A Cambodian Circus & a Museum – Siem Reap 2017 pt. 2

A Cambodian Circus

To finish up the Siem Reap leg, let me tell you about a circus we saw. It’s called Phare, and describes itself thusly.

Uniquely Cambodian. Daringly Modern. More than just a circus, Phare, the Cambodian Circus performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern.

The artists are all graduates of an NGO school, which is where the proceeds from the performances go.

Phare artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA)

PPSA was founded in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men returning home from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. At the camp they took drawing classes and found art to be a powerful tool for healing. When they returned home they began offering free drawing classes to street children. Soon they opened a school, eventually offering formal K-12 education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. Today more than 1,200 pupils attend the public school daily and 500 attend the vocational arts training programs. All programs are offered for free.

It was a circus in the Cirque du Soleil style, I guess, though it feels like there’s got to be a better term for that since Cirque didn’t invent it. But I digress. The performers acted out the story of a young girl whose family (and homeland) was brutalized by the Khmer Rouge and later took solace in the healing power of art and the joy of teaching others. It was a bit tricky to photograph, but that didn’t stop me from trying! Continue reading

An Ancient Megacity – Siem Reap 2017 pt. 1

Greetings from Hanoi. It’s a lovely day here, a nice cool eighty-two degrees. Perfect for, say, a stroll along a tree-lined boulevard next to the lake.

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The French left their mark on this city.

We arrived here yesterday on a late flight from Siem Reap, Cambodia. Siem Reap is next to the Angkor complex containing among other things Angkor Wat. Angkor was the seat of the once-mighty Khmer empire, and a thousand years ago was home to a million people. Nowadays it’s known for the temple at Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and the largest religious monument on the planet. Originally a Hindu temple, as well as the mausoleum of the king who oversaw its construction, it gradually turned into a Buddhist temple as the Khmer people began to favor Buddhism themselves.

And of course it’s really amazing.


Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat outer courtyard, looking East from the gateway

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A Deconstructed Portrait of the King – Bangkok 2017 pt. 3

Greetings from a cafe named Dexter, probably not after the serial killer.

Yesterday we went to the Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC), which will apparently like your posts on Instagram if you tag them there. It seemed to be, essentially, a modern art museum without any permanent exhibits from the new masters. It had some pretty cool stuff! And it was for the most part cultural art, which I guess makes sense when you consider the name.

Much of the Center’s offerings were dedicated to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was very, very popular around these parts. Very very. I don’t know as much about him as I should, but might very well pick up a book on him. Trying to understand Thailand very well, without understanding Bhumibol, seems pretty impossible.

Anyway, he died in October, and they’re still officially in mourning. The very front of the museum, right at the big National Stadium rail stop, featured the exhibit 5 Graffiti Artists in Remembrance of H.M. King Bhumibol.

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Pretty cool stuff. I recognized a couple of the artists from their works around town. Continue reading

The Soles of the Buddha’s Feet – Bangkok 2017 pt. 2

Last night, we had dinner at Gaggan, which was amazing and wonderful. The tasting menu was in emoji, which was very silly, but it encouraged discussion and gave the whole thing a less serious feel than it might otherwise have had. But more about that in a different post.

Today was a big contrast from that, in some ways. I was by myself much of the day, and it was very contemplative and austere. I got up earlyish, around seven, and headed out to Wat Pho, a big Buddhist temple complex next to the Grand Palace. I had with me the bag I bought yesterday.

I just followed the directions on Google Maps and reflected on how much simpler travel has gotten over the years. One train ride and I transferred to a commuter ferry, then six stops or so and I was in the right area. Much more straightforward than I was expecting.  Continue reading

Bossa Nova Covers of American Pop Songs – Bangkok 2017, pt. 1

Hey there, probably-nonexistent readers. I’m on a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam right now. I’m sitting in a cool jazzy little cafe writing this on an unlocked phone that my husband had sitting around. This is actually my first time traveling overseas with very much of a data plan at all (2GB for $8 at the airport is a steal), and it’s nice. The best part is Google Maps, but being able to look things up more generally is good too. In a pinch, it’s also good if I get bored, but I’ve been trying to work on presence more and so far I’ve only gotten bored while using the bathroom, which I think is close to a human universal.

Here’s the cafe I’m in, which has a great name, don’t you think?

IMG_0070 I haven’t done a whole lot. Went to the mall because I packed the one pair of shorts I own and realized I would probably need another. The mall, Terminal 21, was interesting. Each level is decorated like a different city. The food court, which is excellent, was San Francisco. Can’t get away from that place! It’s much cleaner here, though.

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“San Francisco”

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Tattooed Characters

As you may know I love procedurals and mysteries. Over the summer and fall I watched a lot of House, which is essentially a police procedural set in a hospital, and then when that ran out I wanted something lighthearted that I could stream before bedtime. For now I’ve settled on Rizzoli & Isles, which is sometimes dreadful but always soporific.

Anywho, the episode I watched last night involved a character who had a tattoo of a QR code. (It was actually a pretty good episode, too.) It got me thinking about tattoos on characters more generally. Marked bodies have relevance in all kinds of fiction, though the one I’m most familiar with is Germanic mythology and Norse sagas. In both, but especially in the sagas, very little physical detail about characters is given. When a detail is given, it’s one of the ways that you know that a character is not only important but different somehow. For instance, Odin only rises to his highest level of significance after he trades an eye for a look into the future.

This is an extreme example of conservation of detail, where you only mention things that are, in one way or another, relevant to the story. These can be scene-setting details and grounding details, or a way of getting to know a character better. In some genres, like historical fiction, a lengthy depiction of the setting is part of the form. In a Victorian Briefroman, an overly-formal description of characters and customs, even if not at all related to the plot, is expected. (I don’t care for the latter specifically because of this, but that’s merely a matter of personal taste.)

This is especially true in time- and space-limited formats like an hour-long mystery. You literally only have time for clues and red herrings and a bit of verisimilitudinous detail. So when this character was tattooed, it was important, especially because it wasn’t the sort of person you’d usually associate with a tattoo. A QR code is also something that contains explicit data, and probably isn’t just an asethetic throw-away. Unless it’s part of an extensive description of Maori tattoos or something else genre- or setting-relevant, then, a tattoo is a pretty important thing to put on a character.

I don’t currently have any characters with tattoos. I’m sure that I will soon, especially in the urban fantasy story that I’m working on (more on this to come!).

Finally, some random questions.

  • If you had a tattoo of a barcode, a normal barcode that represents a number, what would it be?
  • What about a QR code, which (usually) represents a URL?
  • I’ve long thought that a regular expression would make a fun tattoo. What pattern would you match?