À la recherche du temps perdu

news from nowhere

Month: November, 2004

Identity Crisis attacked full-force today.

I had been aware of it before when I was still in HKU, but that was just a tinge of anxiety, which I could cast off easily. Not this time. This time I really collapsed.

What am I doing here? What am I going to do? What is all these years’ studying of English Literature, Western Art and Philosophy? Why do I take pride in mastering an alien culture? Why do I take pleasure in manipulating this alien language, forgetting my own? Say I really know all the English Poets from Shakespeare to Tolkien, learn all the Western Literary Genres from the epic poem to the journal, recognize all the Western Art from Giotto to Picasso, contemplate through all the Western Philosophical Schools from Socrates to Deleuze… what then? What am I? What am I to do? What am I fit for?

It was not a problem for my father – when he studied English Literature in HKU, it was during the high-time of British Colonial culture; the top scholars in Hong Kong must and took pride in learning Shakespeare and Milton. But not for me, when Hong Kong is no longer a British Colony. Back then, my father did not even need to confront the shock created by Postmodernism and Postcolonialism.

I could not feel more detached from reality when I began meeting those people who possess no less, or even more artistic impulse than me by the end of my final year in HKU. Some I had known for some time but had not been able to maintain the acquaintance due to my devotion to hall. Everyone, whether it is writing, photography, film, local culture… everyone is striving, working towards their aspiration. All the while, when my time and effort had been devoted to somewhere else. I envy them. They are clearly on some distinct path, while I am in between edges. I have gone so far I do not want to go back to the ordinary again. Some god save me… I feel like shattering into pieces…

I SKIPPED THE SEMINAR!!! Oh my God I swear I didn’t intend to do it!!! I really could not rouse myself when the alarm clock rang  

My prolonged slumbering was partly due to my illness, and partly due to the strange dream I had (or was it due to the illness?). The fabulous Tommy was in the dream, and we were on some kind of mission  What made it more weird was when I finally regained consciousness Tommy of real life actually left me a message via ICQ  It was an Ad, but not an ordinary Ad – it is a journal on Gender Studies for Hong Kong, an attempt to categorize and institutionalize this much-talked-of and yet fragmented issue.

Tommy and another postgraduate student at PolyU launched this ambitious project, and Professor Tambling is one of the advisors  I was so awed by his enthusiasm that I could not help throwing exclamations (through ICQ of course) at Tommy  And he promised to mail an issue to me when the journal gets published  I think he really is doing a great thing, and if it succeeds, it will be of great significance to local cultural studies – I give you 100% support, Tommy!  I wish I could do something like this too… To contribute something to the society, instead of getting stuck in the library…

And then a small episode happened in the evening… thwarted my serenity entirely  I felt it was long time ago since I had been mad with someone, but I controlled my temper and betrayed nothing… It was nobody’s fault actually… may be the fault was mine even… But it was just horrible how immensely it affected my emotions… the affront and the effect were in no way proportional… Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on it anymore…

Again I asked myself that question, which had been asked over and over again: Why? I don’t understand…

Today I discovered something: when one is ill, one can do anything except things that are significant  

Slept till noon…
Made myself some congee… didn’t really feel lilke eating… just to fill up the stomach…
Made some amendments in the hotel reservations online… after that really easy and quick process I already felt exhausted…
Gave up revising Japanese and writing to Ishiyama sensei… that would take up a lot of energy which I could not afford… Sensei, Gomennasai.
Wrote a postcard instead… could not stop laughing from beginning to end… that postcard was just brilliant! Can’t believe I am really ill…  
Chatted with Parents… Mother was ill too… oh God… Told Father I could not work, he said I should take this opportunity to rest… I think he is right… ever since I came here there was not one day I did not think of my studies… Perhaps it’s time for a break…
Began reading Girl with a Pearl Earring – it’s only when I am sick then I can read the books I’d like to read, like novels…  
Had some more congee in the evening, had a shower, then planned to slip into my bed, but instead followed Rose to the common room to watch “Spiderman2″… Not really what I’d like… but not too bad (surprisingly)…

Feel abhorred when I think of getting to the early seminar tomorrow by No.25… should I go? That trip is certainly going to kill me… But then, back in Hong Kong I did struggle to attend Dr Smethurst’s lecture with my serious flu (and which made him remember me…)Where have my toughness and strength gone?


Fallen in love with an Angel…

Detail from “The Annunciation”
Fra Filippo Lippi, about 1406-1469
National Gallery, London

Gabriel, one of the four great Archangels; and one who possesses the most feminine quality – may be that is why he is chosen to be the Messenger for the Annunciation?
Virgin Mary is actually directly opposite to Gabriel; but somehow the focus of the painting is on this beautiful Angel – the only species superior to Human God created.

For me, it is strange artists never painted Lucifer the Archangel (though they did present Satan) – for before the Fall, he should be the greatest of Angels and therefore a very good material for artists to work on. I think throughout history, only John Milton in his Paradise Lost actually showed any sympathy for the Prince of Light… and me…

You Are From Neptune

You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability. You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea. Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion. You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone. If you don’t get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.

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Dedicate a new entry for my beloved Lady Ho Tung Hall:

Lady Ho Tung Hall
Interhall Hockey Competition 2004



No reserve, we deserve
No retreat, we go forward
No regret until the end


We had our moments, we had our times
We’ve become the champion hall
Over hundreds of games and battles we had
So destinated
You’ve completed your tasks and showed your skills
But nothing impressed at all
I have expected it to

But don’t cry for me be courageous
Why all these howlings and hysterical sorrow
United spirit has stayed among us
We will never get by without this
I kept my promise to be the champion

Is it too greedy to hope for another champion in P2? And one day we will not only sing “Champion”, but “Glory” too…

No matter how tough the life can be, we still can bring our dreams to reality

Idling for some days…  Did not even bother to update my xanga… Let me (though late now) say Happy Birthday to Fi too  

The day before yesterday –
David’s seminar. I should have spoken – don’t know why even if I have something to say, I always just leave it unsaid  May be the fear for some consequence holds me back? Went to Oxford Street afterwards. Got the rabbit hat at Urban Outfitters  Pedro came at night to change the light bulbs only to discover he got the wrong ones  And Zaleha was back from her brief trip to Amsterdam  

Yesterday –
Research Seminar with Robbin, about Short Titled Catalogue this time – not ordinary ones since this is for books published during the Early Modern Period  Never used a STC before (not to mention STC for the Early Modern Period), and panicked a bit when Robbin assigned tasks for us  Fortunately I caught up rather quick and no one (I guess) realized I never used a STC before  And then we were divided into 2 groups and asked to search for an item – Lauren grabbed the right volume immediately so we finished within 1 minute  Julia compared this to the fierce scripture competitions in children’s Bible class – search the correct scripture as fast as possible and THE LAST PERSON GOES TO HELL  An effective way to push children to learn indeed… Did some reading for the essay topic, and made a LASAGNA by myself  Hahaha… I am so proud of myself  Had a delightful girl’s talk with Rose, Zaleha and Ming during dinner  

Today –
Woke up late… Had breakfast then set off to the National Gallery. A lot of paintings and stuff mentioned in Alpers’ book are in NP so thought I might have a look at the real thing. Tediously crowded again  When I was pondering over the paintings by Saenredam as opposed to other Italian paintings, something dawned on me suddenly – it is not that there is no perspective in Saenredam’s (or any Northern artists’) paintings, it is just a different application of the scientific theory from that of the Italian artists. It is about the placing and positioning of the spectator. But is this revelation going to help in my essay?  

And then I walked along the Strand hoping to find the office of Twinings, only to find that it was closed  Went back to hall instead, had dinner, tried to arrange my postcards but gave up after an hour’s labour…

The long-time-no-see Simon went online finally and had a silly but fun chat with him – he (cleverly) refused to let me try cutting his hair  The conversation kind of drew me into some thoughts… and then I remembered what Rose said the night before. I think I would just have to wait for that third person, and besides that, no remedy really.

In room reading “The Rape of Lucrece”. (For certes,) Shakespeare is not only a great Playwright, he is also a great Poet. I like this particularly:

          Then Virtue claims from Beauty Beauty’s red,
          Which Virtue gave the golden age to gild
          Their silver cheeks, and called it then their shield;
                    Teaching them thus to use it in the fight,
                    When shame assailed, the red should fence the white. 

How would anyone compare blushing with a shield but the ingenious Shakespeare? And a lovely metaphor too

Attended a guest seminar in the evening – much grander than Evelyn Welch’s, for it was Quentin Skinner, who edited the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought Series, who was giving a seminar on different concepts of Liberty  The room was full and everyone was very enthusiastic about this. Professor Skinner (the audience were calling him Quentin directly – really made me sweat at the back  ) was (of course) a man of years, but very stout and energetic – humourous too  Inevitably the discussion began with Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (Professor Skinner said he was using a Foucaultian approach – meaning a geneaology  ), John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud… (Actually a lot more, like Aristotle’s notion of slavery, Hegel, Rousseau… but he focused on these) Never realized that the notion of “Liberty” could be such a problematic philosophical problem – and Professor Skinner in fact joked in the beginning that contemporary political leaders always claim to preserve the people’s liberty without knowing what it means  

And so I had a very enlightening (a problematic word itself) evening  I am really happy and grateful to be here – if I remained in Hong Kong I would never have the opportunity of meeting so many scholars with international renown  The picture of people from different scholastic backgrounds meet and share opinions and findings in a harmonious and disinterested manner also impressed me very much  

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Your answers suggest you are an Idealist

The four aspects that make up this personality type are:

Spontaneous, Ideas, Hearts and Introvert

Summary of Idealists

  • Make sense of the world using inner values
  • Focus on personal growth and the growth of others
  • Think of themselves as bright, forgiving and curious
  • May sometimes appear stubborn

More about Idealists

Idealists put time and energy into developing personal values that they use as a guide through life. They may seek fulfilment by helping others improve themselves and often want to make the world a better place. Idealists only share their inner values with people they respect.

Idealists are the most likely group to say they are vegetarian, according to a UK survey.

Idealists enjoy discussions about a wide range of topics, particularly those that deal with the future. They are typically easy-going and flexible, but if their values are challenged they may refuse to compromise.

In situations where they can¡¦t use their talents or are unappreciated, Idealists may have trouble expressing themselves and withdraw. Under extreme stress, Idealists may become very critical of others, or lose confidence in their own ability to cope.

Recognition for their work is important to Idealists; however, they are also good at spotting false praise.

Idealist Careers

Idealists are often drawn to jobs where they can help people reach their potential. They are also attracted to careers that allow artistic creativity.



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Wanted to be efficient at first, but when I woke up the morning was gone already As usual, Sainsbury, and then back to make lunch.

Picked out the books I borrowed for Jerry’s essay. Read the first chapter of Foucault’s The Order of Things on Velasquez’s “Las Meninas”. I did not know Foucault had an analysis of Velasquez as the introduction of his book until Jerry (Dr Brotton) asked if I had read it. Very striking and intricated indeed Don’t know what it has to do with my topic – Dutch art, but may be the “mirror” would be a good starting point…

Wrote an email to Ishiyama sensei – took me some time again. But it is the only opportunity I can get myself to revise my Japanese so certainly I shall stick to this weekly exercise

Read some more about the history of Dutch art – and discovered that I really knew too little For example I had totally no idea about Holland being separated from Flanders And therefore Dutch art and Flemish art are in fact quite different things, though both are considered the Northern Renaissance So obviously I cannot do Vermeer at once with Durer or other Flemish artists without some complication and difficulties

Whenever I want to settle down to study there must be some problem arising to diverge my attention The ink cartiridge problem of the printer is yet to be solved; my order of the Oxford Dictionary is automatically cancelled, quite to my surprise; the bathroom is drenched again; the water for shower is still freezing… I must settle these all at once – tomorrow I guess

Did not write my xanga yesterday because I was at OXFORD – the home of most British scholars (including my OSCAR WILDE) Jessica Leung and I took the train for about 1 hour and then we arrived. It was super cold and most of the time we were out of doors. Simon called to ask me to lunch when we were walking down the street which was just too bad because I had not seen him for ages (actually since his House Warming) – and looks like our meeting is again delayed infinitely

We went to the Oxford Story, then walked through the Oxford Colleges. We kept on being stunned Gothic style buildings form the entire university campus of 36 colleges… And then of course there was Christ Church College – the home of Lewis Carol (who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) and the setting of Harry Potter’s Hogwarth Magic School. We did not go in because there was an admission charge, but now I regret it Found a shop called “Alice’s Shop”, based on the Sheep’s Shop in Through the Looking Glass. Bought some Alice souvenirs Later I discovered that the “real” Alice, Alice Liddell, whom Lewis Carol based his famous character on, actually bought sweets from that shop (of course not called “Alice’s Shop” back then) Getting dark and cold, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant, then took the train back to London

After all, I like Sir John Tenniel’s original illustration the best


Today spent the whole day in Warburg and Senate House reading William Harvey – not really efficient but felt studious Dinner joined Jessica Leung and her friend and his flatmates. Had Indian food near China Town. Then went to a pub for a drink. Had a good time

Got to work hard now – and spend less