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Thursday, September 07, 2006


on the other side of the world, a surgeon is sleeping. the surgeon lights a cigarette, drinks a scotch, eats french fries, and blows the smoke out a window.

on another side of the world, a secretary is reading. the secretary slips from thought to thought, cool like an underwater swimmer. without hesitation he plucks the smoke from the window and breathes it in an underwater bubble.

on my side of the world, a soldier is poking a knife into the soil around a landmine. the soldier digs it up, stabs it and throws it away. she then starts to die.

when the surgeon wakes, she wonders why she is so hoarse and sad, though her skin feels cool and dreamy.

more vignettes: one night

i slept troubledly and woke up alone. it felt familiar and painful. tired, i could not sleep. i drove and drove, aimless, tugging, and then i drove and drove. i found myself staring up at your window and the shadowy cloak within. i thought of the place where we lazed peacefully one afternoonnight. i turned the key and drove more.

i found the place, its discarded wrappers and its unchanged contours. i lay down in the indentations made by your body the last time you were there. i could not sleep. perception was too much to bear.


the snack or concession stand. she and i sat on a slab that was a bench. i talked, about reels, about ratios, about timing and aperture. she kissed me. it was so sweet and wrong i kissed her back, then regretted it while loving it.

he still loved her, though they were no longer married. he and i had been in the army together. she and i had been in school together. three of us and another woman came into the mountains two mornings ago. last night i was lost in the mountains and today i was back.

he saw us kissing. we dissembled. he had no control over what she said or did, but of course he was angry.

now i know why on the first night you didn't want to share a room with me, he said. it was casual, jovial, accusatory.

the two of us had planned to sleep in the decrepit castle's room, but later i decided to sleep in the wooden shed in the courtyard, to be alone and psuedo-poetic. i had not known i would get lost the next night and sleep in the open. i regret now not talking to him that night.

i realised now that she and i had also kissed earlier, once, electrically, before i had gone for a walk and gotten so very lost. it had made me excited and breathless.

we all forced a look of casualness. no, i said, that was not why - i had just wanted to be alone, that was all.

it had not started yet, i might have said. you are wrong, i might have said. but would you believe me?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I admit, i love the radio. there's something about it, so random, so uncontrollable, so simple, so low tech and portable.

i love it's simplicity, no lasers, not that many moving parts, not even a transistor if necessary (you can make a radio out of a toilet roll, copper wire and a penny).

i love it's magic, plucking sound out of the invisible air, receiving the voice or song of someone somewhere far away. the longest waves travel so far, to people in remote places bringing them a friendly voice. for the extremely remote there's even a wind-up radio, to keep it powered even when no batteries or electricity can be found for miles and miles.

i love the fact that people said it would never work, and Marconi pushed on with his idea. they said the radio waves would just fly into space. i wonder if he knew that the waves would bounce off the ionosphere and come down again... or did he just take a chance?

radio is transportation. radio is listened to on transportation, but also transports you, not just into the mood of the moment, but from where you are, to the person who is at the station, and also the place the music was recorded. radio is a link.

there are limits to your music collection, but radio never ends.

radio is variety. i remember listening to talk radio, news shows or gameshows, comedies and radio plays, not just music and celebrity gossip. once i spent three hours listening to Shaw's play "Heartbreak House" on the radio in my university dorm kitchen, while cutting the vegetables, cooking the dinner eating and washing up and drinking instant coffee later, glued to the dialogue from the mono speaker.

pirate radio. on a saturday night back in my room in the same dorm, i could find a crowd of radio stations playing all kinds of drum and bass, jungle and underground music that just wouldn't be heard on mainstream channels or during the weekdays. They would keep it up all night even until sunday sometimes, keeping us updated with the lastest movements in the underground, melting away with the sunday evening time and the return to the work week.

radio is like civilisation, like society, keeping you in touch with the rest of the world, making you feel connected. i used to listen to the radio not because i didn't like the music i had (though there was a limit to my little tape collection) but because i wanted to feel like there was someone out there, like i wasn't alone. Radio connected me, with its constant stream of activity; it is the essence of another life when you feel so all alone. Hizbollah Tv, Panama Radio and Mohd Aidid's radio station are just some examples of how important it is to have a media connecting everyone.

i would leave the radio on at night when i went to bed, letting it lull me to sleep - a mechanical lullaby. i actively sought that half waking cusp of sleeping state, dreamy but alive, when the tinny, ethereal sound of the radio would become the poignant music of my sleep. radio invaded my dreams.

in the days before mp3s we had to compile our own tapes (not CDs!) and i, like so many other bankrupt teenagers, would sit ardently by the radio waiting for our favourite song to come on, trying to second guess the deejay so that i could press the "record" button at the right moment, not too early not too late, praying it would not be mixed with another song (recognise the song by its first opening notes! press quickly!) and not have it's introduction talked over by the deejay, to get a perfect dub of the track.

you can work and listen to the radio at the same time.

but obviously radio is not what it used to be. i heard a spokesman from the electronic frontier foundation remind me that radio was revolutionary in its time, changing the landscape of media, bringing all kinds of music and news to people in their homes, and scaring the life out of makers of gramaphone records because people no longer needed to buy records to listen to music, especially popular music. but that he had to remind me is something in itself. i guess people used to gather around the radios at home to listen to their favourite programs (in the way that my parents talk about gathering around the Rediffusion set... by the way, Rediffusion is still around, you know) like storytelling and soap operas, but it is pretty different now. that role has been replaced first by TV and the internet, surely.

i'm quite sure most people listen to the radio mostly in cars, which is why "drive-time" rush hour shows are so important. the decline of radio except to spin records and push commercials is pretty clear to me too, with fewer talk radio shows and stations aiming to give you less human voice and more music all the time.

but why do we need them anyway? we have the internet - every blog is like a personal radio station; i used to think that it was so important to achieve something like the end of the movie Pump Up the Volume: it was a movie about pirate radio being the voice of kids, and eventually kids make their own ham radio stations. A blog or website though, is exactly that. your own broadcast station to connect with others.

and though radio is declining, it's not gone yet. we might not listen to good old fashioned fm radio, but we have internet radio stations aplenty. there are radio station websites, but more importantly, sites which only broadcast on the net, which help us find new music or play the kind of music we like, no matter how specific or alternative. they call themselves something.fm, showing they haven't forgotten how they are connected.

we also still love the sound of radio... staticky and hollow, we pursue the sound of lo-fi transmission and reception in new music, playing with it to give ourselves the feel of a transistor.

radio has changed so much from its revolutionary place as the first broadcast media, to be almost unrecognisable. its function in our lives now is so different, yet parts of it remain so strongly whether the broadcasting or even the look of the radio itself.

when i think of what i love about radio, i think of a lazy hot afternoon, and the crackly music coming from an open window of a neighbour somewhere downstairs, mixing with the hazy heat and traffic noise to form a symphony of sensation, making me separate and together at the same time, putting me here and beside the deejay and with the music at the same time. making me a waking dream.