Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friends and Kin

Blogging from China this time, because they called on Thursday and it was urgent. I could remember that something on the Project Work booklet said that we weren't allowed to go out from such to such, but by the time it came to me, I was one foot into the plane.

I've been called back to attend my great-grandmother's funeral, who had passed away peacefully at an age of one hundred. My great-grandmother had seen a life more illustrious than I had ever imagined; friends and kin came in from distant corners everywhere to the village on Friday. Wenfang has't changed much, thankfully, except for a random misbegotten house that now blocks the view of the church tower from the road coming in from north-west.

I'd have to be frank here, to say that I did not experience as much emotion as Zhengyou did, in my great-grandmother's funeral. The older folk in Wenfang did, as the people who were mostly around during her final years or decades. The emotional element, however, must have been diluted by the fanfare that tailed the ceremony; it was more of a celebration of her life than a mourning for her passing, for gran has touched the lives of many.

The five of us in my immediate family visited once a year in winter, and a stand-around the my great-grandmother's bed was a must-have upon each homecoming. The folks spoke almost monolingual Fuqingese, which made me and my sister sort of left-out. Sometimes, though, Dad would offer a translation, while she talked directly to her great-grandchildren.

The last words I remember coming from my great-grandmother, as she held my hands, was along the lines of "Keep praying." They were valuable words, which I intend to bring to my own grave. Maybe it was why to me, it was as if she had never died; as if she had, like we say, attained everlasting life.

That was the first thing I thought after gramps uncovered her face. She looked as if peacefully asleep, although quite distressingly still. The wake-table was lined with flowers and flashing lights. The head of the table pointed towards the door into the room, and on the other end towards a cloth painting of the Virgin Mary and Christ. The painting was in a western style, and so was the village church. It made me wonder why the idea of Chinese Catholic art never caught on in these parts.

There was no priest present for the ceremony, only a choir, singing hymns like only a Fuqingese could. Smacks of home.

Today we sent Great Gran on her journey via the crematorium. It was crazy the way they did it; five or six brass bands, two or three carriages, and even a stunt troupe called in (did they?) to top it off. The extended family became more extended than I used to think: relatives I've never met, cousins I never knew I had and cousins who'd grown so much in the past year I could hardly recognise them anymore.

The crematorium was deathly white inside, which worried me a bit. And it also worried me the way the personell handled their client irreverently; they must have been through the same process countless times for years! They cried the loudest as Great Gran inched her way into the (wotsname) cremator. And ninety minutes later, Grandpa and the others were out, with a black umbrella and a red box with the ashes.

They buried the ashes in the coffin, shovelling mud and dust to plaintive beats of the musicians. Whereafter we paid a last visit to the wake house and had a full lunch with the same music band cheering everyone up.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This Monday the Twenty-third of October in the Year of Our Lord 2006, back from a CS session I have failed to write the third day of creation in.

The Demiurge writes Diotallevi as a man and a dolphin

Naming things
As humans do to the creation... they say that things were named as soon they were created. But are they really named as what we think they're named? I thought naming things were essentially a very human way to go. Alright then, I name my first man Diotallevi.

Ok so they say, with "they" being the faceless editors of Wikipedia, that they've found out that dolphins use names too. I would say that isn't very unlikely, and I'd like to put faith in what they say too, and dolphins are a quite cute sort of whale. Now what am I saying.

I've been quite convinced that God names things in quite a different way than the rest of us. Does he use a language? His own language as doctrinally suggested, or a greater thing of a metalanguage that English can only vaguely name as a "language"? In any case it's rather questionable that reason is an omnipotent -- aargh.

I've got now a bright spark that might lead this inquiry astray. What if the first man Diotallevi was a dolphin? What if dolphins were the master race in Penthia instead of us humans? What if now I can't decide whether Diotallevi is a human or dolphin? Could he be an uncertain both?

Quantum uncertainty
Anyway, before I decide whether Diotallevi is a man or a dolphin, I could continue writing his existence as if it doesn't matter whether Diotallevi is a man or a dolphin, and then decide in a later time. Before his species is revealed, he is both. In other words, if I write that he is a man, then he was always a man; if I write that he's a dolphin then he was a dolphin all his life. This has an uncanny similarity to Schroedinger's Cat. If it is observed that the cat is dead it is dead; if it is observed that it is alive, it is alive; if it is not observed, then it is both dead and alive in a ghostly superposition of states. So they say.

Capricity and Benevolence
I'm sorry, but I think this creation's a bit of a botch-up.
And he saw that it was a botch-up
And I think we all should be glad that we live in a universe created with logic and not pure capricity like mine. Alright, maybe Douglas Adams didn't think so, but that's his problem.

Would it be that God really can do anything he wants, and he chose not to do certain things, like writing us into men-dolphins or women-dolphinelles? Well I certainly could as I just did, but I could have chosen not to do so. I could have chosen not to do so as a matter of benevolence.

A precondition for benevolence towards creation is a complete understanding towards creation, which I lack. I am not at all convinced even that two passages can describe the entitety of things in my present universe. There wasn't any familiarity between me and gnathostomes, for example, or chanterelles. I just had to write a gnathostome or a chanterelle for them to flourish on Penthia, without me having to tell the story of each gnathostome or chanterelle in individual. Note that the life stories of every living thing on Earth can theoretically be written in any number of days by a potent enough writer (not necessarily human), that which I am not.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Secondum Mobile

In the beginning there was Aristotle
Who taught that things at rest stayed at rest
And that things that move come to a rest
And soon everything was at rest
And God saw that it was Boring.

This Friday the Twentieth of October in the Year of Our Lord 2006, in a clammy computer lab which is marginally better than the hazy hell outside.

This is the second day of creation, which you might have noticed took around three days to come. I can write now that the second day is when stars form and galaxies form, which will initiate hot debates in its future philosophers. Apologetics would explain that I willed the universe continuously, deists would insist that my word on the second day is merely an observation that rules set on the first day was not violated, and relativists would speculate that it happened only as a case of conventional knowledge, what with me hearing the “stars and galaxies forming” cliché from so many instances of cosmological literature now.

If I would bring some revelation to the folks on created Earth it would become the shock of their lives.

Flow of time
This is an important point for my creation thought experiment, because it showed that any theoretical creator has the freedom to not experience a similar temporal procession to his creature. This is assuming the creator treats creation as a novel, or better, a diary.

The creator could
Summarise a billion or two boring years into one paragraph
Hop back to a previous chapter to amend a fault
Finish the whole affair in his own free time
i.e. create the universe in an arbitrary amount of time

Differences between God and the Demiurge
God is benevolent, but the Demiurge has a capacity for irresponsibility.
God can not run out of patience. How could you write all 6 billion lives on this planet alone? Plus everyone that has lived down in history? And wildlife? And possibly aliens?
According to Catholic thought, God chooses to act with logos, or rationality. (We people don’t like the idea of a capricious God) The Demiurge would choose to be purely random a lot of times.

Consciousness, command and free will
This is also important when I deal with my folks. For absolutely any character I write into my universe, they would in some way inherit my consciousness, to a small extent. Let’s bring in the character Diotallevi, who has not been created on the second day but envisioned for a future time. When Diotallevi says to you “Hello world!” I would also be saying Hello World to you, because my actual fingers typed those letters. If I inserted a personality to Diotallevi, as well as a personal world view, they would all stem from a perspective I already know of. Diotallevi would inherit a part of my consciousness.

Of course, if Diotallevi does whatever I write him to do, it would incur some stuff for and against the dodginess of free will in humans. I don’t know if Diotallevi inheriting my consciousness (assuming that I do have free will) would help him being a free person even if under my command, but I leave this question open.

This Saturday the Twenty-First of October in the Year of Our Lord 2006, after a long day.

The Demiurge writes a Subcontinent
Many of us literary creators would create worlds in the form of planets and star systems, and many others would create them in lands, in groups of nations. For me I follow the latter.

Here I go.
I write a subcontinent Penthia, situated upon a planet that its inhabitants has not bothered to name yet; If need comes we may refer to it as the Penthian planet. Penthia juts out of a great desert landmass to the south, and is surrounded on three sides by ocean.

To keep geology and paleontology enthusiasts (including myself) happy I would gladly write every single detail of aesthenospheric activity below the tectonic plates from the primordial planet in the primordial star system to the right now, whenever that is.

This makes me think of Aristotle's causality theory.
Why plate tectonics?
1. Material cause: stuff in the aesthenosphere
2. Formal cause: the temperate, inhabited subcontinent Penthia
3. Efficient cause: convection of magma and occasional earthquakes
4. Final cause: the interaction between inhabitants and Demiurge <--> Demiurge and God

The Demiurge writes living sub*creation
*Notice the sub- prefix before "creation". This is important.

I shall skip the origin of life and the primordial soup bit because they can be boring to write. The folks down there can figure them out themselves. But by the time sentient beings come to Penthia, they will witness biodidersity in their faces.

Or should I create everything by formality?
There's a bad thing to trying to create your own universe. You can't write everything in, and neither can the readers fill everything in with their imaginations. It all has to be left for God-like precision in the creating, the dedication, and the devotion.

That's a point why the Gnostic Demiurge can not stand: because what we see are more detailed than what the Demiurge can bear to write. It also addresses the fact that the world is not perfect while the Creator is. A perfect eyeball, for example. Heck yeah, any Demiurge can bother to write a perfect eyeball, but only God can make the eyeball special by writing also how the eyeball is different, lovingly documenting its every defects and imperfections. Remember now how many eyeballs exist on Earth alone, and how many species we have on Earth that possesses eyeballs.

But still this argument has holes that any reader can fall quite unsubtly into, and I leave it open to readers.

Let the Penthian planet (man this sounds dodgy) fill with plants. And algae. And let them be perfect plants because man how'd you expect me to write in every angiosperm and gymnosperm and conifer and monocotyledon and those three kingdoms of algae critters all in a day's time? I got limited time you know.

And let it fill up with fungi, every species of lichen and mold and ergot (oh maybe not ergots) and cup fungi and truffles and all that confounding basidiomycota including muschrooms and toadstools (paraphyletic construct, sorry) and chanterelles and boletes sorry what else can I write about these fantastic creatures.

Ok so maybe not let it be filled up with fungi because you know how horrible that would be. Let the ecosystem sort it out then.

And let it fill with animal life, which is the most fantastic of all, sorry for being chauvinistic against the plants and fungi and prokaryotes. All ye crustaceans and orynchopods, ye sponges and ye echinoderms, ye rotifers and other phyla I have not bothered to write, sorry about that. Go to Penthian oceans and prosper.

And all ye hyperotretians and fishes, frogs and salamanders, lizards and dinosaurs and other icky creatures, multiply into what has been written for you (sorry but you'd have to imagine that bit because for a fact I have not written biotic fertility into Penthia. Whoops, now I have.) and make timid people scream.

And all ye birds, ye cranes and storks, you cardinals, pidgeons, hesperyornithines. You mallards, peacocks, penguins, to the meek and multitudinous sparrows, fly with all your might so as to make future humans feel jealous. Enjoy flying!

And all you mammals, the antelopes; the blaauwboks, the springboks, the bonteboks and the whateverboks (man do I love the Afrikaans language) that arc through the aethers in flight. The shrews, the moles and the rats that cling close to ground. The prowling predators, and the herds of aurochs and elephants and bisons. Go to the grasslands and experience hardship as good strong creatures rightfully should.

And after all that, I wrote a human.
Ok, if making a human from the dust has any significance, I'd try it. But then, every other instance of creation has to be from dust, because like the human they are corporeal.

Breathing sentience is a tricky bit. I can't breathe sentience as well, ignorant as I am with the situations of the first human. I could write words into his mouth, but it takes skill to write yourself into a character.

Then again, it would take time to show if humans are sentient.
The next day (the solar day, mind) when he woke up, he asked for a wife.

(Click for the Third Day)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Universe Created this Tuesday

The first thing Tak did, he wrote himself
The second thing Tak did, he wrote the rules
The third thing Tak did, he wrote the universe

Tuesday the Seventeenth of October, in the Year of our Lord 2006
Confessions of an Apprentice Creator, the Demiurge, also the author of these passages

Preamble (Apocryphal)
I confess as an apprentice, my sin of reliving the creation by being creator to a universe of fantasy, of ruling over my denizens, impoverished of a real existence. I stress (to the folks that inhabit my passages), that even when they live by my word, I live under His, and that whatever I write down, God has meant me to write them.

Hallelujah praise the Lord may he forgive me.

Let me explain what I'm up to. You as the reader is experiencing with me a very special thing, the creation of a universe in terms of narration by an ordinary human being. It's been done before through numerous fantasy authors, and more notably in Gaarder's
Sophie's World
where the characters in the story have recently realised that they were characters in a story.

Also, these passages, if God allow they be continued, would serve as a philosophical tool to explore the higher-order realities through exploring the lower-order realities. You could see that happen in Abbott's
, which, by intruding a three-dimensional character into the setting of a Victorian two-dimensional universe, sets us (the readers) off pondering about how four spatial dimensions would be experienced by ourselves.

And you'd notice that in writing these passages I have a heightened awareness of God looking over my shoulder. This could mean two things: that this way of attaining sublimated consciousness really works, or that I'm harbouring a guilt complex. After all, this is sort of playing God, and so far nothing good has come out of it.

Which is why I beg you, my reader, to tell me when I should stop.

The first thing Demiurge did, he wrote himself.
This universe is by an imperfect deity. Certainly, he’s all-powerful and all-knowing as far as them poor souls may perceive, (or maybe not, because a bit of my own is written into every person in this small world) though not entirely benevolent himself.

I don’t want to reveal more about me so as to leave something about me for my folks to philosophise about.

The second thing Demiurge did, he wrote the rules.
Pratchett writ the rules too, for his universe. It’s kind of funny he never really pretended to be the Creator of his universe like I just did. Pratchett's universe has a lower c - the speed of light. Well in my case I’ll just leave the universe to figure itself out, but hopefully it might produce a universe coherent with my imagination, with a planet, living beings and everything, otherwise I’ll get bored silly.

The speed of light is 15,365,579 metres per second. There are five fundamental forces. Force 1 and 2 are dual and acts in logarithmic scales of 10^-27 m and 10^19m respectively, force 3 and 4 are attractive and repulsive respectively and both acts in scales of 1m. Force five goes around in circles.

This is getting boring.

The third thing Demiurge did, he wrote the Universe.
Sorry, folks, for not bothering about your Physics.
At least, I put light in so that you won’t panic when you people reach for the switch and the light wouldn’t turn on.
Therefore, let there be light.
And there was light.

Er, let there be sound?
And longtitudinal waves populate the lit space, and strangely enough this primordial utterance consist of a fiddle and flute and a bodhrán. Maybe that's because I like Irish music.

When I get round to it, I might throw in Breton and Scottish music as well. And some classical pieces. Stravinsky?

The universe gets born from a point, and I have happily adopted Father Lemaître's Cosmic Big Bang Theory to apply to my own universe. Right now everything is in a primordial soup, although I hardly have anything in favour of soups in a cosmic context. The exciting bits always come later.

But first I shall finish my dinner, take a shower, sleep a bit, come back from school tomorrow after a billion years or two to see if any habitable planet comes in. Hey, maybe I could even make do with less than seven days!

(Click for the Second Day)

Monday, October 09, 2006


Baudolino visits his dying father at their old home, and tries to console him in the last moments of his life:

"Father," Baudolino said to him, "if you really want to die, make your peace with the Lord and you will enter Paradise, which is like the palace of Prester John. The Lord God will be seated on a great throne at the top of a tower, and above the back of the throne there will be two golden apples, and in each of them two great carbuncles that shine all night long. The arms of the throne will be of emerald. The seven steps to the throne will be of onyx, crystal, jasper, amethyst, sardonyx, cornelian, and chrysolite. Columns of fine gold will be all around. And above the throne, flying angels will sing sweet songs...."

"And there will be some devils who will kick my behind out of there, because in a place like that a man stinking of cowshit is someone they don't want around them. Just shut up..."

Then, all of a sudden, he opened his eyes wide, tried to sit erect, as Baudolino held him. "Dear Lord, now I'm dying, because I can really see Paradise. Oh, how beautiful it is...."

"What do you see, Father?" Baudolino was now sobbing.

"It's just like our stable, only all cleaned up, and Rosina is there, too.... And there's that sainted mother of yours, wicked bitch, now you'll tell me where you put the pitchfork for the muck...."

Gagliaudo belched, dropped the bowl, and remained wide-eyed, staring at the celestial stable.

Baudolino gently ran a hand over his face, because, by now what the old man had to see he saw even with his eyes closed...

Sunday, October 08, 2006


"At that precise moment, Master Niketas," Baudolino said, "I realised that, by saving the life of my lord, I had paid my debt. But for this very reason I was no longer free to love Beatrice. And thus I realised I loved her no more. It was like a healed wound, the sight of her aroused welcome memories but no yearning, I felt that I could remain at her side without suffering, or leave her without feeling sorrow. Perhaps I had finally become a man, and all youthful ardor was spent. I felt no displeasure, only a slight melancholy. I felt like a dove that had billed and cooed without restraint, but now the season of love was over. It was time to move, to go beyond the sea."

"You were no longer a dove, you'd become a swallow."
"Or a crane."

-- in Baudolino by Umberto Eco (2000)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


The Stagfish
Andy Paul Chen
Acrylic and ink on paper

Firstly, a greeting to all my schoolmates, and my compatriots from other schools. Happy art thou who hath endured the Promos. Good job to my friends who have done well (though we don't know yet), and to those who have not, please don't be disheartened too.

I'm not sure where this will lead, photographing and publishing a Promotional exam paper with its title. But it's my favourite this year. Don't be deceived by it's colours, though; I'll probably score dismally in concept because instead of adhering on my chosen themes of Transitions and Symbiosm, I dabbled in abstract patterns and formalism of colour and light. Though one can vaguely see the transition from fish to deer and the symbiosm in this curious gathering of organic and mathematical shapes, I forgot to mention it in my prep. Bah.

I got the ideas from: Civic arms of Zarasai municipality in Lithuania, Franz Marc, Konungadöttrarna (The King's Daughters) music video by Gjallarhorn, stained glass, Penrose tiling, colour theory, cloisonnism and Heraldry.