Archives for category: musing
  1. I have difficulty suppressing fangirlish giggles while watching Sherlock.  Considering that I always watched it in my office PC, it is rather disadvantageous to my professional image.
  2. I surf those Sherlock-mania tumblr sites practically every day.  The Final Problem gives the highest satisfaction so far.
  3. As a result of #2, now I smiled foolishly every time I saw a traffic cone.  Which is often.  I just realized that there are three traffic cones in the basement of my block in NUS.
  4. While we are discussing Sherlock, let me remind you that 4th May is recognized as the Reichenbach Day.
  5. I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy just because someone is in it.  Yesterday I watched the unaired pilot of Sherlock, and today I watched Hawking.  I do not normally praise people lavishly, but Mr. Cumberbatch IS A GREAT ACTOR.  In Hawking, in the scene where the young Hawking enthusiastically explained his brilliant idea by drawing in the pavement using a chalk, for a moment, I did not see the actor.  Instead, I saw the laugh, the smile we often saw in photographs of Hawking. (On a separate note: Professor Hawking deserves a great amount of respect).
  6. I have always thought that Smaug is not a proper villain.  Not intended as such, and does not come across as such.  Now I am convinced.  Smaug is not evil.  How can he be, with such an adorable voice?  And, oh, the dragon looks cute with the dark blue scarf.
  7. At least I am not alone in this embarrassing situation.  It has been reported that a considerable number of intelligent, adult women all over the world is suffering from the Benedict Cumberbatch situation.

He covered his eyes with his hand.  Light, he thought with bewilderment, how can there be light in this place?  It had been long since he last saw any light, for he had long dwelt in the land of shadows.

He opened his eyes again as he heard footsteps.  To his even greater bewilderment, he saw a man – if man that radiant being could be called – standing before him.  This man is not a mere shadow, he thought, but how can that be, in this land of the dead? And the light, he wondered, why, not even Phoebus Apollo ever appeared to me with such terrible radiance.

“Hector.”

He startled.  He remembered his name, but he had not heard anyone spoke it for long, not even he himself.  For what needs have the dead of speech?

He did not know what to answer.  “Who are you, lord?” he finally said.

“Follow me,” the man said, “and you will see.”

 “Follow you?” Hector asked, “whither can we go?”

 The man looked straight at him.  “Home,” he said gently but firmly.

 Hector felt a pang in his heart.  “My home was burnt to ashes long ago.”

“Troy was burnt.  But I am taking you to your real home, which can never be destroyed.  And know that one day, even Troy will no longer be ashes.  For through me all things shall be made new.”  The man held out his hand.  “Come.”

Hector was not sure he understood these words, but another thing drew his attention.  He saw something like a terrible wound in the proffered hand.  There was an ugly hole in the man’s wrist, as if a sharp-edged thing had been driven through the flesh and somehow the spirit retained the appearance.

The man seemed to notice that Hector was staring at his hand, for he spoke softly, “Yes, I too have wounds, son of Troy.”

Hector raised his head to face the man.  “Did you die defending your city too?” he asked.  Hector was killed, oh, dreadfully killed, as he tried in vain to defend his city from the Achaeans.

The man seemed amused by this question.  “You died to defend your city.  I died to save my world.  My death was not in vain.  Not even yours was,” he said solemnly.  “Now we shall go to the land of the living.  Come.”

Suddenly there was in Hector’s heart a great desire to follow this strange man (or was he a god?) who claimed to know a way out of the depth of Hades.

 “I will follow you, lord,” he said, and took the proffered hand.  It was warm.

I was listening to this wonderful music and suddenly found my eyes wet.  Don’t you think that human history is very fascinating?  Yes, human history is filled with treachery and corruption.  But it is also filled with greatness and heroism.

 When a father who had been betrayed by his son could still say, upon hearing of his son’s death, ‘Would God that I had died instead of you, my son!’, does your heart not swell with pride, pride to be a part of this noble race called Men?

The beautifully sad song was composed by Eric Whitacre, a well-known choral composer.  If you are interested about the story of the father and the son, read below. Or you can read the original, of course.

There was once a great king who ruled a fair land.  He was victorious in battle, fair in appearance, in speech and in heart.  The king, as was the custom of the land at that time, had several wives who bore him many sons.  One of the king’s sons, the third to be born, was said to be the most handsome man in the kingdom.  He was well-liked by the people, for he often listened to their troubles and complaints.  Whenever anyone bowed down before him, as was the honour due to the king’s sons, the prince would take his hands, made him to raise and kiss him.

When he felt that he had won the hearts of the people, the prince rebelled against his father and declared himself king.  Many supported him and he gathered a strong army around him.  In an act of insolence, he openly slept with the king’s concubines.  The king was forced to flee the capital with few men who were still faithful to him.

But the young prince forgot whom he pitted himself against.  The king was a champion in battle, a master of arms and strategy.  It was said that in his youth he could subdue a wild lion with his bare hands, and age had diminished neither his strength nor his cunning.  And he was their rightful king, anointed by the prophet of God.  So it came about that the prince’s army was defeated by the king’s smaller troops.

The king had a great love for his son.  He commanded his troops to defeat the rebelling army, but his son was not to be harmed.  “Be gentle with the young man,” he said to his commander.  Yet come to harm the king’s son did.  In his flight after his army was routed, he was caught by his head in the bough of a tree.  His handsome head, his fair hair, tangled in a tree.  The king’s commander found him hanging there.  Perhaps out of his love for his king or for some other reasons, he went against his command and raised his spear.  Deadly strikes he dealt the prince, and thus died the king’s son.

The king had a great love for his son.  When he heard that his son was slain, he wept.  Greatly he lamented his son, the son who deposed him.  These were the words he spoke concerning his dead son:

“O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!

Would God that I had died for you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

But not even a proper mourning the king was granted.  The lives of many of his faithful men had been lost in the battle against the rebelling prince.  If the people were to see him lamenting, would they not think that the king priced his men’s lives cheaply?  So the king arose and marched back to the city, while lamenting silently in his heart.

She gave a small nod to let them know that she was ready.  Then trumpets were blown and a fanfare was played, announcing her arrival to all inside the church.  So she made her entrance and walked along the familiar aisle.  How many times has she walked along this aisle?  Her beloved Papa’s coronation, her own coronation, her wedding, her children’s wedding.  And there were also sad memories: she still remembered that funeral.

All these memories ran in her mind as she walked, but they did not at all make her unaware of the reverential bows and smiles directed towards her from those lined up along the aisle.  She had been accustomed to keep her thoughts to herself, and not letting them interfere with her outward actions.  So she smiled back to those familiar faces, while continuing her reminiscences in her mind.

She noticed some unfamiliar faces, but of course she knew who they are.  Celebrities, is that the term? She smiled grimly.  What would Papa (or Grandmother) have said!  Ah, but one has to keep up with the time.  Has she not learnt that lesson?  And after all, not all new ideas are unpleasant.  The old church looked more endearing with these trees.  They even reminded her of an old picture of the Crystal Palace.

She had been sitting for a while when suddenly a loud cheer was heard from outside.  It must be the bride’s arrival, she thought.  She arose with all the guests, and there was the bride, walking down the aisle.  The bride was pretty.  She sighed inwardly.  Pretty ladies do not seem to go along well with her family.  And this one was not even a lady.  But at that moment she saw her grandson’s face.  It seemed to brighten as he looked at his bride.  This sight warmed her heart.  Yet she had seen many loving brides and grooms before, and had seen many of them turned bitter within a short period of time.

These young people, she thought, why can they not bear their duty more patiently?  Indeed, why can they not seem to understand their duty?

In what seemed to her a very short time, the service was over.  The bride and the groom stopped as they passed her.  He smiled and bowed, and she curtseyed.  She must admit that it was a graceful curtsey, and even more so considering the fact that she had only learnt to do it in these recent years.  The bride smiled warmly, too.  She smiled back, but she could not help being reminded of another bride, prettier than the one before her now, with a more graceful curtsey and a warmer smile.  And what had come out of those?  She almost cringed as she remembered those horrible years.  Not that she blamed that poor woman for all that happened, of course.  She was under no illusion when her own offspring are concerned.  It seems almost a family legacy, she thought.  Most of the monarchs of her House had their cross in the form of their progeny.

Few minutes earlier, the national anthem was sung.  Was it only her feelings, or did the people really sing it a little more fervently than usual? She wondered what they thought while they were singing.  Surely she had reigned long enough?  Long had she felt the weight of the crown.  But then she thought of her heir, and his consort.  And she found herself quietly said ‘amen’ to the anthem: long to reign over us, God save the Queen.

After getting my code run this evening, I gave myself a treat: spending two hours trying to translate “If” into Indonesian language. “If” is a famous poetry by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936), an English poet and novelist.  This poetry has been translated into many languages.  The translation into Burmese was translated by none other than Aung San Suu Kyi.  According to Wikipedia, there has not been yet a published translation of this poetry into Indonesian.  In other websites we can find one or two free translations.  These basically translate the meaning of this poetry, without paying attention to the rhyme.  I also remember that years ago I heard another translation of this poetry read in a youth fellowship in my church.  But that translation involved a greater offense:  it was not stated in its printed copy that it was a translation, and the name “Kipling” was not even mentioned!

So those of you who knows Indonesian language, and need a break from your work or thesis, why don’t you try your hands at this translation?  I attach my translation in the end of this note – let me know if you have a better one.  It is a pity that so noble poetry is not widely known in our language.

The original English poetry has 4 stanzas.  Each stanza has eight lines with “a-b-a-b c-d-c-d” rhyme scheme.  I tried to keep this rhyme scheme in my translation, but I fail to make the last line rhyme.  My knowledge on metric variation is almost zero, but at least I count that there are 11 syllables in the first line, 10 syllables in the second line, and this 11-10 pattern continues throughout the whole poetry.  I tried to keep this also, without much success.  For one thing, Indonesian words tend to have more syllables.  So I tried to stick to 17-16-17-16 and 21-16-21-16, but again the last line cannot fit.  The second line of the second stanza also has 17 instead of 16 syllables.  About the more detailed meter, I do not even know whether this is iambic, dactylic, or whatever.  So if you know, tell me.

Anyway, here is the product of this two-hours-musing (the original English poetry is appended after the translation):

Jika kamu dapat tetap tenang saat semua di sekelilingmu

Kehilangan akal dan karenanya menyalahkanmu;

Jika kamu tetap percaya diri saat semua meragukanmu,

Tetapi juga mempertimbangkan keraguan itu:

Jika kamu sabar dan tidak lelah oleh penantian,

Atau saat dibohongi, tidak turut dalam dusta,

Atau saat dibenci, tidak larut dalam kebencian,

Tanpa tampak paling benar, atau paling bijaksana;

Jika kamu dapat bermimpi – dan tak dikuasainya,

Jika kamu dapat berpikir – dan tak berhenti di situ,

Jika kamu dapat berjumpa Kemenangan dan Bencana

Dan memperlakukan sama kedua hal semu itu:

Jika kamu dapat tahan mendengarkan kebenaran yang kau ucapkan

Dibengkokkan penipu untuk menjerat orang dungu,

Atau melihat hal yang kau perjuangkan setengah mati, dihancurkan,

Membungkuk, membangun lagi dengan perkakas yang layu;

Jika kamu dapat menyusun semua kemenanganmu

Dan mempertaruhkannya pada suatu kesempatan,

Dan kalah, dan harus memulai dari awal yang baru

Dan tentang kekalahanmu tiada kata kau ucapkan:

Jika kamu dapat membuat hati, keberanian, dan tenagamu

Tetap berjuang meski semuanya terkuras sudah,

Sehingga kau tetap bertahan saat tiada yang lain dalam dirimu

Kecuali Sang Kehendak yang bersabda: ”Bertahanlah!”

Jika kau berbaur dengan orang banyak dan tak hilang kebajikanmu,

Atau bersama para Raja – dan tak lupa daratan,

Jika lawan maupun kawan terkasih tidak dapat menyakitimu,

Jika tiap orang kau hargai, tanpa kau dewakan:

Jika kamu dapat mengisi tiap menit yang tak terulang

Dengan enam puluh detik yang berharga ’tuk dikejar,

Maka jadi milikmulah Bumi dan segala isinya,

Dan – lebih dari itu – kau menjadi Manusia, anakku!

 The original English one is posted in the page ‘Worth Remembering’.

On 25 March, the Church celebrates the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus. The celebration is referred to as the Feast of the Annunciation, or traditionally as Lady Day. In England, Lady Day was New Year’s Day up to 1752, when England moved from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar. The Gregorian is the calendar widely used in our present days, and this calendar marks 1 January as New Year’s Day. The reason of using 25 March as the start of the year is that it roughly coincides with Equinox, namely the date when the length of day and night is equal.

In his “The Lord of the Rings”, J.R.R. Tolkien recorded that the Ring (the main antagonist in the story) was destroyed, and thus Middle-earth was saved from destruction, on a 25 March.  Tolkien further emphasized (through Gandalf) that from then on, a new year would begin on 25 March, as a testimony to the great significance of the destruction of the Ring. As Tolkien conceived his Middle-earth stories partly due to his opinion that his homeland, England, lacked a mythological identity, it was no surprise that he deliberately chose this date. And of course there is no doubt that he deliberately chose the dates. When one conceives a mythology for a land, it has to fit some of the details of that land, I guess.

Update: I just found that Tolkien Reading Day is also celebrated on 25 March! (as if I needed further encouragement to read Tolkien).

“I can never finish this on time”, the little girl grumbled.

Her mother stared at her for a while and smiled. “Do you know how we got your name?” she asked.

Her face still buried deep in her books, the girl muttered, “Of course. You are a Tolkien fanatic and Father did not let you named me Arien, for which I am thankful to him.”

Her mother laughed. “Perhaps I should rephrase my question. Do you know the meaning of your name?”

“Sort of. The mightiest of the three …spirit of the wind…”

Her mother moved from the chair and sat beside her in the floor. “Yes, it is the mightiest, but what is its power? Perhaps you should remember that it is most valued because it preserved the beauty of the earth. In other words, it fought against time and win”.

“So perhaps”, her mother said while tidying up her scattered notes,”my Vilya will not let time beats her so easily”.