Friday, February 29, 2008

So this is it: The day that only exists every four years. The other three it does not.

Does this mean of every four things we do today, three of them did not happen?

(Oddity: in saving a draft of this post, I returned to complete it and found there to be FOUR of the same entry waiting.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Half certain

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise. (Not a true story.)

“I’m half certain it’s not fish,” he says.

This is not what one wants to hear from their tour guide. It ranks up there with hearing your doctor is half-finished medical school or your lawyer is half-licensed to practice law. It is definitely not what you want to hear in answer to what that word means when you’re allergic shellfish.

He’s half-certain the mysterious chef’s special, if Thailand even has chef’s specials, won’t kill me. Great. I should have demanded a refund and gotten on the first flight to LAX when he was half-certain there’d be public bathrooms in the first god-forsaken authentic hell-hole he drug me into.

He used to be an English teacher in Japan, he told me, but he lost his job when he went on holiday here and called in sick for two weeks. Insisting it could have could worked for another week or two, he explained the reason he was caught to be because one of the Japanese teachers grew concerned and stopped by his apartment to check on him. He feels it confirms he had a special place in her heart.

Not special enough to keep her from reporting his absence. Usually if you love someone, you don’t get him fired, but he’s chosen not to see it that way. Now he does tours with the same level of diligence he displayed to his previous employer.

“It could be fish,” he says, squinting at the script.

“I’m allergic to shellfish.”

“Oh.” He blinks. “Try the dish below it. I think its vegetarian—or it has shrimp. You can eat shrimp, right?”

Sweat trickles down my spine to seep into my already damp shirt.

“Isn’t there anything on the menu that you’re certain of?” I ask.

He jabs his finger against a red and white logo. “That’s definitely Coke.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I think for Halloween this year I should dress in all white and tell people I'm a blank WORD document.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Style Check from the Strawberry Carpet

In honor of the Oscars and their infamous red carpet, let's take a closure look at some of the fashions worn to the Gothic & Lolita launch party. I warn you now, I have been watching far too much Project Runaway lately.


The Lolita on the right is wearing a charming Alice in Wonderland-inspired dress. While I can't help but wonder if blue-stripped socks may have been the better choice, her pop of color red shoes add a bold touch that coordinates well with her jacket. The lolita on the left's cardigan and boots dress down her skirt, making this more of an everyday loli-look that would be suitable for a variety of occasions.



This group of ladies runs the Lolita style gauntlet. The tartan lace-up dress is flattering fit, and I love the black and pink patterned dress on the far right. Both of these dresses stand out in a crowd. My favorite is the red and strawberry pink dress with its kimono-like top. A wrap shirt with a waist defining belt is a flattering mainstream style that works well on a variety of body types.

How cute are those accessories? The strawberry shortcake and black heart bags add interest and personality to their outfits without straying from the individual look's overall aesthetic.



This pink number has a lot going on—ruffle, ribbon and bow details. Since it's all one color, it looks lavish and ornate. The lace trimmed bloomers add to the Rococo feel, and the heart handbag is very cute. This is a serious Lolita, she's considered her hair and make-up, too.



Here's a closer look at the editor's outfit, as she poses with Christina. As you can see, the white and black lace skirt by Candy Violet has an iconic look. This piece is a versatile design—one that could be dressed up or down depending on what's paired with it. (You look good, too, Christina! It's bad we can see your great boots.)



My choice for best dressed. Let's talk lolipunk, first. Not only is she put-together, her hair and make-up reflect the style of her skirt and jacket. Some of the Lolitas looked "dressed up," but I believe in this girl's style. It's authentic and you can picture her standing in line at the grocery store, too.

Our more classic Lolita has a unique pattern that is nostalgic without being too cutesy. Plus, her brown and white houndstooth coat made her the chicest girl at the event. With the coat and bag, her look is accessible and enviable—even to mainstream fashionistas.

The Gothic & Lolita Bible launch party

February 23, 2007
Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles

This Saturday, while most of the city prepared for the Academy Awards—complete with the madness that is Oscar Weekend—several fashion enthusiasts gathered in Little Tokyo to celebrate the launch of the English Gothic & Lolita Bible, the defining mook (magazine/book) for Gothic & Lolita fashion and lifestyle.

The insanity of Oscar Weekend in Los Angeles explains why Christina and I were late to arrive to the event, as I'd forgotten and gone to the Hollywood & Highland metro station instead of the Hollywood & Vine station.


We arrived in time to find that Hello Kitty Bingo was already in progress. The editors of the magazine participated by showing their love of Lolita style, while calling out the numbers. The contributing editor, in the black dress, had a great wig that gave her super fun hair. The senior editor was working a classy take on the style, which made her stand out from all the jumper-dress clad lolitas. Notice they are both wearing boots, which adds a little more sophistication.


Hello Kitty Bingo is played by pressing tabs to mark your progress on cardboard bingo cards adorned with Sanrio's Hello Kitty doing various cute things. She and a rabbit are eating ice cream or something equally adorable on this card, which turned out not to be a winner. This greatly disappointed me, as I wanted to win a copy of the magazine.



The snacks, however, were delicious, and greatly appreciated by Christina. Her favorite was the cookie and the strawberry lemonade.


After Hello Kitty Bingo finished, it began to rain in earnest, which sent everyone scattering under the awnings for shelter. In the photo above you can see one of those pretty parasols being put to use as a rain umbrella.


Christina posed with a collection closest to us. The girls third from the left and on the far right are two of the bingo prize winners. The woman second from the right is the mother of the girl with the pink wig. Lolita style isn't limited—it appeals to many! As you can see in this photo, there's a diversity of the Lolita style that allows individuals to express themselves while displaying the fashion's unifying characteristics—lace, bows, and cute.


When it became clear the rain wasn't going to let up, most of the Lolitas (and us) headed into Kinokuniya, where it was much warmer. Although this is the busiest I have seen Kinokuniya, we were able to locate a copy of the mook and purchase it with ease.



Overall, it was a fun event that appeared to successfully promote the mook to its target audience. We enjoyed seeing the loligoth fashions and playing Hello Kitty Bingo, despite the rain. Everyone was very friendly, including the amiable staff of the mook and Kinokuniya. Hopefully the English version of the publication will enjoy great success, so TOKYOPOP can hold more Gothic & Lolita events.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Loligoth: The Fashion of Gothic & Lolita










I didn't coin the term loligoth or EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita,) but I'm presently unable to recall who first taught me that was what to refer to Gothic and Lolita as. However, I can remember my first introduction to this Japanese fashion style.

A train station somewhere in Tokyo, between Christmas and New Year's Eve, 2003. We—Jimmy, Waka, Alice, and I—were on our way back to Omiya from Kamakura. Standing down the platform from our group, a small bear topping her tiny rolling suitcase, was a girl decked out in a black frilly dress. She looked like one of those porcelain dolls some people like to collect. I watched her. Fascinated. Why was no one else captivated by her distinct manner of dress? Or that she was traveling with a small teddy bear as her companion?

"Waka-sensei," I whispered, my voice low. "That girl—is she dressed up for something?"

"Hm? No. They just like to dress that way."

Later my friend Alice, who knew more of the fashion style, would take me to Harajuku, and I would see the loligoths scattered throughout the train station, the infamous square before the Meiji-Jingu Shrine, the cramped Takeshita-dori, and even in the cafes along the Omotesando-dori—Harajuku's High Street.

Enthralled by loligoth as I was by Visual Shock (visual kei) rock, I bought my first Japanese Gothic & Lolita Bible during my last month in Japan. I might still have it tucked on a bookshelf somewhere. Loligoth style to me was about romance, mystique, and the beautiful details most people associate with haute couture. It seemed like a sub-culture style that didn't glorify death or pain in the same way that American Goth appeared to. Instead loligoth celebrated beautiful, cute clothes. It also seemed to promote the sexiness of youthful innocence—creating yet another Japanese contradiction that just worked.

I've read accounts that claim loligoth is anti-feminist—that the style is an escape to the innocence of youth, which implies that girls attracted to the style want to be babied and cared for by a "Daddy figure," but I don't think so. Not for American girls. Lolita is a celebration of feminine beauty—and if you think one of them couldn't kick your ass in her platform shoes and beat you down with her parasol, boy, do you need a reality-check.

For many years, the loligoth style had an influence over my art. I wanted to play with the idea of innocence that wasn't so innocent and try to create my own take on this idealized Victorian style, rather than the actual, historically accurate clothing. Did I bring anything new to the style? No, probably not, but I had a lot of visual fun playing with my idea of it.

When I returned to Japan in May 2007, I found that the "Harajuku Girls" had vanished. They'd disappeared into Harajuku's back streets, and their style was evolving. Changing as Fashion always does. EGL had become too known. They were exploring new ways to express themselves and stand out from the crowd.

I wondered if it was because I was starting to see what looked like ghosts of loligoth in mainstream American fashion. Most of the lolipunk I saw in La Foret looked like something Avril Lavigne could wear on her Best Damn Thing tour.

I saw the same ghosts in my own writing—Shiro's all white design is a blend of toned-down UK cybergoth and an everyday take on the Japanese white Gothic. His girlfriend dresses like a Sweet Lolita. Even if I wasn't actively following the style, it still held its pretty parasol over me, because it was part of the Japan that lives in my memories. The Japan that is essential to my writing.

What Waka-sensei said is true. No, it's not a costume. They just like to dress that way. Like all fashion, it isn't for everyone, but five years later it still speaks to me.

When I learned that TOKYOPOP was going to be producing an English version of the Gothic & Lolita Bible, I was thrilled. Finally, an official English resource to the style. Someone other than Gwen Stefani, who has her own spin and approach to the style that is more her than Japan.

Going to the Gothic & Lolita Bible launch party yesterday, I looked around at all the gorgeous loligoths who had come out—and stayed out in the rain—and I thought two things:

1) Who knew those parasols could function as working umbrellas,

and

2) What I thought of as Lolita style wasn't dead and gone. It had just moved from Harajuku to Los Angeles.

Kind of like me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Every year that I watch American Idol, I find myself comparing it to the query process. Only so much crueler, because it's all "live" on TV and show to "millions" of viewers.

There's usually a few singers that I feel it should make it to the top 12, or a couple that I feel strongly enough to vote for. This year, I am putting my support behind Ramiele Malubay. I like Alaina Whitaker, Brooke White, and Asia'h Epperson, but I've felt compelled to vote for Ramiele since the auditions. I am fascinated by her voice (and her hair.)




Does she sound a little like Utada Hikaru to anyone else? (Note to self, get the Heart Station album when it comes out in mid-March, because this song is brilliant.)



Perhaps if Ramiele could sing Boulevard of Broken Dreams, I could know for certain, because as much as I would love it and it would get Remiele all the AsianPop votes she could handle, I don't think she can sing Simple and Clean on American Idol.

The way I see it...

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise. I'm not certain who this character is.

The way I see it, it’s a necessary evil like telling your friend’s parents that she’s at your house when you knew she went up to make out ridge with that boy they don’t approve of. You know it’s wrong to lie, but it’s an untruth told out of fear of social abandonment.

Fashion is the same way. You don’t really like skinny jeans—no one does, but loss of circulation is still less painful than loss of status.

If we didn’t have the hierarchy, things would fall apart. We need the popular and unpopular to condition us for the real world. Best we learn now that wealth and beauty mean power, or we’d grow up with an unrealistic belief like hard work and honesty garner success.

Being unpopular prepares us for the merciless, uncaring world that school and our parents shelter us from. People who refuse to accept this are only harming themselves. The way I see it, we’re doing you a favor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Collected thoughts

There's something so intoxicating about falling into obsessed love with writing a character.

Hi.

Hotel for World Con in Calgary (Oct 30–Nov 2, 2008) is now booked. I should have done it sooner, because I ended up having to pay full price for the night of Oct 29th. Ouch. It's going to cost the same as my friend and I staying an additional 2 nights. I'm collecting names of those who are going to be in Calgary, as it would be fun to meet up with some folks and have an impressive gang to fill up panel rows and a banquet table together. :)

Oh, I was reading this post on Jocelynn Drake's blog while painting my nails bright pink, and I thought, she's right.

I did a lot of lot of people watching during my vacation. I was in the desert, which I love to visit, and I was everywhere fabulous in LA. You know, Hollywood & Highland—yes, I know it sucks there, but people who don't live in LA think it's awesome for some reason, The Grove, Larchmount Village, and Melrose. Not the trendy expensive Melrose, but the gritty, tattooed and tourist-attracting real Melrose. Only the fabulous in LA have $300–500 hair cuts and little doggies in sweaters.

You know, it wasn't just the people watching, though. It was people watching with my 13-year-old cousin that has breathed new life into my YA project. I'm very grateful she came to visit, and that I could share a fraction of this crazy city with her.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I spent the past week having a little vacation from my life, which worked about as well as any vacation. Meaning, for the most part, it served its purpose of distracting and inspiring me, but I still managed to worry about things.

I came to realize that I do love Los Angeles, even if I'm no longer convinced I want to live here. Thus proving that a place has more than one side—the surface, that you fall in love with and want to stay to be in, and the depth that contains the heart of the city. Can you vacation somewhere and know it down to the bottom of those depths? No, I don't think you can. You can glimpse it in the corner of your eye across the bar. See it sparkle and shine, but you don't know what it looks like when it's hauling its weary, hung-over self home the next morning.

It's still fascinating to watch it have to wait for the light to change, reeking of alcohol and missed opportunities, but I think I want to observe from the opposite corner for a while.

Friday, February 15, 2008

In the Void

Created from a prompt for a writing exercise.

In the void there are sensations, but no sensory input to classify. One does not hear so much as recalls hearing. A drip echoes, or the memory of a drip from years ago. The silence becomes sound as the brain struggles to retain a grasp on sanity and the mortal coil.

Images flicker—flashes of what came before the darkness, but one knows these are memories, unlike the ghost sounds that almost convince one they aren’t alone. Aren’t abandoned.

The void lies at the bottom of the stairs that lead upwards, but nothing remains beyond the door. Maybe a grey dawn that fades into the same charcoal night.

After “day” loses meaning, time becomes fragmented. It slips by, unmarked, until time is a memory like sight and sound.

There used to be touch—shivers and gooseflesh, sweats and shakes. Touch has ceased, too. It was the boundary that defined space, but space and boundaries have become memories. There is nothing but the void, and the void is everything.
I've realized in my current manuscript, that I'm writing about Los Angeles. Not the Los Angeles that is, or was, or probably ever could be. Parts of Los Angeles, stolen from its grave, and stitched together to reconfigure into a Frankenstein creature that is just recognizable beneath the staples and metal thread.

Is this becoming a story I could not have written without seeing those freeways that make up Los Angeles' circulatory system? Cars its blood cells, commuters its oxygen. Limbs tangled around coast and mountains.

Possibly. Maybe. Yes.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

There is a demon that lives in my computer. It feeds on two or three letter words and prepositions that it steals from my manuscripts.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Longing to Let Down Her Hair

Created from a writing prompt. (Pick a fairy tale or cartoon character and write from their POV.)

It was lonely in the tower, with little more to do than count the indents in the mortar between the dull, grey stones. Many thought the flaxen locks were her pride, but Rapunzel had little choice in the style of her hair. It wasn’t like she could be visited by a celebrity stylist at the mercy of Oprah, who would bemoan the ragged, tangled split ends, and snip Rapunzel free of the pain in her neck and shoulders from the golden strands.

If only she could barter or beg a pair of shears, she could liberate herself and weave wheat-colored tapestries to cover the walls. Something new for her unchanging world. Her hands wringing and twitching in a useful, productive manner, instead of braiding and unbraiding the dry straw rooted in her scalp.

When the wind blew right, it carried static-wrapped teases of the world below. A world no proper young woman could be left to wander. A world of temptation, Rock & Roll, and princes with gyrating hips and Vegas kingdoms. Where short-haired women in low cut dresses smoked cigarettes and drank the Devil’s fire water.

If only Rapunzel had scissors, then she could find out what the fire water that Dame Gothel admonished really did when it got into a good girl’s blood.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Year of the Rat!

According to the site linked above:

"A Rat Year is a time of hard work, activity, and renewal. This is a good year to begin a new job, get married, launch a product or make a fresh start. Ventures begun now may not yield fast returns, but opportunities will come for people who are well prepared and resourceful. The best way for you to succeed is to be patient, let things develop slowly, and make the most of every opening you can find."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Confidence—the double-edge sword

I have been ill as of late, which makes stringing sentences together in a pleasing manner more difficult. This is the beginning of a second week of me not writing anything new on my current personal manuscript. I revised my completed manuscript, and I had some work to do for the contracted project, but that's not the same as laying down more groundwork in a rough draft.

It's been a while since I worked on a rough draft of a brand new thing. (Once again, the contracted project doesn't count. It's not relying on me to fully visualize the world, just adapt to an existing vision, which is a whole other kind of challenge.) The little scraps I do in writing group are different as well, because they're mostly moments and scenes—they aren't required to flesh out a society.

Which leads me to the double-edged sword of confidence, or at least the illusion of it. See, most writers -for-life reach a point where they realize that you need a certain degree of confidence in your skills and words in order to keep writing. You have to have days where you think "this is good. Yeah. That there might even be great. I'm good at this! I should totally keep writing." They balance out the "oh my god, I suck. I'm a hack. I'll never have an original idea of my own. I should quit."

However, most people also understand that there's a general dislike for those whose confidence turns into arrogance. People who can't take criticism because their work is "perfect," and every editor and agent who said differently is delusional.

When I say something is good, I don't really mean "it's perfect." I'm not sure why you think I might. If I thought it was perfect, I would have said so. It bothers me when I get the impression I'm meant to feel guilty or shamed because I don't think I completely suck. Or I want to share with people proof that no, really, I don't completely suck.

Because there are many, many days when I am convinced that I do (completely suck,) and what I've written doesn't make any sense and no one would ever want to read it. There is nothing more difficult than trying to commit words to a page when you've already got it in your head that anything you write will be crap. Sort of defeats the purpose of trying.

So you'll have to excuse me, when I'm searching for a plot point that hid underneath the bed or behind the sofa and you hear me chanting like a mantra "I am a good writer. Everything I write is good. I can worry about making it better later. Damnit, I am a good writer." It's not bragging, it's an attempt to lure the sneaky words out into the open.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hobbies

So you know those profile things that sites make you fill out? Where you list your hobbies and your favorite books/TV shows/Movies, because someone thinks it will help you find people that you want to hang out with and discuss how much you all love Lost?

The purpose of such profile fields doesn't matter. We had to create a teacher profile when I worked in Japan, and it listed things like our favorite food and Japanese word, our nationality, and our hobbies. Perhaps I regard these questions as suspicious because I always feared something like this might happen. Shame on you, Tourism Toronto, you only confirm that I have no idea why anyone would want to go to Toronto.

Anyway, after having to fill out profiles, one develops a standard response. An ingrained list that one automatically jots down in the empty box. Recently, I was reminded I had to do one of these profile things for the work-for-hire client. When I start filling it out, I get to the question about hobbies, and I put in the pre-determined list that I have been putting down for the past like ten years.

Lo, I realize something, the first item on that list: writing. What I have I been hired to do for this client? Write.

My hobby just became my job. If that was my primary hobby, and now it's also my job, what else I am doing? I'm not talking about the bad TV I watch, the books I read, or my budding addiction to the Free Rice vocabulary game. (Which, by the way, is much more like a SAT question than a vocab quiz, because you're defining the word with a synonym.)

Often, I talk to other friends who have creative jobs about the importance of having a different creative hobby. Creativity is a lot like a muscle—you can strengthen it by training, and use routine to learn discipline, but you can so easily over-exert your creativity and burnt out. Just like you can lift too much weight at the gym and seriously hurt your body.

I used to draw all the time. It was a passion—but I had no delusions of becoming An Artist. It was just something fun I did to pass the time. When I started to take fine arts as foundation study then moved on to graphic design studies, art as a hobby became tiring. I spent all day involved in visual communication. When I got home, I wanted to do something else.

More and more time was spent writing, and less and less time was spent on personal art. The last piece I did was a birthday present for someone in June. As my "job" is shifting to writing, I find myself hungering for that visual communication. The balance of images to words that has maintained my life.

There's something very exciting realizing this is the void, and I do know how to span it.

However, since Eileen Cook's UNPREDICTABLE will be in stores next week, I think I'll finish the last Dante Valentine book before I spend all day agonizing over my inability to draw hands. Feet. Torsos. Legs. Arms. Dynamic poses. Animals....