Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Mind you, I'm quite happy about that. I've never found golden taps all that useful. At least, having never actually experienced them, I can't imagine how they could be.
And I've still got to do my tax return for the year. Oh joy.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Question: What do they all have in common - other than the music? Answer: They are all on the little post-it wish-list that resides in the back of my diary. Once they're on they only get off once I've bought some of their stuff or all of their stuff. (Which considering the considerable back catalogues in certain cases would involve a lot of the green stuff and a lot of storage space - assuming I don't join the interesting world of the down-loaders.)
Now how am I going to square this with my recent resolution not to buy too much of the listenables at this time? And this is not to mention a very tasty sounding list residing in my e-mail from nephew Sam who knows his music. Oh the dilemma!!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Stoking up the excitement is the personnel for this one. The rhythm section comprises Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) so no big surprises there - except that I've never actually heard the drummer play with Crimson, though I know he toured with the last line up. But then Jakko from the 21st Century Schizoid Band is on board - presumably in Adrian Belew mode - and, gasp, gasp, gasp: the mighty Mel Collins!!! Yes, we're back with saxes and that trusty flute. I didn't quite realise just how much I'd missed this aspect of Crimso until listening to the 21st Century Schizoid Band live (also with Ian McDonald, of course) and finding myself wondering why flutes in particular don't seem to feature in bands anymore.
I made the discovery over at those fine people from Burning Shed and I assume I'll be ordering from them, which will be a dangerous first for me. They've got so much utterly funky stuff that once I've started I may not be able to stop. Dangerous but necessary - a bit like life, really.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
The reason reading the greatest novel ever written (well, maybe, maybe not: what about Ulysses?) is taking me so long this time round (apart from the facts I just don't want to rush, and I'm incredibly busy) is that I keep jumping off into other things. Last week I reread Flaubert's Parrot, partly because I'll be teaching La Bovary soon, and partly because it's just so good and, guess what? Yes, it was even better second time round. Why didn't it win the Booker? (Can't remember what did that year, but it must have been something outstanding.) Mind you, perhaps the jury decided it wasn't really a novel - more a sort of critical thesis on steroids. And with heart. Which means it can't really be a critical thesis at all. Hah.
Barnes and Flaubert on literary critics are both highly entertaining, by the way.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
So it goes. Rest in peace.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Holmes suggests at the end of the book that his biographical approach to the great figures of science would make a good way to teach Science in schools and I'm inclined to agree. It would also be more than a little useful in Literature lessons. I felt my understanding of what was firing the English Romantic poets deepening with each chapter. And Davy was quite a talented poet in his own right, by the way.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
When I first saw it I quite fancied playing the Chorus - great opening speech and then you can relax with a cup of tea backstage for most of the evening. Now I reckon I'd have to play the tyrant Creon since, as far as I can make out, he has all the best arguments and easily the best exit. Identifying so wholeheartedly with the villain of the piece is a bit troubling though.
I notice that neither Creon nor the Chorus gets to die. But then all the deaths are off stage so that doesn't count as a motivating, or de-motivating, factor.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
We've done a fair bit of bill-paying on the trip, to keep the afore-mentioned government in business, including the one where we seek out the cunningly hidden complex in Gombak to pay some odd property tax on the house and get shuttled for no obvious reason from desk to desk. The system, if one can call it that, requires you to show the bill at one desk and pay at another. We were delayed at the second desk as some gentleman had dropped in with a case full of rings and such like and was selling these to the various clerks, who'd abandoned their posts to check out his wares. But delays are a matter of routine here. That was the day on which we explored Puchong in order to pick up the latest Karcher cleaning device that Noi got cheap through Rohanna. We ended up hiring a taxi which we then followed to get to the Karcher office with just five minutes to spare before they closed for the day. I've now put in a request for one of those GPS thingumees that tells you where to go as you get lost in KL as this year's birthday present from the missus.
We also did a bit of entertaining, with Hamza and Sharifah popping around on the Friday evening. Though they brought most of the grub with them so I'm not sure that really counts. Other than that, it was a matter of us entertaining ourselves. Irritatingly the phone lines were down yet again so getting on-line to do so was not possible at the house itself. I found myself blogging and checking mail at the restaurant on the hill, the one opposite the Giant supermarket. I'm okay with it, but it's not really my style. I like to concentrate on a cuppa, not have it linger at the edge of the table, sadly neglected.
I listened to a fair amount of music (including a complete run through of Strauss's Salome) and Noi watched a fair amount of television; but she got a huge amount of cleaning done and I chiseled away at the marking and other pieces and bits. Oh, and I finished a couple of books - but more about that another time. Now have to prepare for an evening of prata at Wati and Aziz's new place. It's all go, isn't it?
Friday, March 18, 2011
I've just started using one with a rather striking picture of the young Albert Einstein on it. Can't remember where I got it from. It's more than a little disconcerting to find oneself under the scrutiny of that masterful gaze when one is reading.
The bookmark also bears the legend Imagination is more important than knowledge, as uttered by the physicist, presumably not aware of the fact that most folk don't know much at all but have a fine capacity for day-dreaming. No wonder it's become such a popular saying: an easy way out from any real thinking at all.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Squirrel it was, a tiny almost black one, which looked trapped on the inner window ledge of the kitchen. The problem, from our point of view, was that the ledge was full of pottery, expensive pottery - well, nice Aynsley stuff which we think is expensive - and the little fellow was racing between the items, dangerously close. But it was no problem for the squirrel who, as I tentatively approached (to say Hello, I suppose) suddenly scooted down the side of the sink and out the back door whence, we assume, he came.
We felt curiously blessed by our guest, reminding us of the bird who'd blundered in a few years back, knocked itself out, and been revived by Noi. But this chap needed no reviving. Wonder if he was a fan of twentieth century British opera? Hope to see him again soon.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The estimated figures on the death toll from Miyagi alone make us fear for the worst. And, I think we all know now, the worst might be very bad indeed.
Sometimes it seems the reality of other people's suffering is the only reality there is. Fortunately it's not, but there are days when it feels callous even to think that.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Occasionally I achieve something as I click and push and feel almost adequate. And then the darned thing does something I didn't ask it to do and my illusions of control are shattered. None that they ever ran very deep.
I know there are those out there who enjoy this kind of thing but am bewildered as to why this is so. I suppose the way it eats up time helps pass time for those who have it to pass. I haven't. I'd rather be sitting with a good book.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Actually Fuad was around to help me buy various IT bits and pieces to upgrade my rather dated systems. He did for me in a day what would have probably taken me a year to accomplish on my own. So I'm sort of all geared up on that front - though fairly clueless as to the uses I'll put all the oomph it now seems I own. And we might be said to be well and truly installed in our Hall now, which is why it's ironic we'll be leaving this for the wilds of KL and environs in a couple of days. Do we ever stop moving? And the rather jolly answer is: not for the moment, so enjoy it while you can.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
And I'm finding it difficult to believe that only a month and a half ago our lives were in total chaos. It's also hard to take in the fact that somehow or other I think we've managed to enjoy the process of uprooting and replanting ourselves.
Anyway Kak Kiah & entourage will be here soon, we hope marking the first of many who'll cross our threshold. Let's hope they enjoy themselves.
Friday, March 11, 2011
After that I found myself on the receiving end of similar doses on odd occasions, though by no means regularly. However, since I've been attending the mesjid at Clementi it's pretty much every Friday that the elderly pakcik on the door makes sure my right hand, or arm, becomes enticingly aromatic, and remains so for the afternoon. Today the aroma is still strong as we approach the late evening. I think today I got a double helping.
As far as I can figure this out the tradition relates to a wonderful hadith in which the Prophet - peace be upon him - said that God had placed love in his heart for three things of this lower world: women, perfume and prayer. Isn't that lovely? Tradition has it that his favourite perfume was essence of rose - and, of course, the rose is frequently used as a symbol for the Prophet himself.
I've now come to rather look forward to being scented, though I do wonder if the kids I come into contact with on Friday afternoons when I'm back at work ever catch a whiff and, rightly, wonder.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
One of the fascinations of aging is being witness to one's own changing tastes. It reminds me of Benedick's line in Much Ado: A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Mind you I don't think he had nuts in mind. Or meat for that matter.
Funnily enough fifteen years ago I wouldn't have been able to end a paragraph with a sentence fragment as I do above either.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Apart from the fact that it makes for wonderful listening I had two particular reasons for airing this old favourite. The first was that I've been listening quite a bit recently to some of the students of the school at which I teach playing live and it's been a wonderfully refreshing experience reminding me of just how good it is to listen to the real, simple thing: guitar/vocals.
Secondly I just found out that the great man was awarded a gong, an OBE if I'm not mistaken, in the New Year's Honours list. Actually I don't care at all for such nonsense normally (so it's no good looking in my direction, Your Majesty) but it's a measure of my respect and admiration for our songster that for him I make an exception. Finally someone worth rewarding. (Him and Ryan Giggs. Knighthoods for both next time round, I reckon.)
Monday, March 7, 2011
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Took Mum to the library - a successful trip with no fewer than four murders now for her to enjoy. We've just come back from dinner at Geylang where she polished off a chicken chop at rapid speed.
I think that was the beginning of her last visit to Singapore, the culmination of an almost unbroken run from 1989 onwards, if I'm not mistaken. The following year featured a bit of a scare, at this time of year also, regarding the possibility of a cancerous growth on her lungs - fortunately a false alarm - but she never visited again.
I don't recall that specific chicken chop, or the murders she was going to polish off in the days ahead, but I do recall the sheer fun of the times we were able to have her with us. Priceless.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Just how does Tolstoy manage to know everything about everyone? And, considering this, why was he so dopey about his own life?
Friday, March 4, 2011
Just as I stepped into the uncovered area the rain started, and it was obvious it was very quickly going to be of that monsoon quality that renders one soaked in two or three seconds. The three guys ahead of me also recognised the obvious signs and we suddenly became a small team of ungainly sprinters in a comical surge across the space. We made it with around three seconds to spare, getting quite, but not violently, wet in the process.
The monsoon lasted some thirty-five minutes, just slightly less than it took for the prayers to be concluded, and I stepped out into a newly-washed, rainless world. Lovely. Lucky.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
The moment of realisation came in a conversation with Bob and Cynthia, when Noi and I popped in on them just before Christmas. Bob, who I always called Billy as a child, is a sort of cousin, but not really, for complicated and unimportant reasons I've never entirely understood. I've never actually wanted to understand them, the simple fact being he's a great bloke, with a much better understanding of the Connor family history than I have.
He was telling me about my late Uncle Jim's family and how they are faring - very sadly, not too well. Uncle Jim, by the way, was my Dad's twin brother. They were not identical twins though, fortunately for me, as I'll try to explain. Uncle Jim was a really nice guy with a much more obvious sense of humour than my Dad, and all the time I knew him was crippled. The family had it that this was a result of his experiences during the war in the Burmese jungle. (A terrifying place by the way for the ordinary English soldier of the period.) In fact, I think I still vaguely believed this prior to talking to Bob, though I'm pretty sure I'd been put right years ago.
Eventually it was determined that the problem was Multiple Sclerosis. Except it now turns out it wasn't.
My Uncle Bert, the elder brother of Jim and Jack, also developed problems walking and was eventually confined to a wheelchair. At this point more perceptive readers will have figured out the cases were most likely connected. But the family didn't, not for quite a while. Peter, my Uncle Bert's only son, who was a bit older than me and went to the same grammar school, died tragically young, in his thirties I think, following a terrible accident. Uncle Jim's children, four of them, are all alive today. But cousin David, the eldest, is crippled, as is cousin Martin, who's a bit younger than me. And recently cousin Margaret, who was in the same class as I was in primary school, has also had to start using crutches. According to Bob that came as a big surprise as it was obvious to all and sundry (except me) that something very nasty was being carried in the genes of the male branch of the family (which the docs had figured wasn't M.S., which is generally seen as non-hereditary despite the genetic factors involved) but the female side appeared to be safe. Until now.
It looks as if my sister and myself have been spared. So, again, I'm writing about a kind of non-experience, and gratefully so. Except that somehow in blithely ignoring the threat to myself I've contrived not to care enough for those who have and are suffering from the terrible reality of that experience.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The programme made the dilemma quite clear: there's an impeccable logic to allowing this sort of thing (a celebrity painfully going to pieces in full view, as it were) to happen, but those involved are not behaving with any sense of decency at all. And that's about as far as you can go, other than to feel, as I did, morally superior for not wanting to watch or get involved in any of this.
At that point I got involved in a little thought experiment. Let's say I had a particularly compromising photo of the actor and could sell this to a newspaper. At what point would I be tempted to actually do the dirty deed? I got to the answer quite quickly. Not a thousand. Not ten thousand. But as soon as the money became 'life-changing' I knew I was more than likely to bite. I reckon two hundred thousand might well do it - especially after a bad day at work.
Now here's the point. In the middle of all this I was still managing to feel morally superior. Here's how it went: not being tempted by relatively small amounts was proof that I wasn't greedy as such amounts involved greed. Larger amounts went beyond greed into new territory - a fine concern with one's actual quality of life - and such temptation was, thus, quite laudable really. I know this utterly specious reasoning is daft, but I equally know that something suspiciously like it was in my mind.
So it's quite simple really. If I have my price, and I rather suspect I have (though I hope I don't) I'd better get off my high horse and onto the same low one that your average gossip columnist rides on. Meantime I'd better pray that temptation doesn't come my way.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
When we were in Manchester last December I asked my sister about all this and what she made of it. She's some seven years older than me and I needed some light shed on what I've been wondering was some kind of false memory. I think I'm talking about events, the hospital visits, that took place when I was around three or four years old. She was hazy about it all herself but reckoned it was somehow connected to Dad's emphysema, which had been diagnosed at some time earlier than this. The family seemed to blame his poor health on his experiences in the war, but it may have been suggested that it was some kind of hereditary condition and so they were running tests on me. Oddly we couldn't recall them checking my sister. And we guessed that the tests on me had been by no means extensive. Far from being subjected to a series of hospital visits we suspected there my have been just two or three and these had quickly given me the all-clear. I suppose the impact on me had been great enough in its little way to have seemed a lot more substantial than that.
Thinking about this - which I have rarely done over the years, the past being a very different place for me where they really, really do things differently - I feel lucky and mildly guilty. Which is strange because I'm writing about a sort of non-experience: the ties that didn't bind, as it were. Sometimes not being a chip off the old block can be very useful.