Decode: Adventure: Cameron Highlands 2015

Decode Adventure

Tea, Strawberries, and Cold Weather.

Those were my impressions when the Tiger and his best friend said we were going to Cameron Highlands for a short holiday. While I admit them to still be true, our recent trip to both there and Ipoh before was a trip to remember.

However, with so much happening (about slightly more than half of it mundane), highlighting the main events of our trip in various focusses will give a better picture. Like how I did so with my Penang trip (Tag: penang adventure 2014), I will be looking at Food, Museums, and our other adventures.

So stay tuned as I update this post with snippets of our adventure through Cameron Highlands!

These hills await you in the coming posts...
These hills await you in the coming posts…

To follow any other post related to our Cameron Highlands trip, stay tuned for the updated posts or search for the tag: cameron highlands adventure 2015. Thanks for reading!

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Blanket Fortress Play: Dungeons & Dragons

Blanket Fortress Play Dungeons & Dragons has always been known as a pioneer in role-playing games, before the video game industry took the concept and added the visual settings, effects, and other graphic elements we are so used to today. However, there is always that extra element of surprise when you play D&D with just pencils and paper, and this experience was something we were looking for.

Coincidentally, Weiman introduced us to a couple of her other friends who used to play D&D quite some time ago. Looking to get back into D&D again, they agreed to help us ease into the game.

Setup

The thing about D&D is the amount of prep you have to go through before the game starts. Apart from getting your Dungeon Master and finding your team mates, you need to read through your rules and create your characters and setting accordingly. This includes your character name, race, class, back stories, setting, and what not. You don’t need many tools as a participant, just these:

If you’re the Game Master, you need your scenario and dice value criteria for situations where dice need to be rolled.

The Game We Played

For our setting, our wonderful Dungeon Master a.k.a. Game Master a.k.a. Cedric, created a setting of a Post-Apocalyptic Singapore, at the risk of being overrun by evil care bears. As such, our band of characters has been called to fight this evil.

The Crew (Many thanks to Weiman, Ben, and the Tiger for the great artwork!)

Created by: Weiman Kow
Created by: Weiman Kow

Dr. Grimm

  • Elven Mage
  • Neutral Evil
  • Seems to be obsessed with magic cats and riding Mechs
  • Also, not able to carry out any evil side actions just yet
  • Played by Weiman
Willos
Created by: Benjamin Chee


Willos Tealeaf

  • Halfling Cleric
  • Chaotic Good
  • Has Halfling luck and protection from the Goddess Tymora
  • Which is a good thing because he’s signal-whistle-trigger-happy and wants to eat orcs
  • Played by Ben
Gluteus
Created by: Max Loh


Gluteus, Son of Maximus

  • Dwarven Mage
  • Lawful Neutral
  • Seems to have an unexpectedly more volatile relationship with Willos than Dr. Grimm
  • Will not hesitate to electrocute you into submission (especially if you abuse your signal whistle)
  • Played by the Tiger
Contacts
Created by: Joelyn Alexandra | Artwork by: Max Loh

Alessandria “Contacts” Kuasimi 

  • Human Warrior
  • Chaotic Good
  • Apparently has strength rivalling Arnold Schwarznegger
  • Cannot see for nuts so she ends up using Echo Location and Blind Telekinesis
  • Played by Yours Truly

Highlights

Like many first timers into D&D, we started late because of prep and not knowing how to react to Cedric’s role playing antics. But as we went along, these were the main things we managed to take away from our first game:

  1. For someone with Halfling luck, Willos has horrible rolls. Perhaps it’s because he’s meant to be Chaotic Good but he ends up blowing his signal whistle in dark, dangerous areas just for fun.
  1. Gluteus was told it was uncommon for dwarves to become mages, but that didn’t phase him. Instead, he was attempting to electrocute Willos more than a couple of times because of untimely signal whistle usage.
  1. Grey Care Bears are only the start. Stay away from Care Bears. And magical cats which resemble the Cheshire cat.

Those aside, it was fun being able to explore role-playing games with that extra dimension of immediate and unpredictable interaction. While you may miss your attack in a video game, rolling a “1” in any of our attack rolls may warrant something which will render you paralysed with stomach-clutching laughter.

Just note that this is a trial scenario, so we may or may not continue with these characters. If I could, I would class my character as a Ranger. Or a Fighter Mystic. Heh.

However, we may be looking to have more sessions so please drop a comment if you would like to get episodic commentaries for future D&D hijinks!

Gameplay Winners: We kicked the monsters in the butt!! Thus far, we have slayed:

  • 1 Boa Constrictor
  • 1 Grey Care Bear
  • And Willos’s signal whistle (kinda)

Our trial session ended quite well, and the beauty of D&D is that with all the information you gather with your own character sheets, you games can stretch for as long as you want.

At the same time, side plots and actions can be twisted into the game – something you can’t have in many video games – so everything is just down to your creativity.

Dungeons & Dragons was created by Wizards of the Coast and continues to expand. To find out how you can get started, click here. Blanket Fortress Logo

Museum Escapades: Dream… then work it!

Museum Escapades

At the moment, I’ve been sorting out my photographs and albums after returning from my Cameron Highlands trip. And while that is in the waiting line of blog posts, here’s what the Tiger and I had the pleasure of experiencing at the Dreamworks Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum.

The Basics of Storytelling

Upon entering...
Upon entering…

The exhibition was sectioned into three main areas – story, characters, setting. Upon entrance and past the obligatory green-screen photography booth, we were greeted with a showcase of familiar clay models.

Models upon models...
Models upon models…
And walls of concept art.
And walls of concept art.

Lining the cylindrical entrance were artist impressions and models of the characters of Shrek, Kungfu Panda, and Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron. Models from The Road to El Dorado, The Prince of Egypt, and a few others studded the centre as well.

Shrek, Kungfu Panda, and Spirit each had media umbrellas, where we were able to listen to the experiences of the artists and animators when they were coming up with their stories and characters.

Concept art for Shrek.
Concept art for Shrek.
Master Sifu! (Which is a redundancy)
Master Sifu! (Which is a redundancy)

From 2D to 3D

In the light of the many 3D animations from Dreamworks, it can be easy to forget that they started with classics like The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, and Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron. Things started to take shape with collaborations like Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Flushed Away (with Aardman Animations) came into play.

The leads of Chicken Run
The leads of Chicken Run
And Gromit amazed by the huge melon in his garden
And Gromit amazed by the huge melon in his garden

Films like Shrek and Madagascar shot Dreamworks into full-blown 3D animation, now with favourites like How to Train Your Dragon, Kungfu Panda, and remakes like Mr. Peabody and Sherman under their belt.

The Process

What I particularly liked about their exhibit on characters and stories was the story and drawing board projections. It was entertaining to see a typical day at the team’s drawing board, and it was hilarious listening to the story board pitch of a scene in Shrek.

All in a day's work
All in a day’s work

While it was both enlightening and amusing, it gives a better sense of appreciation when you see the energy behind these family films. And the number of storyboards created for one film.

Pitching a single scene to the audience
Pitching a single scene to the audience

The Result

3D animation is not just a team of artists working on numerous in-betweens and drawings. Looking at the sets on display, it is clear our animation films have entire worlds and lives built into their studios.

In a land, Far Far Away...
In a land, Far Far Away…

Taking a ride on Toothless in a “How to Train Your Dragon” flight show, we got a ride of our lives as we travelled through the world of the dragons and their trainers, something we often miss out during the films. Yet, it is a key aspect the film will collapse without.

What We Know Today

So when you think about your favourite animations – Kungfu Panda, Madagascar, Rise of the Guardians – what you see is only a fraction of the many processes, creativity, and stories the creators have. What we see and know are the final cuts which pull through.

And what we saw in this exhibition was the birth and lives of many worlds, characters, and stories to last our lives.

So hop on and take this journey through an animated world.
So hop on and take this journey through an animated world.

The Dreamworks Exhibition will be at the ArtScience Museum until 27 September 2015. For more information, click here.

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Muse Moment: The Perfect Opportunity

Muse Moment  Now that we’re approaching the second half of the year, I am quite relieved that I managed to put some time aside to write for the sake of writing. While I cannot promise that Muse Moment will be permanently monthly, I hope I will be able to post as much as I can.

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The Perfect Opportunity Joelyn Alexandra

The door clicks. The bell rings. You ignore the roar of the teenage wave crashing into the café. Picking at your pastry, you keep the corner of your eye across the road – you waited for the predator.

He is late.

His wife came to your office when you were closing early.

“Are you Inspector Vass?” she asked.

“Call me ‘Tania’,” you said. You had not heard ‘Inspector’ in a long time.

“How may I help you?” you asked.

“My husband…” she started, and you knew. Contrary to popular belief, there were many uses for private investigators in Singapore – background checks, surveillance, missing people – and domestic cases were the necessary evil PIs had to take for survival.

She went on about the messages on his phone, the pictures he did not bother hiding, and the unfamiliar clothes he did not bother explaining anymore. He is influential, she repeated.

“He will leave me destitute if he wants to,” she said. You comforted her, and went through what she brought for you. You skimmed through his schedule, his license plate, and took a long, hard look at his photograph.

He appears. You take care not to look up too eagerly. Surveying from your safe zone, you watch him swagger on the opposite side. Hyenas had no need for appearances, they just hunt, bite, and snatch. With a face and name like that, you do not need to check your photographs to know this was the one.

“Dr. Shaun Tan,” your supervisor said.

That name etched itself as deep as his alleged actions were long. You scoffed at his plea when you opened his file.

“We were in love,” he claimed then.

The professor was caught with his A-Star student and pants down. With nothing to go on then, you snooped around. You spoke – to the university, to his colleagues, to the IT dude, to the girl’s friends, to the girl.

“I don’t see the fuss,” the girl had said, “And we’re not together anymore, please don’t bother me.”

You ignore the messages buzzing in your pocket, your eyes glued as he approaches his prey. You fish your phone out in case it was new information. Nothing. You sneer.

When you got that anonymous tip, you jumped at the opportunity.

‘I can’t say who I am,’ the message said then, ‘But I have something that can help you. I saw something, and I saw you asking questions. I hope this helps.’

The letter from Mr. Anonymous made it to court, but it also signed your permanent resignation from civil service. Your source came into question, and Tan countersued for evidence fabrication. You swore seeing a smirk at the corner of his mouth in court.

When you surrendered your badge, news of Tan’s IT serviceman’s death came in. Fell off a bridge after a night of drinking, they said. You knew better.

His prey looks no older than the one you questioned before.  hardly change their tastes. However, hands gripping elbows do not speak excitement – she knows she is prey. Regardless, he approaches her, you start snapping.

She backs away, a bruised gazelle. He charges forward, jaws wide, she steps, her face turned away to not show the tears. You click, click, and click. The intervals between each push reducing. You glare – hunting is meant to be swift. This is torture.

When he reaches for her, you know what will come next. You slip your camera into your pocket, and your ankles are primed for action. Adrenaline courses through your veins as he sinks his claws. She screams. No one reacts.

You remember promising yourself that you would never run head-first into a situation like this the moment they took your badge. You slink out of your seat and sprint, horns pointed and forward.

Some promises are meant to be broken.

Got you, you son of a bitch.

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This piece, The Perfect Opportunity, was written in a flash fic exercise during a writing workshop with the wonderful Miguel Syjuco. I entered it for the Singapore Noir Writing the City competition recently, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

You can check out some of my other pieces on my Tablo. Or just click here. Thanks again for reading! Blanket Fortress Logo

Next-in-Reading #44: Café Jause

Next in Reading

Title: Café Jause: A Story of Viennese Shanghai
Author: Wena Poon
Year: 2014
Publisher:
Sutajio Wena

Among the endlims of this book, Wena spoke about how she wanted to write a Cake Book in a long time. For me, it was definitely a cake book. It was also a book about humanity, identity, food, and war.

Born in the ethnic intersection of Chinese and Jewish, Philip “Pinkel” is left with the Viennese café his mother opened at his birth when she decides to flee to Hong Kong. Irma and Irene, the two Austrian women who bought the café, have no objections to letting Pinkel stay in the café, where his help in running the place and conversations with the café’s regulars come in handy.

Able to traverse between the Chinese and the European quarters without looking out of place, Pinkel’s life soon becomes embroiled in film, baking, and war. Under the same café roof, he speaks to the Chinese family living nearby, the Jewish Mr. Papp, and the Japanese officer Arthur (Asa) Hayashi and his “war wife” and ex-comfort woman, Singaporean-Chinese Sis.

Under this roof, they speak about what it is like to experience Shanghai in the 1920s, the documentaries, the war experiences, and things they read in magazines. All of this happens over a jause, a Viennese term which meant the small meal between two, usually comprising coffee and cakes – just enough to tide you over to a late dinner.

The end of the story comes around the making of the king of cakes – the German Baumkuchen – and it encompasses the cultures and identities merged and mixed into this book. Each layer can be seen to be the symbol of toil and hard work – the people who have built Shanghai, and by extension, China to be what it is. And within each layer, sweat, tears, toil, blood, memories, dreams, and many other things which make us who we are, go into it. The burnt layer in everyone’s baumkuchen at the end of the story can also showcase humanity’s pain and troubles in the greater scheme of things – it will never leave, but one can choose to ignore it, embrace it, or lament about it. Regardless, every character from different nations all enjoy a slice, burnt layer and all.

It feels good to have a story set during the pacific war which concentrates on personal history at that time. While people generally know what happened in National History, contemporary history and personal histories hardly come to light. Big things happen, but life goes on. What happens then?

Perhaps it’s because these histories become too painful to recall. Perhaps these histories remind us that like us, the “enemy” was also human, and vice versa. Perhaps it’s a stark reminder that we have to fight our own conflict (as Arthur and Sis do in the book) while fighting for the bigger things in life.

Café Jause is written by Wena Poon. To find out more about who she is and her works, click here.

And I’ll see you next week!

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Book Bites: Comic Face-Off

Book Bites

~ My Afternoon as a Booth Monkey ~

Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

When you gather the Tiger and his round robin comicking gang together to run a workshop / session on making comics, someone has to sell the books. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures so use your imagination!

Being booth monkey for the day for Drew's, Ben's, and the Tiger's wares. Photo courtesy of the Tiger.
Being booth monkey for the day for Drew’s, Ben’s, and the Tiger’s wares. Photo courtesy of the Tiger.

Last year, the Comic Face-Off was organised at the Central Lending Library, with Drewscape, Miel, and James Tan. This year, it was at the Programme Zone of the Bishan Public Library, featuring Drewscape, Benjamin Chee, Don Low, and Max Loh (a.k.a. the Tiger).

Part of READ! Fest 2015, this activity decided to move away from the usual panel-like session to a full-on round robin comic creation circle. With four groups of three ready and in position, each of the comic guests took one group each, so that a 4-page comic was produced on every table.

To give a run down on what happens during a round robin comic, it happens when X number of artists get together to produce X number of comics with X number of pages. In this case, four artists with four 4-page comics. The process is cyclical, so it goes like so:

  1. Each artist draws the first page of the comic.
  2. Then the artist passes the page to the 2nd artist.   
  3. The 2nd artist, after reading what the 1st artist has created, continues to the 2nd page of the comic, following the previous artist’s style as much as possible.
  4. And this carries on until the completed comic returns to the artist who started it.

From the back, it was interesting to see the many expressions and the different levels of skill among the artists. The theme of the day was “Red Rain”, so the stories spun out of this theme were both funny and thought-provoking. There was even one story which tried breaking the 4th wall on its concluding page.

While the participants had fun working together to create their table comics, many of them flocked to the booth where I was at as well. It was great to see people browsing the independently-produced wares laid out on the table, with a good many of them buying new comics from Drew, Ben, and the Tiger.

It was heart-warming when participants asked for recommendations and bought based on topic interest and style. And it excited me as much when some of them were excited at the sight of new comics by relatively new names.

Many thanks to the National Library Board, especially Pearly for all her help in pushing comics and genre fiction activities and events. Hopefully, we would be able to come up with more amazing events and spread the genre fiction love around Singapore.

Click on their respective names to find out more about Drew, Benjamin, Don, and Max. For more information on READ! Fest and their activities, click here.  Blanket Fortress Logo

Signal Boost: Coming this July!

Signal Boost

Events / Exhibitions

Comic Face-Off 2015

Want to flex those comicking muscles? Join Andrew Tan (Drewscape) and his team fellow comickers, Benjamin Chee, Don Low, and Max Loh, at Bishan Public Library for a Comic Face-Off on 4th July 2015, 2-5PM! They’ll be presenting and facilitating round robin comics, where you pass pages of comics around for the next artist to follow, and selling books on the side. Admission is free and you can register here.

BooksActually 24-Hours

Once again, Books Actually will be open from 10 July (opening) to 11 July (closing) throughout. Join fellow literary and book enthusiasts in this awesome shop, and Kenny and his team have been working tirelessly to line activities from 7pm onwards. Come down and take a look, or click here for more information.

Read! Fest 2015

Spanning from 13th June to 13th August 2015, READ! Singapore’s Read!Fest 2015 continues to help Singaporeans re-discover the pleasure of reading. Check out their great array of events, covering reading for children, young adults, adults, writing fiction, literature, and creating comics. You can download their booklet here.

Geo | Graphic: Celebrating Maps and their Stories

The National Library’s Geo | Graphic will run until 19 July 2015, featuring maps from Singapore in particular, opening a window to our early history and seeing through the eyes of our early map-makers. Admission is free. For more information on the exhibition, you can find out more here.

Made in Singapore Products Exhibition

To celebrate SG50, the National Heritage Board (NHB) is exhibiting 50 Made-in-Singapore products at the Glass Atrium (Level 2) of the National Museum of Singapore until 6 September 2015. Admission is free, and you can find out more about the event here.

Workshops

Fiction Writing (Advanced)

This advanced fiction writing workshop is for writers who have already grasped the fundamental writing techniques and would like to push further. Run by Firebird Communication’s Samantha De Silva, it will feature aspects like plot, dialogue, character, pace, together with more advanced topics like symbolism. Held on 25 July 2015, the workshop is $70. Find out more about the workshop here.

Open Calls for Submission

Flash Fiction Contest 2015

Thinking of writing a story under 500 words? Maybe this Flash Fiction Contest by READ! Singapore will help you get motivated. Write a story under 500 words, including one of the following Singapore book titles as a phrase:

  • Between Stations (Boey Kim Cheng)
  • Chilli Padi (Adeline Foo)
  • City of Small Blessings (Simon Tay)
  • Gone Case (Dave Chua)
  • If We Dream Too Long (Goh Poh Seng)
  • One Fierce Hour (Alfian Sa’at)
  • Let Me Tell You Something About That Night (Cyril Wong)
  • Never Been Better (O Thiam Chin)
  • The Space Between The Raindrops (Justin Ker)
  • Unmarked Treasure (Cyril Wong)

There are three categories to submit to (Primary School, Secondary School, Open), and deadline for this competition is 15 July 2015. You can find out more about submission format and rules here.

Signal Boost will now list any literary or museum events for the month every 1st Wednesday of that month. If you would like me to help with any signal boosting of literary events, museum exhibitions, workshops (literary / museums), or calls for submission, drop me a comment or an email at joelyn.alexandra@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

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