Saturday, November 27, 2004

I was trying to clean up my computer today, and in the process came across one of my first attempts at writing ever. I think it's just adorable in how naive it is, even though I am embarassed at some of it (see *).

The Lord Of Rox

The noble lord went hunting on his horse,
Protected by his soldiers, of course,
Deer, elephant, tiger and fox
Weren’t safe from the Lord Of Rox.
But the lord would not eat their meat,
For he felt after injuring them, hunting was complete.
Now, he spotted a yellow sickly deer,
Which for some reason was full of fear.

He watched the deer run away,
Not characteristic of a sick one, you could say.
The lord was puzzled and went on further,
Only to witness cold blooded murder.
The murderer ran on the lord’s sight,
While the deceased man seemed to be in great plight.
The lord rushed to the poor man,
And suddenly all of his soldiers ran.

They ran away and left the lord
In a place whose location he could not record.
That deer, first of all, couldn’t have been from his land,
And here there was much darker sand.
There was something about this place that gave him the creeps,
Something was in the ground and in the teak.
The man now could barely speak,
But a few words he could bleat.
“Go away from this land, go!
Leave here before the morrow,
This land is no good, no good at all,
Only a fool like me would live here and fall.”

The man collapsed dead on the ground,
Causing more and more strange sounds.
Sounds that were near.
Sounds that were clear.
There was something behind the bushes, for sure
Something about which the lord didn’t want to know more.
But something he knew he had to face,
Something for which he should brace.
“Who’s there?”, asked the frightened lord,
As he remembered many a frightening accord.
Accords of things he’d rather not meet,
Neither would his whole fleet.

Suddenly, there was a noise.
A scary noise.
An unknown noise.
From the bush it came,
For the lord to say he was brave it would be lame,
And out of it came a hideous creature,
Which didn’t look like it was going to be a preacher.
It did look, however, hungry,
And the lord would nicely fill its tummy.
But now the horse that hadn’t left,
Put the beast to the test,
A test of power, which the horse did give out,
With a mighty leg kick on the creature’s mouth.

The creature went running away,
“I hope that’s the last of it”, the lord did say.
He then hugged his horse and thanked him well,
For saving his life when death he could smell.
Then, he rode his horse far and wide,
To get out of this land he tried,
But in vain they did try,
As luck didn’t comply.

What was in this land, the lord wondered,
As the dead man’s voice in his mind thundered.
What could this land be, first of all?
It was certainly very big and the chances of getting out very small.
The lord wondered how he had never seen this place before,
How he had missed this place was as tough as beating the Minotaur.
He decided to explore this place, even though there was danger,
He knew he had to be careful because here he was a stranger.

Suddenly, a wizard appeared from nowhere,
Thinking and pondering over something,
Before he decided to go somewhere.
Somewhere was where the lord didn’t know,
And he thought as so-
“Who was that wizard,
As white as a blizzard?
Who was the murderer of that man,
Who on seeing me ran?
What was that deer,
Covered with yellow and fear?”
The lord thought to himself.

He went further into the place,
Before he could see,
A place of hardship of sorrow,
A place of tyranny.
It had to be the wizard’s castle,
A castle of doom and greed,
And to get out of it,
Anyone would plead.

The lord thought further about everything,
And now remembered
The probable answer.
The deer.
It brought him here.
It must have been some kind of spirit,
It ran in the forest.
There was the key.

Back to the forest went the king,
Hoping to find the deer,
With courage and determination
As would have any peer.
And the deer he couldn’t find, neither could he find the dead man,
This puzzle was tearing the lord’s mind, the facts in his brain swam.
“Where is the deer?” thought the lord,
He gave up and went back to the castle,
Only to find the castle, the puzzle’s core,
Stood there no more.

“What happened?” thought the lord,
He was getting tired of this little trouble on his own accord.
Next minute he looked back,
And saw the wizard there,
But now he looked more evil,
Evil enough not to spare.
The king knew not what to do,
His mind was in a confused state,
Maybe, he thought, just maybe,
This was to be his fate.

And his fate it was, as the wizard struck his spell,
And then he changed.
To a deer.
To a man.
To another man.
And now to the lord of Rox.
And off the wizard went to what was now his kingdom.

This was actually published in the school magainze, and caused an endless spate of jokes about it being the greatest poem ever. By the dating on the original, it seems to have been written only 6 years ago. I would've suspected it predated that, but anyhow, it's funny how much has changed since then (yes, yes, this is me starting once again on a trip down memory lane; don't worry, I won't bore you with the details this time). Obviously my idea of a poem back then was something that had lots and lotsa rhyme!! Some of the rhyme is so obviously forced, but that only adds to the charm. Not that my current idea of what constitutes a poem is any better, though. I'll wager I never thought I'd be writing some of the morbid things of the past few weeks.

Lines like "Suddenly, there was a noise / A scary noise / An unknown noise" make me want to laugh and cry at the same time!

* Is it odd to find my own work charming? I suppose I consider the person who wrote that poem to be totally different to I am now, as though I've totally distanced myself from the past. Not out of a sense of superiority, but out of sadness and a melancholic feeling that I've changed for the worse.
One piece of good news that I simply must share is that Jim Morrison was born the day after me. Which of course means that I'll become a renowned star who is either religiously worshipped or spit upon. Morrison talked very eloquently about his sign in the ramble entitled "American Night" off An American Prayer:

Yeah, that's right, that's right, baby, I...I am a
The most philosophical of all the signs
But anyway, I don't believe in it
I think it's a bunch of ********, myself

Hilarious! Looks like I'm in good company...
I was staring at some random piece of writing today, and then in typical fashion just looked away for a second, and in a flash it seemed to me like I have already experienced everything. Well, I haven't, obviously, but this is hard to explain. It was though every experience, every thought was just being repeated over and over, and that the world had nothing to offer. Naturally, such an assertion is rationally nonsensical, because obviously there are many things that are genuinely novel, and are not a rehash of things other people have said or done. I think what I was really thinking was something along the lines of "Everyone has written everything before". I don't know why I bother posting such nonsense, not even I can make sense of it.

I remember a few days ago I was talking about how life can seem to be beautiful at times, and how at other times it can seem to be utterly tragic and pointless. Of late, I fear I have been leaning towards the latter because of many things. Being the delightful cryptic that I am, I tried to write about some of these things in the guise of "poetry", sometimes they worked (well, once by my count), and sometimes they didn't (which led to various comments about prematurely destroying this blog). In but a few days, I shall be travelling to a faraway place, hopefully to set my mind at ease and to gain some perspective. Things aren't quite as simple as they used to be, eh? What if I came back a different person? Would people notice? I don't know what I quite mean here; I guess what I'm getting at it is, do reinventions on the inside manifest themselves on the outside? It seems pretty obvious that the answer is yes, so perhaps I have become too cynical by having to ask such a question.

Oh, I really don't want to go on anymore. I don't mean that I want to die or anything like that; no, not that at all, for I don't want to die, and certainly not now! I just wish that one could live life in stassis. That there was time for everything, that everything would wait for you. The reality of it all is a bit crueller though; sometimes there is only a single opportunity, and no time to reflect on it. Yet, funnily enough, there is all the time in the world afterwards to toss and turn thinking about one's mistakes. One of the things to think about in that time is whether the missed opportunity was one of those ones that has forever passed you by. Sick and twisted, ain't it? Heh, as Warren Zevon might say, "Life'll kill ya". I think I'd prefer if everything were an illusion. In that case, I could just spend my days dreaming of better things and be at peace. But as it stands, I suspect that this is all too real. After all, it would seem that any instinct I ever had proved to be totally wrong (a la George from Seinfeld who, now that I think about it, is actually better off than me; I used to suspect that I had something going for me, but on a bit of reflection, I am not so sure).

The only ray of sunshine these past few days has been a pleasant find in The Office, of which a lot has been talked about, but which I never actually saw till a few days ago. Definitely very funny, a strong character-driven comedy. It gives me something to look forward to in the evening. Ah, how sad.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

An interesting site, this shows a graphical display of "related artists" for various groups that you can search for, with closeness depicting a greater similarity, and chance you'll like the group.
Alright, for a pleasant change, something not totally terrible. I can only hope that my writing starts to progressively get better, and not descend into the realm of undistilled nonsense.

The soothsayer told me
He could open my eyes;
He did, for I saw
That he was a liar.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The reason I think life is remarkable is that you can be standing outside breathing in the fresh morning air, hearing birds chirping, seeing the Sun rising, all of which make you believe there is no end to the beauty that we can find in this world. But then maybe you go back inside, and then you see the newspaper telling you about a thousand people killed in some massacre in some faraway part of the world you probably won't ever visit in your entire life, each of these people having lived normal lives with normal families, and normal ambitions, all of which are abruptly ended by the hands of others. There's no doubting that it can really be cruel and twisted sometimes. Most people know the many intangible feelings you get when you appreciate the beauty of life. But what of the unhappiness in life? Is there a place for it? Do we merely acknowledge its presence? Do we take it a step further, and revel in its cruelty? That might be going too far for most normal people, but I wonder to what extent we acknowledge it. I don't think one can live one's life having the outlook that it is completely beautiful or completely tragic. Few things are black and white, and life, which is probably the most complicated concept there ever was, is surely no exception. Alright, so how do you strike a balance appropriately? Not many would suggest spending days alternating between laughing and crying, nor for that matter would many suggest that such a perfect balance ought to be struck. It seems far more appealing to say that one should celebrate the beauty of life, but on occasion take time to reflect on the fact that it is far from an ideal world that we live in.

It all gets even stranger when you stop for a second, stare into the distance, and realize how many hundreds of times certain thoughts have passed through your head. Each of them lodged away as a fleeting memory now, but so many things were once the reality of the present, now buried away among a pile of others. Individual days pass in a flash, but collectively years seem to take forever to unfold. Already a good quarter (at least) of my role has been completed. How many more times am I destined to look back and think the same thing? And does one truly know when the end is about to arrive? I cannot begin to comprehend such a feeling; I dread it, I dread life and I dread death. I fear too many good years have gone down the drain with nothing done apart from musing about what this all means. Still no answers there, but I wonder how long I will keep questioning. Knowing myself, it's all too easy for me to do one of two things - give up, or get so focussed on this goal that I end up losing track of other things that perhaps deserve attention. The teen years will soon draw to their conclusion, and thus begin the last few years that I can write off as "youth". After that, we try to sprint to the home stretch, and if we're lucky, go out in grace. If we're not so lucky, of course, then there is even less meaning to it all!

You know, maybe I am doomed, but it doesn't matter, we're all doomed anyway. Realizing this is no great advantage, for this is no secret; in fact, realizing this only goes to make the trip all the more bitter. I wish things were clearer, that there were answers that we could find. That would be too easy, of course; instead, I suppose it's up to us to discover whether we think this is all an illusion, or whether death is not the end, or if life is meant for us to purely enjoy ourselves. Whatever the truth may be, I think I just want to have the last laugh.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I saw a Doors 30th anniversary celebration DVD today, where there were several live performances and videos of Doors songs, all of varying quality. Most of the live performances were interesting, as were the videos, but there were some where they obviously overdubbed the vocals, which was a trifle annoying. Still can't get enough of Morrison screaming "Save us! Jesus!", though. And he was either high in most of the live performances, or really in a trance and truly in touch with the music. Actually, it could well be both.

They also chose to have quotes from "The Ghost Song" (which is on An Amercian Prayer) in between songs, and it struck me as very suiting to the mood of some of them (such as "Wild Child"). It is not a bad piece of writing, so I may as well quote it here so that there is some writing which doesn't look like it was picked out of a trashcan (really, what was I thinking with some of the stuff I've written here?).

Shake dreams from your hair
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Choose the day and choose the sign of your day
The day's divinity
First thing you see.

A vast radiant beach in a cool jeweled moon
Couples naked race down by it's quiet side
And we laugh like soft, mad children
Smug in the wooly cotton brains of infancy
The music and voices are all around us.
"Choose", they croon, the Ancient Ones
The time has come again
"Choose now", they croon
Beneath the moon
Beside an ancient lake
Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
Come with us
Everything is broken up and dances.

-- The Ghost Song, Jim Morrison

Ahh what a crazy fella.

Another thing I learnt from the clips is that "The Soft Parade" is supposed to be almost a religious experience. Morrison says on camera that the albums are only half of what they were trying to do, I don't know whether that's mystical nonsense or whether there is merit to what he was saying. It was good to see that "The Soft Parade" didn't lose too much from the lack of vocal overdubs, just one Jim was good enough to make it clear that it is indeed an epic. "Catacombs, nursery bones, winter women, growing stones", priceless.

Another realization is that when Jim had a short haircut, he looked suspiciously similar to Van. Morrison, that is. Mere coincidence that they share the same surname? Jim also covered "Gloria" I think. Hmm, methinks there is more afoot.
Motivated a little by "I Know It's Over" I suppose. Actually, I saw The Smiths' album on sale for $10 yesterday, but I didn't pick it up for some reason. Hmm that might have been a mistake, but anyway. (Edit: Well the first attempt was, but that was truly prime garbage)

Yet another in my brilliant saga of forced-writing, for nothing flows anymore.

In the stifling silence of prayer, I was asked
"What do you want?"
In a final gasp of reason,
Countless desires were killed,
And I replied
For nothing wants me".

I think I speak for everyone when I say "Yawn, more nonsense about bleakness and pain and any conceivable pseudo-mystical concept". I really, really don't know why I bother anymore. I think I get inspired too easily by other writing, and feel I must emulate others in an attempt to express the workings of my already despicable mind. Maybe I should stop posting altogether; I can't remember the last good thing I wrote, be it a "poem" (a poem is more than than a group of obscure images that are forced to rhyme somehow, so what I am writing is most certainly not poetry, it is some vile muck that mocks those who really do write poems) or a pointless musing. I mentioned a while ago about putting this blog out to pasture when its time came, and maybe that time came and went a long time ago. You know, I often remark how I want to replicate some part of me, leave some imprint on this blog so that I have something to look back over these years, but you know what, there is nothing. If anything, all that I am reminded of is my manic-depression and numerous obsessions, most of which I forget the week after. Yes, this would be a valuable tool for me to actually try to improve myself, but looks like I've been failing miserably so far.

It's funny, I woke up today and I wondered why I couldn't take the work of others and make it as though I had written it. I don't mean copying their work, I mean making it so that I was the one who wrote what they did; it's hard to explain, I don't mean plagiarism, I mean changing reality or something. Who knows, I'm insane. So I originally was going to start this "poem" with "Well I don't know where I'm going, but I'm going to try for the kingdom, if I can". When I actually started to wake up mentally, though, I realized what an utterly sick mind I must have to even think that such a thing could work, even if it was in a sickly stupor.

When nothing flows.

That's my cynical definition which of course isn't meant to be a sweeping statement, and is specific only to me and my already shoddy writing. Is it just my inflated ego speaking, or is the poem I posted this morning at least ten times better than this nonsense? Not that that was particularly good either, but I think it's positively genius compared to this. And funnily enough they talk about very different, nearly completely opposite things. The only reason I am posting this is so that I try to grasp what it is I am lacking. Perhaps on re-reading this nonsense, I can see how to improve my writing.

He looked up out of desperation and mild sense of defeat to see what lay ahead of him. In a second though, any lingering doubts were cleared, and he was so caught up in the moment that he failed to realize, at least for a few minutes, that this was it. Years of toiling away, with no sight of the future, and no respite from the madness around him, all gone. Those countless hours spent in futile contemplation of his own flaws, and his projection of them onto his fellow man, also gone. That moment in time that he stood outside the grave of his parents and collapsed to the ground may well have never happened. All that was left was a sense of unbridled joy - the past was all behind him, and what lay ahead was a beautiful future, one which would repay his suffering ten-fold.

And as he inched nearer and the nearer to the end of his journey, his eyes drifted to the edges of the road, where bodies were littered, all of them dead leaves scattered around the tree of life. These were those who didn't make it. What of their lives, he wondered? He began to ponder whether he ought to carry on. He let his mind drift, and began to wonder what lives each of these faces used to have. But he came up with nothing; it was with a sense of sadness that he realized that these were just faces to him. He lamented the lives these people must have had, the stories they had to tell, and the people they made a difference to, but to him, they were all just another person who tried and failed.

He tried to forget about it, and dizzily trudged along. He tried to shut it out, but to no avail, for his mind had captured a few choice images and memories, and started flashing them relentlessly. He soon couldn't tell if what he was seeing was real, and fell to the ground. Now he was a few inches away from a lifeless face, and by peering into those eyes, he felt an intense fear. There didn't have to be words exchanged for him to realize the reality of it all. In those eyes, he saw himself lying on the ground, and the person in front of him walking by.

But he drew himself to his feet. For a second, he paused. With a passionate yell, he looked ahead and marched on through.

Oh wow, utter drivel.

Monday, November 22, 2004

When waiting outside the gates, he says
"My friends, you have no notion;
I spent my life wishing for a lake
Instead, I got an ocean".

Edit (May '06): You know, this one I like. If I had to compile a selection of my own pieces that I think are anything above terrible, I'd say this one would feature strongly. I suppose it has a very personal meaning, and as such I appreciate it for how it captures that memory. Whether it is open to other interpretations, I am not sure!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

It seems that there's no action to be taken on Warne. Which, really, I expected; let's face it, no one is going to bring it up, and if they do, there's not much that is going to be done about it. Sehwag getting fined is now a glaring double-standard, the sort I suppose we should come to expect. Also, I've been ranting to everyone about Gilchrist deciding to adorn the robes of a preacher yet again, this time telling Craig McMillan the virtues of walking. That McMillan got out next ball was a sign of poetic justice, but of the infernal rather than the divine kind. Like I mentioned previously, I think this is a terrible form of hypocrisy, because Langer never walked when he was clearly out. But I get the feeling that Gilchrist is going to do the same thing over and over, till this not-so-humble blogger explodes! I used to respect Gilchrist, but not anymore. It is admirable that he chooses to walk, but I think his actions are despicable.

Again, my choice of words are too strong, but I still can't figure out why I'm so worked up over this. Maybe I'm wrongly perceiving Gilchrist's attitude, I don't know.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I've run out of things to say (insults, explanations, they're all the same) before my attempts at writing.

And the Gods showered fortune
On the man who changed his life
By waking up.

If Warne isn't reprimanded for this, then I don't know how else to explain it apart from it being a double standard. The bits I'm interested in:

On his comments being heard on radio
I also asked that if he was going to look at the laws he might want to check the lbw rule. He might have missed one or two over the years.

On if he expected any disciplinary action
No, wouldn't have thought so, I haven't heard anything.

Come on, why did Sehwag get reprimanded then?!

Again, when I get worked up, I get irrational. So I'm probably missing something. But right now, it looks like what Warne did was worse than Sehwag saying "It hit my bat!" to Billy Bowden.

And while I'm at it, why didn't Gilchrist walk when HawkEye showed that he was in fact LBW when his score was under 10? The whole world's watching, mate. (Ok, that was hitting below the belt, and not totally serious)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Artist: The Doors
Album: Strange Days (1967)
Rating: 17/20
Favourite song: "Love Me Two Times" or "People Are Strange", too close to call

"We want the world and we want it...Now, Now?, Now!"

It took only a few months after their debut for the Doors to release their second album, Strange Days, and it's an interesting album in that most critics regard it as being weaker than the debut, but most members of the web-reviewing community consider it to be a masterpiece. I'll admit, when I finished "reviewing" the debut, I thought to myself that the critics were right about Strange Days, even though I hadn't heard it in while. Indeed, the first time I heard the album was around two years ago, right after L.A. Woman, in a period where I was trying to figure out just what the heck was so great about the group. I was most unimpressed with the album that time, in fact I told myself that the Doors must be overrated or something. But how much a couple of years can change your musical tastes, eh? For now I sit in mute disbelief when the album is playing, thinking "How could I possibly find this boring!?".

Well, I think the WRC were right about this, this is a masterpiece, and may well be better than the debut. (But on reconsideration, I find that I love the debut too, so they both get a 17 from me) There is one small niggling matter though, namely that most of the songs here are pop/rock-songs - pop with the Doors' unique sound, yes, and very endearing pop some of it ("People Are Strange"), but still, there is no material here with the same mood of "Crystal Ship" or "Break On Through". Not to say that it's all happy "Oh, I love you!" songs, far from it. These are the Doors, after all, and it wouldn't be until the next album (Waiting For The Sun) that they made naive pop. No, the songs still have the aura of darkness and gloom, but at the same time, I would disagree with Starostin, who says this is "deep and depressing as hell". Even John McFerrin says this one is more depressing than the first one, and I just don't see it. Dark maybe, for this isn't your average sunny-pop, this is Jim Morrison after all (err, and it isn't 1968, so there is no "Wintertime Love" as yet)! In truth, I think "Break On Through" is easily darker than anything on here, except possibly "When The Music's Over" (in parts). Perhaps it was just the reviewers getting too excited!? Anyhow, the album is still spectacular, and I suppose I've become too elitist to realize that with pop of this calibre and with this atmosphere, you don't need lizards and killers and what have you. So, I'm going to go ahead and give it the highest rating I've dished out so far.

The title track opens the album, and what a sound! The vocals are nicely overdubbed, with the echoes working quite well. It creates a feeling of fear and uncertainty - and truly, in these times, "strange days have found us". Call me crazy, but it also seems as though we're being told a prophecy - due in no small part to the way the overdubbing does its trick. Morrison adds his characteristic screams of "Yeah!" in the song too, and they're as priceless as ever. It is followed by "You're Lost Little Girl", which is another not-so-simple pop song, because as usual there is the atmosphere of uncertainty, and Morrison may well be talking to us; aren't we all lost? Well, that's probably reading too much into the song, but when Jim hits the "Impossible yes, but it's true / Tell me whooo are yooou?" part, ah, it's lovely, and all of this backed again by a wonderful melody and fabulous work on the keyboards.

Ah, "Love Me Two Times" is next, and well, what can I say, you have to hear it to appreciate it. Certainly one of the Doors' more famous songs, likely to turn up on classic rock radio or on greatest hits CDs, and rightfully so (but 'tis only one side of the band!) I've seen someone call it simple rock 'n roll (of a high calibre, yes, but rock 'n roll nonetheless), and that may well be true. But gosh darn it, was rock ever this inspired? (Yes, yes it was) It has several things going for it, starting with the instantly recognizable guitar line, with an unforgettable riff (is it classified as a riff? My music knowledge is truly pathetic). But there's more! Morrison's vocals! Top-notch stuff this one, perfectly suited to his voice. Who would've thought that someone saying "Love me two times / Aaaaim goin' awaaay" would be so catchy? There are no lyrical tricks here, no sir, in that regard it's pure rock, but that doesn't really matter, now does it? I only wish Jim would really scream out the chorus at the end, with some of the gusto he uses elsewhere. But once the riff hits, you forget about silly stuff like this, and it's all grooovy.

It's with a song like "Unhappy Girl" that I think that there is a slight inconsistency with some reviewer's opinions, because while it is another fine song, with another catchy melody, I don't necessarily think it is of a higher standard than some of the songs off the album, like, for instance, "Twentieth Century Fox" or "Take It As It Comes" (I've really dug a hole for myself with that one). This is still an excellent pop-song, but it seems that some people consider the aforementioned songs on the previous album as lightweight. One explanation which I might be willing to accept is that they didn't fit in with the mood of the album; I don't necessarily agree with that, but I suppose it's reasonable. Anyhow, this certainly does fit in with the mood of the album, telling of an unhappy girl (no, really!) "locked in a prison / Of your (her) own devise". Another solid melody in an album with no shortage of them.

The next number is very interesting, and usually cited as the sole reason why this album cannot be placed along, say, Revolver or Highway 61 Revisited. "Horse Latitudes" is basically Jim reciting one of his poems, set against some sound-effects courtesy of his bandmates. The poem was one he wrote in high-school, and I may as well include it here for you to consider:

When the still sea conspires an armor
And her sullen and aborted currents
Breed tiny monsters
True sailing is dead
Awkward instant
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop
And heads bob up
In mute nostril agony
Carefully refined
And sealed over

Sure as heck better than anything I've ever written, that's for sure (and he was younger than me when he wrote it too!) If you're wondering, it's about how horses were thrown overboard by the conquistadors while sailing, which was tragic really. The problem with this "song" isn't that the poem is total nonsense you have to be on acid to appreciate, I just don't think the way it is delivered was particularly good. For example, Jim gets louder and louder the further he gets into the poem, but I don't think lines like "Poise / Delicate / Pause / Consent" ought to be screamed out, that isn't the way I hear them in my head. A silly criticism probably, because it's probably how Morrison heard it in his head, but anyhow, I feel as though this could've been done better. The sound effects are mostly well done, creating a sense of confusion and maybe at times fear (I don't like the sound of those "tiny monsters" one bit, brrr!).

The simple piano opening to "Moonlight Drive" is guaranteed to stick in your head, but the rest of the song isn't my cup of tea particularly. In fact, shame on me, I went and forgot the melody to it, and so I had to refresh my memory just then. It is memorable, like most of the songs on here, but I guess the album is so chock-full of melodies that my brain can't take it, eh? I don't know what it is, but for some reason this isn't my favourite number by far on this album. Maybe time will change me again!

"People Are Strange" deserves a para of its own, and so it will justly get one. I think calling it the perfect pop-song might be a bit of an overstatement, but only slightly. Everything comes together nicely in this song - the organ and piano lines, the chorus and Morrison's lead vocals, they're all fabulous. The melody may well be the catchiest thing the Doors ever did - all this and the song is just over 2 minutes! That's my only problem with it, that it finishes far too soon! Then again, maybe it would lose its magic if it went on for too long. Anyway, it doesn't matter, it's a fabulous song, and justly another of the Doors most recognizable (and most-covered, so I am told) tunes. I always just have to sing along when they hit the first (which is also the last) chorus. No one remembers your name when you're strange.. I suppose there would be people that call this lightweight, but I think I disagree. Lightweight to me suggests that the song is a trifle, for instance maybe bubble-gum pop, but this is much more than bubble-gum, this is ice-cream pop.

Another song which I was going to specifically reference with regards to the debut vs. this album is the song "My Eyes Have Seen You". Another lovely melody, with passionate vocals and a great guitar backing, but again also the sort of song that is quite similar to some of the numbers of the debut album. The difference is that the riff here is killer, and the atmosphere buildup is amazing as we get to the line about "Television skies" - it paints a very strong mental picture, a hint that this isn't just disposable pop. Robbie Krieger sure had a knack for writing some simple yet very riffs, didn't he? "I Can't See Your Face In My Mind", starts off nice and slow, with a near ethereal-sounding organ, but then constantly switches to a nice chugging, soothing rhythm. The contrasts work quite nicely, with Morrison alternating between sadly asking "Please, don't cry", and surrealy stating "Carnival dogs / Consume the lines". A minor gem, this.

Then, yet again, the Doors decided to end the album with an epic closer, this time the 11 minute "When The Music's Over", a song in a totally different vein to "The End". Most find this more accessible, and it's easy to see why, because there is actual diversity in the instrumentation, whereas it's easy to get sick of the monotony of "The End" musically. This has several identifiable parts, and as such the 11 minutes really don't sink in, it could be three or four as far I'm concerned. But there are two problems with it as far as I can tell, namely that the organ intro is a reworking of "Soul Kitchen" (tsk, tsk!), and that the melody for "When the music's over / Turn out the light" is also a reworking of "End Of The Night" (tsk again!) I'm not sure why the Doors decided to rework their own material of a few months ago, but it sort of detracts from the experience I think. (Actually, I can propose a possible answer to that; some of these tracks were outtakes from the first album, so it's understandable that they share the same structure and in some cases, the melody, because the group must've been trying to fit them in somewhere, and hadn't yet locked them in for a particular song).

The song itself is quite epic in nature, maybe not as shocking as "The End", but it has its moments. More of Jim's poetic ramblings, for starters, as cryptic as ever! But it also features some of the best lines on the whole album (not a surprise, since the rest were darkish pop songs). Morrison proclaims "Before I sink into the big sleep / I want to hear, I want to hear / The scream of the butterfly", and why not? Another famous line is "A feast of friends, "Alive!" she cried", which doesn't really make sense to me, but it's still memorable for some reason. No weird goldmines here, and pretty wordsmithying aside, the song reaches an electric peak as Morrison screams "Persian night, see the light / Jesus! Save us!", another truly unforgettable moment. What strikes me about Morrison the frontman is that what he is saying may make no sense at all, but it is the conviction of the way in which he sings (shouts) the lines that makes all the difference. You get the feeling that he believes all this stuff, and that it is his world - perhaps one that makes no sense, but it's something he really believes in and wants to share with us. Morrison is often criticized these days for his lyrics being shallow and typical brooding nonsense, and maybe the critics are right. It's easy to get tired of his obsession with death and the like, and perhaps in a few years I will be the leader of the crowd that chants that he was a fool who took too many drugs. But I foolishly believe that his delivery will stand the test of time, for one really believes that this was the man's world, these nightmares were what were in his head.

I've drifted a little off topic, but coming back to the song, it easily holds its own against "The End". They're both very different styles of songs, of course, and so comparisons merely on the fact that they are lengthy album-closing epics is a little silly, but musically I think this one has the edge. I may as well mention here that "The Soft Parade" is as good an epic album-closer as both of these, with a climatic ending that perhaps surpasses both of these songs (not as a whole, just in terms of the ending), so I guess you can always rely on the Doors to provide an interesting end to an album.

So, in two years I went from adjudging this overrated nonsense to a positive masterpiece, and I don't know whether I should be amazed or disgusted at my former self. This is really good stuff, and is probably right up your alley if your tastes are anywhere near pop with substance. It feels wrong to award this a whole one and a half points more than the debut, though, so I've upgraded its rating to a much deserved 16. I still think this album and the debut are at least neck and neck, so they both get a 17 from me This may well be the peak of the Doors' career - you'll have to wait for my musings on Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman to see if I pull up any surprises (or maybe even Waiting For The Sun, eh? No, only joking), and certainly as good musically as near anything else that came out in 1967. Not the most groundbreaking album, but certainly one of the more melodically captivating.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

This is interesting, apparently the German version of Firefox includes adware. This is the sort of story I really think Slashdot ought to post, even if everyone's getting worked up over nothing, because I get the feeling that if IE were the browser in question, it would be on the front pages everywhere. I however think that there will be no such story, which is sad.
By the way, Dinesh Karthik played in the last match against Australia. Seeing close-up shots of him behind the wicket, he definitely does look much the same as he did ten-odd years ago. It was just amazing when I saw him taking part in the celebrations with other players, especially Tendulkar, because at that age Tendulkar was like a God, and the mere thought that one of us would not only meet him but play alongside him would have been, well, unthinkable.

There was one incident where Damien Martyn was giving Karthik "advice" after the Indians unsuccessfully appealed for a leg-before shout, no doubt schooling him on the nuances of the game. Karthik quite appropriately told him to concentrate on his batting rather than his talking. Good stuff! It seems like the Indian players are starting to stand their ground when the opposition tries intimidation tactics, and they're not letting the opposition gain a psychological advantage. The best example is the one and only Harbhajan Singh, who met the Aussie's abuse with yet more abuse! It was despicable to see McGrath and the like abusing and trying to intimidate the tail, and I'm glad someone decided to stand up and show they weren't afraid. At one instance where McGrath finished an over off with some nonsensical abuse, Singh merely walked down the pitch and gestured McGrath to come forward, a truly immortal moment. My favourite Singh-moment was when he lifted Warne out the ground for six, and then starting clapping to congratulate Warne of his "century" (he conceded a hundred runs!). At first everyone thought he was congratulating himself (which would have been pretty funny also)!

Although Australia definitely outplayed India in the series, and probably deserved to be the winners in terms of consistency and application, I feel in spirit they didn't have the right attitude. There were too many incidents of sledging and intimidation; f'rinstance, Justin Langer (whom I now utterly despise) would make comments to the bowler nearly everytime there was an appeal that wasn't upheld. At one point even Dravid, maybe the most well-behaved player in the whole Indian team, had enough and had a little chat to Langer, hopefully requesting that he keep his fascinating ideas for the book he's bound to write next year, once he's dropped. The worst incident of all (maybe I'm overreacting here) was when Kaif gloved a ball which Gilchrist caught, but the umpire adjudged not-out. In a truly wretched display, Gilchrist began lecturing Kaif on the morality of the matter, telling him with an air of moral superiority "The whole world's watching, champ", and other nasty stuff throughout the over which the stump microphone didn't pick up. It was with some amusement that I read his comment that he didn't think walking was a big deal. I was waiting for Gilchrist to run onto the field when Langer cleanly edged a ball but was given not out, and naturally didn't walk, instead offering a smug smile to taunt the bowler. One must turn a blind eye to such things of course, because morals clearly only apply to one side, and not the other. Of course, there is also the matter that the captain, Ponting, clearly stated that he wouldn't walk, and that he encourage his other players to do so either. Kaif really should've called Ponting to the wicket and relayed Gilchrist's message to him. Oh, if only Harbhajan was the non-striker!

I'm not being very rational here, I suppose I take these things too personally. I think India has been intimidated for too long on the cricket field (then again, what do I know?). It's time we showed the world that we're not going to take it! This post probably has numerous factual inaccuracies, in the true style of a rant by me, where white-lies are abound. Not that it really matters in this case, after all my slander is worth nothing to anyone. I just need to get some rage out, and what better way to do it than with hyperbole and distortion?
Having finally gotten fed up of having to manually check if any of the blogs I read had any updates, I decided to do get an RSS reader to do the work for me. SharpReader is what I am trying out, and it certainly gets the job done. The only problem is the overhead - it takes up 20+ megs of memory, which makes me slightly unsure of leaving it running in the background. Perhaps there is another program that is slightly more memory efficient, but anyhow other than the memory issue, it works good, with MSN-style notifications.

The other problem is that this is an indication that I am growing too addicted to blogs. Do other people really have such interesting things to say that I ought to wait with bated breath? Of course you're an exception, gentle reader...heh.

Oh, and I wish more programs would dock into the system tray instead of just minimizing (SharpReader does, which is nice).

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Artist: The Doors
Album: The Doors (1967)
Rating: 15.5/20 16.5/20 17/20
Favourite Song: Ouch, this is really tight. Possibly "Break On Through", but "The Crystal Ship" is hypnotic

"We chased our pleasures here / We dug our treasures there / But can you still recall / The time we cried / Break on through to the other side"

The Doors' first album is widely heralded as being one of the most impressive debuts in rock history, but at the same time, a fair few members of the web-reviewing community tend to place it a couple of pegs lower than its successor, dark-psychedlia's poster-child Strange Days. After the first couple of listens, I tended to agree, and thought this album had far too much filler to be memorable. But time has changed me, it would seem, because I have a far more positive view of it now. It may still be inferior to Strange Days, I can't quite make up my mind just yet; but I do think it would be unfair to dismiss this as noticeably flawed, and I think it's quite enjoyable actually.

I can't quite imagine what things were like in 1967, what with it being the year we had Sgt. Pepper, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, The Velvet Underground And Nico, et al. But I think The Doors was a pretty unique sound for the time - lyrically of course, we have Morrison, who some consider probably the finest poet rock had to offer, but who others spit upon as worthless, stoned-out scum. Musically, the keyboard became the centrepiece for a lot of the melodies (and oh! what melodies!), with the band forsaking a bass guitarist. Inevitably, however, all talk of the group comes down to Morrison, about whom too much has been said. I doubt very much that he wanted to become an item of such controversy (then again, knowing him, maybe not), and it's unfortunate that the band be overshadowed by one man. I guess that's just the way it goes with such things, though. My own worthless opinion on the man's abilities as a lyricist is that he's rather good - in fact, certainly one of the top ten on my list (I'm not bold enough to place him in the top five just yet). I can't say that I have read William Blake, so I can't comment on the level of similarity between the two. Suffice to say, I don't know whether one can objectively define something as poetic or not; I don't think so, I think a lot of it is based on the reader's interpretation, and as such I think some of his writings can be deemed poetry (no "rock-" prefix here). Whether he ought to be worshipped forever as some sort of demi-god is another matter entirely, and I've said before that idol-worship is probably not the smartest thing to do, but there you go.

Onto the songs. The opener is one of the more famous Doors songs, "Break On Through". In little under 2 and a half minutes, I think this encapsulates several of the best elements of the group. The melody is of course one that you will remember forever once you've heard it (a nice little story behind this, see *), nicely backed by a distorted guitar riff and those keyboards, pure gold. Lyrically this is far from Jim's most complicated piece, in fact it's one of his more concise numbers, but I find that it perfectly captures the dark mood of the album that is created in some part by the cover. You could lose yourself gazing at the cover, I think. Beginning with the powerful images of night and day ("You know the day destroys the night / Night divides the day"), the song steams to the chorus which asks us to "Break on through to the other side". I find this to be a very powerful image, and I can't quite explain why. I suppose we all attach our own meaning to lyrics, and this is no exception. I can almost feel the epiphany with lines like "Tried to run / Tried to hide / Break on through to the other side", and love the little contrasts as with

I found an island in your arms,
A country in your eyes,
Arms that chain,
Eyes that lie,
Break on through to the other side

I may be stupid for judging this my favourite song, but in part this is due to the fact that it was the song that made me interested to hear the album in the first place. Naturally I'd heard bits and pieces before, but never the whole thing, and it was this very number that lead me to take the CD and give it a listen (and I'm glad I did!)

"Soul Kitchen" is sometimes regarded as a bit of filler, but I don't think it's possible to get the keyboard riff out of your head once you hear it, it's unbelievably catchy. Admittedly, after the cold shot of "Break On Through", this may seem a little disappointing, and indeed it isn't a great song. However, I wonder we should judge this poorly just because it has the unfortunate burden of following up a great track, hmm? In fact, one could accuse this of being nothing terribly more than a catchy pop song, and well, the thing is that The Doors really did start off as an "edgy" pop-band, or so I am told. It was only till they performed The End in all its glory that they realized what path they wanted to follow. So their debut does have a lot of songs that perhaps aren't one's typical idea of a Doors song: no complicated lyrics about death and horses drowning in the water here!

The next number is the extremely impressive "The Crystal Ship", a gorgeous, almost hypnotic ballad with some great vocals from Morrison. Certainly featuring some of the more interesting lyrics off the album, this is almost like a dark-lullably (I've figured out the key reasoning behind my Doors analysis - stick a "dark" in front of anything!). The melody works very well in this song, and the piano just helps create this other-worldly atmosphere. Lines like "The days are bright / And filled with pain / Enclose me in your gentle rain" are the sort that just stick in my head, as is the plea "Deliver me from reasons why / You'd rather cry, I'd rather fly".

I'll be darned if I know what the crystal ship is meant to represent, though. What I think of is something pure and beautiful, yet fragile too (like the very song itself); and the song certainly does deal with love, probably being lost with time (as the woman "slips into unconsciousness", the narrator wants "Another kiss / Another flashing chance at bliss"). Regardless, I adore this number, even if I am somewhat mystified about what it all means. Hypnotic is really the best way to describe it, actually, so perhaps I ought to have left it right there.

Then we have another perceived drop, with "Twentieth Century Fox", a rather tame follow-up. But yet again, I think it mostly struggles under the burden of expectation - the melody isn't all too bad, really, although the lyrics aren't all that memorable. Chalk up another pop-song, but it isn't all that bad really. It's interesting to wonder how such a song would have been treated in a different album. After all, the song is fairly catchy, and the keyboard is pretty good too. Am I being too unfair on the poor Doors? I wonder.

A strange yet charming cover of the Brecht/Weil song "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)" follows. For starters, it's insanely catchy (like a lot of stuff here), especially with the "And if we don't find the next whiskey bar / I tell you we must die" parts. The keyboard bridge is also very simple but oh so effective, as Morrison starts telling the moon of Alabama that it knows why they must have whiskey. Heh, that sounded silly, eh? Give it a try, it's fun! Again, some would call this filler, but I don't see too many problems with it. It's hardly overlong, and the melody is certainly distinctive; I think the problem with judging this album is deciding whether you judge it with the view that it was groundbreaking. With this criteria, perhaps numbers like these are insignificant compared to the "big ones". Although, it was certainly an interesting choice of song to cover; while other groups were turning to the old R&B classics, not too many were interpreting German composers (and certainly not with such a catchy result!) As you've no doubt noticed, however, this is no proper review, and so I ignore such decisions in favour of doing what I feel is right. Always the right way to go, right?

I suppose "Light My Fire" would have to be the Doors' most well-known song, and I pity anyone who hasn't heard the intro at least once (no, not really, but I like broad, sweeping, semi-elitist statements). However, most people probably know it through the edited, radio-friendly version, not its 7-minute cousin here, featuring a lengthy organ and guitar solo. I have to admit (don't hate me here), I think this version is slightly overlong. A fair bit of the solo doesn't do too much for me - it's only when the guitar comes in that things start to get interesting, but otherwise I tend to switch off and lose interest. Yet another indication of my true immaturity as a music-listener. But all is not lost! One can sit through the whole thing, for sure. And it's worth it, if only to hear Jim shout out "Come on baby light my fiiiiire". That ending is priceless! I really like Jim's vocals, even if they can be somewhat limited - passionate is what that scream is.

The blues-cover "Back Door Man" initially seemed like the perfect chance for me to remark "Ah, ok, yet another reason why this album is no good". After all, the blues and I don't get along so good. But after a few listens, I am absolutely flustered, because this song is just so catchy it's not funny. The repetitive organ and piano line keep on comin', and Morrison really lets it all out with the vocals here, making it clear in no uncertain terms that he is a back door man. Who'd have thought the blues could be so endearing to me of all people?! A miracle is what it is. I have to stress how good the vocals are here, Morrison gives the blues a wonderful treatment. I mentioned the scream at the end of "Light My Fire" was passionate, well, that same passion is present in great abundance in this song too.

"I Looked At You" is often maligned as being trite pop-nonsense, but it's something of a guilty pleasure for me. I can actually see that the album's overall rating might hinge on whether one pronounces such numbers as stinkers or not. As with quite a few of the songs on here, I don't think it's another "Crystal Ship", but at the same time I find a discernible melody and find the lyrics quite unoffensive really. Ok, so maybe they are a tad silly and repetitive (I walked with you / You walked with me
I talked to you / You talked to me
..ok, maybe really silly and repetitive), but I can sit through this stuff well enough. Classic Doors it is not, but classic trash it is not either.

The next song is the downright creepy "End Of The Night", which for some reason makes me think of large spiders just waiting to get me. I propose that this is a result of the song reminding me to "Spidergawk!" off one of Jerry Garcia's solo albums. Anyhow, this is another dark-lullaby, with deathly slow vocals and a delightful (if scary) hook. Lyrically it features such memorable lines like "Some are born to sweet delight / Some are born to the endless night", which again isn't top-drawer Morrison, but as a song it all just comes together.

The opening lines to "Take It As It Comes" are nicely done ("Time to live / Time to lie / Time to laugh / Time to die"), but I think the rest of the sing is a bit too rushed. A pity, really, because I think they could've made this into something good.

Ah, at last, what we've all really been waiting for, the Doors' most famous 11 minute epic, "The End", where Jim's poetic madness really comes through. The only problem with the song is that the instrumentation is, for the most part, not varied enough. It's only at the end that it really starts to shift tempo, but otherwise it's largely the same. Whether that matters depends on whether you hang on Morrison's every word or not. I find the lyrics to be interesting for the most part - the intro is beautiful, much like it was the first song, although here it's because of the simplicity.

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again

Perhaps it requires the listener to be in the sort of state where (s)he wants to believe that it's really the end. I find it really soothing (is that perverse or what?) hearing Morrison proclaim that it's "the end of everything that stands". That's all, no more, it's all over. And of course one can't help but admire the "my only friend" bit, that's just beautiful. The song was of course featured in the opening of Apocalypse Now, which seems rather fitting. I haven't seen the movie, so I can only imagine what the opening must be like, but that's where many people were introduced to this song. It's funny how putting a song as the backdrop to particularly potent images can give it a whole new meaning, eh?

But after the nice intro, the song starts to lose its way a bit. It's more a vehicle for Jim's poetry than anything else - no catchy hooks or the like to grab your attention, you pretty much have to be content listening to Jim recite the whole thing. It is no painful task, of course; there are plenty of interesting lines, my favourite being "All the children are insane, waiting for the summer rain". It sounds profound, and in some ways I can understand what he means. I don't know what he intended with those lines, but I am able to make some strange sense of it. But there are others like "Weird scenes inside the gold mine" that even I can't attach a meaning too, but that's ok, it's still unforgettable. It seems like a lot of the song is like this, with lots of phrases and images that sound so "weird" and yet so beautiful at the same time. A product of madness or genius!

The famed Oedipus section is thankfully not present in its full glory, it was probably a bit too shocking to include unedited, but there is enough to make one either uncomfortable (or interested). There are still timeless images, such as "The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on / He took a face from the ancient gallery", which are really in a world of their own. Such imagery takes me back to places and times in my past, and it's really amazing what meanings one can attach to carefully chosen images and phrases, isn't it? The rest is a bit unnerving, as the killer goes down the hall to his parents' room. The whole section is over with soon enough, and it's a good thing too, for I don't think I could stomach a drawn out, unedited version..

Towards the end we finally get a change in tempo, but alas it is a case of too little too late I feel. The saving grace is that Morrison still has a few lyrical tricks up his sleeve, and the song ends with possibly my favourite line:

The end of laughter and soft lies,
The end of nights we tried to die,
This is the end

The end of nights we tried to die, call me insane here but I think that's brilliant. Perhaps it takes a brooding, once manic-depressive to understand it though.

Anyhow, thus ends one of rock's more famous and impressive debuts. In over forty minutes, one probably gets the feeling that the group could have done a bit more - the talent is definitely here, but the overall mood is damped somewhat by a couple of relatively inferior numbers. Hmm, maybe the critics were right after all, and Strange Days is superior..we'll get to that later on. This album does have more than its fair share of interesting numbers though. Morrison the lyricist did burst into the scene primarily with the bombast of "The End", but there are others on here that display his talent not just for lyrics, but for solid melodies as well. A lot of the stuff here is so catchy, it's amazing! Although, it isn't the easiest listen, and some of the songs ("Back Door Man", f'rinstance) take a while to get under your skin. And when they do..oh! You too will want to shout. The rating may be a little low (is this better than On The Beach?), but heck it's just a number after all. (On reconsideration, I've decided to upgrade the rating, because I really like this album. I may as well be honest rather than think about what the rating "ought" to be, eh?) Suffice to say, this is a pretty interesting album that captures my attention for the most part, although maybe in purely objective terms it can't be considered fantastic. With Strange Days, of course, most people think the Doors got rid of all the flaws with this album, and came up with a masterpiece. My own thoughts on the matter will set the record straight sometime in the next few months (or years, depending on whether I really want to get around to it).

* I once read a review of Stephen Stills' Long May You Run. A reviewer at CDUniverse said that once you heard the title song's melody, "it will stay with you forever". Naturally, till this day, it has. So I couldn't resist playing the same game with you, gentle reader.

It takes me at least an hour to write these musings, and when I'm done I'm often surpirsed at how little there really is. I think I just have fundamental troubles when writing about music.

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Ah, it's over. Oh, that I had Paranoid sitting on my CD rack, so that I could put it on and breathe in the atmosphere of War Pigs*. Perhaps a strange desire on my part, given the pretentious pseudo-intellectual tendencies that I sometimes present. But occasionally, I think you just need to get back to basics. And what better way than to hear Mr. Iommi do his thing?

I have a fair few comments to respond to, not to mention posts to make. There was something in particular I wanted to write about..what was it? Ah, that's right, I remember now.

There is a set of comics (or tracts, as the website calls it) here that are apparently handed out by (fairly hard-core I'd imagine) Christians to try and convert people to their faith. Nothing surprising about this. But some of the stuff, for instance this one makes me quite sad. I don't know if sad is the right word, but when I read about the person who writes these, I get the feeling that he believes what he says. This is how he sees the world. I think he really does believe that D&D provides "intense occult training", and while initially I must admit I laughed, I then wondered about what it must be like to live with such a mindset.

I hesitated to provide the above link because I thought it might seem like I was mocking the writers. But no, that's not it - it truly is a feeling of pity and sadness.

I don't know whether it's wrong of me to feel pity; it's certainly not mockery in any form, but rather I think it's just a feeling that..ah, I have come to a potentially touchy conclusion on thinking about this. Here goes: I think (I'm not sure though, I could be mistaken) the reason I feel pity is because I feel that God (if he exists) wouldn't want them to live like this (devoting their entire lives to him, telling others why their lifestyle is wrong and that they ought to embrace the one true God, etc.). Ironically enough, by making such a claim, am I not acting in a similar way that they do, taking my own beliefs about God and the universe and then trying to explain why the actions of others are wrong? I think that, as usual, I am employing a double standard. But is there a way to reconcile the fact that it seems to be rational to believe that God doesn't want us to live life like that? As I type this, I think the answer is no, and wonder whether rationality is relative. Actually, I think it would be true to say that rationality's interpretation is relative. Of course, we also have the matter of whether rationality has any place at all when talking about God, but that's a story for another rainy day.

Enough pseudo-philosophical nonsense for now, there'll be plenty of time for that later.

Yessir, the next three months should see this blog once and for all claim the title of greatest accomplishment in the history of mankind. It's time to wash away the filth and sins of the past and rise up and snatch eternal victory.

I can't say that I have any particular plans for this holiday. It just seems like such a long time ago that I was sitting here, blogging about how I was going to spend the last break. I thought that having a blog would inspire me to do interesting things and then post about them (thereby piling on the ego-stroking), but alas, it never came to fruition, or at least, not to the extent that I would have liked. Heh, it would seem that instead, I spent most of the day immersed in Baldur's Gate, which was a fine accomplishment in its own right. For now, I have the blog to remind me of the failures of the past, so that I may look ahead to successes in the future (what am I blathering about?) Anyhow, I'll be sure to keep you informed, gentle reader.

* I can't remember if I mentioned this, but apparently Joy Divison cited their influences as Black Sabbath and Dostoevsky. That just cracked me up when I read it.

Update from Nov '10: I still remember my desire to have Paranoid, and the somewhat suffocating need for it to be "sitting on my CD rack". It took me six years to go ahead and purchase the darn thing. I'm almost tempted to leave it unopened.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

It was little over a year ago that I made my first post to this blog, back when I was devoid of pretention and the various delusions that are the driving force of most of my posts these days. It's hard to believe that another year has gone by, but even moreso that I've been blogging fairly consistently for a year. I thought it was just another temporary distraction, but it has lasted longer that many of my other "projects", and I can't help but feel a certain amount of pride with what I've made of it. It is still indistinguishable from the vast majority of blogs out there; there are countless pages that offer far more, but I don't care really. I'm happy that I've managed to do something which I can hopefully look back on with some sense of accomplishment.

I can't help but wonder how long the whole blogging-spree is going to last. Countless new blogs seem to pop up by the minute, but is it ever going to end? You know, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say no, they are not going away anytime soon. For better or worse, they are here to stay.

What of this blog though? Will it ever be set out into the pastures when its time comes? Somehow I also associate this blog with my youth, and the last remnants of it. As though when I lose it altogether, I will put this silliness behind me and become lost in some meaningless pursuit. But I don't want that to happen; as I've said before, this may be my only shot at immortality.

A belated happy birthday, dearest blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I apologize in advance, for this is the sort of post that I loathe to make. One that's about me, and directly connected to my life. But I think this captures a very interesting state, at least as far as my mental health goes.

I thought I might stop posting till the exams got over, but lately I've had a hard time going through a day without thinking about how I might actually fail a unit this semester. If it turns out that I don't, then this will be the worst case of paranoia that I've ever-experienced. I actually feel like I may get a panic-attack soon. I've been paranoid about things before, but never have I actively believed that I may fail an entire unit. Assessments, yes, but a whole unit, no.

Part of the problem is that I have already failed two assignments one assignment* (see edit) this term, and the more I think about it, the more it seems likely that I will fail a couple more. I have no idea why things have gotten to the state they are. It probably has to do with my manic-depression at the start of semester, eh? I was in no mood to do any form of study, and I guess I slipped further and further behind.

It strikes me that the moment that these marks are put online, the few seconds it takes for the page to load is like waiting for a moment of truth. Nervous ticks where the nervous mind plays all sorts of tricks on you. I can easily picture the future-me staring at a poor mark and just feeling like I've hit rock-bottom. At the same time, I can picture a future-me staring at a pass (not a spectacular mark, but a pass nonetheless) and laughing away this silliness. Oh how I hope it's the latter.

If it turns out that I do fail, watch out world, because I'm going to lash out. Hah, I couldn't resist; no, in truth, if I do fail, what will happen is I will probably go into another spiral of self-pity and soul-searching, with the icing on this infernal cake being me having to explain this failure to those around me. Especially parental-figures.

If I don't fail, I will update this post and make a mockery of myself for being so stupid.

I've remarked to a few people that I don't know anyone else whose marks could go down as much as 40% between two semesters, without a serious crisis occuring in their lives. What is it that makes me so untemperamental? I'm obviously a loose cannon, brimming with creativity and energy that I can't be, I kid you again, it's probably due to the fact that I am a narcissistic fool who has become blinded by grand idealistic notions of life, and subsequently forgotten how much I take for granted.

I don't know why, but I seem to have this almost instinctive reaction to script out conversations and events in my head well before they come to fruition. To be more precise, when the situation is bad, much like it is now. In my head, I explore virtually every way in which a conversation, say, ends up with me being in even worse shape than what I'm currently in. So, already I have scripted out in my head me having to ask an honours coordinator whether my WAM can be considered excluding software this term, after having failed it miserably, thereby ruining all future prospects, and so on, you get the general idea. I've also scripted out me having to schedule a meeting with the lecturer, trying to explain why I think I should be passed, and being denied on the basis of the tutor's impression of me (not a very good one). Oodles of pessimism or what? This, to me, is the strongest indication that I do indeed have serious, serious issues.

I would never be able to make it in the real world, precisely because of incidents like this. I give a whole new dimension to chronic paranoia, eh? It's times like this that I wish there were an interventionist God. (Maybe there is? Who knows.)

You also tend to realize that art can't always save you. No matter how powerful words, thoughts and feelings may be, nothing seems to matter in the face of such bleak desperation. If only I were stronger-willed, then I probably could embrace concepts more powerful than myself, and find the strength to do way with this excess paranoia. But it's always a case of "if only", ain't it? (No, it isn't, but humour me) I wanted to end this post with a nice poetic quote, an appeal to some higher power, but no, I won't do that. I am too nervous that the outcome of this situation will be a negative one, which will then mean that the quote will forever be tarnished, much like this post (which will surely go down in infamy in this little blog's history)


* A funny thing happened with one of my "major" assignments, worth 15%. It was a machine marked assignment, where we had to hand in a program for a computer to mark. Now, obviously, the program that marks it isn't some highly sophisticated software, and as such it has some guidelines as to how the output should be formatted. For this assignment (which involved the computation of minimum spanning trees, for all 0 of you techies who read this), we had to display the output in sorted order.

I remember not being in the right mental state for that assignment, but it's hard to explain what a "right" mental state is. One big indication that things were not going well was when I came in on the day it was due forgetting to send my code in the morning. It just totally slipped my mind, even though it is there in nice bold letters on my calendar. So, I had to wait till I reached home to send in the code; it would still be well on time, but I felt uneasy that I forgot about an assignment worth 15%. I think the reason I forgot was that I hadn't done too much work on it that week because of another assignment (the one I am concerned about failing, and if I do, I will probably fail the entire unit due to the assessment requirements). Once I handed it in though, I was fairly confident that I would do alright; I was doubtful about whether I could get full marks, as one ought to expect with an assignment whose marking scheme as lax as this (if the output was right, you got full marks, no questions asked), but I didn't lose any sleep over it.

But then when the marks were published, I saw next to my SID a lovely 3 out of 15, a complete eyesore among the numerous 15s that littered the screen. Looking at the logs, I realized what went wrong. Would you believe it, the ouput for my program was not sorted. I had remembered a few days before that this was a requirement, and I thought I had made the necessary changes to sort the results, and then I conveniently forgot about it. But whoopee, my answers were all correct, just unsorted, but the program didn't care - it just failed me in almost all the tests!

That started my descent into paranoia I think, because I have never fared that badly in a major assessment before; certainly not in the last 10 years or so. I know, I know, marks are meaningless and knowledge is what is important, but I'm not talking about the difference between a credit and a high distinction, this was twenty out of a hundred versus a pass. Naturally I couldn't rest properly that night, and when I woke up the first thing I thought about was what a terrible, terrible mess I had gotten myself into. This one bad assessment meant my overall mark for the unit shot down to 60%, while the other students were living it up with comfortable 90+s. Even with scaling and weighting, I figured I was royally stuffed.

Desperate to see if anything could be done, I mailed the lecturer, asking (no, imploring) him to review the logs, and see whether he would consider passing me. There's a bit of a story behind that too. Like I mentioned earlier, I often pre-script conversations in my head, and the one with the lecturer was no different. I envisioned him replying quite coldly saying "Tough luck", and on some days even with him shouting at me for being so careless. He had a fairly neutral view of me during semester; I never said much in tutorials, so he couldn't be irked at me not paying attention, but at the same time I had a feeling he wasn't too pleased that I had virtually zero participation in discussions, unless forced.

But, even with my mind feeding me these possible outcomes, I bit the bullet and sent the mail anyway. After doing so, I thought a bit about what might go through his head when he read it. I put myself in his position, and figured that I would probably be irritated at a student who was so careless in not following the specifications that were clearly laid out. I would probably think such a student were a slacker, someone who obviously didn't care enough to pay any attention to detail. Lord knows it has happened before; it's so easy to judge someone based on one incident or two, when the truth can be oh so different. I saddened me that people can form a very different opinion of you than what the truth is.

Anyway, I predicted that the lecturer would refuse to budge, and based on this loose assumption I started criticizing this form of assessment in my head. I (somewhat rightly) scorned the idea that marks were not being awarded for knowledge, but rather for rigid adherement to a set of criteria. I started philosophizing about how transparent marking schemes aren't necessarily good or fair, but they can easily pretend that they are. You get the idea - I kept revisiting these ideas in my head till I felt I would explode.

But then, I was amazed to find out that the lecturer had, firstly, taken the time to read my mail, secondly, that he decided to take the time to investigate the matter, and finally, and most amazing of all, that he decided to upgrade the mark to 14. He reduced one mark because he didn't think it would be fair to other students, and I understand and agree with that. Yet it turned out that all the endless chatter in my mind, of me scrutinizing how things could go wrong, all turned out to be useless speculation. As the dust settled, I was reprieved for a lapse in concentration when handing in the assignment, and given an equal opportunity (not having to worry about a 30% deficit) to demonstrate knowledge come the final exam.

I am not out of the woods yet, I am afraid. For though this tale was long and seemingly reaffirming, this was not the subject I was scared of failing (which shows you how bad things are going for me). No, the other one is still a large question mark, because I am praying that I will somehow manage to scrape through, but the voices of doubt are growing stronger by the minute. I think the panic-attacks I talked about previously have started to set in (loss of breath at regular intervals?).

I can only hope that very, very soon I can edit this once again and give you a nice long tale about how everything turned out for the best in this subject. Yet the pessimism is stronger than ever, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

One quick post before I let this blog go silent for a bit: here are a couple of atheist writings that are of some philosophical interest to me. I like to have my ideas challenged once in a while, I think, although I think when it comes to God and the like, I am less receptive.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Due to daylight savings, I tend to stay up an hour "extra", so now it's really Thursday. As a result, my prentention knows no bounds whatsoever - I mean, the following poem is utter nonsense that is perhaps indicative of a deep-seated superiority complex, even if it isn't intended to be about me. But I don't think it's a coincidence that so many of my poems of late have had this general theme of ascension (I mean, the guy in this poem is pretty much saying he is God), immortality, eternal youth, and to some extent evil. I think the real me is coming out; I mean, I suppose we all think about these things at some point, sometimes seriously, sometimes not so much so. But I am concerned that this makes up an active facet of my dreams and aspirations - it's not healthy, that's for sure. Then, of course, there's the fact that this perfectly fits the drivel you see on so many other sites, with the calculated and cliched rhyme and laughably over-dramatic style. But I'm comfortable with my flaws, really; after all, it isn't as bad as it used to be, and I can think of worse pieces of writing, both by myself and by other equally deluded souls.

I wish that someone with spirit true
Would offer me a flower,
For then as I reject it, you
Could watch their face turn sour;
Watch now, as love turns to hate
Watch now, as the lover turns her face
Which meets my cold, indifferent eyes
Which in a shrug, to her surmise
That I know all God's secrets.

She turns to leave and I wipe the tears
Of laughter streaming down my face,
I'd lived a lie for twenty years
But now that I remember
My one true name
I stand, and wake up
The consequences of December.

I have always believed that one day,
By the grace of that divine angel
Whose life I surely must have taken by birth,
I shall escape from these fools and their followers,
And I swear on all their holy fathers,
That I shall rip these leeches off one by one,
Climb to the top of that eternal mountain,
Seek my final meeting, and look to see
If it's my reflection that beckons me
To take a sip from the fountain.
I think this is significant: "Here's the difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals will read bin Laden's threat and say, "Gosh, we better do as he says." Conservatives will read it and say, "Bring that mess ON, *****. We killed most of your friends, and we're going to kill you, too"". It's a conservative's view, and I think it explains some things about what is going on in this world. I get a very bad feeling from views like this again bin Laden - I can't tell if these gung-ho attitudes are just blowing off steam or what some people really believe in. It's just a bad vibe I get from reading stuff like this. It borders on fear, I think; one of the sharpest images of fear and uncertainty that I remember was when I read that Mullah Omar had sent out radio broadcasts in Afghanistan, telling the people to prepare for a holy war. Gah, I can't rationally explain any of this, I'd better dawdle to sleep and leave my quest for understanding politics better out of my blog for good.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Minor spoilers follow

I went into Collateral with high hopes, since the lovable duo on The Movie Show gave it a high rating. It's fair to say that my expectations were all met and rewarded, perhaps even moreso. I thought the pace really picked up quite soon into the movie, and like how Max (Jamie Foxx) is painted as a normal guy who dreams of greater things. He maintains that being a cab driver is only a temporary thing so that he can gain a footing for some "other projects", his real aspirations and dreams, but then as Vincent (Tom Cruise) finds out, he's been doing it for 12 years. Vincent is a hitman, and it's really interesting how the two form some sort of strange quasi-relationship till the inevitable climax. There are no punches pulled from either side - Vincent (quite rightly) sees that Max is deluding himself (he ironically remarks at the start "I can see you're one who does, not talks"), and that by being so reserved and idealistic he is going to wake up one day and realize that he is left with nothing. Yet Max sees that no matter how nonchalant Vincent remains about his profession, there are certain truths that he can't escape; his childhood shifting between an abusive father and a foster home has left him unable to figure out what anyone else in the world is thinking.

I think their relationship is somewhat epitomized by the way that Vincent saves Max's life in the club - of course, that Max's life is at risk in the first place is entirely Vincent's fault. Then, of course, there's Vincent's appreciation for jazz, and Miles Davis. His suggestion that they kick back and go to a place where the legends of the West Coast play, right after Vincent has killed another person on his list is priceless.

In a way, Vincent is a good influence on Max because he forces him to become assertive and stop living in his comfort zone - this is of course taken to the extreme in the movie's exciting ending. It's also interesting how these two people are almost like lost souls, wandering the heartless streets of LA at night - where "a man can be dead for 6 hours on the MTA, and no one even notices". It's Max's home that he defends when Vincent professes he feels like leaving everytime he visits the city, but it can clearly be a dark, lonely place, captured nicely by how Max, who hands have been tied to his steering wheel, cries out for help, only to be heard by muggers who proceed to take his wallet at gunpoint.

I don't see enough movies to be able to critically analyze them, or for that matter appreciate the good from the bad, so take my approval with a grain of salt.

My eye drifted towards the "Previous posts" box on the right of screen. I notice that 6 out of 10 posts start with the word I.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Here's an analysis of TS Eliot's one and only Prufrock. It made me realize that I am Prufrock in more ways than one. Everyday, speaking of Michaelangelo (talking about great men) and expounding my views on life and death, but at the end of it all, I am left measuring my life with coffee spoons, eh?
I suppose that too often I take an overly romantic and idealistic view of life. Yet, at the same time, when under duress I can also cut past all the pretty metaphors and notions in the sky and paint a cut and dry (read: oversimplified) picture of the world. How can one strike a balance? Should one strike a balance?

Paul McCartney's concert in Red Square was on a few hours ago. It was amazing to think about the effect The Beatles seemed to have had on communist Russia, it truly brought a smile to my weary face. I then tried thinking about any other artist who might evoke such a reaction from such a huge crowd (which at one point included Putin, although he didn't look like he cared much for the music!), and then I realized there was no-one that I could think of. I thought a bit about how, no matter how great or revolutionary Dylan, Morrison, Reed and the like may have been, it seems that there is nothing that quite matches the universal appeal The Beatles had (have?). Sigh, it must have been special to hear "Love Me Do" as a young lad/lass in 1962..
Tomorrow's US election will surely go down as one of the more intense ones in recent memory. I wonder how much truth there is to the rhetoric of this being an election not just for the US, but for the world itself..hmm. I don't quite know when the election takes place Sydney time, but I am very anxious about the result!

UPDATE: Wow, it was almost a repeat of the Australian election, eh? A lot closer though, but still, Bush did get the majority of the popular vote. I guess he really isn't as hated in his own country as you might think..? I wonder what is going to happen these next four years.