Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Eddie Vedder - Rise

This is possibly a gif. of the maestro Jascha Heifetz. I am about to go on a house cleaning rampage, as means of dealing with the stress-mites that have clotted in my noggin (I have 5 impending assessments, 3 of which are French).

I am reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being and not loving it (sorry LMY if you are reading this) and am brainstorming my next book to tackle...

Friday, February 15, 2013

All great and precious things are lonely


IIIIIIIIIII FINISHED EAST OF EDEN (now will Goodreads stop reminding me I'm 2 books behind on my 2013 Reading Challenge?).

I would not say that I absolutely adored and treasured this book, or that it was full of love and goodness - because it wasn't (and that was sort of the point of it) - but Steinbeck, with his fluid style and clearly drawn parallels, certainly had me hooked throughout. Of Mice and Men, due to its brevity (and killer [no pun intended] ending), perhaps remains most memorable for me, yet East of Eden was definitely (due to its length), the more developed and fledged story.

One of the most expatiated themes in the novel = the idea of one's capability to CHOOSE between greatness and evil, expressed via the word: TIMSHEL

This word bore massive significance in the novel (I mean, it was even the last spoken word). Here are its connotations/ramifications explained, as told by Lee (Lee is perhaps the most interesting character in the entire novel; more on that later):
‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel —‘Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see? [...] 'I said that word carried a man's greatness if he wanted to take advantage of it.'
I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed—because ‘Thou mayest.’
'I believe when you come to that responsibility the hugeness and you are alone to make your choice. On one side you have warmth and companionship and sweet understanding, and on the other—cold, lonely greatness. [...] it’s nice for a mediocre man to know that greatness must be the loneliest state in the world.'
"Greatness must be the loneliest state in the world." This state is realized by Lee when he leaves (shortly) to attempt his long-buried/half-imagined dream of starting a bookstore. Honestly, by this time in the book:
  1. Every single potential dream of all the other characters have NOT turned out well 
  2. This is just Steinbeck's classic theme, reflective of the great depression/American dream; people make great pilgrimages/go to war in hopes of finding God/going to heaven but does that pan out?
Nearly everything Lee says in the book is accepted as legit. Adam runs to him for counsel; he brings up Cal and Abel; Abra looks to him as a father; he knows everything and has seen everything. So, of all characters, perhaps he has the greatest chance of fulfilling his dream - and does he? The fact that he returns, beaten, 150% certain of the loneliness of greatness, further embellishes the theme of a unreachable Eden that Steinbeck explores in this novel.

Reason for Lee's lapse in judgment?
“I’d rather you saw for yourself and thought for yourself,” Lee said. “You know whena man lives alone as much as I do, his mind can go off on an irrational tangent just because his social world is out of kilter.”
Anyhow - back to Timshel and greatness - 
FACTOID: I know for a fact that Marcus Mumford's favorite authour is JOHN STEINBECK and guess which band has a song titled timshel...?

Throughout the entire novel nearly all characters are torn between self-conflicts evil and goodness, and at the end, when Adam says 'Timshel' to Cal, that is his way of enunciating that Cal is free to make a choice, to choose greatness, and forget his sins (that Cal believes he inherited from his mother) - his indirect causing of his brother's (and mother's) death (another biblical reference), for example. It is also Adam's acceptance of Cal (an acceptance of love that Lee recognizes that Cal NEEDS to be able to go on).

The importance of sins, though:
“The ways of sin are curious,” Samuel observed. “I guess if a man had to shuck off everything he had, inside and out, he’d manage to hide a few little sins somewhere for hisown discomfort. They’re the last things we’ll give up.”“Maybe that’s a good thing to keep us humble. The fear of God in us.”
Adam was the one his father preferred, and out of his two sons, he would go on to prefer Aron... There is a uber handy table from Wikipedia that shows all major biblical references.

Another huge theme in the novel is LOVE:
Cyrus's love for Adam, Charles's love for Cyrus (and also Charles's lack of receiving love that makes him violent)
Adam's love for Aron, Cal's love for Aron (and also Cal's lack of receiving love that ALSO makes him violent).
Adam's mad, (almost) self-dreamed love for Cathy, her lack of love for anyone in general (except possibly Aron)
Lee's love for Abra (IN THE FATHERLY WAY), her love for him
Aron's mad (almost) self-dreamed love (aha) for Abra, her gradual transitioning love for Cal (due to Aron's intenseness...)
All this love (or lack thereof) is extremely pertinent to how the characters grow, how they dream, and how they eventually die.

 Other interesting mini-themes in the book that I won't delve into but want to mention:
1) The significance of 'Joes' and their correlation to modern outputs like the automobile.
2) The representation of Alice (in Wonderland) as Cathy's childhood spark.

Final lovely quote:

When you’re a child you’re the center of everything. Everything happens for you.Other people? They’re only ghosts furnished for you to talk to. But when you grow up you take your place and you’re your own size and shape. Things go out of you to others and come in from other people. It’s worse, but it’s much better too.

I'll give it a year, maybe, and then take on THE GRAPES OF WRATH.

Thursday, February 14, 2013



Swell line well delivered, Tommy Lee Jones. Batman, Men in Black, No Country for Old Men - I've literally been watching his movies for all my life. He is the man.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'Why did Anakin cross the road? To get to the Dark Side.'

This Guy embodies everything I love about the online Star Wars fan-base. I have been religiously following his account since a long time ago (from a galaxy far, far away...) and this is essentially where I get all my fabulous and lame Star Wars jokes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everything is only for a day, both that which remembers and that which is remembered. Some people think it’s an insult to the glory of their sickness to get well. But the time poultice is no respecter of glories. Everyone gets well if he waits around.

There exists a DIRECT CORRELATION between the name 'James' and a human being's attractiveness level. Refer to above images for conclusive evidence. By the way - I am working on a review for East of Eden - just got a tad sidetracked.

Sunday, February 10, 2013



AH, so, yesterday I decided to watch a French movie (must keep in touch with la langue), and what better option was there than the Oscar-nominated, Michael Haneke-directed AMOUR?

*The last scene of this trailer is equally chilling/incroyable in the movie
Brief plot introduction: Anne and Georges Laurent are an old married couple, and both retired music teachers. They live their quiet lives in peace, attending the occasional music concert, until ONE EVENTFUL DAY they are having a regular conversation and all of a sudden Anne completely zones out - she later ends up doing a surgery but it goes dreadfully wrong and she is rendered completely paralyzed on her right side. The rest of the movie revolves around Georges's efforts to take care of Anne, embellished by the occasional visits from their daughter, and one of Anne's previous pupils (Alexandre Tharaud playing himself!!).

This movie is called Amour (LOVE). Several different types of love are portrayed in this movie - husband-wife love, parent-child love, teacher-pupil love, not-quite-fulfilled young love, and merciful-killing love (euthanasia). Example of euthanasia in literature: George killing Lennie in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (speaking of Steinbeck, yes, I am nearly done with East of Eden and my mind was blown upon realizing that some of the characters were named after Steinbeck's parents).

Back to euthanasia - How does Anne die? Georges suffocates her. He dies soon after.

The first major question that popped into my head after I finished this movie - and one reiterated many times in the movie - was, "qu'est-ce qui s'est passé?" Because, what did happen?

This film was incredibly slow, SILENT (albeit minor piano snippets), yet exquisitely filmed. And although I have stated simply that Georges "dies soon after," it was not so plainly expressed in the film. After suffocating Anne, he walks around the house very silently for about 5 minutes and then walks back into the kitchen and ANNE IS THERE just calmly washing the dishes and then she leads him out of the house and apparently that represents Georges's death (Anne returning as an angel to lead him into darkness).

Honestly though, this film was so, so silent at times it was unbearable. I mean, there would be 5-second still shots of different paintings (WHY?!), without so much as a tinkle of sound. En revanche, sometimes Anne would be screeching 'MAL!!'

I suppose the slowness of the film contributes to the whole old-age vibe. There was one scene where Georges was halfway through brushing his teeth when suddenly the doorbell rang, and in all the movies I've ever watched where one is interrupted while brushing his teeth, one pauses - which is what Georges did - and then the camera CUTS to one's opening of the door - but nooooooo the camera followed Georges' continuation of spitting out the toothpaste, wiping his mouth on the towel, and THEN his procession to get the door...  this film is so delicately and carefully filmed. If it were a parcel, 'handle with care' would be stamped across it in large bold letters.

Haneke definitely knew what he was doing though, because look at all the Oscars this film is nominated for! Not saying Oscar nominations = awesome movie, but... actually, no, that is what I am saying. Plus Roger Ebert liked it, donc...

This movie is very French. There is 1) cussing 2) exposure of skin, if you know what I mean (but très mild) and 3) death.

Had to cross that out for fear of being slammed for being stereotypical. But really, if you are up for the challenge of dedicating 2 hours to watching this poignant film, GO DO IT! You will get points for sophistication. Besides, anything sounds elegant in French, so consider it a treat for thine ears.

Friday, February 8, 2013

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person” “The blood of love welled up in my heart with a slow pain. ” “How frail the human heart must be -- a mirrored pool of thought.”

I see my Chinese New Year break going down 3 main routes:
the stalk-james-franco-tumblr path,
the rewatch-the-same-lotr-scenes road
and the work-work-work hike.

(just to kick things off)

Besides, I feel like route (1) is rather imperative because I don't know what James Franco is doing with his life right now apart from directing a Charles Bukowski biopic, planning more porno-esque films, and sitting at home waiting for Spring Breakers to come out (or is that really all he is doing? Because sticking to only 3 things at a time is rare for Mr. Overachiever).

On another note, East of Eden is getting INTENSE and oh goodness, I'm halfway-ish and Adam's sons are growing up and uncomfortably (I actually cringed innerly when this happened), VERY UNCOMFORTABLY, have un un-seeable parallels drawn between them and Cain and Abel...

Names are a great mystery. I’ve never known whether the name is molded by the child or the child changed to fit the name. But you can be sure of this—whenever a human has a nickname it is a proof that the name given him was wrong.

I mean, I haven't even read the Bible but all these correlations are so brilliantly carried through (props to you, Steinbeck) that the whole evil/love/prospects vs reality  theme is shining through on every page.

In my previous post, I briefly (albeit weakly) mentioned the cat motif I kept seeing - IT'S NOT GOING AWAY - I googled 'East of Eden John Steinbeck Cat" for some reassurance that I am not alone in observing this, but O, I am alone (at least until my googling skills improve).

Or perhaps 'Cat' is a sporadic (understatement, though) reminder to readers of Cathy/Kate's existence + danger?

I'm off to read more of it now (and hopefully finish it). I'm reading Great Expectations too and have been neglecting it in terms of blog posts, so hopefully I'll get an opportunity soon to write about it (not for school).

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The words of a dead man are modified in the guts of the living

I am currently reading a collection of beautiful poems, and within this anthology is 'The Last Poem by Robert Desnos. Here it is, en français:

J’ai rêvé tellement fort de toi,
J’ai tellement marché, tellement parlé,
Tellement aimé ton ombre,
Qu’il ne me reste plus rien de toi.

Il me reste d’être l’ombre parmi les ombres
D’être cent fois plus ombre que l’ombre
D’être l’ombre qui viendra et reviendra dans ta vie ensoleillée

It's wondrous. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop and Refugee Blues by W.H. Auden (which reads like a folk song) are also my new loves.

The memory of odors is very rich.

"'You can boast about anything if it's all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.' And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way."

I recently went to Taiwan - it is lovely to return, if only for a fleeting weekend. 

He covered his life with a veil of vagueness, while behind his quiet eyes a rich full life went on.

When I finished Of Mice and Men, I knew it would not be the end of my Steinbeck-journey. After ploughing through Plath, I also knew that I had to make a smart choice about my next book to read (I don't particularly want to be trapped neck-deep in a 500-page volume of self-loathing/mother-loathing rambling - albeit tenderly poetic - again). I veeeery much wanted to delve into a bildungsroman, or Fitzgerald, but I'm reading Great Expectations for English class already and reading TWO heavy bildungsromans and 19th century novels will topple me.
East of Eden is huge. I am taking the risk of being uncomfortably squished in the middle of this book (but the show must go on), so I'm reading like mad right now.
Besides, I have a friend who'll disown me if I don't read The Unbearable Lightness of Being asap, so that gives me more incentive to finish off East of Eden.
... SO FAR SO GOOD, truly! It's like the expatiated, multi-character version of Of Mice and Men.

I originally had way more quotes but I'm tired so I've cut some out.
The intense beliefs of Cyrus on an army and being a soldier -

The whole machine devotes itself coldly to the destruction of his difference. They'll beat your spirit and your nerves, your body and your mind, with iron rods until the dangerous difference goes out for you. ... It's better to fall in with them. They only do it to protect themselves. A thing so triumphantly illogical, so beautifully senseless as an army can't allow a question to weaken it. Within itself, if you do not hold it up to other things for comparison and derision, you'll find slowly, surely, a reason and a logic and a kind of dreadful beauty. A man who can accept it is not a worse man always, and sometimes is a much better man.
...A soldier gives up so much to get something back. From the day of a child’s birth he is taught by every circumstance, by every law and rule and right, to protect his own life. He starts with that great instinct, and everything confirms it. And then he is a soldier and he must learn to violate all of this— he must learn coldly to put himself in the way of losing his own life without going mad. 
^These are the type of proclamation that would give capitalists a heart attack.
If you can go down so low, you will be able to rise higher than you can conceive, and you will know a holy joy, a companionship almost like that of a heavenly company of angels.
^This is almost Maoist (It's got continuous revolution, only-through-social-disorder-will-we-succeed vibes)
Nearly all men are afraid, and they don’t even know what causes their fear—shadows, perplexities, dangers without names or numbers, fear of a faceless death. But if you can bring yourself to face not shadows but real death, described and recognizable, by bullet or saber, arrow or lance, then you need never be afraid again, at least not the same way you were before. Then you will be a man set apart from other men, safe where other men may cry in terror. This is the great reward. Maybe this is the only reward. Maybe this is the final purity all ringed with filth.


Things to think about as I read on (BEWARE OF SPOILERS)
Why did Edward want to kill Cathy? Out of fear? Out of self-reassurance? How is it different from how Lennie killed Curly's wife? And WHAT IS WITH John Steinbeck's portrayal of women?!

Cathy is a MONSTER, and absolutely terrifying throughout the book. She is described as so:
I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. [...] Just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or a less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potentialof conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he cannot miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has novisible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that amonster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.
Diverging a tad -

The motif of cats has popped up WAY too many times in the book - originally, I thought it was a coincidence, then it JUMPED OUT AT ME WHAM and at times Adam/Charles/Cathy are even compared to cats - I don't understand -
- Also, a weak dog has been shot - of Mice and Men - esque again;
- This post is SO, so, ramble-y; it wasn't meant to turn out this way, my apologies.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

All in green my love went riding

I spent a wonderful amount of time today in a large Taiwanese bookstore properly diving into E.E. Cummings' poetry... when I read it at a younger age, I had thought,
And THAT'S why I shouldn't have been reading Sound and the Fury and the Great Gatsby at age 14 (although, May, good on you for loving literature) - Faulkner's prose was jibber jabber and I couldn't prod into the depths of Gatsby's love - so, lesson to self... don't-read-un-cherche-du-temps-perdu-now-you-won't-be-able-to-soak-it-up.
I'm trying to telepathically transmit the same message to my sister, but she seems to be healthily enjoying Austen, so alright.
may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone. For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea