down to the beauty that you see, Think of me

Rummaging around on the internet this evening, reading random things, looking at pictures, listening to a lot of new music, generally being inspired… and this is the quote I read that stuck out the most to me:

“I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.” – Saul Bellow

Double exposure photo of the boy and I; Taken on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B/W film; Nikon F3. A photo I had used in the exhibition.

I’ve never read anything of Bellow’s, but that was so eloquently and perfectly put that I know I will eventually have to hunt down something of his to read. I know I spend too much time dwelling on art, and the whole “art for art’s sake” thing, but stumbling upon something amazing once in a rare while is what makes it all seem to make sense and worth it in the end. The feeling of “stillness in the midst of chaos” and “an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction” is exactly how I feel like when I write, or photograph. Or the even rarer occasion during a jazz performance where I feel like I am perfectly static and calm even as the song moves past me, with me… that frozen moment where I feel the stillness enough to acknowledge the occasional brilliant note choices that happen.

I was txting the boy about a self portrait that I need his help to take sometime in summer (because it’s temperature dependent…), and he asked why. Fair question, but it’s a question that I’m always rather afraid of, on some level. Reason being, self portraits are so damn self-indulgent. That’s why they’re called self portraits, not just a portrait on its own. I’m sure I could pass off many things as photos other people might’ve taken, but there’s also a weird joy in taking self portraits. I’d rather not discuss the finer details to this particular potential-self-portrait, but mainly it made me reflect on my motives once again. I want to immortalise what is mortal. The me today will resemble the me tomorrow or me next week, but I will not be 100% the same. So it is with this self-indulgent motive in mind that I would like to immortalise my “self” now and then. Even if it seems rather vain and completely superficial to most people, I know and feel that whenever I’d taken self portraits in the past that some piece of my then-spirit was captured. What I wore, what I looked like, how I held myself, the look in my eyes… that sort of thing just can’t be claimed back.

A couple of evenings ago the boy and I went to Cassette #9 with some friends. It was funny because his younger sister was also there, and a friend of mine got into a fight with the boy’s friend. They dissed each other pretty bad, much to the amusement of us. I had told the dude earlier in the night that he’d have much better luck with the ladies had he worn a collared shirt rather than the tight t-shirt he was clad in. He disagreed. Then I was joking to my friend who only stopped by to say hi as to whether she has any single friends for him… she proceeded to (drunkenly) tell him how his shirt looks pretty gay, and had he worn a collared shirt she would definitely have hookups for him. Oh dear. The comeback was “if you were hot I would hook up with you”, followed by a drink thrown in his face. Eventful indeed. It was just weird going back to Cassette after all this time, for once not single, and for once with the boy when so much drama has happened there in the past. Ironically, it was the first bar we ever went to together two years ago. And how scary time flies, it will be two years to the day we met, next week.

For when…

Behind cabin curtains, Let’s join the mile high club. I can’t wait anymore

How rare is this? My computer has been off for days and days in a row – probably four or five days? – I lost count! Between then and now, I’ve had Japanese food, tacos, far too much cheap wine and ice cream, and I’ve been to the Auckland Museum as well as the Winter Gardens, plus won a hockey game. There’s something so satisfying about disappearing for a few days, especially with some of my favourite people and food in the world.

After the boy finished his exams, we celebrated with an evening in with a western film and Boston Legal; then went out for a long-awaited meal at a very delicious (yet affordable) Japanese restaurant not too far from my house. I decided to take a roll of 24 Kodak colour film with me, and here are the results. For once I didn’t fuss too much over anything, really. It’s quite refreshing using colour instead of black and white for a change – plus it was easier and cheaper to get developed quickly. These are most of the photos, and as you can see, most of it entailed me stalking the boy around the place:

Banana and jam on toast for breakfast.

The Winter Gardens: I hadn’t been here in years and years, and the boy had never been until that day.

Sitting at a bench in a corner.

I think we enjoyed the tropical gardens more because it was heated to a very warm temperature inside. Auckland’s been freezing lately. Winter’s finally here.

Those lily pads!

He took this one of me. I like not reaally being seen.

Stalking strangers, as I do.

We were too lazy to take our boots off to go inside the marae that’s been built inside the museum. But I waited a little while til this guy walked through.


That statue thing is badly placed in this photo. Oh well.

More stranger-stalking.

Glass ceiling.

View from the top floor.

Double exposure.

It was far too dark inside this room.

The display was “Auckland 1866”, but someone had tacked a polaroid inside and dated it 1989, haha.

Double exposure: the Sky Tower and city skyline v.s. the boy and the museum.

I have some personal favourites out of these, but I’d like to see which ones other people like most?

It’s funny that I used to think the Auckland Museum was huuuuuuuge when I was a kid, but now it seems so small. Especially in comparison to places I’ve been in the last while such as LACMA or the Getty Centre. Traveling and seeing things outside a daily, normal spectrum really does help to pull the size of the world in perspective, I think. It’s also interesting how I can react so differently to feeling small – at times it empowers me on this I must search for so much more and see, feel, live more things feeling, but other times it belittles me and demotivates me if I’m not careful. Everything in moderation, I guess. I’ll try and take more rolls of film during this semester break. Before taking extra papers takes over my life again.

By the waaay, the boy’s name is Daniel. I personally can’t stand people calling him Dan. It doesn’t suit him. I think that irks me more than it irks him, haha. And I don’t know yet, but I still don’t think I’ll ever blog with his name. I think it’s more obvious and endearing to just call him “the boy” on here anyway. I used to worry about how he’d feel having me splash his face all over my blog – since some friends of mine mind, although most don’t – but it seems he rather enjoys it. Oh, to be someone’s muse.

Obligation, Complication, Routines and schedules

I need to blog more often throughout the week so that the “things I want to blog about” don’t snowball up into one massive blog entry that resembles a tree with branches spurting out all over the place, rather than a more sightly lone autumn leaf that people like to pay strange amounts of attention to. See? There is so much crap that has accumulated in a week’s time that my very first sentence alone is far too long and disturbing. Okay.

I want to know – how much do “normal people” let things get to them? How much empathy are most people capable of, especially when it comes to books, movies and music? I haven’t done much in the past week, except I feel like I’ve been on an intense emotional rollercoaster, and I’m not too sure whether I enjoy this or not. And the root of all this spawns off into many, many tangents.


Taken on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B/W film; Nikon F3. A photo I had used in the exhibition.

For one, the reason I asked the questions above is because I’m one of those people who cry at movies, TV, music, books, you name it. Even a single, beautifully written line can get my tear ducts working on overdrive. I have this unfortunate (I feel, for the most part) ability to perceive, then receive and feel everything on such a personal, realistic level. I’d taken the last couple of days off reading, but ever since starting it last week, I have been disappearing into Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead (just over halfway through it now). I read a particularly painful part of the novel at the boy’s house, and tears started pouring down my face. I felt bad and embarrassed because it’s an odd predicament isn’t it – to have someone crying over a book you gave them – but oh heck, he deals with worse from me. Then I told him this is exactly what I mean by things getting to me. I wish I didn’t feel and care so goddamn much about everything; I hate how everything has the ability to seep right through my rough and tough exterior and pluck and snap at my heartstrings. Felisa (who no longer blogs publicly, I think) and I have discussed how it’s almost like a writer or artist’s complex – that we notice things that other people might merely glance at, and actually register such things. Because we then go on to recreate them. My therapist said I need to stop owning everyone else’s feelings and my mother said maybe I should go into acting.

On the flip side, I can be a totally detached and hardened person. I can force myself to feel an empty hollowness, rather than invest any personal interest or reaction to something. It’s probably better in terms of a “public self”, but do I really want to feel empty and hollow and react to nothing?

Also, this is the playlist I slept and read to for a couple of days in a row. Favourite track from The King of Limbs mixed in with a bunch of Tricky. There is something painfully sexy about it all. And it proved to be a great sober-driving-at-3am-playlist, after a Friday night spent dancing my legs off to music I wouldn’t ever listen to outside of a club. Many people find it surprising that I dance. Sober, even. It’s liberating and I feel kind of powerful. Not because I had seven pairs of eyes glued to me (none of which I was interested in), but because it made no difference to me whether there were any at all. It’s the same feeling I get even when I’m just doing normal things during normal hours, and rather reminds me of Marina having said that she magically attracts men even when she’s not trying. It is the power in that innocence, precisely; yet not at all, and so much more all at the same time.

I think I might have to blog about it later rather than squish it into this post, but I have a 40-minute appointment with the HOD of Jazz on Tuesday. We’re all scheduled in for a 10 minute chat each, mostly about the changes to the Bachelor of Music degree structure that will be implemented next year, but I have broader issues to discuss in terms of what I’m going to enroll in… such a complicated and delicate issue that will potentially affect my future more than it will affect any other jazz students. Urgh.


let your will displace me on the ledge

Yesterday I fractured someone’s cheekbone.

I had been doing really well with both forehand and reverse shots on goal when we were warming up at our hockey game, doing the usual “pass-pass-shoot at goal” drill… but then for some reason a teammate of mine was crouching behind the goal. I’m not sure why – picking up a ball maybe? No one saw her there – even the goalie wasn’t aware of her presence because she was crouched down by the backboard – until she suddenly stood up just as I had taken my shot on goal, which either pinged off the post or whizzed right past it, I’m not sure. Either way, it ended up smacking her square in the cheek, and down she went. I felt awful. And still do. Even though technically it is entirely her fault and not mine, this is the second head injury I’ve given someone at hockey – regardless of the fact that both times have been caused by the carelessness of the person injured, ahhh!

Anyway, I’m glad to finally have the time to blog, now that I’m on semester break. The last couple of weeks have been absolutely hellish, and during repertoire assessment week, I was just rehearsing and playing hours on end, trying to get things right. It was mainly for other people’s assessments as mine was the second out of the entire bunch so I already had it out of the way first thing on Tuesday morning. Somehow, sometime in my very very busy week, I managed to scribble out this poem in the space of five minutes or less in bed:

Fragile Contents

Can I give you my entire heart
place it in your palm
let your fingers trace
around its edge–

Can I entrust you my entire heart
place it in your care
let your will displace
me on the ledge–

Can I tell you my entire heart
though tainted, broke,
has long been yours;
an accident

please be sincere
not careful

I don’t know how I do stuff like that. When I write, it kind of just magically happens, so fast that I don’t know what I’ve written until I go back and read it afterwards. Also, I finally grew some balls drew up enough courage to put up some writing in the WRITING PAGE (or click on the page in the navigation at top of page). It’s taken me ages, but I think I’m going to try and keep putting stuff there, despite the largely personal nature of my writing – I guess I just got over it and thought, oh heck, why not. So if anyone ever reads anything, please do share your thoughts.

Also, I know I’ve probably regurgitated this topic a million times, but it’s a recurring theme lately, and this blog post has reignited the whole identity crisis once again (I have lots to say with regards to the blog post I linked, but I’ll go on that tangent another time). I suppose I’ve always been pretty torn on the idea of “art” in general. I’ve always thought that art is rather self-indulgent, and yet I can’t help but think of myself as an artist in general. Not just as a musician. Which, there in itself, is a tough topic to wrestle with. I know I’m a jazz student and that’s how a lot of people initially or primarily identify me as these days – because, you know, this is the age during which everyone becomes “defined” in an annoyingly large way by what degree they’re studying at university or whatever (which later in life turns into what job you have); but I’m really tired of the title of it and would rather just be known as a general creative, artistic person. Or, not even that, I’d rather just be known as me, and be attributed with artistic creativity and intellect. As I was just saying to the boy a couple of hours ago when we were walking his dog at the beach, I’m having a really hard time feeling focused on just jazz. I do love and enjoy it (despite complaining about how this is a very expensive and painful way of spending three years of my life), but at the same time I am hungry for so much MORE, all the time.

I write hungrily, lustily, as if all the words flowing out in black ink was fulfilling and feeding me in some way: rather than the idea that what I write is actually output, it actually feels like input. When I was younger, I read as if I was consuming something, and I could read very, very fast, yet somehow still retain what I was reading. But these days I’ve been reading at a much slower tempo. OCD habits and a shortage of time aside, the main reason and difference is that I feel like I am absorbing all these beautifully crafted sentences and letting them inspire ones of my own. I finally finished the Great Gatsby the other day, and it took me a few hours to read the last hundred pages of it at the boy’s house – the reason being, I felt like with every few sentences, my mind was forming new concepts of its own. I now seem incapable of just purely reading, instead I’m involuntarily analysing the damn thing as I go along. Wow, the choice of diction in that sentence. The style in which that was said and how it helps to portray what is being said. On and on. I can’t stop. It’s driving me insane. Which is also why I get so annoyed whenever the boy asks, “have you finished it yet?”. It pisses me off so bad. It’s like, ARGHHH when I do find the time, I can read fast, I just seem incapable of doing that right now because of how many channels what I’m reading is being processed through.

But back to what I was saying earlier. The other night I had a short chat online with a former teacher of mine, and for the zillionth time I got told “I had always thought you would be a lawyer”; and prior to that a friend had joked “but who’s going to handle my divorce?” – and once again a wrench was thrown into my system. My friend David and I were discussing last night about how we both miss the academic, analytical, use-your-brain-and-pick-things-to-pieces-from-every-possible-angle business that being a music student just really doesn’t quite fulfill. He’s a composition major overseas whilst I’m doing performance. He could have done med or anything else he wanted to, but stuck to his artistic “talent”. And what do I make of genuinely enjoying the boy’s practise law essay questions and wishing I had the academic means of answering them? I don’t know what by, but the academic side of my brain needs to be fed. More. And the jazzically (yes, I made that word up) creative parts of my brain needs a desperate top up of inspiration because I’m running dangerously low, if not empty already. I’m such a scatterbrained person that I need something really concentrated and direct to keep my attention – so how do I focus on an art form that is so… scattered? The rule is to “learn the changes, then forget them”, but my gosh that is far easier said than done. Just as I thought I had smothered this quarter-life crisis, it rears its ugly head in again. But one key thing I must point out is that this whole “what should I have done/did I do the right thing/what will I do after this” in reference to studying jazz instead of law, and whether I should be doing either, neither, or both of them has plagued my mind since last year – so I hope that clears up any confusion with people thinking that the boy has influenced any of this. If anything, I think he would raise an eyebrow if I ever told him, “right, I’m going overseas and studying law” after this.

In the meantime, I think I am going to rearrange my room a little (or at least tidy it) for a bit of freshness, and enjoy my mother’s quiche. I found these 4-month-old photos the other night and started craving quiche. A craving which my lovely mother was kind enough to cater to the very next day. Yum!

Something like a phenomena, baby, You’re something like a phenomena

It’s about to be my 20th birthday. I have mixed feelings about not being a teenager anymore, and it’s scary considering I was still 19 when I went to the supermarket this afternoon and once again didn’t get ID’d for buying alcohol! Earlier this evening, I went over to the boy’s house “for dinner”, thinking it was just going to be another fun but casual dinner. Turns out, they had cooked me a feast of lamb shanks (done superbly with probably the same recipe as mum, score!) and fresh brownies out of the oven with fancy ice cream on the side for dessert. It was such a sweet, sweet surprise, if I wasn’t so takenaback I probably would have jumped and given Donna a hug! I probably should have. Ahhhh. Anyway, I’m still in awe of how nice it was, to whip me up a hearty family meal to celebrate my birthday for me, when my family are away – I will never forget it. What a nice way to round of my teenage years.

Sooo… I decided to spend an afternoon (which turned into evening, which turned into all night) digging out old photos from my years of being a teenager. This is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done because – in case you hadn’t noticed – I rarely post photos of myself. And when I do, it’s usually ones I’ve taken, or got other people to take under my strict strict instructions. So what is beyond that “Continue Reading” link is actually hundreds of photos (mostly of me) showing my transformation during the ages 14-19. There are gazillions more photos somewhere, but I don’t have access to mum’s stash of photos at the moment, so I also don’t have any one hand from when I was 13. Regardless, even if no one is that interested in what little-Amanda looked like, I had a LOT of fun doing this, recalling so many events and memories that I had long forgotten about. I’ve posted things in order of age, and almost in perfect chronological order, so be impressed. It’s a little funny turning 20, because in New Zealand it’s not a big deal like 18 or 21 is, but in Taiwan, 20 is a big deal. It’s like NZ’s 18th and 21st birthdays mashed together, sort of. To put it in perspective, I can’t renew my Taiwanese passport on my own without a parent’s signature until I turn 20 tomorrow. Which reminds me I really need to get onto it.

Looking back, I’ve obviously grown up a lot throughout my teenage years, but I’ve also stayed the same in more ways than I had expected. I’ve done a lot of things that I’m proud of, but also a lot of things that I’m not. But I’m pretty happy where I am right now, and I’m just trying to look towards the future optimistically. And if you know me at all, you’d know that I’m not generally an optimistic person. Like… how I have to spend 13 hour at uni tomorrow on my birthday… I’m sure it will turn out fine though. Also, the exhibition opened yesterday, and I’ll probably post the official photos in the next entry, but there are photos of the gallery at the bottom of this post!

Oh, and you may be surprised to find that I hardly look different at all.

Age 14:

Taken at the house I “grew up in”. I wish my hair was that long again.

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