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2010年10月31日 星期日

An Evening with Schumann

Saturday was a sad day. It was sad in more ways than one. It's all got to do with love. I was extremely unhappy. In the afternoon, I met a friend. She poured her heart out to me about her  relationship with her other half. Her love for him had withered. It had been draining away, slowly and imperceptibly, over more than a dozen years. It had been eaten away by the invisible nibbling of the silent monster called time. Their relationship had gone without fresh emotional nutrients for far too long. Now nothing is left but its dessicated form, like a completely worm eaten fruit whose seed at its core has been reduced to little more than its husk.


She told me she could no longer see any meaning in continuing the relationship. I agreed. Her children are now all grown up. She had a house to her name and sufficient savings. He too had alternative accomodation and sufficient income to see him through the rest of his life. His retirement did not bring any significant change. It was a torture to have to see and to live with a partner whom one no longer loves and who effectively has become a stranger!  Her children, who have been observing their relationship at close quarters, agreed too to her taking steps to end such a relationship which has ceased to have any meaning for either of them The final liberation from the marital bond will at least give her back the freedom she gave up for the sake of her family for such a long time. More immediately, it would  relieve her of the obligation of having to see him day in day out without having anything meaningful to say to each other. 


I thought that after I gave her my opinion, the sense of sadness which began to pall over me as I was listening to her tale of sorrow would pass. It did not. What I could hardly bring myself to believe my eyes and my ears was the bizarre phenomenon that she talked to me about her marriage in an almost emotionless tone, her eyes staring vacantly into the air. It was almost as if she were recounting to me the tale of one of her distant friends! Once the full impact of that thought sank in, her accumulated sorrow hit me like a hurricane. I felt so sorry for her.  How many times one's heart must have been broken before one could be reduced to such nonchalance, I asked myself. The relationship was killed not with an axe. Nor was it reduced to smithereens by a hammer. It was killed by a noiseless, invisible poison called indifference. Her suffering is not the suffering of hurtful words one heard in a verbally violent quarrel. There had not even been any quarrels! The marriage had died, in the most horrible silence. Madame Bovary could at least look forward to a new relationship with an interesting young man. She did not even have that!


I kept asking myself, how could the creator of this world, if there should be one, have created a world in which this kind of things could happen? How did she manage to continue such a relationship in which there is not even any active hatred? The relationship (I would hesitate to use the word emotional relationship because there is no longer any), had died long ago,  not with a bang, without not so much as a whimper! It had simply vanished into thin air, like the water in what used to be a pond! It was so sad. Yet I heard it. It's true!


After the talk, I had to hurry home to get the ticket for the evening's concert at the City Hall. But somehow, my mood for listening to the music was gone. But having bought the ticket, and with hardly more than an hour before the start of the concert, I could hardly give it to a friend, it being a Saturday evening and such of my friends as would enjoy classical music would certainly have their social time table all booked. After a quickie snack at home, I walked to the City Hall, like a ghost, my mind still filled with sadness. I was just in time. All my friends were already there.


The concert began.  It was an all Schumann programme, by the HKPO under de Waart: Manfred Overture, Op 115, Paino Concerto in A minor, Op 54, Symphony No. 4 in D minor. The Piano Concerto would be played by Chen Sa whom I already heard once. 


The Manfred Overture is based on the Romantic tale by Lord Byron about the guilty sorrows of a nobleman arsing from the death of his secret lover. He tried to summon up 7 spirits to help him forget but they didn't help. He therefore wandered through the Alps trying to seek relief from his guilt but eventually chose to commit suicide rather than seek Christian redemption.The work was composed between August and November 1848. It was said that Schumann was so touched by the story that he couldn't sleep the night following his first reading of that story. It's a very forceful overture that opens with a three note motif which quickly drift into half tones giving it a very uncertain quality as if one were entering into a strange and unfamiliar territory but the sounds of struggle quickly appear, became stronger and stronger until at the end it quietens down to almost silence, perhaps signifying his death. It has a very haunting melody. Was he making any reference to the relationship between his wife with Brahms?


Then we had the performance from Chen Sa. As on the previous occasion, she entered the stage in her typically great strides and then swung both her shoulder and hands on the piano seat to concentrate and then started off the Piano Concerto by hitting the principal motif which was then continued by the orchestra. It has a  melody very familiar to all music lover in which the piano and the clarinet play against each other, which is then endlessly repeated against the background sound by the whole orchestra, joining in contrast. The second and third movements,  intermezzo and allegro vivace were played without a break. It was a very controlled piece demanding a great deal of very subtle play and although it can be quite energetic in places, it certainly is not the type of Liszt virtuoso pianistic piece which the people of his age had come to expect. It's quite lyrical. Schumann is always great on lyrical melodies. I like it. And Chen Sa played even better than last time, much less strident. Her phrasing is always very clear and unambiguous but she can also play poetically and softly too, especially those passages requiring almost continuous waves of sound blending into each other.


The final piece was Schumann's No. 4 Symphony. This is again another romantic symphony with a very classical structure which Schumann started almost immediately after finishing his third. It's a symphony with a very simple structure, using some very old forms like the passacaglia in its 4th movement. It opens with the orchestra playing the first theme, the second theme being introduced by the cello, and is in sonata form, the principal motif of the second movement being played by the winds and the second by the cello with the orchestra and ended rather softly. The third movement was in more or less scherzo form and for the first time, he uses the triangle to add to the rustic atmosphere. The final movement was very energetic and the symphony ended with a climax.  But the music was also sad, not quite rousing. I like its principal melodies which are so hauntingly beautiful. But I was still under the shadow of the mood of the afternoon.  When I walked home amidst all the youngsters going to Lan Kwai Fong with devils' horns, witches hats on their heads, superman, spiderman, clowns, ghost masks, daggers in their heads and plastic tridents or brooms, swords etc in their hands or wings or colorful capes on their backs for the halloween, its felt strangely incongruous with my mood. In fact, by contrast, they made me feel even sadder and more morose. 


It was a good concert, but the music is not elevating like those of Shastakovich, Beethoven, Mahler etc and even the energetic passages were not without hints of underlying unhappiness.  Especially after the events of the afternoon, I was overcome by melancholy and low moods. As I listened, the thoughts of what I heard in the afternoon kept intruding from time to time. I felt guilty why it was that some people in this world but not me should suffer so much that they have become numbed to their own suffering. And why should Brahms suffer for being unable to be united to Clara Schumann? I tried the Buddhist technique of interrupting my thoughts but it did not work. For the first time, I did not go with Mr. Chu and my other friends for the usual after concert snack and simply wanted to go home. I  went straight to bed! I did not even have dinner!


2010年10月30日 星期六

A Quiz

I have for some time now run some jokes every weekend in this blog. I have just decided that for this week, I am going to do something slightly different. I am going to give you a romantic story with a twist and at the end, I shall give you a quiz. Those who answer it correctly will get a prize. I haven't yet decided what that will be yet. But there will definitely be one. So here it is:


They heard the storm approaching.


They were together in the house. Just the two of them.


 It was a cold, dark, stormy night. The storm had come quickly.


Each time the thunder boomed, he watched her jump and each time she looked across the room she could not help admiring those muscles on his body. She looked into his eyes. He responded. He too was looking into hers. She wished that he would take her in his arms, comfort her and protect her from the storm. She wanted that more than anything....


Suddenly, with a pop, the power went out....She screamed....He raced to the sofa where she was cowering. He didn't hesitate to pull her into his arms.


He knew this was a forbidden union and expected her to pull back. He was surprised when she didn't resist...but instead, clung to him.


The storm raged on....they remained locked to each other. The room was silent but for the sound of the pelting rain outside and the heavy breathing inside. With each clap of  thunder, they clasped to each other even tighter. He felt the warmth of her soft body. It felt so good. 


What they were doing was not something they would do everyday. The thought that they could be doing what they were doing has never entered their mind before then but....They also knew that perhaps their families would never understand...So consumed were they in doing what they were doing that they did not even notice that a key was  turning the lock to the rear entrance to the house just next to the garage. .... There was a faint click of a camera. They  realized to their horror that their photograph had been taken. They bolted apart. But it was too late...


QUIZ:  WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CAMERA MAY HAVE CAPTURED?


2010年10月29日 星期五

Baudelaire's Sonnet d'automne ( Autumn Sonnet) 波德萊爾的『秋詩』

In this second of Baudelaire's poem on autumn, he describes autumn, like the first, again, not in terms of the physical autumn that we experience as the third season of the year. To him, autumn has become a foreboding, a feeling of the autumn of his life. It depicts not an objective but a subjective world. In that world, what is important is his love, his relationship with a woman called Marguerite whom he loves. Here it is:


Sonnet d'automne                                                          Sonnet of Autumn                                            秋詩


Ils me disent, tes yeux, clairs comme le cristal:               They tell me, your eyes, clear as crystal:           你的眼暗,清如水晶,對我說:


'Pour toi, bizarre amant, quel es donc mon mérite?''       "For you, strange lover, what then is my merit?"「依你,奇異的愛人,我究竟好在哪?」


--Sois charmante et tais-toi! Mon coeur, que tout irrite, --Be charming and shut up! My heart, which annoys everybody--衹須像現在般可愛,不用多說!我的心,徐了那古老野獸的坦率外


Excepté la candeur de l'antique animal,                          excepting only the candour of the ancient animal.  它微激怒一切其他人


 


Ne veut pas te montrer son secret infernal,                   Does not wish to show you its hellish secret            它不欲向你披露它那地獄般的秘密            


Berceuse dont la main aux longs sommeils m'ínvite,      the cradle with which the hand invites me to long sleeps,搖籃之手正敫請我長眠,


Ni sa noire légende avec la flamme écrite.                    nor to write its black legend with flame.  也不願以其火焰書寫它黑色的傳說


Je hais la passion et lésprit me fait mal!                         I hate passion and my mind makes me sick!我恨情慾而精神使我生病。


 


Aimons-nous doucement. L'amour dans sa guérite,      Let's love one another gently. Love inside its sentry box 讓我們温柔地相戀。愛情在她的陰暗被伏擊的哨亭內


Ténébreux, embusqué, bande son arc fatal.                  shadowy, ambushed, bandages its fatal arc.  為她那致命的圓拱包上紗布 。  


Je connais les engins de son vieil arsenal:                      I know the engines of its ancient arsenal:    我認識他古老事械庫的器械。


 


Crime, horreur et folie!--O pâle marguerite!                 Crime, horror and madness!--O pale daisy!  刑事,恐佈及瘋狂!噢蒼白的菊花!


Comme mois n'es-tu pas un soleil automnal,                 Like me, you're not an autumnal sun            像我一樣,妳不也是一秋天的太陽,


O ma si blanche, ô ma si froide Marquerite?                 O my Margaret, so white and so cold?   噢我的瑪嘉烈,這麼蒼白,這麽冰冷?


 


In this poem, Baudelaire plays with the word "marguerite" and "Marguerite" and rhymes it with the word "guerite" , as supplemented by all the end rhyme with all the other words ending with "ite". "Marguerite" in French is a daisy but in this poem it is also the name of his aging lover, Marguerite.


The autumn in this poem therefore describes her condition: "so white, so pale", and so like the autumnal sun and as he says, so like himself.  He refers to his own sex organ obliquely as the "engines" of his "ancient arsenal".  The "fatal arc" may be his oblique reference to the female sex organ. It is fatal for it is a cradle which may put the engine of his ancient arsenal to a long sleep. The crime, the horror, the madness may all be references to the mad orgies he had with Maguerite. Maybe his lover may have agreed to his unusual sexual demands. That may explain why she angered everyone except the "candour" of his ancient beast! And when he talked of his ïnfernal secrets", was that a reference to his syphillis from which he eventually died. In his days, these veiled references to what went on in the bedroom were already too explicit and too radical. That may be why some his poems were banned by court order.


In short, Baudelaire looks with regret upon the failing charm of his lover, just like autumn may signal the passing of the summer. To him, both himself and his lover are now like the sun in autumn: no more fire, no more passion, no more heat. He also regrets the struggle between his feeling and his reason. He uses the word "espirt". In French, "esprit" has a number of meanings. It may refer to our "mind". It may also mean "spirit", as distinguished from the body. It therefore may also be linked to the human soul and also to reason.


2010年10月28日 星期四

Some great quotations

The day before yesterday, my fellow blogger Superman introduced a writer new to me. He is spiritual . He is perceptive. More than that, he is a wise. But there are so many spiritual, perceptive and wise  writers. What's so special? Not every spiritual, perceptive and wise writer can write so beautifully too! He is Khalil Gibran. So during lunchtime, I checked into his fans' website and discovered a number of quotes prepared by them with care, with devotion and with love. How can I not hasten to share this newfound joy with my fellow bloggers. For ease of reading, I shall arrange his quotable quotes under various headings which I hope will be congenial to my fellow bloggers. So here they are:


Love:


Love gives naught of itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not nor would it be possessed. For love is sufficient unto love.


Love is resolution added to my being, linking my present to generations past and future.


I purified my lips with a sacred fire that I might speak of love, but when I opened my mouth to speak, I found myself mute.


Human kinds cling to earthly things, but I seek ever to embrace the torch of love so it will purify me by its fire and sear inhumanity from my heart.


Individuality


Give one another your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.


Giving


You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.


Work


Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms from those who work with joy.


Understanding


Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.


No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.


Be patient, for it is from doubt that knowledge is born.


One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night.Too young am I and too outraged to be my freer self.


You are your own forerunner and the towers you have built are but the foundation of your giant-self. And that self too shall be a foundation.


Out of my deeper heart a bird rose and flew skywards/Higher and higher did it rise, yet larger and larger did it grow/At first it was just like a swallow, then a lark, then an eagle, then as vast as a spring cloud and then it filled the starry heavens/Out of my heart a bird flew skywards. And it waxed larger as it flew. Yet it left not my heart.


My existence, with all that I have revealed and hidden concerning it, appears to me like an atom in the sigh of a small child, a moment that trembles in a void stretching from Creation to Eternity.


Once I filled my hand with mist./Then I opened it and lo, the mist was a worm./And I closed and opened my hand again, and behold there was a bird./And again I closed and opened my hand, and in its hollow stood a man with a sad face, turned upward./And again I closed my hand, and when I opened it there was naught but mist./And I heard a song of exceeding sweetness.


It was but yesterday I thought myself a fragment quivering without rhythm in the sphere of life./Now I know that I am the sphere, and all life in rhythmic fragements moves within me.


Dreams


Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights. But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge. You would know in words that which you have always known in thought. You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.


Solitude


You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart, you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.


Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.


Timelessness


...the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness, And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.


Yesterday we complained of time and feared it, but today, we love and embrace it.


We measure time according to the movement of countless suns; and they measure time by little machines in their their pockets. Now tell me, how could we ever meet at the same place and the same time?


My house says to me, "do not leave me, for here dwells your past."/And the road says to me,"Come and follow me,for I am your future."/And I say to both my house and my road, "I have no past, nor have I a future. If I stay here, there is a going in my staying; and if I go there is a staying in my going. Only love and death will change all things.


Regrets


...regrets is the beclouding of the mind and not its chastisement.


Beauty


People of Ophalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. But you are life and you are  the veil. Beauty is eternally gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.


In God's field of Beauty, at the edge of the stream of life, I was imprisoned in the cage of laws made by man.


Everything of beauty that awakens my love and desire is a disgrace, according to man's conceptions; everything of goodness that I crave is but naught, according to his judgement.


Yesterday I was a happy shepherd looking upon his head as a merciful king looks with pleasure upon his contented subjects. Today I am a slave standing before my wealth, my wealth which robbed me of the beauty of life I once knew.


Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive.


Happiness


Happiness is a vine that takes root and grows within the heart, never outside of it.


Religion


Your daily life is your temple and your religion.


Human being unite in destroying the temples of the spirit and co-operate in building the edifices of the body.


God


And if you would know God, be not therefore a solver of riddles. Rather look about you and you shall see Him with your children.


In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond...


The first thought of God was an angel. The first word of God was a man.


My God, my aim and my fulfilment; I am thy yesterday and thou art my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky and together we grow before the face of the sun.


I have existed from all eternity and behold, I am here; and I shall exist till the end of time, for my being has no end.


The Infinite


I have floated in the universe of the infinite and flown in the upper air of the imaginary world. There I was close to the circle with its divine light; here, I am in the prison of matter.


It was but yesterday I thought myself a fragment quivering without rhythm in the spheres of life. Now I know that I am the sphere, and all life in rhythic fragments moves within me.


Humanity is a river of light running from the ex-eternity to eternity.


I am forever walking upon these shores,/Betwixt the sand and the foam,/The high tide will erase my footprints,/And the wind will blow away the foam./But the sea and shore will remain/Forever.


Suffering


...he who has never looked at suffering cannot claim to see joy.


Strange, the desire for certain pleasures is a part of my pain.


Failure


To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.


Memory


Remembering is a form of meeting. Forgetfulness is a form of freedom.


Baudelaire's Chant d'automne (Song of Autumn) (波德來爾的『秋之歌』)

After the interrruptions of a number of other blog articles when I first started my series of Spanish and French poems on autumn, I can now resume. As far as I am aware, Baudelaire has written two on the subject: Chant d'automne and Sonnet d'automne. I shall start with the translations of the first of the two.


Chant d'automne                                          Song of Autumn                                                   秋之歌


1.


Bientôt nous plongerons dans les froides ténèbres; Soon w'e'll plunge into cold shadows;     快陷入那冰冷的陰影中了;


Adieu, vive clarté de nos étés trop courts!  Bye, long live the light of our tsummers all too short!!再會,我們那太短夏天的光芒!


J'entends déjà tomber avec des chocs funèbres        I hear already falling with funenary shocks 我已聽見亭園石卵上樹枝響亮的 


Le bois retentissant sur le pavé des cours.  the wood resounding on the courtyard's cobblestones.下墮聲伴著殯葬的震盪。


 


Tout l'hiver va rentrer dans mon être: colère, The whole winter shall return to my being: anger, 整個冬天將返回我內:憤怒,


Haine, frissons, horreur, labeur dur et forcé,   hate, shivers, horror, work hard and forced.  憎恨,顫抖,恐怖,艱苦被逼的エ作。


Et, comme le soleil dans son enfer polaire,      And, like the sun in its polar hell,              像在地極地獄之太陽,


Mon coeur ne sera plus qu'un bloc rouge et glacé.  My heart will be nothing but a block red and frozen. 我心祇能會化作冷凝的紅塊。


 


J'écoute en frémissant chaque bûche qui tombe;    I hear trembling each log which falls;   我顫抖地聆聽每塊原木跌下


L'échafaud qu'on batit n'a pas d'écho plus sourd The gallows on srikes doesn't have a muter echo. 被拍打中的絞架迴響也沒這啞口無言。


Mon esprit est pareil à la tour qui succombe   My spirit is like a tower falling  我思想如被不懂疲累而沈重的撞棍之猛繫下


Sous les coups du bélier infatigable et lourd.    under the blows of battering ram untiring and heavy.   垮倒的塔子。


 


Il me semble, bercé par ce choc monotone,   It seems to me, rocked by this monotonous shock, 我彷如一個在某處被怱怱釘封的棺木,


Qu'on cloue en grande hâte en cercueil quelque part, which one nails in great heste in a coffin somewhere, 被這使人納悶的衝擊如嬰孩般輕搖


Pour qui?--C'était hier l'été; voici l'automne! for whom?--t'was summer yesterday, here's autumn! 為誰呢?--昨天還是夏季,現在己是秋季!


Ce bruit mystérieux sonne comme un départ. This mysterious noise sounds like a farewell.    這神秘之音似乎響着告別之聲 。


 


2.


J'aime de vos longs yeux la lumière verdàtre,     I love the greenish light of your longish eyes,     我愛你那長長眼中的綠光 


Douce beauté, mais tout aujourd'hui m'est amer, Sweet beuaty, but everything today is bitter to me 甜蜜的美麗,但對我來說今天一切都是苦澀


En rien, ni votre amour, ni le boudoir, ni l'âtre,   Nothing, not your love, not the boudoir, not the hearth,沒有什麽,沒有愛情,沒有閏房,沒有火爐,


Ne me vaut le soleil rayonnant sur la mer.           is worth more to me than the sun shining over the sea.比海上光芒四散的太陽更重要。


 


Et pourtant aimez-moi, tendre coeur! soyez mère,  Nonetheless, love me, tender heart! Be my mother,但無論怎樣温柔的心,愛我吧!做我母親


Même pour un ingrat, même our un méchant;       even for the ungrateful, even for the mean ;  儘管我忘思負義,儘管我卑劣      


Amante ou soeur, soyez la douceur éphémère        lover or sister, be the ephemeral sweetness 愛侶或姊妹,你得成為


D'un gloriex automne ou d'un soleil couchant.   of a glorious autumn or a setting sun.  光輝的秋天或夕陽稍鏡縱即逝的甜美。


 


Courte tâche! La tombe attend; elle est avide!   Short work! The grave awaits; she is avid! 舉手之勞的工作!墳墓在等待,他多貪婪!


Ah! laissez-moi, mon front posé sur vos genoux, Ah! leave me alone, my face over your knees, 呀!放手,讓我把臉龐放在你膝蓋上,


Goûter, en regrettant l'été blanc et torride,        Taste, regretting the summer white and torrid,  當懊悔白色與酷熱的夏季時


De l'arrière-saison le rayon jaune et doux!         From the last-seaon the ray yellow and sweet!   嚐一口上季那黄色與甜蜜的光芒。


Like Neruda's poem on the same subject, Baudelaire also both look back to the hot summer and look forward to the coming winter. But there the similarity ends. One can see immediately that the landscape which interests  Baudelaire is more that of internal than the external physical landscape.  He does not describe how autumn is in itself but only autumn insofar as it affects how he feels about the season. What does he feel?


Baudelaire thinks that autumn is associated with cold dark shadows. He hears autumn in the form of old twigs falling down on to the cobblestone floor of the court of the Parisian mansions. The sound transports him into his feelings about autumn: a mixture of anger, hatred and the unpleasant feeling of shivering, horror and hard work. Remember, Baudelaire is a dandy and lived off his father's inheritance, which he squandered most liberally. In any event, he felt helpless with the coming of autumn. His red heart became frozen. The falling logs in the courtyard remind him of the gallows and also of the coffin. He felt his spirit crumbling, like the falling logs. He mourns the shortness and transience of summer. He thinks of the green leaves and green trees, which are no longer there, And he engages in imaginative reconstruction of his past. But to him,the most important priority is to get some sunlight.


In this poem, Baudelaire dwells on one theme which preoccupies him the whole of his life, his devotion to her mother who was only 28 when she married Baudelaire's 60 year-old father. He could never accept the fact that his mother could marry another man within a year of the death of his father and that he had to share his mother with some other children not related to him. To compensate him for his fear of winter, he begs to be mothered, he wants to place his head on the knees of his love, like a child.  So in the second part of the poem, his needs become more explicit. To him emotions have their own color, white or gold.  He is torn between the past and the future! But in the present, he would like to be under the sun.There is nothing more he likes better. He likes it more than love, more than the boudoir and more than the hearth. Baudelaire was consumptive and did not have very good health.. Perhaps that may explain his need for the sun.


2010年10月27日 星期三

Explosive Confessions

Nearly caught a cold tonight from walking home from the IFC Palace cinema with nothing more substantial on my back than a simple shirt! Lucky that I could warm myself up with some quick breathing exercises. But the risk was well worth taking. Saw an excellent Japanese movie called Kokuhaku(Confessions) by Tetsuya Nakashima, based on a novel of the same name by Kane Minato. I've never seen any films in the cinema since the HKIFF last Easter. So it was a wonderful feeling to sit in a comfortable seat in front of a wide screen again.


The story opens with some teenage students all drinking milk and then replacing the used paper cartons into designated slots in the wall after they are done and then a teacher X recounting why she would be leaving the F1 class in a month's time and be replaced by another teacher Y. She says that her young daughter D had just been found dead in a swimming pool next to the school. She said she suspected that it might have been done by two of her students which she would for the sake of protecting their privacy just refer to as A and B but the students do not appear to be paying much attention as she went into the history of how she met her husband, Z, a celebrity teacher who wrote a book on how to care for students, and who had HIV, how because of his condition, she chose not to formalize their marriage out of fear that their daughter might be asked embarrassing questions about why she did not have a father, the characteristics of who she suspected and why. She did emphasize one point though: how precious life is. She was completely calm when she related the story of her resignation, almost as if she were talking about some one else. I suppose that it is deliberate. The director probably wanted the movie to have an eery "objectivity" so that the teacher's monotone voice will hide both the emotional dynamite hidden in her story and her desire for meticulously planned psychological revenge against the perpetrators of the crime, who are protected against criminal prosecution because of the legal fiction that children below the age of 14 cannot have the capacity to commit a crime. The clinical objectivity was emphasized by the almost static camera and the bluish monochrome quality of the picture. The camera hardly moved, always staying at a comfortable medium distance from the characters except for a few close ups of particular parts of the human torso or face, thus creating an atmosphere of apparent realism and thus greater tension. At the end of the tale, she told A and B that she had already infected their milk with the HIV blood of her husband!


As the story unfolded, we got successive monologues by individual characters including A and B and also another girl student C, the prefect of the class, who was asked by the new teacher Y, an admirer of the Z, to visit B, who threw X's daughter into the swimming pool to drown her after he realized that she was not yet dead, out of a desire to outdo the clever boy A who thought he succeeded but didn't so that in B' s own mind, he could finish off what the clever boy A did not. B subsequently developed a depression so serious that he refused to budge from his bedroom and would turn violent whenever his mother souhgt to enter it. His mother, another single parent, would do anything to bring back his deranged son to normality but could never bring herself to accept that his son could have been a murderer who acted out of his own free will. It was by accident that A  saw D pestering her mother to buy her a purse and that gave him the idea to buy that purse to use as a bait. He attached to its zipper a modified device for delivering an electric shock against a robber. For this invention, he won the first prize of the national student's invention competition. He bought the purse for D, gave it to her whilst she was walking past the swimming pool on her way to feed a dog which she liked at a nearby house. When she tried to open it, she fell down on the ground. Its zipper was connected to an electric charge which was sufficiently strong to stun her. A was a top student who came from a family in which his mother was completely dedicated to scientific research and who from a young age taught him all about electronics because she had to give up her research career to raise A and wished that A might be the instrument for the fulfilment of her thwarted professional ambition. It seemed that A wanted to impress everybody with how clever he was and his experiment on D was part of his scheme to achieve fame. He wished to stun the world with his creative genius and in this case, he wanted his mother, who left his father after a quarrel,  to pay more attention to him. B joined him in the scheme merely because he was a student who was completely ordinary and was proud that he had been selected by the cleverest boy in the class to be his accomplice in the murder project. As the story developed, we discovered that the D did not die from the "lethal" electric charge of the purse but died of drowning. We were shown the messages on various computer screens of the students. We find that there are a lot of lies around for all sorts of reasons. Eventually, the mother of B was killed by B and A killed C because C guessed the real motive of B in killing D: that A had an Oedipus complex and wanted his mother to pay attention to him by seeing how "good" he was in inventing things. However, C herself had also certain morbid thought. She had collected all kinds of medicine which she thought might one day prove useful, perhaps in ending some one 's life including her own. In the event, A was made a fool of by X because she used the computer to impersonate A's mother. In a final attempt to draw his mother's attention, A thought of blowing up the whole school on the day that he would be honoured by the school for his prize winning essay on "Life and Death". The plan was however completely sabotaged by A. Death was not considered a price too high to pay.


What I like about this film, is not the credibility of the story but the skilful way the director was able to make use of different points of views of the heros of the movie to present a different psychological perspective on why D was killed. So the movie was a bit like a mix between the conventional detective thriller and the cubist way of presenting the psychological motives behind various characters doing various things, but always through the distorting mirror of the mind of the different characters. In this respect, the film was rather like the great Japanese classic Rashomon. The gradual unfolding of the story through the successive "confessions" of different characters helps keep the suspense going and helps also to give a complexity of to the film as the plot thickens with each new revelation. We never cease to ask, what will happen next. And our queries are answered by the revelations of more and more layers of truth, each deeper and more surprising and unanticipated than the last, in a way analogous to the layers of the union being gradually peeled off. This is my very first Nakashima film. He is a director whose future film it may well be worth watching out for.


Leaving aside for the moment of the question of the plausibility of the characters doing what they did, the story does proceed from climax to climax as more and more aspects of the murder came to light as a result of the disclosures made in the the course of the film. The length to which the different characters will go to obtain what they most desire, eg. love, revenge, fame or the desire to avoid shame and deal with guilt, power, the need for one's worth as a human being to be acknowledged by others etc may seem a bit excessive but the tension of the story was very well controlled by the director. I also like the music, a mix of Beatles songs, contemporary Japanese pop and the baroque piano music of Bach and occasionally some rap. The music provides a suitable backdrop to the sombre emotional tales being told. The apparent calm and rationality of the baroque music help to highlight and to heighten the bizarre depths of the human perversity portrayed in the film. I will not disclose here too much of who said what to whom where and what may be the possible motives of the various characters in doing what they did or I will spoil the fun for those who wish to see the film. I also like the photography,which is alway shot with medium shots with almost no panning at all. The composition of the screen images are always very studied, almost formal, as if they were still photographs. It seems that the director wishes us to concentrate on what the characters within the frame of the screen are doing and prefer to keep the narrative point of view through the lens of the camera as neutral as possible, as if it were just a documentary. I like the image of A making a clock which runs backward, second by second: an objective correlative of his desire to restore the lost love of his mother. I also like the constant images of the clouds in the context of a sunset. From time to time, the director will let us have shots of the clouds in the sky. But they always appear more or less the same, with a slight tinge of orange against a darkening blue sky.  Is the director trying to suggest that no matter what the characters are doing, someone perhaps a supernatural being or a supernatural power, is watching and will somehow ensure that every one gets what they deserve? Is he suggesting what LaoTzu is saying, that the universe is not merciful and treat human beings as straw dog used in ancestral worship? Is he suggesting what Shakespeare is suggesting: as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.Is the director trying to tell us that beneath the surface calm and orderliness of Japanese society, there lurk all kinds of dissatisfactions, dark unsatisfied needs which cannot find any resolution except in violence, physical and psychological, to the ultimate extent of death and murders. The film ends with some spetacular photography: everything being blown to pieces with objects flying about with at tremendous speed, all the fragments of the past in the lives of the various characters being merged in a gigantic chaos hurtling across the screen amidst a sound like the rumbling of an exploding volcano, in complete contrast to the static frames of all the previous scenes, like the paroxysm of the final outburst of sound in a Shastakovich symphony. Was it real or did it occur only in the mind of the A?  Certainly not a waste of anybody's time, including mine.


2010年10月26日 星期二

Baudelaire's Correspondances (Correspondence)( 波德來爾之『對應』 )

Yesterday, I talked a little about Baudelaire's ideas about the function of poetry in the exploration of beauty. That forms part of the Baudelaire's thoughts about the function of art. But that does not exhaust his thoughts on the matter. In another poem, Correspondances, Baudelaire attempted to elaborate a little more about his theory of art. Let's find out what he has got to say on the subject by looking at the following poem, the translations of which follow below.


Correspondances                                               Correspondence                                        對應


La Nature est un temple où de vivant piliers         Nature is a temple where live pillars     大自然是一座廟宇


Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;            Sometimes let out confusing speeches;   在哪活生之柱有時發出紊亂之話語


L'homme y passe à travers des forets de symboles and man walks across forests of symbols人類走過以親切眼光            


Qui l' observent avec des regards familiers.           watching him with intimate looks.  觀察着他們的眾多象徾之林


 


Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent   As long echoes which bsfffle from afar      猶遠方不絕之迥響


Dans une ténèbreuse et profonde unité,          within a dim and deep unity,             在昏暗與深邃之統一中難以釐清,


Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,            vast as the night and the light                 猶浩浩之黑夜與光芒,


Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se repondent. the perfumes, the colors and the sounds reply.香氣,色彩與聲音正作出回應。


 


Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs dénfants,   They are perfumes fresh as baby's flesh      香氣清新如嬰兒肌膚,


Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,  sweet as flutes, green as meadows  若長笛般甜蜜,若草原般翠綠,


--Et d'autres, corrumpus, riches et trimophants,        --and others, corrupted, rich and triumphant,--其他的,腐敗,豐沃和洋洋得意,


 


Ayant l'expansion des choses                   Having expanded from things infinite  猶若攬着一些在不斷擴張中的永恆東西,


Comme l'ambre, le musc, le bonjoin et encens,     as amber, musc, benjamin and incense,  如琥珀,麝香,香木與乳香,


Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens  which sing of the uplifting of the spirit and of the senses 歌頌着精神與官能的狂喜。


In this poem, he images Nature as a gigantic temple. In that temple there are all kind of voices. Sometimes such voices will try to speak to us and tell us what they wish to do. They will talk in jumbles, confusedly. Yet hidden deep within Nature, there is a certain unity in such apparently baffling and confusing voices. They would speak to us through symbols which populate Nature like so many forests of different kinds of trees. The trees he refers to are probably the trees of languages, the live pillars of Nature that he was talking about in the first line of the first stanza. And the symbols of such trees are constantly watching over and observing mankind. But the pillars of Nature can also be interpreted differently as something related to the male body. Baudelaire is a dandy whose stepfather is a senator and he spent his days in Paris visiting brothels and indulging in the other pleasures of the body and of the senses. By using ambiguous sysmbols which can mean different things because of their very ambiguity, he is able to engage the imagination of his readers.


To Baudelaire, the different sounds of words would echo throughout Nature as if from very far away but in that dark and hazy world, there is not only darkness. One may also find there light too. And they may speak to us through the language of smells, odors, perfumes as he says, through ambers, musk, benjamin ( a kind of tree in America or in Indonesia from whose bark we can extract a white substance which has a wonderful aroma which is sometimes used in cooking or medicine) and incense. In the third stanza, Baudelaire uses mixed images. He says that the perfumes has the peculiar smell of the skin of a baby and is as sweet as the sound of the flute and as green as the color of the grass meadows. Here we find that correspondence which he is talking about: the sensation of smell is successively described in terms of sound and in terms of sight!  This is the kind of mixing of the different sensations occuring deep within the human psyche where the structural similarity of information coming to us through our different senses are given a certain unity by the mental processes of our brain. This is a form of what some psychologists or philosophers have called synesthesia: the mixing of the sensations coming from our eyes, our ears,  our noses, our tongues and simply our skin. At a very primitive state of our development, our only contact with the external world is our skin! It is only later that different areas of our skin become specialized sensory cells for a more subtle and discriminating sensing of the external environment. The brain delights in such mixing of sensations. He says that such smells are singing praises to the common joy of both our spirit and our senses. If one were able to read French, one could feel the fusion of sound with sense by hearing not only the end rhymes of the original French lines but also the internal rhyming of the words within each line and from line to line. This kind of writing is first introduced by Baudelaire and was later developed by such poets as Arthur Rimbaud, and and also Anna Maria Rilke and  found its highest development in the poetry of Mallarmé.  This kind of writing later also influenced the poetry of such English poets and writers as Algernon Swinsburne, W. B Yeats, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and in America the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg and Allen Ginsburg.


Baudelaire's La Beauté (Beauty) (波德來爾之美)

Yesterday, I published my translations of one of Baudelaire's poem on beauty. But in fact, he had another which was simply called "La Beauté" (Beauty). Compared to the previous one, the latter sets out even more clearly what Baudelaire's ideas about poetic beauty were. So it pays to study this poem. Here it is with my translations.


      La Beauté                                                          Beauty                                                                  美


Je suis belle, ô mortels! comme un rêve de pierre I'm beautiful, O mortals! like a dream of stone  噢,凡人,我多美!如夢幻寶石


Et mon sein, où chacun sést meurti tour à tour,   And my breast, where each is dead one by one,  在哪人們逐一死去的我胸,


Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour              Is made to inspire in the poet a love              為挑起詩人心中某種


Eternel et muet ansi que matière.                       as eternal and silent as matter.         如物質般永恆而悄靜之愛而造。


 


Je trone dan lázur comme un sphinx incompris; I sit enthroned in the blue like a incomprehensible sphinx,我像高空迷樣的獅身人面獸


J'únis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cynes; I unite an icy heart to the swan's whiteness;   我把冰心與天鵝之白溶為一體; 


ja hais le mouvement que déplace les lignes,       I hate the motion which moves the lines     我痛恨那把線條移位之動靜,


Et jamais je ne pleusre et jamais je ne ris.          and I never cry and never laugh.              而我從不哭亦從不笑。


 


Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,          Poets, in front of my lordly attitudes,    在我那彷從極高傲的紀念碑借來的


Que jái láir démprunter aux plus fiers monumentss, which I appear to have borrowed from prouder monuments,莊嚴態度前,詩人


Consumeront leurs jours en dáustères études;      spend their days in austere studies;           整天埋首於苛刻的研究。


 


Car jái, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,           'Cause I have, to fascinate these docile lovers 皆因我擁有那些能為我眼,我那大眼


De purs miriors qui font toutes choses plus belles:from pure mirrors which make things more beautiful以那些使一切更漂亮的純潔鏡子


Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles!  My eyes, my big eyes with eternal lights!  添上永恆的光芒以使這些馴服的愛侶着迷!


In this poem, Baudelaire expresses his idea about what he thinks is poetic beauty. Many will die at the breast of beauty. These are the poets. Beauty is there to inspire the poet to love it for an entire eternity or forever. To look for beauty, one must really be calm and rational. Beauty, as Baudelaire says, never laughs. Nor does it cry. Beauty is there, high above, sitting on a celestial throne. The poets spend all his waking hours trying to work out how he is going to write his poems. Beauty, for its lovers, merely help its lovers by providing them with a new pair of eyes to look at the world and through such a new perspective, it may add to what we see in this world by showing to us its eternal aspect and shine upon it the light of eternity. The poets are therefore our travel agents, perhaps even our pilots, for eternity. We take their planes and they'll bring us there. Their planes are their poems. Their planes take us into the unknown: the realm of mystery and of eternity. To Baudelaire, the poem is its own object, which is the pursuit of beauty. It does not take any order from any one. No one is its master. It does not have to concern itself with matters of conventional morality. Baudelaire's ideas about the role of poetry influenced his successors like Mallarmé and Verlaine etc. which I hope to introduce later. It was Baudelaire who first sought to make use of the sound of the words he used to create a certain mood, a certain atmosphere, something with application not only to poetry. The later impressionist painters and impressionist composers all borrowed this idea to create their "impressions" in their painting and in their music. The work of art became thus an object which does not point to anything beyond itself. We can see a whole tradition of French thinkers and writers and composers who followed this line of thought: the primacy of the object, complete, proud, independent, beautiful and not at all concerned with what social or other functions its spectators, its audience, its readers expect of it. It has only one object. Its object is purely esthetic. This is the so-called "art for art" sake tradition. It was Baudelaire who started it all.


2010年10月25日 星期一

Baudelaire's Hymne a la Beauté 波德莱爾的美之頌


After the busy weekend, there's finally time to return to my first love, French poetry. I shall do a translation of a poem by one of the most influential modern French poets. He is Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), the French translator of the works of Edgar Alan Poe, himself a writer and poet.  He studied to become a lawyer but never finished his studies, being a student at the Ecole de Droit in 1840. He joined the revolution of 1848. He is famous for his Les Fleurs du Mal or Flowers of Evil., 101 skilfully written lyrical poems, including many sonnets.  


Previously, poets only treated beautiful subjects. Rarely did any poet write about things which were ugly, dirty, squalid, disgusting, gross, nauseating, revolting, vulgar, vile, sickening or loathsome. Baudelaire was the first one to do so. He wrote about what he saw in the Paris of mid-19th century when industry was starting to put up ugly steel structures everywhere and Paris became a city where there mushroomed dingy hotels, brothels, bars, dirty streets, soiled bedsheets, foul smell, filthy bodies and messy minds. The Paris we see today, with its wide boulevards, museums, gardens and sunny terraces of open air cafes was not rebuilt until the 1870 when Baron von Hauusmann who has one of the boulevards named after him, started the present city planning of Pairs centred around the L'Arche de Triomphe at the Place d'Étoile and at its opposite end the Obelisk brought back by Napoleon as a war trophy from Egypt .  Baudelaire wrote about that half world of drunks, prostitutes, clochards and down and out people and the transient pleasures they found in love on retail. . When his poems first appeared, there were efforts by the conservatives to suppress their publication and six of his poems were in fact banned by court order  because of "outrage to public decency.", obsenity, blasphemy: Lesbos, Femmes damnéees--Dephine et Hippolyte, Le lèthé, A celle qui es trop gaie, Les Bijoux and Les Métamophoses du vampire.  But to Baudelaire, the beauty of conception and style was sufficient. He did not think that the poet ought to concern himself with public morals. He saw himself as a fallen angel. He always lived beyond his means, as a dandy, depending upon his father's inheritance, indulging in alcohol, drugs and debauchery and eventually died of syphillis. His natural father was a 60 year old ex priest who married his mother then 26. After his father died, his mother remarried and he could never accept this because he worshipped his mother.  His stepfather was a senator and treated him fairly well. He emphasized in his poetry sense, sound, smells and thought that the various senses might be interchangeable into each other in a kind of structural correspondence buried deep within the human psyche.  


Baudelaire found a kind of paradoxical beauty in that world of squalor, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, hashish, opium, cheap thrills, and transient one night stands, decadence,  decay, darkness and even death. The poem I am translating relates to ambiguous beauty that hovers around the fuzzy borders between light and darkness, heaven and hell. Here it is:


Hymne a la Beaute                                                 Hymn to Beauty                                    美之頌


Viens-tu du ciel profond ou sors-tu de l'abime, Do you come the deep space or go from the abyss 噢美, 你來自奧天還是出自深淵?


O Beauté? Ton regard, infernal et divin     Your gaze, hellish and heavenly,                    你的凝視, 如地獄與天堂,


Verse confusément le bienfait et le crime    pours in confusion good deed and crime         混淆地瀉下善行與罪行


Et l’on peut pour cela te comparer au vin.  And so one can compare you to wine            故此人得視你為酒。


 


Tu contiens dans ton oeil le couchant et l'aurore; You hold within your eyes the sleep and dawn 你眼內藏落日與黎明


Tu répands des parfums comme un soir orageux; You pour perfumes like a stormy night  你猶暴風雨之夜般傾瀉你的香氣


Tes baisers sont un philtre et ta bouche une amphore Your kisses are love potions and your mouth an urn 你吻如催情葯而你嘴如窄頸瓶


Qui font le héros lâche et l'enfant courageous   which make heros lazy and boys brave    使英雄喪胆而小童勇悍


 


Sors-tu du gouffre noir ou descends-tu des astres? Do you go out from the dark gulf or drop from the stars?你出自黑淵還是從星星墜下


Le Destin charmé suit tes jupons comme un chien;  Your charmed life follows your petticoat like a dog你著魔的命運如狗般跟從;


Tu sèmes au hazard la joie et les désastres, You sow joy and disaster at random            你隨意散播歡樂與災難


Et tu governes tout et ne reponds de rien.     You rule all et answer to none.                   你操控–切而不聰命於任何人。


 


Tu marche sur des morts, Beauté, dont tu te moques;You walk over the dead, Beauty, whom you mock ; 美,你踐踏着你輕蔑的死者;


De tes bijoux l'Horreur n'est pas le moins charmant,  Horror is not the least charming of your jewels.  恐怖不是你珠寶中最迷人者


Et le Meurre, parmi tes plus chère breloques,     and Murder, among your dearest trinket 死亡亦不是你廉價飾物中最心愛者,


Sur ton ventre orgueillleux danse amoreusement.  over your proud belly dances amorously.在你驕傲之肚皮上,充滿愛意地舞蹈吧。


 


L'éphemère éblouis vole vers toi, chandelle,         Dazzling epherema flies towards you,    花燭,閃亮的蜉蝣正向你飛撲過來,


Crépire, flame et dit: Bénissons ce flambeau! crackle, flames and say: we bless this torch! 火焰,卜卜作響,說:我們同祝聖這火炬!


L'armoreux pantelant incliné sur sa belle,    The panting lovers bends over his beauty,  氣噓噓的愛侶將身挪近其美人  


A l'aire d'un moribond carressant son tombeau.         like a dying man caressing his grave.        猶垂死者愛撫其墓


 


Que tu viennes du ciel ou le 'enfer, qu'importe,  Who cares whether you come from heaven or hell, 有誰者緊你來自天堂成或地獄


O Beauté! monstre énorme,effrayant, ingénu!        O Beauty! huge monster, frightening, artless! 噢美!龐大,嚇人,不懂造作!


Si ton oeil, ton souris, ton pied, m'ouvrent la porte If you eye, your smiles, your foot, open to me只要你眼睛,笑容,小腳向


D'un Infini que j'aime et n'ai jamais connu?  the door of the Infinite which I love and have never known?我敞開我心愛與從未涊識的無垠之門


 


De Satan ou de Dieu, qu'importe? Ange ou Sèrene From Satan or God, who cares? Angel or Siren,有誰者緊你來自撒旦或天主


Qu'importe, si tu rends--Fée aux yeux de velours,   Who cares, if you return--fairy with eyes of velvet,, 你是天神或塞壬有誰者緊若你


Rhythme, parfum, lueur, ô mon unique reine!--     rhythm, parfume, sweat, o my only queen--天鵝絨眼睛的仙子,奉遠


還節奏,香氣,汗水,噢,我的唯一女后!--


L'univers moins hideux et les instants moins lourds? universes less hideous and moments less heavy?有更不醜陋的宇宙及更不沈重的瞬間嗎?


2010年10月23日 星期六

Saturday Surprises

As I am never tired of repeating, life is really full of surprises for those with an open mind. I attended another concert of the HKPO on Saturday night and met with a number of surprises. One concerns an artist, the other concerns a composer and a third concerns the quality of the music and a fourth concerns my concert friends. All are equally pleasant except one.


The evening's programme at the City Hall consists of works by two Czech composers and a Finnish composer. They are respectively the Czechs Leos Janácek, Antonín Dvorák and the Finn Jean Sibelius. The HKPO under Perry So performed Janácek's Zárlivost (Jealousy),  Dvorák's Violin Concerto in A minor Op 53 and Sibelius' Symphony No. 2.


I have heard of works by Janácek before but it was the first time that I heard Zárlivost. This piece was originally the overture to an opera of the same name which however had been so completely re-written by the composer that it was no longer suitable to the actually completed work and was therefore again revised by the composer as an independent work. According to Horbrough, who wrote a study of Janácek's works, "It is altogether too forceful and self-contained to be a suitable introduction to the opera.". I agree. It was a very forceful and dynamic piece of music. The jealousy of the title refers to the story in Jenüfa, originally written by a Czech writer Gabriela Preissová, first staged at the National Theatre in 1890 , a story about an old woman who lives with her grandson Steva and his half brother Laca in a lonely mill deep in the Moravian countryside. The stepdaughter of the village sacristan, the beautiful Jenufá was pregnant by Steva and they were planning to get married but Laca too was passionately in love with her and slashed her face to make her unattractive to his half-brother. In the music, there is a constant five-note drumbeat to signal the turning of the village mill-wheel whilst the French horn and other winds play motifs to signify the tension between the two half-brothers in a pastoral setting. The piece figures the theme of conflict, repeated with variations, with the entire orchestra being engaged but always with strife and energy. It is a very colorful melody and is always very noisy. You get the sense of unrest throughout the piece although of course, the tension was higher and more explosive in some parts  than in others. But there is almost no respite to the tension. It was a very richly orchestrated melody and  my first surprise of the evening.


The second piece was Dvorak's Violin Concerto. The concerto was written between July and September 1879 but was substantially revised by Joseph Joachim, then the most respected violinist of the day. Therefore there were many virtuoso passages engaging to the full all the techniques of the violin. The first movement started with the orchestra announcing the principal and quite forceful first motif but almost immediately it was introduced, the violin took over centre stage and the process was repeated a number of times and similarly for the second much more tender and soft motif very far into the first movement. The second movement consists of one of the softest and most romantic motifs of the piece which the young violin soloist of the evening, a rising star from the PRC, Yang Tianwa, fully brought out. According to the programme notes, she said she was very impressed by the melancholic folk elements involved in this movement. Like Mendelsohn's violin concerto, the first and second movements were played without a break. The third movement was much faster, with a much stronger rhythm and figuring two different types of rhythms of Czech folk dances, the Furiant and then the Dumka which give it a very lilting quality. I do not know what kind of violin was used by Tianwa, it sounded to my ears to have a very warm sound. I like in particular the sound of its G and D strings but its E string seemed to lack a little sparkle. However, its sound was perfectly suited to this piece. I was surprised how well Tianwa played. I do not know the title of the encore piece she played. It sounded quite contemporary to me and involved numerous double-string playing and she played with much more verve. I like it. She was my second surprise of the evening.


The last piece of the evening was Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 in D. Sibelius is a Finn but his parents came from Sweden. Scandinavian music has a quality all its own, quite unlike music from say, Germany or even Russia. When I listened to the symphony, the images conjured up in my  mind were the deep fyords, stark cliffs rising abruptly from crystal clear water, rows and rows of coniferous trees lining the sides of snow covered mountain tops, the roundish fronts of glaciers terminating abruptly amongst sharp craggy rocks, interspersed occasionally by small green meadows and gushing mountain streams, with little bright red or yellow flowers in spring or summer, either clear sky of limitless blue or a sky full of constantly swirling clouds whose shapes would change according to the speed of high velocity winds of the upper atmosphere, pelted by sheets and sheets of snow or sleet, sweeping across the air in waves after waves according to the strength of the cuttingly cold gusts hurtling in from the poles, strange light of weird colors of the aurora borealis sweeping the horizons in unsteady waves, ice crystals or icicles hanging from the tips of pine needles or the finger-like fir leaves, boats rising and falling amongst the crests of thousands of bubbles and sprays of white foam, moving grimly forward amongst huge billowing waves in search of cod or lobsters in the blinding sleet or snow. You hear waves upon waves of sheet-like sound, coming from the various sections of the orchestra mostly together but sometimes with high notes which keep moving in the upper registers of the strings and seem never to touch ground and only occasionally from an oboes, the bassoons, the flutes and in the third movement the plucking or bowing of the double bass and/or cello cords etc introducing certain fresh motifs to punctuate the sheets of sound. Thus the first movement gives a feeling of the milder meadows and bliss of the countryside and the second supplies a rather more vigorous rhythm like those of movement of the clouds and elements. The third is more lyrical and the fourth more heroic.


It certainly seems odd that such huge sounds were produced by a tall and lanky Chinese conductor whose stature resembles more that of a cardboard figure than someone with a rather more substantial body.  But appearance is deceptive. He managed to produce some very solid and well controlled sound from the HKPO and in doing so, he would lift his heels a full 6 inches above the floor of the podium, with huge movement of his arms, and often would bow his body down almost a foot from his full height to indicate the need to play more softly and delicately. I like especially the climax of final movement during which the brass, the oboe, the clarinet, the horns were used uninhibitedly to blare to the utmost limits of its sound. It was a fitting dramatic close to the piece.


How well the HKPO played and how fresh the music from Finland sounded and how few of my friends came to enjoy the concert with me (just Hi Fi Chan and me) were my last surprises of the evening!


Girls

Whilst having a quiet lunch at a neighborhood restaurant at the corner of Cochrane Street in Central, a little distance from my office, certain thoughts occurred to me. I was seated at a seat close to the middle of the restaurant which was divided into a front and rear portion separated by a shoulder height wooden partition. My seat was next to the wooden partition. Facing me against a side wall of the restaurant was a computer into which the waitresses would have to key in the code name of the relevant dishes and the amount of the bill. As it was nearly  2 p.m., there were not really that many customers both on the outside and the inside.


What set my mind working was a girl. She was constantly walking to and fro in front of me, sometimes going to that computer but frequently for no apparent reason: not either carrying anything in her hands to any customer or removing stuff from the other tables or answering any any call for her service and would cast her eyes towards my direction to see what I was doing. And as she walked, she would unconsciously run her fingers through her hair in the kind of way that Chinese people would describe as "lotus-hand" and would at the same time lift her head in a kind of almost abrupt jerk to emphasize the movement, I suppose, to present what she probably thought her beautiful profile. Originally, whilst eating, my mind was occupied with reflecting on what I should be writing about in my blog on Monday: whether I should write something on Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Valéry, Apollinaire or some other French poets, or on Neruda, Machado, Borges, Lorca or other Spanish poets or just another one on Chiang Hsun or on Matthieu Ricard or something on science etc. I already knew I had to write about tonight's HKPO's concert at Cityhall. But my attention was distracted twice. Twice, the girl approached another older waitress who was engaged in serving several customers at my next table and put both her hands on her shoulders and giggled, again for no apparent reason, right beside me, just like a silly schoolgirl. Maybe she was laughing at her own silliness in thus suddenly putting her hands on the shoulders of the older waitress and leaning the weight of  her body against her back. Maybe, she was hyperactive, just like my mother, my elder brother, my elder daughter and me. Maybe she was just bored at having nothing to do and simply wanted to relieve the kind of tension which boredom may build up in her body and walked to and fro to relieve the nervous tension thus building up inside her.


I felt sorry for the girl. She looked remarkably like one of our young trainees E. Like E, she was about five feet six, has very good features, a longish face, fair skin, a petite straight nose with a tiny tiny cherry like bulb at its tip, delicate nostrils, long moon-shaped eyebrows, long false eye lashes, well shaped mouth with thin lips, intelligent eyes, medium long straight hair flowing over the middle of the nave of her neck and curved slightly inwards. She had a loose fitting grey cotton knitted T-shirt with a wide neck which descended obliquely to about two or three inches below the bottom of her neck, thus exposing part of her white shoulders and the upper part of her back, over a black, hot pant style short skirt over some fish-net stocking with thick black floral threads over her slim shapely legs, the front of which were covered by her purple colored waitress apron. What caught my attention was her face. She looked almost the twin sister of our trainee! The only difference I could see was that there was more of a sparkle and a little fire to the eyes of our trainee which I did not find in those of the waitress. Yet how different their fates.


Our trainee is the daughter of a doctor and a final year student of the London School of Economics. She has a really quick mind which is constantly trying to anticipate what you want. Unless the document is likely to run to more than 10 pages, I would seldom sit down in front of the computer to compose it. I would simply stand beside whoever is helping me with my eyes on the computer screen looking at whatever appeared on the screen as and when the words I dictated to my assistant appeared there, suggesting instant amendments and corrections to whatever I found wrong. Sometimes, I would have to check out the date, the names of the type of documents or the relevant parties or I wanted to put certain words extracted from the relevant documents in quotes or to check out some other factual details I needed in my arguments in my letters or pleadings to the opposite parties or to our clients. On such occasions, the difference between an intelligent and a stupid assistant becomes immediately obvious. E would invariably ask me whether this or that document was what I was looking for and where the kind of information suggested by the context of the sentence I was then dictating could be found in the relevant pile or where within  the relevant document I could find the passage I appeared to be looking for. The stupid assistant would simply stay her fingers over the keyboard and wait for me to dig out the relevant document from the pile of which that document formed part and ran my eyes over it to locate the kind of information I was then looking for. Whenever I pronounced the sound of a word which could refer to a number of possible words, she would invariably pick the right one according to the context so that I needed not spell out the word that I had in mind when I first dictated that word.


It was a joy to work with an intelligent assistant. I suppose that the difference between stupid and intelligent people may be that intelligent people's minds are always ticking and are sensitive to every changes in the context or the external environment and would anticipate what might be needed in the specific circumstances of the case. But in addition, they got another psychological quality which may be lacking in the dim witted: they are not afraid of being found wrong in their guesses. Stupid people on the other hand are either too dull or too lazy to do the anticipation or both dull and lazy and if not, they are too immobilized by their fear of being wrong to make such guesses of what may be needed. They have no confidence in their own judgement. That in turn may be related to their past success or failure in making guesses. Of course, if one's history shows that one is more often right than wrong, one's self confidence would thereby inevitably be boosted such that one will be more encouraged to risk future mistakes than would otherwise be the case. So in a sense, that may be the cumulative result of one's past conduct. Of course, negatively, if one never makes any guesses, one will never be wrong. However, by the same token, one will seldom be right. Those who make an intelligent quess may be wrong but then they may be right too.  If one never starts to anticipate, then although one may not be found wrong, there is not even a possibility that one may be right!


Of course, I have no way of finding out what was the real cause or causes of the one being a waitress in a Central neighborhood restaurant and the other being a trainee which may in a few years become either a solicitor or a barrister. The reason may not be connected to the personal qualities of the waitress at all. It could simply be that one was born into the wrong family. The Buddhists of course might explain it in terms of what the waitress did or failed to do in her previous life or lives. But then one can never be certain, notwithstanding the claim of some monks or Buddhists of being able to see into what one was in one's past life/lives and what one did or failed to do in such past life(ves). To me, that is a realm which bears further exploration. I would not say that in principle that is never possible but I suppose I will have to do further meditations to quieten my own mind, to lessen the interfering noises and to let such noises settle down so that my mind or consciousness becomes completely silent and clear and hence more sensitive to the subtle movements of the various waves of energy vibrating at various frequencies or ultra high frequencies at extremely low energy levels to feel or otherwise enabled to pick up the various waveforms at such frequency and energy levels. If we do not subscribe to the Buddhist belief of the relentless operation of the laws of cause and effect governing what they call the karma of each individual person, then one could attribute the differences in the fates of two young ladies of almost the same age, height, weight, build and appearances to the mysterious and completely random operation of chance! I could not think of any other reason. Or maybe, one needed not try to find any reasons at all!


This is a Crazy World

One moment this world is enchanting. The next, it is disenchanting. This really is a crazy world!!! No, no, no. This world is not crazy. But only the people in it are! So how do we define this world and some of the things in it for crazy people? The answer may be as simple as it is crazy. So...here are some crazy definitions and some crazy answers to crazy questions.


DEFINITIONS


Atom Bomb:  An invention to end all inventions


Boss:            Someone who is early when you are late and late when you are


                    early.


Classics:         Books which everyone praises but which no one bothers to read


Committee:    Individuals who do nothing individually and sit to decide that


                    nothing can be done together


Compromise: The art of dividing a cake in such a way that everybody believes


                    he got the biggest piece.


Conference:  The conclusion of one man multiplied by the number present.


Conference Room:   A place where everybody talks, no one listens and


                             everybody disagrees later on.


Criminal:        A guy no different from the rest...except that he got caught


Divorce:       The future tense of marriage.


Doctor:         A person who kills your ills by pills and then kills you by his


                    bills.


Etc.               A sign to make others believe that you know more than you


                     actually do.


Experience:   The name men give to their mistakes


Father:         A banker provided by nature.


Lecture:        The art of transferring information from the notes of the


                    lecturer to the notes of the students without passing through


                     the "minds" of either.


Life Insurance: A contract which keeps you poor all your life so that you can


                        die rich.


Marriage:      An agreement by which man loses his bachelor degree and the


                     woman gains her master


Nurse:           A person who wakes you up to give you sleeping pills


Office:          A place where you can relax after your strenuous home life


Politician:      One who shakes your hand before elections and your confidence


                     after that.


Philosopher:   A fool who torments himself during life to be spoken of when


                    dead.


Smile:           A curve that can set a lot of things straight


Tears:           The hydraulic force by which masculine will power is


                     defeated by feminine water power


Yawn:           The only time some married men ever got to open their mouth


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:


Q:   How are husbands like lawnmowers?


A:    They're hard to get started, emit noxious odors and half the time, they


        don't work


 


Q:     How do men exercise on the beach?


A:     By sucking in their stomachs every time they see a bikini.


 


Q:     How do you keep your husband from reading your email?


A:      Rename the mail folder "Instruction Manuals"


 


Q:     How does a man show that he is planning for the future?


A:     He buys two cases of beer instead of one.


 


Q:    How many men does it take to screw in a lightbulb?


A:     Three: one to screw in the bulb and two to listen to him.


 


Q:     What is the difference between men and women?


A:     A woman wants one man to satisfy her every need. A man wants every


         woman to satisfy his one need.


 


Q:     What is the best way to force a man to do sit ups?


A:      Put the remote between his toes.


 


Q:      What is the best way to kill a man?


A:       Put a naked blonde and a six-pack in front of him. Then tell him to pick


          one only.


 


Q:       What does it mean when a man is in your bed gasping for breath and


           calling your name?


A:        You didn't hold the pillow down long enough.


 


Q:       What's the smartest thing a man can say?


A:        "My wife says...."


 


Q:        What's the quickest way to a man's heart?


A:         Straight through the rib cage.


 


Q:         Why did God create man before woman?


A:          He didn't want any advice.


Have a weekend crazy with joy!!