Monday, December 31, 2007

This Sainted Year

It's the last day of this sainted year so I thought I might just write something to say goodbye. There are a lot of things I may just prepare to say goodbye to, but there is another time for that, don't worry.

I've left behind quite some mess for the preceding twenty-four months, altogether quite a lot of fortnights. I meant mess as in very assorted, not full of rubbish, as is a very male way of looking at the word. I guess near anyone I know hereabouts in college would agree to that first point.

And it's been quite some change as well.
It's weird but maybe I should just set down these changes for the record; I haven't been writing on things pertaining to myself and those around me much anymore.

New Friends
is a fact of life for us young ones. And so is separation; this specific one ongoing especially abrupt. In our soldiering days one will meet the peeps he will be hanging out with for the next two years, and there's not much choice to who you get. Would be wise to leave it up to yuanfen, and accept your comrades as they come. Meanwhile the girls will be spread all over the world in premier colleges because they're so smart.

Christmas
I got cards from Yee Chien and Siewch for Christmas, and I was more than a little touched when I read them. Attached to Yee Chien's card, one safety razor and one safety razor holder. Hope they'll come in useful. Dah, just like I hope that my gifts of hand soap will come in useful as well.

Heritage
I hear now more of it and has grown proud of it.
You can now find my home village on Google Earth, in high resolution, here in 25.6 N 119.4E. It's called Wenfang and is the centre of a large parish. Our church is the one way off main road and with a domey tower to the west, and the house we lived in every December is not far away east.
I drew a picture of the village from the rooftop two years ago. Maybe I'll put it up soon.

[Jan 26 2008: Here it is
Wenfang from Rooftop
Wenfang Church and Surroundings
December 2005
29 x 42 cm / Pencil on paper]

Church
My family has resumed church attendance last July, which is some achievement. And life in church did become more interesting to us, now that we become more than passive overlookers of the consecration of the bread and wine and other rituals suchlike, say I! Do have some more cake.

Sports
I was never much of a sporty guy before '06, but all thanks to the peeps in S6E, who opened the doors for me to the simple joy of getting hit in the face by basketballs and running into people randomly, and ultimately giving back to me a long-lost childhood. Thanks to you again, you know who you are!

Astronomy
Here's one to Mak who brought me to be a steward and a head of the club, and from whom I asked more help than I should.
Here's one to the people who have to put up with my less than adept leadership, especially Weiqi, Lin Xi, Ming Wei and Yam Huo. Despite my faltering manners and dismal ideas about job allocation, you supported me to the end. Will remember you guys for your being positive, and well wishes to you juniors as well. Do keep alive!

Ways of Thought
Some change there.
Where I used to be spirited with my opinions, now I seem more settled; more or less cynical I cannot tell.
A lot of reevaluation happened with the way I treat other people's ideas, and with it prejudices based upon provenance, popularity and othersuch. Maybe I've become more calmly and neutrally stanced when presenting my own; more or less rationally I cannot say.
I've ceased to believe in doing things like art or daydreaming (read: contemplating) for their own sake, at least partly arising from the unpleasant images it brings into my head. British comedy has had a lot to do with it, what with them portraying career poets as raving psychotics wherever I look.

Oh goodness they've completed the countdown and it's 2008 now.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Soul clad in air

Jokull by Hulda
This picture is probably taken by Hulda Magnúsdóttir

When one is describing Christianity at Glacier one must never forget the glacier, at least not for long. Perhaps some of the undersigned's continuous reflections on this subject, as follows, are not entirely out of place even though they do not perhaps pertain to this particular day; but all other days have been this day at one time or another, just like those that are still to come.

This glacier is never like an ordinary mountain. As was said before, it is only a bulge and doesn't reach very high into the sky. It's as if this mountain has no point of view. It asserts nothing. It doesn't try to force anything upon anyone. It never importunes you. Skilled mountaineers come straight here to climb the mountain because it is one of the most famous mountains in the world, and when they see it they ask: Is that all there is to it? And they can't be bothered going up.

In the mountain range that continues to the east of the glacier there are innumerable mountains as varied as people in a photograph; these mountains are not all-or-nothing like the glacier, but are endowed with details. Some are said to swell up and start booming when the wind is from the north. Some skilled mountaineers say that the glacier isn't interesting but that Helgrindur is interesting and the people should rather climb Helgrindur, which means the Gate of Hell.

It is often said of people with second sight that their soul leaves the body. That doesn't happen to the glacier. But the next time one looks at it, the body has left the glacier, and nothing remains except the soul clad in air. As the undersigned mentioned earlier in the report, the glacier is illuminated at certain times of the day by a special radiance and stands in a golden glow with a powerful aureole of rays, and everything becomes insignificant except it. Then it's as if the mountain is no longer taking part in the history of geology but has become ionic. Wasn't the fairy ram that Hnallþóra saw actually the glacier? A remarkable mountain. At night when the sun is off the mountains the glacier becomes a tranquil silhouette that rests in itself and breathes upon man and beast the word never, which perhaps means always. Come, waft of death.

Halldór Laxness / Chapter 28 of Under the Glacier (Kristnihald undir jökli) / The Glacier

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad,
Feliz navidad, prospero año y felicidad!


Boy, this song has come stuck in my mind for two days now.
A blessed Christmas season to all!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Lapsed Bohemians

"You know how they wrote in that century... People with no soul."
- The Island of the Day Before, last lines

A soul is always needed in artist in the things he does. A good one, let us assume by taking at once the aesthetic doctrine of Tolstoy. If an artist does not feel for his own art, how then may he expect others to feel for his? Go on and dispute that first statement, if you feel like it. If you do, you're not the first, and a richly populated canon has sprung from the denial from that first statement. In Tolstoy's opinion its roots dug as far into the past as the Renaissance, but in any case the Anti-art tradition , as aforementioned, is its most outward manifestation.

The bohemianism of the post-Renaissance era of Europe, then, may not be so removed from the modern art which so often despises it. The last lines which summed up Roberto della Griva's account of his shipwreck was an uncomfortable ending to the book, but it mirrors a state of mind which existed then as well as now. It strikes at the root of the pretentiousness of art and artists.

The callwords of poetry, of contemplation, romance and othersuch, being worthy each on their own, are needless repeated and advertised. This so happens when the incentive that these qualities bring are attractive. It pays for an artist to heighten his profile through such an image; an artist is always seen a head taller than the rest in terms of abilities of cognition. And of course, a knack in language and in expression, spoken or written, benign or expletive, is an indespensable element in courtship of any form.

Was it the case in the European upper-classes? I may venture a guess so and be more than a little convinced myself. Roberto, a Piedmontese aristocrat, certainly had a propensity to set his eyes on more than one woman (lot like me, really). He also wrote love letters, which were dictated to him by Saint-Savin; this other guy had in his hands a winning formula for the love letter. His revelry in metaphysics with Father Caspar, and then himself, was in retrospect a little sycophantic in addition to the general interesting. Finally, his delirious dreams with Ferrante were a kitschy tales of good fighting evil: with a damsel in distress thrown in, even.

Why, a soul capable of such imagination, contemplation, desire, be deemed nought? But, we see through Saint-Savin's insight, you can pretend a soul if you don't have one, just repeat after me.

And, I imagine, somewhere into the twentieth century, they got tired of the pretense and flaunted soullessness (as ageless a disease as leprosy) as a novelty, a revolution, converging with the rest of the fashionable ideas to form the never-ending political hubbub of now.

Hence I conclude: That soullessness as a state of being has been preserved in art as a revered tradition, survived even (and especially) by the anti-art tradition that the Cabaret Voltaire artists claim to be trailblazers for; that richness and beauty of origins the most bereft of soul can be taken into an artistic canon. And art should not be so mystified such that even we, the artists ourselves, find it dodgy to relate to our brainchildren. This is art we are talking about after all, not theology.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hnallþóra

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The time is 0000, midnight. Upon my word, isn't that some kind of coffee smell wafting towards me out of the house! Inside, the table had been covered with a cloth and laid with a variety of cakes of many shapes and colours; I think I'm safe to say that there were hundreds of them, set out on nearly twenty plates. To cap it all, the woman brought in three war-cakes, so called because they became fashionable during the war, each about twenty centimetres thick. Finally the woman brought in coffee and switched on a light, a naked 15-watt bulb that hung by a flex from the ceiling.

Woman, apologetically: I'm going to light this thing anyway, even though we don't go in much for that sort of thing in this house. It was forced onto pastor Jón a year or two back when every farm was connected up in accordance with the new regulations, whether people wanted to have it or not.

The undersigned wasn't very sure at first what the "this" was that couldn't be mentioned by name. Gradually it dawned on me that the woman was talking about electricity.

Embi [the bishop's emissary]: It's quite unnecessary to switch on the electricity for my sake. A candle will do.
Woman: That's hardly good enough for bishops.

However, the upshot was that the woman switched off the light with the unmentionable name and lit a candle; this was actually far more festive than the naked 15-watt bulb. The woman poured the visitor a cup of coffee and invited him to help himself, then took up position by the door with a stern expression on her face. The coffee had a mouldy taste, and truth to tell I was paralysed by the sight of these innumerable cakes arrayed around such awful coffee. I felt that the woman was watching over me in the same spirit of duty as when one is making sure that animals are eating the fodder they've been given.

She is a woman of dignity, but taciturn; perhaps she yearns for eternal silence and feels uncomfortable in body and soul if anyone addresses her first; it's better to tread warily. Perhaps there was just a small railing around her, like a statue in a square. A cleanly woman. Not much over sixty. Thickset, rather clumsy.

Embi: Perhaps the pastor has gone to bed?
Woman: That I do not know.
Embi: Excuse me, but aren't you the pastor's wife?
Woman: I've not been so considered hitherto.
Embi: Never before have I sen so many cakes all at once. Did you make all these cakes?
Woman: Who else, indeed? That's why they call me Hnallþóra (Pestle-Thóra) hereabouts.
Embi: An unusual name.
Miss Hnallþóra: I suppose the folk here think I wield the pestle in the mortar rather vigorously.
Embi: A very entertaining notion, certainly.

Miss Hnallþóra: There's a lot of envy around here, you know. The madams with their mixing machines say things about my mortar. But what's cardamom until it's been under the pestle, say I! Do have some more cakes.
Embi: Excuse me, but is the pastor's wife not at home herself?
Miss Hnallþóra: I don't know. I rather think she isn't here. Did the bishop need to have a word with her?
Embi: No, not really. I was just asking.
Miss Hnallþóra: Quite so. One could try asking down at Neðratraðkot (Netherland Croft). It's thought to be haunted sometimes in springtime, or so they say.

Embi: But you're the housekeeper, are you not?
Miss Hnallþóra: I'm simply here. I go with the parsonage.
Embi: Were you already here when pastor Jón came here?
Miss Hnallþóra: Yes, I'm from up the mountain.
Embi: From up the mountain?

The lady heaved a sigh, closed her eyes, and inhaled a needless sort of "yes" all the way down into the lungs -- yessing on the in-breath, as it's called.

Embi: From up the mountain? Is that some particular family?
Miss Hnallþóra: I don't come from any particular family. That's for other folk.
Embi: Nothing particular in the way of news around here?
Miss Hnallþóra: There's nothing much happens around here. Nothing ever happens to anyone. No one has ever seen anything.
Embi: Nothing ever happened to you either? Never seen anything?
Miss Hnallþóra: Nothing to speak of.
Embi: Perhaps something you cannot speak of? Have you never owned a horse, for instance?
Miss Hnallþóra: No, praise be to God. Others have owned horses, I'm happy to say, but not me.

Embi: Who owns the calf?
Miss Hnallþóra: The calf! That thing on its last legs? I've no idea why I was given it. There's nothing here to feed to a calf except coffee once in a while, and old cakes I mash up in it. On the other hand I won't conceal the fact from anyone that once upon a time a little something happened to me. I saw a little something. But never except just that once.
Embi: This is turning out better than seemed likely.
Miss Hnallþóra: Of course, I wouldn't tell a soul about it.
Embi: That's not so good!
Miss Hnallþóra: I'll just go and make some more coffee.
Embi: Thanks, but there's really no need. I'm not accustomed to drinking more than a half a cup or so. And I'm sure that coffeepot holds at least a litre and a half.

But there was no stopping her going out again with the coffeepot to replenish it, even though the level couldn't have been lowered by much. While the lady was out, the bishop's emissary could scarcely take his eyes off the three war-cakes bulging with spices and measuring a total of sixty centimetres in diameter. I was sweating a little on the forehead.

In the hope that with a little patience some information might be got out of the lady, I accepted a third cup contrary to my custom. It worked. The visitor's coffee-swilling began to have a loosening effect on this fettered woman. Her reactions became more human, and she submitted to that softening of the soul and surrender to God and man that comes from telling a story. She returned to that one thing that had ever happened to her in her lifetime, that one and only time she had ever seen something. It was very nearly fifty years ago, but, she says, I remember it as if it had happened yesterday. May I not cut the bishop a wedge of layer cake?

Embi: There's really no need, but, well, yes, thank you.
Miss Hnallþóra: Would you not like a piece from each one? It wasn't the intention to have to throw it to the dogs.

The visitor besought her only to cut from the one, preferably the one with the sugar icing, because that one wasn't as moist as the others and wasn't oozing quite so much juice and tinned fruit. So she cut me a wedge that would have been a suitable portion for seven people, and laid it on my plate.

Miss Hnallþóra: I was just a chit of a girl at the time. I was sent on some errand out to Bervík. Instead of going the direct coastal way along the seashore, I followed the sheep-paths higher up, straight over the glacier moraines. There are lots of lovely dells up there, full of mosses and heathers. And then, as I am walking over one of the ridges, suddenly I see a brown ram with trained horns standing there on its own, with no other animal anywhere near, and looking up at me from the hollow. I've never been so frightened in all my born days, a speechless person, a helpless girl, because I knew that neither this nor any other straight-horned brown ram existed here at Glacier. A golden lustre shone from him. Never in all my born days have I seen such a fleece on any living animal. I felt I was turning to stone. For a long time I couldn't tear my eyes from this beautiful animal I knew didn't exist here in the valley not down by the shore not anywhere in Iceland. The ram just stood there and gazed at me. I feel as if I'm standing there this very day and the ram is gazing at me. What was I to do? In the end I had the sense to run out of sight. I made a wide detour down from the ridge and ran helter-skelter along the hollows all the way down to the sea until I reached the main road. Thanks be to God.

Embi: A fairy ram?
The woman inhaled her answer in a falsetto, no doubt still with palpitations to this very day: I don't know.
Embi: Did anyone ever get to the bottom of this?
Miss Hnallþóra: No, of course no one ever got to the bottom of it. Everyone knew as well as I did that there were no straight-horned brown rams in these parts. Some lads from the next farm went up to have a look, but naturally they saw nothing. And since then I myself have never seen anything one could call seeing. And nothing has ever happened to me.

Halldór Laxness / Chapter 5 of Under the Glacier (Kristnihald undir jökli) / The Story of Hnallþóra and the Fairy Ram

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Guard Mascot

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The Guard Mascot
(after the Pagėgiai Coat-of-arms)

Acrylic on canvas

Perhaps derivative, rather than original, works are in order this season, but one has to start living somewhere.

I did this in much the same spirit as I did the Stagfish painting, taking the theme from the arms design of a Lithuanian (or thereabouts) municipality, sprinkling the background with four-sided shapes and outlining everything with thick black lines, except that I did a bit more to alter the Stagfish arms to make the chimera look more alive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Granite Banks



December 10: If I could nail my childhood down at any particular place at all, which hasn't been razed to the ground and rebuilt upon or anything, this must be it.

Dad took me down for bike rides the last time we lived near here. Most times we went once around, all 6.17 km of the gravel path. Sometimes we went twice. But today I didn't have a bicycle, and jogged instead. I looked at the sky when I reached the first jetty and it frowned back. There was going to be a shower today.

People would expect the gloomy disposition to herald death and doom; it was far from what I expected. The place was lively near everywhere.

I came here last week and found catfishes skulking around the granite boulders. Along with it was a swarm of other unidentifiable fish, and some terrapins. Today the floodgates at Sungei Pandan lit up and it was quite pretty, never mind the fact that I never saw it in action. The construction in April seems to have put in a load of new pipes to factories, in addition to the ones that were already added for the four or five years when I turned my back.

The route bends to the left if you go south from the first jetty (closest to home). Soon you reached the second one, which is green. Then you ran into a swarm of swallows and a swarm of small flying insects whom the swarm of swallows preyed upon. Halfway to the third jetty, which is white like the first one, you saw a goanna swimming in the water. Bloody goannas, now they're everywhere.

Meanwhile you look left and there are the sandy or muddy estuary of Sungei Pandan I never noticed while I cycled past that place when I was a kid. It looked today more sandy or muddy than it should be but hey, it might be the low tide.

And also the terrapins sometimes I would sight basking along those pipes which would go down and disappear gently into the water, but those folks I didn't get to see today. Maybe they're expecting the rain; maybe the goanna ate them, I don't know.

And on my way back past the green jetty I recalled Dad and I climbing the gates, went to what I must have been thinking to be the middle of the lake, and bothered the swarm of fishes of indeterminate species by spitting into the water. Dad dropped this habit only insofar as he gave up smoking, but that's for another day I guess.

It's too late into the night to write about my thoughts about being as close to nature as I like in the days after enlistment.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hail to the Greenest Branch

Hail to you, verdant rod / that burst forth in the rush of the wind / out of sacred prayers. When your time had come / to blossom on all your branches / the word rang out: Hail to you, Hail to you! The sun’s warmth trickled into you / like the fragrance of balsam.

O viridissima virga, ave,
que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis
sanctorum prodisti.
Cum venit tempus
quod tu florusti in ramis tuis,
ave, ave fuit tibi,
quia calor solis in te sudavit
sicut odor balsami.
Nam in te flourit pulcher flos
qui odorem dedit
omnibus aromatibus
que arida erant.
Et illa apparuerunt omnia
in viriditate plena.

-- Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
performed by Emma Härdelin of Garmarna (2001)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sur la Fosse au Boulot

A merchant shanty boasting a variety of traded goods and places of origin. Annotated with links! An asterix* denotes some uncertainty in meaning. In case it came unnoticed, I have cut off all easy access to diatribes and now classify past inscriptions (under the "An Seoda" menu) by type i.e. fiction, excerpts and song lyrics. Enjoy.

O Io lé, ô Io lé, oh! O Io lé, ô Io lé,
O lam da di, ô lam da di!
Oh, oh, oh, oh hisse et oh!


On débarque en vrac des bateaux, la réglisse et le coco*,
Le girofle de Davao, les bananes de San Pedro*.
On décharge en chariots, en billes*, en planches, en plaques*, en panneaux,
L'okoumé de Bornéo, l'acajou du Congo.

O Io lé, ô Io lé, oh! O Io lé, ô Io lé,
O lam da di, ô lam da di!
Oh, oh, oh, oh hisse et oh!


On débarque en sacs sur le dos, le café, le cacao,
Le riz le thé de Macao, le soufre* de Bilbao.
Tout le jour on se crève la peau, et quand vient le soir on se brûle les boyaux:
Le vin, le rhum coulent à flots dans tous les caboulots.

O Io lé, ô Io lé, oh! O Io lé, ô Io lé,
O lam da di, ô lam da di!
Oh, oh, oh, oh hisse et oh!


...On gueule, on fume dans les bistrots, on traîne avec les filles à matelots.
Quand vient le matin, sans repos, on reprend les vélos.

On repart sur la Fosse au boulot...
On dessoûle dans les entrepôts...
On embarque en canot, au fond des cales, à bord des paquebots,
Du vin, du sucre en tonneaux, des gigots, des fayots.

On débarque sur le quai Renaud*, les veaux, les peaux, les chevaux,
La canne et les noix de coco, les piments de Marajo,
Le blé, la laine, la chaux, l'étain, le cuivre de Callao,
Le fer de Valparaiso, le plomb de Coquimbo.

On décharge en caisses, en cageots, les oranges de Curaçao,
La cannelle de Porto Rico, la vanille et l'indigo.
On débarque des cargos, le vin de Porto, le zinc de Vigo,
Le tabac de Santiago*, le charbon de Glasgow.

On débarque en vrac des bateaux la réglisse et le coco,
Le girofle de Davao, les bananes de San Pedro.
On décharge en chariots, en billes, en planches, en plaques, en panneaux,
L'okoumé de Bornéo, l'acajou du Congo....

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Tale of Aloïda

Aloïda - Tri Yann

C’était à Vannes, l’an passé au mois de mai
Aloïda de l’IUT revenait,
Petite Maure, cheveux de jais sur le dos,
Jeans et T shirt, sur le pont de Kerino.
S’en viennent à moto ses trois frères,
Et leurs yeux sont comme couteaux,
Ils l’encerclent, elle a peur aussitôt.

- Hier on t’a vue main dans main d’un étudiant,
C’est déshonneur pour une maure de vingt ans,
Grand déshonneur pour tes frères et tes parents,
- C’est, leur dit-elle, liberté d’aimer pourtant.
Des trois frères l’ainé, aussitôt,
Lui attache les mains dans le dos
Et la jette derrière sa moto.

- Frères! Mes frères! Vous me brisez les os.
- Maudite sœur! Nous en finirons bientôt.
- Frères! Mes frères! Vous déchirez ma peau.
- Maudite sœur! Tu gagnes ce que tu vaux.
Dans un entrepôt, ils la traînent,
Et la saignent de leur couteaux,
Et l’enterrent au fond du dépôt.

Tombe sur vanne grêle de caillots de sang.
Aloïda, ton ami vient en courant,
Chercher refuge par hasard dans l’entrepôt,
Voit dans l’entrée tes chaussures et ton manteau.
- Gendarmes qui dormez, accourez!
Morte mon amie est enterrée,
Et de la terre dépassent ses pieds.

Sitôt s’en viennent capitaine et brigadiers
Dans l’entrepôt, pour la Maure déterrer.
Mais là d’entendre sous la terre ses sanglots:
Aloïda sortie s’éveille sitôt.
Entre ses seins bis, reposant,
Elle avait son petit enfant,
Lui souriant, souriant à la vie.

Le jour suivant, sur la route de Lorient,
On retrouva les frères tous trois gisants,
Le plus âgé au fond d’un étang noyé
Et le plus jeune sous sa moto écrasé,
Le troisième brulé, foudroyé,
Et ses cendres égarées dans le vent,
Tous trois gisants, tout près de Landévant.

C’était à Vannes le jour de la St Brendan,
Aloïda, jeune Maure de vingt ans;
Le lendemain, sur la route de Lorient,
On retrouva ses frères tous trois gisants.


[Translation by Google, acceptably legible]

The version in my collection is performed by the musicians of Tri Yann and the National Orchestra in Pays de la Loire. The brass and strings in the orchestra made way for wild, overblown flourishes to augment the last three lines of each stanza shown above, true to the style of the band. It sounds like someone was commissioned to compose a national anthem but decided to make a farce out of it instead.

It tells the story of the honour killing of Aloïda, a young Moorish woman and college student, by her brothers who see her relationship a disgrace to the family. Aloïda survives the live burial when she is found by her friends and the police, while her brothers are later all found dead on the road to
Lorient, dead by very mysterious circumstances.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Craft of Manipulating a Mass of Wires and Silicon that Seldom does what you Expect it To

I have finished my Computer Science papers.
The last one was really easy. To understand why, consider the three aspects of Computing we learn in an 'A' Level syllabus.

The first field of study is Skill i.e. the craft of manipulating the (yeah you know). The Coursework paper is what tests your skill. It was challenging, but they used to have it much better, in the Computing faculty's Golden Age. If you wanted a software for constructing an artificial language, you can go ahead and do just that. If you wanted a program for rendering Julia set pictures for every month of the year, that's what they let you do too. They never induced you to manage bank accounts and libraries.

The second field of study is Rote Learning. They give you some notes and let you sort out whatever concepts and definitions you might be asked about in the paper, right after you have found a way through the language. A similar experience is to meet a Cosmonaut mechanic who has been stuck in Mir for fifteen years, repeating incessantly his daily routines and dialogues with the ship computer. In Russian, of course.
Paper I tested my Rote Learning, and it was no fun.

The third field of study is Common Sense, which made it the easiest. It is also the second most useful because it is pragmatic and applicable wherever a computer is present to fry your sanity front-to-back. It was tested today in Paper II.

All things past, I am sad that there are less and less students taking up the discipline. I suspect even that Computer Science itself has lost its heroic essence. Wherefore the spirit of those mechanics who decrypted Hitler's instructions to his generals? Wherefore the persistence and curiosity of Lorenz and Mandelbrot who threw the doors of Mathematics open to Chaos?

If machines become masters over the minds of men, those who can turn the tables, turn. Satisfy not in bank accounts, nor resign yourself to the mental freak show.

The Cook, the Sergeant and the Janitor

a. You can't believe what I did!
b. What?
a. I killed so many people!
b. Yes, you did. You were awesome.
a. Huh?
b. We saw you from the helicopter.
a. I was desperate!
b. You did not show it.
a. They wouldn't let a ladder down!
b. You came out of it alive!
a. Why am I here?
b. You fainted doing your speech.
a. A speech?
b. Yes, after receiving the medal.
a. Medal?
b. Yes, for destroying that key encampment in the Empire formations.
a. I don't remember speaking.
b. We repelled the Empire. You made it possible.
a. What did I do?
b. We intercepted an inspector sent to the camp, and
a. Snuck me in instead, I know.
b. So you remember.
a. You told me to make friends with them. Then you told me to plant bombs everywhere and send them to Hell.
b. You were a good actor as well.
a. Well, I knew some of them by name!
b. They're the enemy, surely you knew.
a. They're just acting under orders!
b. Just like you were.
a. Well, we slept in the same bunkers! And we had the same chow! And the chow was marvellous. Guess what. Curry mutton and chips. I loved the curry mutton and chips. When I blew up the canteen, I was wondering where else I could have the curry mutton and chips now. I could see bits of the cook flying everywhere.
b. No, don't think about such things now.
a. No, sorry, it wasn't the cook. The cook picked up his rifle and charged at me when I got up the office roof. And then I put him down. I'm so sorry.
b. You shouldn't be!
a. I think it was the sergeant I blew up at the canteen, then. Cast in right eye. Can't speak properly. About as harmless a sergeant you can meet.
b. I'll call the nurse. You're not okay, are you? You must be very tired. I'll lie you down.
a. No, it wasn't the sergeant I blew up at the canteen. The sergeant was blown up at the armoury. I think the janitor on duty was at the canteen. There was the dog.
b. (adjusting the bed) Any time now...
a. The dog got owned too. Oh, no. It wasn't the sergeant I blew up at the armoury. I saw him pick up his rifle and charge at me after I got up the office roof. And then I finished him off. I must have made a massacre from up there! How did I do it? They're all dead?
b. I think they are. I made sure.
a. You were there?
b. Yes. On the helicopter.
a. Why didn't you put down the ladder?
b. Uh, there were considerations
a. Why, I could have killed less of them if you had put it down earlier.
b. They were firing at us as well, that's why!
a. I think it wasn't the janitor I blew up at the canteen. The janitor was in the dormitory. No, that can't be right. He charged at me later as well, didn't he?
b. Think of the lives you have saved!
a. Okay.
b. Your wife? Your children? Your countrymen?
a. They won't let my wife go. No. Not under orders.
b. You saved them.
a. From the janitor, sure. I could rake the pavement better than he. He had the worst attitude for the environment
b. It was probably worth your mission to save all the rest of us.
a. I'll tell you what works. You tell our president, go to their Emperor, point a revolver to his temple, and tell him to retreat from our turf. Then not one of them would have died either. Not the cook, the sergeant, nor the janitor nor all the others-
b. That'll have to put down the Emperor's guards as well, eh?
a. I don't mind. I don't know them. I have never had curry mutton with them. They must have been bloody-minded rotters as well, guarding his Imperial ass there, what? He grows fat on his own soldier's sacrifice. What have I done to deserve the High Priest's role?
b. The nurse is here.
a. Is my wife around?
b. Just a minute, thanks.
a. I'll tell you what works. I need to get straitjacketed. Yes. A nice canvassy cocoon. And a nice padded room I can ram my head upon. And fast, yes! And fast. I'll heal in a few days, I will! Or months... Or, whatever.

Which was exactly what they did.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

La Complainte d'I. M. Pei

If I hadn't forgotten about the Louvre as a comparison to the Esplanade as a landmark project to build an arts centre, it would be the best essay out of the seven in the whole Study of Visual Arts paper. But I did, and in the ensuing confusion I picked the Sydney Opera House, which I've never been to. Never mind. If I can't impress the examiners, then maybe I can try to impress the rest of you.

It must be the first time I flaunt my vanity so blatantly. And I'm not even sure if the rest of you are still there anyway. But if it helps alleviate my grief,
why not then? Moose.

Comparison: Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and The Grand Louvre Project
Esplanade - Theatres on the BayThe Grand Louvre Project

First, the similarities.
The project objective.
to build an iconic monument and an arts center, or whatever was stated in the question.

Design approach.
Very similar. Both projects go in the direction of Modern Architecture in their adaptation to a modern city and stuff. Both structures (The Esplanade Theatres and the revamped Louvre) are divided into a number of wings (2 for Esplanade, 3 for Louvre) that is joined together by a central lobby (Esplanade Mall, space under Louvre Pyramid). Both lobbies take on some functions and likeness to a shopping centre.

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The lobby; stair up to surface (Pyramid?); facing Sully wing entrance.

Accessibility.
Both the mall and the Pyramid lobby are accessible through underground rail (City Hall/future Esplanade station; Palais Royal — Musée du Louvre Métro station). You can also walk in from the city itself. However, presumably no underground carpark for the Louvre. The open space in front of the overground entrance is also much bigger in the Louvre.

Use of glass as a material.
The Durians have glass roofs. The Louvre has a glass pyramid. Only to be added if I have forgotten all the other points / there is no time left for anything else.

The Differences.
Geography.
The Esplanade was a bayfront project, which makes it similar to the Sydney Opera House (it wasn't a that unreasonable choice). The Louvre is hundreds of kilometres inland, in the middle of Ole Paris. No bayfront here. While the Esplanade adapts to the Marina landscape, mediating between the Central Business District and the wild unexplored south, the geographical context of the revamped Louvre is the palace itself. Its enclosure by the palace reduces its relevance to the cityscape.

Design constraints.
Maybe except for the park itself (?) the Esplanade was predominantly a creation ex nihilo. The bayfront landscape seems to be the only thing the design is limited to. According to Wikipedia, it was built upon the former site of the Satay Club.
However, the renovation of the Louvre was an add-on to an existing cultural icon. Design is limited to build a lobby to compliment and improve visitor access to the Denon, Sully and Richilieu wings. There is consequently no consideration to go multidisciplinary here i.e. no theatre, no open space, no amphitheatre etc.

Reputation.
Paris is a city filled to the brim with tourists and stereotypes. There is inherent consciousness of the Grand Louvre Project in terms of city image; will it be destroyed by the Pyramid? Stuff like that.
Singapore is a place where the land flows with milk and cash of all currencies; it's not exactly rich in history or romantic in the sense Paris is thought to be. Because we have got nothing to lose, anything helps in the Esplanade plan. Ok. Another spare point.

Conclusion?
I've written what I wanted to write so badly. It doesn't feel that bad after all.
Two papers left!

Centre Georges Pompidou
By the way, a third option kept coming back into my head. It bore the catchy name of Centre Pompidou. I looked it up after I hit home. Centre Georges Pompidou is much more similar to the Esplanade complex than the Louvre in a way, indeed having an iconic status as well. (It kind of reminds one of Woodlands Civic Centre too, come to that) Also, it's a multidisciplinary hub with a library, a modern art museum and a music research centre. Sounds right for a comparison too, huh?

I think the design helped make it iconic. It's so hideous, it's brilliant.

Click to enlarge

Pompidou, Pompidou, Pompidou, dou, dou.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anxiety Plays

Anxiety Plays: A dramatic fragment
by Kurt Schwitters

a. Sir.
b. Yes?
a. You are under arrest.
b. No.
a. You are under arrest, Sir.
b. No.
a. I shall shoot, Sir.
b. No.
a. I shall shoot, Sir.
b. No.
a. I shall shoot, Sir.
b. No.
a. I hate you.
b. No.
a. I shall crucify you.
b. Not so.
a. I shall poison you.
b. Not so.
a. I shall murder you.
b. Not so.
a. Think of the winter.
b. Never.
a. I am going to kill you.
b. As I said, never.
a. I shall shoot.
b. You have already said that once.
a. Now come along.
b. You can't arrest me.
a. Why not?
b. You can take me into custody, but no more.
a. Than I shall take you into custody.

b. By all means.
b. allows himself to be taken into custody and be led away. The stage grows dark. The audience feels duped and there are catcalls and whistles. The chorus cries: "Where's the author? Throw him out! Rubbish!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yambo's Grandfather

My grandfather calmly recounted the story of twenty-one years before, as Merlo shook his head, as if to say they had the wrong man, he had never been involved in politics. My grandfather, his explanation complete, then reminded his host that before pouring the oil down his throat, Merlo and his friends had encouraged him by means of caning to say, through his pinched nose, alalà. He himself, being a peaceful man, did not wish to use his cane for that, and so if Merlo would be kind enough to cooperate and say that alalà right away, they could avoid an embarrassing scene. So Merlo, with nasal emphasis, shouted alalà, which, after all, was one of the few things he had learned to do.

Then my grandfather stuck the bottle in his mouth, making him swallow all the oil along with whatever amount of fecal matter was dissolved in it, the whole solution nicely aged at the proper temperature, vintage 1922, controlled denomination of origin.

They left Merlo on his knees, his face against the brick floor, trying to vomit, but his nose had been held shut for long enough for the potion to make its way into the lower reaches of his stomach.

That evening, on his return, my dear grandfather was more radiant than Amalia had ever seen him before. And it seems that Merlo was so shaken up after September 8 -- when the king asked for an armistice and fled to Brindisi, Il Duce was liberated by the Germans, and the Fascists returned -- he did not go to Salò to join Mussolini's new Italian Social Republic, but stayed home instead and worked in his garden.

He too must be dead by now, the wretched man, Amalia said, and she thought that even had he wanted to avenge himself by telling the Fascists, he had likely been so terrified that night that he would have been unable to recall the faces of those men who had entered his house -- and who knows how many others he had made drink oil? "Some of the folks must have kept an eye on him all them years, too, and I reckon he gulped down more than one little bottle, I'm telling you and you can believe it, and that's the sort of business that can make a man lose his taste for politics."

That, then, is who my grandfather was, and it explained those underlined newspapers and Radio London. He was waiting for the turn.

-- excerpt from The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Friday, November 02, 2007

Songs of Fish II

Before I forget, the last paragraphs of the last chapter:

"Oh, yes, and while I remember, and about time too," he said. "Perhaps you remember that I once took a gold coin off you, a long time ago."

"As if I hadn't forgotten all about that ages ago!" I said.

"Here is your gold coin," said the superintendent. "And may things go well with you. May things go for you accourding to the deserts of all those who have a purpose in life; be it great or small, it doesn't matter, just so long as they are determined not to harm others. And if you ever need a little money, then write to me, because I will soon be having difficulties in getting rid of my monthly pay."

My grandfather opened the door and peeped in to tell me that the boat that was to take me to the ship was on its way.

I kissed my grandmother as she stood there on the quay in her long skirt, with her black shawl over her head and shoulders. I had never embraced this woman before, because embracing was not a habit in our house. I was amazed at how slender and light she was, and wondered if her bones were hollow, like those of a bird. She was like a withered leaf in my embrace for that one brief fraction of a moment that I held her in my arms.

"God be with you, Grímur dear," she said, and added after a second, "And if you should meet a poor old woman like me anywhere in the world, then give her my greetings."

My grandfather Björn of Brekkukot kissed me rather drily and said these words: "I cannot give you any good advice at this stage, my lad. But perhaps I could send you a bundle of dried fish with the midwinter ship. After that, we can see. And now, goodbye."

When the boat had gone a few oar-strokes away from land they were still standing on the beach, gazing after the boy whom an unknown woman had left naked in their arms. They were holding hands, and other people gave way before them, and I could see no one except them. Or were they perhaps so extraordinary that other people melted away and vanished into thin air around them?

When I had clambered up with my bag on to the deck of the mail-boat North Star, I saw them walking back together on their way home: on the way to our turnstile-gate; home to Brekkukot, our house which was to be razed to the ground tomorrow. They were walking hand in hand, like children.


--- Brekkukotsannáll (1957) by Halldór Laxness

The Alternative History of Yuri Gagarin

The title is of a short story I just wrote in Chinese, in a rare go at writing a story in Chinese ever since the ballad I banged up in the previous year turned my parents queasy. It was briefly posted on my Windows Live Journal before I decided to commit the blog to a totally private mode.

The story is set in Russia in 12 April 1961. Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space when the Lastochka spacecraft is launched into an orbit around Earth from what was to become the Baikonur Cosmodrome, while Premier Nikita Khrushchev follows Gagarin's journey closely from a ground station in Khabarovsk.
[Here goes!]

1961年4月12日,哈巴罗夫斯克航天中心。赫鲁晓夫同志望着东方一号火箭,载着加加林同志徐徐地脱离了发射台,脱离了地心引力,心里有几分感慨。伟大的俄罗斯民族啊!今天征服了外太空,明天征服全世界!

早上六点零十三分,哈巴罗夫斯克和加加林恢复了通讯。
(录音)加加林:火箭运行正常。今天天气不错,我几乎看得到整个地球, 不过离积云层还有一段路。

六点二十一分。东方一号飞越堪察加半岛上空。加加林为操纵室的内部概况做了报告。站在通讯员旁的赫鲁晓夫突然记起了什么,忙吩咐通讯员把对讲机传给他。

(录音)传对讲机的嘎啦嘎啦声。。。
赫鲁晓夫:加加林同志,你好吗?
加加林:回主席大人,我现在好极了!
赫鲁晓夫:你现在看得到什么?
加加林:我从这里看得到太平洋,就要到北美洲上空了。这地球实在美啊!
赫鲁晓夫:太好了,你还看得到什么吗?
加加林:还有什么呢?地球的对面不是太阳就是黑咕隆咚的宇宙。
赫鲁晓夫:没有上帝?
加加林:对啊,没有。
赫鲁晓夫:太好了!事实证明了他不存在!这可是人类文明思想的一大跃进!
加加林:哈哈,恭喜恭喜,赫鲁晓夫同志。

六点四十分。
(录音)加加林:那是金星吗?
通讯员:金星好像不在那里。
加加林:也不像是金星。。。咦?这东西怎么有点蓝。
加加林:(过了一会儿)蓝色的亮点呈人状。
赫鲁晓夫:(在一旁)不会吧。难道美国的太空人比我们先走了一步?
加加林:我离这个亮点似乎靠近了。是个人没错。
赫鲁晓夫悟知了其中的严重性,又拿来了对讲机。

嘎啦嘎啦声。
赫鲁晓夫:这人长得象什么?
加加林:他没有带任何徽章,不像是美国人。而且。。。他也不穿太空衣。
赫鲁晓夫:这怎么可能?
通讯员:(在一旁)加加林同志晕船了。
赫鲁晓夫:(在一旁)不准你胡说!
加加林:他穿的衣服有点像睡衣,又白又长。我暂时看不清楚他的脸,因为它的头在发光。

赫鲁晓夫同志愣了。这是真的吗?他的视线不禁转向了控制板上写着“中断连讯”的按钮。因为与此同时,全苏联的人民正在倾听他们之间的谈话。如果这一事件对他们证实了上帝的存在,苏联共产政府就完了。

加加林:这个人是天神吗?它离我只有两百米左右了。我从这里看得很清楚。

这其中一定有破绽!

赫鲁晓夫:你看得清楚他的脸吗?
加加林:很清楚。
赫鲁晓夫:说来给大家听听。
加加林:他看起来五十岁左右,神态很慈祥。
赫鲁晓夫:还有吗?
加加林:背上插着八双翅膀,周边有一些象小天使的东西围着。。。
赫鲁晓夫:他长胡子吗?
加加林:不长胡子。
赫鲁晓夫:(对着通讯员)太荒谬了!怎么能不长胡子?

东方一号的航程使苏联的太空计划首战报捷,加加林成了有史以来第一个进入太空的人。不幸的是,东方一号飞船在巴西上空与哈巴罗夫斯克突然中断了连讯,加加林同志从此下落不明。

后来根据官方调查,因为拜科纳尔航天中心航天技术员的过失,不小心让东方一号的行程转到了太阳的方向,使哈巴罗夫斯克无法继续接收出自太空船的讯号。不过,那天在场的工作人员和赫鲁晓夫都知道,加加林同志去见上帝了。

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Political Swearwords

Picture a bad day in the art studio. You're nailing two pieces of wood together when suddenly you hit your thumbnail with the hammer. Ow! You exclaim. Damn this politically correct hammer! Your nail is broken so you try to find a band-aid to try to hold it together, at least. You must do it fast, because art lesson is starting in two hours.

The cupboard where the band-aid box lies is too high for you to reach, and you grumble once again about the paternalistic society and the glass ceiling that obstructs your way to the band-aid box. But you forget your pains, as you find a ladder that you could climb on.

Pain is throbbing in your thumb, but there is no time to waste (at least, not after twenty minutes of rolling about the floor whining about neoconservative media) You grab the wooden ladder and mount it against the sink below the band-aid box cupboard. The ancient timber creaks and strains under your weight, but you manage to reach the cupboard. At last!

Your hand opens the cupboard door, whereupon the ladder, up till then conforming to Hooke's law of elasticity, chooses to defy the conventions of society and gives way to your descent.

The gesture of falling apart proves to be a controversial one on the part of the ladder, because while it has stripped you of your fundamental human rights to be provided adequate medical aid, it has in fact put forth a bold critique of your stereotypes and preconcieved notions pertaining to how ladders should behave.

A great step forward for ladderhood, you think, as you get up and look at the sorry splintered wreck. As there are no ladders left, you resolutely repressed the pain in your thumb, wrapped it up in traditional toilet paper instead, and prepared for class.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Four Horsemen XII

Backwards Time

Despite the long centuries of folklore and popular imagination by the followers of the book, angels are not superhuman beings who live in abodes above the clouds warmed by eternal sunshine. But we always grasp the point that they tended to be quite unattainable and, in most cases, rather strange people.

We also guess that they live in a far-off place. In fact, the other side of the universe does not quite do justice to its farness. That's because if you placed the universe's timeline upon a time-space graph (a world line), it would form a circle: a closed temporal loop of everything. Thinkers in India tend to a cyclical worldview, which is correct, except that in this model, time only goes in one direction.

Visualise the universe's world line as a circle on a cartesian plane. Let the bottommost point be the moment of its birth, and the topmost point be the big crunch. Are you comfortable now? Now if we move upwards from the big bang moment, the universe would branch off both ways, and our known universe is the line on the right.

It would be a different matter if we consider things locally. Causality patterns in the circle travels around it, that is to say that each event can only be caused by another event which precedes itself on the circular path, which is to say that half of space-time will have an opposite causality orientation to the other half.

And the other half is where the Angelic race resides, where things in the future cause things in the past.

The cause for their weirdness is now easily understandable, given the way that they think. Because of the reversed cause-effect relationship between all things, their minds are invariably geared towards remembering what will happen in the future and and speculating about what has happened in the past. In short, extraordinary precognition and dismal memory.

One angel may open the cookie jar and ask another:
"Why will you steal all the cookies from the cookie jar?"
And the other would reply:
"I'm sorry, but I will be starving."

Walk around this oddly familiar otherworld and you would find science fiction novels about the past, fantasy novels about the future, hot debates on whether Eschatology should be taught in schools, and coins and documents whereon dates like 284 BC are proudly emblazoned.

And they tend to see humans in similar terms as we see them, because it would take no less than a miracle for a human to transgress such impassable temporal boundaries and for an angel to do the same (and at the same time, being conditioned to follow weird paths of logic); like angels, humans who land on the opposite world-line are as good as having grown seven pairs of wings, and had their appearances dutifully predicted and, in rare cases that demanded public attention, documented.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Woman at the Top of the Mountain

Dedicated to a junior in Art class. You know who you are, O thou before whom men swoon and faint, thinking they have died and come to Paradise.

"I am here to see the woman at the top of the mountain."
"She is not to be seen;
_____we, the townspeople, learn to let her be."
"Her fame travels across all the land."
"Her beauty benights the minds of our folk."
"Give me a way through:
_____I am a poor draughtsman who has seen my earth
_____scythed clean of spirits."
"She will not welcome you.
_____her looks are her curse, cast by jealous women."

And he came to the amber broadleaves.
"She is not to be seen;" they said.
_____we of the forest leave her alone.
"Her fame travels across all the land."
"Her beauty has scattered our wolves and brought down our geese."
"Give me a way through:
_____I am a poor draughtsman who wants to see true beauty revive."

And he came to the bluish pines.
"She is not to be seen;" they said.
_____"so far up she is in snow-covered wastes."
"Her fame carries up to high heavens."
"With it her prayers to be back where she was."
"Let me pass:
_____I shall save her from her treasures unwanted."

And he came to the cave in the snow-covered wastes.
And the woman sat there at the top of the mountain.
She wrapped about herself rough hides and old cloth,
_____obscured the world from her visage with a veil.
_____as a spell bound her in a shrine of youth.
"How have you found me," she said
_____"so far away from the town of my birth,
_____so high above the multicoloured wilds,
_____so far up in the snow-covered wastes?"

"My fame travels across all the land;
My fame carries up to the highest heavens."
"My face has crippled the minds of men.
_____My gaze has slain beasts
__________and hunted birds.
_______________It has sunk boats in the lake
_______________and torn ships in the sea.
____________________It has drawn lightning
____________________and incurred the downfall of
____________________great kings!"

"Silly man, do you really dare to see my face,
or be the vehicle of my burden to the impoverished world?"
"But come in and sit down; I have prepared you a meal
_____to reward you for your journey."
"I shall not face you and you will be home
_____when the sun slants west."

"Then will you let me break the spell;" said the traveller,
_____"return beauty to the world
__________where people live and are happy."
"Many a brave aesthete have come with a noble goal
_____and left with a broken heart."

"What good can I do for our people, when all good things
_____congregate in my own image
__________smeared upon my skin in thick slabs.
_______________How deep can skin be?
_______________I am made breathless by this burden."
"Are you sure that you are the one?"
_____"Men flock towards beautiful things;
__________There has been no shortage of mountaineers
__________who deign to die in my arms
__________enchanted by the treasure trove I wear.
__________Beauty in their eyes is all they go after,
_______________not the alleviation of my ills.
"But the true aesthete would come
_____and end my restless existence among rocks."

The draughtsman insisted
So she turned around to face him
And she removed her veil
And she brushed aside the hair that covered her cheeks
And she shed her cover of hay.
And the draughtsman watched her
_____and waited for the awe and wonder.
"Hear my words!" she said.
And the substance gushed out of her in a million streams
_____burst out of her in a million rays
__________flew out of her in a million birds.
It spilled of the summit rocks like ice off a glacier
_____into rivers to fill valleys.
_____Her hair was gold as the maize fields
_____Brown as the hides of deer
_____Black as the soil of volcanic coasts
_____Face of sculpted marble
__________and brows of polished jasper
_______________brilliant as mothers-of-pearl
"Let the curse of poverty be lifted from all men and women!"
_____"Let all who see me freed be true of heart
__________be free of unworthy goals
_______________in their quest.
_____"Let no woman sacrifice themselves
__________in worship of beauty;
__________let no woman be demeaned!
_____"Let no man be fooled by false decoration!"

And her eyes glared wide and severe
_____her irises dark as the blackest jet
__________and round as the universe closed in upon itself
_____her irises bright as brilliant-cut diamonds
__________and lively as the first light of creation.

_____her irises dark as a huge emptiness
__________billions of miles of philosophical desert
_______________wherein lives a sparse handful of dust
____________________each particle inaccessible to the other in
_________________________this monstrous scale
______________________________Each one self-contained, liberated,
___________________________________trapped, confused;
___________________________________and bursting in nihilistic fury!

There he fled past the snow-covered peak
There he fled past the hardy conifers
There he fled past the earthy broadleaves

Her beauty travelled across all the land
_____went into every living creature
__________and every plot of ground.
And it went into the townspeople
And it went into the jealous women
And it went into the battered wildlife

There he fled back to the foothills
_____where the deluge held tongues still.

"What has become of the woman at the top of the mountain?
_____Only a scattered tent greets my climb.
_____Where has she gone?"
I am the opening of your heart
and the light through your eyes...
Turn back to see the place where you came from.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

J'aurai le Vin

Folks out there please holler if you would know what this song says:

Par un beau Matin, je me suis levé(BIS)
Dans mon joli jardin J'(ai)été

REFRAIN:
J'aurai le vin, le verre et la bouteille
J'aurai le vin le verra à la main


Dans mon joli jardin J'(ai)été (BIS)
C'était pour cueillir du raisin
REFRAIN

C'était pour cueillir du raisin (BIS)
J'en avais pas cueilli trois grains
REFRAIN

J'en avais pas cueilli trois grains (BIS)
Qu'un gros corbeau à moi s'en vient
REFRAIN

Qu'un gros corbeau à moi s'en vient (BIS)
Dit en Français, dit en Latin
REFRAIN

Dit en Français, dit en Latin (BIS)
Qu'un vin claret m'ferait du bien
REFRAIN

Qu'un vin claret m'ferait du bien (BIS)
Moi qui ne sais pas le Latin
REFRAIN

Moi qui ne sais pas le Latin (BIS)
Ces quelques mots j'les compris bien

Sunday, September 02, 2007

All Walks of Life

All maps made with Google Earth and Adobe Photoshop
Just a summary, though, of what's passed under my feet for the last few years.


click to enlarge! it's 3d!
The Trübsee-Engelberg Route (on MapMyRun)
Obwalden and Nidwalden sub-cantons, Switzerland
22 June 2005 / 7.7km


click to enlarge!
The Budavár-City Park Route
Budapest City Central, Hungary
27 June 2005 / 5.4km

Then the routes here in Singapore. Hmm. Not very nicely pieced together but it looks good still.
(right click and select "copy shortcut as" to get the URL)


(Old school Route approximately 8.5km
Reservoir Circuit approximately 7km
Saint Joseph Route is slightly over 11km
The trip to Sungei Buloh was mainly by bus (in dotted lines), so don't bother)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kazantzakis and the Wrestler

Fr. Ronald Rolheiser writes:

IN HIS MEMOIR, "Report to Greco", Nikos Kazantzakis shares this story: As a young man, he spent a summer in a monastery during which he had a series of conversations with an old monk: "Father, do you still battle with the devil?" The old monk replied: "No, I used to, when I was younger, but now I have grown old and tired and the devil has grown old and tired with me. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone." "So your life is easy then?" remarked Kazantzakis. "Oh no," replied the monk, "it's much worse, now I wrestle with God!"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Little Ocean

I meet this speculation with a share of fear and a share of fascination. Rarely has the spirit of territorial conquest in the colonial age returned to the modern man. Rarely do you need the Canadian foreign minister to remind everyone that this is not the fifteenth century anymore and you can't just conquer the Lomonosov Ridge with a tricolour.

Then as they mourn the passing of the ice-white beasts that left only their name on the little ocean, the first freighters arrive at Nanortalik, filled with imports from the south and bound for Archangel. Hitherto distant and uninteresting cities begin to flourish all along the Arctic coast and further inland. A torrid clime develops at the equator and nations of both hemispheres are once again enshrouded from each other, in a fog of mystery and exaggerated accounts of travellers.


A Toast to Terms
Coming to terms with myself is pretty hard nowadays, in extreme times where people either let fly down canyons or up to the heavens, where people either mug with a giant grudge or read the textbook with all the reverence deserved for a storybook.

Coming to terms is hard because it is not always easy to accept. It could be that August is the month when Amanda Heng makes the least sense, when Boccioni, Kruger or other art wranglers are at their most vitriolic, and Tianyu comes to his element and sprinkles terrible bathos around the art room. These personalities find their adversaries hard to reconcile with; nothing for naturalistic portrayals but history, nothing for society but death and destruction through wars, nothing for Men but to get unmentionable things done to their unmentionables... Yet don't we also refuse to come to terms with them?

Enough of our senseless polemic: society rallying themselves against the ill-refined society around them in an eternal struggle has to be one of the greatest joke of modern times.

Here's to the muse of question and understanding; Here's to shame the devil that is our caustic hatred.

For old time's sake, give me a sheet of paper, and I'll give you a portrait beautiful enough for to hunt birds with.
In the year before I joined the choir I remembered this line from a song we sang during mass: Too many little games I've played.

These games they do spell my fall so often. Do they spell the sadness of others as well, as my rabid imagination beckons me to believe? Does my muse suffer in my stead, when I put these concerns away? Does she think as I do, look away when I feign haughtiness, turn remote as I feign nonchalance, put our friendship in disregard when I thought of the same?

I spelled out some of my confessions to a close friend who could understand them. (It was not too bad, I had confessed worse sins to Father Frans, and earned forgiveness through my first Rite of Confession.) Among the confessions is the one about fear, the fear I feel of an encounter more than longing or anything. So unfashionable this notion is in the minds of people, I thought I was the only one lame enough to have it, or the only one stupid enough to counter the fear by the most straightforward method of fleeing the scene.

But I can recall conquering that fear once, putting onto paper the image of the most beautiful girl I knew of, working on the painstakingly minute detail, going ecstatic or depressed over slight disparities of proportion, or a spark from an eye missing. I had to commit myself to a close reading of a piece of art beautiful to the point of being lethal, but when the portrait was finished, so had my fear.

So before everything else starts again, I'll do a summary homage to Interesting Times; so that all wrongs may be forgiven, all fears allayed, all souls touched, and all eyes set to the bright and the real.

A Reinscription Concerning Faith

August 07 2006: The last pillar under thy marble roof has been sold for funds. Now wait for thy marble roof to crash down around thee.

August 08 2006: Quite surprisingly the leaden roof has not fallen for its loss of all its pillars; it has been supported from above... me suspended on a cord thrown down from heaven, holding me and my desperate, flailing limbs.

I feel as if I have, finally, lost everything. Which means that I have got nothing more to lose. Time to face adversary and hoist it by the neck. Take your troubles, the causes of your desperation, the ones bent on your demise, the demon of your own thoughts, and give them full hell!

I don't feel bad at all. I feel good. Terribly good, about this newfound sole dependence on the Almighty; His glory shines through my weakness. Terrible because I have been flushed with strength apparently from nowhere; good because I know He alone is there to save me whatever goes. When He raises me up from the depths all I need to do is to keep the faith running...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hag With the Money

Shot Forty-nine

Dá bhfeicfeá' an "steam" 'ghabhail siar Tóin Uí Loin'
'S na rothaí 'ghabhail timpeall siar ó na ceathrúnaí
Chaithfeadh sí 'n stiúir naoi n-vair' ar a cúl
'S ní choinneodh sí siúl le cailleach an airgid

If you'd see the Steam going past Toin Ui Loin'
And the wheels turning speedily out from her flanks
She'd scatter the stoor nine times to the rear
But she'd never keep pace with the hag with the money


I don't know what this verse from Altan means but it fits.

Monday, August 06, 2007

This House Believes that it's a Ship

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Snow-covered landscape and frigid oceans and splintered boat and miffed rabbit in Frame the Twenty-Third.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sixteen Days to Sundown

立秋: Tuesday, August the Seventh
Perseids Watch: Tuesday Night, August the Seventh
National Day: Wednesday, August the Eighth
The Prelims: August the Eighteenth to September the Twenty-First
Dunmore Cave Third Anniversary: Sunday, August the Nineteenth
Prelims Coursework Submission: Tuesday, August the Twenty-First
'A' Levels Coursework Submission: Friday, September the Seventh
Autumnal Equinox: Sunday, September the Twenty-Third

A little progress on the Coursework bit:
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Animation loop done for Clarence upon the sea. No, it's not animated, sorry.

I'm starting to mug too, starting unofficially today in Sunday. You will not catch me with personal life snippets, the subject of which has become too embarrassing to even think about. Really. Darn. Instead you might receive updates on my Animation project, ruminations upon Physics, Maths, Computer Science, Art and Current Affairs, maybe even some soapy poems. So what are you waiting for? Shoo. Shoo.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lost Bird Caught in Mid-Migration

Feel It Turn - Great Big Sea

I had a dream I was moving forward
Floating gently to the sun
I've come to see my world rewarded
A new day has begun

A lost bird caught in mid migration
Far away to a foreign land
Offspring of a secret nation
A new day has begun

I can see the earth below me
And I can feel it turn

Fog lifts to reveal potential
For generations prophesized
Our growth to be exponential
Our promise finally realized

I can see the earth below me
And I can feel it turn

Feel it turn across the sky
The world it learns, so must I

Cut steel wired into water
Fixed link, circumnavigate
Old men see your sons and daughters
No longer, no longer hesitate

I can see the earth below me
And I can feel it turn

Please, Kind Sir

Please, kind sir, the portrait I see,
If that is your daughter presented to me...
Look, her, face could laaaaunch a thooousand shiips
Look, her, face could laaaaunch a thoooousand shiiips
Thousand ships,
Thousand ships,
Thousand ships.

Very well,
Make yourself at home
Aaas, sheee
's up, she's dressing
She'll be down in a jiffy
Sheee's up, dressing
She'll be down in a jiffyy...
Ji-ffy,
Ji-ffy,
Ji-ffyy...


-- P. D. Q. Bach

Sunday, July 08, 2007

And then there was a temporary calm

And the last sabre-tooth tiger ducked back behind the shrubs.
And then there was a temporary calm.

And the bison found itself alone at the edge of the great plains.
It put one foot in front of the other.
It thought: this feels funny.
There is a purpose in my life,
What is it now again? I've forgotten.

And it put his hind leg in front of the other hind leg.
It almost tripped.
Thought he: I can't even walk proper.
And I'm starting to feel all empty inside.
I'm divorced from all substance.

And it puffed and blew out a damp mist.
And its eyes bleared in the brightening sun.
And it remembered:
My purpose, he recollected, is to keep my guts within
The confines of my skin the best I could; what have I done?

He put his hind hoof in front again.
Then it messed up quite bad and he fell.
And there he lay.
It seems stupid, but I don't feel like getting up again.
I feel more alive than I have ever since my mother had me.

And he heaved and stars filled his thought.
And his reapers rustled their way out of foliage.
And he watched them and saw his new life.
Why are we so afraid of you?

The cats were patient. They sat down.
Their bloodied-white scythes in wait.
He couldn't flee, but his plan could not fail.
With his last breath: What is dying like?

And he fled.
And their pride would stay alive for this full moon.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Songs of Fish

"It is considered unwise to whisper one's secrets to the wind," I said.

She looked at me after a long reflection and asked sombrely, "Are you the wind?"

"Part of it," I said.


- The Fish Can Sing (1957)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Christus Resurrectus Est

The Sunday before, and before Mass comenced, the parishoners congregated at the front deck place in St. Joseph's, each wielding a palm leaf, green, fresh and pricky. I hadn't recalled such a starting for my previous years; maybe I had missed it, maybe I wasn't at church, or maybe I was too young. The palm leaves now adorn the main door and the living room piano. It was Palm Sunday.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Sandro Magister: Easter in Vietnam

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A stór, a stór an dtiocfaidh tu?

A stór, a stór, a ghra
A stór, a stór an dtiocfaidh tu?
A stór, a stór, a ghra
An dtiocfaidh tu nó an bhfanfaidh tu?


Bhi me la brea samhraidh i mo sheasamh ar an mhargadh
'S is iomai fear a duirt lion: "Monuar, gan tu sa bhaile agam".

Gheall mo ghra domsa cinnte go dtiocfadh si
Ni raibh a culaith Déanta agus sin an rud a choinnigh i

Thart tóin an gharrai, a Mhaire, bhfuilan fhidil leat?
Aicearra na bpratai go dtéimid' sair an fhidileoir

Mhi mise lan den tsaoil is bhi cion amuigh is istigh orm
Nach mór a dathraigh an saol nuair nach bhfuil eion ag duine ar bith orm?


[In English]
My darling, my darling, my love
My darling, my darling, will you come with me
My darling, my darling, my love will you come with me or settled be

My true love promised kindly that she would surely come with me
Her wedding dress not ready, delayed her in joining me.
We have got water from the Eirne, and green grass from the heaven’s stems
Cows udders are near rending from the overflow of milk in them.
By the bottom of the garden, a Mary, is the fiddle there?
The shortcut by the praties, we’ll hasten to the fiddler.
At one time in my life I was dearly loved by everyone
Haven’t times changed when no one cares a whit for me?

-------------------------------------

Blackwater album cover

I have missed out a lot in my chronicling, or has it been that this page has fallen from a proper journal to merely a punchbag for my wordwrangling, to an outlet for my unsatisfied passion, to a dried and crumbling library of the events of weeks past, to simply nothing at all? Maybe that was how I felt twelve months ago, but I was blogging profusely and without much prudence. Nevertheless, I start this entry not knowing how long it will stretch, with the hypnotising ballad that had just entered my music library yesterday.

There are a lot of things I can bring myself in to write, although there seemed some persistent eddy currents preventing me from actually writing them down. Some were so petty it would seem an insult to pen them, while others are as usual plain embarrassing. The song above, however, is not plain embarrassing, even if only vaguely embarrassing.

Notice how such a song, so charged with sentiment, isn't sung by a lonely wretch yearning for the girl of his life. Like most Altan songs this one is sung by Mairéad, with the rich, earthly-coloured voices of men backing hers.

A Thought: A relationship between two isn't just their business, but also of those around them. Indoctrinated as I am to the popularised dogma that even the sanctity of puppy love is inviolable, it surprised me to learn that the friends of a couple play a large part in preserving or breaking such bonds. Whereas, my view generally dictates me to stay away from such affairs of other people, bringing with this isolation a sour jealousy.

Listen again to the chorus, even if you don't know the words. It is enlightening.

(Maybe you should stop reading here)
-------------------------------------

For the record, in this fortnight and last I have taken to obsessively add entries into my GP scrapbook, covering subjects ranging from governance, religion, the environment, comics and the weather. Where commentary paragraphs are concerned however, I have done nothing.

But maybe it could have helped, because for the General Paper block test this Monday I did inundate my essay with wide and disparate examples when one wonders if it would be better to seriously write instead.

-------------------------------------

The Computing papers have never adhered to Cambridge standards, which would make me feel a little cheated at times. Plus I certainly hope that in the real big thing questions would not come out so ambiguous and panic-inducing when somewhere in the paper mentions something you have never learnt at all, but is necessary to remember nonetheless.

My brief go at generating a Mandelbrot Set in a character array helped, at least, in the long tiring questions of writing bunches of C++ codes by hand; namely, the ones concerning classes. I got myself a complex number class in the header file, and wrote two other functions, one for the Mandelbrot set and the other for the Julia. And the results, after a few hours of blindly debugging, was truly gratifying.


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The piccy is the product of screenshots, taken for different numbers of iteration and put together in Adobe Imageready.

-------------------------------------


Chunhao's Rubik's Cube

Friends in the library has increased this fortnight.

Regina seemed to shun that place where mugging is concerned, saying that it's best for her to study home. And alone. Enough to make me groan and give up pursuing alternatives.

She was afraid of distractions in the library. I really get less distractions from the library. It is only at home when my sisters watch those silly cartoons on kids central, or turn the music on too loudly next doors. At other times the house would be filled with deafening silence, which draws me to the piano.

I set off thinking the library would be deserted, but on Wednesday Kar Weng was there, and so were Calvin and his girlfriend, Yee Chien and Yeen Seen, Jessica from 7B, Xiangjun, Yuan Yi and Juliana, Regina's sister. Thursday saw quite less people, and today there were Zhang Hao, Chun Hao, Wei Jun and Victor whose table I promptly crashed.

-------------------------------------

A Catharsis
I will return when I find more urge to write. And more sleep.
Goodnight.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

"One day, as he and Rachou were going to lunch at Boivin's, they met a girl whose simple dress was that of a worker, but whose copper hair caused Lautrec to stop and entusiastically cry out:

"She's swell! She looks like a proper bitch! Wouldn't it be marvellous if we could have her as a model! You should ask her."

"Her name was Carmen Gaudin and she was a sweet, slightly sickly worker. Lautrec who had pictured her as a formidable bitch was very surprised when he heard that her lover gave her some sound beatings. She was punctual and remained his favourite model for a long time."

-- François Gauzi

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Old Scene Four

SCENE FOUR
In which Diotallevi encounters a robbery, defies the Script, and is arrested.
Being rather antisocial with the other scenes in the Dramafeste play, the Old Scene Four has Forty times the irony and makes about one-tenth the sense of the current play we use. Despite being so supremely stupid, it has found landing place on this blog, of all places.

{Diotallevi walks dejectedly along the street. Out comes Robert, who is a robber, and who is called Robert for precisely that reason, although he does not realize that such a connection exists. Robert has covered his face with a wool hat and scarf, leaving only the eyes. He confronts Diotallevi.}

Diotallevi: (surprised) Robert? What are you doing here, late at night?
Robert: Well,
{A long pause}
Diotallevi: What’s the matter? I have to get home now.
{He tries to walk past him, but Robert moves to block the way}
Diotallevi: (loudly) Let me pass!
Robert: (gloomily) No, man, no.
Diotallevi: What do you want?
Robert: Do you have money with you now? I need it.
Diotallevi: (Searches all his pockets in a great show, producing only a two-euro note) Not much, Robert, two dollars, barely enough for the bus back home. Why?
Robert: (produces a gun, points it at Diotallevi and unravels the scarf) You have to help me, Dio, I’m helpless (weeps) My wife’s left me with my children, and my house burned down. Now I can’t even rent a place to live in! I know you’ll have a million dollars to give me, Dio, if I ask nicely.
Diotallevi: (sagely) You’re mad, Robert, to think that pointing this gun at me will make fortune appear in my pockets.
Robert: You’re hiding it! You’re hiding it because you don’t care about me! Everyone’s hiding things away from me! Why can’t I know the things I need to know? Why am I so confused about the world nowadays! What the hell am I talking about! You have the one million dollars. Definitely, because I say so! Get it out, or, or, I’ll shoot you!
Diotallevi: I don’t think so! The gun you’re holding is a fake.
Robert: What?
Diotallevi: Your gun is a toy, a prop. (sarcastically) The Director gave it to you, didn’t she? It can’t shoot. It can’t hurt. And it’s not supposed to.
Robert: I don’t care. I’ll shoot your face!
{Robert shoots Diotallevi, and gun shots are heard. Diotallevi squints, clutches his chest and bends down, as if shot. After Robert uses up his bullets, Diotallevi pats his body, and after finding no gunshot wound nor blood, straightens up}
Robert: Dammit, why are you still standing? The script requires you to get shot dead!
Diotallevi: No, it doesn’t!
Robert: I don’t believe this! (shakes his head fearfully, drops the gun, and backs away)
{Enter Police Officer and two constables. Constable 1 is carrying a medical kit}
Officer: Hey, hey! What seems to be the matter ‘ere?
Robert: This man… this man… he defies reality!
{Robert runs away offstage, with Constable 2 running after him}
Officer: (amiably) Oooh. How does he do that, then?
Diotallevi: (amused) Sir, that man tried to shoot me with a toy gun.
Officer: We saw it happening. In fact, he did shoot you with his toy gun. Only you didn’t get shot. (harshly) We want you to explain yourself.
{He pats Diotallevi heftily on the shoulder as Constable 1 picks up the gun}
Constable 1: Sir, I can tell you with good faith that this is a real gun. In fact, it’s an authentic Burleigh Brothers Mark 2 Musket, Collectors' Model.
Officer: I’m impressed. What’s your name, Constable?...
Constable 1: Constable 1, Sir!
{Constable 2 comes back on stage, panting}
Officer: I’m impressed, Constable 1.
Diotallevi: Oh, Constable 1. Constable 1?
Constable 1: (annoyed) Yes, Constable 1.
Constable 2: Hi, I’m Constable 2. (holds out hand)
Officer: Shut up! (stomps stage)
Constable 2: (retracts hand) Sorrysir.
Officer: Where’d you go, Constable 2?
Constable 2: I went to chase that man who’d dropped the Burleigh Brothers Mark 2 Musket Collectors' Model.
Officer: And you couldn’t catch him?
Constable 2: (still panting) No, man, he ran offstage.
Officer: It’s “sir”, you pillock.
Constable 2: Sorrysir. No, sir, he ran offstage.
Officer: Leave that guy, Constable, he’s innocent.
Diotallevi: Innocent? He was a robber!
Officer: He was following the script! You, on the other hand, weren’t! You refused to even fall! Let me have a look at your wallet.
Diotallevi: Why?
Constable 1: Just give him your wallet. We need it.
{Diotallevi hands wallet over to Officer, who pulls out a 1 million euro note. I shall not explain why it is a euro and not any other currency.}
Officer: (waving the 1 million euros at Diotallevi) One million dollars! You should have given this to him!
Diotallevi: [shocked] I didn’t know it was there!
Officer: You’re in big trouble, laddo… In fact, you’re under arrest for being uncharitable towards a fellow actor as well as undermining reality. Come with us to the station. You need some reconditioning.
Diotallevi: Uncharitable? To a robber? I didn’t know such a law exists!
Officer: Oh, now it does!
{Diotallevi attempts to rush away from scene, but the Constables hold him back and prevent him from escaping. They pin Diotallevi to the floor}
Diotallevi: I shall not be reconditioned!
Officer: Stay down, Diotallevi!
Diotallevi: Let me out!
Officer: Sedative!
{Constable 1 opens a medical kit and passes a fake syringe, whereupon the Officer jabs the imaginary point into Diotallevi’s arm. Diotallevi stops struggling and goes limp}
Constable 2: Shall we bring him to Doctor Lugh, sir? He’ll know how to sort him out.
Officer: Please do. Good job, constables.
{Exeunt with Diotallevi carried offstage by Constables.}