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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The lobby; stair up to surface (Pyramid?); facing Sully wing entrance.

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.
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.

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.

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!]


(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。