E@L and The Taxi-drivers

Someone in a comment today asked that E@L do some more about taxi-drivers because they deserve it...

Which is typically synchronicity-istically(sp?) funny as he was going to do a post about taxi-drivers tonight anyway because of the photo he took yesterday, shown at the bottom of this here post.

But first...

E@L said (somewhere?) a while ago that he felt taxi-driver were like Panthers in cages, trapped in their driving seats all day, squirming and wriggling with god-awful discomfort, with boredom and exasperation. The result is of course that they go crazy. Yell at people, become obsessed about the Gahmen, exhibit weird tics and spasms, drive like lunatics, drive beyond their capacity to recognize that they should stop and sleep.

Crazy like caged animals in old fashioned concrete and steel zoo exhibits.

E@L would love to capture an essence of this, to draw their inner being, as Simone Simon tries to do on paper in this scene from Jacques Tournier's immortally brilliant movie, The Cat People. E@L would love to wax lyrical on this movie, but another time, another post...


Here is E@L's take on this. This is an original parody poem, and is covered by the usual Creative Commons License mumbo-jumbo. So link to it, copy it, paste it, so long as you acknowledge where you got it. If you like it that is...


The Panthers.
On Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore.

From CTE to PIE, along ECP and BKE, on Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh,
Trapped in his single seat, the flash of cars passing has long seemed unlike before:
Every car that passes is all cars that have ever passed,
And he cannot reach the speed-limit anymore.

Turning in a smaller turning-circle, he ceaselessly changes lanes.
His supple ankle bends at the accelerator, pumping it as much
In sorrow as in angry starts and stops, down-regulated like his life,
He mentally surfs on the human frequency of nausea, riding it as he rides the clutch.

When the gear changes become too random, too frequent, too soon
He rises in his seat as a spasm of life enters his powerful will.
A membrane crosses his eyes and in his heart he leaps to twitch,
To rub, to scratch: the tic returns for a Tourette's second and is then still.

Expat@Large, 7/2/2006


Here the original (ish).

The Panther
In the Jardin plan width unit, Paris

Its view is from the Voruebergehn of the staffs
so mued become that it holds nothing more.
It is, as if there would be thousand staffs
and behind thousand staffs no world.

The soft course of supply strong steps,
in all-smallest circles turns,
is like a dance of strength around a center,
in betaeubt a large will stands.

Only sometimes the curtain of the pupil pushes
itself loudless up -. then a picture goes in,
goes through the members strained silence -
and hears to be in the heart on.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 6,11,1902, Paris

Well actually that's the brilliant (?) translation by Google!

More and better translations, hopefully a tad closer to Rilke's dream-like, ambiguous observation piece can be found here, such as:

[The following translation is by Tatyana Dali:

The Panther

A thousand bars surround and charm him there,
Flash on, obscure, and hide the world beyond.
His gaze grown worn to just a bare stare,
So weary, it no longer holds a bond.

Soft paws, strong stride, his muscles svelte and supple,
the circles tighten, taut steps like a drill.
At center cage - a dance of strength. Uncoupled,
as in a trance, there stands a mighty will.

Sometimes, eye curtain lifts, the eye is willing,
the pupil dilates and an image rushes in.
It travels throughout the taunted body's stillness
to thrill the heart and die within.]


Speaking of capturing the essence of Singapore taxi-drivers...

Wouldn't it be great if someone with a decent camera did a photo-tour of the driver's compartment of all these weird people. Some have decked out their cars in the most interesting/pathological ways, and the best/craziest have gone totally over the top with little baubles, religious icons and photos of home - stuff to make their day less anonymous and personality defeating. E@L was thinking about doing this just last week.

And then...


This is an true un-retouched (though perhaps it should be) photo E@L took on Monday of the taxi-driver's little home-away-from-home. What an amazing place! He had it rigged up all over the front seat with CD covers, copies of music article headlines, names of singers and bands pasted onto parts of the car around him. He had big piles of discs, lots of little figurines of cartoon and movie characters. It was the most brilliant taxi E@L had ever been in! He was blasting away classic Santana, someone on a Hammond organ trading 32's with Carlos...

Excellent ride.

He was an older guy, maybe mid-fifties. This was reflected in his eclectic tastes, from Andy Williams to Led Zeppelin. He had only been driving for 8 months, he said, gradually putting the pieces of his inner sanctum together from his collection at home.

Someone really ought to follow that cab...



Posted by: expat@large on Feb 08, 06 | 12:18 am | Profile


Superior Work!
Still not much difference except in appearance to US mobile amplifiers and crushed red velvet seats.

I will say it's a little overboard and hope the driver will reflect and organize.

Posted by: Tom on Feb 08, 06 | 8:25 am

is such chaos and individual thought allowed in Singapore...??!!

Posted by: Madame Chiang on Feb 08, 06 | 9:32 am

there must be a better translation of the rilke hehe

Posted by: XenoBoy on Feb 08, 06 | 11:24 pm

XB: you don't respect the German skills of Google??? Another page of translations is linked.

Madame Chiang: it is the illusion of individualism, restricted in scope with real control ceded, fish in a fish-bowl calling it freedom, a placebo for the ills of having no actual autonomy. Just like the rest of Singapore.

Tom: could have done with more bass for the Santana, fer shure...

Posted by: expat@large on Feb 09, 06 | 10:35 pm


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