Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Late August Colours...

Can't believe the students are back tomorrow, and another academic year begins. Here's to the final summer of the first decade of the not-so-new millenium. Whilst I didn't get to go away this summer, but I did appreciate the sun, oh-so-very-much. It had been one of the nicest Irish summers in living memory (perhaps as belated compensation for the dreadful winter and so-called spring we had). I'm glad I stayed, even if I had not had much choice in the matter, for this summer has already marked one of my many firsts when it comes to letting my creativity blossom, like in the colourful photos above (thank you Nikon Coolpix for being a handy point-and-shoot until such time as I could pick up your heftier cousin again, or I wouldn't have been able to capture that pretty butterfly otherwise). And as autumn comes, I would be even gladder to have completed one of my important milestones in my life thus far... :)

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Monday, August 30, 2010

The quality of mercy is not strain'd... [Translated Shakespearean Quotation and Excerpts from an Essay by Ms. Lee Ying-Chuen, Bus Hostage Survivor]

Translation of a Shakespearean passage offered in humble tribute to all victims and survivors of the Manila bus hostage incident, and in admiration of the grace and true courage displayed by Ms. Lee Ying-chuen in her recent essay (Ms. Lee is one of the handful of survivors of this man-made tragedy)...

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's,
When mercy seasons justice...
... we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy."

-- Excerpted from the Shakespearean play "The Merchant of Venice" (Act 4, Scene 1)*


--- 節譯自莎士比亞劇目《威尼斯商人》(第四場,第一幕)

Translated by Snowdrops, 2010. All rights reserved.
(Most recent satisfied translation version published on 31st August, 2010, at 20:32).
(One key phrase change instituted on 14 January, 2011, at 16:44. Originally the first line of the translation had "strain'd" as "不吝嗇,也不費力的", to alert readers to the double-meanings of the term "strain'd" in this sentence. Further deliberation initially led me to utilise 牽強 instead of 吝嗇, even though I like 吝嗇 just as well if not better (it indicates the mean-spiritedness of Shylock very well, and also befits the meaning of word "Mercy" in the line as a quality that is generously given rather than forced). However 牽強 is more in keeping with the context of the dialogue between Portia and Shylock (where Portia was responding to Shylock's question about why he must be merciful), I have therefore ultimately decided to include 牽強. Subsequently I replaced 吝嗇 with 牽強, as I was going to leave 不費力 as part of the sentence because "not strain'd" does also refer to the fact that true mercy should be natural and effortless, precisely like how heavenly rain falls gracefully to earth. On further reflection however, 不牽強 does have this similar connotation to 不費力, and so the new translation of the phrase "not strain'd" becomes "不吝嗇,也不牽強的")

Further reading (Translations of these passages by Snowdrops published on 31st August, 2010, at 07:27; Slightly amended on 31st August at 17:48):

李瀅銓(馬尼拉事件倖存者):還死傷者公道, 不向弱者抽刃
Lee Ying-Chuen (Survivor from the Manila incident): "Demand Justice for the Victims; Don't Lash Out at the Weak"

[Since returning to Hong Kong, I realised quite a lot of anti-Philippines talk have surfaced here in the last few days. On the Internet there were those who claimed that all Filipino maids should be deported, so as to exact revenge by ruining the economy of the Philippines. There were also reports of Filipino maids being insulted on the streets, and epithets of "Slave country" and "Servant country" replacing the name of Philippines. I understand my fellow citizens' anger and frustration against the utter fecklessness of the Filipino government and its woefully inept police force. This is something I personally experienced. However, what has this got to do with ordinary Filipino folks? Have we ourselves forgotten what it's like to be discriminated against? Hong Kong had for a long time been a colonial society, in which Chinese had been discriminated against in the formal system as well as in their daily lives by their so-called "masters". Now it is quite frightening to witness how some well-to-do Hongkongers boastfully declare, "We employ so many Filipino maids, we are their boss!", adopting a kind of "You should've been grateful we deign to employ you, how dare you rise up against us?!" slave-master attitude to berate those who have absolutely nothing to do with the bus hostage tragedy. It should have been clear that the Filipino maids are in fact victims of their own useless government. They are here precisely because of their government's inability to provide a basic livelihood for its citizens, forcing thousands upon thousands of Filipino women to leave behind their homes and their own children to come to a foreign land and help us look after our kids. How could these women possibly be the scapegoat for their useless government? Why do some Hongkongers become racist in the midst of our collective sorrow and anger? Similarly, it boggles the mind why the Hong Kong administration chose this moment to announce the freezing of wages for all foreign workers including Filipino maids, thus preventing them from sharing in the fruits of our economic recovery. Is the Hong Kong government trying to take advantage of a political expediency? Can our government hold a public review of the standards and metrics used in determining foreign workers' wages? Exhibiting this sort of behaviour at this particular time gives the impression that the Government would like to punish foreign workers, and does nothing to help dispel the prevailing anti-Philippines mood. A friend quoted from a Lu Zhun saying: "When the brave are angry, they lacerate those who are stronger than themselves; but when the cowardly become incensed, they lash out at those who are even weaker." Are we Hongkongers some kind of cowards who only dare to lash out at the weak?]

[The way to help rest the souls of the poor victims is not to blame the innocent Filipino maids or ordinary Filipino citizens. Our focus has got to be clear, so that we set our sights squarely on the Filipino government and its police force, and demand an objective, fair and thorough investigation, in order that responsibility for the tragedy could be appropriately apportioned; as well as to support the injured and the families of the deceased in preparing for the maintenance of their future livelihoods. This is the kind of care and concrete assistance we can provide to those who suffer gravely in this tragedy. In the long run, we should work towards helping Filipino citizens to build a more reliable government and a more just society for themselves, as only by doing so could Hong Kong rightfully proclaim itself as a proud member of the international community, a world city that respects and promotes human decency.]

* Note: As the translator does not want the relevance of this Shakespearean quotation to Ms. Lee's essay to be misinterpreted, the quotation is deliberately abridged for the purpose of this translated post. The full quotation is available here.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Throwing off baggage...

"So in addition to the socks and lipsticks, you’re going to throw out the old regrets and resentments, the resignation, the fear of failing or the fear of succeeding; you’re going to let go of the voices that remind you of your so-called limitations. You know those voices. Just when you’re feeling pretty spunky and sure of yourself – just when you’ve created a bold new vision for your life – that voice from the past says, “Not so fast, kiddo, you can’t do that! You don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough energy, you don’t have enough money, and anyway, they’ll never let you!” (p. xix)."

I sooooo need reading that right now, thanks blue!

Other bon mots from the same book that blue quoted (so this post is in essence, an excerpt of her excerpts!):

"Deciding not to decide, or deciding to decide later, is… BS. Not deciding is the number one cause of all the clutter – physical, emotional, and spiritual – in our lives. And if we can’t decide what to throw out of our clothes closets, how in the world are we going to decide what to throw out of our mental closets (p. 9)"

"For me, people who live solely on their laurels and accomplishments from the past are a yawn. I don’t want to hear how wonderful you were in high school or how you used to bicycle twenty miles a day. I want to know: What are you doing with your life today? Looking backward holds no charm for me. What’s done is done. Learn from it and move on.” (p. 102)"

"No one is dispensable. When we allow ourselves to be, we’re all vital to the positive outcome of whatever effort we involve ourselves in. Why don’t we just get it about ourselves? And for the record, other people will never get it about us until we get it about ourselves. Funny how that works. (p. 120)."

"I will not compare myself with others, nor them with me. I will appreciate myself and others for what I and they contribute (p. 123)."

-- this reminds me of a line from Desiderata: "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." (btw, I blogged about this prose poem a couple of years ago, describing it as "a crucial source of spiritual sustenance to me at times of need since I first came across it when I was twelve", see here)
(side track: although I don't read self-help books [for years the only book that I read that is "self-help" is Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a book I got years and years ago; and only this month did I pick up Danny Gregory's The Creative License], and in fact generally snootily hold my nose up at self-help readers [I'm grateful to blue for helping me see how wrong that was], I am only realising myself now how much I derive "self-help" from reading poetry, including verses from prayers. No wonder my first response to the man-made tragedy in Manila was to search for poetry that might help.)

"If you spend all your energy on reliving the things that didn’t work, what you should or shouldn’t have done, should or shouldn’t have said, you’ll ve no energy for finding new ways to be fulfilled. Let that stuff go. (p. 146)"

"Waiting is a national pastime… Some of us are waiting for them to get it about us. You know, about how good we are. They should recognize us and promote us and celebrate us. They should discover us. But that’s not how it works… People don’t get it about us until we get it about ourselves. Until we step out of the stands and onto the field – even before we’re invited (p. 181)."

"It’s okay not to know. Insecurity – not knowing what the future holds for us – can be good, not bad… We weren’t meant to live tidy, predictable lives with everything neatly laid out in front of us, like all our clothes for the next week… Being comfortable… actually stunts growth… We’re always on our way; never there. it’s supposed to be an adventure. An adventure, by its very nature, is unpredictable; the outcome is unknown (p. 192)."

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two-Toned Rose...

DSCN0161, originally uploaded by Snowdrops in Spring .

Taken with my new Nikon camera... Coolpix rather than D5000, as sadly I've yet to learn to get properly to grips with the latter, and I don't want my lovely flowers wilting before I could record their moments of beauty.

Btw this rose pot plant is meant to be just red, but this particular bloom exhibited a kind of floral albinoism. If it's not genetically generated, then it might have been because the bud was leaning against the lace curtain on the balcony when it was growing and didn't manage to get to develop as much pigmentation on some of its petals. It's still gorgeous though, and I love how the sunlight is shot through the green leaves in this pic.


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010



兒時一張小書籤上的一首小小詩句。 書籤雖然早已遺失了,但是詩句至今仍銘記於心。 其實心中曾有一個疑問,為什麼世上「有離別」,「有衰老」,那一段記憶竟還是會「無瑕」呢? 後來想想,或許正是因為離開了,那段與他或她一起走過的回憶更凝珍貴,因其無可代替。。。

An old English poem expresses a similar sentiment:

Heraclitus --- by William Johnson Cory

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.









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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Girl, the Snake, and the Hopscotch...

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She was six years old, with shoulder-length hair like most other little girls her age. This was sometimes tied up in two pigtails by her mother using hair-bands threaded with lots of rainbow-coloured beads. She loved how the beads made pleasing, clacking noises as she swung her pigtails around, like when she was skipping on a hopscotch. Occasionally she was rewarded with an elaborate plait created by her mother on those days when she was being an all-round good girl (and when her mother was in a particularly creative mood). But when she was bad and wouldn't stop throwing tantrums, her mother would threaten to bring her to the hairdresser and cut short her hair, just like the buzz cut that her father got from time to time.

One day, the little girl was standing at the entrance of a local school, while her mother chatted leisurely with a teacher. She remembered a scene familiar to this from a few years ago, but promised herself not to cry this time, now that she was a big girl. Instead, she peered curiously through the sparsely-spaced grille of the metal gates, and was reassured by the sight of lots of other children about her age running around in the huge school yard, yelling at the top of their lungs, seemingly without a care in the world. But she also noticed other kids lounging around the periphery who were two or even three times her size, looking not the least bit friendly, which unsettled her greatly. The little girl was a bag of nerves until she spied the three plane-like hopscotch patterns traced out in white chalk on the poured concrete in one corner of the yard -- her favourite playground game! She was ecstatic and went in to join the other kids without a moment's hesitation, spurred on by her sudden epiphany that the school yard was not too different from a playground, after all.

One night, however, the little girl woke up in a clammy, cold sweat. She was having a most horrible nightmare, in which she was chased by a giant snake who just wouldn't leave her alone. Even when she tried to lock herself in the bathroom, it slipped through the crack at the bottom of the door and wouldn't go away. In a flash of blind panic she actually opened her eyes and realised she was looking up at the ceiling from her bunk bed, whereupon she saw a huge spider leisurely scuttling across the far corner of the room, casually oblivious to her plight. The nonchalance of that spider, strolling around as if it owned her bedroom, was too much for her to bear, and she screamed and screamed. Her mother came into her room, sat her up and placed the back of her hand onto her hot and sweaty forehead, and pronounced immediately that she was running a high fever even without the benefit of a thermometer. Her mother then got her an ice-pack and a glass of iced water, which the little girl quickly gulped down without any fuss, grateful for the refreshing coolness which revived her patched throat.

In dribs and drabs, the little girl began to tell her mother about the nightmare she was having just before she woke up. Her mother nodded and listened to the ingenious ways in which the little girl tried to escape her demon, then finally smiled and said, You know, you shouldn't have been afraid of that snake, however big it is. Don't you remember you are a snake yourself? Why should you be afraid? You were born in the Year of the Snake, so maybe that giant snake was only trying to say hello to a long-lost friend?

This advice was so surprising that the little girl actually took it to heart. She had wished her mother would say that she could wield an imaginary axe and chop that serpent's head off before it gets hers, but this was altogether a much more civilised proposition. Over the next twenty-four hours, the little girl drifted in and out of her dreams, in which she tried valiantly to take her mother's advice and overcome her fear and face the snake, who still wouldn't leave her alone. But if she was being honest with herself, she found it far easier to just run away than to confront that horrid-looking viper, even if the only route of escape was to squeeze her body through that tiny air-vent in the bathroom. But miraculously, she managed. She worked out a plan: I would keep running but if the snake had finally caught up with me, I would plead with it not to bite me by proclaiming that I was his relative! I would extend the olive branch of peace and friendship rather than try to wield an axe. After all, we are of the same kin.

The little girl didn't remember the family doctor coming in with his stethoscope and his black leather medicine bag to check up on her, nor did she register her father going out to get prescriptions and making vatfuls of rice porridge to feed both his exhausted wife and his little daughter, who mumbled worryingly in her sleep.

Her parents moved her to a cushioned straw mattress placed on the living room floor, a makeshift bed where the air circulation was better and where her mother would join her in her sleep and would check on her temperature every few hours, including right through the night. The little girl was sleeping fitfully because of her nightmarish encounters with the snake, but she also understood that her mother wasn't getting much sleep either because of her nightmares. When she escaped from the clutches of her dreams and woke up in the middle of the night for the fifth or sixth time, she refrained from waking up her mother, but contented herself with holding onto her mother's back and listening to her rhythmic breathing, until she herself drifted once more into sleep.

Three days later, the little girl woke up and felt something discharged from her ear. Her head felt light and, for the first time in what seemed like a life-time, she did not feel dizzy at all. Instead, she could feel the cotton-wool being torn away from inside her head, could feel her head drinking in the sunlight through the balcony windows as if it were orange juice and her eyes were the straw, and she could also hear clearly the gently insistent ticking of the clock on the far wall. She's survived an ear infection, she was later told. Now be a good girl and get well, she was also told.

Three more days passed, and the little girl was well enough to get back to school. She didn't remember if she had successfully confronted the snake or not in her dreams, as she was always yanked back into wakefulness just when she was about to witness what the snake would make of her argument. But one thing she did know: the snake did pause to listen, and she had survived. And if she could survive an encounter with a most horrible deadly serpent, she could survive anything. She felt this truth quite clearly in her heart and mind: I might not have been able to confront the snake that well in my nightmares, but I am not scared any more and I know that I could talk to any kids in my school with confidence.

What the little girl came to eventually understand, was that perhaps even outwardly intimidating people were only trying to find a long-lost friend, appearances notwithstanding. Her mother had, seemingly without any conscious effort, began to teach her the value of keeping an open mind, and to look for commonality among all living things, even in the most unlikely of places.

With this lesson from her nightmare tucked inside her heart, for the rest of her school days, the little girl lived happily ever after with her school friends and her family.

The End.

Epilogue: With the exception of a brief period in her teenage years, the little girl kept her long hair into adulthood, which she would make into an elaborate French plait on those days when she felt like rewarding herself for behaving like a proper woman, one who could face her fears and be principled in both her words and deeds.

Copyright Snowdrops 2010. All rights reserved.

Note: Gosh, I haven't done any creative writing in ages and the above is absolutely dire!!!! (Well, it was really dire to begin with, but my constant re-phrasings had ameliorated the composition a tiny tiny bit). But at least I got this writing exercise done. It's not a pretty sight but I guess at least it got me back on track. I just received Danny Gregory's The Creative License and am skimming through it, finding it very inspiring and helpful. May blog about it later (although I have to say the above writing exercise is not from Gregory's book per se -- as his book encourages people to doodle and paint, which I couldn't quite do on my blog -- but more from what I remembered of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, which I read years ago and am only finally applying some of the lessons now!!)


Friday, August 13, 2010

Little translation game...

Try translating the below into Chinese:

"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

My first attempt:


Slight amendments to my first attempt:


Hmm, seems like my first attempt is best after all.

Original game proposed by 荒言, re-blogged by Chris here and here.

I have to say I translated the above without looking at any of the others' attempted translations on Chris's second post. I'm rather glad to see that I'm not the only one who felt Cantonese is the easiest way to translate the above English quote, thus avoiding all the clunkiness imposed on the sentence structure by the use of formal Chinese :)

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Green... [Chinese Translations and Flickr Galleries Added]

The dawn was apple-green,
The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.

She opened her eyes, and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone
For the first time, now for the first time seen.

--- by D. H. Lawrence.

For more colour musings, please go here.

Didn't have time to write up my own colour musings, but this poem (titled simply as, "Green") sums up succinctly many things that are beautiful to me about the colour green, without reverting to any usual clichés about grass and trees. The poem is so simple, using grade-school English, and yet the imagery of the different subtle colours of green is so effectively painted in my mind's eye that I'm simply felled by its beauty. Love especially that the ideas of "green" as in "fresh", "untainted", "unspoilt", "naive" and "innocent" are all subsumed into the last line. This is just lovely and, having come across this poem, I'm simply lost for words to describe my own idea of green. Maybe I will recover sufficiently another time to attempt it.

Note: This poem is included in the anthology "Penguin's Poems for Life" (2007), selected by Laura Barber. London: Penguin Classics.

Update (8 August 2010): My Chinese translation of the above poem:

《綠》 -- 勞倫斯



Translation by Snowdrops. All rights reserved.

* * *

Further update (8 August 2010): Another translation of the same poem I found online:

《綠》 -- 勞倫斯




Comparing my translation with his, I think my second stanza is more faithful to the original wording of the poem (especially as the flower is meant to be "undone" -- i.e. opened -- rather than as an unopened bud as he'd translated it; and he also added the word "pure" to describe said flower even though the word is not actually present in the poem -- although that notion is present in the line, but I prefer to leave the adjective unsaid like Lawrence himself had done in the original poem).

That said, he had translated more faithfully the first stanza of the poem than I did (although again here he added the adjective "beautiful" to "wine" which was not actually present in the poem itself, and he failed to translate "dawn" adequately and to differentiate it from "sky"). Nevertheless I love how he poetically translated the glints of the green eyes in the second stanza so beautifully into Chinese. I wish I had thought of those wordings!

Further Update (16 August 2010):

I have been meaning to blog about these Flickr galleries I have curated and this is the perfect place to showcase all the beautiful imageries of green I have found on Flickr. Many of these are rather apposite to the word imagery created by the lines "澄明如鮮花盛開 / 的第一次,此刻給初次看見。" Hope you'll enjoy them as much as I did!

Composition in White and Green

Composition in Pink and Green

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Where are you from?

Que sera sera...

Feed my pet!

Currently getting stuck in...

Have just finished...

Me, Anime...

A bunch of snowdrops by any other name...

S is for Sweet
N is for Natural
O is for Open-hearted
W is for Worldly
D is for Dedicated
R is for Romantic
O is for Original
P is for Perfectionist
S is for Special
What Does Your Name Mean?