Hellooooooo?

A long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long time ago, I updated this blog. In a galaxy far away the same as your own, actually.

Anyhoo, I’m just popping in to ask for a favour from anyone still following this dusty little corner of the internet.

I’ve written a poem. Well, the bare bones of a poem. The skeletal frame. I’m not happy with it (it’s a first draft, of course I’m not going to be happy), and I feel like it’s too sappy and blah, so I was hoping you guys could possibly offer me some feedback on it. What don’t you like? Is there anything that should stay, or should I scrap it and start again? Now when I say bare bones, I mean I’ve written it, essentially, as prose. I haven’t properly considered how the lines are going to work, where there will be caesuras, enjambent, end stops, etc, whether there’ll be gaps. I want to try and fix what I have so far before I start working on that in detail.

Little bit of background information; it’s a class task. We’re to write about a place, researching it’s history so we have something to draw on. The technique I’m using is essentially different levels of what is visible. So from a certain height to a certain depth, the history in those levels, etc. Anyway, I’ll put the draft up here and hopefully someone might get back to me (I’ll send you an internet-cookie or something to show my gratitude).

Tentatively titled:  The Heavenly Prince and the Bear

You all but fell into my lap, God-sent on a day where clouds spiralled the city and knotted around my neck like a ribbon choker.

We climbed Namsan, lucky 777 high, crested its clear-skied peak to find our own space amongst millions of other stars, padlocking I’ll love you forever to the fence (but wasn’t love supposed to set us free?) and then tossing the key into a bin on the way down to the subway , the subway that would take us to Itaewon, to soak up culture like heart-shaped sponges, the subway that would take us to Jongno, to lose ourselves in the history of your ancestors, the subway that would take us to Gangnam, where I would spend my last 10,000 won bill on a cup of coffee and a one-shot espresso that would keep you up until 4am, tickling my ribs and dancing Gee until the apartment downstairs hammered on the ceiling.

Back onto the subway the morning after, always, another day another border, forever crossing the districts hand in hand. We were heart and soul, one and the same.

History repeated itself, our Seoul was sundered, fragmenting into Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla.

History repeated itself, the unification looped us until we coagulated again, until we were one and the same, heart and soul.

And history repeated itself, until the skies took my Heavenly Prince back, your work here on earth among the peons done. I thought I would remain human when you left me behind, but I reverted. Back into that shambling walking-dead, hibernating my way through parts of the year and blustering with the world on a sore head the rest of the time. No heart, no soul.

If you check out this blog post, it might clear a few things up… About halfway down things might make more sense.

Advertisements

Somewhere in the world it’s the 1st of August…

Which means it’s been just over two months since I last made a social visit to this sad, neglected page and the poor buggers who are subscribed to my posts. Unless my radio-silence has been a boon to your daily web-life, my apologies! I can’t claim to have been busy working, or even busy playing. Mostly my days are spent trying not to throw myself down the stairs in frustration (one day I’m going to try and trap my demonic little sister in a Devil’s Trap) and reading books long forgotten on the family bookshelf.

So here’s an update on what I’ve been up to. There’s no specific reviews (as of yet) but I’ve been watching a lot of films, reading hefty books and trying to keep up with the Olympic gymnastics, judo and diving.

Seeing as Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake novel ‘Guilty Pleasures’ is on my reading list for next year at uni, and I already own most of the books, I thought I’d re-read the collection I’ve already amassed – and flesh out the rest of it. I’m currently waiting on a few more books through the door but then I’ll be up-to-date with the Anite Blake series. It’s the biggest series of books that I’ve ever collected, as usually I stick to short trilogies of books or borrowing the David Edding’s series from old friends. The Anita Blake novels currently span 21 books. I’m now waiting for my mother to start throwing them at me for taking up space on the bookcase…

For the most part, I’m doing my best to power through the majority of the reading material for year 2 of Creative Writing at EHU, though I’m struggling with the sheer bulk of Varney the Vampire and all the non-fiction, craft textbooks. I tend to save tackling them for bath-time or when I’m trying to avoid my sister. Something about the banality of craftbooks is relaxing – although not always.

Film-wise, I’m still hooked on my Asian cinema; Red Cliff was on the other night and it was a spectacular epic. The movie actually spans 4 hours but the released version shown on channel 4 was only two hours long. Still, it’s a credit to John Woo that even halved, the film is still absolutely incredible and exciting to watch.

Back when I was at Manchester Metropolitan University, a friend introduced me to Casshern and the Gantz anime. Goemon is a film by the same people who produced Casshern and it’s completely obvious in the visual aesthetics of the scenes. It’s emotionally gripping although a little less intense than Casshern; there’s something a little more light-hearted about Goemon, but the themes of self-sacrifice are still blatant.

Gantz has taken me aback. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting from it but the anime is pretty graphic and more gory than I considered it could be. I’ve held off from watching for a while (I’m currently only caught up on to episode 8) because I thought I should probably spend some time reading, but I have managed to cram in a viewing or two of the live-action movies ‘Gantz’ and ‘Gantz: Perfect Answer’, and managed to find myself bawling my eyes out as per usual. Obviously, I went into them thinking ‘well, that’s different from the anime’ and ‘THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THIS IS NOT TRUE TO THE NARRATIVE’ but honestly? Sometimes a little divergence can still be fun, and now the two films have made it up onto my list of recommendations to watch.

So, yeah, in spite of trying to keep an eye on my sister over the summer holidays and encourage our new dog to get used to me, I’ve managed to cram in a lot. Not as much as I wanted though, if I’m honest. I applied to go to Changsha for three weeks to teach English and learn Mandarin, and experience the whole Chinese culture (something that’s really close to my heart) but I didn’t make it past the interview stage unfortunately. The night I found out I hadn’t made it, my mum was reluctant to even order Chinese food to cheer me up in case it made me cry more (T▽T) That said, I’ve picked myself up since then and there’s always the chance next year to apply again, which I’m definitely going to go for – or the year after, depending on my finances.

Anyway, here’s to cramming more reading into my summer when the rest of my books arrive in the mail. I hope everyone’s enjoying their summer :3

#13 Confessions – Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima


Confessions –
A psychological thriller of a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter’s death 

“Carmen, you watch some of the sickest, creepiest movies, I swear.” – my mother last night as we were watching this.

Okay, in my defence, I don’t like gore and I’m not big on horror or thrillers… but I do really enjoy films that make you think and, personally, I find that a great deal of foreign cinema makes me do just that. Big budget blockbusters from Hollywood seem generically shallow these days; there’s little there but the retelling of old stories we’re all already familiar with, all made pretty. They’re great for entertainment and preoccupying our minds so we don’t need to dig too deep into our psyche but that’s all they’re really good for.

Based on a novel by Kanae Minato, Confessions is a teensy bit gory. Only a little. But it’s manageable. The real horror doesn’t come from the arterial spray of blood on white walls but from the psychological terror of the potential damage humans can inflict. Humans – not just adults but children too. Confessions showcases how our race manipulates, lies and kills in order to cover our tracks or reveal ourselves to the world. It shows how callous and cruel people can truly be when under duress from circumstance and pressure.

The real horror in today’s world is ourselves – and the majority of it is self-inflicted. Confessions attests to that; the pressure of school (you must do well, you must get the best grades, you must be recognised), pressure from parents and friends, bullying and death. These are just a few of the main themes the film deals with in mirroring reality.

The true message behind the film though is one to be worked out on our own. How precious is life? How can anyone even begin to answer that? Perhaps then, the better question would be, how precious is life to each and every one of us? Do some of us hold it in greater esteem? If we, like the female teacher, Sensei Yuko, lost our young child because of someone else’s ego, would we seek revenge? Would we sit by passively? Could we forgive?

On a final note, the acting in this was particularly impressive. Child actors usually go hand-in-hand with happy-go-lucky films, all gravitating towards a Happy Ending. But the children/young-adults portraying a class of thirteen year olds played their roles amazingly – and every single character brought raw, base emotions to life on screen with incredible honesty.

#12 Shin Kyung Sook – Please Look After Mother


Please Look After Mother – Shin Kyung Sook

On Tuesday, on a hunt to pick up a birthday present for my Nana’s 60th, I ventured into Waterstones for a quick look at books before I had to head off for a diabetes check-up at the hospital (not fun, by the way. They treat me like a human pin-cushion). Just looking at books is half the fun these days, mostly because they seem to be so much more expensive than when I was younger. I like to add things to my mental Reading List; books that, were I several thousand pounds richer than I currently am, I would cart home with me after making the woman at the check-out a very happy seller indeed.

I usually stick to the science-fiction/fantasy section but a small display caught my eye. I forget the exact title but there were lots of them around the store; stands with around ten books on them, each for a different award or genre that Waterstones was promoting. I picked up ‘Please Look After Mother‘ from a display that contained (amongst others) novels by Haruki Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Of course, this was an international fiction stand. I felt a little proud that there were authors who – thanks to one of my classes at university – I recognised.

Shin, however, I did not recognise. But I’m a sucker for pretty things so the cover grabbed my attention (as did a small pink novella but I eventually put that one down, though somewhat reluctantly). I ended up grabbing a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Warbreaker’ and Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle‘ as well as ‘Please Look After Mother‘.

Please Look After Mother‘ is about losing a parent – and then, in searching for her, the mother’s entire family grows to discover more about the woman that cared for them. It’s a book that highlights how a parent truly looks after their child, encompassing empathy, compassion, love and aggravation. No family is perfect and everyone has their qualms with each other but, beneath all the anger and irritation, there is always love.

The novel has been translated into beautifully simple but evocative prose, with each chapter in a different narrative voice, depending on the specific character. With each chapter, Shin builds up the mother’s character, fleshing her out and giving her life, enabling us to see her from every angle and suggesting that it takes a great deal to truly know a person, no matter how close we think we are to them.

Shin’s novel isn’t about finding what you lost, it’s about urging us as readers to recognise what we can lose, before it’s too late. It encourages us to take a look at our relationships and keep hold of what matters most.

Chink

Check it out. A group of independent filmmakers are about to embark on a movie-making project which aims to blow the stereotype of the Asian-American as a model-minority out of the water; they’re calling it ‘a slasher movie with a message’.

I’m actually pretty interested to see where they take this. Your usual serial-killer movie is a white-American man with a speckled history and pressing psychological problems. White supremacy still reigns pretty much supreme in Hollywood (you only have to look at the backlash the recent ‘The Hunger Games’ film sparked when it cast actors a Nigerian actor and an African-American actress in the roles of Thresh and Rue, respectively).

‘This movie will make no apologies. It will push people’s buttons and make them squirm. It will make people angry, but hopefully it will also foster much needed debate about the state of the Asian American male in our society. This is a movie that has to be made, because there’s never been anything like it before.’

I’m hoping this does exactly what it says on the cover. Opening people’s eyes up to the implications of stereotyping and bullying (in any form) is only the first step and it’s one that, worldwide, people are struggling to take, even in this day and age.

A Brief Update

Goodness, I haven’t updated this thing in over a month.

I’m considering adding some music reviews to this though, to bulk it out a little. Maybe a few more film reviews. I’ve finally managed to pick up a book again for entertainment purposes (it feels like it’s been too long since I’ve done that and I’ve grabbed a copy of Anne Rice’s The Mummy) so I’ll probably do a quick review on that once I’m done.

As of this moment though, I’m busy studying up on game and narrative theory for a Beyond Books essay and putting off writing more poetry for my portfol— I mean, planning for my portfolio… Yeah…

That and I’ve decided to put in an application to go to China for three weeks with university for some experience in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I really want to get in because the opportunity would just be absolutely fantastic, so… wish me luck?

#11 Jenny Erpenbeck – Visitation


click here to view on amazon

The first few pages of Erpenbeck’s Visitation have a special hook to them. They act as bait, catching us with our mouths agape as the fairytale-esque narrative unfolds. The first chapters ‘The Gardener’ and ‘The Wealthy Farmer and his Four Daughters’ are promisingly full of Grimm and Andersen style and charm. It is after these chapters though that I lost my enthusiasm for the novella, the style shifting to something a lot more realistic and confusing.

Erpenbeck has a wonderfully simple way with words although some of the turns of phrase and expressions of dialogue left me confused and out of sorts.

The main theme of the book is a house by a lake, a dwelling that stands and survives the passage of time, new families and war. Visitation is the history of this house, the lived-in-ness of its walls, its land. The house is one of the only two constants in the story, the other being the Gardener. Few people ever stay in the house by the lake for too long a period of time – because of circumstances, as the country is ravaged by war or families move apart – but the Gardener is the only one to spend the majority of his life there.

The tale was a slow read for me as I found it difficult to remain engrossed in the lives of characters who didn’t seem to stay around. Perhaps re-reading it and truly accepting the house as the character would be more successful, but considering how so much detail is given on people rather than the house, it’s hard to stick with this idea.

I, personally, didn’t enjoy this book. Others might. One thing is certain: it never hurts to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.