mardi 28 novembre 2006

je me souviens

il me faut juste écrire, juste écrire, juste écrire, juste écrire, juste écrire ....

Another December rolling around, another holiday season
another Christmas.
C'est ça: n'importe quoi that Howie Carr says.
Has it been two years?
Nearly eleven, since that time long ago.

Quel paradoxe:
reawakened, refreshed.
demoralised, discontent.
Lassitude; living.
fatigue; feliciting.
nostalgia ...
a swirl of memory:
a mental melody
from long long ago
that I still do remember ...
je me souviens.

Today must have been some Hallmark commencement;
"I remember when we could have afforded to be a bit more silly
when life like this wasn't so shitty
perhaps it's all romanticism's glow
but let it snow let it snow let it snow"

Have I ever felt so alienated
disjunct, nause-
ated, with a stom-
ach so knotted an-
d full of malai-
se inside out, ey-
es closed, unable to bear
the torment
when those carols do play?

I remember when it wasn't like this.
I do remember.
je me souviens.

It is beyond the clichés now
I'm generally amenable to the singing traditions
and it is there the paradox begins
part of it is a question of identity
to be caught between the world and the other
and doth not Singapore have them too?

but to hear them after a politically charged talk show
along with American conceptions of faith, be it Protestant,
Catholic or Islam
in a yellow school bus
felt badly placed somehow

I wonder what thought the Muslim girl
in the back of the bus.
for surely she must have felt
more uneasy than I.

and this I do remember.
je me souviens.

firm vomit-inducing unfirmness
when one has to criticise members of one's own faith
to defend the actions of the other
it becomes a question of identity

and despite my closed eyes,
the radio blasts on.


thank you Bush! je t'aime:
the way you had to regurgitate
that old beaten dead-horse wardrum again
I remember when you first mentioned your rhetoric
back in 2001, back in Primary Five

I do remember.
je me souviens.

has it ever changed?
it is vague: the Enemy is like an ethereal wraith.
it will be a tough fight, it will require
lots of money, and it demands attention
yet we know we also have to fight them from
establishing an empire with
ambitions of clearly demarcated borders
to know that we must not let them triumph
with their hateful ideology;

yes, d'accord Bush, yes, a hateful ideology
one that's
radical radical radical
I love your allusions

Bush, je t'aime.
and this I remember.

je me souviens.

yet despite all this uneasiness
quelle ironie!
I am more fundamentalist than most.
and do I generally not love the season's
songs and tidings?

I am plunged into a time
long long ago
where I do remember
where je me souviens d'une fois ...
thoughts flash from Jurong to Cape Elizabeth to Dover
to Embassy Suites in South Portland
though I did not know it then,
I remember my first French words, at the age of five:
papier-mâché; non.

papier-mâché, that meant the joyous fun
of sticky fingers covered in glue residue
from all those projects in Wesley child care.

, that word that looks so close to no,
with scarcely any deviation from its 7000 year old
PIE root
a history I did not know, for
I only recall eleven years ago

what is the difference between no and non, mommy?
quelle est la différence?
if "non-smoking" means "no smoking"
and they mean the same thing
why are they said different?

and this I do remember,
je me souviens.

I remember
that mysterious carol I cannot identify
playing on the Weather Channel
in the season and year
where I first saw snow,
howling and raging
a sort of baptism by fire
a sort of baptism by blizzard.

December 1995; the month of my first migration.
I remember the hotel calendar,
the howling tempest of snow outside
with the contrasting tranquility
of that mysterious melody ...

plunge into memory! plunge into memory!
and this I do remember.
je me souviens.

building snowmen!
cold room porch!
automobile ice accident!
(we got out unscathed, unharmed
with totalled minivan
and a slightly higher insurance premium)
fog and snowball fights of kindergarten!
snowforts of first grade
sleigh-rides of second
the Christmas tree of the third
with multi-coloured musical lights
Ice storm. '98.
the train of the fourth ...

désastre. parle-moi de désastre.

and this I do remember.
je me souviens.

and I resurface,
opening my eyes on the bus, to the light of day
fast fading into dusk
the winter night
I get off into the cool winter air
it is drizzling freezing rain
and the call of two places comes back to me
haunting me ever still

un deux trois quatre
cinq six sept
Violette, Violette
un deux trois quatre
cinq six sept
Violette en bicyclette!

My home
Wherever I may be
I believe
You will always be a part of me

I wish for monsoons. I wish for snow.
Don't you remember that time in Tekam during sec 2?
Don't you remember that time in Cape during grade 2?
And this I do remember.
je me souviens.

Now, the days are brisk, brief and cold
though there be scarcely a single snowflake on the ground
qu'il neige, qu'il neige
screw adulthood
and all the wants of propriety
I want ever so much to be able
to play in the snow again
just like the good old days.

and this I do remember.
je me souviens.

dimanche 17 septembre 2006


Life seems to be composed of separate worlds that rarely ever meet. Their only connections to each other are through the single individual of oneself and even so often accessible through memory alone. There are diverse atmospheres and sentiments that can only be experienced in a particular time and place, with each atmosphere and sentiment being integral to one's identity.

Yet, how can one live on both sides of the world at once? Worse, some of these atmospheres and sentiments have been consigned to the past and are no longer physically accessible; when one finally manages to return to that place, nothing is the same.

Oh, how we long to merge our worlds together! To introduce one circle of friends to another, to bring one language to another, to be able to use one face for all aspects of our lives. To finally unify all the disjunct, tortured and composite parts of ourselves into one identity. Yet, when the chance offers itself, we are timid, hesitant and shy; it is awkward reconciling the most intimate aspects of our lives that have been long kept separate from each other.

One of my sentiments and atmospheres can only be found in the time of my upper primary days at the place of Fairfield Methodist Primary School.

Ah, Fairfield! The very name rolls off my tongue, with connotations of verdant fields rolling under fair skies. The yellow shirts and blue shorts and skirts remain ubiquitous; their omnipresence in the neighbourhood where I lived so ever nostalgic of a time when innocence ran so sweet.

I was always destined to go to Fairfield Primary. When I was still in kindergarten my parents moved us to Dover Estate. That school across the road was the primary factor for the decision. My parents spoke highly about Fairfield: it was a school of "good calibre", if not within the top twenty rankings. It was “somewhere in the upper tier” of schools. There was a considerable emphasis on academically ranking institutions, even at the level of primary education. It was a cultural trait and not seen as unnatural, but at the age of five, I would have yet to discover how profoundly deep this emphasis was. Whenever we turned into the apartment estate, the Fairfield complex seemed remarkably cheery, though it also seemed slightly monolithic by virtue of the very talk of how good it was.

I was supposed to be enrolled in the primary one batch, but destiny’s detour said otherwise.

I moved to America at the age of five, coming back to my Dover apartment in Singapore only at the age of ten. I enrolled in Fairfield's primary five batch in 2001, having already missed two thirds of the primary school experience. What happened during my elementary school days needs no immediate exposition; it should seem obvious that one's circle of friends, sentiments and atmospheres would be vastly different in one culture compared to that those previously experienced in another.

There is of course, the internet - the technology that allows us to command the many facets of our life, through instant messaging, blogging and photo-sharing. It is a technology that the third-culture individuals of the past would not have dreamed of, the technology that allows me to have access to this very photo (I have misplaced the physical print), capturing an atmosphere and sentiment now only accessible through memory. Yet, it is technology itself that brought about globalisation. Along with it, came the ability to culturally diffract individual identities.

Ah, Fairfield! There I stood in the center of the top row, with forty other students and a teacher that made up the class 5B/6F. The identity is very much communal as it is individual. Long after primary school graduation, there remains an affinity that still binds us together. This affinity transcends considerable distance, bringing us together for constant reunion, even when some of us had dispersed to other schools during the secondary school selection. The identity is very much visible even into secondary four, the last year of secondary school. The primary school identity is something not alien to most Singaporean secondary school students.

Yet, the sentiment and atmosphere is not the same. The new sentiment and atmosphere felt when we members of 6F are together, now in secondary school, strongly resembles the old. But it is not the same.

Innocence is one of the detectable differences. When I arrived in February 2001 to an existing class of 5B, most of the social framework had already consolidated itself. I was grafted into the class and received enthusiastically, though with a few hitches. I must say that now with further experience and reading the accounts of other individuals, I have some idea of how primary school bonds develop. The social development in primary school I must say still remains a most engaging sociological subject. But as a stranger in my own country, I was very unaware at that time of how things had progressed in the lower primary years and perceived an uphill task of reintegration ahead of me.

I remember vividly a scene with Evangeline Chee, the third girl from the right on the middle row. What I had been actually speaking about I cannot remember at this moment; I do remember it concerned a group project of sorts. I was probably expounding on a proposal when all of a sudden, came her exasperated words in the local style of speech: “Stop speaking in that fake accent, okay!”

For a moment all time stood still, as I looked at her in shock. There was resentment at that moment – surely I could not help speaking in an American accent and it certainly was not an attempt to fake it, as she seemed to accuse. I had stumbled into the cultural hornet’s nest of what I would later discover was the mixed caucaphilia-caucophobia of both admiration and resent: of “attracting foreign talent” and the lavishings of special treatment based on being a Westerner in Southeast Asia, of resentment that arose out of this cultural practice, even in developed nation Singapore. This paradox as I would discover, existed because both sides fed off one of each other.

Sometimes the culture had dislike for people who acted like an ang mo (a white Caucasian) but whose skin colour did not resemble one. I had returned to the same place, but the time was not the same: and that made all the difference.

There was delight due to my apparently accented style of speech as well: on the first day I came I remember Nicholas Ngo – third from left, top row – remarking to me as the class proceeded from assembly into the classroom, “I can speak ang mo too. Want to hear it?” I could only chuckle sheepishly.

I remember my days of Fairfield especially because it is where I relearnt all the things I had consigned to the back of memory, to have them suddenly roused from my head and pulled into the forefront. There was Singlish – a sort of English-based dialectical creole based on Chinese grammar with Malay and Hokkien vocabulary; it was often used in familiar or intimate situations. Before I left for the United States, I had been remarkably fluent in it, to the extent that I often received scoldings from my father for invoking it too often in place of standard English, and a habit I found hard to drop. Living in the United States for five years at that time however, had reduced Singlish to but a mere memory where I used to end some sentences with the Malay-Hokkien grammatical particle “lah”, forgetting why I used the particle.

My days of Fairfield then, were that of cultural rediscovery. Ang mo was arguably the first Singlish word picked up after returning, and the Singlish vocabulary I had retained from five years old resurrected myself into active use. The intonation required of its unique grammar required no contrivance: I could do it automatically, just like I did before. The difference now was that I could code-switch in and out of Singlish register as needed. Yet, five years of exclusion had put me considerably behind.

“Aiyah, your Singlish so lahn ah! We teach you!”

One of the things about Fairfield I have nostalgia for are the assembly periods. The first assembly itself was a rediscovery of national emblems, anthems and pledges that looked so alien, but they would be later become a tightly-knit portion of my identity.

The morning preparation before assembly was a ritual: this commenced at early dawn before sunrise, and before school. I would exit my seventh story apartment, a 30-year-old complex built by the Housing and Development Board following independence. It had a very communal air, and this was key to the nostalgia. Ah, how I would skip down the stairs, into the market square, into the cool air of dawn! At this point, various other students living in the estate would walk out and meet each other, and we would walk to school ensemble. We would walk, escorted by the bejeweled stars, with the background noise of hawkers washing their plates and the smell of freshly prepared food. It was the atmosphere and sentiment that mattered the most.

Into the school compound we would gather, greeted by several prefects and traffic monitors. They were actually selected students who made sure we did not do anything that violated traffic rules, such as jayrun across the road. Sin Yee (second from left, bottom row) was usually present most days to greet us with her big grin as we passed.

If we were early enough, we had considerable time to do what we wanted. We could buy hot congee in the open-air canteen filled with the cool wind of dawn, or run up to the open staircase to the sixth floor to look out across the town, feeling the cool sentiments of dawn as the stars disappeared one by one, giving way to the sun. After a certain point, the teachers would play a tune – one that haunts me still – over the outdoor loudspeaker, a signal to begin silently reading while we were still within the cool mists of dawn. And so we would gather and sit in the square – us 840 students, neatly arranged in rows by class – until the signal was given to rise.

“Sah sadiyat!” The head prefect would call in Malay.

More than 800 pairs of feet would stomp in attention – collectively and in unison. This was the beginning of the flag-raising ceremony. Several prefects at the front would began carefully tug on the ropes that brought the flags up: the school flag was supposed to follow the national flag, while the assembled would sing the anthem.
Mari kita rakyat Singapura, sama-sama menuju bahagia, Cita-cita kita yang mulia, Berjaya Singapura

Then the pledge would proceed in English.

We the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people Regardless of race, language, or religion, to build a democratic society …

The cool dawn would resonate with our voices.
“Sah sendiri!”

And we would be at ease. The principal would then add whatever words were pertinent to the morning, be it news or announcements. The entire affair was remarkably enchanting, assembled in unity, from lower primary levels to us. If we had chapel we would do this in the assembly hall, where we could experience the cool conditioned air at dawn.

Upper primary school students had a whole host of National Education programmes, which were supposed to instil a sense of identity and historical knowledge and familiarity into students through various excursions. These programmes probably came at the right timing, but also forged our class identity.

I remember the date July 27, 2001 because I recall Miss Sherry Tai – the teacher in the center foreground of the photo - writing it on the whiteboard. Primary five students were required each year to attend the last National Day Parade rehearsal before the National Day show on August 9, the anniversary of independence. The central celebration was implemented in the National Stadium, a large complex seating over 55,000 fellow students of various uniforms. A show of parachute jumps; a feu de joie; a 21-gun salute; march-pasts of various tanks, policemen, National Service cadets as well as fellow students in the parade grounds; songs sung by 55,000 joined ensemble and an assisting children’s choir; fireworks so close it seemed that it was hailing red, blue, green and yellow meteors around myself. I always had a hesitation in taking up national songs because I feared the reaction from the class – wouldn’t it be rather hao lian (smugly arrogant) for an American boy to sing Singapore’s national songs? These were my songs, songs from childhood, songs I had recited from audio casette, in the languages of Malay, Mandarin and Tamil I never spoke in America. Finally, I was here, with the music physically present, and no longer consigned to haunting memory!

I felt all inhibition slip away – the class looked at me with grins. I could finally reidentify myself with a place of whose memories had always haunted me.

That however, was only part of a struggle that for me still continues.

When the photo was taken, we were primary six students, in what parents seemed to constantly emphasise was a critical year. Primary six was the last year of primary school: we were the eldest generation of the school at the time, thinking ourselves at the apex, not realising how young we were, and how old we would become. In primary four there was the streaming examination that segregated students into EM1, EM2 and EM3 based on subject proficiency. EM1 differed by EM2 by virtue of taking Higher Mother Tongue rather than the standard Mother Tongue course; the EM3 used a Foundation English syllabus, and was highly stigmatised.

Consistently and constantly, our teachers, including Miss Tai, would remind us that we were primary six students. Soon, we would be taking the Primary School Leaving Examination, which determined which secondary school we were to go to. The entire national culture was obsessed with doing well for the PSLE – it was a standardised examination that apparently would decide our future, because of its role in choosing our secondary school. This emphasis continued despite the fact that most primary school students would proceed to the affiliated Fairfield Methodist Secondary, who gave an advantage for entry to the primary school students.

Years on, the hype over the PSLE seems an amusing curiosity now, but I still remember the immediacy they tried to place upon us and send us into a panic that would make us drill our workbooks non-stop for months. I only have to think of the attitude they attempted to pass on to us in order to bring me all those years back to the present.

I never really studied however, because I had been doing well in my current examinations within the school, which were based on the PSLE model. We did mock-examinations, completed entire assessment books for homework and drilled our oral examination section several dozen times.

“In the right foreground in the stall to the left of the chicken rice stall, the hawker is callously reducing the sugarcane to juice.”

Primary six was not all about the PSLE however. What remains most memorable are the things that built our identity as a class.

I remember playing soccer constantly despite the adults’ PSLE pressures. We played in the morning before dawn as the stars gave way to sunlight. We played at recess following a quick wolfdown of food, be it flat rice noodles in creamy beef gravy or peppered congee filled with sausage. We would ignore the teachers’ scoldings for playing at the height of day.

We played from dismissal at 12:50 into 5:00 in the afternoon, where we tolerated the scorching sun’s heat and the sweat beneath our uniforms. It was all worth it for euphoria of playing soccer as a clique of our own in the school that was our second home, without adult organisation, with the freedom of transport that came with a fully-linked public transport system.

I remember the class walking together in excursions around the city of Singapore. I remember us eating naam and curry, all us forty-one students and one teacher, in the hawker centre that was somewhere in the middle of the central business district, navigating our brightly-uniformed selves amongst the swollen traffic.
The primary six year was not all about the PSLE, but I attribute part of 6F’s unity to it. The primary school faculty organised a whole host of remedial lessons that we thought we did not need – because of the stigma of the word “remedial” – but were actually taught in ways not usually covered by the syllabus. They would interrupt afterschool soccer – sometimes I think it was intentional.

I remember doing a project covering Labrador Park’s former role as gunnery fortification, and whispering “Rachel Khoo!” (last from right on the second row) when asked intimately by my all-male project group if I had a crush on anyone in the class. I remember their concurrence on the soccer-playing tomboy who caused Shaun Ranen (first from left, top row) to become distracted such that a goal was scored.

Throughout the year they would shower on us primary six students various unorthodox activities, for we were primary six, they kept reminding us. They brought in an Australian scientist to do liquid nitrogen experiments and throw frozen flowers in our faces that broke up into a myriad of sandlike particles; a deportment class conducted by an ang-mo for public settings; special untraditional that no other levels had.

It is rather curious now, looking back, because in primary school we were always looking forward. I still remember a mindset, four to five years of age, which absorbed the present and wondered when it would be over and we could succeed to the freedom that was secondary school. It is rather ironic now, looking back, because in secondary school we realise that our primary school lifestyle is the most carefree, the most ideal. It is rather interesting now, looking back, because we yearned to grow up not knowing four to five years back we saw the clock race by too fast, wanting to turn it back.

Oh, how overjoyed we were when we finally completed the last paper of the PSLE, when we could throw our pens back on the desk, raise our arms and cheer! It was educational tradition, that from the final examination to the end of the year, there would be very little traditional lessons in themselves, where rote turned into creative activity. Oh how we jumped up and down when we received our scores! When I went back to my apartment that afternoon, I intentionally tried make sure the other occupants in the lift saw my paper: PRIMARY SCHOOL LEAVING EXAMINATION

It is interesting now to think how old I have become. Had I remained in the Singaporean system, I would be 
currently secondary four.

It is rather curious, to see our complexions and personalities consolidated just at that point, our faces forever immortalised to each other in the photo. It is rather piquing to reflect, for when we were primary six students we saw each other’s faces, almost taking for granted the way they looked then, thinking they would always look that way. It is rather uncanny, how we have grown, physically and in character, so different yet so the same. I remember looking as a young primary six student, or even secondary one, into the faces of the upper secondary students of secondary three and four, thinking their builds and complexions so elderly and so old. Now we are one of them.
Ah, Fairfield!

lundi 11 septembre 2006

la politique de la commune

By "commune", I don't mean the the ideal of the commune (ie. a kibbutz), that would be a dream. In this case, I mean the goings-on of the local affairs of the town of South Portland, ie. the commune in the French administrative-division sense of the word, rather than the ideological sense. The concept is that these goings-on are local, these are communal (as opposed to statewide or national). In a way, the ideal commune depends on an emphasis on localised government, while being in harmony with other communes. Several incidents occurred in the commune of South Portland; they inspired this post, yes, my fourth post in a day.

It is rather like seeing the local society in action. Local government issues I hear, are quite feisty over in Portland, but ah, we'll see some local democracy here! If only the local constituencies in Singapore were anything like this, rather than town councils which never even use referendums. Some people seem to think that localised democracy on a municipal level is not appropriate for "Asian culture", but I will say otherwise, because it seems completely ungrounded. Why totalitarian democracy and not true participatory democracy?

Some issues are quite passionate; some are quite amusing. The amusing ones in particular aren't so much a government issue in itself, then a reflection of the local environment, a humourous one. One happens to involve a friend.

Self-prescribed "environmental" developer buys a plot of land with boundaries around a marsh. It is a private transction - the previous owner sold it and was allowed to sell it, it was not publicly protected - at least not then, at least not now. He announces his intention to "enhance it", by slightly developing around the edges, attempting to keep the ecosystem intact. Oh really, some question his intent. Are you really environmental at all, question a flurry of forum letters to the local newspaper (note not the Portland Press Herald - the local newspaper of Cape Elizabeth and Sourth Portland, The Sentry) ? Why not resell it to a local non-profit environmental organisation who would be eager to preserve it? Perhaps the local Historical Society or the Environmental Corps? No, rebut some others - if they were truly concerned they would have bought it first. Private property rights. And are they even willing to buy the property? Of course, they have already written in expressing their lamentation, comes the response. Why then haven't these organisations made any aggressive offers? Without any concrete gestures what do you expect the developer to do?

Don't develop the marsh! I take my children to walk about the marsh regularly, a letter writes (I paraphrase the sentiment); not just me, our neighbours and their children, our recreation - we've known the marsh for so long, the canoeing, the swimming, the ducks in the pond ... where will the wild animals go when the marsh is developed?

Pardon the conflation - visiting South Portlanders might know I've oversimplified the issue. I am not going to elaborate much on the issue here, just a curious observation of the debate, since I don't have a firm view on the development issue yet, and my blog isn't aimed at South Portlanders, though that might change eventually. All of this is taking place through very active local mediums.

All this passion - on either side - has brought many insights to me, and it is an interesting thing to read about, and perhaps participate it if the debate ever comes my way. This would not be something the PAP would seem to encourage, or some of the "Asian values" folks. No, they would encourage that a wiser government be allowed to carry out their plan without cynical hindrance from lesser citizens who know less. What an assumption.

The town hall meetings, usually almost empty (with a few journalists and a few citizens) when things are routine, are suddenly jam-packed each night. Then there's the whole issue of whether Fort Williams should charge parking fees, and another flurry of letters to the Sentry, another flurry of editorials to the local newspaper. Everyone should have a right to enjoy the beauty that is Fort Williams, an editorial generalises and paraphrases the views of the antifee faction. Yet, maintaining the park is expensive, and a burden of Cape Elizabethans. You citizens of Cape Elizabeth rejected it in a referendum last year, and are proud of your park; we appreciate your generosity, but remember, come taxpaying time it is you who will pay, and the maintainence costs will only increase. No, no! comes in a flurry of responses, and the Cape Elizabeth town hall meetings, too, are packed. Another letter questions, is a town hall meeting of 40-50 people representative of a town of 8000?

This issue affects me too - I'm a regular visitor of Fort Williams, if you have been reading my July and August posts. Yet, I walk by foot, so it affects me less, they want to charge five dollar a day parking fees, not entrance fees, but it will affect my family since they are less inclined to walk all the way. (And most people come by car.) Yet in Singapore, do we even see any local government issues being vehemently voiced in public meetings by 40-50 people, on a constituency level?

It so happened, that on September 11th today, as I stayed back, today with the half-mast flag and the school-mandated moment of silence, the late bus arrived late. For some reason, that generally never happens, the colloquially friendly (and rather protective: he will curse at motorists that horn at the schoolbus, when the schoolbus gets the legal right of way) bus driver didn't show up. 10. 20. 30 minutes. The cold which I mentioned earlier still lingers very evidently, but the sun is higher in the sky than when I waited for the bus this morning. I am being fried and frozen at the same time (ah, New England autumnal weather). Finally, a little minibus was arranged: this wasn't notable in itself except that in it I was inspired three times, namely about New England in particular.

Speeding through the (paved) access road through the woods, with one window open across me, the cool wind breezing through moderately the school bus, just enough to instigate a pensive air, without the malaise. It suddenly occurs to me, that yes, this is New England, after all these years, I am still in it, and I have been complaining and complaining, yearning and yearning for the past (especially since I am reminded about it on this date more than ever), but yes, I still love the place. The woods - like I used to wander in Cape Elizabeth so long ago.

A large wooden sign at the side of the road. It is clearly homemade but very neatly done, printing in bold red-painted letters: STOP THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARSH.

A public response issue - a public sign that calls out in protest. It is not in protest of a government action. It is not even a referendum issue. It is not at all like the paperboard posters they put up for the election candidates for local (in Town Hall) to federal representation (in Congress). This sign was inspired purely by the passionate debate that arose from the issue of what a man would choose to do with his newly acquired property. Private property rights are a fundamental given, yes - but it is more clear than ever that the solution, in a rather communalistic/libertarian-socialist way - is that the public can still have an effect on what a person does privately - in a very good way. The developer can probably ultimately do whatever he wants, but the threat of public censure also accommodates the externalities that will arise from his decision. To me, public censure (in Athenian democracy it existed in the form of that infamous ceremony ostracism) is a valuable participatorily democratic, libertarianly socialist, tool.

The bus that did not come apparently had a missing companion. While on the mini-bus (which happened to seat about 20 people, rather than the usual 60+ or more) , the radio could be heard quite clearly.

"Bus 21, could you pull over, I need to talk with you right now." [for what reason I have no idea, but it sounds quite urgent]

"Roger, ten-four".

"Bus 17, you are cleared for entry." [gosh this sounds like an airport terminal]

But those are just routine things. Try:

"Bus nine, this is Base calling in. Can you confirm your status please, over."
[a few moments of silence]
"Bus nine? Are you there?"
[a minute of silence, our bus in particular continues breezing through the woods]
"Calling bus nine, what is your present position."
[more silence]
"Bus nine? Bus nine?!"
[some commentary from another driver]
"Uh, Sheila, I think I just passed him over there, to my right, over at Lincoln."
"Bus nine? Could you come in bus nine....!"

It sounded pretty ominous, perhaps 9/11 has an effect on bus drivers, or something. I did not know the conclusion, as well, I had to get down at my stop.

Some observations written for this post include late-night grocery shopping. An attempt to use up the month's reward points (as they do not seem to rollover) quickly before the next update, happened to invoke the purchase of several large tubs of ice cream. I happened to pass by Russell, a friend from South Portland High, who works at this particular Shaw's Supermarkets South Portland branch. At the register, the ice cream, along with some other things, are bagged and put in the cart, but as we make the final transaction ...

*beep* Card error. What do you mean card error? We enter it manually, we scan it multiple times, and in the end Russell is called to use the telephone to ask a senior staff member to come to the front to our aid. If that wasn't mortifying (there was a line behind us) ... he was also asked to announce the closure of the supermarket. "Say it is nine o' clock and the store is now closed!"

"Attention customners ... eeerrgh, it is now 6:00 and the store is now closed."

[a look of amazed silence]
[laughter all around]

"...okay, cut it,'s not..." [realises he hasn't turn off the speakerphone]

At this point, I cannot hold it in, especially when I am rather familiar with the announcer! I'll be forgiven, I think. In regards to my own mortification, the senior staff member arrives soon after this debacle: resolution arrives with him within seconds with the tap of a few buttons. Thank goodness the ice cream didn't suffer much through all that wait.

mercredi 1 février 2006

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

This rather Ecclesiestian passage is taken from Act V, Scene V of Macbeth, of which I am studying. My current English teacher (who I shall praise of the highest accord) only has us memorise key quotes every so often (sparsely, really), so I chose this lengthy one, either that or a string of short quotes but much longer overall. I like its Ecclesiastian nature because I am familiar with it, and it is one of the predecessors to the "brain in the vat" thought experiment (one that would lead Descartes to remark, "je pense, donc je suis" - I think therefore I am, given the implications of the thought experiment). All the world is a stage.

After all, memory haunts me. When I returned to Singapore to attend Fairfield, it was 2001; now, it is 2006. To think alas, alas, how things seem to turn full circle, that the results would be rather in vain, or all that time where one is left behind...well different jumbled thoughts I have, let me clarify. First, there is the brain in the vat. Then there is Tuck Everlasting, then well, there is plain nostalgia.

Has it really been five years? Or ten? The most haunting thing is that these memories of years ago still linger fresh like yesterday, to state a cliché.

Well anyway, Macbeth. The assessment lingers (I must have studied over a dozen full length texts over the past four months) , and my teacher also happens to teach an advanced course called "Struggle for Meaning" (I like!) of which the material I am familiar with although the course itself is something different. I am wondering, an essay perhaps, to compare the Prince described in Machiavelli's favourite work, to Macbeth. Both are scheming, you could call both ambitious or power hungry, but one is obviously more successful than the other.

It's remaining below freezing in South Portland this week, although I saw ducks swimming in the water (which was not frozen, probably due to some thermodynamical principles, also probably due to the fact it was the Gulf of Portland north of the peninsula) , feeding on (algae?) below. Winter clouds at sunset are quite striking; then there are the stars. Stars give one a sentiment of divine connection. I still remember a time when I was five years old, and the clouds of the night sky were painted a brilliant red, and the moon was red and the heavens seemed to open up.