Sunday, August 10, 2014

Library Book Sale 2014

I went to my town's library book sale for the first time last year, and realized what a treasure trove this event was. Paperbacks $1-2, Hardcovers $3? You can't find much better prices than that. This year I spent a whopping total of $13 for six books, all of them in almost new condition. I can't wait to read them, but first I have to get through another six hundred pages of Game of Thrones. Why do I do this to myself? 

In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe's wife, Violet, attacks the girl's corpse. This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.

Jazz is the story of a triangle of passion, jealousy, murder, and redemption, of sex and spirituality, of slavery and liberation, of country and city, of being male and female, African American, and above all of being human. Like the music of its title, it is a dazzlingly lyric play on elemental themes, as soaring and daring as a Charlie Parker solo, as heartbreakingly powerful as the blues. It is Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison at her best.

Open Absurdistan and meet outsize Misha Vainberg, son of the 1,238th-richest man in Russia, lover of large portions of food and drink, lover and inept performer of rap music, and lover of a South Bronx Latina whom he longs to rejoin in New York City, if only the American INS will grant him a visa. But it won't, because Misha's late Beloved Papa whacked an Oklahoma businessman of some prominence. Misha is paying the price of exile from his adopted American homeland. He's stuck in Russia, dreaming of his beloved Rouenna and the Oz of NYC. 

Salvation may lie in the tiny, oil-rich nation of Absurdistan, where a crooked consular officer will sell Misha a Belgian passport. But after a civil war breaks out between two competing ethnic groups and a local warlord installs hapless Misha as Minister of Multicultural Affairs, our hero soon finds himself covered in oil, fighting for his life, falling in love, and trying to figure out if a normal life is still possible in the twenty-first century. 

Populated by curvaceous brown-eyed beauties, circumcision-happy Hasidic Jews, a loyal manservant who never stops serving, and scheming oil execs from a certain American company whose name rhymes with Malliburton, Absurdistan is a strange, oddly true-to-life look at how we live now, from a writer who should know.

Rebecca Lee, one of our most gifted and original short story writers, guides readers into a range of landscapes, both foreign and domestic, crafting stories as rich as novels. A student plagiarizes a paper and holds fast to her alibi until she finds herself complicit in the resurrection of one professor's shadowy past. A dinner party becomes the occasion for the dissolution of more than one marriage. A woman is hired to find a wife for the one true soulmate she's ever found. In all, Rebecca Lee traverses the terrain of infidelity, obligation, sacrifice, jealousy, and yet finally, optimism. Showing people at their most vulnerable, Lee creates characters so wonderfully flawed, so driven by their desire, so compelled to make sense of their human condition, that it's impossible not to feel for them when their fragile belief in romantic love, domestic bliss, or academic seclusion fails to provide them with the sort of force field they'd expected.

One of this century's leading works on Zen, this book is a valuable source for those wishing to understand its concepts in the context of Japanese life and art. In simple, often poetic, language, Daisetz Suzuki describes what Zen is, how it evolved, and how its emphasis on primitive simplicity and self-effacement have helped to shape an aesthetics found throughout Japanese culture. He explores the surprising role of Zen in the philosophy of the samurai, and subtly portrays the relationship between Zen and swordsmanship, haiku, tea ceremonies, and the Japanese love of nature. Suzuki's contemplative discussion is enhanced by anecdotes, poetry, and illustrations showing silk screens, calligraphy, and examples of architecture.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Monologue?

I had this idea awhile back for a short story about a shadow who loved their person. So I wrote it down, and left it for a few months. Last week I discovered it again, and thought, hey, since I like film now I'll write a monologue and do an accompanying video. This is the part I have written down, and I'm still trying to assemble all my blurry shots of treetops and moving water into a cohesive three minutes of film. This is the song that's going to go with it- I think it sort of sets the mood.

*To clarify* This is from the point of view of a shadow, reflecting and then coming back to the present where she is in the coffin with her dead person. (It's strangely creepy and romantic for me). Hopefully it'll be clearer with the video. Anyways, this is my first time writing a monologue or even anything remotely script-ish, so I have a long way to go!

We were going to be together, 


From the time the sun rose in the East to when it set in the West, I would be with you, 
every day, 
every hour, 
every step. 
When night came and you sat in the soft light of the moon, I hid beneath your eyelashes, in the well under your bottom lip, I tucked myself into all the folds of your clothes. I wanted so badly to touch you, to hold you, to stretch myself until I covered every inch of you. But we lived our lives on different planes, and each day the sun tore me from you.
So I followed, and watched you smile with others, laugh with others. I laughed, too, 

but you couldn’t hear me.

As you grew, I grew. Still, the distance between us remained the same. I almost couldn’t bear it when you met her. Her with the soft hands that could touch your cheek, the head she could lay on your chest. Her with the eyes that shone when the light was just so, her with the hair that turned copper in the dying sun. I cried at first. 

You couldn’t hear me.

sometimes you would turn back. 
Look at me,
the way I looked at you.
I was the proof that you existed,
and you were my reason. 
Wasn’t that enough? 
I told myself you loved me, like I loved you. Was that true?

It’s dark down here. I can’t see you anymore. But I’m still with you. Closer…..than I’ve ever been. I can feel you now, and you’re cold. 
You always looked so warm.

I want to stay with you.
 I want to see you again. 
But I’m lost now. It’s so dark, and I’m trying to hold on. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be anymore. 
Can you hear me? 

  I’m whispering to you.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Final Thoughts on "Firefly"

At first, I thought Firefly was going to be some crappy, live action knock-off of Cowboy Bebop; the premise was similar, and I suspected the worst. But I think after a few episodes the show really hit its stride, and I realized this was a show that could stand on its own.

The conundrum about this show is that it's at once amazing and borderline bad. There's a certain art derived from slightly awkward script, predictable plots, and cheesy drama, and Firefly takes full advantage of that. It's a little campy, but it sucks you in. By the end I was entirely invested in all the characters. (Except Malcolm) I just don't like Malcolm's character; and I say his character because it's not just him. This guy, this rough, noble, semi-emotionally stunted guy, is such a stereotype, and I hate him each time he shows up. I mean, there's nothing really special about Malcolm, he's not particularly smart or a very good leader or funny or clever. He's not even necessarily an amazing fighter. He's completely based on honor and strength of will, and I just think that's so cliche. In my opinion, Zoe should have been captain, and I stand by that. *Spoilers* I was so *ugh* about Malcolm's whole romantic drama with Inara- I knew it was going to happen since the first episode, and it's just- why does the main character always have to have a romance with the prettiest woman in the show? Why couldn't they just have been platonic friends? It annoys me that Inara had to be used as a plot device instead of as an individual person. Although I was surprised, in the end, that she left- I thought she would turn back, I didn't think she would actually just walk out. So that says something about her independence, which I respect. *Spoilers over*

It's such a shame Firefly was cancelled; I felt that it had really started to become something special towards the end of the season. We didn't really get to learn about the characters' backstories that were hinted at  (ex: Inara, Shepherd Book, River) and we didn't find out really about the government scheme with River. I guess I'll have to go watch Serenity. However, in my opinion, what allows Firefly to be such a cult show is that it was cancelled before its time. Because there are so many loose ends, you can make it whatever you want it to be; anything can happen in your imagination, the characters' backstories can be whatever you want them to be. What if the show had gone on, and the audience didn't like where it was going, didn't like how the characters changed? Now we never have to worry about that. It's bittersweet, I guess.

In conclusion, I think I jumped the gun on the criticism for this show. I ended up really enjoying it, and I think that there are a lot of stereotypes and preconceived notions it brings to light and/or completely shatters without a care. It's pretty awesome. 

9/10 on the enjoyment scale :)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 1st Freewrite *While Listening to The Moon Song*

We're here, a million miles away.

Sitting here softly,
soft yellow lamplight,
soft blue of a dying day.
Soft music in my ears,
soft voice,
soft chords.

There's things I wish I knew.

Peace is such a strange and transient feeling.
When it comes, it wraps its arms around you,
it breathes quiet whispers of quiet words,
and suddenly you feel the unbearable weight of the now in your heart,
all the beauty that will never again collide in this order.
You see the moment as a memory already.
The gold and fading indigo of a nighttime room,
the suggestion of a chill on your skin.
Maybe you'll forget the song, the name of the song,
the notes and the words.
But you won't forget how it feels,
right here, right now.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts After Watching the First Two Episodes of Firefly

So when I asked if I should watch Firefly a couple weeks back, I got in response a resounding "yes". To be honest, I didn't really have an idea what the show was about: simply that it had a cult following and many of its fans overlapped with Bryan Fuller fans. Thus, finding myself with some free hours today, I thought I would try the first couple episodes. I definitely see myself finishing this series, so I want to record my thoughts at the beginning compared to when I finish it.

First off, I really hope Malcolm dies. Which I doubt will happen, but I have my fingers crossed. I hate his face. I know that's not really a reviewer-ly thing to say but my god his face annoys me I mean if I'm going to have to stare at someone's face for eleven episodes I want them to be somewhat attractive. *deep breath* Aside from his face, I guess I'm just sort of sick of the whole "flawed male lead who's emotionally closed off and has anger issues and really isn't the best decision maker but seems to be in charge of all the decisions". Like, WHY IS ZOE NOT THE CAPTAIN. Kudos to the show for having the second biggest character being a black woman, and a strong and smart one at that, but WHY IS SHE NOT THE CAPTAIN. Her being the captain would make for a five thousand times better show. Maybe this is the hours I've spent on Tumblr talking, but it annoys me that the white male character automatically gets the powerful position when there's a more qualified leader right next to him. Why, writers, why. And besides, it's so predictable that there's going to be someone or some situation that makes him show his soft side and he'll progress emotionally. It's been done a thousand times with a thousand different male characters. And he's dumb I mean GODDDD. It makes me angry.

While we're talking about characters, I really do appreciate Zoe (Hi Mrs. Crawford!). I think she's awesome and her relationship with the pilot is so sweet and perfect and it's not set up for tons of romantic drama which is just downright refreshing. Kailee is awesome, and Jane is perfection. The doctor's face also makes me angry. It's like, it should be attractive but there's something an eensy bit off, ya know? Also CAN SOMEONE PLEASE FIND THIS MAN A WELL FITTED VEST. I love sibling relationships on shows. They're semi-rare, which might be due to the fact that it's easier to create drama with romantic relationships, but they're great because it's such a pure form of love and can be manipulated so easily to bring the tears. IDK sibling relationships are my fave. Now I'm not quite sure why, but I really wish Inara was a guy. Like still a companion, but a guy. I DON'T KNOW WHY. I definitely love that the show made a prostitute an actual character with depth and development instead of just using her as a plot device or romantic interest (although I have an inkling that she'll be used as a romantic interest). ANOTHER THING. Love triangles are already in the works and that makes me sort of angry because I really don't have the patience for romantic drama in shows; I feel like the time and effort could be put to better means. Like, Kailee and Malcolm, Inara and Malcolm, Kailee and Simon, etc. Can we just cut it with the sexual tension. I'm interested to see what happens with character development: I don't think this show is the best at showing character development through the small things: I think it's going to have moments set up where we get the character development we need.


The idea of a Western-style show set in space is really interesting I WONDER WHERE THEY GOT THAT FROM. DEFINITELY COULDN'T BE COWBOY BEBOP. WHICH CAME OUT FOUR YEARS PRIOR. To be honest though, I don't know whether they were inspired by Cowboy Bebop or if it was just a coincidence that the two shows have similarities. But it sort of sucks for me that I've seen Cowboy Bebop and loved it because now the whole time I'm watching the show I'm just wishing I'm watching Cowboy Bebop. I mean, it's just such a good show and nothing can compare. First off, the whole jazz soundtrack is awesome instead of just having the same little Western riff that plays every five minutes (Lookin' at you, Firefly.) The characters on the ship are much more interesting individually: Spike being the smart-ass daredevil with the karate moves is so much more satisfying than Malcolm the wannabe smart-ass stupid daredevil (as opposed to Spike who has his whole philosophy about not caring about his life) with the pretty generic fight moves. I do love Kailee, but Ed totally beats her out as far as being the quirky techy sidekick. And as far as sexy female roles, BLESS FAYE. I appreciate her so much. I mean, like I said before it's great that Firefly shows Inara as a real person rather than just a sex object, but they do show her as a sex object. Faye is the typically over-sexy female but they don't have to make her role in the show or job to be about that. There's really no sexual tension between her and anyone else the whole show, if anything it's emotional tension, plus she can fight and hold her own. The fight scenes in Bebop are five times as awesome because #1 it's Spike and #2 they're set in time to music. Plus the spaceships are way cooler. ALSO WHERE IS THE CORGI, FIREFLY? ANSWER ME THAT.

I'm really sad now that I'm comparing Firefly to Bebop but the shows are so similar that they invite comparison. Firefly is a good show, definitely, and it sucks you in. Part of it's charm is that it's so campy and not really the best show in the world, but it has a lot of soul: it doesn't feel like it's trying to appeal to audiences. I mean, I think Bebop has a lot more depth of emotion and thought presented in its episodes: returning medicine to sick people is really the best moral dilemma you could come up with, Firefly? Really? OH MY GOD I NEED TO STOP COMPARING. I really appreciate what Firefly is doing as a show and I'm interested to see where it goes. Plus it has like all my favorite actors in the world, so that's a plus.

This has been the most unprofessional review I've ever written I'm so sorry.

Anyways, if you've seen the show I'd really like to know what you think of it! Talk to me in the comments!

Friday, May 30, 2014

"In Praise of Shadows" by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki

An essay on aesthetics by the Japanese novelist, this book explores architecture, jade, food, and even toilets, combining an acute sense of the use of space in buildings. The book also includes descriptions of laquerware under candlelight and women in the darkness of the house of pleasure.

I'm just starting to come to terms with my interest in Eastern culture, especially compared to the West. When I think about it, it's been a part of my life for a very long time: growing up, our closest family friends were Japanese, and we would often receive presents from Japan; fans, boxes, rice seasonings, paper.These objects had a certain air of mystery and ...."differentness" about them. The colors, the textures: I knew what the objects were, but at the same time they weren't quite the same as the ones I was used to. And with a brother eight years older, going through a socially tragic anime phase, I was exposed to Japanese media very early on as well. For a long time all I thought of it as was different, but in recent years I've started to dig deeper- what makes it different? What are the fundamentals of Eastern culture as opposed to those of Western that put them at odds? What are the contrasts in the philosophies, the storytelling? 

I think the answers can be found in media as basic as music videos and tv shows- if there are ideas at the core of a society, they'll manifest in whatever that society creates. So while visual kei band videos have made me question gender stereotypes, and animes have made me wonder about the roots of Eastern mythology as compared to Western, I've also started to branch into literature for answers to my questions. It was completely by coincidence that I found In Praise of Shadows just as my interest in these subjects was starting to blossom. I was organizing my bookshelves (they were just built and I was putting all my books on them) and I came to a bunch that were my brother's. They were mainly graphic novels from his college courses, so I assumed Tanizaki's book to be as well. But when I opened it up I didn't see pictures, so I read the back to find out what it was about. Turns out, an essay on Japanese aesthetic and sense of beauty and the effects of Westernization on the Japanese way of life. I almost cried. 

In Praise of Shadows is an essay in some regards: in others, the ramblings of a man disenchanted with the bright lights of the West. He begins by describing his struggles in building a traditional Japanese house for himself, trying to reconcile his desire for the traditional Japanese looks and fixtures with the necessities of the modern, westernized world. In a sense, trying to exclude Western presence from a house is trying to create an illusion; it will be there, but the struggle is in making it appear to not be. From this point he continues to talk about light through paper, toilets, jade, feminine beauty, the Noh theater, and other seemingly random aspects of Japanese culture. And for this reason many critics have said of the essay that it is disjointed, not structured well. But what Tanizaki wishes to do is to provide a range of examples of the way the modern world has changed aspects of the Japanese society, aspects that range from theatre to toilets, that even the most commonplace things are not as they once were. At the end of the book there is also a note about how Japanese writing style is much more train of consciousness, less structured and contrived than Western writing.

My interest in Westernization in the East is a bit masochistic, considering that whenever I think about it it makes me infinitely sad. I shared Tanizaki's lament while reading his book: Japan, untouched by the West, is a thing of the past. A nation must keep moving forward, must keep up with the rest of the world, and therefore must change. He concedes that the products of the West do make life easier, that at the end of the day living without the modern conveniences wouldn't necessarily be preferable. Yet he also argues that if Japan were left alone and given time, it would have created the same sort of modern inventions, yet tailored to the Eastern tastes, which I find to be a very interesting idea. It's not the innovation that's bad, it's that Japan has to adapt to the innovation of the West rather than their own. But this feeling of regret over the loss of culture is what intrigues me so much about Japan; I think that even today, the sadness Tanizaki speaks of is still very strongly felt, even as the bright lights of the Western world are celebrated. It is in the shadows that Japanese culture has grown and lives, and now all of those shadows are perishing in the illumination of the modern world.

This essay provided a good bit of insight into the feelings of nostalgia felt by so many Japanese people; I came away understanding so much more of the sentiments about Westernization felt in the East. But it really felt like a kick to the stomach when I looked the book up and realized it was written in the 1930s. Almost a century ago. I had been reading the whole book assuming it was written in the present, seeing as all of the author's comments are still entirely relevant. But almost a century ago. Think how much has changed since then, how further the country has become less of its past self. How sad Tanizaki would be if he were still alive today. 

The book is only forty pages, and if you're interested in Japanese culture it really explains so much, especially about the subtleties that wouldn't really come up otherwise. In his descriptions of Japanese aesthetics or customs, I thought of a lot of anime that I had seen and suddenly understood how it reflected what the author was talking about: the way light in rooms was depicted, the values that were subtly present. I would recommend it 110%- I feel that this text will become a touchstone for me in my future explorations on the subject.

5/5 stars- going on my favorites shelf.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Provincetown for Mother's Day

The End of My Travels (For Now) Barcelona, Spain

After visiting Madrid, Seville, Cordoba, and Sitges, my travels in Spain finally ended in Barcelona. Having spent a good deal of time in the South, being in Barcelona made it clear to me that Spain was, in fact, not the homogeneous country I had thought it to be. Seeing all the Catalan flags hanging out windows was shocking; I didn't realize that the people in the North were so open about wanting to be independent. But Barcelona was, of course, beautiful, and now that I'm talking about it again I've remembered that I wanted to re-watch Vicki Christina Barcelona.  

I'm not sure I've hated an inanimate object in my whole life as much as I hate that street lamp. We will see what becomes of it once I've sharpened my photoshop skills....

The Gaudi cathedral. It's been under construction since the 1920s and is planned to be finished by the 2080s. Which seems like an incredibly long time on the 21st century clock, when in reality it would take generations to complete the huge structures of old. The idea of a cathedral being built today is fascinating; cathedrals are just old, yes, they were built sometime in the past but now they're there. There aren't new cathedrals. So I commend Gaudi for being like, "you know what, I'ma build a huge cathedral because why not", yet at the same time I'm not a fan of the design. The main section looks like a disintegrating sand castle and a beehive spawned a construction, and it totally doesn't match the smaller section. Maybe cathedrals should stay a thing of the past.

Giraffes chatting over coffee. No further explanation needed.

These pictures were all from the Gaudi park. I think his aesthetic worked much better in this context.

My trip to Spain was a great experience, but to be honest, I think it's too soon to fully understand the importance of the trip or what it will mean to me in the future. Every time I try to reflect on it, my mind goes blank. I guess the whole thing just came and went so fast- while I was there I was so completely in the present, and once I left it all became incredibly surreal. Like, I know I was in Spain and yet my brain doesn't really compute what that means.

This is the end of my Spain trip but not the end of my travels!! T-42 days until France! And then Italy in September! (fingers crossed on that one)

Monday, May 26, 2014

You're Living, And That's All Anyone Ever Did

New Writing


And here you are again, baby,
paralyzed with fear.
Scared you're not living enough,
scared of the coming years.
Well hush up baby,
hush up dear.
Throw open the windows,
smell the cool salt air.
Throw a jazz vinyl on,
and let it spin spin spin.
The years will soon be gone,
so just spin spin spin.
You're living, and that's all anyone ever did.
So just spin baby,


Not Enough of a Cynic

I Saw A Black Car Drive By.
I Did Not Know If It Was a Hearse or a Limousine.
I Began to Consider
How Perhaps They Were Not Really So Different At All
I Decided I Would Rather Leave It To The Cynics


Sunday Night

It's Sunday night,
And I feel suspended, for a second,
By the sea-salt blue breeze
That stirs the tallest tips of the trees.
Caught like the sky between yesterday and tomorrow.
I know that next morning
Time will once again pull me in it's current,
But tonight it lets me float.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Cover the Waterfront

New Youtube video!! 
For mother's day we went to the beach in Provincetown and hung out, and it was all around a very relaxing time. While I was there I took some little videos and then I edited them together into the above using Final Cut Pro 10, which I got a free trial of AND AM IN LOVE WITH. You can do so much and it's plain amazing. But it also costs three hundred dollars. *Wahhhh*

It was sort of serendipity that right as I was finishing editing this we got a project in music to make a one to two minute video using music to create a mood, so I guess I'm pretty much done with that. Or I might make another one; I've been on a mambo jag recently and I sort of want to make a video with some Perez Prado background music. We'll see.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wandering Around: Sitges Spain

When I went to Spain for spring break we visited a number of cities, including Barcelona. Our hotel was actually in Sitges, though, which is about 45 minutes outside of Spain and sits right on the Mediterranean. It's an adorable little resort town and we got a whole day to hang out there before we went to Barcelona. The picture above is the view from my hotel room. Waking up and opening the window to hear the waves crash on the beach and smell the sea breeze was one of the best experiences of my life.

My friends the palm trees.

These were roasting right by the side of the road. Still not sure why I took a picture but they look delicious!

By the end of the trip I wanted to burn down every souvenir shop in Spain; they all carry the exact same overpriced items and I kept getting dragged in there by people. Honestly a rock off the beach is a better souvenir than anything in those shops. But we did find a cute little hippie knick knack shop in Sitges, and I didn't mind buying a little key ring from there. They had all these polished stones and buddhas and pretty scarves: I would love to go back.

We took a nighttime stroll around Sitges, and the way the lights of the waterfront stores reflected onto the water was otherworldly. I love that people stay out late in Spain: at eleven there were still people out walking and getting ice cream. The pace of life is so much more relaxed, I feel like.

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