Lunar eclipse

Clearing cobwebs, out from a treasure trove

by the alcove, while the day ebbs I catch reds

fireflies that dove, drawing threads,

making webs, against a lunar eclipse

before laying their eggs, wary of intruders

the moonless night grips, soothing blips

where it’s rumoured lies an apocalypse

4:05 am

I feel my eyes limbering, hesitant flourishes under my eyelids. There’s an unfortunate thought. I won’t be falling asleep anytime soon.

I try to bat it away, but it follows me. My eyes are unanchored now and I know I’ll never be back to sleep. I turn off the fan. Sometimes I think the white noise stops you from dreaming. There are crows, also too early.

There’s an Azaan ringing out, also too early. Or have I simply lost the time? I look around and the skin above my ears tingles for that familiar feel of glasses hung over them.

Why a prayer so early? I look out and it’s dark but only slightly, a thin shade over the morning. There’s nothing but crows here and empty ears to go with my insomnia.

At what age did you become yourself?

It’s not an easy question to answer. I mean even beyond the stereotypical adolescent angst I think there comes a certain point once you’ve molded a personal history that you start chronicling in the way you see yourself.

Of course as an obsessive Freudian I can’t help but insist that your long lost days of innocence count a great deal towards your mental landscape. Yet, fixations aside, there’s certainly a point that arrives later on where you start to think you’ve become an individual, no longer grasping at the coattails of once intimidating heroes. They could be teachers, domineering friends or parents if you’re the type.

Eventually, or hopefully, people come to adopt an internal monologue that after steering widely to escape childhood inadequacies, or happiness for that matter, becomes that notion of self. A self portrait that you try to add on onto and where you conveniently paint over the missteps.

Of course one risks asking questions that you can never really answer but I can’t help but feel, that this birth of image also kicks off that slow end of all the time you had. Don’t you feel it too? You were once a child and the days stretched into grand tales and unbearable agonies that last a lifetime. Then one day you’ve looked back and see an alarming number of years seem to have been slipped into your life while you where busy.

There’s no one to blame, maybe the secret is to never stop growing but I feel that running away from an inevitable fate that always looms over you. Besides what can you learn if you’re running away?

That aside, I feel like I found a voice I liked somewhere in my second year of College. The phantoms of the past were sufficiently soothed by whatever revelations and greatly exaggerated self discoveries I insisted were enough. Though there were still cringe inducing missteps I feel like there’s a consistent personality that’s weathered any challenges to my idea of who I am.

I don’t think it’ll come crashing down anytime soon. I don’t even known if that adult transfiguration ever happens to any but the most exceptional of cases. I look forward to hearing other answers to the same question, do share.

Becoming a Wuxia enthusiast

This post is to earmark a budding fascination with Chinese directors and movies. Maybe Wuxia isn’t the right term but I like it. I’ve caught Hong Kong Classics like Fallen Angels (1995) and Chungking express (1994) but I’ve decided to start taking a look at works from the mainland.

I remember watching Hero (2002) a few years back but only recently thought of the agonizing details and composition the was working in the background. The trait that’s even more evident in his must watch classic Raise the Red lantern (1992) where nearly every frame has perfectly composed symmetry and you go the entire movie never seeing the antagonists face.

If I’m ever lucky enough to get a copy of Red Sorghum (1987) or Ju Duo (1990) I’ll try seeing if I make something of his transition from underground film maker to mainstream blockbuster man.

Though my favorite discovery has been Jia Zhangke who’s excellent Ash is the Purest White (2018) inspired me to work backwards into his filmography. It’s amazing how his stories are about a changing country as much as it is about his characters. His Mountains May Depart (2015) kept me up an entire night even though it’s third act was considerably weaker since he presumably can’t direct as well in English. Though the final punch with the dance to Go West was truly amazing.

I guess I’ll have to watch more and see whats come of this. Hopefully I’ll get some good material for upcoming posts.

Sundry monsoon

Infrequent downpour spilling

Icy winds running through the night outing

Gusty winds guide me,

the path the water is tracing,

To a dry door, soaring above the petals

Flowing gently beneath my sandals

I watch the tranquil scene

I watch the tranquil scene
Beneath the leafless trees

My verses speak only of the balmy breeze
Over the still and empty nights
The luster of a pale moon hangs over
Undefined sorrows in an embittered quiet
No more of the he’s and she’s
Their vivid tapestries now lost
In the endless pathways of the night

Social medium

My fast wifi, you inspire me to write.
How I love the way you feed, sting and bounce,
Invading my mind day and through the night,
Always dreaming about the shallow flounce, that was my mind.

Let me compare you to a dead baboon?
You are more deadly, grumpy and awful.
Past suns heat the rotting peaches of June,
And summertime has the lawful coffle, of internet speech.

How do I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love your exciting blindness, skinless rage.
Thinking of your stupid takes, fills my days.
My love for you is a melancholy sage.

Now I must away with a woeful heart,
Remember my mean words whilst we’re apart.

Rain dance

I count on my finger tips the sound of raindrops

in yesterday’s sky while the moon and the flowers

Broken by voices singing

the moon and the flowers, under summer rain

my cat curls into a crescent moon

his fishy smells on teeth and bones

he purrs as the rain falters

Attack on character development

I picked up Attack on Titan (AOT) after a while and I couldn’t help but put down a few things that rubbed me the wrong way.

Of course the strengths of the series, and most Shonen, still shine through with the pacing, concept and emotional tension being pretty good. But I was a little less enthused since it seemed to be written for adolescents more than it is about adolescents.

I’m not saying it’s juvenile but the writing and characterisation are definitely a kind of wish fulfillment for that adolescent urge to defy authority, righteously struggle for some cause and fit in with a group of companions. Compare that with say Akira, where you also have young adolescents up to onerous tasks. What stands out is that Akira’s characters are more fleshed out. Their flaws, age, doubts come out in conversations, in the way they interact and their actions.

In contrast the characters in AOT are always moving from one revelation to another, their conflicts always in service to some greater ideal they uphold or some great tragedy that they are haunted by. I couldn’t help but feel that these faces have more motive than character. It makes for an intoxicating pace that has the plot constantly moving even during political posturing but it ends up hurting the characters, leaving little room for development. These characters don’t live beyond their service to the plot.

There’s little breathing room like how Akira shows its main characters being underage hooligans, layabouts and delinquents hanging around shady bars but just as easily have their heroics entirely dependent on their impulsive, angst-y behavior. They aren’t caricatures, they do ask great questions and change the world but they’re still realistically within a transformational period in their lives. They aren’t ideological warriors, they’re living out their pasts even in what they believe – there’s more subtlety, nuance and humanism.

The tedious focus on the one or two characters that the entire world revolves around wouldn’t be that unbearable if there were any characters with the will power to disagree or not go along with the latest inspirational speech that’s being flung at them. The AOT world has no room for doubts, uncertainty or shifting moods in the human mind. You agree or disagree, you’re on the red team or the blue team. We get spoonful after spoonful but no time to chew.

What seems to have hurt the series is that the personal motive driven plot had to go from the high intensity of family avenging, friend slaying action that went rooftop to rooftop to a slow burn of exposition that suddenly found the story having to explain an entire history, social context, lore etc. The pacing is admirably consistent from the days of tense Titian slaying to and endless series of palace coups but without the life threatening danger, the same things that worked earlier start to show their weaknesses.

It’s a shame because, in hindsight, the survival focused story telling was some of the strongest I’ve read and so much of what the story continues to do made so much more sense since it was also in service to this constant tension. By giving way what the titans were the series kind of gave way the main threat. There is no more doom, no more end of the word as interesting. The world war plot is fine, the exposition wasn’t too clumsily delivered even if it wasn’t subtle, but it just isn’t as interesting.

When the Colossal Titian kicked down that wall, it genuinely felt like the end of the world was slowly creeping up, that hopelessness and desperation we got a worms eye view of never came back.

Addendum: Ernin the child trying to protect his own is far more interesting than Enrin the political schemer trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and the necessary prerequisites for Geo-politcal domination. It’s not hard to see how the entire series can be read within the context of the Japanese experience of WW2. The devastation, the end of the peace, family life etc. The humanism and trying to survive, rebuild etc. is compelling, but the unapologetic attitude, the kind of equivalency between crimes, love of Royalty and the idea that the Eldians were kind of bad in a country that has never apologized for its war crimes and is still run by the decedents of war criminal is a whole other can of worms that I’m not going to open.