Qui tangit frangatur.

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Planned obsolescence

Dear Gardening Helpers,
I have an old plum tree that has flowered faithfully for the last 13 years, but this spring, part of the tree seems dried and dead. When I checked, there seems to be some sort of mold on it. Is there any remedy for this? I’d hate to lose this tree.

Pacific Heights.

Dear Bill,
What your tree most likely has is heart-rot. It is a common fungal disease that afflicts older plum trees. Unfortunately, there is no cure for it. The plum tree will eventually die. The only good news is that it takes many years for the tree to die. Our advice will be to plant a replacement tree that will take the place of the older tree when it finally dies.

("Gardening Section," San Francisco Chronicle: Sunday Edition, May 4th 2000)

"Heart-rot." Maybe that's what most of us eventually succumb to. Who are the replacements? (For there must be replacements.) Who are we replacing?

Who are our replacements?

The Englishman had called him fatos profugus—fate’s fugitive.

We should all be so lucky.

Monday, October 30, 2006

In the spirit of


Don't look at me
with that rancid toothy grin.

I can tell by the look in your eyes
that you're mocking me.

We'll see who is laughing,
when I splatter your head on the sidewalk.

Just wait till next year,
I'll carve that smile off your face,

Stupid Pumpkin.

(Malissa Nicholson)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Two excerpts

       "Don't you sometimes think," I said to Ruth, "you should have looked into it more? All right, you'd have been the first. The first one any of us would have heard of getting to do something like that. But you might have done it. Don't you wonder sometimes, what might have happened if you tried?"
       "How could I have tried?" Ruth's voice was hardly audible. "It's just something I once dreamt about. That's all."
       "But if you'd at least looked into it. How do you know? They might have let you."
       "Yeah, Ruth," Tommy said. "Maybe you should at least have tried. After going on about it so much. I think Kath's got a point."
       "I didn't go on about it, Tommy. At least, I don't remember going on about it."
       "But Tommy's right. You should at least have tried. Then you could see a poster like that one, and remember that's what you wanted once, and that you at least looked into it . . ."


       "No, Tommy. There's nothing like that. You life must now run the course that's been set for it."
       "So, what you're saying, Miss," Tommy said, "is that everything we did, all the lessons, everything. It was all about what you just told us? There was nothing more to it than that?"
       "I can see," Miss Emily said, "that it might look as though you were simply pawns in a game. It can certainly be looked at like that. But think of it. You were lucky pawns. There was a certain climate and now it's gone. You have to accept that sometimes that's how things happen in this world. People's opinions, their feelings, they go one way, then the other. It just so happens you grew up at a certain point in this process."
       "It might be just some trend that came and went," I said. "But for us, it's our life."
       "Yes, that's true. But think of it. You were better off than many who came before you. And who knows what those who come after you will have to face [ . . . ]"

Friday, October 27, 2006

Have a good trip, Todd

Requiescant in pace.

Now you climb in a world where the sun never sets.

Climb on!

For the last time...

Catholics are Christians.

The next time I hear some half-drowned born again half-wit sprout dribble to the effect of, "He/she changed from Catholic to Christian," I may just have to give the idiot a good thumping with the nearest Bible.

Tell me, where was your church before Luther, Henry VIII, Calvin?

In the good ol' days, heretics like you were burnt at the stake.

As for the idiots taking potshots at the Eucharist,

Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attractiveness fades quickly- it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation. I myself have experienced the replacing of the penitential rite by a dance performance, which, needless to say, received a round of applause. Could there be anything farther removed from the penitence? Liturgy can only attract people when it looks, not at itself, but at God, when it allows him to enter and act.

(Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
The Spirit of the Liturgy, pg 198-9)

A couple things to note:

1.) You are not at a show, awards ceremony, or concert.
2.) Your priest is not performing.

Think about that the next time you are rocking, dancing, whooping and stomping your feet to guitars, drums, keyboards and special light effects at your next service.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Old news

Captains of Industry, Masters of Cheating

By Richard Morin
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; Page A02

This may explain a lot: Not only do cheaters apparently prosper, they get graduate degrees in business.

That's what business professor Donald L. McCabe of Rutgers University and his colleagues found when they surveyed more than 5,000 graduate students and asked if they had cheated in the past year — and if so, how often.

A majority of MBA candidates — 56 percent — acknowledged that they had cheated at least once, compared with 47 percent of graduate students in other disciplines, the researchers reported in the latest issue of Academy of Management Learning & Education.

These future captains of industry led the way in scholarly swindling, but they didn't finish first by much. Nearly as many graduate students in engineering (54 percent) said they had cheated at least once in the previous year — something to think about when you next drive over the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Those least likely to cut corners were grad students in the social sciences and humanities — 39 percent said they had broken the rules.

McCabe and colleagues Kenneth D. Butterfield of Washington State University and Linda Klebe Trevino of Penn State University collected data from 5,331 business and non-business graduate students at 32 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 academic years.

The researchers asked participants how often, if at all, they had engaged in 13 specific behaviors, including cheating on tests and exams, plagiarism, faking a bibliography or submitting work done by someone else.

They found that about a third of business graduate students acknowledged committing three or more violations in the previous year. Ten percent said they committed two, and 13 percent said they committed one. Among non-business students, one in four said they cheated at least three times — numbers that McCabe acknowledged probably understate the prevalence of cheating in both groups.

McCabe has studied cheating among undergraduates for more than 16 years. "On every study except one, business students come out on top," he said. "Their attitude seems to be 'Hey, you have to — everybody else does it.' And business students already have developed a bottom-line mentality — anything to get the job done, however you have to do it."


Top Cheaters

Business: 56%

Engineering: 54%

Physical sciences: 50%

Medical students & health care: 49%

Education: 48%

Law: 45%

Arts: 43%

Humanities & social sciences: 39%

(Source: Professor Donald McCabe, Rutgers University)

Perhaps this is why I generally do not get along with business students.


Further reading:

"Honesty and Honor Codes," Donald McCabe and Linda Klebe Treviño, Academe.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Strange Music

Men have seen their own graves at the edge
of clinic beds, afraid
the watches strapped to their wrists are nothing
       more than faces on clocks
still ticking in a childhood house.  To kneel
before a dying lover
is to know those calendars yellowing
         against a wall.  Sometimes
men stop eating. Just like that. No taste
to revive their tongues again.
Bells linger in the air long after
        pigeons fly up into
the afternoon, yet nothing endures
longer in the mind
than that echo of what we might have been.

(Timothy Liu)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Trompe l'oeil

Since I landed in Singapore, the haze has been doing a number on me, compromising my immune system, exacerbating a cough, etc. It seems like a cruel joke—reminiscent of the much-missed windswept, foggy solitude amidst the dripping redwoods of North California, with none of the reality. During hard efforts, the exposed surfaces of my skin will be caressed by successive gusts of wind-borne fog. The feeling is exquisite; picture the softest cotton, removed from the refrigerator, lightly spray-dampened, and ever so gently brushed across one's skin, pressed only hard enough to bend the hair follicles. Repeat. Repeat. Successive gusts of wind-laden fog dance before my eyes as whirling, twirling amorphous waves of diaphanous white. All around me in the forest echo the splash of water dripping—Fog Drip; water dripping from Spanish Moss, a net of green glistening with shimmering, ever-growing globules of water; draped, heavy with water, soaking the earth, feeding the roots of the giant redwoods hiding me from the ragged skies. As the climb grows steeper (and I grow warmer), I reach for the zipper of my jersey, to breathe easier; to treat my chest to the same caresses of the fog that envelopes me... in all its lonesome glory.

Here, here, we have no fog, only dust and shadow, and crowds mobs, hordes, and prattle; and incessant loudspeakers blaring from TV monitors in every bus, train, mall, home, office, etc. that you are but just another cog in the machine. Just another brick in the wall.

Ah, Singapore, where pretense (veneer) is all: the title of a first-world country, with none of the grace; the claim of an English-speaking country, with the language routinely butchered on the street, on TV, on the radio. Well aware of the ridiculous importance the locals attach to dress (not unlike how certain African colonies countries continue to impose foreign dress codes from their colonial master's culture), I had mentally prepared myself before boarding the plane. My premonitions were right. In my T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, I have been frequently given poor service (even poorer than the usual abysmal Singaporean standards) at shops. I have also somehow become invisible to many individuals. (Aside: I can't wait to discuss this interesting experience with my peers, especially with regards to the countless theories on subaltern invisibility we read about. *sardonic laugh*) E.g. a certain real estate agent (tell me, who is the moron? Some pretentious fop strutting about in a long-sleeved shirt, tie, pants, and leather shoes in 32 C (90 F), muggy, high humidity Singapore weather with a haze PSI index of 116, or me, in a T-shirt and shorts?) who, amazingly, not only executed a volte-face, bending over and kissing ass the moment he discovered we were in the market for a new home, but evolved the act to a colonoscopy as well. Last week, I was stopped and questioned by the security guard of the condominium estate my parents reside in. (Note to self: the next time this happens, take off running and lead the security guard on a friendly midnight jog around the estate.)

"As a graduate student at Stanford, many rich white students dressed poorly, but those of color tried to dress the best they could," wrote Ramon Chacon, professor of history and ethic studies here at Santa Clara. Chacon is the son of poor Chicano farm workers, and he received his doctorate from Stanford University.

A sign of cultural insecurity, perhaps?

Vestis virum reddit, or, "the clothes make the man," indeed. Here's something to chew on: my undergraduate education (alone) cost more than your HDB flat. Chew on that in your Armani Exchange clothing while you wait in line to top up your EZ-link / ERP Cash card, would you?

I am not going to get started on idiots who show up on dive boats with Prada bags but dive on rented gear (wetsuits too! Psssh!) because it will inevitably spill into the countless instances where I had to rescue them the morons from their unfamiliarity with borrowed gear own terminal stupidity. If the code of ethics in my professional diving qualifications allow for the option of refusing assistance to Darwin Award Contenders, I would gladly hang back and continue my own solo dive as a paying customer.

Not to fret, bleeding hearts! I will be sure to toss a Neiman Marcus sympathy card over the bow in their memory. I'm sure the dearly departed would be comforted by the fact that while they were fake divers, they can be real fish food.

Faux nation; faux pronunciation; faux people; faux divers; where the real consist of an abundance of cheap food and the incessant blaring of slimming ads to the sheeple. The two truly deserve each other.

A new name is hereby coined: Wannabe Nation.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

A reading

With Chaos in Each Kiss

I. Prelude

Outside your door, an ocean
of violets, wave upon wave, so many petals
torn by the wind and rain.
I stood there waiting
until the door opened onto a room
that held a few chairs
and a grand piano,
floral paper cut-outs framed under glass
hanging at eye level,
a gold-leaf print
with a solitary boat not sailing on water
but its absence.
For hours we spoke of music,
a score of Don Quixote on the table,
a song slowly composing itself inside my body—

(the two of us anchored to our chairs
as we sat facing opposite walls)

and I thought of our hands that labor
for beauty yet unknown to the world,
a calendar of empty hours
suddenly filled
with birds and fields of wildflowers,
an over-sized violin left out in the sun.

II. Rhapsody

You start to reach for my hand
As we part, desire a place
where we can rest, our hands
driving the darkest horses

across a thundering field
where no human voice returns.

III. Intermezzo

The other instruments faded
months after Ginastera’s Variation for Viola
while your strings continued to echo
in the concert hall I dreamed, pure music
exploding from a hive of bees.
There is a gulf
that separates reality from desire.
You stood there with a viola made of glass,
the rows of velvet chairs between us
a river I refused to cross, not knowing
which way to turn—
if only you had reached
into that churning sea of faces before
the music once again began.

IV. Recitative

Our voices would take the place of music.
Near the window, a piano with its lid
propped open like a yawn, our watches

ticking on. For hours I had stood outside
your studio listening to all the notes.
When you asked me in, I was too afraid
to ask you for a song, my ear still red
from pressing hard against the door.
Forgive me for wanting to enter your life.

V. Trio

When I heard another voice on your machine,
I knew you had been unfaithful
to your music, turning toward human love
instead of a god.
It was then I saw an open grave
with three men kneeling at the edge looking in,
unable to lie down in that silence.
Unquiet hearts—
why do houses that we build in time
become our prisons, as if our beds were not
a place to rest? And why was there a ring
of keys glittering at the bottom of that grave?

VI. Aubade

Not asking to see the room
where you and your lover
sleep or wake (the city
we share will be enough)
nor the walls that hold

your shadow, the sunrise
igniting an open window
where you pull up a chair
and begin to rehearse
in that unprofaned hour.

VII. Impromptu

Since that night when you first held me
hostage against a body seasoned
with seven faithful years of marriage,
all my minutes now are filled
with longing. I did not know
what you had freely given
would cost me in the end, your hands
behind my back like thieves whispering:
we do not know what we were doing.

VIII. Aria

Nothing is easy about this love.
Not the marriages we carry
in our hearts like dry corsages.

There is an ocean within my body
I cannot contain, a history
twisting upward in broken columns

as merchant ships at last reach
harbor, bringing flowers and news
of you, bells of my body ringing

under arches that have not fallen
while roses perfume the world
with the splendor of their dying.

IX. G Minor

I slept alone. Only the voices of dead singers
kept me company. When you first held me,
I told you I was sad—not meaning then
but all my life. We stood there like a world
that had no words. Now the cats are crying
to be fed, but I do not rise. All I can do
is dream about the field where I had knelt
cutting wildflowers to leave outside your door.

X. A Major

I do not ask for summer roses
when your body is near. Nor a gown
the bride has outgrown. Love me
not as a wife but as the stray cat
who sleeps on your chest each night.

I who am poor at heart surrender
to your shirts, that unearthly
flower of desire opening whenever
you are near, a joy that lingers
in the room long after you have gone.

XI. Non Allegro

Memory is not the doll that gets left
behind when the house catches fire.
Nor that photo you returned, the one
where I am six, holding a Siamese cat
named Mimi now buried in that backyard
where I stood. You should have kept it—
love is not less because of loss.

This morning I am listening to a tape
of Hindemith’s Trauermusik, your viola
the closest I can get to the voice
of sadness that is always singing
beneath the visible.
How antique clocks
have endured our deepest longings—
an unheard music winding through
our daily routines without reprieve.
Where was I that summer when crowds
began to applaud as you walked on stage?
Only a notebook entry: get to walk
by the river tomorrow.

All that time
I had closed my eyes while the orchestra
performed Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.
Later you would ask if I somehow knew
The part that reminded you of Chekhov:

Anna Sergeyevna seemed to regard the affair
as something very special, very serious,
as if she had become a fallen woman.

A critic said that the piece would run
more smoothly if that part were cut out,
the only measures that mattered—
not the saxophone off-tun—the viola
at rest on your lap, you sitting there
on stage, me in the dark, the two of us
listening to all that there was between us.

XII. E. Minor

Without love, I should remain
a ghost that wanders the earth
looking for fire that burns for me
in the corner of someone’s eyes—

How can the ocean continue to sing
if all of our strings are broken,
if there is no place on this earth
where we can lie down for an hour?

XIII. Caesura

Hour after hour, they arrive
at your door, unable to explain
the distance practice can create
in a room that has become
too intimate, duty and beauty
caught between the steady swings
of a metronome keeping time.

You asked me why I think of death.
I have no answers, only flowers
that have not finished their song—
all day long you gaze at them
while your students labor
to bring music into the world.

And when they finally get it right
in that hour that has turned
ethereal with what we cannot share,
do you forget what is given
to lift the soul out of sadness
can only last in that moment
when all that we love holds still.

XIV. D Minor

Without fear, love would lie still
cadaverous, unable to throw a ring
of keys across the room.
Or cry out
in a sculpture garden where nothing
but beauty reigns.
Never enough
time for us to lay our bodies down
across a stone bench.
Or feel the sun
renew a flower with possibility
even as honey bees empty chambers
of all their sweetness.
What we want
is the drone of a hive as it begins
to swarm, a storm of transparent wings
in the season’s uncertain crescendo—

that litany across a mellifluous sky.

XV. Adagio

Each dawn comes to me like a burning violin.
The dirge that starts the day issues from s-shaped
gashes in the sky even as the dogwood blooms
outside, stigmata on each petal punctuating time.

Like Isaac on his father’s back, you carried me
up the mountainside, but I was not willing to die.
Isaac surrendered to the will of heaven, not saying
a word. In Rembrandt’s The Sacrifice of Isaac,
the hand of Abraham covers his son’s entire face,
no pain to be seen in Abraham’s face, no hesitation,
no sign that he is conscious
. But I must speak.
For in every wound there is a truth, a revelation
like a ram caught in a thicket, each brush stroke
on the canvas obedient to a law I cannot live.
I woke up crying, what shall I do with my life?
fearing the paralysis of each hour until I heard
your voice: I need you the way I need music.
It was then I knew. Only love can make us visible.

XVI. Kyrie

You rest with your partner, eager
to tidy up the nest and welcome

another dawn. I try to imagine
each kiss not meant for me, each

caress, my wingless body cleansed
by a tongue I pray still burns

for me, though I can no longer feel
it in my mouth, now empty, no song—

only a phoenix rising with a shriek.

XVII. Gloria

There is only one path, the one
that you’re on, happiness
in your own hands
and not in someone else’s.
Death said, Wait
and I will give you rest.

Death said, Later
and you shall belong to me.

But water was running
over the path, and I was swept away.

XVIII. C Minor

I slept: a white room with an ocean
painted on all four walls, a cradle
rocking on the center of a cold floor.
An infant crying out your name until
four horses dashed into the void. Lovers
singing notes off-key on a bridge
that stretched across an empty sea.

XIX. Cadenza

Your sudden retreat left me useless,
horizontal, unable to let go of the future
or the past: two roses on the dashboard
with a straight pin stuck through each.
What I wore on my lapel you hid away,
. . . me almost naked on a music room floor.

Your mind was already racing halfway home
with a can of chicken broth—to nurse
your partner back to health for all the guilt
you felt—that would always be your story.
Now my heart is filled with Marguerite
imploring Faust to dig two graves, not three,
your viola lost among Boito’s pure lament.
Forgive me for tasting Christ in your blood
that cried out from your diabetic veins,
a secret you kept for fear of impotence
and shame, taking no thought for tomorrow
while our anxious hearts created a world
in the cab of my truck, in the backseat
of your flooded car, the rain coming down
in sheets across Houston’s concrete skyline,
all concerts canceled in that brief bliss
of calamity that passed with the weather,
water under the bridge. Forgive me—
we were only humans with chaos in each kiss.

XX. Coda

In a world of endless pleasures,
why did I keep looking for you
while words kept falling out
of all my books? Why did I want
to become your final pleasure
while tankards of beer spilled
over? There was music left
unheard, half-finished sculpture
that would have made you frown
if you had known how I waited
to look at you, you who deny
your own face. How could I become
this man who fell in love
with less and less? What lie
did I swallow that the world
should hide its face from me
and trees hold on to their leaves
instead of letting go.

(Timothy Liu)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kick ass Mom

My mom kicks butt. Not only does she possess a motorbike license, she has also accompanied me on overnight cycling rides in Malaysia. E.g. Pengarang to Desaru to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal.

After taking a trip to India to learn under a yogi last year, she has been teaching yoga 3 times a week. Here, she is teaching a class for beginners. Try to ignore the shabbily dressed guy with the camera :P

The pose they always begin with.


And bend.

Try to kiss your knee cap now.

If you can't do it, execute a pirouette instead.

This pose can also be used when snowboarding.

Did you remember to wash your feet today?
If in doubt, initiate the "Smell Feet" pose.

:P :P :P

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Talking in Zombieland

Conversation with a nosy "auntie" at a bus stop

AUNTIE: But why don't get married? So old already? Children will change your life, you know?
ME: So will going to jail.


Exchange with an old schoolmate trying to convince me of the merits of being a parent breeding

HIM: If everyone thought like you, people like Einstein, Newton, and Mozart would never have been born.
ME: If everyone thought like me, people like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot wouldn't have been born either.
HIM: !?!?


From the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports website, children "enrich our lives and strengthen the foundation of our family relationships."

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if your marriage requires children to strengthen its foundation, it is probably in trouble. If you require children to bring meaning to your life, then you probably led a shallow one, no sense replicating the mistake in your offspring.

Most people have no business having children. They are unqualified, either genetically or culturally or both, to reproduce such sorry specimens as themselves. Of all our privileges, the license to breed is the one most grossly abused. (Edward Abbey)

To me, a drooling baby crapping in a diaper isn't the cherubic epitome of love, it is a germ factory, a wailing pit of egocentrism, bawling to be endlessly fed massive resources from a depleted world for the next 2 decades. It is the ultimate act of narcissism.

Prove me wrong. Don't breed. Adopt a child from the millions languishing in orphanages around the world instead. Now that would be truly loving a child. But, damn! To give up having minimes of ourselves running around. That's just asking too much, isn't it?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ramble. Rambling. To Ramble.

37, 845 ft (11,538 m), somewhere over the Pacific Ocean

Among the items listed in her answer to the question, "What's in your carry-on bag?" self-taught fossil hunter, marine archaeologist, and world traveller, Sue Hendrickson, mentioned, "keys that open nothing."

keys that open nothing

I like that phrase.