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The Stuff I’ve Been Doing of Late

So, I haven’t posted lately. I’ve been busy, though.

Cooking, for one thing, and since the internet can never have enough snaps of tasty food pictures, here you go:

That’s ostrich and chicken skewers. We did half the ostrich in Vietnamese-styled marinade, half in a sort of mild tikka marinade, and some chicken in a lime/coriander marinade–or that’s the short version. Dipping sauce is coriander, lime, salt, and a little yogurt. You may also notice the bowl of curried eggplant to the right in that last picture — bai[n]gan barta. Very simple and easy to make, but a gastonomic delight. (My version is a variation on the linked recipe, with a little vinegar and some hot peppers added, among other variations.)

That’s one example of cooking, but I’ve also made another gumbo, stuffed peppers, and pretty much mastered making arabiatta sauce from scratch; ris-oat-to (steel-cut oats, cooked risotto style, which was weird but interesting), also. And Mrs. Jiwaku and I collaborated on making some really good a pretty good Tom Yam soup and a great jja jjang myeon, too… rich and flavorful, not like the stuff you usually get from so-called “Chinese restaurants” in Korea.

If I can find photos of all these wondrous concoctions, I’ll make an album on Flickr and post it, at some point. In any case, I’ve been working hard at bringing my cooking to another level.

Writing: Well, I finished drafting two short stories, and have completed one writing exercise with my group. I’ve also been thinking over my current novel project, though I haven’t gotten enough work done on it. That’s maybe fine, I needed a little break, and in the meantime, I have been working on another writing project I can’t say much about for the moment.

That said, I’m finishing up that side writing project, and am about to launch back into the novel I have on the simmer. I figure I’m going to go ahead and so something crazy with it, experiment with narrative and structure and revisit the things that made me fall in love with speculative fiction back when I was young. The signal text in that revisitation? Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, which, despite the things that now unsettle me in a not-good way about the narrative, does this other thing right that I want to do right, which I guess I could sum as cranking things up to eleven, and then finding other knobs that aren’t cranked up, and cranking them up to eleven, sequentially, until the roof blows off the stadium. I’m aspiring to that in what started as a humble little story about alchemists and brewers and distillers. We’ll see whether it works. That’s my project for the write-a-thon, and I have a lot to get written if I’m to fulfill my pledge. (Your support would help spur me too: pledge, and support the Clarion West workshop!)

Music: I’ve been practicing steadily, and have even enrolled in a course in jazz improvisation with Gary Burton, the well-known vibraphonist and an instructor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The course is somewhat basic for now, though I hear the level of difficulty ramps up soon. It’s a good spur for me, pushing me to try out some new tunes and reevaluate how I approach things.

My homework for Week 1 was a three-chorus solo on the chord changes for the jazz standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” which I uploaded to Soundcloud–that’s where everyone’s homework goes. It’s a snapshot of the level of my playing, and of my tone, at the moment:

The class is a really diverse bunch of people, very supportive and energetic, playing a really diverse range of instruments, from French horn to accordion, along with the usual mix of saxophonists,trumpeters, bassists, and pianists… and guitarists. So many guitarists! There’s even a number of fairly experienced players in the mix, which is nice. And as a result, I’m working on more tunes.

Beyond that, I’ve been working my altissimo register pretty hard, and have managed to get up to F#4. I’m doing scales up there, with the hope that as I become better able to consistently voice the notes, they will become usable within my improvisations, the way G3 has become consistently and smoothly useable in my improvisations. Which is a nice thing: after a few months, G3 has become just another note in the upper register. I have a feeling it’ll take a bit longer for that to happen with the rest of the altissimo, but with time, and effort, it should come.

I also found that the main reason I was having problems with overtones beyond the second one was that the cork on my tenor neck was a little compacted, and so the mouthpiece was slightly loose. A bit of paper sorted that out quickly and easily. I want to swell the cork on the neck with steam, but I’m worried the glue holding the cork on might not hold (especially since a few pieces of cork applied to a few keys and other fixtures by the same technician who recorked the neck have fallen off only a few months after the overhaul), so I’m sticking with the paper for now.

I may have a lead on a paying gig, or at least on a community of jazz people in Saigon, which is nice: I could do with some jam sessoins, even unpaid ones, while I rebuild and expand the list of tunes I can play off the cuff, as well as my vocabulary and range of skill. (I seem to have regained most of what I lost, but I am determined to move forward now, too, without letting it overwhelm my other pursuits, of course. A couple of hours a day of practicing is my limit now, but if I don’t get it in, I don’t quite feel right… sort of like writing.)

Filmmaking: Mrs. Jiwaku is busily editing the SF film we shot last October/November, the infamous 대리전/Proxy War adaptation, an SF comedy short. That means I’ll be working on the soundtrack soon, probably in September, when she has a rough cut for me to check out and use for a guide. I have a lot of ideas–a little bit of Philip Glass meets The Prodigy, some Steve Reich, some Blade Runner-esque Vangelis stuff, yes, including the “sexy sax” in the love scene:

… but also the closing credits music, which resemble what I fancy doing for the opening credits of our film:

On another front, Mrs. Jiwaku and I are thinking about shooting a short film I scripted a few months ago, on probably zero budget — we may rent lights for a day, but that’s it. Probably will take a few days to shoot, sometime in August. That’s something we’ll shoot now, but edit later on. Only a couple of actors (quite probably including Mrs. Jiwaku herself), one camera, and maybe some lights if we can find where to rent ’em.

Work: I’ve lined up some work, with the help of a friend/housemate. The work should be sufficient to cover our rent and a fair portion of our expenses, and it’s only four hours a week in the evenings, so that’s good. While I don’t want to rush back into teaching–especially not TEFL–it’s nice to have a low-impact gig that can stop us from eating into our savings, but also doesn’t eat into the time I’ve set aside for creative pursuits.

Exercise: This is where I’ve dropped the ball. I’m pretty much nocturnal right now, and between the practicing and writing, I haven’t made time for exercise, though I know I should… I need to. On the recommendation of a friend, I have a book of bodyweight exercises (ie. exercises that use your own body as the resistance for working your muscles–like pushups do, but these include for every muscle group, and which don’t require going to a gym to do)–and I’ve taken notes on the routines and sequence and method, so now it’s just a case of getting started on it.

Thinking: Ever notice that bloggers who post updates like this never write about what they’ve been thinking about? I suppose because blogs function as repositories for what people have been thinking about. Well, I’ve been thinking about:

All of these really do collapse into one thing, and connect my my past series on music. I’ll be working up posts on all of them, too… but for now, I have other things to do. I have interesting blog posts in the pipe, I’ve just been too busy doing things to get them out. Maybe I’ll learn to write a post in fewer than a thousand words, sometime! (Anything’s possible, right?)


I realize I haven’t mentioned my reading lately, but I’ve been reading some odd books lately. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to discuss them too, sometime. Well, the ones worth discussion. The last few have been disappointments, but I’m finally into some good ones again!

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