Thursday, April 27, 2006

(Continued from here) And yet, I only just realized that Jon Landau is the same man who called Ram "the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far". You can read the whole review here, although it didn't do much good for me. I simply do not understand how one can have such a reaction towards it, but to each his own. Perhaps it is a review that is a result of the time in which it was written; maybe his expectations were radically different to someone like me, picking it up some thirty years after release. Seeing as how he did respond to something in Springsteen's music, I'm not overly upset with him, and so for now, I will write it off as a curiosity.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The premise of The Wrong Boy is simple enough - the narrative is a series of letters to Morrissey, by a fan looking to explain himself and his situation. And yet, when I started reading the book, for some reason it seemed so brilliant. Perhaps it was the line "Anyhow, I thought I'd pen a few lines to someone who'd understand". I actually felt distinctly upset, as though here was the only idea that I could've possibly used, and here it was, already taken! Even though I was advised to the contrary, I went in expecting it would be very much littered with references and musings on the music, but I should've listened to the initial warning. It was still largely enjoyable*, even if it might require a suspension of disbelief in a couple of places.

When I think about it, though, it's funny that I should feel as though I can relate. I'm not the hugest Smiths fan around, and although I do find Morrissey resonant, if pressed I don't know if I have an overwhelming reason to. I put it down to the power of some of the songs on Hatful Of Hollow! I mean, I've only ever heard a couple of Smiths albums, and maybe a couple of Morrissey songs. I do know, however, that some of the songs are amazingly great, and it does feel like there's a like-minded soul out there. Sometimes. In doses, he's brilliant, but when extended, I won't say I dislike him, but I feel the magic wears off. There are times when I've listened to his solo stuff on the radio ("I Have Forgiven Jesus" I think it was) and cringed on the inside, as though he has gone too far and compromised his wit, merely wallowing in the mire, so to speak. With that in mind, I guess it's a testament to the songs that do mean something to me that I should feel like a fan.

And after reading the book, I'm half-glad I'm not a fan. As in, not one to the extent that the narrator is. I suspect I don't embrace the music as much, which is entirely to my liking. Much like the Doors, actually. I think I appreciate these things without taking them too seriously. I believe Morrison once said "I contend an abiding sense of irony over all I do", and that sounds about right.

Incidentally, I feel compelled to say that my favourite part of the book was the simple line on the piece of paper in the narrator's wallet. That, to me, is one of Morrissey's finest moments.

* I certainly did not enjoy the segments where the narrator encounters people talking about their musical taste. I know it's fiction and all, but the elitism troubled me unduly. And drove home the fact that it's easy to dismiss the writing talents of Mr. Paul Simon, sadly, by writing off S&G as soft music of no consequence. It might've been part of the reason Simon decided to go solo!
Dear cousin
When you were young
And I was not old
When the history I learned
Was the only history I knew
Those are the times
That seem most real.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Well, one good thing that came out of the project last year was that it made no sense for me to persist with DirectX as a tool to make The Game. I remember blindly using all those C calls without understanding what they were doing, and remember vividly the days upon days I would have to spend debugging some trivial error that came about just because I didn't know what the code was doing. I read so many tutorials in search of something that would have all the answers; my favourite was the Game Programming Genesis series on GameDev. I actually printed out every single one of them, and probably have them lying around here somewhere.

But when I had a little taste of PyGame last year, I said to myself "Hey, this does everything I want to do, so why torture myself with the delusion that I'm a serious game programmer?". I'm not interested in the advanced shading options and what have you that DirectX (or OpenGL) lets you control - all I wanted (and want) to have is simple sprites moving around, giving me room for exciting game mechanics (whatever that means - I never reached this stage before, so there's some thinking to be done yet). And so, if there is any hope at all for The Game to be started, the discovery of PyGame seems to play a vital role - even if it has only rekindled my interest!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The beta for IE7 has been out for a while, and for some reason, I can't get used to it. Perhaps I have grown too used to Firefox. It didn't strike me all this while, but someone said the interface was terrible, and all of a sudden I feel as I though I half-agree. It isn't terrible, but it certainly feels as though it would be difficult for the non tech-savvy users to use it. It might just be the case that one requires time to get used to it, of course, but at the moment, I do feel as though some changes ought to be made. A more thorough analysis of this feeling and what motivates it is no doubt required, but not today.
I had a good thing going - everything was chugging along nicely, I was coming across as confident, and as though I knew what I was talking about. That isn't to suggest that I didn't have a clue or anything like that, but maybe my confidence in my sales pitch was a bit exaggerated. I wasn't selling anything more than the very same confidence I possessed, of course; my mentor needed something to justify having me as a pupil. But anyhow, it is fairly obvious to the astute reader that the good thing was all too soon gone, and the balance of power shifted. It was all at the hands of an anonymous toddler.

Yes, this little fellow had captured my mentor's attention, and caused him to laugh. Being seated where I was, I couldn't see out the door, and had to rely on the cute wailings that drifted through. I couldn't help smile, and it was a nice moment that I would ruin by trying to make a joke. "An early start to computer science", I believe I said. If I made a movie about this (I'm a narcissist), I'd feature a copy of myself drinking something, only to splutter "What?" at this monstrosity. It is a terribly common affliction, no doubt, to lose control with a joke gone astray, but surely since it was borne out of someone who has just learn to walk, I would be spared the injustice? Ah, the find minds who wrote the paper I had in front of me, not even they would be able to fathom this.

My mentor only gave a weak laugh, but I could sense that I had lost the upper hand. In the brief discussion that followed, I merely listened, for I knew that I had to abide by the ancient rules handed down by my forefathers. What might have been had I kept control? Perhaps I would be pupil no longer. But it was not to be - and who knows, maybe the toddler was only in my mind.

Friday, April 14, 2006

It's funny, sometimes you start off with the intent of writing something, but then four lines later, you've gone in a completely different direction.

I was playing with him, tossing out conversation starters. When I say that, it sounds like tossing meat to a hungry dog, but in my case, it was as though the dog were already well-fed and content to watch the strange projectiles land squarely on its nose. Every topic was met and finished in a sentence or two. I somehow wanted to break down all these barriers, thinking that things were not like they used to be. When I thought about it, of course, I realized that they actually are, only I never noticed it.

Then, looking at the mess I made, with all those uneaten pieces lying on the floor, I thought to myself "Man, I have to get rid of that dog".

Thursday, April 13, 2006

She looked at her watch. "Fifteen minutes late", she sighed, and she picked up her pace. She knew that the professor wouldn't mind, of course, but she was growing weary of coming in once everyone was already seated. All eyes would fall on her, and she would inwardly curl up in a ball to deflect all the attention. She did not look forward to a repeat of the experience.

She entered the room in a hurry, and was taken out of her temporary delusion that somehow no-one would notice. There they all sat silently, no one saying a word, but all eyes mutely fixed on her for that one moment that, perhaps more in retrospect than anything else, felt like an hour. She scrambled to the nearest seat she could find, but was shaking a little, and took a barely perceptible while longer to do so than one normally would. She thought she heard someone say "There she is", but maybe it was just her imagination. Either away, she cursed softly, but was relieved that she had finally made it. "I'll be on time next week", she said to herself.

It was as she was taking the book out of her bag that the professor said something she didn't catch. Everyone else laughed in unison, but she merely looked around in confusion. It soon died down, and gave way to rapt attention. "What were they laughing about?", she wondered.

A moment's thought convinced her that the wretch had actually made a comment about her, no doubt something hilarious about her not being on time. It seemed to make perfect sense to her at the time, and was far more appealing a thought than the uncertainity and all that came with it. "It's not my fault", she wanted to say, but she knew that would come across strange. "They wouldn't understand", she said, tears beginning to form in her eyes. She looked at the other people and thought them all to be sick to have laughed at her like that. As if they knew her or her reasons! She shut her book, and paid no attention for the whole hour. She merely sat thinking about what she should do. She felt like sitting in that same seat for the whole year, so that she would never be late again. Then she would be the one laughing at all of them when they crawled into the room.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Terrible, I know. I didn't intend to venture out of my style, but I had to in order to get something out of this. I was just about to delete it, but maybe that's a tad harsh.

It was agreed amicably over breakfast one day - he would get a phone call, and they would discuss what needed to be discussed. "What is he going to ask", he wondered at first, but he left it there, and paid little heed to it until the day arrived.

He sat waiting for the phone to ring, having neatly set aside time in his schedule to sit around waiting for the call. It is true that he was not overly busy at the time, but he secretly enjoyed the thought of this temporary relief, for he enjoyed the fact that he was doing someone else a favour at his own expense. Maybe next week, over a coffee or a quick lunch, he could remark to his colleague of how his precious time was set aside for a call from someone he didn't even know. He imagined he would gain more respect as people saw what a generous man he was - At last, someone to look up to in this world! See him sacrifice his time for someone he doesn't know! If only we could be more like him! He suddenly felt silly and wondered if he had overdone that last part, but he felt happy anyway.

All the while, though, he was still waiting. Thirty minutes. One hour. Two. "What's going on?", he began to wonder with a mild sense of irritation. There was no doubt the longer he waited, the more respect he would gain. You waited a whole two hours!?!, he could hear his colleague exclaim. He still wanted that, very much so, but he hadn't reckoned on how difficult it would be. He couldn't help but feel that maybe he was wasting time, and that he couldn't afford to sit here much longer. He decided it was probably a good idea to get on with the rest of his day, but for some reason his mind lacked the necessary focus. He tried to get back to his papers, and started on the first one, but he couldn't keep his mind away from the phone. He kept pausing as he wrote, expecting the phone would ring and that he could then get the conversation out of the way. He initially dismissed this whole thing as being a shortcoming in his concentration, and decided to take some time off (aware of course that the past two hours were not particularly productive), and so he switched on his television, hoping to find some temporary relief.

Soon it had been three more hours. At this stage, with some repeat he had seen ten times before reliably acting itself out on television, he grew positively furious. Was this some kind of joke? Was it just a game to see how long he could be made to sit around and wait? There was a rational voice inside him that told him it was not a matter which deserved such attention, but he gave in to his anger, because he knew himself too well. He put on his jacket and in disgust, went out to clear his head, no longer caring if he received the call or not. The fresh air did him some good, as he exhaled a couple of times, took a deep breath and began to stroll around his neighbourhood. Pretty soon, he started to feel better, and he even ran into a friend he hadn't seen for a while. They engaged in pleasantries and by now, he had managed to shelve away the shameful proceedings of the day thus far.

When he returned, replenished and far more in control of himself, he noticed there were no messages on his phone. Still no call. For a minute or two, he began to wonder whether he had imagined the whole thing - was there a phone call at all? Had he even been promised a call, or was that a dream? He carefully thought back to the day before, back to the salt and eggs of breakfast, and the words rung clear. No, there was no doubting it, he had been told in no uncertain terms that he would get a call in the morning. Although he had temporarily resolved this confusion, it seemed to only add to his frustration, and he promptly sat down and did something particularly uncharacteristic. He wrote a letter that expressed just what he thought of these miserable tactics, keeping quiet the rational voice that was now screaming that he was making a terrible mistake, and that he would wake up regretting this. He consulted no thesarus, for the words he wanted to use came naturally to him.

He never did get a reply - but he never expected one. His life continued as normal, and the following month he had published yet another paper. He quickly forgot the whole incident, and his days were now bereft of the uncertainity of the call. It was not until many years later when, in keeping with his strict diet, he assessed the broccoli on his plate, that the mystery was solved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I get riled up too easily. And yes, the plagiariasm is very much intentional*, and intended to be a true imitation of rock's Wilde.

Stagger Lee,
Stagger Lee,
Class is not found
In the words your mother never taught you
(Though four is a fine number).
"Why was it dead?", you asked him
Because you are dead to him
And don't you wonder
Why in Bangladesh they say
You unchaste fool
You are dead to us
So shelve your heavenly plans
It's hard enough when you belong.

Part II
You are sick in the head
It is true, and I am sad
For I know no cure
But I do know you are false
And so I wish you no luck
Only that swift justice be dealt.

* But you know, it isn't meant to be one of those novelty things; it is a perfectly serious (even if deliberately excessive) statement on my part. It somehow felt right to use the lines I did - no doubt similar to what the man himself feels when he does his writing. The words of "Cemetry Gates" are ringing in my ears, but I hope I will be forgiven this indiscretion.

A sombre meditation

Preserved for posterity rather than anything else. The work itself is another case of catharsis through writing, and as such I do not think deserves all that much attention, except from myself.

Failure comes in many forms
The unread book beside my bed
The years I've seen floating by
And the future so near.
When I think about it, sometimes
I believe I must be quite mad
And with madness comes no lucidity
Only the nagging question
Have I thrown it all away?
'Perhaps', a ghost will answer
But it is so sad
That I see what I want to be
And also how far away I am.
Does my life have purpose?
Perhaps not; the sweet strains of music
Suggest at something more, and indeed
I do believe there is more
But look at the others
And honestly tell me
'You have found meaning
Your path is true
You have a future yet'
Am I too harsh? Perhaps, but
Is there truth to what I say?
My friend, the answer can only be yes.
You cannot change overnight, sure,
But you must sometimes stop
And think of where you are heading
Before you end up old and unfulfilled
In a life bereft of beauty.
I put on Paul Simon's "My Little Town" yesterday, and sure enough, it reminded me of Lou Reed's "Smalltown". I was going to say they make me feel nostalgic, but that's not the right word; neither song is a fond recollection of good times, after all ("But the best part about growing up in a small town / Is that you get to grow down in a small town"*). They're both tinged with sadness, but what's strange is that it's almost as though they make me wish I were from a tiny town of my own, even though I can't relate to either song. I suppose there's just something powerful in the image of growing up in a small little town, so much so that it makes me wish it were true of me.

* Lou Reed may be a fine lyricist in most cases, but sometimes it's just the way he recites words that make them memorable. You really lose a lot when you read his lines without his delightful intonation speaking them to you (these lines are hardly poetic, but there's something hidden in the way he says them).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I mentioned the Pandora music project a while back - it's a music recommendation system, which is a concept that I find quite appealing (even though I end up buying albums and not hearing them till six months later). It's good, but I've realized why I don't use it more often. I don't think its sophisticated enough when it comes to determining what music is similar - I think at the moment, it tags songs with their qualities, and then compares tags. Works ok, but I do find it a bit limiting sometimes. Then again, I guess I am pretty picky about these things - see, I just knew that if I asked for something similar to Paul Simon's "Mother And Child Reunion" that I would get reggae music. Hey, I like reggae and all, but it isn't the reason I like the song. Consequently, I find the recommendations to be mostly just ok, and not quite as satisfying as my original choice. Of course, I doubt it was meant to be used in the way I seem to want to use it (finding other 'great' songs), so I suppose I'll continue hanging off every word of internet reviewers for now.

In an upstairs room in Blackpool

Of late, I've found that I'm fast losing interest in all but a small subset of musical styles. I remember mentioning the artists I was interested in pursuing this year, but so far, I've made no attempt to look anywhere near their catalogues. Why? I'm not sure - all of a sudden, I've become preoccupied with the lyricists of olde, and much softer music. I can't believe that I once had Atomic Rooster and Nazareth on my list of artists to look into!

In fact, some days, I feel like I'm reverting back to my musical childhood. Graham Nash still sounds pretty darn good, and is able to draw more interest than [acclaimed, and I'm sure good, post-punk band]. Good times. What an ingeniously simple method I used to apply to determine if I liked a song - compared to the rigorous analysis I seem to apply today.

Speaking of Nash, I hope I someday unearth Wild Tales and remember what it was like to have once heard "Oh, Camil!" on a cool winter morning.