The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Month: August, 2013

Wild broccoli is a lie

wildbroc1

Did you know that there is no such thing as wild broccoli? They were bred from leafy cole crops in the Northern Mediterranean in the 6th century BCE. Other vegetables that are man-made include the cabbage and brussels sprouts.

No wonder they look so weird.

As a kid, I have always wondered what wild broccoli might look like in their natural environment. I thought they looked like miniature alien trees. I once even made illustrations of it.

wildbroc2

Handing over keys

Today marks the day that I should be handing over the keys to the circus club at New York University I helped create. A part of me doesn’t want to — I want to be able to still wield the access to the store and be able to keep my unicycle and other equipment on site. But all things must come to an end, and we must learn to let go.

It is not as if I’ll stop doing circus after today; even if I can’t attend the sessions of the school’s circus club, I will still do my own circus sessions. After all, you started out doing public circus even before the club at NYU started.

Rain clouds have gathered and the skies are grey. A fitting sombre farewell or reluctance to let me go?

I’d rather have blue skies and sunny weather, and let the transition happen as unnoticeable as possible, while still enjoying circus that I’ve grown accustomed to setting up each week.

Making the progress of the country affordable

From the New York Times:

Obama to Offer Plans to Ease Burden of Paying for College

It is about time the wildly sky-rocketing prices of a college education be addressed. While not actually depressing or stemming the increase in tuition, offering more aid is just as good a solution as any.

It must be, and I believe it is, recognised that a college education is ultimately how a country can begin progress. Oh don’t get me wrong, a college education is not necessary for an individual to be successful and happy in life — a person who has never been to college, through innovation, hard work and the right mixture of conditions can live the life he or she wants to. I’m talking about advancement and success at a national level.

A lot of the “better life” we talk about is made capable through invention — green energy, more effective farming methods, waste reduction technologies, communication, etc. — all these are the results of research and development, most if not all, made possible by researchers and scientists who have had to start in college. There are not many prodigies around who, without having to go to college, are capable of inventions at a scale enough to impact a nation as a whole; most innovations are from the toil of thousands of regular scientists who become proficient at what they do from having received the know-how and training from college and university. If a prodigy is the equivalent of a hundred scientists, rather than focus trying to find the wayward genius, it makes more sense to groom a hundred scientists instead.

If the very basic step of even attaining a bachelors remains out of reach to many because “college is too expensive”, and there might be countless untapped future inventors and pioneers waiting for the right academic environment to unleash their potential, a lot of talent and potential is wasted; all that is achieved is college heads having their pockets lined with more money.

Why is college the vital stepping stone, and not say, high school, to a country’s advancement? It is true to say that every step along of the path of education contributes to innovation’s path, but high schools being unaffordable is not quite a problem in this country, college is.

The government is investing in the country’s future when it decides to give students access to their own ingenuity by helping make the tools affordable; knowledge, and an environment to inspire.

Chasing the sun, away from the rain

Will you stay, or will you go?
When your fear turns to determination
to beat the hourglass from running out,
to send out missives,
so as to stay the night.
But how many nights do we have left?
— I dare not count the days
I’d rather keep chasing the sun,
burning legs be damned
fainting hearts be damned,
chasing the sun pursued by rain clouds;
and I really hate the rain.

But this time, I don’t know if I’d merely become
grumpy
or something more
dire.
That’s why I keep pedalling
away from the rain
into the sun.

The forgotten news

Today, we have two headlines from Asia:

North Korean Defectors Tell U.N. Panel of Prison Camp Abuses

Tank Has Leaked Tons of Contaminated Water at Japan Nuclear Site

When was the last time the news talked about either North Korea or of the Fukushima nuclear plants? After the buzz over Kim Jong Un succession and vague threats made died down, after the outcries at the displacement of citizens and the following nuclear contamination have but settled, what now? No one pays attention to these countries any more, because these stories are not shared around on the internet as much as they were when the events freshly happened.

That is the way the news work, I suppose. It is as much the news creating what the readers want to read as it is the news telling readers what to read.

It makes one wonder what is the point of being up-to-date with global news unless one was directly affected by it, or has vested in it. What is the point of me being aware that the Fukushima debacle isn’t yet resolved, and that Kim Jong Un, while no longer relevant to the current interest of the American public, represents a continuation of a long history of human rights abuses?

Other than the self-satisfaction of knowing that I know what’s happening around the world, what’s the value of that knowledge? Conversation fodder? Surely the news must be worth more than that.

I think being involved in world news is part of what being a global citizen is about — that we’re connected, and that as humans we care for each other, no matter how remote.

Beseechment of an ice cube tray

icetrayIt was the summer and you had an intense love affair with me. “I need you,” you told me. And you saw me every single day, sometimes more than once each day. “I don’t know how I can live without you,” you’d whisper, and go for drinks with me. Together, we braved the New York brutal summer.

Once, the building you live in turned off your water because of some issue with the plumbing. You came home to find yourself unable to even pour yourself a glass of water from the taps. Helpless, you turned to me, and asked for my help. I provided whatever little I could as you sat down with me, and waited. Eventually I was able to help, and you managed to get yourself one glass of refreshing, cool water.

Now that summer is over, and we’re going headlong into fall, you forget that I exist. Your daily excursions with me became every other day, and now it’s been a over a week and you’ve yet to make a calling at my place. Sometimes you’re in the neighbourhood, but you never even say “Hi.”

I have been relegated to — what would be the opposite of a ‘fair-weather friend’ — a foul-weather friend? That you’d come calling only when you have need of me?

I shudder to even think about what comes in winter.

 

Long live the king

It seems I have a penchant for really badly animated videos set to popular culture, but I find this rather funny.

Outrunning the rain on a unicycle

unistormIt began in Williamsburg. “I know this is a weird question, but are you going to ride on that?” asked a fine folk working at the Meatball Shop, pointing at my unicycle. “Yes, I will be riding home on it,” I said. “Ooh, can we see you ride on that when you do?”

The skies were overcast and the clouds above were getting chummy with each other.

“I’ll sweeten the deal. Would you like some free cookies?” the lady said.

Who’d turn down free cookies? “Uh, sure,” I said, slightly taken aback.

So I waited a couple minutes more and received some delightful chocolate chip cookies. I ate one, gave my friend one, and took the last one in my hand and got ready to go. Half the staff came out to see me ride off triumphant with their cookies in hand. A couple drops of rain landed on my head. I hugged my friend goodbye, mounted awkwardly on my 29″ unicycle whilst trying not to drop the cookie. A car behind me honked angrily as I took some seconds to gain momentum.

The staff and my friend cheered. I was a celebrity! And then I took off. The cookie lasted the length of North 8th Street to North 9th Street.

And I commenced my six-mile dash back to Prospect-Lefferts.

I could see that the sun still shone warily from behind the consternation of the angry clouds some distance ahead, while behind me the rain was starting to become heavier and heavier. I was chasing the sun, pursued by the rain. Pedalling as fast as I could, I could feel the rain less and less. Down Union Ave I went until I hit Atlantic Ave. Curses, a red light! As I waited for light to change, the slow but steady clouds crept up and dropped its vindictive, wet victory over my attempt to outrun it. Green light! I sped off again, swerving the wretched potholes that comprise Brooklyn roads.

My legs were starting to burn and I started to sweat profusely from exertion. Down Brooklyn Ave, I had gained the lead on the rain clouds and only the slightest rain drops landed on me, but at this point where the rain failed to get me wet, I was doing a fine job of wetting myself with my own sweat; it was impossible to tell if I was wetter from the rain or from sweat.

I turned onto Nostrand Ave and continued down. The storm clouds yawed away and the sun came out to announce my victory. Yes! Score one for man, over Mother Nature. I reached home and hobbled up the stairs to gloat my sweaty, hard-earned victory.

The struggles of crafting an email response

“Dearest Jessica,” he began typing.

Dearest Jessica? What is this, writing an email to your aunt, thought Bobby. Too severe.

“Yo Jessie,” he corrected.

No. Too flippant. This isn’t high school, he agonised. Also, what if she hates being called “Jessie?” He had a friend Thomas who hated being called “Tommy.” But Thomas is a guy and Jessica is a girl. Maybe girls are more partial to things like that? Furthermore, Jessie could be a guy’s name; what if she thinks I think of her as a dude, thought Bobby. No, I certainly want to show her that I appreciate her as a girl, and am not merely dude-zoning her.

A single bead of sweat started to coalesce on his forehead.

“Hey Jessica,”

Much better. What has it been, twenty minutes? Two words so far. That’s pretty good progress, Bobby thought. What now?

“Thanks for your kind attention, I greatly appreciate it.”

Too formal, too needy. Delete, delete, delete. Geez, if only he hadn’t paid so much attention during English lessons when they were teaching him how to craft a proper response letter. Now he’s perpetually stuck in curmudgeon mode.

“You are beautiful. Words fail me as I try describe your beauty — time and again I have had to delete sentences because they were not satisfactory. I ache each time I see your face because my shyness, my inferiority precludes any attempt to strike up conversation. Like a sublime sunset, you shine and light up those around you, but inevitably unattainable and on the other side of the world.

But it is okay, I seek not your approval; only to let you know that you are beautiful.

But I will not lavish empty words of praise on you; I would not throw out “perfect” and “divine” because we are all human, and we are more than our physical assets. Your slight gap between your teeth, your slow, crooked smile rends my apart, but just as much so your affection for dogs, your commitment to helping your fellow mates.

I would love to get to know you more, but that is more than I dare hope for. After all, who am I to take up your time?

We might work in the same office, and I see you every day, but we never exchange more than the obligatory cordial smile and nod. I’ve never been more self-conscious every time you’re around me — at the lifts, at the cafeteria; I worry about whether I look presentable around you even more than when I look in the mirror.

I don’t know how to talk to you. I fear my mouth would open and silence would gush out — worse, maybe even something offensive. Thus the wistful smile, the upwards push for the lips by two reluctant cheeks, guarding that which may be terrible. I want to talk to you, but I don’t know how.

So I opt for the written word, safe behind the power of edits, backspace and spell-check.

Yours sincerely,

Bobby”

And with that, he trashed the draft, and took a wank, lubricated by his own tears.

淋雨 To be caught in the rain

emoroad

所谓:望子成龙,望女成凤。但当长了翅膀,想起发的龙望的路往往会辜负对他戴希望的人,那如何呢?

在窝里受得一辈子的气,火气十足,是别离的时候了。

“我得向外飞。” 子儿说。

“为何?” 长辈问着,“危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。”

“不行。我不能。”

“那你能去哪里?”

“去西取经:经验、精宴。哪里都比这好。”

“取经?取惊还差不多吧。崇洋媚外,你迟早会回来。”

而非听劝告,放下了一生的友情,放下了一生的便利,他身无长处地往外走。子儿默默地说,“你瞧着。无论你有多么的不信,是胜是亡,由我双腿创我自己的路,是我的选择。” 连伞都不带的他就那样踏出了门,相信他身上燃烧的火将会带他出路途的黑暗。

未成龙的子儿无法独立地飞,只好搭乘飞机,造个西游记。但他没想象路途遥远行程当中淋的雨会是那么的湿。

起初滴的雨,偶尔几滴,算得了什么?心胸已抛了铅,放步如筋斗云,毛毛雨的湿,心怀戴的三昧真火让他暖着,干着。

但不久毛雨变大雨,之前从天上飘落的水花成一刺一刺的箭,泼了下来。走了一半,望不清头,看不见尾。是否迷了路?本是盔甲的衣,被雨淋湿,沾到了皮。让雨刺了皮,刺了心。渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰,掘出了他的虚荣和骄傲。

“这值得吗?” 子儿开始想,长辈播下的疑问的种被雨淋了,开始萌芽。“我还能继续吗?”

路途所见,妖,精,魔,怪不在外,都在内。心里的战场上,已经拼杀过的心魔散落满地。

自疑精他挥着剑,“最初的乐观都是蠢!”

自责王加入了战场, “如果你当初没那么任性,也不会落到现在这下场。”

绝望怪轻轻的唱着,唱着,“从空想造成的意愿始终是空。”

战斗还进行中,在外的我不停地淋雨。

(note: This is another one of those “If you can’t read Chinese, you won’t be able to fully appreciate the nuances of the language” pieces. There are footnotes at the end to help with some of that.)

-Translation-

As they say: May the sons become dragons, may the daughters become phoenixes. But when they are ready to spread their wings to take flight, and that their journeys will inevitably disappoint those who heaped hopes on them, what then?

After a lifetime of antagonism, with a heart full of burning anger/passion, it is time to leave.

“I have to leave this place,” the son says.

“Why?” asked the elder, “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?”1

“That’s impossible. And I can’t.”2

“Then where can you go?”

“To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.3 Any place is better than this.”

“Sutras? More like shock.4 Fawner of all things foreign, you will return eventually.”

Unheeding of advice, leaving behind a lifetime of friends, a lifetime of convenience, with the barest of necessities he departed. Silently, he said, “Hark, no matter your lack of confidence, even if I were to triumph or die, with my feet I carve this journey of my own choice.” And like that, without even taking an umbrella, he stepped out, believing that the fire that burns inside him will light him through the darkness of his journey.

The son who is yet to be a dragon is unable to fly on his own, thus he takes an aeroplane on his journey to the West. But what he did not envision was how wet the rain on his journey would be.

At first, the rain was imperceptible — the occasional raindrops, what does it matter? With a heart free of lead and each step on a Somersault Cloud, the wetness of the fine drizzle was stayed by the True Samadhi Fire5 carried within, keeping him warm and dry.

Before long, the drizzle turned into a downpour. The water flowers that drifted down from the heavens earlier turned into piercing arrows, pouring down in torrents. Halfway into the journey, the sight of the beginning is lost, the sight of the goal is lost; is the way lost? The clothing sticks to the skin, becoming armour no longer, and has let the rain pierce the skin, the heart. Slowly, pieces of sharp arrowheads erode the confidence to ash6, leaving behind conceit and pride.

“Is this all worth it?” the son begins to wonder, and the seeds of doubt planted by the elder, watered by the rain, begin to germinate. “Can I still carry on?”

The imps, spirits, demons and monsters encountered along the journey are from within, not without. The battle is in the mind, and the slain demons are scattered everywhere.

The Spirit of Self Doubt hefted its blade, “The optimism you held in the beginning was folly.”

The Demon King of Self-Blame joins the fray. “Were you not so obstinate, you would not have landed yourself in this quarry.”

The Monster of Despair sang softly, softly, “All ambition borne of fantasy is but emptiness.”

And as the battle rages on, I stand on the outside, being drenched in the rain.

-Footnotes-

1: “危在外多,个个角落藏着不安,不定,不满,不幸。不如不走如何。” “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks vulnerability, instability, discontent, and misfortune. How about you don’t go?” — There is stylistic repetition using the ‘not’ character in the Chinese text, 不, which is lost in translation. A stylistic translation would go: “Danger lies outside, and in every corner lurks not-safety, not-stability, not-contentment, not-fortune. Not-about not-go?” 不如不走 in the last part also uses the ‘not’ character, but translates as “How about you don’t go?”

2: “不行。我不能。” “That’s impossible. And I can’t.” — Similarly, it continues the usage of the ‘not’ character in response. A stylistic translation would go: “Not-possible. I am not-able.”

3: “去西取经:经验,精宴。” “To the West for sutras: experience, feasts.” — This is a play on and repetition of sounds. The romanisation would be “Qù xī qǔ jīng: jīng yàn, jīng yàn.” The sound for sutra shares the same sound as the first character of experience, and the first character of the compound word, exquisite (jīng). The purpose for highlighting this repetition become apparent in the next point.

4: “取经?取惊还差不多吧。” “Sutras? More like shock.” — A pun on the sound for sutra 经 (jīng), which is the same sound as shock 惊 (jīng).

5: Somersault Cloud and True Samadhi Fire is an artefact and a weapon in the Chinese classic, Journey to the West.

6: 渐渐,尖尖的箭尖把自信化成灰 Slowly, sharp arrowheads turn confidence to ash — This phrase is a brutal repetition of the sound “jian,” varying only its tones. The romanisation goes: “jiàn jiàn jiān jiān de jiàn jiān bǎ zì xìn huà chéng huī.” This utilises the sharp sounds of “j” to evoke the imagery of piercing.