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Archive for February, 2009

Wins Art

Last week a former classmate told me that Uncle Win had passed away. I don’t think Uncle Win was his real name, but he was the proprietor of Wins Art, an art shop selling all sorts of art supplies. Because of its relatively cheap prices, it was a hit with most design students studying in the Klang Valley. Wins Art also operated a large-format printing service that was again an instant hit, because it was at least 30% cheaper than the nearest competitor.

Things may have changed now with all the new shops, but the best thing was that Uncle Win was highly “understanding” of students’ last-minute predicaments (and alert to opportunities to rake in more profits) and stayed open for as long as you needed him to. On crucial nights he’d open to 11pm, 1am, 3am, and it’s known that he’ll keep his shop open 24 hours if he has to (of course he went home lah, it’s the assistant who stays). He’d even drive over from his place to open the shop for 10 minutes just so you could get your prints done on a Sunday, when it was not typically open.

Me and my classmates are notorious for our (lack of) punctuality, and he and his wife saved our collective asses so many times it wasn’t even funny. To be fair, I suppose he is more lenient towards regular customers, but as I said, that’s practically every single design student in the Klang Valley, so that’s still saying alot about him.

Unlike the spotless, impeccably neat and extremely well-organised art shops of Western Europe, everyone who has ever been to his shop in Taman Mayang Jaya (just off the Kelana Jaya LRT station) will be given the unique “wins experience”. The interior of the shop is quite a sight. Looking at the dark, impossibly messy and very (and i mean VERY) claustrophobic interior, one just wonders how anyone finds anything. All sorts of art-related stuff stacked on more art-related stuff, propped against art-related stuff, lying on art-related stuff, incomprehensible mounds of unknown art-related stuff  in boxes, folders, cases, bookcases, shelves, drawers, and the really large art-related stuff outisde, propped against the outside wall- gigantic pieces of corrugated board, polystyrene boards,  a large cutting table. Talk about an interactive + public shopfront. A place that would no doubt violate all sorts of health, safety and fire regulations (to say the least).

No worries though, ’cause if what you want is available, Uncle Win and his small team of ever-changing assistants will magically make it appear from the depths of the shop no matter how obscure you might think it is. Often if you have a list it is easiest to give the list to one of the staff and let them do the job. When you have alot of customers it becomes complicated because of the aforementioned mess and claustrophobic interior, and that often translates to a very long period of time wasted just waiting.

That meant it was critical to pick the correct time to go, as at peak periods it is highly likely that popping in to “just get some materials and do a quick a1 print” will take you 90 minutes instead of 15 minutes. I can say from experience that there is nothing more frustrating then getting to Wins Art early in the morning hoping to find it empty, only to find someone who has no idea how to print large-format panels hogging the plotter for 2 hours. It really boils my potatoes.

All in all, Win’s Art was, however unofficially and unlikely to have come to so, an integral part of my diploma education. For better or for worse, memories of the store and the super-kind people (including the shop assistant who traded stories and music collection with me as we waited for the plotter) are deeply etched in me, and forms an essential part of my experiences in the 3 years of studying for the diploma. I wish all the best for the family.

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Futuristic Super-Suits

Last week the issue of newspapers, quality reporting and their dwindling revenue streams was discussed on a few places on the internet, and by that I mean TIME published an article and there was a half-hearted discussion on several high-profile blogs.

The author of TIME’s article suggested using micropayments to “make reporting profitable again”, as it’s becoming quite apparent that many younger people not obsessed with printed newspapers will cancel subscriptions/never subscribe because almost all newspapers give out the same news online for free.

That’s another indicator of how customs of the last century is changing rapidly. It’s 10 years into the 21st century, and many things as we know it (the whole economy for starters) is being fundamentally reshaped by the changes the internet brought to everyday life. It’s uprooting a series of traditions one by one that were accepted as the norm for much of the last century.

I assume many more traditions will fall like a row of dominoes in the following years, and we will all start wearing futuristic super-suits. I don’t read/watch much science fiction, but I liked Issac Asimov and Frank Herbert when I was younger, and I wonder if we will move towards that direction. I also read George Orwell, and I can say with certainty I DON’T like an Orwellian future. Unfortunately, of these three authors only the Orwellian conditions seem to exist, even though it’s 25 years past 1984 (and Orwell should be way irrelevant now!).

I don’t like that, and it makes me sick that a future as described by Orwell does exist (at least in abstracted interpretations) in real life. At certain times it seems that certain governments study the book religiously and adopt whatever techniques they can get away with in today’s legal system.

I know the post started out talking about newspapers, but I was just planning to talk a little about the future. I am after all not informed enough to comment on the newspaper issues, but I do know that because of people like me enjoying all that quality reporting for free, established newspapers are in big trouble if they don’t do something fast. All the smart people have better think up something quick, and I will just stare and nod wisely as the present gives way to the future.

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I read in the news last week that a British teenager died on board a train in Thailand. Apparently he had a undiagnosed and rare thingy that caused a blood vessel in his brain to burst.  It’s also hard or impossible to diagnose it until it happens, which is a little too late. It’s triggered by stress and excitement, and the coroner thinks he was too excited about his backpacking trip in Thailand.

That’s really sad, and a unfortunate reminder to constantly re-evaluate your philosophy and principles in life. The most pragmatic philosophy will always be don’t worry, be happy! Live in the moment, memento mori and carpe diem! (remember death(your mortality) + seize the day)

It’s nice if you roughly get the meaning of these phrases, but if you don’t, wikipedia is an excellent place to start as the ideological concepts of memento mori is rather vast. But for all you people that are allergic to too many words, here is a picture that will help:

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credit: http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/2007/04/armour-to-paper-on-origins-of-etching.html

I bet the picture is full of allegories that I won’t even try to explore, but what you can see is rather clear: death paying unexpected visits on two ancient partygoers.

As for carpe diem, that doesn’t need much explanation: a popular saying of biblical origin says it all: eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

I first came across these latin phrases while researching for a paper on baroque architecture years ago. I eventually spent a whole afternoon alone in the eerie PAM Library in KL reading, though my fascination with the socio-cultural events of post-Renaissance Europe didn’t really contribute to the essay.

It’s a tough period of economic recession and many problems in the world, but here’s a friendly reminder to cheer up and be happy!

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A little bit of explanation

It doesn’t show, but I have been operating on a different modus operandi recently. If you come here often, you might have noticed updates were more regular recently then they ever have been. That’s because I now do all my blogging in a couple of hours in one day, usually the weekend, finishing 3 or 4 posts and then I schedule them to be published every other day or so during the course of the next week.

After that, before the next weekend approaches, I use the bits and pieces of “vacant” time in everyone’s life,  5 minutes here, 15 minutes there, to come up with several drafts, to be consolidated, edited, and then published/scheduled during the one designated day. It saves time, it ensures regularity, it improves the quality of my posts, and I manage to be more efficient in my time management as well.

It worked fine for two weeks, but this week I incorporated a new, radical program into my weekly schedule (to be elaborated in the near future), and the first week was kinda frantic  – it was impossible to find the time to go through and complete my drafts.

You might ask why do I go to all that trouble, considering no one’s gonna miss a couple of posts here and there, especially since this blog is half-dead at best. Well, as they say, everything happens for a reason. I, however, am not 100% certain what exactly the reason is at this moment, but as the visionaries say, I have a dream…….

(but I have a lot of dreams, that never come true, and I continue to be a dreamer. No change there, and it’s prudent to assume it’s just another of my many stories/plans……)

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Summer + Farewell

As early as May, people start thronging the banks of the Graslei, singly, or in groups and in droves. Drinking, smoking weed and stoning  (Netherlands is but a short trip away), playing music, talking, snacking, hugging, kissing, anything… In waves they come, from early in the morning till late at night.

At midnight the lights of St Michael’s turns off, as do the lights of the pretty 19th century buildings lining the edge of the canal. It is the sign that it’s time to adjourn to the many bars, clubs, and cafes (just the local word for pubs) for what is basically a continuation of the consumption of alcohol, talking, listening to music, chilling…

Trust me, though you see boys and girls and men and women holding beer cans and bottles from as early as mid-morning, there’s rarely a drunk to be seen on the streets, and you’re safe to walk around the city even at 5am, alone. (I should know, I did that more then it was generally advisable to)

Anyway, true to that tradition, we (I and the rest of the International Studio) spent many hours on the banks of the graslei, drinking beer and eating crisps, chips, fries, and whatever, often going after class for a quick drink, and then later at night again for a “long” drink.

There isn’t much photos (because taking photos was not high on our agenda during such times), but here are some taken on one of the last nights we hung out together, before everyone separated and returned to their own lives.

It was a happy night as usual, but there was an unusual poignancy in the air – an end to months of friendship and camaraderie.

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An disproportionate amount of the Spanish were in the photo. Don’t know why.

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Andres and Krzyszstof (Spelling his name always gives me a headache. Don’t even think about pronouncing it)

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Uiko, Wiert and Me. At least I think that’s Uiko.

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Complicated Stories

After I returned to the UK from Belgium I was quite the anti-social hermit, but recently I’ve stepped out of my shell, and as a result I’ve had to answer the question that always comes up: where are you from, and what are you doing in a town in Hertfordshire?

It can get rather complicated at times when I try to explain the details of my recent work/education history to people whom I’ve just met. In London, strange and wonderful stories are a dime a dozen, but in the smaller towns it’s less likely to meet someone who came from a country smack on the equator, is “supposed” to be studying in Glasgow then somehow ended up in Herts after misadventures in Belgium and London.

At the very least it gives me something to talk about, at most it causes confusion attributed to not understanding my words (which happens more than you think).

This is the kind of life I enjoy – bumming around, going from place to place. An interesting fact: I’ve not stayed in any place for more then 6 months since Sept 2007.  Life is so much more fun this way, though you won’t think so when you are spending days and days of packing every once a while…

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“damn, where the fuck is the nail clipper?” – Camden Town, London, while preparing to move.

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Amazon recently released its Kindle 2 E-reader in the States for a price considered expensive even by their standards. When China releases the Chinese equivalent at one-twentieth of the price (and quality I might add) I can well imagine its viability in Malaysia and Singapore.

Even when I was finishing primary school, which is a good decade ago now, kids were hefting ever heavier backpacks – I made it my mission to bring as little books as possible (you would be surprised how much books you can not bring, if you ignore the fact that you actually need to study in school), but it wasn’t the same for the more kiasu (competitive) kids in class.

I remember some of my classmates having competitions to see who carried the heaviest bags! The winner was something in the region of 19kg. Completely nuts. A standard E-reader will solve all that problem, and same goes for all the high school kids, university kids, college kids.

The downside is that you can not use the “I left my work at home”  or “I lost my exercise book” excuses any more, which kinda makes it harder for one to be lazy so the parents will still be generally supportive of the e-reader.

Speaking of parents, they might be wary of kids carrying such expensive gadgets around, but then again the Chinese will make it affordable for everyone, and I suspect protection and gadget security will become much more advanced in the future.

This might be further in the future, but I imagine a Kindle + Tablet for the design-based students; they can then sketch on it, and never be afraid of losing their sketches ever again. Seeing that most people now scan their sketches into the computer for photoshopping anyway, sketching directly on the Kindle + Tablet will just skip the cumbersome part and you can go straight into digital coloring.

If the sheer amount of paper used by just one design student for just one project is ever known to the environmentalists, designers will have something to worry about other than tight deadlines.

While we’re on the subject of environmentalists, they will just love it to bits. Think of how many trees you save from not having to print all those books and papers. They will go nuts with delight.

Last point: traditionalists worry about the effect this will have on books, that it will further accelerate the demise of reading/books. I say they needn’t worry. Reading is almost extinct in Malaysia anyway; many Malaysians don’t give a damn about books and/or reading. In fact, since you can also read blogs, newspapers, magazines aside in it, e-readers and e-books will be the only hopes of rekindling the reading habit in Malaysia.

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