Is this good enough to publish?

‘Will this create social good? If not, surely it’s not worth publishing?’

This worry is the main reason I stopped blogging. Not only that, if I thought my friends wouldn’t benefit from hearing about e.g. what I’d done over the weekend, I wouldn’t talk about it. Recently, I wrote a few articles for other blogs and fretted big time because I wasn’t sure they were valuable enough to be put online (more later).

I soon realised how horrible this obstacle was for me and for my friends. Thankfully, I also realised how much I enjoyed reading good writing, quirky stories, and indeed anything from the heart. And I never disliked writers for publishing pieces (hateful works excluded), regardless of quality. It was a classic case of applying one set of standards to most people, and applying another set to myself: Everyone could write and publish online, except for me, because my work wasn’t good enough. Though this way of thinking undermined my ability, it was oddly arrogant in treating myself different from others.

So while people are wary of others offering free content because it takes precious time to create, here I am sitting and worrying that my work is not good enough to occupy a shack on the practically infinite street that is the Internet. That’s not creating social good – it’s burdening me and preventing people (me) from exchanging ideas, sharing experience and gifting constructive criticism.

So with that, here’s to blogging again.

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.

3.

My blanket is an alpine range

Snow-covered silks with dancing suns

fresh from the sky just for the eve,

an omelette of tourists on cotton sleeve.

// Another day a bloodstained scene of war

with flowers the size of fortresses,

stalks streams flowing up the slope,

vessels of thought, of dreamless sleep.

// I poise my lens, a photographer

capturing a snapshot of the History of Man

before I hop on the late night train

to the place where no cameras reign.


I am adding // s to the start of each stanza (save the first) because the line spacing isn’t working.

2.

The first tree

to lose all its leaves and stand exposed to the hustling of others’s leaves,

the rustle of warmth as it waves its branches in

vain,

wind strong enough to chill but

not to let those fingers touch and feel its own existence –

But it will perhaps hold first the golden chandelier when the spring comes.


(Final work imported from A.Symmetric Space, a side project I have now rescinded.)

Stream of Consciousness

I was thinking of doing some stream of consciousness writing. A stream, a flowing stream not necessarily of water but of music, of lava, hot from the oven, hot from the heart, hot from the centre of the Earth, hot from the pot stirred most smoothly by the ladle of Time. But the consciousness that pours out is chaotic, regardless of how you try to stir it. It does not obey the Laws of Whatever-You-Want-It-To, it does not even flow as one stream but has slight bumps in it, slight words here they come that you don’t expect, slight phrases even, or break offs. So the fluid is not continuous (not /necessarily/ continuous, it could be.) Don’t bother with trying to model it.

But yes, I had this idea from watching a monologue on credit from Love and Money, where the video was just (!) a mouth talking talking for five minutes straight it hurt my eyes at first but I grew more intrigued by the mouth, the emotion in the lips and teeth, wonder if you can see that normally if you’re not tunnelling? But yes, I thought hey I’d like to write something like that and see what I sound like in my head on paper if that makes sense, though it isn’t really a monologue at all: it’s a polylogue, the voices of your surroundings speaking through you in terms of the interactions, people your thoughts the discarded receipt on the floor saying something in their silent language of waves and frequencies, possessing you. Possessing you through your eyes and nervous system and brain and back to fingers onto paper. Clickety click.

Then surely every thought is not a mono-thought but a poly-thought, and we have so many more thoughts apart from those we know of, thoughts we pass on to others and then forget, if we ever knew them. Hah. Giving someone a thought you never knew, as though you could do something unconsciously like that. Well, maybe you could, the same way you do some things without thinking like maybe raising your hand in response to a question asked to a group, something you wouldn’t do if you were asked individually, yes? But you know you’re doing those things. But you arguably know you’re influencing others’s thoughts, just not specifically which and what.

Okay bad analogy – let’s try some biological process that’s happening inside you that you’re not aware of. Did you learn how to respirate? Presumably no. Actually maybe your cells did at some level at some point, but the key is you’re not aware of it. That’s better. Now think on that and good night.


(Imported from A.Symmetric Space, a side project I have now rescinded)

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!