Are you sure it's me?

Are you sure it's me?

Each day is new... a renewal of sorts if you consider the fact that we have another 24 hours to use. Of course, sleep is part of that and I think that's one of the rewards of life! Haha I wonder how the cat does it. Stretching. Waiting for me every morning, for milk, for food, for grapes, for Yakult and peeing (for the second time) on the sofa!!!! Yep, the angel in disguise! Got a little spanking from me, while trying to express his "Are you sure it's me?" look... Well, this fellow is fussy as hell when it comes to his litter. I remember once I kept the old litter box in the store room stacked all the way up, and guess what? Yep, he climbed all the way to the penthouse to do his business! And I was wondering where the smell came from. Well, one reason could be I bought a new litter that has a strong lemon scent, which was quite good. Sigh.. perhaps I have to scout for another brand...

Well, it sure as hell ain't me!

Halo is the conscience part of angel I supposed - disciplined, elegant, protective, sweet but as conscience goes, she sleeps a lot haha! While conscience sleeps, the Angel goes around finding things to amuse himself... Yet, at times he gets so bored that he launches sneak attacks on conscience and gets a kick out of it...

"Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life." - Mark Twain



Catmasutra - Non-Collectibles muvee

Another catmasutra muvee from the non-collectibles exhibition. I was using some of the digital art styles for this one, which I think is quite experimental. You can really manipulate the software by layering one style after another and then combining them into one. The music sound track is from Concave Scream, whom I think is a really cool band. The other exceptional local band is The Observatory and you can get their latest album, A far Cry from Here at their website. I did a couple of muvees using tracks from these two bands set to my photos of streets cats as well as Brian Ho's black and white vision of Singapore streets in the wee hours of the morning. Not sure why now, but I'm suddenly feeling motivated to put these clips onto the web... haha! Maybe it was an overdose of cat fur or something, but I guess I can look back and appreciate what I did more! Also, I think the theme is an important one. We're so concerned about progressing, earning more, building more, that we have a tendency to deem everything else as invisible or non-collectibles.

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.” - Milan Kundera



Catzophrenia - Caught between the tales!

If you love cats, you wouldn't have to work at loving cats. Then does it follow that you don't really have to work at being with the one who is right for you? Makes perfect sense but many refuse to believe there's such a thing, especially after the heady days wear away. Routine sets in; Everyday becomes stronger. Your energy and patience wane, and the "buts" and "if onlys" get bigger and bigger. There's a saying that if you wonder if a certain person is your other half, then that person is not. Harsh, maybe, but definitely a hint of truth in it. It's like reading a really good book . If you haven't read a book that was meant for you to read, you may think that all books are just that, mediocre. Once your found your book, your enjoyment takes a different dimension and suddenly you know there is a difference. Even then, things don't always work out the way you intended them to...that's life! But once you know the difference, you suspect that your other half exists. Sometimes it comes down to timing - the right person at the wrong time or the wrong person at the right time - and that'll screw you over. Sometimes life happens and that's that. But if you don't believe in fairy tales, you'll never find the magic...



catmasutra - true colors

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are"- Anais Nin.

Even when we're searching for options and answers, we look at only the colors that appeal to us. A lot of our likes and dislikes are determined by capitalistic forces, and yet in the midst of it all, we still pick out the little nuances that speak to us. The main difference is how much we really know our true colors as opposed to blindly following the Pied Piper. One of the tenets of branding is to layer lifestyle aspirations onto a commodity, so that it means a lot more to own branded products as a means of self validation. We're all part of this system and whether we admit it or not, we are what we consume, making segments of people extraordinarily rich while leaving millions in poverty.

It's a fact that millions of children die every year in poor countries because of measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, yellow fever, etc. Why? Because "the market did not reward saving the lives of these children and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system."(Excerpts from Bill Gates' speech as published by Today, August 25, 2007). We know these things happen but we prefer not to see, because most of us are just ordinary people, not rich nor poor, just lots of commitments here and there. There is just no time to care too much. "The media covers what's new - and millions of people dying is nothing new. So it stays in the background. But even when we do see it and read about it, it's difficult to keep our eyes on the problem. It's hard to look at suffering if the situation is so complex that we don't know how to help. And so we look away". To Gates, the barrier to change is not too little caring but too much complexity. "To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact."

Haha if we follow the Piped Piper blindly, we are nothing more than non-entities in an increasingly programmable world, where inequity is norm and fair. It'll only become unfair when it happens to you, and by then, nobody is listening to you...



Catmasutra cats - 130 in one room?

Get this art print, "Cat's Sutra" at Art Prints Asia

The 130 cats seem to be a model of catmasutra, zen-like, meowing gently, sitting on brightly colored plastic chairs grooming themselves. The cats look good, neither too fat or skinny, clean, confident and contented. All's calm on the Russian front? Well, what it must be like for 130 pairs of ears to tweak in one direction when familiar sounds stream in from across the great divide, we never know. At the opening of the great door of delight, all sutra is banished and queuing is not an option.

Is this madness or compassion? Is this love or addiction? Whatever it is, in the harsh winters, without food and shelter, most of these cats will not survive. It takes all kinds to make the world go round. And the cats have their own lucky stars!! I hope she has a very efficient kitty sewage system though!



LV child

I think this is a powerful piece of art! It's called LV child by BeeJoir. It's done using spray paint and emulsion on cardboard - it's so bare that it hurts. The forlorn glance of the child is like a threshold, a gateway to all the images of poverty that we encountered in the mass media, etc., but stored deep down inside somewhere. We prefer branded stuff, or stuff that helps us not to see or feel as much. What's the point? It's almost like inertia, a sense of immobility and helplessness that we really can't make a difference. But it's a worthwhile perspective, and we may want to hold on to. You never know, we may be able to make a difference one day in one way or another.

Lives no. 7 to 9 of a Catmasutra cat!

Rule #7. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality. Only a few things in life really belong to you. These are the things you can never find or buy from anywhere else!

Rule #8. Be gentle with the earth.
It's part of us and everything else in it.

Rule #9. Once a year, go someplace you've never been before. Find different things, see different things, feel different things. If you haven't notice, the problem with the middle of life is "if".

Rules in bold are quotes from the Dalai lama


Lives no. 3 to 6 of a Catmasutra cat!

Nine lives of a cat!
Nine Rules to Rule Them All...
Rule #4. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values. Halo never compromises on sleep. Perhaps we shouldn't too...

Rule #5. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. Given that the human heart, mind, and soul can distinguish an infinite amount of emotional, psychological, and moral shadings, from the blackest of black to the whitest of white... yes - silence may just be the best answer.

Rule #6. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. If you really want it, you'll have it. Maybe, for most of our life, we just don't want anything hard enough.



Lives no. 1 to 3 of a Catmasutra cat!

Nine lives of a cat!
Nine Rules to Rule Them All...
Rule #1. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. It makes you more focused and determined to find an alternative route. Either that or learn hypnosis...

Rule #2 : Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
In every system, there are always unexplored spaces, another angle that you can make yours. Remember Spoon Boy, "Do not try and bend the spoon (system). That's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself...".

Rule #3: Spend some time alone every day.
They say time is the fire we burn, or perhaps they are memories that we burn to stay alive. "Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record..." -Memento. Change your interpretation, change your life?

to be continued...



Catmasutra - White Shirt

(from Maxim cover, Rebecca Tan in white shirt)

The button down White Shirt is considered the most versatile and important element in a guy's wardrobe. It goes with nearly everything. With suits, you're a lawyer or getting married; with black pants, you're a financial adviser or going for a wedding dinner (the common perception in Singapore anyway); with a pair of jeans or khakis, you become smart casual; with an otherwise bare woman, well you get hot under the collar (this is an international phenomenon). There's probably just one thing that don't really fit the white shirt - the white pants (I'm sure you can figure this one out yourself).

I have been thinking of painting the white shirt for a long time. Some would argue white is not a color. Canvases are born white, waiting to be fed and nourished by colors. I wanted to paint the white shirt after it has been worn, or fresh out of the dryer, not ironed but left to its own whims and fancy. So to paint a white shirt this way with its natural folds and creases, the white shirt cannot be white! But the power of white is that it gives prominence to the object it embraces or rejects, and this applies to everything from eating Laksa (spicy noodle soup from Paranakan culture) to politics. I struggled with the white of the white shirt, and almost gave up half way, wondering if the white shirt is white enough. It's hard to visualize as I painted the shirt first, but the idea of the Catmasutra cat in the empty pocket was motivation enough. This is the Catmasutra white shirt in its "after" state, and not the well-pressed, seemingly immaculate one. Pure white, from another perspective, is simply the absence of color.



Catmasutra - Eyes Wide Open!

Eyes wide open!
An old archaic photo found in a treasure chest dated to be in the early
1900s. The photo has a strong resemblance to the "Core of Apple"
painting first displayed in the second Catmasutra Collection in 2005.
Perhaps we have stumbled onto a past life where the participants -
both man and cat seem equally surprised to be discovered!
Perhaps, they are not supposed to eat the apple...

Is there such a thing as coincidence?
Maybe not. The choices we make has somehow led us to
the place where we are now... And we are here again
deciding where to go next...


Recycled Memories

The quality of memory changes, like movies, being edited, filtered, made simpler. We watched them as and when they hit us triggered by the most innocent of things. A corridor. A face. A touch of the hand. The smell of rain. A ride in the taxi. Sometimes, it hits us like a train and then some, touch us lightly, leave us stranded; synapses connect and make us see, hear, feel as if for the first time. Sometimes they fade, and no matter how hard we try, we can't make them out, like subliminal images secretly implanted that refuse to go away. And then we shrug them all aside. The movie ends, and we walk out only to walk back in again and again. If we accumulate enough movies, we may end up walking in circles haha. It's hard to break the cycle, as those movies will always bring you back.

Sorrow is addictive. If you're not careful, like the protagonist, you may end up walking back into the past in order to relive it again. Addictive because most people who travel back in time to reminisce do not come back. We should live in the present as that is all that matters. It's the kind of wisdom that makes sense but may be harder than we imagined. Many people try to move on with their lives but leave a part of themselves back in time, secretly hoping that they could capture what they once felt.

The present should be enough.
It should be enough to make us happy...


Raining cats and dogs

Caught this view yesterday evening. Dark clouds were blowing in from the left and these were the last rays of light before night took over. These fighter planes were on their way home probably after dropping their bombs on some unfortunate passer-by who would then buy lottery and curse a second time when the expected "luck-exchange" didn't materialize. Well, one thing was for sure - weather exchange - raining cats and dogs in the middle of the night.

Haha what a strange phrase actually, given that only small creatures like frogs and fish occasionally get scooped skywards in freak weather and dumped somewhere else. A phrase like raining frogs and fish seems more appropriate although I don't think we'll experience such a phenomenon over here. Well, my favorite origin of the phrase would probably be witches taking the form of cats and riding the winds and obviously forgetting their umbrellas (my designer will go 'Ella' here), got beaten down by the rain. And dogs being attendants to the god of storms, Odin sometimes lose their scent and find themselves stranded on the streets. So treat strays with respect and kindness! What goes around comes around!

One thing in exchange for another. Life is always a duality of sorts. Yin and yang, good and evil, black or white. And everything it seems, has its price. It's only a matter of how much we are willing to pay for it - that's the exchange rate. I have this story in my head that's been there so long I'm sure it has given up on me! The premise is about a person who laments that his life is not worth living. He asks for a special charm to change his life but receives a 'non-returnable' gift from a fortune teller. The gift is an ordinary white envelope nicely framed in glass. Inside the envelope is a letter that states his exact time and death. While he sits on his chair and contemplates the framed letter, the exchange rate is fluctuating day to day according to which way his heart beats...Haha The choices are simple yet they are difficult. If he wants to find out, all he has to do is take the letter out. Hahaha Will that change a person's life? I wonder... but its sure makes a good story!

I remembered the story in my head when I read Murakami's "Birthday Girl". A twenty year old girl working as a part-time waitress couldn't get the day off on her birthday as her replacement has taken ill. As it happens, the manager who brings dinner to the owner on the sixth floor every day without fail, has also unexpectedly taken ill. The birthday girl is tasked to perform this duty and the owner, recognizing the special quality of this chance encounter, grants her a wish. The owner was in turn surprised by the girl's wish, as it was not about wanting more beauty, money, etc. Twenty years later, she was telling her friend what happened and asks what he would wish for if it had been him.

'I can't think of anything,' I confessed. 'I'm too far away now from my twentieth birthday.'
'You really can't think of anything?'
I nodded.
'Not one thing?'
'Not one thing.'
She looked into my eyes again - straight in - and said, 'That's because you've already made your wish.'

Haha And we never get to hear of what the birthday girl wished for... Perhaps, that's the special quality of this story!

Soccer and cats

The soccer season is here again! Well, that is about as much TV as I get to see these days! Angel is frustrated 'cause I'm not really into playing with him when there's a game on. Haha At least Liverpool won their game and MU didn't. Double bonus!! Fortunately he was fixated on a fly that unwittingly flew in. Because he was so intense with it, we decided to smack it down just to burst his bubble (haha kidding). Just afraid that he would spend the whole night staring at a speck of black dot on the wall.. OK - it was also to prevent any unforseen chaos during the night.

This fellow is getting his afternoon nap so that he can bug me for cotton buds later on. If the bathroom cabinet is opened, he would be there, stealing cotton buds and throwing them on the floor. One of his favorite games now is for me to slide the cotton bud under the door, and for him to catch it. Well, looking at him sleep is all the motivation I need to hit the sack... Monday ARRGGGGGGHH



Extracts from one of my short stories - Samurai (accompanied by random images from the world wide web!)

Autumn. Red leaves fell.
Winds of dawn cut across her face with a pain that cut even deeper, but she remained impassive, untouchable behind the mask. Still she watched the fallen leaves float on the shimmering lake against the rays of morning light; still the serene bliss of autumn’s dawn mocked her, that this tranquillity would never be hers…

A cool breeze cut a rectangle in the air as her enemies braced themselves for the confrontation. She hardened her heart, curbed her own emotions and her longing to be away from this place. She remembered a famous haiku poet and the words she must not forget –

Shi-zu-ka-sa ya

Such stillness -
The cries of the cicadas
Sink into the rocks

Silence before the taste of blood was for the young warrior a physical presence, a black velvet blanket flowing deep into her consciousness. In its darkness, she closed her eyes. She could hear her own breathing, and in a moment felt the depth and rhythm of her adversaries, their tension coming out in waves. She imagined them to be samurais, all seven of them with their traditional hakama, the esteemed divided skirt of the archer and warrior. Only the samurais were allowed to use sword and bow and arrow and yet they were afraid - afraid of her…


Arrows pulled and notched against the curves of long bows. Their heads were made of barbless mild steel, honed to a needlepoint for precise penetration. Released by a kyujutsu master, the arrow would pierce right through an adult human being, from breast to backbone. The long bows arched as the samurais stretched the bowstring back to touch their lips. They sighted the masked warrior along the shafts, and one after the other in rapid succession, the arrows flew from their bows.

She heard the sharp buzzing, the sound of a quickening within her own heart, and the terrifying rapidity of arrows shredding through the velvet blanket of her consciousness. Against her own volition, she felt nothing but the pattern of red autumn leaves falling and drifting on the quiet lake. Without will, her body gave in to the spirit of the katana, the long sword bestowed upon her by her legacy. Without will, her body moved down, her blade flashed out of its sheath and slashed against the thrust of the invading arrows. The blade, smooth like an extension of her, glinted with anticipation the taste of blood that was forthcoming.

Cool art from CG girls

Red autumn leaves drifted and the beauty of nature remained unaffected, unlike her. She stood up in her warrior’s stance, her armour of gold and red wanting battle just as her blade did the taste of blood. Only her mask hid something, something remotely human. The sounds of swords released from her enemies’ sheaths only served to fuel the tumultuous emotions that were already raging inside her. She reminded herself once more of her own hatred and in so doing, felt their fear rather than their courage. “Bushido,” she thought, “the way of the samurai, the way of the honourable… the way of the mask!” and she paused, a tear dislodged itself behind the ghastly mask...

“YAAAAHHHH…” The first one came charging, his reflection appeared in the corner of her eye. She stood motionless, her sight fixed on the face of her enemy. He charged with his sword riding the autumn’s wind, his face a contorted expression of strained ferocity. This was pathetic, she thought for she saw fear in his eyes, and fear she would not tolerate from a samurai. Her katana speared deeply into the right chest, slid across smoothly to the other side, and into the belly of another behind her. She could taste the corrupting sensation of power as her blade entered and withdrew from living flesh, now dead at her hands. “[Gerrshi, krushi…]” she made the sound as she walked towards the other five, “[this … is the sound when my blade enters your flesh. Ikershiii…]”

The leader of the Kamashita clan, humiliated by her taunts, lashed out in retaliation. “Pride of the great samurai?” She taunted again as she raised her katana to fend off his first blow and sidestepping his opponent, pierced the shorter blade, her wakizashi, into the fleshy part of his sword hand. She saw the samurai’s face screwed up in agony; his teeth drew back from his lips in a terrible grimace and his long sword cluttered uselessly at her feet. The samurai found himself on his knees, his head jerked up, and the wakizashi touched his neck. “Without will, my body gives in to the spirit of the blade,” and the shorter blade inched into his flesh and slid across mercilessly.

Samurai Spirit 5 - Slasher by *Artgerm

The remaining four watched with stupefaction as their leader dropped without his head. She felt their hearts pounding and their legs struggling to move away from her – away from this demon of death. “Enough!” the face behind the mask screamed in silence. She knelt down and her blades returned swiftly to her side. She had become tired, and she no longer wished to kill or live like this any more. “Red autumn leaves – you fall and you leave,” she cried out, “Red autumn leaves – take me with you, away from this accursed playground.”

“Let it end,” she pushed the seppuku sword deep into the left side of her abdomen and methodically pulled it across to her right side. I saw the water in the lake broke as her memories flashed outwards, like ripples made by a stone thrown into the still lake. And like ripples fading and merging into the lake, I saw her eyes fluttered and closed, her body bending over. And through the faint light from the hibachi, I saw red leaves fall on the shimmering lake but this time I saw red and white koi carrying Auntie Mari with them.
* * *
I was squatting beside the pond and watching the koi again when Auntie Mari appeared with my clothes, now dry and clean, and a Tupperware container of homemade sushi. It was still drizzling but I was in a hurry to feed her Kohaku. Auntie Mari knelt down in front of me, hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks. I returned her affection.

“Auntie, why did you pretend with the seppuku sword?”
“It’s time to let go of the past.”
“Because you are here. You make me see things differently with your eyes.”
“Then my name is Jiro Kiyoshi, and you are my sister.”
“Yes Jiro, you are my samurai and my brother.”
“Will you tell me more warrior stories?”
“Yes, but now take this sushi to your mama before the rain starts again.”
“Can I come again tomorrow?”
“If your mama allows…”


Growing up with cats...

A most affectionate street cat at the
Asian Civilizations Museum grounds...

My earliest memory is a litter of kittens in the old round rattan chair where my grandma used to sit. Since then, there is always a resident or master cat in our home. Of course, these cats were not house cats - they were free to roam wherever and whenever. They were independent individualists, and freedom was their modus operandi. One master cat (they were all called Vicky for some weird reason) has a "penthouse" in some crevice of our roof, and I believe it was his love nest! And the way they relaxed and stretched on lazy afternoons and evenings... It was all about making time your best friend based on an uncanny understanding of the more important things in life haha! Of course, there were times when the master cat had to stand up and be counted as he fought the odd enemy now and then to protect his territory (which is our house and slightly beyond). Towards the last years, he would disappear for long periods and returned three times (as the tale goes) to say goodbye by meowing from the garden. That was the last I've seen of him. Subsequently, I picked up one cat from the street on my way home (or he self-invited himself), and another I brought home from college in the bus! Perhaps my Catmasutra paintings are about capturing all those traits I believed (as a child) the cat has and which I hold dear. Wherever they are, cats seem capable of being happy and free-spirited!


A recipe for a cake...

"Life's no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe's my own to fool with." -Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

"Time weighs you down like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth you won't be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there - to the edge of the world. "- Haruki Murakami

Are we what we believe?
We are all made differently. We have our own poisons and of course, what doesn't kill us make us stronger haha. We concoct powerful poisons for ourselves - that's the most amazing thing - and it's either we become addicted to them or we find ways to get better. Whether it's nature or nurture - it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we can never live somebody else's life, and that we know this to be true. Any sort of comparison then become superfluous, and we can begin seriously to live the life that we know is meant for us.


Of words, design and art

“Without realizing it, the individual composes his life
according to the laws of beauty even in times of
greatest distress.”- Milan Kundera.

I look at pictures more than I read ever since I was a kid. I was interested in writing only as a substitute for composing stuff, piecing bits together, re-arranging parts to make a new whole. Because art was not considered viable then (as is now generally speaking), I used words as colors to create things. In other words, I tend to read and write the same way - visually. I remember searching for new words to add to my toolbox (they call it vocabulary) so that I can begin to paint a nicer picture. On hindsight, this served me well as it helped me academically. For a long time, I have forgotten about art and used words instead. Words have always been more tedious to me, not as immediate or second nature as drawing or painting, but I kept with it because I needed a means of expression... haha I wrote poetry, short stories and probably the highlight was winning third prize in The Golden Point Award some years back haha! Didn't really write very much since.

Design was a logical extension of that process. Learn the tools and you start composing and piecing elements together, re-creating a part of you on the work that you do. Perhaps, that's why design is, to a degree, personal and has a particular style to it. Of course, design is different from art; Design succeeds only if it serves its purpose, which is largely determined by external forces. Sometimes it gets to a degree when designers become fatigued by the process as they lose themselves more and more to the demands and routine of commercialization. It takes a good agency and good clients to continually stimulate designers to really design. Art, to a much larger degree, is about re-creating who you are... and that is the source of its power.



The very first painting that was sold!
Sleep by paul koh (2003)

s l e e p

Am I asleep
deep inside?
So still I can feel
my thoughts
lingering, outside.
Am I looking in,
my body captured,
like photographs,
like still frames.

Am I still asleep,
I need to know
will I wake, and
why should I wake
when sleep’s so bliss,
so quiet.

Have I been missing sleep,
these restless days
when my heart skips
that little beat
in between.


Childhood story and the catmasutra cats!

Just bought a bunch of canvases. Time to root around pop culture and rummage through weird places and possibly pull out new treasures to continue the catty tales of Angel and Halo! Tried to paint this weekend but couldn't come up with anything; sometimes you really need to feel it before you can splash paint on the canvas... Haha So I ended up buying more canvases, and staring into them, watching snippets of my imagination struggle to pop out of the white space, and then deflate in resignation. Sometimes I wonder what my cat paintings or catmasutra mean to other people...

My own experience probably stems from the fact that I grew up with cats. My earliest memory is a litter of kittens in the old round rattan chair where my grandma always sat. Since then, there was always a resident or master cat in our home. Of course, these cats were not house cats - they were free to roam wherever and whenever. They were independent individualists, and freedom was their modus operandi. One master cat has a "penthouse" in some crevice of our roof, and I believe it was his love nest! And the way they relaxed and stretched on lazy afternoons and evenings... It was all about making time their best friend based on an uncanny understanding of the more important things in life haha!

Of course, there were times when the master cat had to stand up and be counted as he fought the odd enemy now and then to protect his territory (which is our house and slightly beyond). Towards the last years, he would disappear for long periods and returned three times (as the tale goes) to say goodbye by meowing from the garden. That was the last I've seen of him. Subsequently, I picked up one cat from the street on my way home (or he self-invited himself), and another I brought home from college in the bus hahaha! Perhaps catmasutra is about all those traits I believed (as a child) the cat has and which I hold dear. Indeed, they are the domestic creature most adapted to modern times. Wherever they are, they are capable of being happy and free-spirited!


Re-visit - Princess Mononoke

I saw Princess Mononoke (1997) by Master animator Hayao Miyazaki many years back, and I remembered loving the anime but felt that the ending was somewhat not fulfilling. I was hoping for a resolution - revenge - for the destroyer of the forest to meet her just deserts; for the spirits of the forest to win, and for the greedy to be punished for their folly. But this story is much more than that, and refuses at every turn to be simplistic.

I watched it again (it's been 10 years) and I can't help but admire the sensibilities of the creator. It is truly one of the best anime I've watched. It begins as a black and white case, an evil demonic boar invading the innocence of a small village with its murderous rage. An innocent young prince, Ashitake fights to save the village but sustains a supernatural injury on his arm. Then, it is no longer black and white. All shades of gray begin to appear.

The demon is a god, spirit of a once mighty boar who dies while fighting to save the forest. The cause of its death is an iron bullet (the advent of technology). The cause of its demonic manifestation is rage and hatred. The owner of the iron bullet is Lady Eboshi, who is as determined to strip the forest bare for ore to smelt and profit, as it is for the divine wolves, tree-planting apes and vengeance-seeking boars to protect the forest. Yet, Lady Eboshi desires to build a better place for her people (including ex-courtesans and lepers).

It was quite heart-wrenching to see the tree-planting apes cry out in despair as they try to replant trees on the barren ground that Lady Eboshi has destroyed, admist cannon blasts from Eboshi's guards to keep them away. And then there is the "Kodama", strange childlike tree-deities that embody the life spirit of the trees, as they click in unison to the great equalizing force - the Spirit of the Forest - the creator and taker of lives.

The way Miyazaki conceptualizes and gives form to this force - a spirit deer with a benevolent face (which transforms into the nightwalker) is truly awe-inspiring, and to have Lady Eboshi assassinating it for its severed head, as a trade for the rifleman, and the prize for the emperor (for everlasting life), reflects the reality of today's capitalist system and it's incessant ravage of our environment - it is brutal and unrelenting.

New York Times critic Janet Maslin noted, “Absent are the little anthropomorphic touches that enliven most animation involving animals; this film’s prevailing attitude toward its creatures is one of respect and wonder.” In its depiction of the nature of animals, Princess Mononoke inherits the legacy of the great works of Japanese art." - Pacific Asia Museum

The final scene sees the humans returning the head to the Spirit of the Forest when they realize that they are in fact killing themselves. Perhaps that is the equalizing force, with the awareness of our environment predicament becoming more and more prevalent in our consciousness. Not sure if this is enough to stop the tide of destruction but at least now, we can feel its counterforce...

"Mononoke also became the highest grossing movie in Japan until Titanic took over the spot several months later. Overall, Mononoke is the third most popular anime movie in Japan, next to 2001's Spirited Away and 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, both also by Miyazaki." Wikipedia


Cats of the World

Three of my photos from the non-collectibles show are now on the walls of the 'Cats of the World' Exhibition, 1-15 August at The Moomba @ Level 2, 52A Circular Road. The exhibition aims to spread the message about the joys of our feline friends and that cats all over the world are the same - lovable and purrrrfect!

"Hutch" slacking while his partner Starsky is out galavanting. This is at the food mall at Bestway Building in the Central Business District Area. I have entire collections of these two cats, and they are one of my favs.

These are the new kids on the block (then anyway when this photo was taken). They appeared out of the blue one day and seems to be from the same litter. There was some upgrading work being done on the site (Hougang 24 Hour kopitiam), so the area was sealed up except for a little opening. That's their gateway to a haven (during the night) as they got total privacy!

This old fella is one of my favs as well. Very calm and confident with people. Obviously the resident cat at the food place (good teochew porridge) around Kovan. "Worldly wisdom" is written all over those eyes! A true catmasutra cat! The above three photos are for sale and all proceeds will go the Cat Welfare Society...

"Cats add a lot of character to their environment," said Dawn Kua, Director of Operations at CWS. "They are neglected and abandoned here in Singapore."

They really shouldn't be. CWS has been trying hard to take care of these strays and one of the many problems they face are people who see the cats as pests! If we do not have compassion for these strays, at least, don't deny them from people who have...

One of the clips from the Non-collectibles exhibition, with special thanks to Concave Scream for their music...