Reverse-Engineering Persona

January 24, 2010

If you’ve ever had to write an essay about something seemingly meaningless, you probably know how this works. You pick a thought (the more unlikely the better), connect everything to it (the less obvious the connections the better), and make sure to overlook anything that goes against your “theory.” Does this projection of meaning onto chaos sound like what art critics do?

All is well until you start believing your own words. That is what happened to me, and I am open-sourcing some of them here, for the whole world to point and laugh and maybe even plagiarize. This story is about Bergman’s Persona and a certain Andalusian Dog, so if you haven’t seen those species yet, come back later.

Persona: the metafilm

An unwanted child, an insecure man, an arrogant genius, Ingmar Bergman directed what could very well be the most cryptic movie ever made. Persona is painted in two layers: a foreground that makes sense on a background that mystifies. The upper stratum is Alma’s story of self-acceptance, of coming to terms with her dark side. The backdrop is Bergman’s meditation on cinematography.

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Quick Linux Tip: Remap “Back” Key to Win Key

January 22, 2010

Thinkpad keyboards are the best laptop keyboards I’ve seen. The function keys are placed in groups of four, with gaps, like on a full-size keyboard. The arrow keys are located lower than the rest of the keys, for easy tactile identification. And best of all, the Insert, Delete, Home, End, and Page Up/Down keys are grouped in the familiar 2×3 box pattern one would expect to see on a desktop keyboard.

The only thing I’m missing is a right Windows key (technically a Super key). A lot of handy Amarok shortcuts use the Win key, such as Win+O for displaying the OSD, or Win+P for firing up the playlist. I’ve also set Win+Plus and Win+Minus to change the volume. With only a left Win key, all of the above-mentioned shortcuts require two hands. So what can I do?

I can remap the “back” key (XF86Back) located above the left arrow key to act as a right Win key. (The back key itself is not that useful — in most sensible applications, one can use Backspace for that purpose.)

First, I open up xev and press the key to find its keycode: 166. Then I use xmodmap to test the changes live:

xmodmap -e “keycode 166 = Super_R”

Finally, I save the setting in my ~/.Xmodmap:

keycode 166 = Super_R

Mission accomplished.


Chemversation

December 27, 2009

Since the dawn of self-reflection, I have been an inert gas,
Other atoms’ interactions mocking me, as I flew past.
Every time I saw two bonding, I would quickly look away,
My full outer shell reminding, solitude is here to stay.

Looking at those lucky ions, never did I see the facts,
Never did I grasp the science, one who gives, and one who takes.
Can the atoms both be merry if their dipole is so charged?
Or do their nuclei carry hearts that shattered into shards?

I have circled a few atoms, now that I can speak their tongue:
Those with brains looked unimpressive; those with good looks sounded dumb.
Those with both were cold and distant, their electrons long since shared,
Atoms much stronger than this one waiting for their chance with her.

Now you beckon me with riddles, and all of this is so new —
Our polarity is brittle, and I don’t know what to do.
But regardless of what happens, Heisenberg remains unkind:
One of two forever present: thirst of flesh, and thirst of mind.


V

September 20, 2009

Păşind spre mine ai căzut;
Eram pe ceruri diferite.
(Nu ştiam, a fost vina mea.)

Tăcerea
S-a spart în aşchii ascuţite
Şi te-ai întors
(Nu meritam.)

Mai târziu am aflat
Că un da fără ecou
Doare mai mult decât un nu.

Şi aşa am rămas
Îngeri în ceruri paralele,
Comunicând prin nori,
Ne vom atinge niciodată.


Fără titlu

September 13, 2009

Pe cer plutesc vise ca frunze albastre.
În aer dansează, se împletesc,
Devin prea grele şi cad.
Curg pe ferestre ca tăceri sărate,
Dau de pământ şi fac rădăcini
Care foşnesc cu frustrări verzi abia ascunse,
Reflectate în două scântei care au uitat să doară,
Şi au durut să se uite
Cum de pe cer cad visele ca frunzele.


Perspectives

September 2, 2009

Today I saw a crow on a white birch. The tree had no leaves, and the sun fell on its top branches. I wondered if crows can see colors and if they feel the warmth of the sun.

Today I felt cold and I digged in my closet for a sweater. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer pack its things and leave. I dreamed about living in a place where it is always warm and cloudy.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. They held each other like they were the most precious, fragile thing. I smiled and turned away and hoped they were happy.

Today I watched a maple samara dance in the wind. It soared and swirled for minutes, as if the life it carried inside had somehow found a way to express its joy.

day-and-night

Today I saw a black crow on a white birch. The tree was dead, bereft of leaves. The sun fell on its top branches, suspending the morning up high where I couldn’t reach it. I wondered if crows ever have nightmares in which they are falling and they can’t  move their wings.

Today I felt cold and I remembered fear. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer betray me. I told myself that when the sun is tired, it lets the cold burn us instead.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. Checkered tights and a buzz cut were imitating what they thought they should be feeling. I smirked and turned away and wondered why some people even bother.

Today I watched a maple samara swirl madly in the wind, and I wondered if the seed inside felt nausea.


Meaning by Surprise

August 2, 2009

I think people are color-blind in the morning. When I wake up and look out the window, I can’t tell if the sky is blue or gray. Likewise, I can’t tell which way this day is going to take me. And sometimes a bit of grogginess is all it takes for a thought to take me by surprise. Read the rest of this entry »