Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The Room and Us

* Jan van Eyck, Suckling Madonna Enthroned(1436)

Jan van Eyck might be notable for his great details to the landscape and the infusion of that to the almost sculptural, grotesque figures of men, but this acclaimed painter never paid much-needed attention to the accurate proportion. Just look at the volumnousness of Madonna’s robe clashing with the unpractically slight forms of her throne and the baby. The narrowness of the cell, on the other hand, provides a rare intimate fixation on Madonna and her baby, but an underlying anxiety of claustrophobia might lurk stealthily somewhere. The suckling baby looks upon at once warily at his mother- Madonna’s maternal gentleness hardly overcomes the baby but the world, in which he was fortunately born, escapes his youngish vision and its wonders are yet witnessed by this pure soul.

Him and I are appointed to sit a person’s house until that person comes back. Clock is ticking away, inflicting that person on a crime of being unpunctual and going back on his words. We have thought of any possible, albeit some whimsical, activities to fritter away the long hours, yet seemingly after ages and years have passed between us we still sit facing each other, ashen-faced, racking our brains to come up with even one simple word. The place we are situated in is technically narrow, walled on four sides with an almost unnoticeable door leading to the kitchen, which we are restricted to go unless we are really thirsty. The location is rather insular, as we assume so since not a soul or sound is heard in the vicinity, but the curtains, which are drawn with not a corner ruffled, block the approaching darkness and ascending night lights eternally from us. We are also forbidden to wind up the curtains no matter what happens.

Therefore, I am always the fast one to think of something interesting. I tell him to put away the papers he read so we could at least have a clean table to strategize. With bleary eyes he says insouciantly that he has always liked to let things run amok. I say no deal since the person might come back soon and such a state should not be remained. He muses over how many hours still will the person finally show up before us and thus he counts those hours, as I am appalled with how long we have stayed in this house. He then proclaims it makes no difference with what to do in this hour when we are bound to have still so many hours to while away. I am beginning to get nauseous with all those numbers so I beg him to stop with what is forming in his mind before it comes out of his mouth. He wrinkles a wry smile, stands up, and takes down the mantelpiece that seated above the fireplace.

I am made anxious with his recklessness. But that thing is supposed to stay on the fireplace! He laughs mockingly and wonders why I still care so insignificant a fuss when everything seems to be so long ago. He then kneels beside my feet and tries to cool me down with a story he just fabricated, during those bleak moments when that person is still here. In his story some boy of a small town witnesses a sphinx roaming near the valley, so he runs home all his might to impart to his family this unbelievable incident. The boy’s story proves to be truly hard to believe, for the whole house is instantly emblazed with laughter when the boy finishes and stares at them with wondrous eyes. That night the sphinx appears again and this time barges its way into the boy’s house. All sleepers are more or less unperturbed and even when some are half-consciously aware of an elephantine monster, they close their eyes at length and declare the scene to be merely living in their dreams. Only the little boy, with the day’s occurrence still retentive, brandishes a stocky candle at the sphinx and mumbles in undertone some incantations. With those people who cast the sphinx in disbelief it passes them caring not a whiff, but with the boy, who takes its form and contour into the vision of his eyes, it spares him no mercy of punishment (and of what punishment the sphinx imposes on the boy the teller mercifully spares me the detail and reason.)

I start to march off to the kitchen when my craving for food shows no sign of cessation. He swiftly overtakes me and hinders my further attempt. The impulsion within me is so urgent that I flap him away violently and continue my venture. He is both anxious and baffled at my drastic change, in much effort beseeching me to consider the consequence of such rash action. I declare the kitchen can be mine since the doorknob is nearer-fetched by me, and sooner I will be cooking my own square meal. He shouts, not without much fury, that a permission is demanded and such permission can be only granted by that person, that person is the only one who decides whether the kitchen can be used or not. I retort that the kitchen is my territory, and an occupier of the kitchen is the sole one to wield the use of it by his liberation.

Suddenly we all silence and gape at each other. We then realize, that nothing is shared, nothing is divided and nothing is dual. That person can be outside and eavesdropping our conversations all the while, and when he next comes through the door, a victorious cry and ardent welcome he is expecting to hear from one of us- this sole and lone one and no more.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Tree

* Van Gogh, Road with Cypress and Star(1890)

Cypresses have featured in numerous paintings of Van Gogh. The leaves and branches stretch and pitch to the zenith, yet such vision of the cypress bears more unnervedness than hopefulness. With the painter’s characteristic speckled treatment of brushstrokes, series of overlaying swirls are dimly created, with the cypress seemingly to mingle gradually into them. The tree cut the painting roughly into two parts, with a sun and a moon occupy each firmament. It is doubtlessly grotesque to have a sun and a moon in concurrence, but if this painting could be interpreted as one’s blurred and gradually faded memory, then the swirls and the anomaly should be duly explained. While the shape of one’s retrospection is at risk of distorting itself and dissipating into the ever-increasing swirls, the colour of it swells and fight tenaciously on the verge of being vanished for good.

People have dreaded and warmed their young not to approach that tree. The tree, which stands straightly without a twist on the ground, trunk wrinkled but bare of any lumps. The leaves unidentifiable of their colours, whether the tree stretches too high that the sunbeam blinds the vision of the apex, or night-tide lures the object into mingling with the murkiness, nobody can give a definite or accurate answer of what the leaves are like. Some superstitious ones hold the firm belief that every subtle trait of the tree bears the morbid implication of its most sinister self- that the colourless of the leaves denotes the tree’s indifference to anything that happens, even if it concerns with people that wither, and dissipate.

A succession of people wither and dissipate by no means in a slow progression. They will have their feverish put on bed earlier, assuming the dismal cold weather has brought a blast of temporary sickness. They will hear their sick ones toss and turn fitfully on their burning beds, artlessly suggesting the cold has exerted its full force, but worrying little since such symptom cannot be more normal. And in the morning they find ruffled blankets and torn mats but not the person. Some sublimes the incidents as angels who shed their clemency and take away the sufferers pain, but suddenly so entranced by their hot, crimson faces that the angels decide to abduct them, as furtively as gypsies who smuggle fair children away at the witch hour.

Nevertheless most people deny the sugarcoated hearsay and determine the tree for the blame, for the ever-immobile tree does give a slight waver whenever a person vanishes, several people contend so with their naked eyes. Therefore on the eve of this Christmas, when the missings have become so numerous that people start to hear yelpings, in their heads, of those who since never went home, from the faraway besieged by forests. Those unaccountable sounds prompt the people to hold a small night ceremony around the tree. With not a tinge of vengeance but sheer reverence the people kneel themselves and circle the trees. In undertones they wish wholeheartedly the evergreen of the tree, promise never to tamper it in any fashion, or cast it with any blasphemies. The people will respect the tree and worship it as their venerable God. What the people earnestly wish is merely the mercy of saving and securing those who survive, and hope to continue surviving a long while later. A boy points out afterward that those prayers and worshippings seem effectual because he simply sees the tree finally smiles. How? Well, the wrinkles of the trunk just suddenly crack into a smile, that’s all.

But the tree does not budge and stays silent. People go home merrily in preparation for the imminent holiday. The tree takes it! The tree is finally happy! With such illusional thought dwelling in their heads, people busily yet contentedly prepare for the feast. Reeling with inexplicable laughter they look at each other’s face, red spots slowly creep upon the face, while others’ cheeks are brimmed with crimson, just like those in an outrageous fever.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Masquerade

* Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge(1892, 1895) Lautrec’s love for caricature is apparent in the figure’s rough and sketchy lines and unprimed background. Balls and café scenes have been adopted by numerous French painters, extending back to the Impressionism period when they became the dominant subject matter. Rarely one fellow French painter, however, presented a wholly endearing scene of people in their indulgence. Manet’s luminous figures belie their unbounded sexuality; Degas’ marvelous performers can hardly hide their exhaustion when off-stage; the revelers in Lautrec’s paintings, as recklessly as they can be, unreservedly trumpet their decadent lifestyle. A phlegmatic insouciance or coolly restrained emotion is not a sentiment that best sums up Lautrec’s works. The light that shines ruthlessly on the woman’s face in At the Moulin Rouge, everything within or without her is exposed, including unnervedness and fear.

A masquerade was taken place in the grand mansion of an old yet wealthy man, who planned the prodigious event merely to appease his raucously lonely soul. Myriads of townsfolk the old man had invited, with their faces ever-shielded by masks unknown whether the veneers can be sheerly fraudulent. The old man was well-aware of the plausible deception, but neither was he too keen on seeing people in their genuine selves. Anything stripping bare left a grating displeasure within him that truly bothered. An unalloyed person always inevitably welcomes with arms outstretched uncensored scrutiny. Multitudes of eyes like pieces of piercing glass, sliding down one’s body with every pore opened, every hair raised. With palpitating heart one waits, until the time the glass no longer dithers, and find a spot to be rooted, and finally to be determined.

The ballroom was walled with mirrors, as appointed by the old man, to enable the partygoers to judge their deceptions. Such design doubtlessly created illusion too, as one guest remarked by whispering to the ear of his dancing partner, that the room was huge yet packed with people ever flocking in to fill the gaps. The music played in the background, hark! did it not sound more like a marching requiem? The opulent chandelier emitted slants of variegated beams, which, with the aids of the aforementioned music generated a giddiness that made the dancers swoon, heads hung out of the shoulders like the final posture of a body under the gibbet. Some people screamed when swirling and flouncing around the ballroom. They were in their own ecstacy which words were ineffable or redundant for description.

The old man judged quietly the roaring event at a side. He himself neither engaged in any one of the dances nor put on a mask, but no one noticed it since rarely one could point out how masks were different from real flesh. The masquerade rendered the old man hard-bitten and resentful, with a fermenting rage he nursed furtively since the entrance of the guests. He at once sashayed into the circle of dances in the fashion of a professional dancer who overheard the waltz playing in his head when he walked. Keeping the action as randomly as possible, the old man tore off the mask of whoever that passed him by. Spates of shriekings and groanings occurred, punctuated by the rhythmic beats of the requiem that spurred the dancers on notwithstanding.

The old man left numerous masks and flesh trailing in his wake, like the seared leaves that suddenly fell. The old man was hardly merciful.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Building of Dream

* (Gentile Bellini, St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria(1504-7) With his posthumous ubiquity paled comparing to that of his baby brother, Giovanni, Gentile Bellini nonetheless managed to achieve an optical accuracy through his relatively less prolific oeuvre. Providing a monumental painting like St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria, the canvas has ample capacity to enclose an almost panoramic view of the religious ceremony- people uniformly thronging around here and there, blocked only by the encompassing buildings. Every subtle detail is attended to with great finesse. Just by looking at those adorned pillars and the ruffles on the monks’ robes one might be illusioned of seeing some work of photography. A compelling sense of solemnity surges from the painting and swirls around the pillars, the rooftops, until it finally reaches the zenith.)

I toss and turn yet the somnolence is ever one-step behind the descending darkness. I feel the pulsating heart of weariness, my eyes glance involuntarily at the clock which proceeds so slowly. This will be a long night. I try every possible means to build a dream, or at least pave a pathway that leads to the final reverie. Building dreams can be laborious, and frustrating also if the kingdom of dream you built lasted no sooner than the sun, who untimely awoke and exerted its formidable power, onto every brick that eventually melt.

Thus I begin to build my dream, employing every brick that is likely to create a dream that will tide me over this night of malice. Someone once told me building dream is like forming a well-fabricated story. Such story is permitted to be the most chimerical, with every disparate detail amalgamates to a hodgepodge of wonder. Every piece of one’s memory is by no means an undervalued block to be overlooked. I dredge up mine regardless of the sadness or painfulness of some. A dream is a dream undistinguished of its good or evil.

Bad memories, if included, are the unfitted piece that ever tricked out from a well-structured dream, as if only a single window is crowned above with a single piece of cornice. However, if such bad memories are served as a base of the architecture of dream, the magnificent building you create will be something far different from a normal, dull one. This is the manifestation of genius in its unconsciousness, and I defy anyone who brands it the embryo of a nightmare.

So every incident that has left bitter aftertaste within me I gather them altogether as the base. Every betrayal, trauma, failure, deceit, fraudulence, stupidity, inanity, and behind them, the initiator, the foe- once and for all I recruit them into the dream I build diligently, as intimate as the act can be, and treat them as my confidantes, my lovers. To dream those bad memories off I naively supposing the termination of them.

Nevertheless, I am wrong. I wake up unknowing the lapse of time, pajamas drenched in sweat. The dream sleeps by now but as soon as it ends I start pining for it. Yes, I pine for the fantastical building I have built, forgetting what I don for its middle bulk and the top, knowing only the base I stuff with all the past malice. An unaccountable longing and passion yet surge, and heave my whole body up. I long to seize those bad memories and foes close to my heart, to squeeze them and fondle them, treat them as a once estranged lover of mine I never want to lose again. I can even slave away for them, regardless of how much hatred and indignation I had accumulated. In light of the longing I plot and sketch furtively a building of dream for tonight, and those that are served as the foundation should be piled higher.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Harsh Winter

* Robert Doisneau, Musician in the Rain
(Contrary to the prevalence of artists yearning for the things of the past and gloating over people’s wounds, Robert Doisneau had his eyes on the present and envisioned as best as he could an idealized world, hence explains the often seemingly staged performance his photography works appear to be. Not too much an idealization to be elevated to divinity, however much Doisneau’s photos strive to present the world in its most endearing fashion, realism is an element that the photographer failed to leach away. It is by no means a wonder that some certain rawness should crop up in a supposedly uplifting humour. A man cherishes his cello so that he shields it with umbrella when the rain pours. Whoever witnesses and appreciates the man’s love for his musical instrument is nonetheless a moot question. The only other person in the photo has his eyes fixed on the canvas. Situated in a same scene and under the same overcast weather, the two characters however go astray. You relish your music while I my art. It is the vignette of our daily lives that never deprives of the quirky irony that makes each of us sole.)

I walked pass faces I never knew, faces that I feared had been immortalized. Nobody recognized anybody as people roaming about. Aimlessly I treaded after whatever pair of heels before me, as if the click-clacking of the heels was the only torch that guided my way. I wondered where I was heading.

Faces so difficult to be delineated, no less trying to be interpreted. I stood still abruptly to wait for a possible attack from all sides, but the crowd just washed me over, like a handful of sands streaming through the supposedly gapless fingers. The distant church bells pealed in a most crispy fashion, but apart from two or three who gave a slight start to the rings, other people kept shuffling on as if nothing just occurred, or each had already had a bell live inside the body. The one I unexpectedly intercepted was even surprised when I mentioned the ring, who stammered on that every sound seemed too deafening to him, for he was mildly deaf.

Even when the words were more whispered than spoken, their resulting sounds however the baffled person sidled away and mingled into the crowd again. Where would the march head to? And when would it ever end? A considerable degree of gravitas arose from the assiduous marching crowd. Anyone who was so reckless to break the rhythmic functioning was to cast with myriad piercings of glares. I imagined symphonies in my head to serenade the troop, but winds whisked by my ear to ascertain my wrong.

That was a harsh winter and no one sang, chattered or got all merry over the impending festivity. They scoffed at the overblissed and lent no sympathy to the demoralized. People only blamed the relentless coldness that made numb of their knuckles, and this impeded their monotonous movement. Be it possible that the sunbeam cast its welcoming power over the crowd and they were all awoke from their long-lasting stupefaction, one of them would taste the bitterness of the first drop of snow. And another tomorrow would only seem too far away.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Portrait

* Egon Schiele, Seated Woman with Bent Knee(1917)(Portraitures are often deemed pale in comparison to other more elaborate forms of fine arts. Even the most quotidian can flourish into something wondrous, such fact is however sadly overlooked. Schiele was long notorious for the zigzag strokes when delineating human’s distorted forms. Striking a rather impertinent pose the viewers are invited to gaze at the woman’s intimate parts. The salient point of this portrait seems to be focused on the reveal or the disguise of the woman’s thigh, either of which the viewers are uncertain of what the woman is intended to act. There are still so many to be plucked out of Schiele’s painting- besides the thigh, the steely gaze of the eyes and the sketchy handling of the feet. The monstrosity of a statuette existence looms.)

She stares into the front and falls silent. Gaze exudes no sentiments nor expression, both eyes resemble stones rather than flints that obstruct stubbornly anyone who wishes to observe to the profundity. The only one who attends to her knows no cause of her muteness, yet informing everyone that such condition is temporary. Little do the curious know how the person also shivers in like fashion when merely taking a glance at her eyes, for they are seized by some formidable power ensuing from the two hollow sockets. Everyone stares down the pits and pines for a peak of the nadir.

The next time the curious ones see her, the figure’s contour blurs like myriads of little angels holding golden fleeces and dancing. A stark contrast to her divine periphery is the dire destitution that besieges her. Now her persisting silence has evolved into a spikiness that scares anyone who draws near. It is almost like passing by a cobweb-entangled statue and feeling its aura emitting although it remains immobile. Deep down her heart and mind she might be, secretly and unobserved by the others, nursing the wounds that incite the trauma of ruling out words and actions, or plotting a scheme that can avenge herself successfully. Spectators throng around her to judge, the situation she has adamantly mired herself in. Some throws a coin and bets on the continuance of her silence. “No more than another six years,” they contend.

Dear you, how another day comes and sunbeams sift through the heavily mucous curtains, shining on your bare self like spirits descending from heaven. I see you cringe at the sight of light, bury your head in your flea-bespattered shawl and mumble a curse. But your eyes, emotionless though like the sea that is ever tranquil, stares unwaveringly into the front even when the lights threaten to penetrate. You refuse to disarm yourself even when someone tames you and strikes your tender cord. When all possible noises cease outside and dusk veils half of your face, you finally succumbs to fog that gradually encroaches your eyes, and the sob that is barely muffled.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Lost Boy

* James Tissot, A Little Nimrod(1882) (Tissot’s paintings are often overshadowed by a veil of disquietness despite their seemingly idyllic setting. The innocent child-play depicted slowly creeps into a Lord of the Flies-esque malice. Three children feign prostrate under the defeat of the victor, who draws a sword ready for another bout of ruthless slaying. The distorted body of the child on the right makes the game seem more realistic than playful, the mother, however, is moved to a rear end to prevent from witnessing the imminent dreadful outcome.)

Little Jim dreads to tell everyone that he has left little John on the playground. A surprise little Jim initially intended to plan yet when the dusk sets in his fear rises, rises like the sunset-red that seems to emerge amid the coming darkness, only one knows that the redness is doomed to fade away. Little Jim could feel the dusts gathering around his feet when he sped away from little John, who was obviously too engrossed in his picture books to notice any anomaly. Little Jim escaped from his escapade astonishingly easy- his folks welcomed him with outstretched arms and questioned him everything except little John’s questionable disappearance. There comes moments when the crimson encroach the egg-white on the sky, and other days when the colours just mingle and each thus diluted. Time whiles away like particles of dusts that one can surely assume they wear off gradually from a larger object. Little John is eternally forgotten.

There is a place when one fears to tread upon. Memories build a monument that ever stands erect on the exact place Jim, now a grown man, fears to set foot. That place, however, haunts incessantly the most fitful dreams of Jim. The monument just stands there motionless, wherever the dreams tend to. Perhaps one day Jim will go back to the playground and prepare himself to discover nothing but masses of dust. Those dusts have been swirling all over the place, washing over him without noise. The only hindrance is when a pellet of dusts chokes his breath, prevents him from furthering things he has yet to say. So what motivated Little Jim to leave Little John behind? What happened later when Little Jim announced his brothers’ disappearance? In his bouts of dreams Jim can still hear Little John leafing through picture books, the sound swishes just like walking on leaves. Leaves scatter in compliance to the winds, which also sweep along the gathering dusts. Dusts caress the leaves tenderly.

A little boy basks under the sunshine, burying his tiny head in a picture book. The boy is obviously seized by the pastel pictures of a young knight, who kills all the most horrible monsters and returns with glory. The book tells the traditional story of battle, defeat and victory. Dusk approaches yet the little boy is ever intrigued by the still next page. He studies each picture with great attention, being careful not to miss even the most inconsequent detail. The dense darkness gradually erodes the pages, and the little boy pulls the book closer before his very eyes with his little pudgy fingers. Now a shrill breaks out in the wilderness where the young knight is all-armoured to face his most testing enemy. The little boys’ wondrous eyes flicker when the knight raises his scintillating sword. Before long the battle will be won and the commotion will be appeased. Someone walks through the erect steles and remember the sound, the sound of the day when the dusts and the leaves call home.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Story

* Johannes Vermeer, Officer and the Laughing Girl (The unconventionality of this painting lies in how the viewers can only get a partial view of the man, who is suggestively in depth conversation with the smiling woman. The window is ajar while lights flood in the room, encroaching unto everything except the viewable part of the man's face. Whoever is trying to surmise the man's facial expressions will remain a doubtless fool.)

What makes a good story sound if the world is already packed with sounds? He seats her cosily in a room robbed of all possible noises, except the regular pendulum-swings of the man, who promises the girl to tell the tale no sooner. The tale unfolds and speeds faster than the gusts lilting on the man's tongue, spanning widely from the child who was lost from the rose that ailed. An excellent tale needn't veer too far from its quotidian matter to make it exciting. The man has traveled far enough to dismiss the chimerical account of amusements, for every knowledgeable people will know the most abnormal incident spawns from the no anomaly. On a balmy day like this I used to hear a woman cry, yet no matter how painstakingly I hunted down the sound the woman was ever-invisible to me.

You can feel how the building now trembles along with my every syllable, the every sound. The stories awaken them and they reverberate in assent, in expectation. My lady, do sit down and dispel your ghastliness, and listen to the proceedings: the man was once imprisoned on an island, less sadly though he was attended by a hoary old man, who in return asked for the man’s undoubting devotion in reading, eternally reading to the old man, until the land was no longer compliant and he lost his name. Died a posthumous artist the man’s family chalked on his grave.

The map on the wall wrinkles an edge in response to the man’s tale. The island was then vanished from the map, marked merely by its story that afloats upon and sways into the horizon of ocean. They will wait until the hubbub settles outside of unknown reasons, when the rare silence returns he will whisper to her ear, to beg her stay and be his prisoner, for ever is a story untold or unfinished, and the story craves for the fidelity of a good listener. The man forbids the woman from going, the besieging walls, as well, makes her escape futile.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Volcano Lover

(J.M.W Turner, Eruption of Vesuvius)

I set my sight on what was before me and thought I owned the scenery. There was an eruption happening, true, but the burning red of flame was made beautiful when it soared amid the oppressing dark of sky. I had an impulsion of holding what I saw into my hands, like a ravishing possession, although it might be like coals, tossing and turning about. I could answer anyone who questioned, that I did covet the scenery, so exceedingly that the ongoing flame trailed through my head, casting an indelible badge in commemoration of my frenzied passion. No, not did I once awake and eradicate the covetous image from my memory. Nor did I rack my brain feverishly for a more accurate delineation of the scenery. I simply needed to draw up the curtains of my bedroom and there provided before me the same image I had always dreamed of dreaming.

But as I wound up the curtains in a fury, with my searching eyes I discovered a picture which, although doubtlessly bearing much resemblance with the former one I saw the day before, was not without some slight alteration. It was obvious. The flame lost somewhat of its sturdiness, and was on the verge of whisking away. The colours followed suit, shredding away with the imagined winds, depriving the flame of its luminosity. A shaft of light pierced the eruption, cut it into half, and adorned the fire-red with its transparent white. I saw everything rumble and tumble before me, in a frolicsome fashion almost bordered on absurdity. My heart took an abrupt descend, as if my virginal hope just being raped by unlawfulness. I captured a blue bird venturing into the throng of eruption. Bless her fare well!

Every slight alteration amassed in gradation into a monstrous disjuncture. I dared not conceive the day when I drew up the curtains and the scenery before me was no longer discernible. I was sequestered in my home; I was hindered from venturing out and saving the scenery I possessed so dearly. I could not bare the sight of seeing the scenery vanishing before me, fizzling out or exploding eventually into a null. I pictured in my head the imminent sight, of a great lashing of red flowing relentlessly into an unknown destination; of the light proclaiming victory eventually and exerting its tyranny with the impregnable transparency; of the cessation of the ever-thriving eruption. My possession refused to live- I felt in my hands the stop of its throb.

The house trembled at night, I could feel it even in my slumber, and changed shape. Surreptitiously I approved of the house’s conformity to the ongoing polymorphism. Rock and sway, sway me to the eruption.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Dance of Life

(Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin)

We dance through our lives. Ever been to a waltz where partner changes from every turn of the back, every swirl of the body? I was once in a waltz, where happened to be my most eventful, I found myself pursuing in coincidence by two women in their prime. Despite my visible discomfort away I danced with the more striking one of the two, leaving the other grimly jilted. Her palpable sadness I can still recall- two eyes stared straightly to the front while the shadows of dancers skidding before her higgledy-piggledy. What belied those eyes was fire of jealousy that simmered, whose tongue lashed over across my back. Flicker of fire that itched me.

Not only in love but we also dance through all aspects of life. That was how I once waltzed pass a fair, where a troupe of children with hobby horses on their heads frolicked about. How I was seized with a sudden panic when those hobby horses surrounded me so, as if I was the sole target of their feast, a bevy of unflappable bees. They raced their dances around me until my eyes could no longer discern an individual out of a throng, like a stream of variegated banner in advance. The ruler on a balcony above the crowd raises his hand to appease the unruliness. He commands to reorder the unorderly, “I commanded a play not a mayhem,” he said. A thousand voices, though barely-audibly squeaky, shrieked back: “We are playing.”

“Yes we sure are playing,” came my rejoinder. I mingled into the throng and together we hastily organized an order. However, the cues we could hardly follow and we shoved off each other, vying for a position that was already occupied by another. The ruler was clearly enraged by what he witnessed. “Take to me your leader,” he bellowed. A thousand hobby horses raised their props in response to him.

I was thus swept away from the fair, deep into the unknown I ventured. Tapping our shoes we danced to the imaginary sounds that awakened the vicious, but never the dead. We did stumble upon a few graves, whose names we could hardly assume through their mounting snow. Snow smoothed our ragged gaits and we danced, never before were we that wildest. We wrote the names with the tilted tip of our shoes. The snow eventually melted and revealed, the names we wrote and those who were there, but all were forgotten, that and that and that, all gone.

It was not until we took off the hobby horses, did it dawn on us that we were still in the fair. You gaped at us from above, us in the ring, faces smeared with paints and tears, still baying above the loudest. “This joke and game is no fun,” I finally sobbed.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Portrait

(Frans Hals, Catharina Hooft with her Nurse)

Hand, delicate like a bud stippled with spring dew, gently brushing off an apple- an equanimous dismissal of so radiant a temptation. For her heart is flooded with extreme merriment, such merriment that is ineffable for whatever form of expressions. I stare into the front, rigid my facial expressions into sheer solemnity and at pains to contain my fizzy exuberance. Why the stiffness of the dress always impedes the outburst of my inner joy?

She is told to reduce her smile into a mere smirk, as conforming to the ever-celebrated tradition of portraiture. I take yet another sigh of impatience and waiting for another flash of light, exploding straight before my face. My nurse holds an apple and is told to stage a performance of offering me the prop. I, doubtlessly, am supposed to convince the viewers that a reject of the apple is retorted. My nurse bundles through the dumb show, while I, being as adept as a good actor can be, fail to reveal any discomfort, except the slight droop of an eye.

Somebody prisoned her in a portrait, and forgot it altogether somewhere high above the mantelpiece. Viewers, you are not permitted to touch or hold but simply to possess the picture with your eyes. Your eyes of exuding lustiness penetrate not of my heart, which is callous and impassive like a mountain which is ever immobile. The spikiness of my adornment ironically parallels with my heart, whose sole wish is to be locked in an impregnable fortification.

I opted to be put in a portrait, I am obliged to say so without any tinge of regrets. They took away my soul and terminated my life for the sake of perpetual beauty, but they could hardly take away my gaze, which is now transfixing on you as sharp as the slant of light on a snowy morning, truncating a block of ice and leaving no vestige of clemency. This gaze shares the perpetuity of the preserved beauty.

Does her gaze show any hints of wanton entreatment? Some stared at the portrait so long that they felt they were drawn into it unconsciously. Some said her innocence was like a rose poising on a snow-encrusted street- the only thing endearing in comparison with the palpable dismalness. The viewers were thus deluded by the illusive beauty displayed before them. And the frozen portrait burns, like a fire visible in a darkened room, and a flame of blue it flickers.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Visible Darkness

(Francisco Goya, Un incendio)

She fancies imagining herself dropping into an abyss. She wants to experience the tangible darkness, to be able to witness throngs of them skid pass her like clouds. Colours are no more than a sense of contrast, so light is never blocked by darkness, nor is darkness relieved by light. It might be more appropriate to say the two compensate each other: light humbles itself for the sake of darkness, and darkness cedes its territory to light. She never shudders at the suggestion of not seeing anything but herself.

It is not a reflection if you see yourself in the dark. It is certainly you that you stumble into. According to the aforesaid light/dark theory, it should not be a discovery if darkness lights up something you never know. She once heard a story of a plunger, who found throngs and throngs of human flesh pile together at the pit of a cave. “Who are you and what are you doing?” the plunger asked with voice trembled of horror. One of them wrinkled a smirk and said: “Why, sir, we are you.”

Some says that once you rebel against a thing you hate, you will gradually see yourself becoming the hatred. Therefore, you see a corpus of you on one side, and the object you target on the other, and you, the hatred, posit in the middle but you are never in-between. There you see the two arguing and you are itched to join the heated battlefield, but the judge, where he comes from should not be an issue, declares that you are categorically unqualified. Same as those who rebel against darkness; same as those who dismiss the light. You are lost somewhere in the murky cave.

Back to the plunger who turned his back gratefully to face the outbreak of light, whose diagonal slants trumpeted a hopeful augur. But instead he saw mountains of people huddling together, and still mountains of them stretching into the very pit. They all stared at him like how he stared at them, eyes bloodshot with fear. He foolhardily triggered the light, and the light amplified the dark. A visible darkness encroached all over him, not with much sound but with a bold determination. He was last remembered as an aspiring cave painter.

Bearing a torch on hand she ventures down the cave. Someone has already warned her, that it has been decades for the next audacious one to plunge into such riskiness, to awaken the dark in such a frisky fashion, such recklessness. Her courage, however, amasses. Once she is certain she has reached the pit, she wields her torch like a greedy emperor wielding his scepter. As the light creeps upon the dark, erodes it, feasts it in rapacious gradation, and the dark, unfurls its blanket, races toward his opponent, and casts it with the blanket before he can hear any sobbing, or pleading, she eventually paints the cave.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Winter's Tale

Some sighted a little girl, clothes bedraggled, picking up her stuffed doll afore a painting by Salvator Rosa, The Death of Regulus. How and why a grand museum piece ends up on the walls of ghetto is beyond comprehension. Maybe the painting is transported through the flicker of light the little girl recklessly ignited. For the weather is irrefutably dismal and the sale of candles soars.

So soars the price of candles, the most invidious vendor makes it so. Some sighted a man facing heavenward and lamenting his inability to purchase even a short, unreliable candle. This winter is made austere, since it is too expensive a flame to exorcize the pricking coldness. No mists nor fogs but something dense and humid descends from the sky, encompassing all. Like a weightless carpet it falls, presumably a white whispering from God. A doddering old man stares up and declares he sees snows.

A stout egg-white candle held by some silky-skinned, taper fingers illuminated all. At least to the little girl’s astonishment the light is too big a blob which meddles with her eyes; muddies her eyes. Soldiers fight with grits under a capsized greyness of light, which seems laughably preposterous in such historical context. The fingers holding the candle unaware of their condemnable mistake. “Impressive picture, ain’t it?” the fingers ask the little girl with smiles in their words.

But lights do poke through the grim of the sky, the little girl perceives after the depart of the candle, the arrive of its restored murkiness. Lights poking through the gaps splitting like thunder, forcing the nearby patches to turn yellow. Fierce, fear and anger are nonetheless written all over the people’s faces. Some are contorted with grimace, others too frustrated to make their expressions explicit. None are slanted by the poking light, peculiarly enough.

Perhaps there are no lights at all in the painting, nor flames are welcomed in this white world. The little girl’s compassion transports onto the stuffed doll, which she caresses maternally under her petticoat. Sighs are barely audible but can be detected by tufts of white smoke exhaled from the little girl’s swollen lips. Tufts of white smokes are here and there, contributing much to the ever-descending weightless carpet. One flake drops and every head raises up. Staring into the gaps amid the heaven they hope to seek the light, but lights are obscured by their fleeting presence. Through to the infinity of the heaven the people still stare notwithstanding, with eyes bold and bare.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Cube

A person is by no means identified as a maestro even when he is infused with every creativity one can grasp, words, music, paints or crafts. Once being depraved of all these, what is left of that person is a question to be begged. I am now sitting in a room four-walled by white blankness. Nothing blotted onto those walls but sheer palpabaleness. I feel things through my sentience when nothing stands in the way to juggle with the vision. Everything is nullified into its bareness.

I feel I can be cooped up in this room forever. Other rooms are hemmed in with canvas blatantly-sprinkled over. Noises blaring out of every line and every shape. Their inhabitants are convinced of their superiority. Milk cows scuttering across the floors whimpering like a weanling baby.

Nevertheless someone is weeping in the corner of my room. My eyes penetrate the white screens but do not reach the one who cries. The muffled sobs are titillating yet at pains to raise my sympathy. Something far away tumbles in, the sea, washes over the room smothering the sobs, the tears. That person is also smothered, beads of tears mingle with that of the brackish water. My equanimity echoes with that of the receding water.

A cat slithers in and proclaims that the outside is speckled with misnomers. I relocate my eyes on its blotchy face and struggle to disguise the inopportune incredulity. Misnomer of what? The cat blinks its translucent eyes and preens its furs. A stray feather is visible on its carpet of softness. The cat maintains its body’s beauty.

A wilted flower I hold in my hand now. I try to caress its petals but they touched like plastic. The bud I idly stare into reflects thousands of eyes of mine. I swirl the flower but it never unravels like it should be. It poises between my trembling fingers pretending to be wilted. Close to my pounding heart I hold it.

It is only preordained when another rush is heard. The blank walls vibrate with concurrence. I close my eyes and mutter no more, waiting for all these to be completed.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

You'll be Alright

She is always deemed a mute girl. Her uneventful reticence raises eyebrows. It is actually she who raises eyebrows first when being interrogated of her quietude, and living up to her label she offers no reply. That quietude was more of a latent idiosyncrasy than a natural inclination, for she used to ramble like any of you. The picture is still vivid in retrospect of how she rambled: angels with velvet wings lilting puckishly on streams of innocent words. Presumably too innocent those words that they immediately provoked the Authoritative. An offhand decision was made from the Authoritative, and the grave quietude descended.

Supposedly the aforementioned is too embellished a paragraph. She promises to whittle down any surplus of her story for sake of concision. Concision denotes dead silence. The night is shrouded in velveteen silence as she ponders about. Plans roll out of gestation and into the embryonic stage of action as she ponders. A spectre she is made by those malicious flesh who wronged. A quiet night belies a trembling disquiet fear. The disquiet city will be anticipating a split of the sky, a drum of the startle. Years of suppressed anger wobbles under the thin layer of the brim.

Now the ghost walks. The destination she walks to the vengeance where is to be executed. The vengeance ferments longer than the action. The action on the spur of the unpurified indignation. The indignation makes shine of her weapon. Under the intruding moonlight she studies her weapon with frowned contemplation. Contemplates not of the decisive action she will be taken but of the gilded beauty of her weapon. The sight reminds her the long-lost angels who used to lilt in her dream.

A turn of a corner and a few flights of stairs she is standing stock-still staring at the target of her vengeance. The vengeance no longer seems meaningfully urgent since she is now staring at the sight in awe. In awe she stares at a bundle of wrinkled package. Something quivers under that package, beneath a thinly-wrapped linen. The cave and the concave of the curve dance after every quiver. Again the sight brings back memory of the lilting angels. The angels she has missed which are now dancing on the wrinkled linen. Enticed by the sight she drops her weapon and sweeps out what is on her mind.

Galvanized by a sudden pang the person jerks up from under the linen. Hushing the dumbfounded one she leads the person gently back to bed as if in hypnotism. Despite the muffled shriek coming from under the linen she tucks in the tumbling figure. “You'll be alright now,” the broken of the protracted silence.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I Can't Go Back Home

All attention now turn to a shrouded figure on the flee. An escapee he is not, nor is he a bustling commuter. Night is impossible to bear such muted tone. All the hurly-burly seems to be swept away without mercy. A swirling smoke of dusts he incites in the wake of his hobbling pace. Beware! Night murmurs to itself as the smoke uncontrollably swerves up. Disquiet lurks threateningly in, the murky smoke slowly gnaws.

No music and not a sound are heard. Imagination sets flames on them. Alive, the music yawns itself alive from below. Like the residue of a closed bakery, smouldering melodies emit from below his mud-scattered boots, from below the pulsated earth; the flagrance of music wafts. A mirage he illusions of seeing: little girl dancing under a ring of light in pleated-skirt. Her movement coheres with the arpeggio taps. All perked-up dynamics ironed somewhat at the end of every four bars, in which a slight squeak of the girl’s ballet shoes is audible. Under the conspicuous spotlight a bizarre bronze resemblance vibrates on the skin of the little dancer. The hair is in comparison a stack of straw-yellow, sprawling desultorily about her shoulders mingled with sweats. Her dancing is somewhat ungainly, signified by those pervasive blue veins threaten to burst. He reawakes from temporary halt.

Proceeding on he picks up a newspaper skidding along the empty street from hither to thither. The story of a murder predominates the whole page. Night veils the city but she was one of the many who is still sober from the darkness. A glass of wine on one hand and a scintillating knife on the other she judges with unperturbed curiosity. The serenity of the night everybody wants to galvanize; a palpable revenge she has yet to feel. A startling laughter she tries to stifle. She lets her face fits into the tunnel-version on that of the well-polished hilt; she looks comically timorous.

Later she insists that the murder is unpremeditated. The night is simply too long; too stifling. The cabaret outside her window ceases not of their frolic. They sing, dance or pump noises until beads of sweats creep upon their already soggy shirts. She feels beads of sweats too, above her back. And no, she shakes her head in denial, no reasons can be proffered for her murderous action. A reason which is still in stammering gestation in her soporific head.

Another he appears on the wall, coyly inviting him for an eventful shadow-boxing. He baffles and halts his brisk gait. From the very far horizon of the infinite, he hears, some tentative sounds rumbling on. Remember those days from yesterday, the street sways before him like a sultry hot day. Those sounds in fragments will soon amass into a trooping sea beast. Hands it will extend toward him to draw. Before long like the noiseless city he will become, a skeleton that aches.

“I can’t go back home.” He rushes away leaving the night in the wake.

Friday, 27 May 2011


Objects focused: fruits poised in a red bowl placing against a black screen. Music sashays in: free jazz, notes drop in an abrupt curve at every bar. Figures silhouette on the screen because night falls. And the rare lights, traveling from the moon, sift through the somewhat worn curtains.

Lights slant on the fruits; their silhouettes thrown onto the screen- they imprint each other. The apple crookedly distorted into half, one in dark and the other in light. Angles and depth thus testified. Funny no questions are posed for the apple’s substance, for it is truthfully flat, as flat as red smears. With the aids of light the flat apple simply conforms to the tradition of concreteness- one side in dark and the other in light, a shape is virtually born.

The fact confounds everybody, of how the flatness extends and predominates. A hulking something shrinks into a blob then some turbid water cocooned tentatively in hands. A blotch the thing might eventually land in. That banana, a perfect yellow arch, who belongs to a clan of symbols and marks. A downy arm laid bare the banana is analogous to. All you music notes now bow and cave in the pit of that curve. Oh how I marvel at it I swirl. Blind and lost I lick the sonority to find my way back.

The music now bears a mellow tone. The story wheel spins. One of the ancestors of that apple once palmed off to the fairest hand. She stroked my stooped back, comforted me with honey words. A war was soon declared, in a golden city with gildings too sharp to dilate an eye. A validation for this beautiful disaster, the apple rolled, and into the mud it sunk. The trouble that ancestor stirred up was hardly any worse to another, whose skin left a hesitated bite. The woman was told to take a bite. She followed the instruction submissively, lips quivered with fear.

A long time ago a banana almost slithered itself into a 6. Wicked number it is, vile omen. That man who won a windfall on three 6s, where is he now? Dissolved into thin air I was heard. Another banana who made it an extremity by twisting itself into a spiral staircase. A beautiful formation it could be, but something dreadful always set in. Some murder was taken place? There was a vestige of goodness, nonetheless. Why, a mute girl was galvanized to talk again.

The slant light cracks smiles on each’s wrinkled skin. Those smiles can still go hideously for hours, not until the night retreats to its slumber. The fruits grimace at this photomontage world. Everything scatters about desultorily. Wine bottles and glasses tricked out from this higgledy-piggledy. Night dips in intoxication. Air forges into puffs of unconscious odor. However, if not because of the moonlight, everything is still flat. Flat but photomontage, how do pieces coalesce? Music swerves into an apotheosis of jabs, or shrills, or snickers. The fruits keep smiling. Light slants on them; their silhouettes imprint on the black screen; night seems static like the fruits.

A volley of footsteps marches near. Within seconds, something drums, and then something splashes in. Both the apple and the banana smile to their fullest.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #25- The End

Sometimes when a story is so powerfully fabricated, it horrifies you. This eventually leaves an imprint in your memory that galvanizes you whenever some evocations appear. The fact well-applies to a story I just finished reading, and a subsequent reference is drawn between the deserts in the story and the world I’m situated in. I hate to dredge up world-weariness when there are actually so many other things I can relate to. It is such a self-centered awareness to impose every story onto oneself.

So I will only make it brief by concluding that my conception of the world is like a desert where one is encompassed by hazards, and it is impossible for him to escape far since supplies must be begged first. But nobody will be that benevolent to lend you anything when every entity is on the fringe of demise in this dreadful desert. I tend to stay in one spot and shut up my mouth so I won’t be overcame by thirst too soon.

Most of the things I’ve read are abound with people. Vile bodies, goodie-two-shoes, repugnant braggadocios, irritable aficionados. A false belief I’ve held that those abject characters were only made alive in books. I was then disabused when they jumped out of the page and roamed around my everyday lives. The fictional characters can never be too repulsive after hindsight since you’ve already taken for granted the fact that they only live within words. Those in the reality perplex you, for they can be downright virile then peerlessly perfect in the blink of an eye. They make you want to kiss them before flaying them alive- the classic machinery of those notorious criminals.

I used to go to sleep at night wishing I was a worm the other day, and wishing I could return to my normal self the day after, and so on. Once weary of such cycle, I assumed a daily course choked with people was the main factor that induced my bewilderment. It is impossible to be too oblivious as a universalist. Everything I encountered I shoehorned into my little body. I became fervently volatile. The effect resulted on my writing, which is muddied with personal affairs and sentimentality.

This might be a curtain-off, but the trumpet bellows subsequently for another curtain-up. It is with much mulling-over that I will axe my Tales From the Down Under section, due to the fact that those later batch of entries were gradually bleeding into sheer poppycock. For my next entry I idealize of tending on a more thematic direction, which focuses on everything but me. The articles followed by should aptly be fit into a certain framework, instead of sprawling about desultorily. To give depth to a piece of writing, one should really wriggle his soul out of the body of a human flesh, and hopefully the entries I’m entering in the future can attest to the illusion that stranding on a desert does not mean life can be measured by your palmful of fleeting sand. We’re always surviving, no matter how much struggle and pain it can do us. But what scares us the most is how the desert is utterly ignorant of our existence. At night you stare into the infinite and a sheer nothingness sweeps over you, it neither beckons nor quivers.

But at the bottom of your heart you are certain that the desert speaks, although you find faults with identifying the voice and the words.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #24- First Post After a Long While is Usually Not Very Impressive

One night I was waken by the noise of a couple bawling to each other outside on the corridor. Being galvanized up at such untimely moment, I resolved in switching the channels desultorily while the bawl heated on. Motions and images flipped through the screen like batches of vignettes. The ebb and flow of the noise outside kept with the fleet of the channel, thus a comical consequence was induced. It is funny how people are implicitly inclined to match their lives onto the screen, and into the screen however they result in. Some concierge, I presumed, settle the argument briskly and everything restored to its order like every yesterday.

People can be categorized into three: one with those who are always brimming with confidence and wielding their dominance wherever they go- they are the victors. Most people in general should be in the second one, who surface and sink just like every other but refusing to sail close to the wind, they secure themselves a perfect spot where they can witness every event flipping through their eyes just like channel switching. The terminology is irrefutably drab, too, I’ll call them the commoners. The rest should be lumped together in the victims, who are constantly creating follies in their lives and constantly being jeered at by the victors or the commoners.

What an unjust classification I sketched out! The purpose of the aforesaid is chiefly to demonstrate how those three groups of people all like to dramatize their lives, victors, commoners or victims notwithstanding. It is usually at the dinner table with your relatives when those three categories surface, and as the conversation drags on, every story that reels gradually blows out of its proportion. Silence is a poise to hold but painful as well when it excludes you from any of those categories.

“Why studying Literature.” Those three words screamed on the page and it was only prophetic they could appear on my coursebook. I slinked from providing a convincing answer when being badgered by such question. But now I know that the main reason lies in nothing but self-indulgence. I love reading, that is for certain, and stories as well. Stories, like stones, can be plucked from everywhere on every road. They are, however in reality, too painful for even words to document, hence my retreat to read stories that are fictional. The ugliest tend to be endearing when you know you share no ties with that story you read.

Not long after the noise ceased I fell asleep and dreamed. I dreamed I actually wrote me in Twin Peaks. Not an impressive character rather, which fits me perfectly because long ago I dreamed of becoming a better person but in vain. Not until that moment did I realize that mystery should be the period of every story.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #23- The Fog

As I drew out the curtain I saw almost nothing before me but clouds of white smoke predominating the scenery. It was one of those few days when fogs descend the city. I have an inexplicable penchant for fogs, which are impressively neutral, positioning between the drab clearness and the radical inclemency. I saw the fogs cleared before me, gradually, in dribs and drabs. Without any assistance from the sun the fogs petered out until dim traces of buildings or every-day-matters crept their way back in their forts.

I’ve been aspiring to do music and working diligently for years to hone my ability and knowledge just to make me eligible for the career. Owing it to my volatile taste in too many genres I have yet pinpointed of what direction I should tend to. The problem surfaced as well on my writing, which are frankly a batch of desultory rots that offer no fruits for your grey matter. It is a topic or a concept that I’m constantly stressing upon and groping for, or else things just litter around, scattering about. A lasso quivers itself to hint at its importance.

I once read a most honest account of traveling into darkness and out of it. The ship plunges into the dark without a premonition and while the sailors are desperate to crawl their way out, the overcast darkness just fizzles out as suavely as when it sets in. No further description or embellishments are given to detail the unnerved situation the sailors are in, or any explanation of how they eventually escape from such hot water. The story just fleshes out itself due to its lack of information, and a most palpable horror it casts upon readers.

I’m always feeling myself trying to scramble out of an encompassing fog and have been pulled back incessantly. With this disheartening situation one can only be hopeful that one will eventually come out blob however an auspicious end often comes without any notice. It is not like I’ve never even got a glimpse of light!

The fog didn’t wear off itself as swiftly as it appeared to be. Drops of tears left on the windows, the only testimony of a writhing metamorphosis.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #22- White & Grey

I felt forlorn watching the calamity of Japan on the telly since months ago I just spent my most brilliant time traveling around its capital. It was one of those chill but not bleak days when I strolled about the streets of Tokyo. I had an image of colours instantly, of a swaying white and grey. For me it was the cleanest and most impressive combination of colours, and the one that exuded the most contented serenity.

The titillated image of white and grey rarely popped up in my life. Besides the aforementioned the closest one I can conjure up is when scouring around the vicinity of my house after a washover rain. I deem the white-and-grey incidents my happiest moments in life. When such moment occurs the colours are wrought in a most cliché romantic veil where they will dance and swirl around me like bubbles. And like bubbles they pop and vanish within a blink of an eye.

Everybody has his own definition of what a suffering will be. It would be indubitably ungrateful for me to acknowledge my constant predicament, since seeing in a humanistic scope mine is hardly a scrape. But the feeling of weeds on my head is incessantly palpable which resembles to that of a young bird whose wings and feathers have already crowded the nest yet is still reminded that she is no more than a callow bird.

Being a dire optimist and having a downright positive thinking save me. I am always the one who sees the light sift through the curtain and feels hopeful of the unfold of a new day. My optimistic mind might contribute somewhat to my role of a persistent dreamer. Several past incidents have cast several whips on that dreamer, lessons are better learnt than taken for granted. The dreamer proclaimed that whoever asks her perspective of her future she will remain modest and only reveal that she is not a careerist, and she is never the one who gets out of the hardship of the young adolescent years unscathed.

Talking about optimism, there arises a group of aspiring singers/bands who flatter themselves on making cheerful music. Cheerful but not the Beach-Boy-esque sunshine pop, they actually allege their music of being unconventionally whimsical, creating sounds that are certainly the drills to your ears. People have been too preoccupied making music that differs from the others to hunker down to the basic question of whether the music you endeavour to make actually makes any grain of sense.

There is also this group of intelligentsias whose songs are packed full of any artistic or literary references. Listening to their music makes me a cultural handicap even when holding an English Literature major. The question has been harbouring in my head for a long time but I have yet found an answer to whether music is more important than lyrics, or lyrics music, or equally important, or important but in a synchronized way. Listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex though, put all those doubts and questions in a temporary respite. The music is simple, raw but unarguably sensible. The whims of the music are ingeniously enlightened by the idiosyncrasy of Marc Bolan’s emotive voice. The lyrics, on the other hand, seems to be the highlight of the songs, the cherry on a chocolate tart, by which one can see implicitly of their literary references, be it Blake, Wordsworth or Borges, but instead of assiduously gleaning over influences like some run-of-the-mill singers, Bolan’s influences are obviously the accumulative ones. Such accumulative influences are mingled with Bolan’s dexterity on words, which tackle obsolete subject matters but never in an esoteric way.

Another thing I admire Marc Bolan the most is how his music never gives glimpses of world-weariness. Ladies and gentlemen he’s singing with his head above heaven!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #21- Two of a Kind

Studying Children’s Literature and reading several likeminded young adolescent fictions these days remind me of tireless repetition, which is believed to be a significant technique widely used in those books. I never really like repetition, nor assume it dreadfully dull, for with the evocation of both rather wicked-looking twins in Diane Arbus’ picture and The Shining, an odd feeling of grotesquerie creeps up behind my back. Yes, it is certainly the image of two identical selves that really scares me, for whom are you going to fight off first?

Nevertheless, the benefit of employing repetition in children books is psychologically affirmed. It is generally believed that there is no better way of memorizing things promptly and effectually than having a nagging one dinning them like rambles into your ears. Therefore, with children books once grasping the template of plots in the first chapter, the other ones are just another flip of the coin. I reckon the complacent predictability of those stories as something rather heart-tugging, since at the back of my mind a sheriff is constantly warning me from taking the fact for granted lest some abrupt change or cliffhanger did come in the way.

I’m not so sure whether the aforesaid quasi-interpretation can be also applied to music. Repetition has been held as a cult especially by popsters, who are notorious for repeating the chorus part like how those quack cafes love to pour treacle on their suet puddings. There are some rare ones that actually manage to make repetition impressive: the opening song in Syd Barrett’s The Madcap Laughs, “Terrapin,” sounds unbelievably longer than its five-minutes or so length, but the illusion is accepted admiringly, as well as the repetition, which actually blends into a blurry echo when listening half-consciously.

Claiming to be one who helplessly has a low boredom threshold, I dislike things that eventually wind up in a tiresome prolix and sift through songs that are over five minutes long. When listening to Marc Bolan in Tyrannosaurus Rex I almost sensed his impatience of extending a song thus making it as short and brisk as possible, but his later band, T.Rex put all my misconceptions to bed. The song “Spaceball Ricochet,” like “Terrapin,” runs the gamut illusorily longer than its veritable length, and once you think Marc Bolan is finally maundering the final note, there the song spins off again from the start. The repetition in “Spaceball Ricochet” leaves a nostalgic stamp in my heart.

Reverberation comes the closest of being the synonym of repetition but in a more refined form. Being a linchpin between an audible sound and an echo, I’ve always delineated it as “the wings on the sound”, if the sound did abstractly carry and fly. Anything that grows wings will not only set free from your fettered state, but when intractably, flying you up to the very apogee of sky where some only be freighted before finding faults with the untimliness. That is why I slink from reverb most of the time, for the invocation of a heavenly enlightenment is somewhat too much for me.

It is an ideal for me to still stick to short-lengthened songs, especially the most beautiful part which I will summon it to appear only once or at most twice. It is human beings’ natural inclination to repeat the song again and again when they never come close to savour the fruitful portion. Who says it is an anticlimax, if insatiability drives people to do the repetition?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #20- Peep Show

When being asked about the drawbacks of her budding career, Diane Arbus revealed a rather unsettling facet of her job as a photographer to get almost perversely intimate with the people in her shots. Having the reluctance to intrude upon others’ personal lives is just a euphemism for snooping too closely around them. An impish peep show turns into a grotesque freak show eventually, hence the harrowing effect of how Arbus’ works present. Both Rear Window and Blowup tackle the unexpected outcome of an initially random peeping. The antics in the movies are ubiquitously replicated still now, that whenever a curious george peeps, it is merely and ultimately a highly-entertaining murder he will seek out.

The abode I’m currently staying in offers a grand view which is fortunately not plagued by any buildings flanking by or protruding in front. For Monet he would probably look beyond to the infinity of the sky and marvel at its subtle vicissitudes; Munch, on the other hand, transfix his eyes on the ant-like hordes of fleshes lining up beside the bus stop and if this vignette was yet to impress his subnormal appetite, several wonders his imagination drew would add embellishments to the view. There is really nothing for me to peep about from where I’m standing. The view of Auckland seems bland, even dreadfully bland when washed over by inclemency.

I’ve done no peeping back home either, although the place is certainly a hub for the voyeurs. I owe it most to the ineluctable problem of the thinning of curiosity and human interaction when distance is no longer a hamper. I’m pretty sure that from the window in our kitchen an old man can be seen sitting on a chair casting before him a constant gaze. His immobility surprisingly does not serve as a fodder to my inquisitive eyes. His statuesque presence only reminds me of some illustration with a girl writing letters under a dim light. Yes, as it turns out that the dim light encompassing the old man is the one I only care about.

I read somewhere that someone claims the eye contact is the one that spawns the most intriguing communion and the safest lovemaking. A Greek tale I heard which still remains my favorite romance of all time: the tale of Achilles killing Penthesilea on the spot of falling in love with her through a mere mutual glance. I’m sceptical of the hackneyed theory of a love-hate relationship but a transportation from hate to love, I half-believe. Various folklores teach us a lot about that, of how destroying your enemy will inevitably lead to the consequence of your own perishment. Two of you burn together in a burning fire of passion, dusts and phoenix you will either become.

Another problem with the predilection of peeping is that the object of the peeper’s fixation always wears off its ostensible glamours in dribs and drabs. Too close inspection causes the mutilation to the object of your initially seething affection. It is often at that time you start to ponder about whether human beings are really all made by clay.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #19- Getting Lost

I conclude the incident that evokes my greatest bewilderment is getting lost. Lost not in an utterly unfamiliar land but a familiar labyrinthe where all paths lead to the same starting point. It is like tracing your way out in the lines of God’s palm which proves indisputably futile the attempt. Several synonymous experiences I’ve had, much to the general disbelief, stamp on my nightmarish horror.

Few of the many trips to Singapore consist collisions with festival days. I slink from overwhelming hubbubs so any authentic festivities are stranger to us. However once after a gorged supper on greasy Thai culinary, I raised an uneventful suggestion of taking a walk around the vicinities. My curiosity of nightlife was then still in its embryonic and most fermenting stage, and a further suggestion was made of ambling to the harbor through the festive crowd. An outrageous stomachache ensued when my family and I were obscured and almost swallowed by a looming mob of people. Witnessing lines of streams of people flooding to me, through me only psychologically or physically intensified the ache. Such experience shouldn’t be lingered upon too closely on the description. I eventually went back to my hotel safely and made a beeline to the toilet punctually before any disaster ensued, I will sum up my story thus. The incident though left two indelible marks in my principal thinking: whenever there is a razzle-dazzle happening my first instinct is to shun it; whenever traveling to an unknown place I always want to ensure that hygienic toilets are at my disposal.

It wasn’t until years later when seeing a scene in Rosemary’s Baby with multiple naked bodies approaching the protagonist half-consciously did the aforesaid incident was again dredged up. After hindsight, I did recall the place almost with dismay that it was actually not far away from my hotel. The roads muddied with exuberant festival-goers played a crucial role of debilitating my sense of direction and common geography. Certainly should some short cuts be discovered and considered I could get back to the hotel before any waves of intense cramps hitting relentlessly my stomach. Nevertheless, how could those short cuts be executed if they were more or less already preoccupied with numerous noisy fleshes? It was only once in my life that I wanted to trample all those people ruthlessly, stride through their heads without mercy.

When, a few months before, writing on my assignment about the theory of uncanniness, I stumbled upon a chapter considering the same issue on Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Freud’s intricacies of mind eluded me and I could hardly understand what he was writing about, but through some glances I assumed he did mention how most people are haunted by the memories of getting lost in the most familiar place with the most unfamiliar experience.

When a chamber of horror is unwisely opened, there are still a lot to write about, but that person who first stated the belief of writing out to exorcise your inner monster- he/she is categorically a nitwit, since the monstrosity is only getting more formidable.

Tales From the Down Under: #18- Maddening

Ever since relocating in Auckland to complete my university education, life has become more or less pseudo-vagabond. The whole year can be chopped into numerous portions, with me traveling tirelessly between Taiwan and New Zealand, neither of the two places in which I spend for a considerable period. A change of pace is essential but a change of ‘accelerated’ pace might appear overwhelming. Thankfully I do not have any glaring symptoms of disorientation.

It is overtly pretentious for some to divine their ceaseless traveling as a cause leading to a subliminal consequence of ‘calling every place home,’ which is equivalent to ‘calling nowhere home.’ And a prolix of how they find their vagabond lives dreadfully lonely and inconceivable for human beings is expected to follow thus. As the intensity of my traveling increases, the first thing I perceived was how everyone seemed sulkily lonely or mad. Yes the whole world seems to be pervaded with extreme madness. I feel peculiar and dull of being one of the rare ordinary ones.

When I was still in my elementary years I once went on a camping trip with a horde of giggly brownies. I must be so obedient by then, for a trifle cold was nagging my throat. A mother of one of the brownies’ who were accompanying her daughter on the trip and was promptly appointed by my mother to watch over whether I partake my daily intake of medicine. I dreaded the bitter aftertaste of my pills so I flushed them down the toilet. My supervisor found out eventually and told my mom. Nothing happened in the end, since when I returned I was utterly recovered so pills were in no necessity then. How the world has changed since these days the mothers are the ones who drop the pills vehemently into the toilet and the children will still doggedly dredge them up and surreptitiously savor the ecstasy.

I picture a maddening world like a tumbling roll. Everything toils over in such revs that nobody cares to stop and mulls over his footprints or the next steps. People rally with each other for unnameable cause, I rally with nature for can never rally with anybody.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Tales from the Down Under: #17- Fag-Ends of the World

I’ve always aimed to be a nice girl, or I’ve being brought up to be one. It was transparent recently that I was gradually derailing from the justly road onto which a nice girl duly treads. Being in a certain character is not something that is delineated or suggestive, but rather an empirical awareness manifests in that person’s temperament. I sketched in my head surreptitiously the world I map out with which came intuitively one without boundaries or disciplines. I’m still holding the dogged belief that nothing can be explained by anything.

It sounds prematurely maddening but I used to keep in my mind that everything I’d done was done for the sheer effort of striving to be a paragon to my children, if I did have one in the future and I’m sure I will have no matter what. However, the ideal starts to fragment when I’m having troubles impressing my parents. I may be pleasantly malleable but am sure can never be shoehorn into the mould my parents idealized. That was the time when I was alarmed of being deviated to rebellion.

Thankfully my rebellious acts are far from the generalization of one’s warped inclinations to delinquencies. My rebellion is a rather simmering one, bumping my chest intermittently and inducing anger on the most unlikely moments. Anger of failing to assert myself; anger of letting down everybody. It is often at that time when I ponder about what kind of parent I might be in the future, and I see a horrible one.

Courage and fear should really strike up as a couple, a tumultuous relationship they are sharing nonetheless, gnawing their ravishing love. Courage is plucked up only before wearing off by fear. Fear is prolifically accumulated when courage batters down the barrier and eventually batters the fear down also. Nevertheless their mutual love is genuine, notwithstanding the usual display of two anxious to bite each other’s head off. Why every time two clandestinely attached entities are meeting with fight only before leaving in flight? Some say we only dodge from what truly scares us.

I always affirm my courage to be the kind of person I want to be but fear intercepts annoyingly from time to time, bombarding the rite of a person I should have been. When a show ends and the curtain folds, it is no longer important if one could also get any applauds downstage, but whether there is a bolthole to dig in, to hole up and muffle the sighs, the complaints, the tears, the weariness and everything.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tales from the Down Under: #16- The Haunted House

Categorically I dislike melodramatics. People devote to melodramatics to perfect their creation. The purposefully-furrowed faces some adopt when boasting about the piquancy of a severely-tragic story which influences their creation. The faces that are teemed with wrinkles and creases, on they put an unworldly veil. If I happened to be an ant I would take refuge in one of those crisscross lines and guarantee the longevity of my inhabitation.

I used to hold the receiver conventionally like how everybody holds, but now I have the natural inclination of holding it lateral, does that make me admirably histrionic? Vacillation is the commonest and dreariest symptom of a young adult who is trying too hard to assert himself. I’ve been vacillating like a tumbling ocean whose tides are already fizzled with cloying foams. The result is a doubtlessly exhausted body causes by constant rotundity. Headaches also occur occasionally.

But my soul is never exhausted. It is generally believed that vacillation spawns a creative mind. Resembling to a form of a spiral, when a person vacillates all her spirits swirl around the body with a red-and-golden hue that almost makes that person statuesque of a goddess. Presumably that is why people coveting for vacillation before worshipping creativity. They believe creation is something that can be put behind a glass cabinet, or on the mantelpiece flanked by your grandpa’s photo frame and your father’s gong. Creation is something that is best exhibited and admired by all the dropping jaws.

It is not too warped to suggest that searching for inspirations or gleaning materials is like cohabitating with strangers you stalk on the street. It is double-edged, hence the unrevealing dangerous side. Some stories or people you stumble upon like when stumbling upon a haunted house on a most wholesome jaunt. You peek inside. You judge the interior and the exterior. You purse your lips like a detective and decide to cast this haunted house into your story. Then a man with disguise ambushing in a corner you fail to inspect. He almost prances to you and confronts you with some weapon of not telling anyone of this house and this incident.

You then escape unwound and for your friends, most normally unruffled but who knows you are truthfully unruffled? Something does happen in that house and oh my, what a great actor you are concealing your bewilderment. And what happens between you and that mysterious man? How he let you walk away if he is so dogged about keeping the house a secret? How a mutual agreement is made that you’re be able to go scot-free?

A story or how some still insist, a “creation,” is therefore born. Hopefully the readers will find the answers to all their suspicions and if not, they still possess the irresistible joy of reading the story or, more perversively, fabricating their own story of the protagonist’s harrowing yet enchanting chance encounter with a haunted house and an unidentified man.

How will the readers say if they found out something much contrary to their naïve fabrication? They close the book impulsively before throwing them out and say, “It’s warped!” I ceased to be that inspector or protagonist when the aforesaid staged in my head. I hold the firm belief that life is itself a contested battlefield and nothing can be easily disciplined by any of your high-minded aphorism. I became eventually, that haunted house, with which normally you know absolutely nothing about.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Tales from the Down Under: #15- Stagnancy

For days the odd feeling of a defunct mind is acute. All the fuelling motivation of undertaking some constructive task is nipped in the bud when all the words and ideas are suspended in a hackneyed chaos. Therefore I've sit and waited for the moment, the moment which some will divine as a slip of a thought across the mind, to come.

I made it a goal of writing some proper songs this holiday but have yet to land in any presentable works. There are only snippets of songs which sound no smarter than nursery-rhymes, crop up uneventfully with distorted notes. Listening to those dreadful demos disgorged everything from my head into a notorious hole. A hodgepodge of anger and befuddlement tumbled in my stomach.

I dislike the self-glorification of writing kooky songs only due to one's futility of producing beautiful if not coherent notes. It's the sublime excuse for those dogs in the manger. My stupidity of following the masters of Syd Barrett, Donovan, Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison only make them more far-fetched and cultish.

Every time I am eager of doing something, I blame my belated decision of doing it, and subsequently forms a vicious circle of constant complaints and stagnancy. It is the exact bafflement of standing in a kitchen while neither the food nor the equipment is ample.

I therefore fancy a world without order or the time grinds to a halt every time I will it. I fancy an unchartered territory.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tales From the Down Under: #14- Hounding

I deem that everybody is at least a monomania. Life will be lifeless if without a fixation. Some high-minded bigwig might dismiss fixation as the snag of the road to success, but they are too indifferent to calculate the impossibility without it. Those who are dogged about relinquishing fixations are the ones who sit in the pitch-dark. Sheer darkness they can only witness and hallucination comes imminently afterward. Sheer hallucination their mind ecstatically dwell upon, and monomaniacs they all somehow become.

A fixation offers an excusable explanation to hound after something. The real intrigue behind such pestering perseverance is the feeling devoid of extreme indignation or hatred. There are certainly frustrations encountered from time to time, but with a fixation one will never grind his teeth and bite it from sheer impulsion, because the larger the wound the longer one will take to heal it. Heal the wound so you can try to woo your fixation back, and once you fortunately hold the price it is unfortunately covered in bandages.

Anything you pay superb attention to you hound it. Even if you deemed yourself a veritable bore then it was the ultimate dreariness you hound. I came across a title as a "hound of love" and it whetted my curiosity for what "love" was being hounded after. The image surfaced instantly was not the one with a philanderer plunging into a sea of flesh women, but one standing before an abstract painting of his named "love," and as the viewers listen with awe, the painter showers them with esoteric gibberish.

Much contrary to the things you love, it is believed that you come up no explanations to the thing you hound. It is like the most forbidden hardcore which bristles with scenes like smacking and loving all in a flip of a coin. Differs from obsession, too, for which most people mistake. Obsession is your fickle lover- she wavers and vacillates. Amid the general incredulity you still boast of having your fickle lover.

Nabokov adopted Humbert-Humbert-esque voyeuristic quest of making butterflies his conquest. He succeeded by also interlace his writings with webs and webs of impressive intricacy. Reading his novels is like reading a butterfly's wing under the microscope. You are hounded once you find yourself staring at that wing for too long.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tales from the Down Under: #13- Flying

Somebody used to have the illusion, or the obsession, of becoming a bird. Therefore he flapped his scraggy arms as violently as possible, in a vain hope of conquering the gravity and eventually gaining elevation. What he had been anticipating wasn’t the posture he had painstakingly practiced to fly like a bird, but the pain on his head he was told to get when rocketing out of the roof. From day to day he glared at the leak on the roof and spurred him on to tearing it even asunder.

It wasn’t until some balmy day, while taking a stroll with my mom in a nearby park she mentioned randomly of some pathological case of people who dream of becoming birds, did I realize the severity of the aforesaid incident. It won’t become a talking point if there weren’t at least a handful of similar instances. Thus it wasn’t merely my whimsical fabrication, people do dream of flying.

Levitation is what I came the closest of flying. Sorrow, exaltation and excitement prompt the inclination of levitating. Pressure spawns heaviness and heaviness gives weight to gravity. I would imagine my feet floating upon a lid which separates the air from the earth, and whatever too overwhelming happened I could just stand on the lid so my feet wouldn’t tackle the earthiness, which gave rise to the cruel reality. It was also an ineffably peculiar feeling, especially when it comes to sorrow, that once you were severely scarred by the sentiment, nothing could harm you no more, and the distinction between what you stood and what you couldn’t touch was categorically blurred.

It must be that time when I started listening to dream pop. For the reverberation and the overlaid echoes summed up my penchant for a sheer feather. However once my ears were filled with such pseudo-unearthly jingles, the music became quite pestering. The music is almost analogous to a hollow drum, with which its repetition is easily gratuitous for the listeners, and its solemnity it strives to create initially is pathetically giving way to an ultimate null. Attested to my vacillating taste I shunned dream pop not long after.

I’ve never thought of levitation for quite a while and have decided to hole such a thought in the past which doesn’t need to be raked up. However from time to time I’ve seen pictures of people dancing, I think of flying. I have never wanted to challenge the immutability of gravity though, nor would I grapple with the weightlessness when listening to such music. The feet of the dancers I would like to rub nonetheless, just like that person who used to rub his scraggy arms.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tales from Down Under: #12- The Perfect Figure

I’m afraid I have to say I have long passed the teenybopper phase of keeping idols. Someone you revere is most suggestively not to be met brusquely, it is believed. I once read how Robyn Hitchcock met Syd Barrett after the former Pink Floyd lead vocal retired from the music scene, and the encounter was apparently too disappointing that he did not even bother to prolong the description. Sometimes you have to put into account that your idol still runs to the grocery and wears shorts.

Therefore while walking to school I try not to dwell too long on one specific object lest the longer I dwell upon the oftener I will like to come across it every day, and an astonishing disillusion is prophetic and imminent. People often end up reversing to what images you inflict upon when you first meet them, and being one who affirms accurately of how one’s appearance suggests, I feel like the easiest math question which contains merely a + and =. Incredulity is often foolishly magnified when countering such math question, and one’s intuition is to entangle it until every means has being tried but in vain, one can let out a long sigh and proclaim defeat. My dreariness eventually becomes inexplicably the most complex.

I hold a firm belief that honesty makes a person dreary and uncanny in the contemporary society. A person is always honest with himself if he is not insane. His eyes attest to the direct observation and the image he sees transmits to his brain or his heart or both and the honesty is confirmed. However, that person must also be a good writer if he wants to be renowned as an honest person. Adolescence craves for feelings; self-edifying bestsellers boast for their feelings; I used to stress upon feelings and it was not until recently did I realize my futility of being honest to my feelings, for I can never find the perfect words to delineate them or arch them. My inward hatred of writing is also another factor.

Evelyn Waugh must be one of those who dislike detailing his feelings, so his novels are teemed with dialogues which make an even stronger impact on readers that nobody can come to terms with their feelings after reading his books. Poets toy with feelings like a condescending art connoisseur who derails the bumpkins from Max Ernst to a more palatable Courbet, and denounce the photography like Baudelaire. There is nothing peculiar when you gape at your idol who is slovenly dressed in a tank-top and a pair of boxing shorts, and still cannot find the apt words to depict this incident after much brain-racking. That is what makes that person your very idol.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tales from the Down Under: #11- The Doll House

The gust exerts its full force and crackles mercilessly the frail windowpane, well-secured from the impervious inclemency, the owner of the room quibbles with a trifle cold. A dismal day reminds me of some Impressionist painting- blurry, sombre, patchy, with smudges of blue there and grey here. An indisposed state evokes the childhood memory of incessant bedridden days, in which the vapid image shows its rays of hope with the installation of the sickly heifer’s mom. Story after story the mother tried to invoke, her incantation even more alluring than the Magical Flute, and image after image those stories played up before that heifer, with snots ceaselessly dropping into her wide-opened mouth.

My mom loved to read me stories when I was young. However, while most of my childhood memories are recklessly blocked out, it is often those unfestive moments that I remember the most. The bedtime stories that still retain their vividness are those I used to digest when I was overcome with a fever, or just a nagging blocked nose. There was the children’s version of Dickens’ Haunted House, Lindgren’s young adult fiction of a boneheaded girl who dreams of adopting Mary Poppins’ antics or some others about gnomes who beg, snowman who walks, gingerbread man who weeps.

As those stories unfolded before me, it was only a matter of time before finally realizing how a fairy tale is never only about fairy, nor is the fairy a traditionally good fairy. Pitfalls and hazards those stories are muddied with. The narrators cannot be more insouciant when any poor character is meddled in a hot water. The binary thinking seems prematurely consolidated in a child’s mind. It is like asking about how one dough adding one dough will equal to and one toddler proffers his answer peremptorily: two! Following by waves of cloying praises.

So I answered promptly bad if someone asked what the reverse of good is. I had already felt myself worming into the hazardous society when I couldn’t even perform a proper human interaction. I knew some unfortunate kids who slid before they learned to walk, and still now their legs are handicapped. Those varying children books are unblamable though, they are merely recording the memories that are trenched in our minds.