So one of the things that some people ask me is this:
“Why is your name Keefe Kaizen Chan on Facebook? What on earth does Kaizen mean, you weird J-pop wannabe? I see that you’ve watched too much Naruto! Are you planning on dyeing your hair red and eating ramen for the rest of your life?” (ok maybe not the latter part)
At any rate, the answer for the question is that kaizen is the Japanese pronunciation for 改善 (Gǎishàn), which in English, means improvement. That essentially means that my Facebook name is literally read in English as ‘Keefe Improvement Chan’ (I know, it looks and sounds horrendous- like ‘Bruce Dangerous Lee’ or something. Now you know why I chose to put it in Japanese).
So why the name change in the first place?
I’ve always found the notion of improvement terribly fascinating. It’s like growing a tree- watering and pruning it religiously daily for the purpose of watching something grow- to invest in something, and to look at the colourful, bloomed flowers at the end of the day and know that that achievement was all yours, and yours alone. Exactly why artists spend years putting finishing touches on their own Rembrandts and how writer edit and reedit what they hope to be their magnum opus. In more colloquial, gamer terms, this whole self-improvement thing is like ‘leveling up’ your character in an MMORPG like World of Warcraft (or in my case, a few years back, Maple Story. Yes, you may laugh at me now, but wait till you witness the might of my level 72 Spearman). It’s the reason why gamers spend hours and hours in front of a computer, gradually moving up the skill tree and getting better gear.
The reason why I mentioned gaming is because I find it analogous to my quest of self-improvement. The thrill and sense of achievement that one can get from attaining, perfecting, and finally, mastering a skill is immense, if not unobtainable elsewhere. That’s probably one of the reasons I was, and still am addicted to debating- watching your average speaker score rise by that fraction of a mark every tournament only makes you want to come back for the next one.
I look forward to a better Keefe- a more reliable, trustworthy, erudite, hardworking, friendly, loving, punctual, early-sleeping (this one is important), and healthy Keefe. Kaizen.
(Another late night blog post, yay)
In Standard 4, I filled up one of my friends’ autograph books (it was black and diary-sized, if I recall. One of those mass produced organizers that companies send around and no one really uses). I really like autograph books- they’re some kind of cryogenic freeze on our personalities that allow us to analyse and smile at our previous selves. And from there, we notice the things about ourselves that changed (“Hobbies- collecting stamps”) to the things that didn’t change (“Birthday- 29 December 1992”).
After I filled up the autograph book, it was soon passed around, and people started talking about it. I then realized that quite a few of my classmates (the boys, mainly) were looking at my page and giggling. Something they had noticed in particular was what I filled up in the “Hobbies” section. While my other male friends usually filled that row up with things like “sleeping, cycling, playing com games, reading (all quoted from my own autograph book- they’re authentic)”, I filled in something else.
My row went something like this:
Hobbies: Talking to girls
which apparently, most people found amusing (Standard 4 Keefe was probably just being the honest, cheeky boy that went around pulling girls’ hair and stealing water bottles which ended up with a coalition of girls complaining to his mother on Report Card Day- but more on that another time). I suppose that’s one thing that really hasn’t changed much; my friends are disproportionately female, except either one or two close male friends (the figure usually hovers around the number ‘one’, and very occasionally enters the realm of ‘two’)
I’ve never really been one for cliques- at least not the kind of cliques that I’ve seen so far. Personal, one-on-one interaction has always been something I’m more comfortable with. I like intimacy and touch- in some ways I think that my connection and bond with someone is directly proportional with the amount of physical contact we make. I love the feel of a handshake and the warmth of a hug- it closes the gap between two people in a irreplaceable manner.
The two premises: 1) I have primarily girl friends, and 2) I touch my friends a lot (typing this out actually makes me realize how odd this sounds, hmm) necessarily leads to conclusion 3) I touch girls a lot, which has also necessarily gotten me into quite a bit of trouble. There are generally two possible groups of people which this trait of mine can offend:
1) People who don’t quite like being touched
When I meet people in this category I’m usually in for a rude shock. Awkwardness (which may or may not be prolonged) usually follows- along with apologies (“Sorry sorry I didn’t know that you didn’t like hugs / don’t shake hands / aren’t allowed to touch boys without your dad’s permission). These are people I can genuinely sympathize with, and I usually apologize quite a bit to them. However, there also are:
2) People who feel uncomfortable with me touching other people
This group includes people who go “it’s really not appropriate to touch at this age- people might get the wrong impression / don’t be such a pervert / why your hands so itchy one”. I, on occasion, have slightly less tolerance with people in this category. Most of them certainly are well-meaning, so there really isn’t much to rant about, actually. I actually do owe quite a bit to people from this group, because I do have the tendency to cross the line, from time to time, so thank you, dear reader-friend, if you happen to be one of the kind-hearted people who’ve advised me at any point in time. So- thanks! 🙂
At the end of the day, I genuinely think that touch has the capacity to make better relationships (any kind, in fact). I should seriously consider starting a political party which advocates more hugging. Hmm.
(A note to readers- the “Journal” series is posted every Saturday- English homework. Hi Miss Diana! :] )
I like books. Not necessarily just from reading them, because there is some sort of weird, subliminal joy which I get from walking around with a whole thick stack of books in my arms; the same sort of pleasure I feel when I look at a row of mint-condition books neatly arranged on a bookshelf. There is some sort of power that a book grants you as you hold it in your hand (power directly proportional to thickness, of course)- something that just seeps through your fingertips and travels straight to the part of the head which keeps words and phrases and quaint little quotes.
Part of me thinks that I’m not actually in love with reading per se, but with the idea of reading. I capriciously pick titles, most of them of which are consistent with my pledge earlier this year to read as many books from the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels (my current score is 4/100, which is a decidedly pitiful figure). Making book choices based on the decisions of a few old men and women huddled up in a room is probably not the best way one can go around choosing books, but much can be deduced from how I view book.
I read to feel powerful- the kingdom that I wish to build is not of bricks or wealth, but of words. The same reason probably motivates my subscription to the Economist, and it probably also explains my frantic, wide-eyed hysteria when I pick up my book, only to find its spine creased, or its pages dog-eared.
This Saturday afternoon, the sore fingertips on my left hand smell like the acrid, yet pungent combination of sweat and rust. My clothes, a black singlet and white shorts stay unchanged throughout the day, despite the many calls of “shower now”, and my hair is a tousled, disheveled mess that I only find endearing on languid days like this. Hours fly by, spent sitting in front of a black, large screen with a similarly black, obnoxious set of headphones covering my ears. This is my Saturday. The rest of the world can wait.
Saturdays are invisible days. Tomorrow, if I think back about what I did today, I probably wouldn’t come up with anything substantive enough to fill more than a short sentence. However, this is a day which spends most of its existence in the future and the present. It is a day that exists when I am on a Friday looking forward to it, and it definitely exists today as I type this. Like a nice piece of cream cake, memories of it may fade precipitously over time, but that, by far is not a argument towards its frivolousness.
And just like that hypothetical piece of cream cake, this Saturday is the one that is going to make the next week that much easier to digest.
Currently finishing Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Beginning parts were slightly draggy, but Father Arnall makes things a little better towards the middle with his inventiveness:
As the waters of baptism cleanse the soul with the body so do the fires of punishment torture the spirit with the flesh. Every sense of the flesh is tortured and every faculty of the soul therewith: the eyes with impenetrable utter darkness, the nose with noisome odours, the ears with yells and howls and execrations, the taste with foul matter, leprous corruption, nameless suffocating filth, the touch with redhot goads and spikes, with cruel tongues of flame. And through the several torments of the senses the immortal soul is tortured eternally in its very essence amid the league upon leagues of glowing fires kindled in the abyss by the offended majesty of the Omnipotent God and fanned into everlasting and ever increasing fury by the breath and anger of the Godhead.
This is preceded by another tasty bit of hyperbole-
O, how terrible it is the lot of these wretched beings! The blood seethes and boils in the veins, the brains are boiling in the skull, the heart in the breast glowing and bursting, the bowels like a redhot mass of burning pulp (Me: Hot diarrheoa? Ugh.), the tender eyes flaming like molten balls.
Father Arnall, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
And while we’re still on the topic of religion, here are the curious results of a recent Gallup poll. Looks like nonbelievers enjoy more worldly pleasures before they enter aforementioned unpleasant afterlife. Hmm.
(Click on the picture to see it in its entirety, my theme absolutely butchers photos)