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Nov. 28th, 2017

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Fandom things and writing (mostly)

My poor, sad, neglected NaNoWriMo...I'm still stuck at about 15k. Oh well! I've decided to let it be for this year. I know I didn't do the best job organising myself for uni and a month of heavy duty writing, along with my other responsibilities (the Secret Santa I'm organising, the Secret Santa I'm participating in, the a capella group I'm running, plus a bunch of other stuff), so I'm not beating myself up over it. I'm going to take it slow - also because I did a projection of the novel's wordcount going by chapter length so far, and it would be a whopping 120k. Which is certainly not ideal for a debut YA fantasy! So I've set new chapter targets to bring it down to about 95k and I'll need to mull over the work more to make it succinct and meaningful. I'm looking forward to it, actually! I've been personally critical of the quality of my writing over the last few months, so it'll be good to slow down and consider my work a little more. I also need to finish my Coursera creative writing courses which should help :D

I'm going to start on the 30 Day Character Study for SWG really soon. I haven't yet decided on who I want to study! I've got a shortlist of Isildur, Dior, Finrod, or Nimloth. Love the Elendili and the Doriathrim in equal measure (and just Finrod in general because who doesn't) so it'll for sure be a tough decision!

The Tumblr Secret Santa is going stunningly - we're currently at 176 participants which is above and beyond what I expected! I'm really excited. November 30th-December 1st is going to be a mental couple of days though, matching everyone and sending out pairs and suchlike. Somehow I've got to fit in writing multiple essays and prepping for finals between all that.

As far as other fandom things go, I recently got back into Warriors, a series I used to read when I was 12 (lol). I mean it's basically Game of Thrones with cats so, the older you get, the more you intuit the subtext behind certain actions/psychologies/situations which makes it more interesting. Also - quite painfully - you come to realise your favourite character isn't that great. Alas! Still love him though. I also joined the Warriors Amino since the official message boards closed down, and it's nice to see that members are both new readers and adults like myself who used to enjoy the books :) It's actually so good to have that spread of experiences, because there've already been incidents in the discussions where a more experienced person has had to step in and be a voice of reason. Because, you know, teenagers on the internet. It can get messy - and since fandom is family, we gotta help each other out.

Beyond that, I've also got a few other fics in the pipeline that I'd love to finish before February, if I can - a short multichapter Dagorlad story, a Sauron-on-the-way-to-Numenor oneshot, and the first two chapters of my Lion King-Hamlet crossover.

Also, I got back in touch with my dad, which is pretty huge. We hadn't talked since before Easter 2016 but we've both 1) gotten over ourselves and 2) matured enough to know we ought to get over ourselves. Funny isn't it? A dad and kid learning the same lessons at the same time, 35 years apart. It's been good to talk more freely without worrying about it devolving into an argument. I had no idea he was so involved in aid and development; my mum had always told me he was some kind of businessman (b/c they're split up and we lived in different countries and I didn't really talk to him in depth until I was a teen).




This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)

Nov. 20th, 2017

scar

El Rey León

So, last Friday was my birthday and I had the amazing opportunity to go see El Rey León (The Lion King) at the Teatro Lope de Vega in Madrid. I'd seen the musical once, in 2011 when it toured to Singapore, but I hardly remembered it. I credit that to the fact that the theatre was newly built, and we didn't know there'd be a huge bar on the first circle railing blocking us poor short people and making us bob up and down to enjoy anything. 

So of course, being a complete Lion King fanatic and knowing it was playing I decided to give myself a birthday treat and go watch it with a dear friend of mine. We went for the 18:00 show and were seated brilliantly - about 6 rows back, in the stage right stalls, just beneath the ethnic percussionists. When the curtain went up and the familiar "Nants' ingonyama bagithi, baba" was called, it was magical. In the musical there's a call and response segment before it gets into the song, and one of the singers was directly above us where the percussionists were! It was such a treat to look up and see him singing in isiXhosa with his ram mask right over our heads! And then I totally lost it when the giant elephant puppet made its way between the rows. I was cheering by the time the lights went down for the scene change.

Now, the actors. I was really looking forward to seeing Sergei Albert as Scar and I was not disappointed. He really sold it in his voice, physicality, and facial expressions (which thank the lord I was close enough to see, because they were hilarious). Really, I have high standards for non-Irons versions of Scar, and thankfully Albert lived up to them! The child actors weren't fantastic, although - somewhat appropriately - Nala had a stronger voice both as a child and an adult. Adult Nala absolutely slayed "Shadowland", one of my favourite songs - when she got to the "Giza buyabo" section my heart palpitated and the frisson was off the charts. I'm sad Simba couldn't do the same for "Endless Night". For me personally Mufasa was also a bit of a letdown despite him using cool swords to fight (his reverberating 'Recuerda...' just didn't quite have the same gravity), but Zazu was an icon. We were all laughing like lunatics whenever he was onstage. 

Onto staging and favourite scenes. First, what a beautifully staged play. The set was used to great effect - particularly the stunningly executed stampede scene and the eerie elephant graveyard. Further, the show is unparalleled in terms of costuming. The masks and makeup are amazingly intricate. My favourite costumes were those of the lionesses, and the colourful ensemble outfits from the reprise of "He Lives In You." One other thing that struck me straight away - and made me squee - was their use of wayang kulit inspired puppetry. It was used to great effect in transition scenes - the most striking was the depiction of Scar taking Simba to the gorge. Such intricate work on the shadow puppets!

I adored any scenes with the lionesses. The dancers moved with such grace and purpose, really encapsulating leonine movements with every stride. I really loved the whole sequence of the "He Lives In You" reprise - the way they constructed Mufasas's face in the stars, and how immense it was; and the transition to that triumphant reprise with the colourful chorus dancing and beaming and singing with such unbridled joy. I was also stunned and shaken by how powerful the mourning scene was after Mufasa's death. The keening wails of the bereaved lionesses pulling tears from their eyes, Rafiki's mournful lament with segments from Sarabi and Young Nala...both me and my friend spoke after about how deeply it chilled us. And speaking of the stampede, I have to say how perfectly executed (oops haha) the death itself was. When he was thrown from the cliff face he fell diagonally from near the ceiling to the floor while the lights flashed like lightning before the stage plunged into blackness. I think my heart stopped for a moment. It was great.

One thing I do have to talk about, since it's the musical: 'The Madness of King Scar'. I was very happy to learn that at least a small segment of the song had survived into the current incarnation of the musical, even if it lacked his wonderfully Shakespearean fit of madness. It did keep, however, the admittedly uncomfortable moment where in his madness he tries to seduce Nala into being his queen. The, uh, blocking shocked both my friend and I, and I'm not talking about the tango. Somehow I feel there was a subtle political comment about certain world leaders in the action of him grabbing her upper thigh. That said, while understanding Julie Taymor's inclusion of the scene to give Nala a bigger part, and motivation, and resurrect a lost piece of the film...after seeing it live, I'm more convinced than ever that it should have stayed dead. It's hardly unrealistic, but it feels inconsistent with Scar's character. I really can't envision him going to these lengths. Hell, sometimes I even wonder how he clawed his way out of all those layers of apathy to murder Mufasa. I don’t know. I both like and dislike the inclusion. I guess it boils down to how i want to remember the character in all his wretched villainy. There was a good essay about the this scene that I read once (yeah, he's my favourite character, of course I read essays about him) and I'll link it as soon as I find it. EDIT: Link here.

It was definitely interesting seeing the musical in Spanish. My Spanish still isn't good (woe is me) and I credit my understanding to the fact that the script is nearly the same as the film and I've got that basically memorised. It was still a good learning experience though! I could hear some grammatical forms put into practice so I better understood how they were used; and intonation, I think was the most interesting - line delivery to effect a certain meaning isn't the same in all languages, after all. 

All in all, it was a wonderful, magical, stunning evening. They really blew it out of the water with this one. I can't wait to see it again (in English) next year, when it tours back to Singapore.

p.s. I'll be posting some pictures of the theatre and my little birthday gift/souvenir soon! This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)

Jun. 24th, 2017

Cityscape

(cries in elvish)

 please take a moment to mourn my entire post that i just lost by accidentally clicking away and returning to a blank autosaved draft

Essentially, it consisted of the jubilant announcement that I have at last finished my entry for the Hero's Journey Matryoshka Challenge. It was definitely a challenge!!! I definitely enjoyed it nonetheless. 

Then, an apology for the absence because I was travelling in Europe with my mother.

Then I ranted a bit about my writing projects, which were basically:
  1. Camp NaNoWriMo this July. An 80k word overhaul of my 2016 attempt.
  2. Golden Point Awards entry (a Singaporean literary competition).
  3. Writeup of my Russia trip.
  4. Writeup of my Europe trip.
  5. Completing my first 'villain treatise' (which is basically a quasi-analytical rant)
Then I was excited about starting Malay lessons in two weeks!

And then I mentioned the books I'm currently reading now that I have time - Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, and The Unfinished Tales by Professor Tolkien.

Sorry for this slapdash summary, I'm so heartbroken about that lost post and it's too late to write it nicely again :(

This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)

Jun. 5th, 2017

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A Quick Hello

 I just wanted to post a quick update! I'm currently travelling around Europe with mum for the beginning of the summer before heading back to Singapore for the rest of the vacation. Right now I'm working on my stalled recount of my trip to Russia in April. Thanks to many train rides between Normandy and Paris and Cologne and Amsterdam and Norway, I'll be able to finally finish it! 

Soon I'll be posting my entry for the SWG's Matryoshka challenge as well, and I really look forward to doing it! I've also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, to help me get down a new first draft of my original novel. It's in a much better place now.

Train just pulled into Cologne! I can't wait to catch everyone up with our wonderful trip through Europe. 
This is crosspoted on my
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&nbsp;I just wanted to post a quick update! I'm currently travelling around Europe with mum for the beginning of the summer before heading back to Singapore for the rest of the vacation. Right now I'm working on my stalled recount of my trip to Russia in April. Thanks to many train rides between Normandy and Paris and Cologne and Amsterdam and Norway, I'll be able to finally finish it!&nbsp;<br /><br />Soon I'll be posting my entry for the SWG's Matryoshka challenge as well, and I really look forward to doing it! I've also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, to help me get down a new first draft of my original novel. It's in a much better place now.<br /><br />Train just pulled into Cologne! I can't wait to catch everyone up with our wonderful trip through Europe.&nbsp;<br type="_moz" /> <em>This is crosspoted on my <a href="https://fernstrike.dreamwidth.org/"Dreamwidth</a>! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)</em>
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May. 11th, 2017

Cityscape

The End of Finals and the Last Essays

(That title is a not-so subtle allusion to a certain Francis Fukuyama essay that's been referenced one too many times this academic year)

I just finished my last final today! Hooray!! I can write an actual, proper post in longwinded prose because I suddenly have free minutes! Despite the relief though, it's been rather a terrible week, if I'm perfectly honest. I'm going to divvy this up into a couple of parts.

Recount of my strange sickly spell interspersed with finals drama

Saturday night, halfway through comforting a friend (who'd abruptly gone from being in a relationship to single) with wine and ice-cream and Netflix, I had a pain in my neck - must be a pulled muscle, I thought. Of course, when the fever started on Sunday afternoon, I realised that it was, in fact, a swollen lymph node. I didn't even know you had lymph nodes in that part of the neck. I was convinced they only turned up under the jaw (usual place). But a quick look at a diagram and it's true, there are some just under the ear and along the side of the neck. Anyway, everything went downhill from there, just in time for finals week! I had a fever all through Monday which made study impossible. That night it devolved into a high fever, which was dreadful. Tuesday was my history final, and I feel dreadful, because I don't really know what I wrote. I was still in the fever haze for the first forty or so minutes. I can only hope it was something comprehensible about the post-WWII Soviet strategy and Samuel P. Huntington's Clash of Civilisations - and hopefully good enough for a pass, if not something better.

The second Tuesday of every month, our university holds a Catholic mass in the chapel on campus (campus is a converted abbey, which is why we have a chapel - so might as well use it!). I'm not a Catholic in any way, but I enjoy the mass, the chapel is a beautiful place of worship, and it's a wonderful way to find some peace in the middle of a hectic life. So I went on Tuesday, and it was good for me, even if the fever ended up coming back that afternoon. I had a lovely close to the evening in any case - the sky, and my eyes, were blessed with a stunning sunset - golden, orange, red, pink, purple, lilac, and blue, all fading into one another. Couple that with the baby birds wheeling through the sky on their new wings, and it was a wonderful, unlooked for end to a difficult day. That's not the end of it though - when I sat back down and opened my computer to study for my macroeconomics final and write an essay for the subject due on the same day - I see an email from our professor extending the deadline until Friday night. I don't know if sunsets and extensions are happy coincidences or answered prayers, but they gave me a ray of hope at a time when my body was frail, my mind couldn't compensate, and I honestly wasn't sure I would survive the week with anything good to show for it.

Wednesday we had our business management final (it's a module we are all required to take). I think I did okay? I hope I did. It's a subject that's actually pretty intuitive but is made convoluted and bewildering by terminology and structure of content. And right after that, endless macroeconomics study. I'm happy the fever went away - and stayed away - so I could work for the final I was most worried about. We went all the way until 9pm, at which time we had a farewell dinner for our residence hall (so touching of them to organise it). We're all moving out for the next year - I'm excited to share photos of our apartment once we're back in September!

And today, econs! Or rather - egads! It was interesting to say the least. I woke up with a stiff neck (curtesy of still-swollen lymph nodes) and walked in to a paper with one too many questions about the topics we'd studied right at the start! Oops! I'd only spared those a cursory glance. Big mistake. But I think I solved the problems well enough. At least for this course, we need only pass either midterm or final in order to pass (all other things considered), and I did very well on the midterm! And all other things considered, my problem sets and theory during the course have been very good too - surprisingly better than microeconomics?? I barely scraped a pass in that subject (I'm doing this degree for the humanities parts guys), but I'm actually doing good in the - supposedly - harder aspect of it. Well, I've nought to complain! Even if this exam wasn't good, I'm quite confident I'll pass the subject :-) I've been relaxing all day since. I was going to play Shadow of Mordor on a whim, only to discover that while the thumbnail remained on my Macbook's Launchpad, I had, in fact, deleted the game at some point. You can imagine my anguish. That's alright - I mostly just relaxed, read, and wrote since then. I'll be taking a break (not sure yet whether the whole evening), and tomorrow, I'm going to chiong* until that macroeconomics essay is done!


*A word we use in Singlish** - of Hokkien*** origin I think - that basically means to work really really hard nonstop. It's also a double entendre though if I'm not mistaken (because of tones in Chinese languages)

**Singapore's creole - used informally, like between friends (not officially...they make sure we learn actual English in school haha, even if success is sometimes questionable). It's made of English, Hokkien, Malay, some Tamil as well I think? Also maybe some other Chinese language families? I can write a whole post about it, it's pretty cool

***A language from southern China, related to Teochew. It was once a lingua franca of the traders in the region.


Updates on fun creative things I'm doing

My friend and I, who'll be flatmates next year, have started work on a crazy brainchild of ours. We want to start an Inklings-esque community in our university. Not exactly the same - but the principle is. It's going to be an informal discussion group, where we get to talk about literature and books and writing and philosophy and history and music. Oh, and bake and knit of course. Hence its original codename - The Grandma Club. Of course, we needed something a bit more exciting than that to entice students! My friend came up with two brilliant ideas - Bookish Elves is the first (a play on 'bookshelves' and the fact that I'm a Tolkien nerd who's drawn her into the realm of nerd-dom. We're having a LotR marathon next week and it's going to be amazing. I can't wait to share Tolkien with her - more than I already have, of course!). Musings was the second, inspired by the Greek muses. Not sure if we'll pick either of these, or come up with something else. We'll see. We've already got the GoogleDoc up and running and it's been bombarded with ideas! I'm so excited!!!

I've also gotten back into fic writing after several weeks of sad departure. I'm really bummed that I missed the deadline for the Woman's Sceptre Challenge! I couldn't finish though, truly - I had a great idea for the story, and I began work, but of course school had to be put ahead of it. It just hurt that it had to be done. My mum - who's quite spiritual - suggested that the swollen lymph nodes and pain in my throat could be a manifestation of blocked creativity, the inability to convey a message. I thought that was actually a really interesting and valid idea. So on top of painkillers and fever drugs, I've been trying to visualise to bring these things back into balance. Hopefully now that the fever itself is gone - and those blasted finals too - I can get down to letting out the creativity and writing! I'm going to try and post it to SWG by the end of the week, if I can. Then I can get to work on another fic brainchild that hit me midway through revision - a story about the War of the Last Alliance, told from Thranduil's perspective. I already got down ideas for the first chapter and I'm so stoked to get it done! On top of that, I'll have time to work - at last - on my slow-going fic series about Mairon/Sauron. It's going to take time to write, despite actually being quite short, because it's so character heavy, but I've had fun getting ideas down so far, and it's going to be great to jot more down.

Other than that, I've just been working on my original novel a bit today (trying to figure out geography, different kindreds, celestial hierarchy). And I'm going to start reading again! READING! When was the last time I read something that wasn't a political treatise or UN Resolution or Keynesian theory explanation? I'm sooo excited.

This has been a monster of a post. Much love and hugs to you if you read the whole thing. And if you didn't, much love and hugs anyway because you deserve it.

-S


This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)</a>

Apr. 27th, 2017

Cityscape

Just an update!

My lord, it's been eons since I've posted on here! Or it feels like it, anyway. I just wanted to say hello, I'm alive and well, all is good, everything's swell.

We've got final after final and assignment after assignment rearing their ugly heads daily, which is why I haven't had time to do very much at all since I left for Russia. Speaking of which, I'm working on a [very lengthy!] write-up about my trip - we saw and did and learned so much in those 7 or so days, and there's a lot to share! The only thing is that I will post this reflection on Dreamwidth and share the link on LJ rather than directly crossposting. Because of the nature of my study and the country I traveled to, I necessarily had much to comment on in terms of the society, and I'd rather not risk any mines that might be lurking hidden in my writing. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and I will definitely be going back to Russia at some point in the future.


My political theory final is tomorrow. I'm not screaming into a pillow, what are you talking about? :P It shall certainly be easier than the midterm, of course. We are doing ideologies, essentially - conservatism, socialism/Marxism, liberalism, nationalism, war & peace - which is markedly easier than social contracts and governance theory. Still, I'm nervous! I have so much respect for my teacher and for the subject, and it's probably just overly high expectations of myself. I want to do really well.

Anyway, I hope to update soon with my reflection on Russia (and a link, for LJ), and with more about uni, fics, other writings, and other adventures!

-S


This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)

Apr. 8th, 2017

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The Briefest of Updates

So as a few of you know by now I was travelling to Moscow. I arrived yesterday, in fact, and it's been just brilliant so far. Because we are doing such a vast number of things over the short time period, and because I didn't bring my laptop, I'm going to wait to do a day-by-day log of the trip until after I'm back in Spain. I'm making notes for now but I definitely need more time than I have to write up my observations properly. For the rest of the Easter break I'll probably not be on LJ much, but I'll be back soon!

-S

Apr. 1st, 2017

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A Reflection On My First Ever B2MeM

Yesterday brought about the last day of Back To Middle-earth Month 2017. It was my first time ever taking part in it, and I had a marvellous time taking in the immense talent of the whole community and posting some of my own work too.
First, for my own personal achievements:

  • I wrote 12,435 words according to my wordcount on AO3 (!!!), over the course of 15 pieces

  • Some old fics of mine had new elements explored that make me keen to try a follow-up or two, particularly the Fourth Age stuff

  • I created OCs like the Númenorean healer Nilûphel that I'm keen to write more about, and found new problematic faves (sideways glance at Sauron) that I'm excited to explore in greater depth

  • Characters I hardly knew or never thought to write were written and I'm desperate to learn more about them and who they are, especially those in my Silmarillion-centric pieces

  • I learned so many new things about the legendarium and the lore, and got a chance to dig in deeper with the Silm fandom!

  • In an unintended but great side-effect, I was so inspired by all the different events and personalities I had a chance to explore, that I now have renewed inspiration for my original novel

Second, I want to try and express how wonderful it's been to be a part of the B2MeM community, though I'm not sure I can do the experience justice. I was nervous joining in, to be part of a group of amazingly talented people who've been a part of the online fandom presence for a long time. What I found though was a friendly community of warm and encouraging people who shared a love for some amazing source material and expressed that love in writing and artwork that never ceased to blow my mind. Really - everything that had been posted has just been mind-blowingly good. More than that - everyone has been so welcoming and so positive, and I didn't feel like an outsider. It was a group of fans exploring a world, characters, and story that they loved, and it's been one of the great highlights of my year so far. I didn't get a chance to read and view everything, and so I'm still going to be doing that in the days to come.

I want to say a big thank you to the
organisers of B2MeM and to all the participants for an absolutely wonderful month! :-) I also want to thank each and every one of you who read my fics or saw my artwork. Thank you for your immensely supportive comments. I'm so glad you enjoyed my work. It was a pleasure to share it with you!

This is crosspoted on my Dreamwidth! Please feel free to leave a comment here or there :-)
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Mar. 28th, 2017

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Hooray, a birthday!

Happiest of birthdays to you, shirebound! Hope you have a wonderful day!

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Mar. 27th, 2017

Me

Need an opinion!

I've been thinking of setting up a Dreamwidth journal since a lot of Tolkien fans seem to be over there too. Folks who are on Dreamwidth, or aren't, but know a little about it, would you recommend making an account? What are the main differences between it and LJ? If you're on Dreamwidth, what's the reason? :-) Thanks in advance for the advice guys.
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