Friday, March 30, 2007

My dear lady, please do not waste the breath the Lord gives us all; no, let it never even cross your mind to come see us again.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I don't think I was in a particularly jolly frame of mind when I felt like writing this. It is hard to try and make anything of it, so I shall leave it as it stands.

It is a pitiful power I wield;
It creates a half-visible smirk
Every time I see him attempt to gain
The attention of those unworthy of it.

Don't believe them, I say, because not one
Will sit, like I do,
Separated by sea and time,
Clinging onto moments washed from all our lives,
Writing verses blank as their hearts.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The ease with which he drifted into our conversation was not surprising, because above whatever else I may say about him, he is a most intelligent man. He showed why this respect I give him (not in the least bit begrudgingly, might I add) is justified in the offhand manner in which he pulled it off, from the generalist's evenhanded opening to the specialist's esoteric exposition. Layers upon layers were shedded in his simple gambit, and I doubt the others suspected that there was a structure to it all. For the second time in as many weeks, I strove to ascribe those welling tears to the light-hearted merriment of the situation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It struck me today that it is actually a bit suprising, to me at least, that I don't write more often about the books I read, in stark contrast to music and (occasionally) games. I don't think it creates a particularly accurate reflection of my interests; it seems uncomfortably close to the writers I see on various other blogs where every post is a rave about a song/album/bargain buy. I don't think anything wrong with these blogs, mind you, I just feel like it is somehow misleading for me to fit into that category (for whatever reason, I am mildly interested in the image I project here!).

It is similar to how I rarely feel inclined to write about movies, although here it is probably more to do with the fact that I don't watch enough movies to have any interesting observations to make. But there is nonetheless, I think, a similarity between my silence on books and movies - as best I can make out, the reason is primarily a sense of humility taken to its logical conclusion, namely, a complete lack of faith in my tastes and opinions!

To an extent, it is of course well-founded, but it does make me wonder where I get the gall to write about other topics, given that I am objectively about the same level when it comes to exposure to them. Where does the embarassment to write about my thoughts on a book arise from? I find it interesting that I would not hestiate to say that I find, for example, Astral Weeks a difficult album to listen to, but I feel positively foolish admitting that I find The Sound And The Fury a difficult book to read*. Perhaps it has to do with the culture of those attracted to the different mediums? I guess in my head, I still have the antiquated (?) view of the posh literary scholar being the type of person most likely to read similar material (never mind that this is laughably inaccurate when it comes to me!), and I fear his/her...smug dismissal!?!

Such a picture is formed by chance glimpses of people like the one I saw today, with long hair and exotic clothes, well-thumbed copy of The Brothers Karamazov in hand. I initially get excited when this happens, and feel like striking up a conversation and remarking on how much I enjoyed the book. But at the same time, I fear it will lead them to realize how unrefined I am, and how unusual my recollection of a book can be. I shudder at being asked something like "Powerful stuff in that 'Grand Inquisitor' chapter, eh?", and having to fumble through a response that belies my reading of the book due to its lack of, firstly, sophistication, but also, genuine insight. Herein is another similarity to how I judge movies, because in both cases I seem to walk away with some sense of the overall picture of the piece, but it is not all that uncommon for me to fumble on the basics. This does not seem to have any relationship with the quality I perceive in the book, which is frustrating as it means that even with books I like, and ones I deeply admire, I am often unable to engage in meaningful discussions about them. The Brothers Karamazov is one good example of this, but one of the most embarassing ones is the venerable Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy, which I shudder to confess that I have read, as it is often followed by questions of the form "Remember the bit where ...? Hilarious!". I draw a blank, and forge laughter, trying desperately to change the subject!**

So essentially, it seems that while I have no trouble admitting to myself (or to you just now, gentle reader) my troubles with certain books, would I care to admit as much to the one who is truly learned? Never! :)

* I think I have forgotten what it is like to struggle with a book, so lax have I been with reading over the last few years. Back in the day, I would fearlessly stride through all manner of books hopelessly over my league, struggling to grasp even the basic idea of what was being said, but somehow not losing faith and insteading marching on. It is fun, to a point, to struggle again!

** Of course, there is the possibility that this is symptomatic of my complete inability to truly appreciate literature and film...but while I am normally quite happy to settle with such a blithe, self-deprecating answer, I do not think it is true in this case. While there are instances where this would be true, I still feel that even when I do find something incredibly affecting, with time my grasp on the specifics tends to weaken.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

"But if you're gonna dine with them cannibals,
Sooner or later, darling, you're gonna get eaten"
-- Nick Cave, "Cannibal's Hymn"

I really can't help it if it invariably turns out that a Nick Cave lyric seems most appropriate. "Everything that you say rings true", as a different lyricist would say!

If only I had the courage to stand up for what I believed in when the moment arises...

(Unfinished, I'm afraid!)

To think that before the whole thing got underway, I actually thought it would be interesting in the genuine sense of the word, and not in the way it is now. It wouldn't be right for me to make too much of my prior feelings toward it, since I only realized that it would commence a minute or so in advance. But that is still plenty of time to imagine how sometime will pan out. My main thought was that it would be heartening to see Fan talk, which was something I'd never seen him do. Even though our paths crossed more than a few times, I don't recall him ever saying anything, either to me or to anyone else for that matter. This made him quite an enigma to me, and I often wondered about what his story was. He seemed much older than most of us, and I don't know that anyone had any idea as to what it was he did all day. I imagined a backstory that involved leaving his home to bring pride to...but now I think I go too far. Such fantasies now seem too sorrowful to dwell on.

It didn't start off particularly well, and by the first minute I even suspected that I would tune off well before the end of it. If only! As it turned out, I would be in rapt attention till the very end. The doctor made himself known almost straight away, by scrunching his face and tilting it in all manner of angles, making it very clear to those of us fortunate enough to be seated by him that he was not happy with something. I was immediately irritated with such a brazen show of disrespect, never mind that Fan did not notice it. I suppose it is because it assumed the fault lay with Fan - "It is not that I do not possess the intellect to dissect it, it is that you do not possess the oratorical gift to explain it".

And yes, maybe it did. Let me be clear before I go any further - I did not think Fan did a particularly good job. Of course I admit it! My heart has not clouded my head so much that I am unable to see or admit that. It is irrelevant, though, because I think what the doctor touched on, what he did to elicit such a seemingly disproportionate reaction from me, was the person behind all of it. Fan, that is. You, doctor, have not seen Fan walking around in his faded jacket, making me feel like I had company in feeling that it was far too cold indoors. And you never saw him eating his home-made lunch at his desk, at around the same time I did. But somehow you think you know him? You do not!

As though particularly keen that Fan should notice his disapproval, the doctor interrupted him (rudely, I thought, but I will let that pass in the scale of things) to ask, in his best passive-aggressive tone, for a "clarification". It did not portend good - I could see from his face, slowly hardening, that he was not happy with what Fan was saying. It was about to explode I thought, once Fan had resumed talking again, and he couldn't contain it any longer, and so he...laughed! Laughed! The gall of the doctor, to laugh! Even now it amazes me that the rest of the council brooked such a display. Oh, they noticed it, I know that - I made a special point of looking at their faces when the ripples of laughter came. There was a tacit acceptance of it, probably more to do his standing in the community than anything else. I even noticed him look at Lin, seated next to him - he seemed to be imploring her, "Laugh along with me! Let us make known our contempt for this debacle! Do you not think the whole thing to be pure parody?". Lin, however, only gave a weak smile before staring at the book I am sure she was glad to have brought along. "Andsoanysystemmustbecarefullystudiedbeforeonededuces"...and then he looked away too.

The good doctor's laughter was, of course, sickening, but even though he had no part in it, I have to say, it was not as disturbing as Fan's polite smile at the derision, blissfully unaware of the smug, supercilious doctor mocking all that he had done these so many years. Of course, that was not the worst of the lot; no, the worst would have to be the...bleeding arrogance of the doctor's put-downs - as if laughing openly was not enough (perhaps he was further angered by the smile?), it was as if he was saying "I have put aside valuable time for you, and this is what you greet me with?". My indifference to the doctor turned to an intense dislike when I picked up on this haughty tone with which he was speaking. I half wanted to tell him that there was no reason for him to stay, and that there was in fact no reason for him to have attended in the first place. "If you feel your time is being wasted, dear doctor, I do not think that subjecting yourself to more clear torture is the smartest action". But enough of this nonsense...

I suppose what I would have liked to have done is ask the doctor to hold his tongue, and stop picking away at the specifics that detracted from the overall picture. Yes, I would say, Fan does not engage as another might have, but take his smile at your callousness to mean something. Take it to show what you have lost in the years you have spent helping others. But at this stage, perhaps I go too far...

There was respite eventually, and not a moment too soon, when Jane finally (finally!) stopped the barrage, using her soft, lilting voice to its full potential. She explained Fan's actions perfectly, gaining sympathetic nods and "Ohhs" all round. In a stroke of genius, she acted as though it was just speculation - "That's what I think he's saying". Would that I could pull that off someday. It took a lot of courage to do it, and I wish I possessed it. Of course, it would have been strange had I said anything - who was I to these people? The harmless visitor who didn't seem to have anything to do with the affairs of anyone gathered there, someone to whom smiles were exchanged, but nothing more. I don't know that Fan himself would have appreciated my support - he might think it most unusual that a relative stranger should stand up for his rights (and judging by his smile, he would think it more suspicious still that I should stand up for his rights when he didn't think they had been violated).

I try to imagine the doctor after the meeting concluded. He no doubt had a few words with the others on the sly, eagerly looking for someone to share in his glee at having found faults with Fan. He didn't say anything to Fan, though.

I realize also that a cynical (or is it pragmatic?) mind might question whether I am going too far with my condemnation of the doctor. What was his real fault? Does he really deserve such a quixotic retort from me? I wrestle with the question myself, I assure you. I too wonder - what really made me upset? I cannot answer - I cannot, because I cannot paint the scene clearly enough. Maybe you would understand if you stood there too, and saw the doctor laugh before proceeding to tear down everything that Fan spent the last few years of his life doing. You would also fight to hold back the tears, even if you did not know would feel that part of the weeping would be with joy at Fan's smile in the face of arrogance, at the innocence that lives on, at the lives that have not forgotten. As you can see, I have broken off again, unsatisfactorily. I do not blame you if you think it a typical outburst from me, which kicks off a pointless yearning for simpler times and what have you. The only reason I would humour such a view is that I suspect Fan himself might share it, even if in a gentler form. And maybe that smile was not one of pitiful surrender. It may well have been one of assured superiority.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

After getting frustrated at being unable to make Bad Mojo run on my XP machine, despite all manner of combinations of settings and QuickTime installations, I gave thought to installing Windows 98 on a separate partition. A quick search revealed, however, that installing 98 on an existing XP machine is not an entirely straightforward manner. A bright idea from S, however, gave me hope - why not use VM software?

A good idea, but I was still hestitant seeing as how I'd never tried anything like this before. I had no idea what products were "good", how they worked...nothing! I was quite happy then when it turned out that Microsoft themselves have a free program, Virtual PC, which lets one do all the basics of VM management, including creating a new VM. It seemed simple enough from the positive reviews, and indeed it was quite simple (if time consuming) to install 98 on my machine - I was quite impressed with the ease of use.

However, the game is more adamant than I imagined; while it now runs, it still crashes on occasion. The problem is again with videos I think, for it seems to stuff up only when I get to a cutscene. I don't have any idea what else to try!

But I am still impressed with Virtual PC!

I also tried to install FreeDOS in hopes of playing Ultima 8, but alas, no luck there either - I get an "Exception 14" error, or something like that. It probably has to do with the editing of the config files, but maybe I'll just wait for the Pentagram project to finish.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I like parts of this. But I guess it is still too personal to be the sort of "universal writing" that I would like to move towards.

Yes, it is just the late night
Still, it calls out just to you
Says without a laugh,
"Forget without fear,
All these thoughts formed anew!"

See that you are still alive in me
Though I hope it needn't be said;
I could never forget,
Dear moments in time,
For my heart always rules my head.

I don't care what contradictions
My thoughts and rhymes entail
Wretched though they may be,
All I need, my friend,
Is to see you back again.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Moments now gone
They can be brought back, it's true!
But alas, how I wish
The same could be done to you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I seem to be getting quite lazy these days, in that I don't seem to make as much effort as I'd like to, firstly, rhyme, but also to try to go above the pithy expression of thought. I think being succinct can be very good and very effective, but it has to be done right. And as always, after staring at something for too long, I lose my sense of whether it works or it doesn't, and instead just have a nagging sense that there is a lot of room for improvement. What happens invariably is that I memorize the piece, and so slight deviations from it are frowned upon because I've already built up my own way of reciting it, and it is usually very opposed to being changed, even slightly!

Words muttered,
Shielded by solid glass
They did not hurt as much
As the eyes that pierced through
Telling me, like nothing else could,
"You do not belong".