Saturday, 1 April 2017

Thinking Out Loud: On Children

No matter how we try to make sense of it, having children is irrational. It defies what we conceive as logic. Something that we won't ever admit to ourselves. Especially since we almost always view childbearing and raising through such terribly rose-tinted glasses. To have someone totally dependent on you, both emotionally and physically, for their every need. For whom you shall be by turns criminal and detective, defender and prosecutor, judge, jury and accountability committee. Despite the fulfillment we find in seeing a child at peace, loved, well fed, and clothed, knowing it is our hard work that has made this possible, it is not enough to look at this (as a by-stander) and say, "Yes, I would love to have children, if only to have this feeling". The demands and the joys do not balance out as often as you thought they would and it is a while before you break-even.

If you stopped and looked at it all: the sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, and tears; the joys, hopes, longings, and desires that you pin on your child. The pride, contentment and satisfaction. The potent emotional cocktail that you take every day you're with them. The changes that happen to you and continue to happen, and you don't know whether to resist or be swallowed whole. The struggle as you grapple with growth that leaves you outwardly unchanged but separates you from the years of your youth. Life's questions now demand certain answers. No longer can you leave contradicting facts to remain easy bedfellows; every moment, without knowing, you are choosing. Choosing the story you will tell. The narrative you will shape them with. We want to give them certainty. Security. We want them to learn the lessons without paying the price. Somehow. Or if they must suffer, let it be when our eyes are closed and our hearts are numb, and it is beyond us to feel
anything.

A better way is acknowledge the having of children as a biological drive. Trying to come up with reasons for it is futile. We want to have children because the genetic material that we carry wants to live. To survive. To make as many copies as it can of itself. In a sense, it longs for immortality. And the entire procedure we have come up with for having children: find a suitable mate, make a home in which your children can be raised, and then have said children, simply enables our DNA to have a higher chance of surviving (your children growing to adulthood) and making more copies of itself. Do not attempt to rationalize, come up with reasons. To sugercoat. Acknowledge the madness of it all. The awkward balance you're trying to keep. Take it one day at a time and do your best. Mourn who you used to be and accept what you are becoming. The two go together. They both live inside you.

I will end this with a quote from Khalil Gibran's wonderful book, The Prophet:

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday..."

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Book Review: Daemon - Daniel Suarez


 


The book tells the story of a daemon created by a computer game designer named Matthew Sobol, CEO of CyberStorm Entertainment, a company responsible for the production of successful MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). 

A daemon, in techno-speak, usually refers to a computer program that runs in the background, without any interaction with the user. 

The Daemon kicks into action as soon as websites on the Internet print the obituary of Matthew Sobol. The existence of the Daemon is revealed when two programmers who unwittingly worked on the Daemon’s functionality are killed in seemingly bizarre ways. Upon further investigation, what the two deaths have in common is their utilization of the Internet.

What follows is a spiral into madness as the Daemon’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) is revealed to be frighteningly intelligent and perceptive, with it always being a step ahead of our heroes. It knows all and sees all. It recruits those best suited to its cause, with a remarkable understanding of what drives human beings and how to best use that for its own ends.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely, and I look forward to reading the sequel. As someone who reads a lot and watches a fair amount of film, it is difficult sometimes when your field (in this case, IT) isn't often depicted in mainstream culture and when it is, it relies on tired, old cliches such as geeks who lack social skills, despise themselves, and are forever on the sidelines of society, coming in only to propel technological advancement. Without giving away too much, there is one such person in the book, but the most part most of the characters who work in typical IT fields like system administration and the like are given their full treatment as people who have lives, something that many do not associate with those who work in the IT industry. 

Another strength of the book is how well computer equipment as well as IT operations is described in the book. I found myself smiling nearly every other time at recognizing terms that are part of my vocabulary as someone who's in IT.

If you are a computer person who misses seeing your world well depicted in fiction, then this book is for you.


Friday, 29 April 2016

The Danish Girl: A Review

During her acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Award, Alicia VIkander thanked her co-star Eddie Redmayne rather profusely. As I had not yet watched the film, I did not understand the reasons for her gratitude. I have since watched 'The Danish Girl'  and I now do. 

In the film, Eddie Redmayne portrays the real-life Einar Wegener and the woman Einar becomes, Lili Elbe, while Alicia Vikander plays Einar's wife, Gerda.  Both are painters; Einar of landscapes, Gerda of portraits.The film charts a course through their lives as Einar changes into Lili.

The performance of both Eddie and Vikander as individuals is good, but what sells the film is their performance together as partners. If they had been any less convincing as a couple, the film could very well be nearly not worth watching. By that, I don't mean they should hook up in real life, rather that they played being married so truly. There was a realism, a kind of humanity about them as a pair, that did not require you the viewer to work with the assumption that they are married; they were believably married. They were partners in every sense of the word. 


The film was rather lushly coloured. The landscape scenes were lovely as was the rendition of 1920s Copenhagen and Paris. Alexandre Desplat's score was done in what I consider to be his signature style: very mellow, haunting and moving. He is one of the composers whose work I feel almost sure of recognizing in a film. 

Like all films based on true stories, the film takes liberties with the original tale. It is important to note that the film is based on a novel, which itself is based on the true events in question. As such there are significant discrepancies such as the fact that Lili and Gerda carried on a lesbian relationship after her sex change, and that Lili was not living with Gerda at the time of her death; they had long since separated. As you would no doubt tell, that wasn't judged a palatable fact to be served to film goers. 

Einar's beating also didn't happen. I would suppose its inclusion in the film serves to highlight the other beatings LGBT persons, in other times and places, have faced. It is better to watch the film as more of an allegorical tale than an actual rendering of real-life events. 

The dialogue in the last quarter of the film was overly romantic and cheesy. This was disappointing as the film had actually managed to please with authenticity of its story (in terms of depiction, not facts). Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts) was one of the low points of the film for me. It seemed his role was to stand there and be solid. I guess that the idea behind his character was to contrast him with Einar's evolution into Lili and the consequent/resulting instability in Gerda's life. He could have been livelier though. 

Identity is a key idea in this film; it is not explored completely or in much depth, but you sense it in the undercurrents between Gerda and Lili. At the end of Lili's first day at her new job working at a store, Gerda tells her of a dream she had of Lili getting married. The dialogue excerpt is as follows: 

Gerda: You know, one night last week, I had the strangest dream.
Lili: What was it?
Gerda: I dreamed you were getting married. 

Lili laughs softly, then reflects on the idea.
Lili: Do you think I ever will?
Gerda: Who knows? So many strange things have happened.

Gerda says this with a look that mingles defeat and resignation.  
Lili: I do want to, Gerda.
Gerda: It's not so long ago we were married, you and me.
Lili (corrects): You and Einar.
Gerda: I know it was Einar, but really, it was you and me.
Lili shows discomfort at this, seemingly withdrawing from Gerda.
 

In this scene, you can see that Lili is reluctant to admit any overlap between Einar and Lili; they are two distinct individuals. It is implied that Gerda feels differently. Her consistent attempts at both trying to be supportive and her sadness at losing her husband are evident. Lili ceases to paint because it was part of who Einar was, not Lili, and so takes up a job in a department store; Gerda sees traces of the man she used to know in the woman now before her, and feels they are not as separate as Lili deems them to be.


It would be a bit of a stretch to refer to the Danish Girl as a 'thought-provoking' film; it is just very pretty. However, it does give you a thinking prompt about identity: what can and can't we leave behind when we change.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Intimacy

Intimacy

Intimacy. Intimate. Close. Love. True friendship.
They seem so unattainable sometimes. 
Talking, not speaking. Hearing, not listening. 
Conversations stuck at the surface, floating.
Feeling defeated when you cast about for some way
To get to know this face.
'How are you doing?' 'How are things?'
A chat coming to a screeching halt after these responses:
'Fine', 'Can't complain', 'Good'.
You hate these responses, these questions
Yet you dish them out in equal measure, unable to think
Of something deeper to say.

We're stuck now. 
Looking at each other. Not knowing what to say.
We try on various attempts to get a meaningful response, 
A deeper answer. 
The promise of communion slipping through our fingers.
I'm chasing that intangible feeling of being connected;
maybe being close is for special people. Normality is meant
For mere existence.

We meet. We talk. Casual interactions. Nothing special.
I say what you want to hear; you interrupt only if
My body language and expression allow it. Weeks pass. 
I tell you the truth. I watch keenly as its taste, its effects
Register on your face. You manage to swallow it down.
Tomorrow you draw a line. You say I can be better than this.
I know you're right, but I insist on my wrong.
Slowly we move: from tolerance to grudging acceptance.
Time flows on.

Now we sit in companionable friendship. Lighter than the care
Of years ahead, more responsible than the times before.
The same conversation. With more layers and nuances than it had
In the beginning.
I now know a significant amount of your silences, their shades,
what they mean and when they mean what they mean.
I still need to be reminded of those I forget, from time to time.
With discomforting side effects. 
You know how to subtly disagree with me. Not too much 
That I leave in a blind rage, ignoring you and what you said
For weeks on end, but enough to make the point stick.
Still your mind gets the better of your mouth sometimes
And I fume for the rest of the day.

I've seen the good, the bad, the ugly. As have you.
Time continues its flow. You now speak your mind,
my reaction having dulled to a mild irritation, acknowledging
Your usefulness.
I no longer mind your silences; they're now natural to me.
Maybe I think too much, as you so often tell me.
But I fancy we got here because of time. We gave each other time.
To grow. To be.  


Magical, how people spend 30 years, but still very much in love; 
ten years apart, but resume their friendship 
Right where they left off.
How do we become close? How do we move past casualness into closeness?
It seems so sudden when we notice it:
a lot of little things added up to make this one big thing. 
The small moments that meant nothing by themselves, come together to mean something 
As a whole.
I suppose that, if anything, is the secret to intimacy.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

On Being Who You Are (Or A Letter to my Younger Self)

This poem was written out of the reflections I had on graduating and all the time I've spent at uni. Happy reading!

On Being Who You Are (Or A Letter to my Younger Self)

I've chosen to be myself now.
It was hard, not being me; 
It is hard to be me.
They said I was strange, weird;
I tried to change, lock myself away,
Gave them only what they wanted to see.
I'm leaving that behind; I'm going to be me. 

I'm going to be myself, I say.
Lay down my rules for living, and live by them,
Every single time. 
They may oppose me true,
But I'll shake my head and smile; don't mistake 
That for agreement. As Mr. Henley wrote, 
'My head is bloody but unbowed', I'll say quietly
To the pain inside. 

We all need that time in our lives,
To explore ourselves. Me thinks it a sad thing
To live life based on people's assumptions, views,
Beliefs, ideas, on who you are and who you should be.
Make mistakes. Grow.
Your experience should ring true to all who hear your tale.
Know who you are; separate from the clamouring and the noise
Of the voices inside and outside.

We are leaving tracks in the sand,
Our footprints quickly vanishing, too faint to follow;
A ripple of water that is gone, even as it comes.
Our monuments of today will be ashes tomorrow; new ones
Will take their place. 
Live. Not too much for yourself or for a legacy
Or for the applause of society.
Live, as a celebration of life. Try to be yourself, 
Who you feel with all your heart, all your soul,
You should be. 
Have constructive experience. Enjoy productive fun.
Be me.

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Bed Hopper

Here's another poem. Happy reading.

The Bed Hopper

Why do we hop, from bed to bed?
Is it because society has punished us
Has deemed us unfit to love?

Why do we hop, from bed to bed?
Is it the loneliness, the feeling we're alone in our desire?
For some it is proving themselves, over and over
being a better a lover.
Others say one person, whether man or woman, can never be enough.
For me, the experience of you is all I would want.

And so we hop, from bed to bed, 
Conquest after conquest.
Have you ever felt the adrenaline, the rush of desire
The fulfilled fullness when you someone in your arms 
Naked.
All the places you touch; with mouth, fingers, feet
Are pleased.
Owner pleased. You pleased.
Desire sent, desire received.
It's not as romantic as in the movies, but just as rewarding. 

Why do we hop, from bed to bed?
There are many who'll tell you: monogamy is dead,
Marriage gets so boring sometimes.
Forgetting the forest, we start counting trees.
Unhappy that our favourites no longer appear.
I tire of your complaining.

Has desire ever come to you unbidden?
Do you rollover at night, see my sleeping form,
struggle strongly not to wake me from sleep?
Has your restraint ever veered on the edge of collapse?
Mine has. I miss you longing for me. 
Sometimes we have an awakening, curiosity destroying restraint.
I yearn to know what makes you tick. 
I treat satisfying you as a sort of project:
I've written both proposal and budget; now I need your help with the report.

Why do we hop, from bed to bed?
Who does not want to be wanted? 
I figure we can do without love for a while.
I give of my body freely; my heart locked up firmly, beyond breach.
It's funny how people say they like you,
Their rejection written already in the small things.
It's just tolerance for the interim. 
Then they'll change you. Or get you to change for them. 

Why do we hop, from bed to bed?
Looking over your shoulder is a deadly thing,
Try not to see if the grass is indeed greener. Water and tend your own.
If it fails, bear the grass as it is. 
We're searching for something that can be found. Not in our lifetime;
We must leave it for those who come after.
I would prefer desire be answered by desire, longing mutual,
Not one-sided.
To be always wanted, loved, and never used.
To have the encounter of a lifetime over and over again.
Why else would I hop, from bed to bed?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

On being friend-zoned


Hello friends! Long time, no see. I'm sorry I've gone so long without writing anything, but creative juices can be somewhat unpredictable. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be sharing a few poems with you guys. I like to think of them as the gems of my solitude. Enjoy the one below.

Friend-Zone (Requiem for Love)

You are everything they need, on paper and in reality.
You did all the right things; dressed up nice, played it cool.
You were the shoulder to cry on, their umbrella in the rain.
You've wisely stayed silent, your ears shouldering the burden
More often than your mouth
You're right there. And yet, you're invisble.

You've been asking yourself lately what went wrong.
Why isn't it as clear to her, to him, as it is to you?
Are you somehow lacking? You've checked and double checked.
You are definitely worth it. You know people would kill to have you.
And that's not flattery, or your own arrogance bleeding through; 

It's the truth.

You've been loyal, you've been faithful.
You've left no stone unturned, no effort undone.
Secretly her friends wonder why she hasn't put you down,
Made her move. 
Quite a few of his friends think it's high time you made things official.
Still, nothing. Not a word. 
His glances toward you are too short, her behaviour too casual.
Perhaps they'll never see. 

And indeed they do not. 
You're always looking for someone else; someone who isn't me.
You miss me, wish for all the things we have, but you want them. 
I awoke. I opened my eyes. What I see is painful.
You don't desire me. I'm not what you want. Not what you think you need.
I wish it were like the modern fairytales, when after too many tries,
You realize I'm here. 
But that's just that...a fairytale. 
It seems you're right and I'm wrong. 
I'm hoping a square peg will fit in a round hole. 
You're detached enough to see it; I'm too involved to stop trying. 
The way reality looks these days, it seems I'll just have to pack up
And move on. 
Farewell. I hope you find happiness. 

Sincerely, the friend-zoned.