Cosplay starting getting bigger. Some of my friends were interviewed by Channel 8, and there was some articles in the newspapers about it, but the aunties selling clothes in Chinatown still had no idea what I was buying all this cloth for, so all I was able to tell them was that it was for a 穿夸张的衣服表演（performance where you wore exaggerated clothes)
We move on to 2005. Joash stepped down to pursue other, better things and so did most of the original board members. The MAC was renamed the Shiro Tsubasa Animation Club at this point. (someone also forgot to tell them that it actually should have been the Shiro(i) Animation Club, because you need an -i with adjectives, like white)
I’ll admit that I don’t know much about this period because there was so much Drama that I bowed out. Why the drama, you ask? Well, a friend of mine (you know who you are) put it best…get a bunch of young people who parade around in fantastic costumes where they try to outdo each other in how good they good together and drama of some kind is bound to ensue.
I left the politics to the people who were interested in them and I concentrated on well, cosplaying. I was never really good at sewing and but I loved making armor, and what I really enjoyed was design – envisioning the costume from scratch and creating it piece by piece. So that was what I did. I hung out with friends and we talked about games and anime and what we were going to cosplay and I led a team to a pretty successful event.
I’d like to include some pictures with all these memories but the simple fact of the matter is that I have very few of them. This was a time before handphones and I think I have lost the original negatives of the photos that I did manage to take. Plus there is the need to respect others privacy. So you’ll have to make do with what images my words can conjure.
Time moved on and 2008 rolled around. A year or so afterwards the anime boom had hit and there was no turning back – AFA came along on the scene and changed everything. The tide has turned from fan to professional and there was no stopping it. Where in the past we struggled to even get lighting and sound for a single expo hall, now we had world-class talent coming down multiple times a year. It was completely different now…deliveries from Taobao, weapons from Caesar’s, and the ability to actually commission things. It seemed like everyone knew what cosplay was, whereas before it had been a long and laborious process of explanation.
Part of me is still nostalgic for the Good Old Days, in which everyone knew everyone and watched the same series and…see, I’m showing my age again. The newer anime and cosplay fans today are growing up in a very different world, in which you can Google everything and series like Full Metal Panic and Shakugan no Shana are considered old (to me, stuff like Xabungle and Creamy Mami are considered old!)
Where you can look up on your handphone at any time and the aunties in Chinatown actually know what events are happening instead of giving you strange looks when you buy things. Where you can order from Taobao instead of having to hem and sew and stitch everything yourself. (Though I would heartily recommended you DON’T order everything from Taobao – the quality of the merchandise often leaves something to be desired.)
I left the scene around this time due to the copious amounts of Drama (which I hate with a passion) in the scene and to deal with my own personal issues. I’m sure a lot has happened since then, but that will be a tale that someone else has to tell.
I haven’t even cosplayed in 8 years but as much as I have tried to deny it to myself, the urge is still there. I think it will always be there. Once bitten, the cosplay bug never really lets you go, try as hard I might to pull away from it. I still look at costumes and sigh and think about how I would do this, or that, with this pose or that look and that wig and argh…I guess I may actually bite the bullet and cosplay again someday.
Cosplay, anime…The Scene. Why is it that everyone who mentions it sounds like they are using capital letters? I don’t even where I go from here (or if I’ll even be in Singapore come next year) but it has been such a part of my life for so long that I felt I should at least write SOMETHING about it.
Cosplay itself has grown all over the world, even as its roots have spread from its parent tree in Japan to countries as far as Russia (man those Russian cosplayers are something else!) South America and even Israel. Nowadays even my dentist knows what it is. (did I mention he likes Naruto? and Sasuke Uchiha is his favorite character?)
Everyone, thanks for all the memories. And I wish all new anime fans all the best. May you have all the fun and excitement that I had all those years – no, even more! May your costumes fit ever in your favor, your props never break, and your wigs always remain in style.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…wait, no, wrong story, this one is about the Singapore cosplay and anime scene.
Where did it all start? No one really knows. Reports have come in from various sources that in ancient times, there was a group that was called the RKFC (Rurouni Kenshin Fan Club) who actually cosplayed in void decks and community clubs, where anime was only something you could find in VHS tapes and had to be more often than not ordered from the US of A.
And before that, another group of people enshrouded even further in mystery, the Black History (bonus points if you get the reference) of the Singapore anime cosplay scene. No one really knows what happened to those brave souls, or if they even cosplay anymore…I don’t think so, to be honest. They’re probably all married and with kids now.
But I like to imagine that they still have their old costumes which gather dust in some forgotten closet or another, to be taken out and examined at birthdays and Christmases with oohs and aaaahs and little children peering at them…ok I don’t think that will happen either.
But those are tales for another time. I can only tell my story and my own part in it, and so that’s what I shall do.
I was but a callow youth of 13 and had gotten my first taste of anime and all I knew that was that I wanted more. So did what any teenager with a computer would do – I used the Internet. I can’t remember how, but somehow I found my way to what in those days called the MAC, or Miyuki Animation Club. It was the first (and only) anime club in Singapore and I showed up a table in some hawker centre with my little sister and Mum in tow and I uttered the immortal words “Hi, I’m Zhou Tai An, a 14 year old Chinese male, and I’m interested in anime.” Yeah, it was like Alcoholics Anonymous and a dating site all rolled into one. Not the most normal of introductions, but there you go.
They were, however, a great bunch to hang out with. We talked about Robotech (remember, this was in 1995 or so) and Vampire Hunter D, and Ranma 1/2, and the other classics of that era. It’s been so long ago that I can’t quite remember everyone and everything, but I do recall saying “hey, don’t kick Saber Riber” while discussing the robot horses of Vampire Hunter D.
Saber Rider. Does anyone even still remember that when it aired on TV Tiga? TV Tigs doesn’t even exist anymore. Sigh. Memories!
(BTW, anime trivia fact – Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs was known as Sei Jushi Bismarck, but it wasn’t very successful in Japan, which is probably why it was sold to World Events Production on the cheap, just like a lot of other anime at that time.)
But back to Singapore cosplay. The founder and chairman of the MAC at that time was a guy named Mak Kum Shi. He was…not one the nicest of people. (Sorry Mak, but I have to tell it like it is.) He had ego issues. Big ones. He wanted everything to be done his way, all the time. He would listen to you but not really pay much attention to what you said or did, and he once dreamed up this crazy idea of making an animation featuring a girl riding a floating air-conditioner over Orchard Road. Yeah, the guy had issues alright.
Why the name MAC? Apparently he had a Japanese girlfriend named Miyuki once. Whether that is true or not, only the man (and perhaps the girlfriend) know.
There was still nothing by way of cosplay in Singapore at that time. MAC activities were limited to talking on forums, chatrooms and IRC, and occasionally watching anime together. Let’s fast forwards a couple of years or so.
There was this mailing list called SGAnime that it seemed every anime fan in Singapore was on.
The moderator was named Kujaku (though I believe she now goes by the handle Evacomics?) and there were some lively discussions held there. In the MAC, Mak eventually passed down the torch to a lady named Alice. She was a nice sort but not very hands-on when it came to leadership, and so all we did was meet up in Fengshan Community Centre to well, watch anime.
But enough about the behind the scenes politics. You want to know about cosplay. Back then there was only one event every year, the aptly named EOY, or End of Year.
I still remember that very first cosplay event. I went as Larva from Vampire Princess Miyu, and my sister went as Miyu (and my mother sewed her costume thinking that it would be the first and last time…how wrong she was!) Those are some of not only the happiest memories of my time spent cosplaying, but also of my entire life. My sister didn’t want me to go make a fool of myself onstage singing Getter Robo, so I contented myself with joining the crowd and singing Zankoku no Tenshi no Teeze instead, probably my favorite song in the whole Universe.
I met a lot of friends and compatriots there, most of whom still stay with me to this day. The highlight of that event was most probably the transforming Escaflowne, which a friend of mine made with loving detail from the Escaflowne artbook out of cardboard. It’s probably not a big deal by today’s technological standards, but hey, back then everyone gave him a huge round of applause. I even did a writeup of the event which is probably lost to time in some hard drive or something somewhere. Timewise this was probably about 2000 or so.
Here’s where I enter the picture again. Through the SGanime mailing list I met Joash Chee, whom I introduced to Alice at the first event, leading to him taking over the reins of leadership of the MAC. And so under Joash’s expert guidance the MAC flourished and grew strong. I know I’m making Joash out to be some kind of kingly figure but that is actually not so far from the truth. He was (and still is) one of the most capable administrators and leaders that I know.
At around this time Kareshi Kanojo no Mise (which is still around) popped up, Singapore’s only fine purveyor of anime merchandise. There were more EOYs, and more cosplays, and much joy and jubilation was had by all. Other events soon followed. There was Comic Fiesta (which I only attended twice) It’s technically not part of the Singapore anime scene but the Malaysian one, but since we were so closely related everyone I knew who went to one went to the other. J-rock was also on the rise and it started spilling over into cosplay as well, causing some tension between both fandoms. All in all it was a exciting time.
Felt pretty good today. I think I am shedding the idea that writing has got to be this incredibly emotional endeavor involving blood, sweat and random inspiration. You just have to get out of yourself and your head and let it flow. Easier said that done, but also easier done than said.
I sort of understand why I’m in such pain at some moments though. This is the second stage of rebirth, and no one ever said that was easy. In fact being born is probably the most painful thing ever…just ask any mother or newborn. Well you can’t ask the latter because they’re only a few minutes old, but the way they’re screaming should generally clue you in to what is happening.
Another poem for your perusal :
No one ever said that being born was easy
It’s probably the hardest thing one can either do
or have done to them.
But now as I am conscious I can feel these pains
more keenly, and I know that they are but
the birth pangs of a new creation
to be welcomed rather than cast aside.
I have never felt such kinship with
caterpillars of I do now
I look at the small white capsules of
their metamorphosis with kindness
what miracles of life and creation must be
working through their cocoons
their entire forms liquefying and combining
into something new.
Becoming a butterfly can be hard work.
I am trying my best
to greet each new day with anticipation
until I realize that I have no need to.
So much of the past has been going forwards,
but sometimes what you are searching for
comes to meet you instead.
Old habits die hard, but I can feel them breathing their last gasps inside of me. For once I am not trying to commit everyone to either words or thought, but just letting it happen – also both harder and easier than you might think.
Spend some more time with my friend, whom I have known for 15 years…a pretty long time. We went to Tatsu Hobby, the only Gundam store in the area.
That is a lot of Gunpla.
Amazing intro by my friend.
Only thing cooler than Gundam is Gundam with horse.
Valuable Pod is Valuable.
This guy continues the long tradition of Gundam antagonists that look like some kind of waterfowl.
If there is a Kirby, we must take a picture of it.
The rare Samus Arandam. The modeller did a great job on it.
I actually really want to watch Tekketsu no Orphans but at the same time I’m kind of afraid because it’s all about child soldiers and yeah…I can relate to that, sometimes too much.
Later went out with some of his friends, who were new anime fans, and I reflected once again on how things have changed and not changed. They still talk about the same things for the most part – which characters are coolest, who they’re going to cosplay next, which is your favorite scene in so and so…I guess geeks never change. I realized once again that I’ve been watching anime longer than most fans have been alive, and that really shakes me sometimes.
I sometimes think this self-reflection thing really goes on too far, and I’m sitting here thinking about life rather than going out there and living it. That’s true to a certain extent, but we do need some time to sort things out and hey, at least I’m writing it all down in the blog nowadays.
Still breaking free of my parents’ influence. It often seems to me that my entire life has been one long fight against everything that they wanted and stood for. I wanted adventure, they wanted safety. I wanted to create, all they wanted me to do was settle down and get a steady job. It’s been a long, uphill struggle and sometimes I can still feel the last vestiges of an internal war. Argh. And I’m supposed to be on my fucking vacation here!
What does one do after meeting anime fans? Well, go to karaoke and sing anime songs of course. Here we are :
Another pretty multicultural karaoke. only my railgun, Flying in the Sky (omg talk about nostalgia…) Common People (English song!) a Chinese song (whose name I cannot remember and that I used the furigana to sing along with) Zankoku Tenshi no Teeze (of course) and to top it off…Stand Proud. We both agreed that no song we sang after that could possibly beat someone punching the TV screen furiously and decided to call it a night.
My friend singing his heart out. I’m so proud of him…he used to be such a shy boy.
Had a really good talk with my close friend last night, in which we discussed many things, some unprintable. It was humbling to discover that we humans, despite our many shields and illusions, are actually really much the same at heart. We have our differences, our hangups, our pains, but we’re all here on the same planet, and we often forget that.
I often fall into the trap of thinking – “with all the therapy I’ve done, shouldn’t I be free of this stuff ALREADY?” until I realize that all the therapy is so that I can live with my hangups in a healthy manner, not excise them completely. That is firstly impossible, and secondly would put me back on the slippery slope to OCD.
When we are open and honest with ourselves, I find that hangups tend to dissipate on their own. There’s a blog article in there somewhere, but I think I’ll write this one first.
Checked my mail. Resume was accepted, partially, and now I take a translation test, just like old times. I’m kind of looking forwards to it! I’ve forgotten (like so many other things) how much I actually like taking tests (OMG, so Asian) and how much I like translating.
So yeah I’ve totally and completely ended up working while on vacation. But like my old friend (the one I called, not the one I’m staying with) said, part of having a vacation is doing whatever you want to. So if you want to work, work.
So today I’m doing an experiment and seeing how much I can get written in a day…or I so I thought until I went out for a walk and forgot to bring the mobile with the data plan. Which led to my getting lost. At least I got some pictures out of it!
Had to ask a few friendly folk how to get back, but I successfully retraced my steps. It was wet and rainy which was kind of nice actually.
Tried to mess around with my blog somemore to get things into shape. I picked WordPress because of it’s plugins but boy is the thing hard to use or what! Maybe I’m just not used to it is all. Decided not to try anything funky and settled for super-simple layout.
More past appeared to bug me, but today I thought that I would try to ignore it and focus on other things instead. Blogging, for one. Writing for another. And completing the translation test.
Or so I said but as evening neared I felt more flashes of pain go through my mind and I thought that I should attend to them instead. And I did, by doing things and not thinking about them.
One thing I’m learning though…just taking a fucking break sometimes. I’m moving at a good clip (even the critic in myself knows this) and there’s no need to push myself too hard.
My friend came home early and we went out to In-N-Out Burger, another Californian staple. I remember a long time ago wanting to eat at it all the time and my parents doing so only rarely. Another opportunity for nostalgia.
So…In-N-Out is definitely NOT as good as I remember. I don’t recall them being quite so…greasy. But they are definitely much better than McDonalds. (Then again, ANYTHING is better than McDonalds.)
Went to a gaming arcade after dinner. It was pretty fun and filled with all sorts of good stuff.
There was a rhythm game which had a Cruel Angel’s Thesis as one of the song selections, so of course I had to play it.
Then we played the lamest game in the universe…Sailor Zombie.
I don’t think I will ever get the appeal of idol groups and AKBK48. I mean, I understand why people like them, but they personally don’t do anything for me. Give me a live girl anytime! But I don’t judge. The world has to get past this ridiculous conception of real always being better than virtual. There’s a time and a place for each one.
Also, Kirby and friends :
Had another semi-attack of nostalgia…but I think it was a good one. I can remember my 15 and 18 year old self wandering through video arcades, thinking of stories and possible games and so much else besides. Trying his best to survive amidst everything that was happening in and around him.
I think that’s the thing about working through the past. There are so many good memories mixed in with the pain that it can be hard to tell them apart. But I remind myself that I just have to keep walking.
I love gaming arcades. There’s something about them, their sounds, the cacophony and the sheer energy of people playing their hearts out. Long ago I wrote a poem about them, which I think is perhaps worth dragging out now :
Video Game Arcade
loud noises, stale smoke
sound of blip-blip-blips and cha-chings
frenzied teenage yells
a bored old woman sits at a desk,
doling out silver bits of amusement
the driving machines are off at one side
people facing off in a furious race
down virtual streets and alleys
next is the UFO catcher machines
a couple wanders by
the girl points at the glass casing
she wants something
the boy doesn’t look so pleased, but he gives in
fishes out a coin and puts in it
suddenly there is cheery music and flashing lights
he takes the controls
they both wait with bated breath
the world seems to stop as
down comes the metal hand with a clank clank clank
the girl lets out a stifled shriek
but then the claws – clankclankclank – find purchase on something furry
and a stuffed bear is the prize
smiles all around!
the boy looks relieved
right next to that a balding man faces down hordes of zombies
a gun in each hand
he’s playing a 1-player game in 2-player mode
wow so macho! or maybe he’s just showing off
a crowd gathers to watch as he starts mowing the undead down
he picks them off with ruthless efficiency
a creepy-crawly here, a snarling ghoul there, abatcomesdownfromtherightside
but he sees it, it’s gone
lurid red words appear on screen
YOU ARE DEAD, GAME OVER
I guess I’ll never really get gaming and anime out of my system, ever. As my friend remarked, my bond with the latter is really deep. I mean, it fucking saved my life. It doesn’t get any deeper than that.
How some things change, and how some don’t…arcades are somehow much the same as they were 10, 20 years ago. There’s still Pac-Man and Street Fighter and lightgun games. I’m still talking with my friend about the same things we discussed when I first knew him.
Speaking of which, we had another long talk with my friend at night, about everything from relationships, the nature of the Divine and what anime and game girls were the hottest. It’s really difficult to have frank discussions about any of them, and I am immensely grateful to him for sharing with me his thoughts.
Gratefulness…I think it’s about past time for me to reclaim the meaning of that word. I still sometimes feel a twinge in myself when people remark how lucky I am to have this opportunity for travel and to look at everything again. How can you be so ungrateful? Other people have jobs they have to do, and children they have to feed…and then I try and fight back by recounting how much I suffered during those years. I would have that steady job and those other things if I didn’t need to be a parent for most of my life.
It doesn’t work that way, mother mine. There is no sliding scale, no give and take or quid pro quo. One plus doesn’t erase one minus. I am in grief for my loss and grateful for my opportunities at the same time.
It’s just the past again. My mother’s words which aren’t even actually hers…passed down through the ages unthinkingly, tearing barbs and wounds and tears in generation after generation. The buck stops here. I open my heart and mind and receive all light, letting it cleanse the darkness.
But as I remarked to my friend, it’s one thing to comprehend this in your mind and another to integrate it fully into everything else. Some things just take time, whatever they may be. Day by day the awakening beckons…because it has already happened.
And as time and space and memory whirl within me, another day comes to an end. Goodnight everyone.
Hi, this is my little corner of the Web. I hope you are alternately entertained and enlightened as best as I can possibly manage.
Who am I? My real name is Tai An Zhou. I’m a writer, a poet, a singer, a translator, a cosplayer, a HUGE anime and video game fan, voice actor, an erstwhile philosopher (aren’t we all?)
a student of life in all its intricacy and wonder, and lover of all things weird and wonderful.
I love to write, and I’ve written everything from poetry to essays, travelogues, fanfiction and original works. You can read it all here.
I run a delivery service from Japan. Check it out at http://www.nandemoninja.com
I plan to eventually have a lot more content here. Stay tuned!
I hope that everything I’ve written here helps you, delights you, or enriches your life in some way. May the Divine that resides in all things shine on your soul always.
Woke up early again. I know why I sleep less everyday now… no one’s trying to kill me anymore! Whoo-hoo, score one for Captain Obvious!
But honestly, though, it’s a great feeling to have less energy with less sleep. More time for blogging, for one.
Pizza for breakfast! It doesn’t get more American than that.
Something my cousin says comes to me…two months is a long time. I hadn’t thought it that way before. I was always so trapped by the conceptions of time. But day by day I feel the patterns of the past breaking up. This trip is worth its weight in gold!
Decided to go update and send out some resumes today. Yes I know, I’m still technically on vacation…though I’m like 300% more productive here than I am back in SG. Must be the air and the sunshine.
Went out with a nice gentleman through my church connections for lunch. Persian food, pretty interesting! Pics.
I realize that I am going to have to tell people what this church thing is all about, lest they assume I am Christian, which I’m not. (Well, not TECHNICALLY but it’s a long story…I guess I’m technically Christian the way I’m technically on vacation?)
Took a nap later and walked around a bit. No pics this time.
It’s easier to just admit to myself that I still love the USA and that yes, I wished I could have been back here 10 or more years before. There, I said it. My child’s heart still cries out in love for those streets and cars and bushes. I hold his hand and stroke his hair. It’s ok. It’s alright.
Reflected once again on the fact that I really shouldn’t be alive and writing this considering the sheer amount of trauma I was subjected to while younger, including breaking my head at 4 and suffering multiple blows to it later. Not to mention the depression. And OCD. And suicide attempts. It’s truly a miracle I am here at all.
Still learning more about blogging and getting this whole damn thing into order. Whoever’s reading this please bear with me.
Social media is pretty wow. Just yesterday I coined the phrase “moonies” to describe Sailor Moon fans in a random Facebook post. Today it’s all over my newsfeed and Twitter. Did I really do that?
Chatted with another old friend, and her advice is worth sharing, I think. If I feel like working on vacation, then I should go ahead and work! I should’t “should” all over myself.
Leftover pizza for dinner. It was delicious.
Went out to meet some of my hosts’ friends. As expected, they are completely different from the people I met 10 days before. 18 year old cosplayers who use mobile devices like a pro and whose lives revolve around the latest anime, as opposed to people over 70 who wouldn’t know Rei Ayanami was if she bit them in the face and to whom using mobile devices at the table is a form of blasphemy.
It’s like being in two completely different worlds. I must say though, it’s quite a priviledge to be able to move through both so easily.
Still in a kind of a tailspin of sorts. Time, distance, money, relationships, ideas, school, work…I can’t make sense of any of these things now. It’s all in flux once again. I don’t even know who I’ll be at the end of this trip, but I’m looking forwards to it.
Woke up to…another attack of the past. I guess I should be happy it’s coming up to be healed but at the same time it’s kind of a drag.
I’m getting more and more familiar with the sensations of them now though. Much of what I am experiencing are things from my post-suicidal period in my late teenage that I did not get to fully comprehend or process. Life back then felt like a perpetual low-level panic attack was being diffused throughout my body. I probably would have been diagnosed with GAD had I not already had the diagnosis of depression.
But that was in the past. In the now I am far stronger than I was before then, and a combination of prayer and well wishes dispel it well enough. Also the realization that well, sometimes it doesn’t go away immediately and that’s ok. We can live the day without needing to handle everything. There will be time aplenty to heal.
For some reason went to listen to this :
sang a bit and ended up crying a lot. The English version really didn’t do anything for me but the Japanese one opened up a lot…well that should come as no surprise now should it? Also, I vastly prefer the Japanese lyrics. Music therapy is pretty helpful.
My friend was actually still home when all this was going on and so I felt abashed when he came out of his room. Still more than a bit embarrassed when I’m crying my heart out and there’s someone in the house. Which is pretty normal I guess.
I contacted another close friend of mine from the past and at the end of my introduction he was a bit like “whoa that’s a lot to take in at once.” I have to remind myself other people are living more comparatively normal lives and to go easy on them (and myself!)
I sometimes also wish this was a normal travelogue and I’d, you know, actually go out and see sights and take pictures of them. Nope, you get lots of internal images instead. But like I said travels can take place both inside and out.
Decided to go take a rest after all that emotionalism. Probably the right course of action. After that a short walk, and then I called another old friend.
She shared something that I feel is worth blogging about. “A lot of people think that shared trauma is the basis for a relationship, but I think giggling together is probably better.” Wise words!
Then it was time to go to my cousin’s house, which interestingly enough had the exact same street name as my friend’s.
I played with her kid a bit while dinner was being delivered. Kids always make a feel a little complicated. I love kids so I’m generally glad to be around them, but I also wish that I had the happy, loving childhood that they are having right now.
But then at the same time I also reflect with compassion that how my parents treated me was probably how they were treated when they were younger…actually they were probably treated worse. I get angry and then I feel compassion and then I get envious and then angry and then…all part of being human I guess. I’m pleased to report that usually compassion predominates. Guess all that therapy really helps!
Time for dinner…burgers! This is the first time I’ve had American food on my trip…oh wait no I had a pizza for lunch earlier.
Gave the elevator speech about my life story again and I let them weigh in a little bit on what was going on. Lots of good comments and question, no space to relate them all, but my aunt also concurred that there was no danger of burnout. If you like something, and you’re good at it, you’ll do well. It often energizes instead of enervates.
She’s also all about concrete things. She once told me “I don’t understand you psychological people, you’re always talking about things that don’t exist.” I must admit I can’t quite agree with that, but I can see the point of having something real to hang your hat on, so speak.
She also mentioned that it was pretty miraculous that I managed to derive such strength from video games and anime, It was. It still is. That’s why I wrote a whole fucking book about it. Caught up in my past battles as I sometimes am (also nothing to feel ashamed of) I sometimes forget that it’s a miracle that I am even here. That indeed, everything is a miracle and we often don’t realize it.
A quote from Albert Einstein seems appropriate here :
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
As you can tell I love my aunt a lot. I really, really do. She’s helped me a lot more than I even ever realized.
Got to catch up with my cousin some more, which was really good. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to speak to her at length about personal matters, which I did some of.
The visit yielded more prereaders for the book, for which I am most grateful for. My most valuable prereaders are those without any knowledge of games or anime, so I know what a non-fan thinks.
I had some delicious cookies courtesy of my cousin, which I forgot to take pictures of because they were too delicious. I don’t have the recipe but I’ll share that when you have really sweet cookies like these, some sea salt sprinkled over it (not too much!) brings out the flavor a lot more. It’s the same principle as why people in Japan sometimes put salt on watermelons.
More memories as they drove me home. The green road signs and the long freeways still elicit powerful emotions from me. The motels across the roads with names like “America’s Best” and the fir trees that dot the sides of the roads.
Still, it’s good to be here. I thank my friend once more for her advice. The child within is healing even as my adult self comes to grips with reality…only to discover that reality isn’t so bad after all. There’s no need to escape when there are no enemies to run from.
I also no longer feel so horrible when someone doesn’t listen to what I have to say or interrupts. That is another old wound from when I was much younger and NO ONE listened to the important stuff, which I had the right to speak and be heard by. It’s also nice to not feel that I have to share everything with everybody…which is of course impossible to do in the first place.
Family is always important. It’s good to have close relations whom you can trust and be trusted by. There is a certain intimacy between family members which you can’t find elsewhere.
And like I told my aunt, no matter what else has happened in my life, I have also always been blessed by having many good and true friends, who have given me a lot in many different ways. I mean take this trip, for instance…I’ll be staying with friends almost the whole time! That’s a lot of savings right there, not to mention shared experiences.
Came back to watch some new anime with my friend (that’s basically all he does, besides work…BQ you know that’s true, don’t deny it) I was pretty cold to Rainbow Days and Re: Zero but Kiznaiver looked really interesting. Wanted to watch more but I was sleepy and also not 19 anymore so I couldn’t fight off sleep and just watch anime the whole night. I also have blogs to write and appointments to keep and all of that Real Life ™ stuff to do. Such is life.
More musings about anime in general :
I can’t quite turn off my translation sensors whenever I watch subtitled anime. I noticed that Funanimation and Crunchyroll have differing quality of translations…Osomatsu-san had a REALLY GOOD ONE (I don’t think I could do as good a job!) but most of the others were weaker.
I spotted the old kludge of multiple commas in a sentence more than a few times, a sure sign of weak translation. There were some errors in definition as well. But generally I doubt the audience really cares or knows because meaning gets across okay most of the time. Professionally though, I can’t help but pick apart the sentences that bother me. 仕事の癖はそう簡単に治りそうもない. (Not so easy to fix work habits.)
Trying to level up my E to J as well, and not just my J to E. As with everything else on this trip, we’ll see how it goes.
I still can’t find it in myself to watch the majority of newer anime…for one, I don’t like the flat colors and thin lines. Though I have another cousin who has the exact opposite reaction – she can’t stand the thicker lines of old anime. I guess it boils down to tastes and what you grew up with. A chance Facebook comment comes to me “don’t be an anime snob/elitist.” Also very true. I would be the last person in the world to rain on anyone’s parade.
A lot of my resistance I guess comes from my past (like so many other things) in that I wished for the world to stop moving until I could get back on my feet and participate properly. But there’s no time like the present, and no trains to catch.
Still not going to watch Love Live though. Ever. Okay maybe just one episode, for analysis and research purposes.
I foresee a long day of blogging and working on my site ahead. Also I may actually finishing watching Gundam Unicorn, especially as BQ has a nice TV on which to watch it.
No car in the US can be quite a downer. There’s a bike but it’s not yet travel-ready. Tomorrow perhaps.
And for the first time in 10 days no one’s around and I can sing to my heart’s content! Yay!
May just take a walk around the neighbourhood and call old friends, just for the heck of it. In fact I think I will.
Getting more in touch with the enormity of what actually happened to me. The thing about mental illness is that you can’t see it on the outside. I took the equivalent of multiple shotgun blasts to the chest over the years but if I actually look at my own body…I don’t see any bleeding wounds. They’re all on the inside. Or at least, they were.
The comparison to people that I’ve done all my life…it’s so riduculous if I think about it now. Do you look at a war veteran without legs and think “oh my God, why hasn’t he gone to school or gotten a job?” No. But I did for many years, because my mother and society seemed to think that way. And the relentless comparison to my friends and people whom I knew…none of whom I know (personally at least) had more than a hundred nervous breakdowns.
It’s easy to hate, far harder to love. But love we must, for it is the surest way to cleanse evil that I know. And I’ve walked the path of thorns for so long that what used to score my flesh now simply bounces off. There is still further to walk on this flower-strewn path of life.
What comes next? I still don’t know, but I know a hell lot more than 5 months ago.
Always makes me think of this song.
I think back to my younger self and his childish notions of how if I just moved back to the USA everything would Be Ok. But I think letting him out to simply imagine was the right course of action. As an adult there are so many other things that we don’t think of when we’re younger – taxes, healthcare, housing, the cost of living. Visas. Immigration permits. All that kind of stuff.
But he still cries to return, because he knew none of that when he was younger. I’ll let him, for as long as it takes.
Actually let myself laze around in bed for like 2 hours because well, it’s been a rollercoaster of a trip so far and I need some kind of rest. I don’t want to go home and have to take a holiday from my holiday.
Another contrast – the older people on my trip all ate really healthily and had their houses arranged neatly and in order, whereas the younger ones…not so much. Comes with being a programmer in the Valley I guess.
Back to psychoanalysis for a bit. Guess we can’t really escape for it after all huh?
Realized that much of the mental pain and anguish I experience isn’t really mine and may instead have been displaced from my mother. My sister talks about how she experiences physical sensations that she has no record of ever having – I probably got the mental end of stick. Not pleasant but something that I can work through.
Went for a walk around the neighbourhood. It’s interesting. Seems like a very nice place to live. Took pictures!
Worked throughout the afternoon despite technically being on vacation. 相変わらず仕事熱心だな、俺。 (Guess I’m as keen on work as always.) Sigh. Perhaps it’s my inner Asian talking.
Watched lots of anime at night with BQ and C as expected. I still can’t get completely used to new anime. Probably due to watching way too much old anime when I was younger. Ah whatever, it’s all good.
Had a really good conversation with my old friend. It’s good to find people whom you can share almost everything with. No matter what pain I’ve had in my life (and I’ve had considerable) I have always been blessed with many, many close friends, and for that I am grateful. To myself as well as to others.
He commented that it seemed like our past selves were other people entirely, and I think that’s only as it should be. There is so much that I clung to unconsciously and that held me back even as I wanted to go forwards.
Who was that person before?
So angry and hateful
lashing out not only
at the world around him
but at himself.
Were his chains truly his
or fashioned from the pain of others?
it doesn’t matter now
everything is left go of
one by one
until nothing remains and we can
It is like waking up from a long sleep
Or rather a nightmare
to see that the world has changed in some ways
much more than I thought
but in others so much less.
I had better not overwork myself. Going to meet my cousin tomorrow, should be interesting! I’ve never seen her younger son before.
Woke up early because I slept early, starting writing more blog posts. These things don’t write themselves!
FInding it easier and easier to write now I’m getting into a habit of doing it practically every day at regular times. There is something to be said for internalization.
Still sometimes haunted, still wish it would all just go away. I guess I’m only human.
Even as someone who is given to introspection, I sometimes wish I WASN’T. I definitely stay inside my skull too much sometimes. I have to remind myself of two things 1) I can actually DO things now and 2) I’m doing ok. I sit around and think a lot less than I normally did. Time to get out there and write and well, do more things.
Going to see my good friend BQ in Santa Clara today. The first leg of my trip is over, it’s all younger people from here on out. We’ll see what that brings.
I need to finish Gundam Unicorn at some point. Maybe in the train.
Took some pictures of this house in the early morning. I don’t think I will ever get tired of how everything that looked so ordinary can look so magical before the day starts.
Another friend of my hosts came over, a lady named C. A more talkative, vivacious, energetic and sharp lady you’ll never meet. She talked a mile a minute but somehow I didn’t really mind. Maybe it was the interesting stories she had to relate.
We took another last walk around the area. Goodbye Sacramento! It was nice knowing you. Maybe I’ll see you again, maybe I won’t.
Goodbye, Overly Aggressive Ducks. These guys want your bread and they want it BAD.
I asked for her advice after giving the short version of my life story, which I always do. She told me “Stay open, stay connected. Keep up with the writing.” I shall do that. 8 years in the Cave was far too long for my comfort. It was perhaps necessary but terribly painful. I’m finally alive and Heavens willing, I’m going to stay with way!
Had a super multicultural lunch, composed of leftovers from the last few days. I can’t think of a better way to end my multicultural adventures with multicultural hosts. We had the lethal oranges again but in my case I think discretion was the better part of valor and I opted out. C seemed to like them though – she even told her husband about them on the phone.
I may try some variations of them, (or another dessert entirely) in future, maybe on the trip. We’ll see how it all works out.
I wanted to try to get some music instigation going but it didn’t look like it was in the cards. D brought out this song called Swimming to the Other Side, though, which was good. And so I thought it appropriate to share the song that brought me to UU in the first place (C is also a UU) Everything Possible. It went over well, and she thanked me for sharing the song with her
Here’s a link if you are interested. It’s one of the most beautiful and meaning songs I’ve ever heard in my life, in any language.
Still experimenting with things. I could have pushed to sing Melodies of Life, which might have made me happy…but we might not have had enough time to do it. Does that upset me? Maybe not. My life is not dependent on singing one song for friends, no matter how dear they are. Maybe it’s because that they are dear that I can say this.
Now that I can have what I want, maybe I don’t even need what I want. It’s so weird. There’s no right answer, and I’m just feeling things out as I go along. That’s called life, I guess.
So many old ghosts to put away. Sometimes I still feel the old fears – no one likes me, no one’s listening to my music, I should be over this by now (thanks Mum, for saying that like a thousand times when it was never true…) etc etc etc. But the volume is turned down real low now.
It still hurts more than I would like it to. You know how it is – or maybe you don’t know how it is, so I’ll tell you. You’re doing something completely mundane like folding your clothes or making the bed and then it hits you anew…21 years. 21 fucking years of pain and anguish. Envy and time and all that was I fought rips through me once more, and I remember when I could not NOTHING but fight, in which surviving till tomorrow was the only goal that I had.
Breathe, breathe, breathe. It will pass. I close my eyes and tears leak out…I summon all the lightning and flame I wielded into me once and it burns and streaks across the darkness. If I draw the blade, if I transform into that incarnation of strength, the shadow WILL be banished. But maybe at this point I don’t need to that anymore. Put it away, let yourself hurt, let the pain itself be the healing. It’s possible.
What do I need? The child cries out in longing and hatred both. At this point I may need succor more than fulmination, temperance more than fury. What does HE need? Let go, let go. Whatever happens, I am held in the embrace of the Light, clad in heaven without blemish.
Time to attend to mundane matters once more and head to the station. Along the way D asked me what I thought of our time with them and I mentioned that not 30 minutes before I left a water glass on a wooden table without knowing about water spots. And when that happened I felt SO BAD ABOUT IT.
But she reassured me that it was ok because I didn’t know. Whew. What a relief. My sister is once again right – it helps the most to be able to told in the present moment by someone you trust that it’s ok. Another old wound healed. Thank you, my friends, for your many gifts to me – your advice, your house, your meals, your friends. May the Divine bless you in all its presence and power both.
Got a reply from one of my old friends in the USA. I was happy but sad at the same time…sad because whenever they ask me how I’ve been and what I’ve been doing all this time, I have to tell them the bad news. “No, I’m not a computer programmer/game designer/academic/teacher like you thought I would become, I’ve actually spent the last 21 years being abused and taking care of 4 kids.” I mean, it makes ME sad to have to write this, and tell them that.
I know, I know, I could be dead, it could be worse etc. But in the face of the facts those often sound like platitudes.
Argh, enough of this. Out of mind and into the world once more. I’m writing this on the train and I can see a horse farm on my left and well…that’s well enough.
Yes, I boarded the train with no difficulties. The Capitol Corridor train to San Jose, to be precise, though I’ll be stopping at Santa Clara.
More introspection and reflection onboard, along with pictures.
I tried to not go within overmuch but…what the heck. If it happens, it happens. The journey is not something outwards but inwards as well, after all. Don’t fight what comes.
But in the spirit of newness once again I’m not editing it and just writing whatever comes into my mind, James Joyce style. Apologies for the rambling. Skip if you wish, but I’m just going to let myself go here.
I wish I knew what it was in another life, not to have to be a parent at 12, or even earlier.
In the past I had to dredge up that strength, but now it’s simply here. I mind not what foes come because I have the power to defeat them. I don’t need to tear at myself for it.
What the child needs may be to go within, to heal instead of fight.
It’s another old ghost that tells me to settle down, to just get a steady job and go somewhere nice and easy. I have never desired that. That is not my dream, has never been my dream.
What my therapist says comes back once more…this IS the first time in 33 years that I have been free of her influence. I have to let the poison drain slowly. There will be times in which my mother’s issues still live on in me…accepting that and letting them go is part of my healing too.
Such a relief to realize that what pains me so is not mine in the first place, has never been mine.
It’s ok to yourself feel the deep pain, for it was a long time and it was truly hurtful. But not to swim in it and wallow. Let it go, for that burden is not yours to bear any longer.
There are yet more memories of California in the scenery, from things that I once saw to movies and books and games that bring up images of the sun-kissed earth. I think of letting the child have his way and just imagining what it might be like to move back here, at 33 instead of 12. Why not? There’s no harm in imagination. It’s one of our most powerful tools.
I know what I’m about! I know! Free from the curse of constantly second-guessing myself, some courses, at least, are very clear. But I don’t make the mistake as I did in the past of thinking that knowing once means knowing forever. Lanterns are lit, and we walk forwards, but things blur again and we search once more. The important thing is to keep on moving.
There will always be those that have less, and am I never ungrateful for what fortune I may have received. But one doesn’t blank out the other. To be fortunate is to be grateful, and to raise our hands in supplication to that which gives – human, earth or heaven – and not to hang our heads in shame over what we have, or have been granted.
This is my trip and no one else’s. These are my viewpoints, my songs, and what I think is my own business. My life, basically. I’m still getting used to that. I’ve never been able to ever do that before.
Don’t enjoy being overemotional…enjoy being correctly emotional. There is that something within which calls to me, and purged of the past, will return to what it should have been many many years before.
I know there are certain things that will stay, and certain things that will flow. It has already been that way, in many ways. Motion in stillness, and stillness in motion. Yin and yang in perfect balance.
Why not have a day filled with many things? That is, after all, what I wished for myself when I was younger. To create my own curriculum with my own discipline and own studies. To learn everything – though not all at once! Be like the Greeks who I so admired, mix emotional and physical and mental in correct proportions. Even cook sometimes. If I do burn out I’ll just take a fucking vacation or something.
I actually feel a lot better after writing all that down. The blade and the reflection both have their place. I do want to get out of my mind a lot more, but that doesn’t mean that the latter has no purpose…far from it.
Pictures of the scenery :
Managed to get some other writing done as well. I feel the past course through me as I write – some bad, mostly good. There’s a lot of the same nausea that I felt in last year November and December, in the midst of the death and rebirth, a grey miasma that has to be purged. I’m going to keep on writing no matter what distractions may come. There’s something on the other side – I can feel it. And by God I’m going to get there. If attempted suicide didn’t stop me 18 years ago I’ll be damned if anything is going to do so now.
But…there’s no need to try so hard. The bell has rung and the gates are open and all I really need to do is the let the waters flow. Let it happen. Effort isn’t the same as strain. It’s getting used to a new kind of writing, one that isn’t hampered overmuch by what has come before, but uses it as a fuel for creation.
Whew. Holy wall of text Batman! For once I’m not going to apologize for writing it…my Japanese side can go stuff itself for a while for once. I do hope that it helps someone out there, though, and that writing it wasn’t just cathartic for me but was of assistance to anyone who might read it.
Got out of the train and waited for my good friend BQ to pick me up. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him. He’s someone that I have known for a long time but that I have never come clean about my issues with. So I told them the edited version of my life story again. Achievement Unlocked – life story complete with abuse in less than 10 minutes!
Met his fiancee as well, who a very nice lady indeed and a very good fit for him. Some of my friends have expressed concern that at the rate I’m going I might burn out, but she told me not to worry about that. She’s probably right, and I thanked her for her advice. After all, I’m finally getting to do what I’ve waited 33 years to do…burnout? What’s that?
Got to BQ’s house, which is nice, is messy…actually it’s not that messy. I have no idea why people have such hangups with messiness. I’m not going to judge you or your house in any way. ANd believe me, I have seen MESSY. This is not messy.
It is, however, Plushie City.
Aren’t they just adorable!
It’s been interesting to meet him again. He and I have actually impacted each other’s lives in pretty deep ways, though neither of us really realized it. He’s the only person on my journey of reconnection that actually remembers things that I don’t, for one!
Such a change of pace from the older people that have made up the first part of the trip. They were all a) retirees b) walked a lot c) were cooks and d) knew next to nothing about anime and games. The latter are almost the exact reverse in every regard. It looks like I will have to spend most of my time here inside the house instead of gallivanting around every single minute of the day…which is fine by me.
The past and the world continue to change at a rapid rate. Everything looks different, feels different, even smells different. I understand what the new-age Buddhists mean now, that each person can be in their own world and inhabit a completely different place, despite sharing space with others. I can see myself looking onwards on myself when I am here, whatever I am doing, even when I am typing. I know that I am awareness looking out through a human shell, a true ghost in the machine. Deus Ex Humina instead of Deux Ex Machina. It’s surreal and yet enlightening.
Also, I realize that everyone I have been staying with on this trip has been married. I think that I feel my…singleness, for lack of a better word, when I’m around married people. When you’re with somebody you have to consider their thoughts and feelings and how they integrate into your life. You can’t always do whatever you please and you have to mindful of the other person in many different ways. It’s interesting to observe and I really can’t say which is better than the other…since none of my relationships have lasted for more than a few months.
As a side note – my friend has worked at FB and Google and still doesn’t know how to use messages on his new mobile phone. I feel much better about my technologically-challenged ways now.
Oh yes, and his house also has this :
It’s a sign, I tell you.
Very very long day. Gotta sleep. See you all tomorrow with fresh revelations, more pictures and a whole lot of justice.
Another fortuituous day, May Day. Time for church, which I was quite looking forwards to. I never thought the day would come that I would actually be LOOKING FORWARDS TO GOING TO CHURCH. But then again that was before I discovered a church like this.
The sermon was on pornography. I really admire the minister for not shirking such a difficult and potentially controversial topic. She went through the S word, the G word, and the P word without so much as a blush.
I went up to her later and thanked her. As I said to her, as someone who has both used and abused porn, I can see it’s great potential for both good and evil. Like most things. I’ve needed it in my most darkest of days to stay alive, but it’s also been pretty destructive to both my mind and body. Another thing I’m happy to give up and have a healthier relationship with.
Getting used to the difference between church services…for instance, they don’t clap in this church. Also, they link hands at the end.
Look, a festival! Not really. This is that time of the year that the special interest groups try to get recruit. Turns out the church doesn’t often do this, only once a year to be exact. Must be because I was here. I feel so special.
More pictures of stuff :
I like the flags. Why water, though? （水）I guess it’s the most neutral of the 4 (or 5, if you’re Oriental) elements.
Chatted with many friendly people, some of who came up to me, and told some of them about my book and my blog. I learnt that Sacramento is famous for tomatoes and is also called Sacratomato. It’s a sign, I tell you. Good time for me to blog more!
One of the booths was the labyrinth, a time-honored tradition in which someone walks through the twisting walls in order to gain perspective, clarity and other things besides. Sounds like exactly what I need at this time. I walked it and while doing so I was reminded of the books of Amber and Corwin’s walking of the Pattern…which not-so-coincidentally I read while I was in California, 21 years ago.
I could find my way to the center but I couldn’t find my way back, so I just walked in a straight line past everything – cutting the Gordian knot, as it were. That’s how I got to this point, after all.
Also, vikings. It was for a camping trip. Any camping trip with vikings gets my vote.
My best viking impression. Pillage their women, rape their villa…wait. I’ve gotten it the wrong way around.
I must say, I really really like this church. I liked the Mount Diablo one as well but this feels…friendlier? If I stayed there I would totally come to this church all the time.
Time for lunch. My hosts brought me to an Ethiopian restaurant. My first time eating Ethiopian food! Which is more than a little Indian in taste and texture. Delicious though.
Was aware of a slight pounding in my temples while eating which I recognize as…a hangover. Whaddya know! More new experiences. It wasn’t as unpleasant as I initially thought.
More attacks of the past while in the car. But I think it’s getting better. Slowly, I think, the whys start to fade. Why am I not here yet? Why is it taking so long? Why did I have to suffer so much?
So many, many old patterns. I think back to one of my most reliable of blades, the mighty Occam’s Razor. Why does it take so long to heal, why do the scars run so deep? Because neurobiologically speaking, I’ve thought these things and my mind has run on these tracks for 2 decades. As my therapist often tells me, that is enough time for highways of neurons to form, layers and layers of connective tissue that I can’t expect to go away overnight. In recovery there is the physical brain to be aware of as well.
One step at a time. We’re getting there. 前へ進め、あるくのような速さで。(Move forwards, as if at the speed of walking.)
Walked into a random video store and my God, it looks EXACTLY like 21 years ago. The games have all changed but they’re arranged in exactly the same way. There are still VHS tapes! Wut. Expected more nostalgia and feels but there wasn’t that much. Which I’m actually kind of grateful for. Excesses of emotion can be very, very draining. And I think I’m past the OMGWTF stage of my healing.
A nice garden I saw. And some pictures of the town.
Went for a scroll down Sacramento River. Isn’t it beautiful? Everything I’ve seen so far has been nice.
Beautiful clouds. I have like 20 pictures of them but I can’t post them all here. Here are my chosen best picks.
Oh look, long grass. Doesn’t it look like you could find a Pokemon or two in them?
There was a little grassy path that I walked down to see what was at the other side. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to make a sharp left and find a chest with 2 potions and 500 gold.
I always remind myself that everything I see in games usually has some basis in real life.
We came back and had a snack and had more philosophical discussion, and then…we went on another walk.
I love sunsets.
Sunsets…they sometimes make me think of this.
probably my favorite sunset in a video game, in a lifetime spent playing video games. One of the last games I played before leaving California. It’s no wonder I am remembering it now.
Once again we talked about many things. Transcultural issues and jobs, mainly. How some jobs (finance and psychology sprang to mind) required degrees and some others often didn’t. How some things could be done remotely and others couldn’t. The demon inside still wishes me to decide, but I don’t think I can do that yet. I remind myself once again that decisions do not equal security.
The issue of money. For more than a decade I spent less than 500-700 dollars a month to pay for everything – food, clothes, bills, therapy. Not quite poverty, but not exactly a millionaire’s lifestyle either.
I’ve lived that economical existence for so long that it’s like I don’t know any other way to live. But if you were to ask me what I’d like to buy I don’t think I would be able to tell you. I also remember when I was younger and so anti-consumerist I actually wanted to join an antitrust organization at some point. All that I wanted – freedom, love, healing – couldn’t truly be bought with money. I’m not even sure what it means to me now. More things to redefine slowly I guess.
Also the issue of insurance, so different in Singapore and the USA. I remember people exhorting me to buy it in the former and how it is well-nigh essential in the latter (even with Obamacare) Wow, if insurance could pay for mental illness I would have taken out 6 policies ages ago.
How different it is to be considering things at 33, at 19, at 65. Coming from different worlds and with different goals. So much else to say but I don’t want to have 2 more pages of musings. (there is enough in this blog as it is!)
What a privilege it is to do our taxes, to pay our bills, to have to worry about such mundanities as parking and groceries. I remind myself every day – at least no one is trying to kill me anymore! All this time everyone lived in the real world, and I lived in Afganistan (or at least somewhere very similar)
No matter what happens, no matter what obstacles there are, at least it is not the great pain that threatens to overwhelm and consume and destroy me utterly. Life isn’t fighting anymore…it’s life. And for that realization I have endless gratitude.
Went to bed early. It’s been a long day and I have a train trip tomorrow.