Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I'm not here no more.

Duh. Go here:


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vile procrastination and the evil leech of lack of motivation

I have come to the conclusion that I just cannot sustain a blog. Look at this one! Look at my other ones! Maybe every half a year I'll get the itch to make a post, only to then abandon it for the next 4 months. It never works!

Of course it's because I'm lazy as a cat on a cozy Sunday afternoon. Well, then again, maybe I just don't have much to say.

I will say this though, I think I'm finally come to grips with the reality of my limited potential for academic success. I think I'm going to forget about the PhD and the lofty ambitions of a Professorship complete with tweed jacket and large square glasses. I should just realise that that dream is no more attainable than my other dream of being able to fly and live with it. The time where encouraging words wield magic and replenish the spirit is past. I'm too old to believe in compliments and too callous to let them affect me.

Suddenly I have the urge to go listen to Michael Buble's Christmas CD.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

After the Bookcrossing meetup

It was the first Bookcrossing meeting that I attended though I've already known about this bookcrossing thing some years ago when it started out. Though I have to say that at the end of the meet, it felt more like a Bookclub gathering then a Bookcrossing one. Not that it's a bad thing. In fact, I preferred it that way since I am terribly reluctant to lend out my books, much less release them into the "wild" and abandoning all but the hope that it will somehow make it back to me in as good a condition as it went out. I doubt I'll make a good parent.

The session was honestly extremely enjoyable. Kudos to Ivan for organising the event, complete with refreshments, lively banter and the Panaboard. Ivan's concerns that interest would wane as time wore on during the meet were (thankfully) unrealised as everyone stayed on way past the time and had to be reminded that each has a home to return to. How long I have pined and longed for something like this, a gathering of people just for the sole purpose of talking and exchanging ideas, book titles, goodwill without the overbearing stigma of education as aim or worse, obligation of commitment. The only thing left is to possess that critical level of optimism - not enough to douse future meets in disappointment but adequate to motivate interest and glean value from them.

Thank you Ivan.

The myriad of people! My goodness! There was the demi-deity like personality of Preetam Rai, who walked in holding a book titled "Beginner Russian", and then captivated with his childhood stories and incredible sense of humour and timing (and always that understated intellectuality and experience bubbling beneath, fuelling all his words and tales). There was Johanna, 15 going on 16 and yet exuding maturity and confidence uncommon among teenagers (at least those I see around, then again, perhaps my eyes are biased already). There was cool Ivan, who really knew what to do and what to say at the right moments to keep the discussion going and to keep the talk flowing. There was Yuyin (I hope I got the name right), effervescent and knowledgeable. I wonder if there was any book she has not read before.

Now one might think that I'm boot-licking because these very people I mention might read this entry. Perhaps so, I won't deny it. Yet I felt like the self-important, young ignorant punk that I am during the meet, the part of me that my daily activities and thoughts try to suppress. Good or bad, I haven't decided, but the aforementioned observations and impressions are nonetheless sincere.

I shall end this self-conscious piece with that paralipsis and the anticipation of the next meet. Though at the end of it, I still wish it to be more of a bookclub-ish type of group that happens to incorporate a self-contained version of bookcrossing. Well I am entitled to that no? At most I'll pretend I've walked into the wrong room next time.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Poem for Two Friends

Something I wrote for two friends. The story of their relationship is nothing short of miraculous, considering that they live in two different continents, never met each other in person until recently and are now engaged to be married.

It's amazing how people can change dramatically simply by having a clear goal in mind. I've witnessed my friend grow up in two weeks because he now has a girl he wants to marry and start a family with. Somehow it's as equally frightening as it is touching. Anyway, the poem:

Brilliance Borne of These Hearts Two

People wake up each day to the godly gold of the sun's rays,
They sleep each night under the soft yellow of the moon and stars.
They sail and sing songs of the enchanting green seas,
Write poems of the heavenly skies of quiet blue, desire to swim in them.
They call the emerald moutains magical, majestic.
They call the glowing growing brown earth home.

Let them but just glimpse a sight, just a bit of this
Brilliance borne of these hearts two,
They will surely each stop and stand
In smiling silent admiration and awe
Of this love that contains all the colours of the world,
This love that contains all the world and so much more.

And so much more...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

( )

The sky was overcast. The clouds crept slowly to cover the last inches of sunny sky as Pip climbed aboard the bus home.

The bus does not lead back home of course, it will take Pip somewhere near it; there he will have to walk the rest of the way. But the walk today will be heavy and slow, it will be laboured for Pip does not have the spirit in his heart to make it home today. No, his heart today is heavy as a tomb, as empty as a deserted throne. Even so, there is no room in it for hope. No, there is nothing in it at all to be filled.

As the bus trudged along its way, Pip kept his eyes on the things the bus left behind in its wake. He did not want to meet the gaze of other passengers; he did not want to acknowledge their presence. Why should he? No one else acknowledges him. Especially when he needed acknowledgment most.

Pip could not help but notice the frightfully dead things outside the window. The awkward while building that has sprang out of the middle of a field, now empty, decayed, with its windows open, as if inviting someone or something to look in. But even the panes were broken and moss has covered it. There is the fence around it, and creeping green life that has patiently found its way up the fence, over the barbwire at the top, so that the leaves, grass and weeds now blanketed the wire so thickly, anyone could simply climb over it. The sharp wire points are useless now, not even able to fight back the conquering greenery. Pip pitied the building and its fence.

Pip recalled the events of the past few weeks (he did not realise the building and fence had caused those memories to surge back into his consciousness), those things and those people who had managed to stealthily and swiftly rob him of everything he had hope in. And with such efficiency too! It was almost a conspiracy, an effort undertaken by all of them under the command of some higher power who decided Pip’s fate and life. Not a merciless power, not an evil power – it simply was because Pip didn’t matter. What is one life? Especially one as worthless as Pip’s.

That was his conviction. No, that was the fact. Pip knew he would not be able to realise his dream, even though he had but one dream his whole life. It was not a lack of luck, or some unfortunate turn of fortune. Pip knew he could never reach his dream because of his own failing, of his inadequacy, of the emptiness of his character. People around him simply reaffirmed that notion. The very people Pip hoped to lift him from his gloom turned out to be the ones that pulled him down into the gloom’s depths forever.

He saw rows and rows of short bushes, leaves yellow at the edges, branches bending downwards in a sad manner, as if weighed heavily by the pale, faded, sickly pink flowers. They seemed like a mockery to Pip, who was at once frightened of these diseased, dying flowers and also full of hate for them. He looked up at the grey canvas that was once the sky and secretly wished it would pour. He secretly wished for a thunderstorm so violent and so majestic that he would be swept away by its floods. Pip did not care where he was swept to, so long as it was not here.

Yet that was not to be. Pip was bluffing himself. He looked up at the clouds again and saw that the truth this time – the moody canvas of grey is now separated by a shard of sunlight that’s full of life and energy and… happiness. Pip did not smile. Even the sky now is leaving him behind, like everyone and everything else he thought a friend once. They all saw him, nodded their head once or twice, then continued on to happiness, never bothering to grab his hand and take him with them.

The bus stopped at the place that wasn’t quite home yet. Pip got down and promptly laid down on the pavement. He wanted to die, but if he tried to kill himself, it would not be the death he sought, no matter the manner of suicide. No, Pip wanted to just disappear, to close his eyes and fall asleep and never waking up, to melt into the air and maybe be taken someplace by the wind, someplace other than here. Pip’s only wish now is to become that very emptiness which has taken over his soul and spirit. He just wants to be empty. He just wants to be... Empty.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My Random Answer

They allowed for only 150 characters so I thought I'll just post it here instead. The Blogger question was, " The children are waiting! Please tell them the story about the bald frog and the wig."


Once upon a time, there lived a friendly black wig called Wiggy in a nice quaint town called Hairville.

He was a hardworking little wig and worked and worked till he was all sweaty and smelly and oily. But he loved his job at the Aircraft Testing Facility where he operated the Wind Tunnel. Few wigs have the courage to take up that job but Wiggy never hesitated when he was offered the position.

After a day's of labour, Wiggy loves to dive into the lake at the edge of Hairville. The lake was the most favouritest place for all the wigs in Hairville and they all called it Lake Conditioning. Usually Wiggy would then roll around in Towel Fields to dry himself. That helped him to keep clean and made him shine beautifully, like a smart, charming little wig.

However, one day, Hairville was visited by a group of large, green frogs that had ugly black bumps all over their skins. They were huge frogs, loud and boisterous, without manners and extremely rude. One of them even had a pig with him and the two would run around singing at the top of their voices and upsetting the folk of Hairville.

This group of frogs would come to Hairville everyday at sunset and drink in one of the pubs. The loudest, dirtiest and most revolting of these frogs was a big, fat green lump called Bull. The citizens of Hairville were most afraid of Bull because of his huge size and how he always destroys everything he sees once he gets drunk.

Once when the rest of the frog gang had gone back home, a very, very drunk Bull was rampaging across Hairville, stopping at the Towel Fields, where Wiggy was rolling about in.

As Bull burped and farted his way towards Lake Conditioning, intending to take a swim in it, the brave little Wiggy stood up on his hind hairs, ran to block Bull’s path and shouted, “You shall not pass!”

Naturally the bellicose Bull was very angry and wanted to tear Wiggy into strands. “Who dares shout at Bull, son of Froggy, cousin of Kermit!!!” It was a demand more than a question.

Wiggy, brave as always, smirked and replied, “I do, you bad-mannered bald frog! Me – Wiggy, son of Hairy, cousin of Chewie!!”

Bull was now very furious and bellowed in his deep voice, “All the Hell’s Angelic Frogs are bald you philistine! We shaved our heads in rebellion to classification by biological texts! We are not a statistic!!!” And suddenly Bull reared up on his powerful back legs and like a giant spring, launched himself at Wiggy.

Wiggy, because he was uninebriated, was able to dodge the attack easily. Wiggy had an idea and quickly headed towards the Aircraft Testing Facility, where he worked. Bull, because he was utterly and hopelessly drunk and so did not have his wits about him, gave chase.

Once inside the facility, Wiggy lured Bull right into the wind tunnel. Bull thought he had finally cornered Wiggy and was very happy with himself. By now, most of the Hairville citizens have heard or seen the commotion and packed into the facility, watching the action unfold from the viewing gallery.

Wiggy stuck out his tongue at Bull and mocked him, “Come get me Bull!” Infuriated at by insulted by a patch of artificial hair Bull coiled up his own long tongue and then lashed it out towards Wiggy. The brave and agile Wiggy deftly sidestepped and Bull’s tongue hit the wall at the end of the wind tunnel and promptly stuck there! Taking this opportunity, Wiggy ran all the way to the controls and started up the wind tunnel.

Under the sucking force of the wind, Bull the frog was slowly sliding towards the huge fans that are whirling so fast you almost couldn’t see them. At the last moment, his tongue became unstuck and though he tried hard to fight against the fans, it was in vain as Bull finally lifted into the air and zoomed towards the spinning fans.

Everyone on the viewing gallery was cheering for Wiggy, who now stood very proud of his achievement. He knew he was going to be awarded some medal for this civil act. Wiggy started to make his way to his adoring fans when suddenly a ugly pink tongue shot out of the wind tunnel and wrapped around Wiggy. Bull was not dead yet! And now he had gotten hold of Wiggy, dragging him into the deadly fans too! Oh no!!

As Wiggy flew towards the wind tunnel fans he had been operating for years, he looked at the horrified citizens of Hairville in the gallery and uttered his last words, “Run you fools!”

Thus ends the story of the brave little wig who finally gave his life to protect the town he loved so much. To remember their life-loving hero, Hairville renamed the Aircraft Testing Facility to the Wiggy-Beat-Bull-Here Testing Facility.

The End.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Mishmash of Related Odds and Ends

Yikes. I have to stop using titles that are at best oxymoronic, at worst plain rubbish.

Here's something to be glad about. I mean at least they are giving considerable printspace to discussing Literature - something I can safely say we will never see here. Not in the next century or so anyway.

But halt! not so fast... The gloom creeps ever closer even as the clouds clear: Against National Poetry Month As Such
Honestly, though, I don't know what to make of that article. It's one of those things that could sway either way, like a buoy in choppy waters.

Since I've used quite a bad metaphor (ok, it's downright lousy to the core), here's a bit about metaphor use in The Great Gatsby for your consideration of who's the bigger culprit of careless language massacre (yet another puzzling expression... "careless massacre"?? What is wrong with me today?!).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Literary Murder? - Errata

Apparently I have been too pesimistic in my assessment of Literature's future. Just take a look at this: Story Nights Attract New Yorkers Like Moths to Flame.

Reminds me of
Spalding Gray's performances (I've only seen Swimming to Cambodia, but I've read that his live performance pieces are much, much better) which has basically the same set-up: A person telling a story. Though here, the storyteller is you.

I am now semi-inspired to try and start something like that here. And why not? Everyone's got a story to tell.

PS. Actually the whole set-up reminds me of a Stephen King short story, Breathing Lessons
. It's a rather effective horror tale that works mostly because of how it builds up to the climax. And what happened to Amazon?! Why this ugly new look? First it's Yahoo! Groups, now Amazon... It's like that Henry James wave that went on some time ago.

Literary Murder?

Here's something to ponder: Literary Down, Information Up

It just struck me as interesting how this "problem" (if I can call it that) is only receiving attention now in the US, if it is receiving attention at all and not just dismissed as some unfortunate consequence. Some weeks ago I read this other thing: Reading Poems, more specifically the section titled "How did things change? Why are most Americans no longer comfortable with poetry, and why do most people today think that a poem has nothing to tell them and that they can do well without poems?"

Apparently this neglect of literature in favour of other "hard" studies is something that has been happening for some time but nothing much has been done about it. It is recognised as undesirable, yes, but... nothing's happening is there? Which is interesting since what is happening is the continuing phasing out of literary studies in the lower educational institutions.

Or consider this: The Latest Theory Is That Theory Doesn't Matter. I don't know what to say to that other than "hmmm..." But two years on and I'm still studying literature, so I guess the prophecy has yet to come true. Either that or, as usual for academics, it takes a herd of rampaging elephants to get them to stop talking and start acting.

Then again, why the concern? Isn't all this happening two continents away? So literature is dying out, a conspiracy is afoot to spread the notion that literature does not matter (or matter less) and so should receive less attention, so what? Well... Other than a probable lack of future employment opportunities for myself, I guess I find it somewhat ironic and slightly comical that all these "death signs" of literature, now so rampant in the US, have been commonplace and the norm here in Singapore since...

Is it not true? Since when has any government official come out and champion the benefits of reading literature? And when was the last time some government official came out and championed the benefits of entrepreneurship? Probably some hours ago. In Singapore Inc. the bottomline is what counts. If it doesn't sell (or earn) then it has no use. At all. An obvious fallacy that seems to zoom right over the heads of generation after generation of policy makers. Now one begins to see why even a reputable bookstore doesn't stock the stuff that matters, but the stuff that sell.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) not a lot of people are doing anything about this sad state of affairs. I'll give my fellow patriotic countrymen the benefit of doubt and assume some are actively trying to change the situation. Though sadly, I would suppose the government will eventually see these people as quintessential unpatriotic citizens, who is not helping the country move along. Well, nothing terribly unexpected of course.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Literary Blogs and the Ills of Capitalism (as usual)

Just to show how much of a lazy and easily distracted person I am, I have only recently (read: two weeks ago) jumped on the bandwagon of reading Literary blogs. Sounds boring? Sounds intriguing? Sounds... pretentious? Maybe, but it's something fun too. They're not exactly academic blogs that talk about Deconstructionism or whatever other -isms (some do). Most are updates about the literary world and/or collections of book reviews. Personally I have been searching for a good source of book reviews/recommendations for a long, long time. After so many years of being hoodwinked by best seller lists, these reviews are like a godsend. An axiom for them might be: For the readers - By the readers - According to the readers

That's the best part. These people are dedicated readers who write up reviews according to what they read, as opposed to what they were paid to read. Some days ago I talked about Grumpy Old Bookman , itself an excellent insight into the world of publishing and other literary related stuff. From there I found The Valve, which was started by my Philosophy lecturer from last semester (Flince: Yep, John Holbo has been up to some sneaky business outside class). After some surfing around and by the "Friendster law", I found a few other excellent sites - all non-profit and just plain blogging goodness. Finally I have trustworthy sources to tell me what to buy the next time I feel like toeing the bankruptcy line.

Which brings me to the second part of this post. What is the idea of a bookstore? To sell books right? Right. And that's where everything goes down the hill. At least in this fair country of ours. For example, I was looking for a copy of "Modern Criticism and Theory" (don't. ask.) and does Kino has it? Of course not! It doesn't sell! Unless suddenly all the academics in the world got into a frenzy and started raiding bookstores for academia-related literature out there. So ok, never mind, let's perhaps try Ezra Pound's "The ABCs of Reading". Nothing. Again. Ok, last try: "Collected Poems" by Thom Gunn. Well... At least I can pre-order Harry Potter #72341146... Yay.

Already many times over in the past, I found myself having to order stuff from Amazon or Alibris (an online 2nd hand bookstore) because Kino doesn't carry the books. Let's not talk about Borders since they offer no way of finding out if they carry any copies of a desired title without one having to go down to the store and search their shevles (the "hotline" takes an average of 15 tries before someone picks up).

So what happened here? Simple corporate math took over. Harry Potter sells a gazillion copies in a week. Thom Gunn sells one copy in a lifetime. I stop short of calling myself oppressed and deprived of choice in life as to what I can read (unless I'm filthy rich from say, writing a bestseller) but I don't really know how else to describe this. I'll just leave it at that. Perhaps in some convoluted way, it's already wrong to even envision a concept called a "bookstore" that is supposed to satisfy the reading needs of a community. A self-defeating construct at best.

PS. There is one big flaw with the literary blogs' reviews - a clear lack of non-American/Brit writings. Indian writers, Japanese writers, South African writers etc don't get mentioned though they do publish English stuff. Sigh, you just can't have your cake and eat it. Either that, or I am becoming more and more anal as the exam season draws close.