Mucking about

A year ago during my year out, at about this time, I commented on this blog that it was nearing the academic year end and all the part-time students in my office were all stressed out about their work. Well, I am back in uni and truly in the nightmarish final weeks of the year. The final review was recently concluded last week, and now a final two week to work on criticisms, praise, and comments (mostly criticisms) from the review panel in preparation for the final pin-up.

Also, I’ve applied for exchange in the final year and the current result is that the (internal) panel was undecided. I think my internal indecision about to go or not was shown all too clearly in my thesis proposal, and thrown back at me. Looks like I’m gonna have to make some personal decisions about what’s gonna happen the coming year before the panel will approve/reject.

So really, I think it’s impossible to finish Part 2 of the previous story for the next couple weeks, though I really want to.

Random whiny facts: I got the cheapest chair available in Argos after my old one, broke, and after sitting on it constantly for a whole week (with hardly any sleep I might add), my butt literally aches. Shifting positions worked for awhile, but now it aches in every position. It’s not easy to imagine having to sit on it for 2 more sleepless weeks.

Also, before the final review last thursday, I realised that my only physical contact with the outside world the whole week was when the postman called in the mornings with more parcels for Flora…

And finally, possibly the most depressing: My only sense of a day’s passage is when my sister logs in to Gtalk every morning when she goes to work in Singapore at 9am  (2am over here). It’s not a good feeling when I see her going online in my chat client and realising our last exchange was 24 hours ago when it seemed like 2 hours ago. Sunrises and sunsets, to me, only mean its time to switch off/on the lights.

Enough with the whining… and resting. Time to get on with it!!

Me and Felicia, in the studio one freezing January evening. Prior to this drawing exercise, I haven’t used a T Square and a drawing board in years!

Some years ago, I had a strange dream. It wasn’t like a normal dream; I was partly conscious, or perhaps fully conscious – it was in the twillight zone between day-dreaming and actual sleep-dreaming.

In that dream, I was in a small mountain village. I wasn’t myself – in that I wasn’t Alex Tee; I was someone else. I looked different, had a different identity, a different history. I was perhaps in my early forties, and was born somewhere far away, in a big city, a major metropolis. For the past few years though, I had been in that mountain village – and the locals, who knew who everyone was, had began to slowly accept me as one of them.

I was running away from something – A refugee from my past. I had the sense that my appearance and subsequent settling down in that village was the culmination of a long, exhausting journey, over many places, over many weeks and months. Yet I had found respite in that village, and had started to rebuild a broken life in that mountain village.

The village was high among the mountains and lay at the foot of a huge mountain. The mountain was so dominating, so assertive, that it appeared as if the village existed entirely by virtue of the mountain. The mountain was physical, the village ephemereal. The shadow that the mountain cast on the village was real and tangible, the motley jumble of brick and concrete dwellings almost metaphysical in existence. The more affluent households had white render on their walls, and the village was characterised by steep slopes and gravel roads, well-used but meticulously kept in good condition by the villagers. It was quite a big and busy village, almost a town. This was in part due to its location as the centre of a clutch of similar villages scattered around the mountains.

I had a skill. The skill was, while not unique, relatively valuable to that village. I offered my services in return for a roof over my head, food, and for something to do to pass the time. It was partly the reason the villagers accepted me – they didn’t know anything about big metropolises, but they understood a skilled craftsman, especially a useful one, and for that reason I quickly became part of the community.


It’s creating time!

I am a terrible procrastinator. I’ve been trying for some time to change that. Among the things I did was to read widely on the internet about time management, yadda yadda efficiency and that sort of thing. Most of it seems completely generic,  unsubstantiated, and in most cases pulled directly from the author’s head on to paper. In a practical manner of speaking, they are worthless. There is the occasional gem or two of useful advice, but for the most part, they seem to be written by self-proclaimed experts and “specialists” capitalising on people’s insecurities.

A particularly well-received author spoke of the importance of scheduling “creative time” for “creating”. I get the feeling that his creative time was spent on thinking up funny advice like this. Can creativity be scheduled so conveniently? When inspiration (or deadlines) strikes, adrenaline courses through you and will tide you over typical physical limits. In the midst of an epiphany, you won’t feel sleepy. Conversely, when you are faced with a writer’s, or equivalent, block, no amount of redbull is going to keep you awake, and no amount of careful scheduling is going to save your sorry ass. I don’t know about that author, but personally I can never get inspiration to strike just when it is time for me to “create” and to wear off just as “creative time” is supposed to end. Perhaps he knows something I don’t, something that I will only know if i pay $99 and join his merry band of followers.

For the record, he’s not wrong – it is entirely possible to just sit down and start drawing, doodling, writing, painting, composing something, but it seems extremely farcical and presumptous to assume that the resulting piece of work is going to be of any quality.

On that tangent, I wonder how many people involved in the arts – (music, literature, design etc) lead highly ordered and organised lives with perfect, sparkling daily schedules.  Or if this has any effect on the quality of their work. I have the impression that for most of the talented individuals, their whole life is one block of “creative time”, 24/7, and everything else is an afterthought. Saying that, I don’t know where architecture fits in all this – most will not admit it is “merely” art, and similarly most will not admit it is “merely” science. Being stuck somewhere in between is the worst place to be, is all I’m saying. It’s as if you have to be all emo and moody a la Beethoven, but as precise and accurate as an engineer. I guess it’s not a surprise that me, at least, fail terribly at being both.

Anyway, to finish up, one is a bestselling author, or so he claims, and I am a struggling student. I know whose advice I’d take.

I told myself not to read anything unrelated to uni until it finishes, which is after all only 5 weeks from now, but of course when I make promises I tend to break them as soon as I can. So, with the discovery of Fopp in Glasgow city centre (TWO of them), I am now broke from buying books when I should really NOT be doing so.

Among one of my purchases is Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, which I started to read while accompanying Flora at work and couldn’t put it down, so I finished it quickly.If you can’t beat them, join them… Interestingly, there is a Komura Memorial Library (fictitious, unfortunately) in it that’s quite a pivotal plot device in the story, so I can proudly say it added a new dimension to my own uni project. Yes, really…. Of course, now the library I need to design for my studio project will end up looking like my own interpretation of that traditional Japanese library, albeit with German & Scottish & Malaysian twists. Ahh.. what a mess of cross-cultural influences.

Anyway, seeing all the references to Franz Kafka only made me realise acutely I’ve still not read any of his works yet, something I”ve been meaning to do for more than a year, so the next day I went and bought Kafka’s The Castle at the same Fopp. :)

Other books I bought: Another Murakami book – Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and 3 books that would be categorised under “Scottish Interest”.

Form, Space and order

For an old college assignment way back in my very first year I had to refer to Francis D.K. Ching’s seminal work Form, Space and Order. At least, that was the idea, but I took one look at it, didn’t understand anything (which is ironic seeing that 75% of it is drawings and illustrations) and did something else. At that particular point in time, “doing something else” was likely to be looking for Kelvin, a Sabahan of indeterminate ethnicity (I never asked) I knew from work and picking up big bottles of beer at 7-11 and proceeded to get drunk whereever we happened to be, which too often included erm… public places.

uhh..Moving along…

I picked it up in the uni library a couple days ago, and going through it in my penultimate year of architectural education and with 20/20 hindsight it’s suprising how many of the things in the book are now intimately familar to me and how some of them are practically second nature thought processes when plowing through design studio work. Of course, I suppose the idea is for a “successful” architect, so to speak, to be intimately familar with EVERY single idea the book expounds.

Anyhow. I don’t know about others, but Frank Ching left deep impressions on me (not thaatt first time, of course). It’s remarkable how well the guy can draw, and all in pencil to boot. Excellent book, very good. Wished I looked it in sometime between my first year and my second last year. Better late than never, I suppose. Even more, I wished the lecturer who introduced me to it in the first place did a better job at the introducing. But. Architecture has always been a very self-motivated and individualistic area of study; there is only one direction responsibility should eventually fall on, really.  :)


If I say so myself, I have a reasonably good memory for information – I find it easy to remember things like names, numbers, dates, details etc. Seriously, considering all the external, silicon-microchips-run brains (exobrains..?)  available to us right this moment, I don’t find that a particularly useful skill.

As it is, I have a terrible habit of forgetting important stuff. Life-changing stuff. Stuff like the lessons I learn (or were forced on me) in life. I can’t help but wonder why, constantly. I have a vague suspicion that answers, or the beginning of answers, can be found in some Kundera stuff I read last year (The Book of Laughter & Forgetting), but I can’t remember exactly what.

When I first came to Glasgow in 2007, I met a classmate whom I later realised I had some similarities with, at least as far as working habits are concerned. For the record, that’s not a flattering observation. Now though, in 2010, the classmate is still around but the similarities don’t exist anymore. Some people live and learn, some people (me) live and learn but always forget….

This being the fourth year of architorture and all that jazz, the lessons forgotten are costly and exacting!

Anyway – the March deadline has come and passed, and the dissertation is a thing of the past. Had nearly a week’s break with two Ian Rankins I picked up in Bristol, of all places, a year ago, and a couple of parties for Alistair’s & Janice’s birthdays. Rankin’s Inspector Rebus novels cast Edinburgh & Scotland in a strong Noir-ish light; I have to say it fits very well. I’ve been meaning to read more fiction set in Scotland, but the few I tried back in 2007 were rubbish.

Pre-Easter interim crit Thursday 9am. 1m wide x 2m high wall pin-up space allocated for each student. It is now Monday afternoon; I have nothing pinnable as yet. What’s that saying again, the one about resting so you can walk further?

The All England Badminton Championships 2010 starts from March 9-14 at Birmingham NEC!!! AND Where will I be?

Yeah, at home with my dissertation & studio…. this sucks.

Way back in December, I had already *decided* to go… was practically paying for my tickets online when I thought to check my handbook to find the date for dissertation deadline and it was…. March 16. So now, my body is in Glasgow and my soul in Birmingham~

Anyway, considering China’s performance last year, one hopes that they will leave something for others this year….preferably a Malaysian… ngek

On an unrelated note, it seems that my annoying persistence in bugging people to play badminton with me had the desired effect. When we started uni in Oct only me had Pei Fun had rackets; Now, everyone has at least one… and in the busiest period, we are still playing once or twice a week at the uni sports hall. Cheers!