Sunday, July 19, 2009

National Day Parade / NE Shows

I. 3 files in my contingent were missing on 18 July, which is also Mom's birthday. No one noticed a thing, what with us stealthily and virtuostically spreading out to fill the space left behind.

II. National Day Parade (plus n times previews, n times rehearsals, and n times NE shows) have earned a special place in my heart over time, and this is not just because of the patriotic fervour. Yes! Someone special is watching me, starched cardboard-stiff and pointlessly spruced, from up there everytime I march in with my mates; and this is not just the RSM.

It's partly thanks to the kids coming to watch us for the last 2 NE shows. Their spirits threw my cynicism in stark relief. They sang the Anthem unprompted; they echoed every blank shell rattling off the boats, and every wave of the Feu-de-joie with ecstatic cheering (screaming? screeching?) - throwing a din to match the noises we must have been making a thousand times before!

And while the rain poured unreservedly upon the Guard of Honour / Flag Party in all our ceremonial splendour last Saturday, the kids stayed behind on platform and wrapped up the show in high spirits. A heartwarming picture of the children audience (in ponchos) came on Sunday on Lianhe Zaobao, putting me to shame for ever thinkin' to grumble.

In the same issue, I also discovered that the traffic accident (the one with 7 ambulances activated) is a sham put up by the trainers to pacify drenched and mutinious spirits. Alas, I was sorely fooled.

III. The Fire of Joy command reads:
Akan tembak FEU-DE-JOIE, isikan- BARU!
Awesome, French thingimmabob in a Malay command! And I never knew.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


from the aforementioned novel, a side story featuring Lermontov, a Russian poet

The competition continued: everyone tried to be the center of attention. Someone played the piano, couples danced, adjacent groups loudly laughed and talked: people tried to outdo each other in wit, everyone tried to surpass the others and be seen.

Martynov was there, too; tall, handsome, almost operetta elegant in his uniform and with a large dagger, surrounded by women. Oh, how much he irritated Lermontov! God was unjust to give such a handsome face to that idiot and short legs to Lermontov. But if the poet lacked long legs, he had a sarcastic wit that had lifted him high.

He approached Martynov's group and awaited his opportunity. Then he made an insolent remark and watched the stunned faces near him.

And still another insolent remark, and then another, so that the handsome Martynov is insulted at last. He reprimands Lermontov before the entire company.

What? Should Lermontov take back his witty remarks? Should he apologize? Never!

His friends warn him. It's insane to risk a duel over foolishness. It's best to calm things down. Your life, Lermontov, is more precious than that laughable will-o'-the-wisp, honor!

What? Is there something more precious than honor?
Yes, Lermontov, your life, your work.
No, there is nothing more precious than honor!

Honor is merely the hunger of your vanity, Lermontov. Honor is a mirror illusion, honor is merely a spectacle for this insignificant audience, which will no longer be here tomorrow!

But Lermontov and the moments in which he is living are as immense as eternity, and the ladies and gentlemen watching him are the world's amphitheater! Either he will cross this amphitheater with a firm and virile step, or he will not deserve to live!

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Life of Jaromil

A review and rewritten form of Life is Elsewhere, the novel by Milan Kundera
The story describes the whole life of the poet Jaromil, a short life of twenty or so years. Jaromil is a poet, and represents the basic conditions of poets. Kundera's narration from Jaromil's point of view is sympathetic as it is corrosive, and Jaromil is subtly revealed to be a pathetic, if endowed, character.

I'll attempt to write Kundera's flourishy prose in plain, to give an idea of what he is getting at.

Part 1: The Poet is Born
The poet is conceived out of wedlock. Mama brings him up to be a poet to spite his father (an impudent engineer who she later married). The child has an knack in making words rhyme. The child learns to impress adults by rattling off chimology. Mama is proud of the child Jaromil, and believes he is a genius.

Part 2: Xavier
Xavier is a character created by Jaromil, and is his alter-ego in his dream world. Xavier lives his life as a succession of dreams. Presently, he is seducing a woman in her own home. Her husband returns and he locks him up in the oak cupboard.

Xavier: Don't worry, he's locked up. He'll starve to death in there. Ha, ha, ha!
Woman: Ooh, you're so dashing! I shall come with you.
Xavier falls asleep and enters the next dream.

In the ski resort, Xavier seduces the lady in a red sweater. While they make love the girl in white, who loves Xavier, is in plain view. She dies of a broken heart and of the freezing cold. Xavier goes to her funeral, and feels her disembodied hands caressing him, because she will love this bastard no matter what.

Xavier wakes up. The woman he had seduced in dream 1 is worried; the secret police is raiding the apartment building. Xavier, who was part of the secret police before he was branded as a traitor, is now gone f*. He looks out of the window. The woman is beautiful, but Life is even more beautiful, so he leaves the woman and escapes.

Part 3: The Poet Masturbates
The poet grows up and learns art from a painter. The poet has growing pains. He longs to be a grown-up man, but Mama mollycoddles her boy. Despite such awkward circumstances he got himself a girlfriend for a short while. The revolution comes to Bohemia and Jaromil jumps onto the Communist bandwagon passionately. He alienates his family and the painter who taught him, as they were anti-communist.

Part 4: The Poet Runs
Jaromil runs from Mama and into adulthood. He joins the ongoing revolution in conjunction with his own revolution against his mum. He contributed chiefly in the sloganeering, putting up garish messages in a hall in the university. In the various meetings he showily stomps to the ground the views his fellow poets, whether or not they agreed with his own. He gets another girlfriend, who Kundera dubs the "redhead".

Part 5: The Poet is Jealous
Jaromil keeps running away from Mama, who in return manipulates her son in order to keep him by her side.

Jaromil and the redhead has numerous passionate encounters. We find out that he has a phobia of any other man than himself touching the redhead. He jealously forbids her to go to the doctor, visit her brother, etc.
The redhead is late one day for a date. Jaromil is mortally insulted, so she presents a string of made-up stories. When she comes to the story that her brother was about to cross the border, Jaromil's ideological fervour takes over. He informs on her brother, and both brother and sister are arrested.

Curiously, at this point his phobia had dissipated. Because her abuse (as he imagines) at the hands of the police are, in a way... his own hands. He feels a sense of absolute power over her life. He falls in love with another girl.

Part 6: The Man in His Forties
Kundera tells his readers to take a break. He reveals that he is not as delusional as the fellow he has been speaking on behalf of for the length of this book. He invites us to take another point of view.

The redhead, running away from the police, comes to the house of her other boyfriend (shock! horror!), the man in his forties. She has got her life and her brother (he was not released) into a mess by the story she told Jaromil. The man accepts her and comforts her. The life of the redhead, says Kundera, will be a scramble for a long time afterwards. And he leaves the couple to stew in their own juice.

Part 7: The Poet Dies
We're back in the life of Jaromil.

Jaromil is invited to a party by his new girl, a filmmaker tutoring the policemen's filmmaking club. He has a go at seducing the filmmaker, but her room was filled with guests. One of them comes to Jaromil and tells him that his teacher, the painter, was sentenced to hard labour while Jaromil could sit out here comfortably and present, without being persecuted, all the beautiful shit he has written.

Jaromil is as humiliated as a wet poodle. He tries to punch the insolent man, but the man is stronger and lifts him off the ground. He throws Jaromil outside onto the balcony, and kicks him in the pants.

A shot rings out, Lermontov clutches his chest, and Jaromil falls to the icy concrete floor of the balcony. O my Bohemia, how easily you transform the glory of a pistol shot into the buffoonery of a kick in the pants!

Jaromil is so insulted that he wants to die. He wants to jump off the balcony but it's not high enough, and if he fails to die people will laugh at him. At the moment, he could only try to freeze to death in the cold weather. From the balcony, he sees the bastard Xavier and the filmmaker making love; both had betrayed him!

Unfortunately, Jaromil still is not dead when morning comes. He withdraws hastily back home, and comes down with pneumonia. As he lies on his bed, convulsing with fever, Mama comes to comfort him. 'Damn this, this is not the way to go', he says to himself. And then he dies.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Grandfather passed away last Sunday, 27 June, after almost a year in coma. Dad and Mom have been mobilised and they are still in China now. Grandfather is rather solidly seated in heaven, just like great-grandmother is, said my mother over the phone. Because we sent him off with Catholic last rites. Yea, that does the trick... and God rest his soul.

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