On my desk

It is clutter: diary, journal, fountain pen, instructions for German language course, fountain pen, postcard, ereader cords, bottles of ink, a lamp, pieces of paper in various sizes, a handleless mug filled with pencils, universal fountain pen ink cartridges, more bottles of ink, boxes, unused note books, folders filled with papers, a half-full box of foolscap-sized manila folders, three spectacles cases, fountain pen, moon cake tin filled with postage stamps, pencil, Dr Bronner’s organic body balm, empty ink bottle, iMac with keyboard and trackpad, more bottles of ink, fountain pen, pen holder, books, books, books, metal ruler, six ten cent coins, Post It notes, Kaweco pen box, ink blotter, safety pin, pencil case, postcards, a bookmark, fountain pen converter, assorted receipts, numerous empty fountain pen ink cartridges, another pencil case.

Yes, clutter.

One question: does anyone still use foolscap paper, and why do I have a half-full box of foolscap-sized manila folders on my desk?

~~~~~

Today’s topic: “What’s on my desk/in my handbag/in my pocket/in my car?”

It was easy to choose my desk, as I don’t have a handbag, or pockets, and seldom drive the car.

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Music

I never knew it was the Symphony No.5 in C Minor, Op.67, by Beethoven, until I was in my twenties. I remember listening to it blasting through the house as a child. My father would occasionally play the classical music station, very loud, when he was home. I don’t know why he would be in the mood for such music when he was normally a fan of Jim Reeves and Cliff Richard and the only classical music he normally listened to was Strauss waltzes. For a long time the only classical music I was familiar with was The Blue Danube, Kaiser-Walzer, and Tales from the Vienna Woods.

If ever I hear keroncong music now, it takes me back to lazy Sunday afternoons, after brunch, with cool breezes wafting gently through the house and everyone dozy with naps.

Long car rides with musical accompaniments were brought to us courtesy of the old 8-track cartridge collection my father stashed in the glove box. Early Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley. If we were lucky we got to hear the children’s compilation, all American hits like The Big Rock Candy Mountain and I’ve Been Working on the Railroad. There was also this weird song, sung in a high, not-quite falsetto:

First you let me up
Then you let me down
Suddenly oblige
Then I hit the ground
Left me on a string
Like a rubber ball
[I forget]
I’m tired of being a plaything
Suspended in the air
When I unwind
Someday you’ll find
Your plaything won’t be there
[Refrain, plaintively] Oh stop making a yo yo out of me

I’m sure it was on that kids’ compilation, but the sentiments expressed seem rather adult, somehow. Maybe I’m making it all up…

I still remember the song that was playing on the car radio the evening our family was driven to the airport for us to make the trip to Australia. It was Diana Nasution singing Benci Tapi Rindu:

Bukan hanya sekedar penghibur
Diriku ini sayang
Bukan hanya sekedar pelepas
Rindumu oh sayang

Sakit hatiku
Kau buat begitu

Bukan hanya sekedar penghibur
Diriku ini sayang
Bukan hanya sekedar pelepas
Rindumu oh sayang

Sakit hatiku
Kau buat begitu

Kau datang dan pergi sesuka hatimu
Kejamnya dikau teganya dikau padaku
Kau pergi dan datang sesuka hatimu
Oh sakitnya hati bencinya hati padamu

Sakitnya hati ini
Namun aku rindu
Bencinya hati ini
Tapi aku rindu

Kau datang dan pergi sesuka hatimu
Kejamnya dikau teganya dikau padaku
Kau pergi dan datang sesuka hatimu
Oh sakitnya hati bencinya hati padamu

Sakitnya hati ini
Namun aku rindu

Bencinya hati ini
Tapi aku rindu

Benci benci tapi rindu
Benci benci tapi rindu
Benci tapi rindu
Benci tapi rindu

I can’t be bothered translating the whole song, but the title Benci Tapi Rindu can be translated as “[I] Hate [You] But [I] Miss [You]“. It’s a very melodramatic song: “You come and you go as you please/how cruel you are, how could you do that, to me/Oh, how my heart [liver, in Malay] hurts, how my heart hates you”. (In the Malay language one’s heart doesn’t break in love, it’s the liver (“hati”) that is mortally wounded.) That song was strangely apt, because I was a gloomy teenager determined not to be interested in my new country for a while after we arrived in Perth.

In my late teens and twenties it was a blur of various bands. I finally caught up with the 1980s and enjoyed Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, U2. Australian music: Crowded House, INXS, Midnight Oil, Hunters and Collectors. Bruce Springsteen, the Smiths, Camper Van Beethoven, Sonic Youth. R.E.M. My contemporary popular music tastes somehow became ossified around then, I think. I sometimes listen to contemporary music but rarely does any of it appeal to me. I probably don’t listen enough for any of it to make much of an impact.

It was in Hangzhou, China, where I fell in love with the music of J.S. Bach. In the common room of the student dormitory at Hangzhou University, I found a cassette of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos which someone had left behind. They also left the incidental music from Bizet’s Carmen and L’Arlésienne. Also a compilation of some violin concertos by Paganini. It was a weird combination, but it was enough to get me reacquainted with classical music again. Besides Bach, I do love Beethoven’s symphonies (especially No. 6, The Pastoral) and Mozart. Also Handel.

Yes, there’s definitely a distinctive soundtrack to my life.

~~~~~

If you hadn’t guessed, today’s topic is “Music”.

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The opposite

Today: Utter randomness

What is the opposite of utter randomness?

Is anything really all that random by the time you write it down? I mean, I don’t write all that quickly, and I like to write most of these posts by hand. As I write, I’m thinking about what I’m going to write, and it really isn’t all that random. Not when there’s some thought to it.

I suppose I did think about just sitting here and letting the stream of consciousness take over – let the words just come to mind and write them down. Never mind if they make any sense. But then what’s the point of that, and besides the mind does take over, and how random is it, really?

[You might suggest at this point that I really am overthinking this, and you might be right.]

What else would be random. I suppose I could sit and describe everything around me. The clutter on this desk. Pens and bottles and books and bits of paper and things. What I’m wearing. Any idle thoughts that come to mind. Write lists. (Lists, are they ever random?)

So I’m trying to impose some sort of structure to this supposed utter randomness. Which would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

I don’t really think I am a very random sort of person. I have my routines and habits. I know what I like, and what I don’t like. I tend to stick to what I know, to the tried and true. I’m the person who orders the same thing every time I go to the restaurant. Buy the same brands, use the same things.

I’m sure I must have tried these things for the first time, once. But I’m quick to decide, and then I settle down with what appeals. Do I have many passing whims? What are the utterly random things in my life? Are there any?

So, utter randomness? I don’t really think it comes naturally to me.

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