There's a viral thing going around Singapore that I would love to comment on less obliquely, either here or on FB, but I feel that my opinion on that matter, whatever it may be,.. hang on, I don't mean my opinion, I mean the fact that I, as a non-Singaporean living in Singapore might even HAVE an opinion about an issue that involves non-Singaporeans living in Singapore and might wish to express it safely in a polite public forum where reasoned debate could ensue (say, SammyBoy's Café), that I could expect a serious backlash - and not just being told to go back where I came from (Hey, I thought Aussies had the dibs on that phrase!) - from an island-full of self-righteously aggrieved citizens.
One could surmise from the evidence of the issue I am referring to, that there is a certain class of people who wouldn't even care to read, let alone attempt to understand what my opinion might be, should I have one, before attacking me and cutting me down to the size they think is appropriate (i.e. mincemeat?) for whatever opinion-crime they assume I have committed - but not just with an insult-exchanging "flame-war" as it used to be, but with real, life-impacting, personal, damage...
Read all about it... That woman who tweeted a poor-taste racist joke at the airport and was sacked by the time her plane landed...
If my comment got out, and was misinterpreted to be racist, or culturalist, or elitist, or post-colonialist, or pre-colonialist, or anything "-ist" by this type of people, then, pushing out their pique in a cascade of reTweeted or FB-shared comments could create enough ruckus (and not just on social media, but "real" media) so that their opinions on my less than 100% approved opinion could go Gangnam to a point that my employer would not be able to ignore it and they might feel they have to sack me - with all the enormous financial repercussions that might involve - home loans forfeited, hospital bills unpaid, Dropbox subscription expired (AIYEE, THE HORROR!), blah blah...
Not happy with that, those out for justice might, as they typically do, decide to attack, abuse and humiliate my family (yeah, even to the seventh son of the seventh son). Maybe they'd turn their attention to any of friends who'd stuck up for me (if they would be stupid enough to raise their heads in this Politically Correct environment), and then they'd hack into my computer and republish those embarrassing photos of me at my 50th birthday, the ones with the blue sparkly 50 sign stuck on my fat tummy and -- oh, those pics are already out there on FB!
And, you know, my opinion might have only been along the lines of, "Just chill guys," and/or "HTFU". But I have opted for the self-censor because I read on Facebook every second day exactly what happens to smart-arses on Facebook.
Because even such a timid comment as my typical ones might incense people further, for, as we know from recent experience, insults can be sort of homeopathic, in that the smaller the intended offensiveness of the comment or act, the greater will be its perceived offensiveness. This may extend to the point where, say, flashing your car's high-beam at the rear of a bad-driver is tantamount to declaring war. (See previous post)
This overreaction happens all the time - road rage being only one instance - because we are all wired to take a disproportionate offence at certain types of mild insults when they threaten certain aspects of our social expectations. Like when you feel you are being slightly cheated by a cunning taxi-driver taking an unusual route (and who might only be trying to avoid $4 ERP charge on your behalf), or being cheatingly slighted by your drunken life-partner at a social gathering where the morals are generally getting a bit lax and the lights are getting dim...
Seriously, free speech is being curtailed everywhere these days - here's me self-censoring! I certainly never expected to see that day! - and it's not (only) by the fascist governments and the despotic tyrants we typically point our quivering fingers at, but those cyber-posses of hyper-offendable "flesh-hunters" who troll the web-prairies looking for ways to destroy the lives of those others who might not be, to their unstated standards, perfect human beings all the time.
It's the somewhat peeved public on their iPads, not the evil overlords, not the Stasi, not the NSA, not KGB spies, not the minions of Big Brother. These are the ones keeping tabs on whatever we write, whatever we show, or whatever we think out loud in a brain-farted Tweet these days. And punishment is as swift as electrons and as profoundly justifiable as 140 characters can make it.
What has gone wrong? The PURPOSE of the internet used to be just that back in the good old days - it was built to offend and annoy people! That, and document collaboration, And porn. What? Has? Gone? Wrong?
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing.” Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim.
The Wild West ain't got nothing on the e-lynchings of these days.
E@L is calmly driving out of the satellite town of Leopold towards its mother planet/city of Geelong (we are in Australia already!) on the morning of Christmas Eve. He stops, with a few other cars, as the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill turn red. There are three lanes for each direction at this intersection, the inner ones of each dedicated to a right turn. He is going straight on and is the front car in the middle lane. This would be the "fast lane" or overtaking lane, but here, still in the Leopold township, it is a 70km/h zone and this would not be an issue, you'd think.
About 500m or so further towards Geelong the township finishes, just after the Coles supermarket complex, the speed limit then becomes 90km/h. In this area, for about 5km, are the small hobby-farmers, or the toes-stuck-in real farmers; people who sell organic produce, like sacks of horse-shit and tubs of freshly laid, unwashed eggs, and who might have a few paddocks gone fallow for a few years, and a few where dumb-as-fuck Hereford cattle graze under the enormous high-tension electricity towers that feed Geelong's last remaining triple digit employer, the Alcoa aluminium smelter, out on a finger of land by the best harbour in the bay.
Out on "the main road," if E@L was on the inside or outside lane it might make a difference. If drivers were foolhardy enough to push too far over the limit they'd risk drawing attention to themselves especially during the heavy traffic-police presence on Christmas Eve. [Increased safety, or raising funds to pay for a police budget that has already been overspent?] But here, still at the lights, E@L doesn't think he has any particular irresponsibility to be a drag-racing petrol-head loon. Particularly as he is setting up the Bluetooth from the iPhone to the car while waiting there.
When the lights change to green he gently accelerates away (but that is not saying anything much) in his little Korean rental car because, hey, he is in no hurry and does not need to rush to jump out first, plus the phone just needs a little touch to connect - 'beep' and there it goes - The Fray.
The car in the slow lane on his left is going a little faster and is pulling away slightly from E@L. Big deal, we are still in the 70km/h zone. After about 150m however, another car, or a van in fact, comes up on his inside, in left lane, and hovers beside him. It presses urgently closer towards the car in front of it, dangerously close. This van does appear to be in a hurry, and now, with only half its length past E@L's car, it appears to be contemplating changing lanes! This would likely result in it pretty much sharing the same coordinates of space-time as E@L's car which can only happen it they are both Bosons, the Force-carrying Particles, but not possible when, as is the case, they are made of Fermions, a.k.a. matter (according to the Standard Model of Quantum Mechanics.)
"Hey, hey," thinks E@L to this driver, "don't be a fuckwit - this universe works fine as it is!" But here it goes: The van's indicators flash on and almost immediately it starts to swing across towards him. He is forced to jam down on his brakes and drop back quickly as the van lurches into his lane, only avoiding the front of E@L's car by a meter or two, thanks to E@L's prescience and sharp braking and the way he cried out, "FFUUUCCCKKK!"
The driver of the van, obviously not 100% aware of, or not seriously caring about, the danger he just threw E@L into, puts his thick, hairy, deeply tattooed right arm out the window and effects a conciliatory wave. "Woah, you idiot," thinks E@L and automatically blinks his high beam once at the van, which is already prematurely accelerating away in anticipation of the upcoming higher speed limit. "Ha," thinks E@L as the light-beam, hardly a laser, hits the back of the van, "Take that!"
But the van driver doesn't take it well. The waving hand that had been retracted, emerges again, this time with its middle finger raised. It seems this driver doesn't appreciate it being pointed out to him that he nearly killed someone a hundred meters back there.
Oh dear. While the physiological effects of his fright peaked early in one way - the hyper-reality of pure shock - now some other concerning signs are rising. His chest is tightening and his mouth is drying. He is angry and frustrated and a bit panicky. [E@L would like to point out that in this region (not on this road, but near Geelong) a few of the dramatic scenes from the first Mad Max movie were shot, back in the late 70's, and that the movie's ultimate road rage attitude still permeates the traffic culture round here. E@L once had a Geelong acquaintance who cheerfully told him that he always carried a small crowbar under his seat for resolving differences of opinion in these incidences of mild traffic-related personal losses of face.]
As the stream of traffic moves towards town, E@L is himself driving a little closer to 100 than to 90, perhaps because he is now so rigid with tension, and noting that the urgent need for speed that van had before is not that important after all, and E@L is catching up. Oops, did E@L say he was catching up? The van has moved back to the outer (left) lane again, and another set of traffic lights is coming up with E@L still in the right lane. E@L wonders how this will work out if the light turns red - there are two cars in front of the van and one in front of him.
What is the etiquette due to a person who flagrantly tried to kill you and then flipped the bird when you objected to this? He wonders if he should ignore the van (i.e the sensible thing), or if he should he stare hard at the driver with a tightly accusative, seriously affronted face (wrong) - but this is a matter of being a man or a mouse, right? He feels the tension continuing to rise in his chest - wonders if this is another heart attack in the making, or anger, or fear, or whatever - and stomach acid is pouring out prior to a possible confrontation. This could be a suicide decision. He has no perfect knowledge of who is driving this van: He has only seen an arm, a hand and several fingers (at least initially), although he is moderately certain that it is *not* someone's little old grandmother.
His heart does falter a bit when [as you expected] the lights they are approaching turn red. Slowing down to come to a stop, E@L passes the van's driver window slowly and he foolishly decides to give the driver a look, blank but uncompromising! But the driver is already staring back at him (in anticipation of E@L staring in the first place of course), angry and sneering. He is a big man [as you also expected] with a face like an unscrubbed potato out of which glaring eyes spear hatred at E@L. He appears to be in his mid-forties, his long dark hair is thinning and wild, he has a scruffy beard, and wears a dark shirt. He has turned in his seat to better face E@L whom, in his meek little rental car, goes slowly past, towards a position just ahead of the van.
E@L sighs deeply. Belches out his acid fumes. Great; The bad guys from Mad Max have all been reincarnated in the van driver.
When the traffic moves forward again, the van has become trapped behind some slower cars (they had better watch out!) and E@L is soon quite a few car lengths ahead of the van. He is able to move over into the left lane, the same as the van, and the speed limit is about to change again, down to 80km/h as the density of suburban industry increases.
He still feels an ache in his ribs and burning of acid, and he needs to let the incident fade away. He chants: little book of calm, little book of calm, trying not to think of the fucking idiot driver, trying to kill him and then getting angry at E@L for just a brief light-flash, little book of calm... Relax, breath out slowly, be calm. Oommmm... Thank god that's over.
Until... another set of traffic lights turns red. [You expected this as well, right?] As E@L comes to a halt, he sees in his mirror that the van had already pulled out into the right lane again, now on E@L's driver side window. The van, a big van, monstrous, surely too big for this planet, snorting malignant fumes of an infernal internal combustion, approaches menacingly (Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear) and E@L assesses it will stop right next to him. Which it does.
E@L notices only then that there is decal on the side of the van. It is a small notice promoting a motor-cycle repair service (no doubt provided by the evil driver). In a burst, it dawns on him that the dark shirt on the screaming driver is in fact a leather jacket, perhaps with a bikie group's denim colours on top. [Another quick bit of background for you: Geelong is known for its chronic and frequent motorcycle-gang-related violence, including several recent murders...]
The anger displayed on the bikie's sneering face earlier has only swelled since the last visual-only interaction - he seems to have been steaming up fury to unleash, scalding hot, against E@L. The wild hair and wild eyes are even crazier, his potato face gone to a bright Russet. Leaning over to his passenger-side window, he roughly rattles it down. E@L casually presses the button, once he finds it, on his door and his window slides down with a smooth electronic burr.
E@L has a fair idea what Mad Max the spud-man is about say, so he instantly runs through a few of the witty responses he can make to the varieties of acerbic invective which are about to be spat from the mouth of this demon with severe anger management issues. Should he tell him to take his anger out on the wife and kids as he no doubt usually does? No. Should he tell him to learn to go fuck himself with various motor-cycle parts? No. Should he suggest that he file a police report if he feels he has been legally slighted by E@L's irrational following of the speed limit? Probably no, also.
So when the potty-mouthed bike-repairman lets fly - and he does most colourfully and effusively - E@L opts for a softly-softly, more passive than aggressive, approach.
"What?" he shrugs, with a slight suggestion of irony playing around his mouth. "What?" he shrugs again. (This is roughly what he meant by the shrug: What are you so amazingly angry at *ME* for, all *I* did was blink my lights!... You don't scare me!)
And this interaction goes on for the ages contained in an enormously relativistic three or four seconds, maybe two.
And when the red-lights go green, as they must, E@L's sweaty fingers seek the window-up button, but before it rises, he looks at the potato-faced man and says loudly, in a voice as close to pleasant as he can manage, "And have a Merry Christmas..."
And so he drives away, satisfied that he will not necessarily be murdered before he gets home, and slightly smugger than he was a few seconds earlier, and also confident that the bikie van driver will have completely missed/ignored E@L's ironic point about Christmas Spirit. Or he'll be still sitting there dumbfounded. Or maybe humbled and apologetic at E@L's devastating implied criticism. Or maybe even angrier than ever at E@L's high-horse arrogant cockiness.
But, whatever, you know? E@L just wants to calm down, he wants the tension to dissipate, he wants to do his shopping - cereal for his mum, milk and bread for his sister, antacid (now required) and a AED for himself. He turns into the next (The Woolworths) supermarket car-park and was pleased to note that the van kept on going up the road towards town. And he sits for a minute in his parked car, breathing deeply, repeatedly and slightly shaking. And he feels for his pulse - he is alive, yes.
"I really didn't need that," he says, with a hand against his chest: in prayer or in defence, he isn't sure.
Then he thinks: "I just bought a house in this town. Fuck."
When I came home from Melbourne, my second WiFi modem was not accessing the internet. Why should it? Perhaps a tad unreasonable of me to expect this. It's only a modem wired to Cisco Starhub modem. This is the one in the lounge-room which I need to get WiFi access elsewhere in the apartment and to allow the Apple TV access to my iMac (you might need to chase up my FB or delve into the deep past here on the blog for more on this). I had tried to use it as a range-extender but that failed so I just made it into a new wired node.
This would not have been an urgent problem had not SPG and BF be staying with me in Singapore prior to our Philippines NYE holiday. As they couldn't access the internet in their room or the lounge-room so they were a tad WWWedly frustrated. The WiFi signal (which was working BTW) from my Starhub-provided Cisco piece of cable network shit doesn't make it out of my bedroom, as you should know by now.
So I did the OFF/ON thing, as they had tried. Nothing. I attached the LAN cable directly to my iMac in order to access it to check the settings but I couldn't even find the modem! (Yes I used the correct IP address.) So I did a hard reset for the lounge-room modem.
And there was success, up to a point! I had found it via the LAN cable! Therefore I was able to get into Set-up and reset the password etc. Then it rebooted, promising to work. I replugged it into the Cisco Starhub modem, as well as my iMac, and turned it OFF/ON, just to give it a helping hand with the new connection...
You guessed it: Still no WiFi. #Openswindowsinorderto ... But I sighed, slowly, and closed the windows...
Next, thinking that others with such problems might have found a solution in some forum or other (as if such equally gadget-incompatible fuckers exist, what was I thinking?) I turned WiFi off on my iMac and decided to search, via ethernet connection, online for some possible answers -- and I noticed that I had no internet access! This should have been via the LAN cable attached to the CISCO modem! That should be working! WTF?
So I turned to Cisco modem OVER to look for its IP address in order to get into the Setup for it but of course it didn't show it, so and sat it back down again in frustration.
And then I saw that my ethernet access had returned! WTF again!
So I turned on WiFi and - spooky mystic weird - the lounge-room WiFi was working again too! Triple WTF!
Merely turning over the Cisco modem seemed to have solved the issues...
You don't have to go far in the deconstruction (Ha!) of "Wrecking Ball" to get to the core message of its message as stated quite overtly in "I am sorry I got angry when you forced sex on me."
Rape is OK.
Fair enough. In this case at least. She claims that she over-reacted and is really sorry. She started it, right? Maybe he thought, "Don't! Stop!" was actually "Don't stop!" and, later, in hospital, she didn't understand. Hey, it happens sometimes. We all get a bit miffed at something relatively minor and we let fly with a sarcastic comment that can hurt someone's feeling. It seems that this 'surprise sex' episode just tipped over the scales and she did things she didn't mean to do, viz: come in like a WB and start a war.
I mean, it's not as if rape is a serious offence, universally condemned as a rule (at least in the West), a power play of sex and violence, punishable with a range of severe penalties according to where you are in the world. Well... yes it is.
Um, most of us would consider rape to be one of the worst things that a person could inflict upon another, but not Miley. She sees it differently, at least in this case. All this guy ever did was rape her. That's all.
But does she mean "all you ever did" in the sense of "that's what you did that one time and it wasn't that bad, really. Hey I probably deserved for not getting dressed in the morning and wearing my underwear around the house all day like a lazy slut."
Or was it in the same sense as, "all you ever do sit around playing on that stupid PS3 and you never lift a hand with the domestic chores!"? That would mean that, for the bf/hubby, rape was (like it was for Arnie the killing machine in The Terminator) "all he does." One can legitimately wonder therefore, is ray-ay-ya-yape an habitual state of affairs in the Miley Cyrus household? Domestic violence a Cyrus family virus?
I haven't put the uncut video up here as, a) you've all seen it, and b) I don't want to encourage young kids to sit un-hygenically* naked on wrecking balls, and to risk getting some oral or gastro-intestinal bug from the licking of sledge-hammers. ("She really likes that hammer!" commented Ellen Degeneres, which I thought was funny, and who also criticised her for not wearing appropriate safety gear as the eponymous wrecking ball smashed through the wall behind our typically under-dressed pop star.)
Another interpretation could be that this is not a disgusting display of misogyny, exploitation, and perverted moral values with a great thumping, sing-along chorus. It is, rather a wry social comment on a contentious international political situation: the alleged rapist under the spotlight could be Julian Assange, and Mylie might represent one (or both) of the Swedish girls who have accused him of failing to wear a condom in a safety zone (hence the construction site metaphor).
Don't you walk away! Come back Julian, all is forgiven!
* chlamydia in koala bears, a real issue. One theory was that it is sprea d by the doped-up females sleeping splay-legged in the forks of tree where another (also stoned on eucalyptus leaves) koala bear has kipped.
E@L and some of his colleagues were in a meeting all afternoon yesterday with two Head Office bigwigs (head of design, and ex-president) who were there to tell the wonders of what they had been doing all these years to justify their stay at the Fullerton Hotel while the our corporate profits tank. [No, they're not tanking, actually. Stock prices are up 15% in the last three months. You should have bought in 2008, as should have E@L. 300% recovery. Anyway, /digression.]
They only spoke Japanese, but their slides were in English. Nevertheless they read each line, or E@L gathered they did by the tracks of the laser pointer, in Japanese. Then each phrase they had spoken had to be translated for us, and the translator also used a laser pointer to go over each point on the slides carefully. Tedium. Once, the speaker and the translator got a bit lost / confused. They chattered on in Japanese while they perfected the oral translation -- for 4min and 35secs. For the ONE SLIDE - and it was already written there in English. How do I know it was 4:35? One of my colleagues who i thought was taking notes but was actually working on next week's training schedule, timed them. E@L was wondering which of us would get shot when we were the first to stop clapping after one of Stalin’s four hour speeches.
Turns out these guys weren’t all that boring, deep down. After a tea-break they got into some much more interesting freestyle speeches. AND it turns out one of them could speak English moderately well after all! (There’s 4:35 of my life I’ll never get back.)
They had graduated up to near-god status in the medical ultrasound world from their base experience designing washing machines, all those years ago [Tom Stoppard reference]. This caused a suppressed snigger up the back. Not because there is anything wrong with this company's washing machines, they’re quite good in fact, it’s just washing machines don’t have printers, and neither does our latest ultrasound model.
However the main guy said, interestingly, that he went to design school with the most famous unknown legend you’ve never heard of, Fukuda Tamio, who was the key design consultant whose famous(?) 1993 report to Samsung triggered a major turn around in their industrial philosophy, by pushing for higher emphasis on design for convenience, not just better technology. This was in their mobile phone business - back when they were battling Motorola (remember them) and not Apple.
According to legend, as recounted to E@L yesterday, Samsung Electronic’s President, Lee Kun Hee, read Fukuda-san’s report on a flight from Seoul to Frankfurt and was so charged by it that he called for a meeting of 200 executives from around the world in Frankfurt in just two days time, to discuss its implications and the turn around in thinking it demanded.
“Change everything except your wife and children,” he famously said, in a what we would now call a sexistually [new word!] discriminatory speech, to the jet-lagged execs on that landmark day.
And the rest, E@L’s acquaintances, is history.
Speaking of discrimination...
Yeah, so there had been 18 odd people of various ethnicities sitting, fascinated, in the room. A dozen approx at the boardroom table and six less important types (like E@L) up the back in chairs against the wall, passing secret notes and giggling, like at the washing machine and printer hilarity. When the slide said “circuit bore”, it was not a self-disparaging comment on the travelling roadshow lifestyle of the speakers, but a misspelling of “circuit board”. Stop laughing, ow, my jaw hurts, my belly is in cramps from this punitive tsunami of amusement and jocularity.
This morning E@L sees one of those people, a guy from the adjacent office, walk through OUR office on a short-cut to the toilet. Sigh, They do it all the time. One day, someone’ll catch E@L in mid snooze…
E@L asks his cute (but married) Chinese colleagues - who had been sitting next to him at the back wall yesterday - if she knew the name of that senior guy, the Indian man, who E@L sees all the time but could never remember his name since they were first introduced two years ago, who works in the office next door, important, finance maybe, the man sitting to Yai-Wan.
CBMCC: What Indian man?
E@L: You know, the Indian guy. The balding one with glasses. Is it Danesh?
CBMCC: There was no Indian guy there yesterday.
E@L: Of course there was. The guy next to Yai-Wan. [In this instance E@L’s memory was clear - Yai-Wan is also cute.]
CBMCC: That was Takazumi-san.
E@L : No, there was an Indian guy BETWEEN Yai-Wan and Takazumi-san.
CBMCC: There was?
E@L : … You just don't see brown people, do you? They're not real to you. It's like they’re some sort of non-people.
CBMCC: Noooo (laughing)... I didn’t see anyone, because Tim was in the way, that’s why. I really couldn’t see him.
E@L : I KNOW you couldn’t see him! That’s my point! It’s because he’s of the melatonin enriched races isn’t it? Because of the colour of his skin! He might as well not be there. Singapore will have 9million in 2125 and you won’t even see 3million of them! You Chinese are just so… so fucking… so racist!
She was pissing herself laughing at this btw (it's the way E@L tells 'em), couldn't believe she didn't see him, but it was due to where she was sitting. Yeah, right. Like there were thousands of people crowding the room.
E@L: Oh Singaporean, why li dat so racist one?
CBMCC: (hitting at E@L with her tiny fists) Nooooo! It’s not like that!
E@L had left a bottle of Australian (Victorian, no, even better: Bellarine Peninsular!) white wine in the freezer overnight. Accidentally.
BWOE, it was meant for a quick chill, but he opened a bottle of red in the interim and forgot about it.
He found it this morning. The (composite) cork had protruded a bit but else-wise, fine - as in: nothing had exploded.
Now, on an empty stomach, with no idea what to have for dinner except a handful of cashews, after the wine has been thawing all day, E@L takes a sip...
Sooooo, is this mild wet-nappy* aroma predominant because the wine has been frozen, or was the freezing incidental to the fact that it was already an 8 years old Pinot Gris? Not all that fond of wet nappies, but you know, E@L has tasted worse. It is all a quest. Life is a quest - never stop. Bad wine, good wine, sometimes you just don't know until you vomit it all up on the coverlet at 3am on the couch in a stranger's house in mid-winter, your surfboard at your side.
The red wine was, on retrospect, crap as well, huck spit, he found on tasting a half-glass of the left-overs before he moved on to test the white. (No he doesn't always finish the bottle once it has been opened! Usually, but not always.) Sarth Effrican - shudder!! Who brought that rubbish to E@LGHQ?
OK, E@L is off to find something more substantial than nuts to eat. Um, he means drink.
* E@L needs to take a wine appreciation course so that he might have some less ill-refined terminology in his oenological vocabulary for such olfactory descriptions.
He made no answer, but only indicated with his eyes a feminine figure. It was a young girl of seventeen or eighteen, wearing a Russian dress, with her head bare and a little shawl flung carelessly on one shoulder; not a passenger, but I suppose a sister or daughter of the station-master. She was standing near the carriage window, talking to an elderly woman who was in the train. Before I had time to realize what I was seeing, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling I had once experienced in the Armenian village.
The girl was remarkably beautiful, and that was unmistakable to me and to those who were looking at her as I was.
If one is to describe her appearance feature by feature, as the practice is, the only really lovely thing was her thick wavy fair hair, which hung loose with a black ribbon tied round her head; all the other features were either irregular or very ordinary. Either from a peculiar form of coquettishness, or from short-sightedness, her eyes were screwed up, her nose had an undecided tilt, her mouth was small, her profile was feebly and insipidly drawn, her shoulders were narrow and undeveloped for her age — and yet the girl made the impression of being really beautiful, and looking at her, I was able to feel convinced that the Russian face does not need strict regularity in order to be lovely; what is more, that if instead of her turn-up nose the girl had been given a different one, correct and plastically irreproachable like the Armenian girl’s, I fancy her face would have lost all its charm from the change.
Standing at the window talking, the girl, shrugging at the evening damp, continually looking round at us, at one moment put her arms akimbo, at the next raised her hands to her head to straighten her hair, talked, laughed, while her face at one moment wore an expression of wonder, the next of horror, and I don’t remember a moment when her face and body were at rest. The whole secret and magic of her beauty lay just in these tiny, infinitely elegant movements, in her smile, in the play of her face, in her rapid glances at us, in the combination of the subtle grace of her movements with her youth, her freshness, the purity of her soul that sounded in her laugh and voice, and with the weakness we love so much in children, in birds, in fawns, and in young trees.
It was that butterfly’s beauty so in keeping with waltzing, darting about the garden, laughter and gaiety, and incongruous with serious thought, grief, and repose; and it seemed as though a gust of wind blowing over the platform, or a fall of rain, would be enough to wither the fragile body and scatter the capricious beauty like the pollen of a flower.
“So — o! . . . ” the officer muttered with a sigh when, after the second bell, we went back to our compartment.
And what that “So — o” meant I will not undertake to decide.
Perhaps he was sad, and did not want to go away from the beauty and the spring evening into the stuffy train; or perhaps he, like me, was unaccountably sorry for the beauty, for himself, and for me, and for all the passengers, who were listlessly and reluctantly sauntering back to their compartments. As we passed the station window, at which a pale, red-haired telegraphist with upstanding curls and a faded, broad-cheeked face was sitting beside his apparatus, the officer heaved a sigh and said:
“I bet that telegraphist is in love with that pretty girl. To live out in the wilds under one roof with that ethereal creature and not fall in love is beyond the power of man. And what a calamity, my friend! what an ironical fate, to be stooping, unkempt, gray, a decent fellow and not a fool, and to be in love with that pretty, stupid little girl who would never take a scrap of notice of you! Or worse still: imagine that telegraphist is in love, and at the same time married, and that his wife is as stooping, as unkempt, and as decent a person as himself.”
On the platform between our carriage and the next the guard was standing with his elbows on the railing, looking in the direction of the beautiful girl, and his battered, wrinkled, unpleasantly beefy face, exhausted by sleepless nights and the jolting of the train, wore a look of tenderness and of the deepest sadness, as though in that girl he saw happiness, his own youth, soberness, purity, wife, children; as though he were repenting and feeling in his whole being that that girl was not his, and that for him, with his premature old age, his uncouthness, and his beefy face, the ordinary happiness of a man and a passenger was as far away as heaven. . . .