finally finally moving that vapid bloated consciousness off the armchair and into doing uni apps. time is short for the early d deadline, im going phuket next month for a (well-deserved) break with my bunkmate and colleague, and im going to to australia for training next month on the 15th, coming back only in november.

in a corrupted replay of the whole oft-repeated existentialist dilemma, the essays are causing me anxiety. thousands of bewildering possiilities, and the need to navigate the infinite and make a single final choice that is necessarily finite. how do you choose an aspect of yourself to force down on paper to serve as an accurate representation of you, especially when you know that you are more than that particular aspect, and/or when you dont even know who you are?

two years ago, i would have been much more certain on this. JC, and the predominance of the intellectual strain, the whole bloody drive to success imbued in every singaporean. i would have talked about my achievements, my academic interests, my cca and all these other constructs that so serve to provide meaning to the potentially meaningless life of a student. now, two years later, i can no longer pin myself down. my attitudes, experieinces have changed, defy easy categorization. in jc, there was a conception of me, made solid and whole by what i was expected to be. it may not have been entirely true, but it was comprehensible, and reassuring to me and to others. now, this conception no longer exists. it is cracked, nebulous, and formless where it was once solid. there are a series of opinions, attitudes, experiences, but they do not stick together to form one body.

anyway, it has been very eventful since i last wrote here. no complaints at things. i have extended my ord by 1 month because the army (ie my platoon) needs me, and it is good that this deferment/ postponement of a much awaited moment doesnt have much effect on me. army life is bearable if you hit the morass with the right attitudes. during this period too, have slowly been regaining my brain, reading at a voracious (in relative terms) rate. read vonnegut and some non-fiction econs book lately. finally feel like i am using my time more wisely. what have i been doing? the last half year was a dream. watched ingmar bergman’s fanny and alexander during my duty on sunday, and it was his warmest and most evocative film that i have seen so far, about family, childhood and the fantasies of adults and children. met some friends i really want to meet (before they leave for overseas again, at least), and yesterday missed maf to catch japanese film festival at the national museum. yesterday were films by imamura shohei (one of the apparent greats of jap cinema, whom ive been wanting to catch), who passed away last year. watched 4 films back to back from morning to night – eijanaika, black rain, vengeance is mine, ballad of narayama, and left the theatre with my brain about to explode from overload. complex, varied and idiosyncratic films. the 2nd and the 4th were beautiful though, and it was worth it. (especially since the films were free screenings)

so its 2 and a half more months now. slowly, surely, the end is in sight, and i can see the signs. a change of seasons is in order.


45.

26Aug07

*
my left knee is broke. finally finally broke. hit the road for army half marathon today. woke up at 3 (the time i usually sleep), took the wrong bus trying to get to the esplanade. eventually cabbed. run was exhilarating for the first hour, but legs can only take so much. for the last one month (since recovery from previous injury) every run has been with some pain. mostly the knees and ankles. at this age, one seldom projects into the future. easy to affect a certain disregard, gamble away your body on a fancy.

*
last night was dinner gathering (once again,) bring your others, faith said. thankfully, things werent as awkward as expected, and the silences were mutually acceptable, sidestepped. the problem with all these yesteryear friendships is the lack of a common social context. no more same classes, similar situations, and the ease of walking over and simply throwing a comment on the table. everything is now mercilessly deliberate. from the principle of systematically organizing gatherings to the choice of conversation topics, from the unveiling of nostalgias rehearsed hundreds of times beforehand in our heads, to the constant hope for better days ahead. because it is so deliberate, it is so easy to loosen our moorings, disown our heartache, slip away. it requires not even a decision but merely a general indecision. after all there is no continuity, only a series of disjunct, brief, startling encounters. it takes effort to be social. it takes a commitment to life, inspite of its disquiets, inspite of its profound tendency to disappoint at times.

*
told conan over drinks that the essence of our humanity was our general ineffectuality- our inability to carry out our ideas and actions to their logical conclusion. and this is why man is not an ideologue in spirit. this is why the will to power will never crush our heart. this is also why i am indolent and purposeless and full of absurd situations, and this is why things are reassuring.

*
step up, time to wrestle control of my life. time to think about the future, time to write essays and do university applications. time to look beyond the army, and jolt myself back to life. the last one year of officership has taught me alot, but now its time to entertain hopes for the further future.


44. pause

26Aug07

heat
(Heat, Mccauley in blue)

colville
(‘Pacific‘ by Alex Colville, the inspiration for the above scene)

(courtesy of wiki)


43.

18Aug07

on duty now. saturday sleeps contented with dreams of flight. i am alone in camp now and there is nobody around. plans for today didnt materialize (like many other days). i am very sedate. i feel contemplative, but that is an illusion- i am too tired to think thoughts other than those that please me or reinforce what i already know.

watched heat just now. one of the best movies i have seen recently. michael mann is a lovely director (collateral was a rare delight). both heat and collateral are set in los angeles, both deal with disconnected, isolated individuals caught in a disorienting and alienating urban landscape that is strangely beautiful (breathtaking scenes of LA skyline, complemented with spaced ambient electronic synth). heat is a subtle and nuanced character study of cop and criminal and their relationships to the people around them. it is not a story about archetypes, but a story about human beings and the tension between their professional and private lives.

in collateral, vincent remarks: ‘I read about this guy who gets on the MTA here, dies. Six hours he’s riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around LA, people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices.’  in heat, maccauley centres his life around the creed ‘dont allow anything into your life which you cannot walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner.’ lovely.


42.

12Aug07

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive as you or me,
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery,
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold,
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud,
In a voice without restraint,
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint.
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own,
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.”

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive with fiery breath,
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death.
Oh, I awoke in anger,
So alone and terrified,
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried.
(bob dylan)

#
the feeling that i am doing nothing with my life is hard to shake. the weekends pass in a blur of intense (in)activity and sundays come and go in the absence of a sound. when i wake at midday the first thing i notice is how sallow and emaciated the sunlight is through the blinds and how half the day is gone. after that, the rest of the day is a mere countdown. time is only too short while i wander surreptitiously in my own wastelands. When i enlisted i abdicated purpose, thinking that the dictates of systems and imposed machinery would fashion me into a functional machine for the next two years, consuming me in its entirety. This was pure laziness, borne of the foolish cowardice of self effacement. now, 2 more months left to the end, my heart, awake, murmurs: uncontain me.

#
courage, i shall not be a misanthrope.


“i wrote on city paper,
  walked down the scrummed steamy streets
  excitedly with a dirt black canvas bag and markers
  scribbling on the tickly sores of the tar road,
  the nose of unmarked doors,
  the beige face of toilet walls-
  over the gaping bald spot on the top of road barriers:
  going gaga and prolific with my headful of stories and songs:
  delighting that my foolish knavery
  was noticed, disapproved of and ignored
  by a city that no longer hungered for the kind laughter of words,
  by a people in love with their own forlorn silence.”

the week was whole and good. bergman died, and all over the world winter became colder. ( so it goes, as vonnegut would say).  The sunday before he died, i watched a film of his- ‘Ansiktet’ (the magician), that tried to tell me how man was still unawaredly searching for the transcendent in a seemingly random yet rational and godless world order, and that he projected this onto the people he knew. Strange and fitting how i would suddenly pick a bergman film to watch just before he died.

class reunion was noiser this time with frenetic activity and catch-up but quieter in sharing and honest talk. did not have the chance to revive the connection while it sputtered and quavered before it died. too many people at the same time.

 happily though, it wasnt simply a nostalgic recollection of things past this time, and that made it lovely.

also, watched han maligned over what i felt was a misunderstanding that was not his fault. people are not naturally born mind readers. already, think he has been very conciliatory by taking the first step to apologize. the complexities of some relationships.

*

sunday, watched my sister get confirmed in church, remembered when my faith was still young, and realized i havent prayed honestly and fervidly for a long time. went to chijmes with dan and conan at night (in a period with everyone coming back, have much forsaken my old gang of lewd troubadours, wry cynics, fruit concelebrators), discussed travel plans for the future, drank rough watered-down alcohol at half price, talked about how life would be after the army, and drank not to the future, but to a present made bearable by the promise of the future.

*

monday: met a long lost friend (whom i havent seen in nearly a year) with dan for lunch. except that i arrived after lunch was already over (the result of having to return to camp to settle some stuff in the morning). at night- dragged by gina to the substation for a screening of short local films (first of every month), saw the room again where i once saw pinter, watched some films- some bad, some better, realized how true it was when someone mentioned that all local films tended to gravitate toward a similar style. now, the whole indie-sensitive culture thing is starting to plague like a curse.

Also, noticed yet again how common it is for singaporean artists (poets, directors, writers..etc.) to attempt to confront their personal identity in relation to singapore in their works. the whole thing about am i really a singaporean when i studied overseas, cant speak my mother tongue/dialect, have different life values from my parents, would rather surf the net than go to the temple, am a rabid homosexual in a conservative society…etc..etc. thing.

not that i doubt the honesty of such reflections, but after so long, it has never once occured to me to consciously and voluntarily define myself in relation to my country in such a manner. in other words, it has never occurred to me (short of being coerced during school in doing so), to think about my singaporean-ness in such concrete and expressible terms. The best thing about a nationality is that it is given to you. you can fall back on it, accept that you are part of a group, without having to worry about whether you qualify or make the cut. most of the time, im much more consumed and occupied with defining myself on a personal and emotional rather than a national level, simply because the former is much more immediate, pressing and urgent, while the latter more abstract.

*
lots of work in camp these few weeks. conducting a live firing next monday. work till late, hit the bed with relief, then sleep a deep and dreamless sleep without qualm or regret.

*
finally, after much incoherence, realized on the train today that the key is not to be in love with your own disillusionment.


palestine

*
This week: read palestine by sacco (after previously reading ‘the fixer’ and ‘war’s end: profiles from bosnia’), contemplated the universe of absolute infallible distance, watched paprika (after a night of dilly- dallying about town, dinners, drinks and the other implements used to scale the sheer face of indolence), caught an indie band in action at the esplanade (which sounded better a distance away than up close- symptomatic of poor sound systems and lassitude), met random people in pursuit of random follies, went to zouk for the second time in my life (, on a dare, no less, and a treat that didnt materialize), had the first positive club experience in my life, fell in love again with brian patten and his iconography of love, talked about breaching comfort zones (electric fences and cordoned areas), hounded the bewildered city like game until i found the sinatra cd i was looking for, listened to ginsberg’s ‘howl’ and imagined his army of star-eyed platonic conversationalists scouring the dead bones of a dried up country. finally, felt the jazz age descending and ascending upon us all over again, like smoke from an old film noir.
*