This is where I sink & float

Proust Questionnaire.

It hit me perhaps a few years too late that by way of introductions, a proper one has never been made here in spite of all that has been shared. I have never been too good with formalities but thought for a change it would be nice to provide a brief glimpse by sharing my responses to the infamous Proust questionnaire.

I did not attempt to answer all the questions partly because I found a few varying versions of the questionnaire and wasn’t sure which was the accurate copy, partly also because answering 35 questions felt a bit excessive.

Nevertheless, here you go:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Maintaining a sense of lightness in the face of perpetual learning and unlearning.

What is your favorite journey?
The process of getting to know people, places, and experiences slowly, tenderly, patiently, curiously. Savoring all the details with unfeigned keenness is a journey of its own and I value the process even if it isn’t always pleasant or apparent in its consequence. I am sentimental about these things which I catalogue in my consciousness, often using them as reference in my own writing.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Still relatively buoyant at twenty four.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing control.

What is your most marked characteristic?
My most marked characteristic from childhood to adolescence to adulthood is in being slightly detached from the real world sometimes, a moody Asian girl who likes to live under the guise of being infallible.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Desiring many things but not wanting enough to act upon them.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I hate people when they’re not polite. Decency should be a foundation for all human interactions, don’t you think?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Indulging in this burning need to travel and occasionally watch live shows and occasionally eat good food and occasionally dress well.

What is your current state of mind?
Floozy and caffeinated with a hint of cranky.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Niceness. I often feel like a lot of people have a very convoluted concept of niceness and mistake it by being too accommodating to the point of bordering on impracticality or by being bland because they feel like being nice is enough to scrape by.

On what occasion do you lie?
If and only when absolutely necessary. If it gets me a free cookie.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
That sense of ease and the solidarity of control and assurance present in a select few which, when well-utilized, is very handsome.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
That inimitable daintiness and automatic fluency in knowing how to react under situations of duress. More importantly is self-sufficiency and good taste.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“That’s not very considerate” and the unglamorous but very real “Aiyo“.

When and where were you happiest?
Overlooking the top of the Tokyo Sky Tower in August last year. After an hour of walking in the scorching summer, I reached the top of the building just as the sun was beginning to set with pen and blank paper in hand. Youth had never felt as prevalent in its towering glory till then.

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Who are your favorite writers?
Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Nabokov, Dostoevsky, the ever prevalent Murakami. That said, favorite writers and favorite books do not always correlate.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo.

Which living person do you most admire?
Zadie Smith comes to mind due to her talent, graceful wit and overall intelligence.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Losing human dignity due to uncontrollable circumstances. Also suffering from food poisoning while stuck in uncontrollable circumstances.

Where would you like to live?
Japan. However, due to language barrier problems and the potential inability to fully assimilate, Chicago would be my next choice.

What is your favorite occupation?
I admire the occupation of being an academician and an artist; the former for its nobility, the latter for its importance in nurturing the human soul, but both in their functions of inspiring and educating others in their respective ways. That said, I especially like the idea of being a novelist which sounds almost as sexy as being a surgeon.

What are your favorite names?
I am drawn to one-syllable names inspired by luminaries – Franz, Kurt, Sid. For female names, I have always liked the name Berlin.

What is your motto?
Bailamos, bitches.

The Wallflower Social Club, Pt. 2.

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The city as an entity was a living landscape which heaved and breathed a rich variety of hues and textures that bore the lusty appeal of exhaust pipes and the insatiable greed of crony capitalism.

It was in this city that life took on a mundane type of reality. Initially, this was not a bother. In fact, I flaunted making do with a mind-numbingly dull existence. A voice told me that there was something to be learnt from the basics of making do with monotony.

Call it optimism, call it basic common sense, call it stupidity, but I wanted to be committed to something, even if it was something I was unsure about.

Every day was simple. It would begin with waking up at 7am, followed by a 30-minute jog around the neighborhood and a lukewarm shower after. My color scheme did not stray from greys, blacks and neutrals. I had two pairs of black pants and a skirt. On particularly good days, a slip of color would make an entrance, mostly in the form of the color red. Breakfast was the choice of either raisin bran cereal or a peanut butter sandwich, washed down by a scalding hot mug of tea.

Then, it would be off to work in my beaten up car. Most of the time, Neutral Milk Hotel would be playing during the journey to the office. I particularly loved the ‘King of Carrot Flowers’. Work was a simple, impersonal affair consisting of the type of processes that did not require a lot of thinking, mostly just concentration. Anybody to possess the sufficient intellect required to complete a basic sudoku puzzle would have been 99% capable in completing my job.

The cubicle, the walls, the carpeted floor, and even the desk in the office were all the same shade of murky grey. Even my colleagues had a sensation of such greyness to them. It was as if whoever designed the place could only see the world in that one solitary shade of grey with nothing more or nothing less. The company was not in the running to win any awards anytime soon for its innovative design but it paid me enough, and always on time, which left me with few complaints.

The time to leave work would often be a little after the sun had set. I found out about the Wallflower Social Club from a poster pasted on the noticeboard of my office building, right next to the elevator. It was a cold night and I was mentally fatigued from the day, mostly just in need of something that was not grey. The poster did not have a particularly interesting design and the Times New Roman font simply summed up in two paragraphs that it was a special community meant for introverts ‘to get together, network, and recalibrate’.

Funny, I thought.

Who would go for these type of things? 

I would go for those sort of things.

And in a way, it did change the year. It switched things up plenty.

Now I can’t admit that the year changed for the better to turn into the year for buns and abs of steel, depositing 30% of my monthly income into a savings account to make way for a brighter future, giving people more of a chance in spite of how unlikeable they may be, no longer succumbing to road rage and allowing more cars to merge into traffic, paying compliments instead of cynical statements, no longer indulging in bad fiction, or allowing myself to be bullied into attending social obligations in favor of improved ratings in terms of public opinion.

But I found that there is a man whose virtue lies in finding out truths even if truths are slippery, elusive, cruel and sometimes non-existent.

So the year did change,
in meaning, muscle, movement and music, it changed.

*For Part One of the story with no beginning, middle, or end. 

“I’d like to live in a world made up of real stuff, not fiction and appearances.”

Watched Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Gadajace Glowy (Talking Heads) today and found it to be startlingly beautiful and profound in its simplicity. It shows, in under seventeen minutes, the tender frailties of human beings and how we are all plagued by the same queries (even if coded differently) in spite of our ages and forms. It is a little sad and a little beautiful, but it races the mind in a good way.

The documentary consists of asking a variety of different individuals three simple questions:

a) Who are you?

b) When were you born?

c) What is important for you?

If you haven’t already seen it, I urge you to watch it and to revel in these questions yourself, and to perhaps even share your ideas on it which I would very much love to hear.

The ending of the documentary is a type of haunting perfection on its own to accompany a summary of observations that all feel vaguely similar and ageless in nature.

Twenty-four.

My birthday found me again and so I turned twenty-four last week.

Birthdays are usually a bit of a wincing difficulty for me in the way that they feel like these celebratory receipts over x years of living, putting into sharper focus the accomplishments and failures achieved so far – losses and gains, stretches on this canvas of skin, blushes fashioned into bruises fashioned into blushes again. There is a sense of grief during birthdays for me which I can’t articulate without misconstruing myself and sounding like I dislike them, which isn’t fully true.

Previously, this existence was too heatedly colored by sadness and anger and each birthday was ushered in by the once-a-year crying session over the futility of impermanence and living.

But things change, and I am very much open to the idea of change. Hands and feet get chaffed, humans slip in and out, cultural symbols age (even the great Bowie ages), villains and heros become interchangeable, and worldly calamities subject themselves upon the population. Then we all cut our nails and hair when they get too long, and we feed ourselves with what the media feeds us and try to find our own voices of reason as we grow older and worry about our respective losses and gains, attempting to retain some human dignity while we’re at it. We become conditioned to act and perceive things a certain way and some days it is harder to find meaning and beauty, more so than others.

I don’t know where I am headed to with my health and my abilities in this fleeting period of youth as I type all of this in able-bodied clarity. The pursuit may be a relentless one but there is still brightness in spirit and considerable enthusiasm which I have somehow managed to retain in spite of all that came beforehand. The wishes trickled through and I found that I am fortunate in more ways than one even if I bemoan my own self for its lack of grace quite frequently. I’ve found that I am brighter and stronger than I previously envisioned myself to be and although certain struggles are stubborn in its eminent presence, not everything is lost.

So I am poised to try,

in pursuit of beauty, truth, and kindness.

 

Yesteryear.

Memory I

Remembering the simplicity of lazy evenings spent bird-watching in a home with trees that prosperously bore mangos, guavas and rambutans. The two of us would lie on our backs as the ceiling fan kept us cool, uncaring of the 50-plus age gap between us, watching sparrows scout for meals, sharp beaks nitpicking into the ground. She would share animal facts with me; how the alligator drags its prey into the water to drown and later consume them, how mammals would lick wounds in order to debride them, how bees would store pollen and honey into honeycombs. She had this habit of leaving hairpins littered across the house which I would find. Sometimes I awoke to the sight of her ironing clothes beside me just so I wouldn’t wake up to an empty bed.

She used to select only yellow rambutans from her tree and place them in a plastic bowl for me. Black ants would trail deliriously all over, enlightened by the promise of inner sweetness beneath the thick skin.

Once, she told me: the bad men on Earth will eventually perish and turn into mosquitos for not living up to their fullest potential on Earth.

Once, she told me: don’t ever be completely taken over by anybody, because even the king shits.

Even as a child, I loved her courage, her tenacity, how she was fierce and independent and how she did not sugarcoat anything. Her gentility was solely derived from her practicality in getting things done in life.

Sometimes I recall that big white swing at the front porch with the sienna shade of rust gnawing away on its hinges, the peeled white paint and its rhythmic creaks sounding like the woes of days past and how her eventual passing would resonate for many, many years to come.

Memory II

Remembering how whenever it rained, the wind outside would howl like a hundred ghosts embittered by different longings on the seventh floor of the condominium where we used to live. It would feel like the rapture of an enclosed dream, with only that tiny space being the only tent of security.

I used to imagine God behind those curtains.

Ruminations, pt. 1.

Work has been frisking me up at its greediest. September spells out Busy Times, with few moments to ruminate with enough reminders that I myself signed up, fully aware, to be part of a career with erratic demands. It’s true that I came seeking for succinct views on the gloss (and dullness) of other industries and people. I fancied myself too delicate and not quite quick enough for reality, unintentionally soft-spoken even in the face of discomfort. And so I wanted to be roughened up, to be resilient and uncomfortable enough to be cornered into growth. There is a fear of succumbing into all the bad in being another Gen-Y caricature – self-entitled, weak-willed in the face of difficulties, finicky. But resiliency itself is an interesting concept; aside from knocking endurance into a person, you begin to wonder what sense there is in toughness after you’ve smarted from the skinned knees, still buzzing from the adrenaline. Humor me this – is resiliency even practical anymore in the 21st century? What am I looking to survive? Society’s expectations, routine, getting older, the aches of living, your attention span, social incapacities, delicately diverting self from bae? Yet I am proud when I do well in a role that was never designed with somebody like me in mind. I am just doing my job, after all, and there is a certain pride in being able to honor that role.

This is the part where I acquiesce my mortal fears. Admittedly, the fear of underachieving greets me frequently and sometimes overwhelmingly so. I’ve been having trouble in my skin again and thinking almost wildly about writing because, intuitively, this is what makes the most sense to me, this need to reconcile concepts and thoughts. There is a living, breathing affair with words that I can’t pinpoint aside from that I want to do it all the time, that I think about it actively and ardently, and that I do it in the hope that something good will come of it, without the expectancy of great recognition but reward in inspiring some modicum of meaning. In an ideal world there would be a day dedicated to dreaming and it wouldn’t be idle and pointless dreaming because it would do society a whole great deal of good.

It’s getting late and I should be getting to bed. This entry is a little bit of a wild card, the rare occasion where I am taking the time to express the messy state of rumpled, tired thinking. In the morning things will dwindle down and make more sense again and perhaps this too will be forgotten.

Good night, good night, go to sleep.

Favourite Faded Fantasy.

“I could love you more than life
If I wasn’t so afraid”

Damien – I still love you and your music even ten years after.

I am so excited. 

How great does this version sound? I almost prefer it to the recorded (falsetto) version.

5 – 7pm.

The change in address, the unattractive rubbery squeal of flip flops sloshing through puddles in the rain, men and women running about with folders and bags used as makeshift umbrellas, a colorful circus of women in tudung encompassing a wide spectrum of colors, the very real, cool, fat droplets of rain against the shadowy peek of her ear, hair sticking on napes of necks, scrape of scrapes as the exhaust pipes from passing cabs filled the air with puffs of smoke, condensation on glasses, so cold, she thought, as she reprimanded herself for forgetting her earphones once again, so cold. The air reduced to gradations of grey, the displeasing clamminess of soil and water running through toes as her thoughts seeped deeper and deeper into her mind, like twenty bleeding ungrounded defeats, distracted and distracting as she crossed the streets with purpose.

She had inevitably offended somebody at work again today. It had been unintentional; she had raised the tone of her voice in annoyance because the gossip at work seemed uncalled for, the mocking laughter of her co-workers over another colleague had upset her, she couldn’t accept that they were calling someone a ‘fat excuse of a faggot’. She could not stifle her emotions in time to be sensible, she should not have paused to give a stern glare and a sharp passing remark to shut them up but she could not deny her natural knack for verbal vitriol. She knew upon its release that the timbre of her voice had been strained, that she had caused the halt in the traffic of laughter and conversations as empty faces focused on her and she blinked back, mouth defiantly tight, some faces surprised that she had spoken up so strongly and suddenly on the matter, the girl at work who rarely looked up from her computer.

No, no, no. She hated coming off as rigid and righteous but was well-versed in the practice of denting others. It was a small matter, really. The stares made her feel cornered. Not worth making a hoopla over. But ‘principles’.

She shook it off, tried to placate her displeasure by thinking of what was for dinner, by thinking of warm feet under the covers, of the simple pleasure in her cat’s usual lazy greeting in strolling over to the front gate as she parked (thank god cats don’t have the sensitivity of a fucking eunuch, she thought), a mountain of books to read, surmising the simple pleasures of chopping vegetables for dinner in the privacy of the kitchen, of watching back-to-back episodes on her aging computer which froze every time her habit of opening 20 tabs and 4 windows at one go caught up with her.

The rain continued to patter down her crowded thoughts as she stood, still and morose, safe yet startlingly isolated for the moment underneath the privacy of her umbrella.

 

 

Heart impervious, heart rapturous.

“The memory of a perfume or of a snatch of music.”

I spend an inordinate amount of time composing mixes, keeping my Spotify account running even as I spend frantic hours multi-tasking between proofreading, analyzing data and making phone calls at work. By the side, I repeatedly exhaust lyrics and melodies of songs that have moved me. Patiently, I await refrains, bridges, choruses, guitar solos… anything that once caused the tremor of feelings. In my head are tidy folders of music I have allocated for different moments and different people and, in there lies many different soundtracks for films that don’t exist.

Running through the days in the calendar, I admit that I am swallowed up by a consummated love affair with music. It helps me cope with age, time, exhaustion, and the moodiness that often takes me over if I am not careful. I am smitten over songs that bring back memories of conversations over mediocre meals, of sprawling speeches, the split-second lighting of lingering looks, the smokiness of reverberating laughter, over smiles I’ve wished I could pocket. I have a sentimental old soul and this is to my advantage and to my detriment. But these are the songs that have inspired me, songs that have brought me through, songs that have saved me. I am overly attached to these things. Dangerously they improvise on existing emotions, make me fonder of certain people or places, amplify and reduce different subject matters in current and past living conditions.

If not careful, they contain me in utter ignorance, to an elusive state where escape is for free.

Music makes me weak, music makes me strong.

I am fiercely proud of the music that I love. You can scoff at me on this account because I fully understand what a music snob I can be. But like with words, there is an intuitive draw to music. I am possessive of these songs, and at the same time, generous in wanting to share them. I love making and receiving mixes. I love the shy surprise of not knowing what track will come up next, the anticipation of music, and most of all I love silently listening to music with people. There is no greater way to spend time.

Subconsciously, the prevalent part of me that is a dreamer continues to depend on music no matter where I go or what I do and I need this to sustain me.

Here is a mixtape I’ve composed that makes me feel good. Perhaps in its accuracy of capturing certain sentiments, a monumental mood that calls for hushed sensuality, representative of a melancholic heart which I still wonder will cripple me one day. There is a certain truth in music that helps with this deflatable ego.

So here is a gift if you are out there still reading.

I call it “Heart, Impervious”.

 

Terrible Love.

“This is called terrible love. It’s a good thing.

Terrible love is good.

It’s the only kind of love.”

 

Also, Sufjan.

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