Where is the middle of nowhere?

Where is the middle of nowhere?

Maybe ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ is the name of a place, just as China in Chinese stands for Middle Country. Or ‘Nowhere’ is the name of a place (an incredible one at that, where everyone’s skin is blue and pink and green), and we have to find its centre: it might be where most people or features are, or even the centre of mass, though that might mean that the middle of nowhere is not actually in Nowhere. Which, if you take Nowhere to be its literal meaning ‘nowhere’, means that the middle of nowhere is truly somewhere. (Which is what we’ve been asserting all along.)

If we were in a crime novel and were trying to be even more obtuse, it might be the letter h. We might even try representing ‘nowhere’ numerically as 14-15-23-8-5-18-5. The middle, then, might be the arithmetic mean of the numbers: 12 4/7, which is L D / G, or perhaps more appropriately LD7, an area in Llandrindod Wells.

But what of these obscure ways of interpreting phrases? Sure, they bring pleasure to the lover of triviality and of obsessive attention to detail, who flips objects like one might a loose pancake, making them more contorted with each flip until they are beyond recognition. These are then served repackaged as a some exotic gourmet dish often exclusively delicious to connoisseurs, but confusing and perhaps distasteful to others. Perhaps it would be better if we turned from them, at least for a while.

So if we were being more reasonable, we might say the middle of nowhere was a place in the radial centre of a deserted area. But in naming this place, we’d have to come up with an arbitrary measure of desolateness, and coldheartedly brand places people call home as forsaken, empty, and devoid of civilised life. Although some may take these labels with gusto, most would not be flattered by the often despairing, or even condescending tone borne from ignorance targeting the places they grew to know and love. And upon judgmentally identifying these places, all too frequently we end up ransacking rainforests and pouring sediment into the sea, only to have the tide turn against us soon after, at which point we blame others for the deed.

Thus, by the same token, should we not treat these seemingly frivolous issues with less contempt? This silly playing with numbers, or twisting of words might be the seed of a creative spirit, a hobby fostered from childhood ready to bloom. Soon, one might even find that these trifles have some use – first for occupation, then for entertainment, then for solving problems in ways never previously imagined. Trying to eliminate trivialities based on perceived usefulness is no winner’s strategy – imagine if mathematicians had stopped working on number theory, which Hardy had declared so proudly to be useless. We wouldn’t have the encryption systems or swift digital calculation often taken for granted today.

Is this claim a stretch? Perhaps. But with the prevalence of investigating for the sake of investigation, and playing with data for the sake of play among the pioneers of intellectual advancement (no citations, sorry), it’s worth at least a second thought. Otherwise, we might soon find ourselves lost in our own ignorance – where we began, in the middle of nowhere.


A recent rant (of mine) that came out of Nowhere.

My Birthday Fail – How failure can be a good thing

And Life said, ‘It’s your birthday? Here’s a whopping failure to celebrate!’ Hurray! It was devastating at first, but I’ve gotten over it now and thought it was interesting and meaningful (look for the bold text) enough to share, so here goes:

I love singing and especially enjoy singing in choirs — the interactions between the parts and the beauty of the human voice make for an amazing combination. So I applied for a choral scholarship at my first choice college in the hope that I’d be able to sing in their amazing choir. I was hopeful but not expectant, and prepared hard for the audition, recording myself and going over my piece again and again, sight-reading choral works and using online ear training sites to improve my aural skills (in the usual last-minute way, of course).

On the day, I was fairly prepared, excited, and surprisingly not too nervous. It was a lovely morning, which put me in a great mood. Everything was going well — I’d even managed to get to D6 on my warm-up. So when it was my turn, I just couldn’t wait to start. First up were the aural tests, in which I was asked to sing intervals, identify the middle note of chords and stuff like that. I think I got a lot wrong, but it didn’t put me off too much because I knew I’d be pretty bad at that anyway. Next was the sight reading. It didn’t look too complicated — just a few sharps and flats here and there, some interesting rhythm on the 2nd page and a key change. I foolishly sang it all in my head in the preparation time, and thought I’d be fine. If only I knew what was about to happen.

I’m usually decent at sight reading, but this time I lost my note after a mere 2 or so bars. I freaked out. ‘Where is my note? Is there some note in the alto part I can pick up on? Where are we?’ As the accompanist kept playing the alto, tenor and bass parts, I became mute for a full two lines as I tried in vain to find (1) where we were in the piece and (2) a place where I could easily find the Soprano pickup. Fortunately, I did get it back, but by that time I was so flustered that I lost my note again within another line. The apparent clashes made me feel uncertain, scared, worried, stressed, everything horrible you could think of. Luckily I didn’t have to sing my piece straight after — that was reserved for later that afternoon. I quickly thanked the conductor and the accompanist, and rushed out of the room. It was hands down the worst sight singing I’d done in my life, and I was so shocked and upset I found myself in tears.

I didn’t know why I was crying, and didn’t want to cry — was I really such a sore loser? Could I not accept that I screwed up and get on with life? After barely scraping through running my piece with the (brilliant) Organ Scholar & talking to the office head, I went for a walk round the city centre to calm my mind.

For a while I became dangerously dismissive, and tried to convince myself that I didn’t care about it. I hate that I try to convince myself I don’t care about something if I’m bad at it. I probably lost out a lot on things because of that. So don’t be an I-don’t-care-about-it-cause-I-suck-at-it loser like me.

Of course, I couldn’t lie to myself for long, so I was forced to face the music. (See what I did there?) I tried to be more optimistic, and realised that I was very lucky to be given a chance to fail, especially as I really cared about it (so it made an impact on me), but it wasn’t a life-or-death situation or something that mattered a lot. Failing isn’t something I’m used to, and it’s not something I like, but as they say it’s important because it helps you grow emotionally and in whatever area you failed in (if you’re willing to learn from it). Failure also stops you from being complacent, which is DEADLY. Hopefully, it will help you become less afraid of taking risks too. Now that I’ve gone through a worst-case-scenario level super-embarrassing audition, I don’t think I’ll be afraid to audition for anything else I’m interested in. And I know what to watch for next time I’m sight reading.

I won’t bore you with further details, but I’ll let you know that I had a wonderful afternoon. I had nothing to lose, sang the best I could at the mini recital, met lovely people, and listened to some beautiful voices. I didn’t get a callback, but, still, I left the college grounds with no regrets. Okay, maybe one or two, but it’s hard to banish the ‘what-ifs’ from your mind, you know? (On another note — stop what-if ing the past and what-if the future POSITIVELY.) Anyway, you get the idea. Hope this wasn’t too dull a read, and have a great day!

nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo 2011 has begun! Whoopee!

Whether you’ve plotted your way to this moment, or you are flying by the seat of your pants into the great blue beyond of your plot, you’re ready. When it comes to bashing out the first draft of your novel, there is no time like the present.

I wasn’t planning to join NaNoWriMo because of exams, but I’ve decided that I probably won’t ever try my hand at it if I let this I’m-too-busy attitude get the better of me, so here goes nothing! NaNoWriMo, here I come!

Like many others, I’ve always wanted to write a novel since I was youngish. Well, say, six years ago. But every time I came up with a new idea, I’d trash it after a few chapters because it just did not seem to be developing into anything readable. Everything would seem stereotyped and I would tear drafts in frustration.

But soon after, studies took over and writing faded out of my life. I haven’t written anything close to an opening of a novel in three years. I don’t even blog much now. So here’s to all the people who think they’re too busy to write – although I might not be as troubled as you, I hope you can also take some time to work on those dreams you have because you never know when it’ll be too late.

(cue enchanting music & inspiring Googled picture)

Continue reading “nanowrimo”

wuthering

Yes, I have an exam tomorrow, so I’m supposed to be studying. But who says you can’t study and write at the same time, especially when it’s literature? I must stress that I’m no literary expert: just an amateur who finds literature exceedingly immersive and would like to comment on it.

Of course, with literature, there’s got to be a piece. And guess what I have? None other than the epically complex Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. (+ two dots on the ‘e’.) It was a long read for me the first time round, but the parallels and the ‘contradictions’ in the characters (etcetera etcetera) drove me on. The month preceding my read of Wuthering Heights, I had not been able to finish a single book. (Dont’ ask why.) But this was unlike any other – it really showed me how amazing literature could be.

(If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights, you should, but here’s a quick synopsis: Mr. Earnshaw goes on a trip only to return with a child he found on the streets, whom he christens Heathcliff. His children, Catherine and Hindley, dislike him at first, but then Catherine and Heathcliff grow to be close friends and fall in love, whereas Hindley becomes Heathcliff’s enemy. As the story progresses, Catherine ends up marrying Edgar Linton because she thinks marrying Heathcliff would ‘degrade’ her. Heathcliff disappears, and the rest of the story tells of the consequences of this action, and ends describing the present: the situation of the generation after Heathcliff and Catherine. Oh yes, and there’s an outsider – Mr. Lockwood – that facilitates the telling of the story.)

That was only the beginning. After discussion with my friends and after doing research, I began to see themes and characteristics that I’d never noticed before. Take the parallel between Heathcliff and Catherine’s declaration of love for one another as an example. In the earlier chapters, Catherine tells Nelly, the servant, it would ‘degrade’ her to marry Heathcliff, at which Heathcliff leaves and disappears from her life for a few years. After that, however, she declares her love for him and says, ‘Nelly, I am Heathcliff’. However, it is too late and Heathcliff has already gone. After Catherine dies in the second volume, Heathcliff declares his love for her, saying ‘Be with me always…it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’ And…oh, if you want to know more, just read some of the journals on Wuthering Heights. There are plenty that will give you insight into the different aspects of the novel. And yes, those two are Catherine Earnshaw (Charlotte Riley) and Heathcliff (Tom Hardy). It doesn’t entirely adhere to the book, but Hardy played the part of Heathcliff quite well. You can watch it on Youtube in 14 parts here.

That’s probably it for today – hope you liked it! 🙂

Surveys – do they really work?

Surveys are used by companies to collect market data, by the government to better understand its people, and even by students for school projects and the like. But how effective are surveys in assessing the true situation? Do they accurately reflect general opinion, and can we use survey statistics to draw trend conclusions?

I received a phone call today that requested I take part in a survey on reading habits. Unknowing of what was to come, I agreed on completing it. However, I soon discovered that I wasn’t telling the complete truth, and that I was getting a little irritated. You see, there were a few questions I didn’t want to answer and so told them I didn’t want to give them the answer. But, like any interviewer, they kept pushing and so I just made up an answer to satisfy their wants. And the survey was really long too at 20 minutes! Come to think of it, I think it would have been better for both parties had I just hung up on them instead.

The question here is: was it wrong for me to lie in the survey? Lying is principally wrong, yes, but under this circumstance, could it be excused? And following up on that, can we really trust opinion surveys when people may lie to cover up for themselves, or because they don’t wish to disclose personal information? And what if they are just trying to be polite?

Yes, I’m ranting.

Just something to think about next time you’re conducting a survey: please be considerate. I know you may desperately want some information from an interviewee, but if you try to push it out of them the information might very well be misleading and it won’t help you at all. Oh, and good luck – especially if you’re doing a phone survey. 🙂

https://i1.wp.com/www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/bst0013l.jpg

Speaking of typhoons

Yes, the typhoon’s still here. And now some leaks – probably sewage leaks – have resulted in three huge spreading black regions in the harbour. 😦 Not only that, there are now hundreds of rectangular pieces of white material floating and flipping on the waves! My guess is they’re pieces of plastic from a ship perhaps that didn’t secure its cargo properly.

leakage.