I just tried to start reading it tonight but I haven't been able able to get past the cover without sobbing like a, well I would say child, but here is this seven year old Japanese girl, separated from her family during the American storming of Okinawa...
From what I gather from the cover blurb, she had to survive alone on the island, to hide out from the battling troops during the invasion, and here she is on the cover, having made such a momentous decision on her own - my god what thoughts were in her head - to make and carry a white flag of surrender over her shoulder... Don't shoot me just because I am Japanese. I'm just a child.
She makes a mockery of our privileged lives.
Oh the things we warring adults do to children, the resilience of these children, the growing up they do in the heart-beats between bombs and bullets...
What's is going on in Syria, Africa, everywhere?
I'm still crying. I don't think I can stop until wars stop.
I have no idea if the book is any good, or indeed if it justifies these emotions, but does it matter?
I wasn't sure what to do, or whether I was hungry or thirsty, sad or happy. I was tired from walking the streets of Lisbon on a warm, unpleasantly sunny day, for I had lost my hat in the train from Sintra and the fragile skin on my bare skull was broiling steadily. The crowd in the Museu de Cerveja looked to be straight off that floating city in port. I looked at the empty chairs in the place next door, older, hardly gentrified yet. Perfectly indicative of the struggle of Portugal to move slowly forward. So I finally settled on a table and chair that were the least unattractive to me, except that the table was unsteady after all, and I looked down at the restaurant menu, by the corner of the square. I turned the meagre menu (fish, more fish, fish) this way and that, but the food seemed to offer nothing but nausea and a repulsive end-product. I glanced at a sign on the wall. It was a line drawing of a thin-faced man with a moustache and those round glasses of old Europeans, and below this paltry representation were a few lines of self-deprecrating poetry. How he must feel on the wall. Like a fly, only unable to crawl, or indeed, to fly. Fernando Pessoa.
I opened my Kindle in a mood of resignation, for although I was unsatisfied with everything, I also felt the need to make a gesture, hopefully one that would take me away from my gloomy thoughts. Let me run my retinae over this array of pixels. Let someone else put the vibrations in my brain. I tossed the menu aside made the waiter (who had been hovering, and then had eventually moved away after observing my sour uncertainty and inability to commit) bring me a maio de liete and a quejada de villa francecso de campo, for that perfect cake would ruin my mood even further when I considered that it would not only not be fresh (flown in from the Azores who knows when) but my last one ever.
I read several pages of my book...
I had forgotten - it was uncanny, yet coincidences rarely excites me. I was reading The Book of Disquiet at that time. Short pieces, almost epigrams, paragraphs, a few pages. Everyone one of them ironic, bitter and dissatisfied, yet it was amazing - uplifting at the same time. It is so sad and negative, it is immensely enjoyable. The phrases are poems, not a cliche touches the paper for him.
And so my poor (transcribed above) blackness of the world lifted from my shoulders and a much BETTER blackness of the world settled instead. A black joy. Pessoa's perennial mood. I was elated at his contrariness and the refusal to enjoy life in evidence. Fernando Pessoa told me exactly and with unparalleled clarity how I felt, at that exact time. The word for my mood was "disquiet".
In short, with The Book Of Disquiet is perfect for those times when you are sitting in the restaurant where Pessoa himself used to sit and write (as he got drunk), and you feel happy to be feeling grumpy, which is 90% of the time for me, so I'm rating it 5 stars!
And I gave the waiter a 50c tip for his surly service!
Goodreads Review. No-one has liked it yet. I am expecting a lot of crap to be brought down on me.
As E@L is wont to do after an evening of imbibing (beers, sake), he sits on the Toto arse-washing toilet seat in his tiny hotel room with a certain type of book (or his Kindle) on his bare lap.
Poetry. And he reads it out loud.
As a young man, a teenager even, E@L did not "get" poetry the way he did as a ten year old - when Sr Mary Brega praised his verses on cats and dogs being "cuddly and wuddly," and awarded them a gold star. No, sad to say, nothing had progressed much, until Year 12, when, not "allowed" to do Chemistry (but begrudgingly permitted to continue Physics), he chose English Literature as his fifth subject. He was told to buy a book by some Metaphysical Poets. John Donne, Andrew Marvell, etc... You know the crowd.
E@L didn't understand a word of the complicated rhyming and obscure references and awkward syntax - more truthfully, he didn't even try - but he passed EngLit somehow, perhaps on the strength of an essay on Crime And Punishment in which Raskolnikov was, he suggested, a precursor to Albert Camus's Stranger: cliches, that was all it took.
There is a short set of Poetic Best Ofs on his Kindle, and this includes some poems of Donne's. So, being in a declaiming mood, needing to blow off yakitori steam, E@L unfolds his Kindle's new book-like protective cover (Y2000 in BIC Camera, Shinjuku) and finds "Elegy 19: To His Mistress Going To Bed" awaiting.
He declaims to the limits of his plastic one-piece toilet/bath cubicle's acoustics:
Whoever LOVES [he over-emphasised], if he do not propose
The right TRUE end of love, he's one that goes
To sea for NOTHing but to make him sick[!!]."
Hang on. Does that mean what E@L thinks it means? That if you are going to start, you should make a concerted effort to finish, when it comes to wooing the ladies? An effort, close associates know, E@L cannot always lay (ho ho) claim to.
Soon enough E@L gets back to declaiming, but now with an ear more open to not only the sing-song sound of the words (he wants to be able to read like Tom Hiddleston), but also the rather rude connotations, the dooble ontondurs, and the copious and amusing naughty bits. This is getting sticky, this poem, he feels. This Donne is quite the rake.
E@L wonders, after 30 lines or so, if he ought not have brought some more traditionally (i.e. modern) risque material into the dunny (ho ho) with him, instead of works by this outrageously crude, famous, hence charming and sophisticated, poet - E@L means, you don't want to read dirty poetry, do you? Or do you? E@L will have to look it up.
Perhaps he feels a bit guilty for finding such stuff in his toilet-based situation, for expecting seriousness and elegance and chuffy ruffled-collared wit whilst taking a dump, rather than enjoying (and he was enjoying it now) 300 year old fun and frankness and nudge-nudge honesty, from back before sex was invented, a guilt he might not have felt with internet access to a local (Japanese - E@L is in Tokyo for a week more) pron site or other, probably involving tentacles, and/or enemas, etc... (You've seen the pics, you know how weird this country gets...)
But when E@L gets to the end of the pome, reading in more hushed tones now in case someone beyond the cardboards walls complains about the metaphysical language, it quickly becomes very un-meta in its physicality:...
Rich Nature in women wisely made
TWO purses, and their mouths aversely laid. [Purses!]
They then which to the LOWER tribute owe, [Uh-huh...]
That way which that exchequer looks must go ; [Huh?] He which doth NOT, his error is great,
As who by CLYSTER gives the stomach [pause] meat.
So that means, E@L translates prosaically (literally), that if the gent is only going to kiss his lady's upper "purse", he may as well have a clyster (look it up) instead of dinner and expect hearty sustenance...
And that's when E@L realises that he IS reading enema porn.
Writing Rules: It pays to have a BOOM opening sentence...
Why is it that now I like living in Singapore, whereas my first few years were traumatic and irritating? Have I become a more forgiving person, or is it Singapore that has lifted its game?
I admit that the medication I have been taking for chronic neuropathy (off-label), is in fact a "mood stabiliser", so perhaps I am less grumpy, less irascible, less irritable, less easily pissed off. But people in Singaporeans stand aside at the train doors now (mostly); they don't run you over with their shopping trolleys (as often); they don't spit at your feet or squat on the toilet seat; they move to the back of... OK, I'll stop stretching it: they don't move to the back of the bus, but in my international experience (I used to catch the school-bus in Australia), no-one does.
One might get the feeling that Singaporean are more polite than they used to be. Or is that there are heroes out there...?
I bring this up because I was approached in the street by two high-school-aged kids, a boy and a girl. The boy held his arms bent up, palms out towards me at chest height, and moved them slightly as the two walked in my direction. I was a bit taken aback, as you would be, but realised that he was just asking me to slow down, to stop, indeed, for they wanted to chat with me. It reminded me of the time in Beijing that a young Chinese person, innocently enough, asked me if they could practice their English by talking to me - it used to happen to tourists in Tienanmen Square all the time.
These kids had no clipboards or badges with IDs, but they wore tee-shirts which had an illustration of a giraffe's heads on the front. The girl was quiet and said nothing, but smiled brightly. The boy took the lead.
First of all he told me that they were not selling anything, nor asking anything special of me, but one thing.
He began to explain what the giraffe's head meant. I saw that a web address, giraffe.org, was printed underneath.
As you would as well, I expected this to be a wildlife, endangered species, don't shoot lions, or giraffes for that matter doorstopper. The sort of faux-interview and the hit-up for funding support thing.
How gentle, wrong reader, was I.
"Giraffe.org", he said, "is a sort of movement. You how, like, for a giraffe, it's stick your neck out for things? To do things?"
I nodded "Mm-hmm."
"We are looking for stories. Of people who you have seen stick their necks out to help other people. You know, like random acts of help and good things. Kindness, like that."
Impressed that he hadn't mentioned religion so far (he never did), I raised my eyebrows (in a good way).
He continued: "So if you have recently seen, or even heard of, normal people helping people they didn't need to help, you know like someone was in trouble. Good people..."
"You shouldn't ask me that," I said, smiling. "I am as close to evil as you've ever come." (Thinking of Pete Cook's Mephistopheles in "Bedazzled". Cheeky and mischievous, rather than actual evil, while still being The Devil.)
The girl continued her cheery smile and the boy gave a chuckle. "I don't think so, sir. We are always trying to show to the public the helpful people, like they are heroes to others, small heroes in everyday things. If you can think of any incident, or anyone you know like that..."
* Indy bought me a beer the other day... nah, we're probably even by now.
* Bruce took me to new club in the 4FoWs and offered to shout a round of tequilas to the six girls who were hanging off me... but that was the year before last, hardly "recently". (Tempus fugit like the fuck!)
* My maid took my suit to the laundry to be dry-cleaned... Nah, that's her job.
Well, maybe I should branch out and think of what I have seen people do for people other than myself... But no, nothing comes.
"Sorry," I said. "I can't think of anything right now. But I do like your programme, it sounds... nice."
The boy pulled his a face into a resigned-but-not-yet-exhausted-by-rejection smile and the girl's smile started to wilt, but I gave them one of my patented Chin UP! smiles and they brightened again (or made an effort to).
"Thank you, sir," they said.
"You are entirely welcome." What a nice cause, what polite children, thought
E@L has fallen out of the habit of writing; but haven't we all.
He is not sure what habit might have supplanted it (for him at least - whatever nefarious alternatives you might have found are matters for your own conscience and the ability of the neighbours to get a good night's sleep), but he is certain it is a bad one, not worthy of spending any time on, and not productive of anywhere near the enjoyment he used obtain by pressing "Publish" (followed by three hours of correcting typos and blind links) and thereby pushing his bullshit into this isolated and brackish backwater of the Web to be ignored by the billions of people who might conceivably benefit by the experience.
Wouldn't it be good if he could throw Famebook out the fucking window and let his communications open up in this antient forum, at least to the four* people in the world who might possibly still read his rambles, as opposed to those few of the 246 "friends" who have not Blocked or Ignored him (there's probably about eight as well) on Flakebook.
Wouldn't it be good if everyday he could achieve what Michel Faber managed to do in order to write his most recent novel (while his wife was dying); just write six sentences (at least) a day.
Every word of every sentence is a step in the right direction because... because what?; a sense fulfillment; the exclusion of boredom; a way to prevent eyelocking the abyss... because blogging used to be the way we'd get our opinions, feeling, frustration, thoughts and exploits out there and maybe even contemplate turning the output (or deflecting that energy and enthusiasm) into something more substsantial, and make money and find eternal fame and undying adulation, as some, and others seemed to have done, back in the day.
So here we go - let's see how long this latest promise to himself lasts.
E@L is back on a bad-food restriction programme - no-one says "diet" anymore - with added calorific expenditure augmentation - no-one says "exercise" anymore - motivated by the fact that E@L has a Dr's appointment in a coupla weeks and that he had promised the good Medico that 5kgs of ugly/fair-to-middling fat would be converted into CO2 and H2O over the three months since his previous visit.
The authorities at E@LGHQ have, under the exigencies of reality, recently reset that goal to a barely feasible 4kgs in 2 weeks. Hmmm. E@L do be looking for a dose of some gastro-intestinal disaster to drop the reading dramatically. Any suggestions? KFC? Pizza? Newton Food Court?
It is now, what, just over 3 years since his dramatic IAI (Italian Angina Incident - no-one says "heart attack" anymore), and the Caring and Supportive Cardiologist (perceptive and perspicacious E@L can tell) is on the verge of dumping E@L because he have only put on weight, and dropped off to lower degee of exercise since they joined forces in this battle against arterial plaque. He said, mustering an impression of involvment, "Well, mmm, I guess we should do another test of some sort. It's been a while. Um. I think that maybe we should try another ECG stress test, see if anything has, you know, gotten worse." "But you said last time that nothing was wrong on the stress test! How can anything get worse when it is good!" "Um, yes, that's right, I think; I meant, um, you know, changed."
And as, persistent reader, you no doubt realize, an exercise test involves, um, you know, exercise, E@L is back on the treadmill in his gym in anticipation of that momentous treadmill test in the Good Doctor's office.
Walking uphill, a bit of jogging, getting the pulse up there... It all reminds E@L of the high level of cardio-vascular, umm, fitness he had achieved in the months leading up to the IAI...!
Having had a normal PET stress test two weeks before the IAI, plus his own experience of patients he has seen or people he has known, E@L realises that things happen, no matter what. Normal everything, healthy everything, but you can still just...
... just obssess about it.
* Quote from Colin Farrell's character in True Detective, on why he has so few friends" "I like to limit the number of people I disappoint.")
The vast programming skills (persistence, mainly) of No1 Son have resurrected the link to my prior blog. He has shown me (sort of, c.f nictatating membrane) how to do this - and it was in fact what I had been trying do all along (I gave up in Jan last year according to the time-stamp on the Error _Log) only with more guesswork, and had partial success, short of making the blog, um, you know, visible.
It all was to do with some changes to the PHP language. Small things like square brackets ( [ ) being required around certain strings in certain commands, etc, ad tedium... He'd try to do something, like find previous entry and it would call up a PHP redacted (or whatever) error. He'd find the bad line in the named file, find the solution on an online PHP forum, correct it, test it, move on to the next topic. Stuff programmers love and their fathers detest. He didn't finish though, as we went to dinner at an execellent restaurant (Umberto Espresso Bar) on High St Northcote, not too far from his/our new place.
So, unfortunately - HA! like a) anyone will go back through it, and b) care nough to make a comment - you currently can't make comments. I'll work on that using the technique mentioned above during my continuing weeks of travel.
Segueing in which topic: I have just left Australia after three (3, count 'em) weeks, and am in New Zealand now, Sydney Friday, then I will fly back to Singapore for two nights, then go to Bangers for a week, come back to Singers for three (3, etc...) days then go to KL for three more. Then, it's Japan. All work.
But, bless my blessed life, it's Portugal and the Azores with the bestest people, the good old SPG and her Gandalf: to whit, Izzy and Danijel from Madhouse Heaven and points in between. (BTW Izzy's latest blog is here.)
After a brief spell so I can get my washing done, it's off to Hawaii for a wedding. Not mine, phew. These things are happening all over the place these days, with notable exceptions - c.f. No1 Son and partner).
The link to the archives is at the bottom of the side-bar on the right, but here it as again anyway: Expat-At-Large.
Unusually for him [cough], E@L was a little bit muddled a few weeks ago, somewhere in a foreign country in the middle of a conversation with someone he can't recall for legal reasons.
Anyway, point of story: E@L had stated that Hitachi, the company with which E@L may or not have a passing employment-oriented relationship, made Japan's Shinkansen trains.
And the other guy said, "Yeah, along with Toshiba."
E@L was certain he was unsure about this, but being always polite, did not challenge this assertion. More than that, he assented to it. "Yeah..." he said, semi-agreeing enthusiastically (beers had been consumed and the mood of the moment was positive) but quickly changed to a subject he felt he might be certain about being certain about - which is to say he shut-up and glugged another beer.
E@L's First Trip To Japan, contemporaneous with his First Fuck-up In Photoshop
It's been bothering him though, because he had probably looked this up years ago. Fuck, the past is a foreign country, which is fair enough, as most of it happens in foreign countries. And besides... He has a vague memory of someone in Japan telling him about the Shinkansen, perhaps on the ride from Tokyo to Osaka.
Certainly Hitachi made the early models, as organised by Japan Rail, he is sure about that, but did they make ALL of them. Did Toshiba kick in at some point in time and go into a joint venture, or did Toshiba even make one or more of them completely?