will, so when I got to the office, I left a line of words on the white board with an arrow pointing at the sweets, “Love from WC’s dad.” I learned that men older than 60 make progress too. This gives me more faith in them.


When I told John that everyone had known his good will this evening, he cared about only one thing, “Do they know that I am a school principal?”

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I wish I could go traveling again / 但願我可以再次去旅行

聽了Stacy Kent這首旅行之歌一年多,我終於決定試著把歌詞裡的畫面畫下來,最後滿意的只有一張,可能是因為最近我的心之所向是泰國,所以對於熱帶地區的一切心有戚戚焉。歌詞帶著淡淡的哀傷,我卻用愉快的心情詮釋,如果可以把在和過去的美好時刻區隔開來,那當下應該是燦爛無比的吧!

I’ve listened to this song by Stacy Kent for more than a year, and recently I’ve made up my mind to put down the lyrics in pictures. Unfortunately, I am satisfied with only one of the images, which has something to do with my latest country of affection—Thailand. There is a touch of sentimentality in the lyrics, but I drew with great elation. I am thinking, if we can rationally separate the present from the past, then the memories themselves will dazzle with blinding light.

但願我能夠再度去旅行 史黛西肯特

I wish I could go traveling again by Stacy Kent





I want a waiter to give us a reprimand

In a language neither of us understand

While we argue about the customs of the land

I wish I could go travelling again









(I want to) sit in traffic anxious about our plane

While your blasé comments drive me half insane

I want to dash for shelter with you through the tropical rain

I wish I could go travelling again

(I want to) be awakened by a faulty fire alarm

In an overpriced hotel devoid of charm

Then fall asleep again back in your arms

I wish I could go travelling again




But how can I ever go travelling again

When I know I’ll just keep remembering again

When I know I'll just keep gathering again

Reminders to break my heart ?





I wish could go travelling again

It feels like this summer will never end

And I've had such good offers from several of my friends

I wish I could go travelling again






(I want to) sit in my shades, sipping my latte

Beneath the awning of a famous cafe

Jet-lagged and with our luggage gone astray

I wish I could go travelling again

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the other end of the telephone / 電話的另一端


My one-year-old nephew Kai is still groping for the secret to speaking. However, he can’t help imitating the adults and his elder brother Von when he sees us talking happily on the telephone. What does he hear from the other end of the phone whenever I call him?


Is it the sound of waves crashing against the shore?


Or that of the rising sun dancing in the wind?


Maybe it’s the hurray of a seed bursting into a flower.


Can it be the birds’ wing-flapping march?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Flood / 淹水


This past summer many parts of the world have been seriously flooded. Bishop’s poem, though poignantly beautiful, reads more like a romanticized version of the reality.

The Flood


Elizabeth Bishop


It finds the park first, and the trees

   turn wavery and wet;

but all the extinguished traffic knows

   that it will drown the steeples yet.





The battered houses, rows of brick,

   are clear as quartz; the color thins

to amethyst, —the chimney-pots

    and weather-vanes stick up like fins.





And slowly down the fluid streets

   the cars and trolleys, goggled-eyed,

enamelled bright like gaping fish,

   drift home on the suburban tide.





Along the airy upper beach

   to the minutely glittering sky

two sand-pipers have stepped, and left

   four star-prints high and dry.





Beyond the town, subaqueous,

   the green hills change to green-mossed shells;

and at the church, to warn the ships above,

   eight times they ring the bells.






Wednesday, September 08, 2010

English Afternoon Tea Birthday Party / 英式下午茶的生日派對


Unlike the past few years, I am in an extremely zen state this fall. There seems nothing much for me to put into words; yet, I know I have taken another giant step upward in terms of emotional maturity.


Yesterday in the middle of the class, I declared mysteriously, “Everyone has to bring a beautiful teacup to school tomorrow, and fill it with hot water before I come in.” Some couldn’t keep their curiosity capped in the bottle, but I prefer to leave the surprise for today so that there is something to look forward to.


My birthday wish can’t be more simple: I’d like to keep drawing seriously. Hopefully, I’ll be drawing in the U.K. at this time next year.


Many thanks to those dear friends far away who’ve sent their best wishes. In my mind’s eye, we also chat about life and dreams over fruit tea and Scottish shortbread to celebrate my humble but cheerful existence.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Going to Japan / 去日本


This past summer in one of Caterina’s postcards, she suggested that I illustrate for existing stories or novels because pictures also bring delight when adults read. I gave much thought to her advice. I understand that in doing that, I get to learn not only how others narrate the happening of an incident. More importantly, materializing the images under their pen into pictures is excellent practice if I would like to make progress in pictorial composition and translation from words to imagery. At work, we happened to have some American teachers visiting back in August. One of them, Tora, gave a lecture on the following short story written by Barbara Kingslover about the attempt to adapt to cultural differences. Not wanting to waste the story, I gave my own pictorial interpretation.

Going to Japan / 去日本

by Barbara Kingsolver

(註:上述之五個名詞開頭即為:a, b, c, d, e)

My great-aunt Zelda went to Japan and took an abacus, a bathysphere, a conundrum, a diatribe, an eggplant. That was a game we used to play. All you had to do was remember everything in alphabetical order. Right up to Aunt Zelda.


Then I grew up and was actually invited to go to Japan, not with the fantastic Aunt Zelda but as myself. I had no idea what to take. I knew what I planned to be doing: researching a story about the memorial at Hiroshima; visiting friends; trying not to get lost in a place where I couldn’t even read the street signs. Times being what they were—any times—I intended to do my very best to respect cultural differences, avoid sensitive topics I might not comprehend, and, in short, be anything but an Ugly American. When I travel, I like to try to blend in. I’ve generally found it helps to be prepared. So I asked around, and was warned to expect a surprisingly modern place.


My great-aunt Zelda went to Japan and took Appliances, Battery packs, Cellular technology….That seemed to be the idea.


(註:此處的伊格指的是美國最高的男性Igor Vovkovinskiy。請參考影片:

And so it came to pass that I arrived in Kyoto an utter foreigner, unprepared. It’s true that there are electric streetcars there, and space-age gas stations with uniformed attendants who rush to help you from all directions at once. There are also golden pagodas on shimmering lakes, and Shinto shrines in the forests. There are bamboo groves and nightingales. And finally there are more invisible guidelines for politeness than I could fathom. When I stepped on a streetcar, a full head taller than all the other passengers, I became an awkward giant. I took up too much space. I blended in like Igor would blend in with the corps de ballet in Swan Lake. I bumped into people. I crossed my arms when I listened, which turns out to be, in Japanese body language, the sign for indicating brazenly that one is bored.

(PS: Igor here refers to Igor Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in America. Please refer to the video clip:


But I wasn’t! I was struggling through my days and nights in the grip of boredom’s opposite—i.e. panic. I didn’t know how to eat noodle soup with chopsticks, and I did it most picturesquely wrong. I didn’t know how to order, so I politely deferred to my hosts and more than once was served a cuisine with heads, including eyeballs. I managed to wrestle these creatures to my lips with chopsticks, but it was already too late by the time I got the message that one does not spit out anything.


I undertook this trip in summer, when it is surprisingly humid and warm in southern Japan. I never imagined that in such sweltering heat women would be expected to wear stockings, but every woman in Kyoto wore nylon stockings. Coeds in shorts on the tennis court wore nylon stockings. I had packed only skirts and sandals; people averted their eyes.


When I went to Japan I took my Altitude, my Bare-naked legs, my Callous foreign ways. I was mortified.


My hosts explained to me that the Japanese language does not accommodate insults, only infinite degrees of apology. I quickly memorized an urgent one, “Sumimasen,” and another for especially extreme cases, “Moshi wake gozaimasen.” This translates approximately to mean, “If you please, my transgression is so inexcusable that I wish I were dead.”




I needed these words. When I touched the outside surface of a palace wall, curious to know what it was made of, I set off screeching alarms and a police car came scooting up the lawn’s discreet gravel path. “Moshi wake gozaimasen, Officer! Wish I were dead!” And in the public bath, try as I might, I couldn’t get the hang of showering with a hand-held nozzle while sitting fourteen inches from a stranger. I sprayed my elderly neighbor with cold water. In the face.

Moshi wake gozaimasen,” I declared, with feeling.
She merely stared, dismayed by the foreign menace.



I visited a Japanese friend, and in her small, perfect house I spewed out my misery. “Everything I do is wrong!” I wailed like a child. “I’m a blight on your country.”

“Oh, no,” she said calmly. “To forgive, for us, is the highest satisfaction. To forgive a foreigner, ah! Even better.” She smiled. “You have probably made many people happy here.”


To stomp about the world ignoring cultural differences is arrogant, to be sure, but perhaps there is another kind of arrogance in the presumption that we may ever really build a faultless bridge from one shore to another, or even know where the mist has ceded to landfall. When I finally arrived at Ground Zero in Hiroshima, I stood speechless. What I found there was a vast and exquisitely silent monument to forgiveness. I was moved beyond words, even beyond tears, to think of all that can be lost or gained in the gulf between any act of will and its consequences. In the course of every failure of understanding, we have so much to learn.


I remembered my Japanese friend’s insistence on forgiveness as the highest satisfaction, and I understood it really for the first time: What a rich wisdom it would be, and how much more bountiful a harvest, to gain pleasure not from achieving personal perfection but from understanding the inevitability of imperfection and pardoning those who also fall short of it.


I have walked among men and made mistakes without number. When I went to Japan I took my Abject goodwill, my Baleful excuses, my Cringing remorse. I couldn’t remember everything, could not even recite the proper alphabet. So I gave myself away instead, evidently as a kind of public service. I prepared to return home feeling empty-handed.



At the Osaka Airport I sat in my plane on the runway, waiting to leave for terra cognita, as the aircraft’s steel walls were buffeted by the sleet and winds of a typhoon. We waited for an hour, then longer, with no official word from the cockpit, and then suddenly our flight was canceled. Air traffic control in Tokyo had been struck by lightning; no flights possible until the following day.

“We are so sorry,” the pilot told us. “You will be taken to a hotel, fed, and brought back here for your flight tomorrow.”



As we passengers rose slowly and disembarked, we were met by an airline official who had been posted in the exit port for the sole purpose of saying to each and every one of us, “Terrible, terrible, Sumimasen.” Other travelers nodded indifferently, but not me. I took the startled gentleman by the hands and practically kissed him.
“You have no idea,” I told him, “how thoroughly I forgive you.”