February 27, 2012 Comments Off on yea
And yes, explanation: I’ve moved. If I don’t sell books, you can find me sleeping or running though, yeah I’m sure you’ll most likely be acquainted with the latter, seriously, what am I thinking? In Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart, the main character, Sumire faces a serious writer’s block after falling in love with a woman 15 years her senior, named Miu. The truth is I don’t really feel like writing either these days. It’s true the words keep swimming inside my head and I feel the urge to set them free but in the end, I realize that there’s only one person I hope can be the first—and the only one—to hear all the stories (mostly nonsense) that I want to let out of my deluging mind that in the end will only force me to drown myself if I don’t. I guess that’s what happens when one falls in love with a real person for the first time. Real as in being so physically close and all the mixed up feelings and emotions of being happy and sad, delightful and hurtful, beautiful and ugly at the mere sight of that person. I can’t say I’ve completely left behind my previous impossible love for it—and especially that special someone—makes me who I am today but after all that’s been said and done, I can’t make the impossible to cross the other side—my side—of the river that flows with possibility of us being together what’s with I’ve never seen this person for nearly five years and also it’s because I’ve the utmost respect for this person’s entire being—who you really are and all that you wish for. I’m sorry for not trying hard enough and I really want to see you again one day where we will talk about us—me about my laughably immovable learning progress and you about your career that I really have the utmost respect for. I’m sorry but your presence in my life makes me realise of so great many things about myself I had previously been blissfully ignorant of like the desire to stop pleasing people by doing what they ask me to do even if it clashes murderously with my entire being in order to be loved. Because of you, I learn what it’s like to love someone so deep. Thank you so very much.
My sincere thanks to those who read this blog. It surprises me after nearly a year to see the stat still kicking and running. Thank you. Now that I’m here, please just bear with my inconsistency for quite some time.
May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) is the author that made me abandon my original plan to buy a book about some soapy love stories to accompany me on train–for what could be better than preparing yourself for sweet, romantic dream just as you were about to fall asleep with the ground moving unsteadily beneath you and everything outside the window looked like painted shadows?
However, as I wandered aimlessly along the English fiction bookshelves with my right index finger tracing the spines of every book that caught my eye (I wish I could do that with Chinese books!) when it stopped at Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (and selected writings). As I read the summary these words just floated around my head–and stayed: ‘brink of insanity,’ ‘recesses of her mind,’ and ‘America’s leading feminist intellectual’ that made me return to the shelf where the book was placed even when I did encounter several other interesting titles about everlasting love (a few focused on same sex relationship) that, unexpectedly, made me yawn.
I decided to walk aimlessly again around the train station before having my dinner but the sight of a guy reading a hardback reminded me of my recent purchase and hence I parked myself and my backpacks unintentionally packed for building muscles due to everlasting anxiousness of the mind of never ending what ifs, on one of the seats available there and started reading the first story, The Yellow Wallpaper. What a revelation! I demand justice from the Minister of Education for not including this remarkable author in the syllabus for English literature! But then, maybe it’s a good thing students are not forced to read her masterpieces because her charm would have disappeared in the tormented hands of discriminating exams and grades.
How great is great, you demand to know? This, is the only honest answer that I can give you: have you ever encountered a simple sentence–anywhere, be it on an ad, food wrapper, t-shirt, etc.–that made you stop short of what you were doing at that moment just to ponder on the words of that simple sentence and try to search for their relevance to your life because you just remembered, “Hey, isn’t this how I live my life? Isn’t this what I always believe even when others try to kill me for it?”
I introduce you, Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
This is the edition that I own and now I plan to buy her autobiography, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1935, published posthumously after her suicide) after reading its selected chapters in this edition. For the stories, I’m terribly fond of An Unnatural Mother, Turned, and Mr Peeble’s Heart. And of course, The Yellow Wallpaper that after reading its very last sentence, I had to control my foolish anticipation of finding some individuals who had to creep over me every time! The comic strip at the beginning of this post is Kate Beaton’s parody of the story that I remembered myself laughing so hard when I first encountered it on her Hark! A Vagrant webcomic website. Nevertheless, this particular story of Mrs. Gilman titled Turned always made me double-check if it wasn’t written in the future, instead of in the year 1911. It’s a story about an educated woman who’s cheated by her husband with a young girl she cared the most for. The betrayal turns out to be profoundly hurtful since the younger woman, Gerta, was pregnant with an illegitimate child as the result of the relationship when our protagonist, Mrs Marroner has tried unsuccessfully to conceive for years.
How do they come where they are not wanted–and don’t come where they are wanted!
What happens next in the story is anyone’s guess. Yes, she does tell Gerta to pack her bag and leave the house immediately and isn’t that normal and the most sensible thing to do for that worthless piece of a smut who dares to steal our husband’s love and affection? Yes, that is the most sensible thing to do given our experiences with people around us. How can I forget gossips and deep conversations about this-and-that uncle of mine who married his fourth wife secretively but once the first wife and other wives found out they couldn’t stop hating the so-called seductress for seducing my uncle in the first place? Isn’t that what most women do? This is where Charlotte Perkins Gilman showed she wasn’t most women. Mrs Marroner, a woman who held a Ph.D., who had been on the faculty of a college, after crying her heart out at the betrayal, starts to analysing the situation and later comes to conclusion of how her husband, for his own pleasure, had chosen to rob Gerta of her life’s best joys–namely the hope of a happy life, with marriage and motherhood; honourable independence, even–with all that splendid, clean young beauty that she so clearly possessed. The ending of this story is not something that I picture married women in my country will ever do but then, it is just as admirable as to have compassion for others than self-pity and torturous blaming for other people. There are more in this story that I believe I fail to grasp but you can read this eloquent analysis of the story that focuses on social class aspect.
From her autobiography, let’s just say I’m tremendously impressed with her experiences as a teacher and a mother (I did consider an adoption in the future…). One of her stories of giving drawing lessons to students who claimed they couldn’t draw is just powerfully inspiring for I believe it is the nature of a teacher to let his/her students discover the triumphant sense of power, of achievement, that they can do something! Even better, when the discovery is especially relevant to the lesson they are learning. However, unlike Mrs Gilman, my own experience brings me disappointment and sorrow after I failed to teach a Form 4 students to read. The first lesson, ABC… was simple since he wasn’t illiterate but somehow, when it came to spelling out words like ‘cawan’, ‘ciku’, ’emak’, etc. etc. I nearly lost my temper with him. So now after ‘cawan’, I spelled out the word ‘ciku’ for him and asked him to repeat after me which he did successfully and I asked him if he loved to eat one which he did. But when we went back to ‘cawan’… I said, “C.A…” and waited for his response, he answered, “CI… Ciku.” And then, to control the anger that slowly rising inside me, I did the most stupendously stupid mistake. I laughed.
From then on, he never felt like chatting with me anymore during our lessons and I left the school with him still doodling something on a paper at the back of the classroom. I don’t even know what happens to him anymore after my teaching practicum. How can you ever forgive yourself? How can you ever pretend that everything is in the past?
I leave this simple sentences for you–in case you ever consider to buy her book. Except that, maybe, you don’t have to. Run to the nearest bookstore. Now!
- “Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” –The Yellow Wallpaper
- “A stalwart man once sharply contested my claim to this freedom to go alone. ‘Any true man,’ he said with fervor, ‘is always ready to go with a woman at night. He is her natural protector.’ ‘Against what?’ I inquired. As a matter of fact, the thing a woman is most afraid to meet on a dark street is her natural protector. Singular.”
- “But I refused to worry. ‘There is little to steal and I am quite willing to be killed,’ was my attitude.”
Yes, there is little for others to steal from me and I, too, am quite willing to be killed. If that’s what it takes to live. Doesn’t anyone? Don’t we all?
* * *
After reading Mary Schneider’s column But Then Again about the hullabaloo she faced with the two elderly plumbers who fixed her toilet, I couldn’t help but thinking of Makcik Bebe. She is 51 years old today (May 2nd, 2011) and she works as a cleaner at the place where my parents work as contractors for cleaning the buildings and its surroundings. Makcik Bebe’s sole responsibility is to clean the toilets (there are twelve toilets to be cleaned) but somehow, she even willing to help her colleagues to sweep the corridors before moving on to the toilets. Sometimes, when my mother and I met her carrying the pail, brushes, and the basket she uses to put all the cleaning solutions and plastic bags, we would ask her if she had had her lunch or not to which she replied she would after she had finished with her works first. That is one of the reasons why I really admire her, the way she treats her work with earnestness and seriousness that automatically demands respect from other people. The toilets! My! They smelled so nice and sparklingly clean! Um, aren’t toilets that have cleaners clean them supposed to be like that? I beg to differ. The first few weeks saw my parents were short of workers that my sister and I offered to help around with the cleaning process, which means, we got to clean the toilets! It wasn’t easy and after we were done, the toilets left some unpleasant smell of the cleaning solutions and urine that left me and my sister dumbfounded. But after Makcik Bebe came, the toilets transformed and that’s why I am so surprised at how she does it. My sister told me that it’s the heart. I’d say, it’s the smile because Makcik Bebe always working with a smile on her face. And she cleaned them 12 toilets twice a day! Age? I think I solely agree with Mary Schneider that age has nothing to do with how you do your work. Happy birthday, Makcik Bebe!
By the way, I strongly recommend this music blog. There, you can download a few samples that I’m sure will help you a lot in your decision to purchase some CDs that you want to buy. Moreover, the reviews are so persuasive and never fail to make me smile at the wonder of endless songs to listen to before I die. I love music but with this kind of pathetic review such as, “OMG! I looooove this song!” or “What a beautiful song!” I don’t think we’ll go anywhere. Enjoy your listening experience and I hope you’ll always find something meaningful and worthwhile to share with your loved ones.
Download the song here.
April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
One could only imagine a plenty of inexplicable reasons as to why a water tumbler (of one of the most famous brands in the world) ended up inside a rubbish bin. It was filled with tea-coloured water and I was about to make up my mind to retrieve it when the LRT arrived and from the closed door of the train, I looked at the rubbish bin sadly until it disappeared from my view.
No, I haven’t changed my habit of watching people to look inside every rubbish bin I’d encountered but isn’t it ironic when you were about to dispose a disposable empty plastic bottle of mineral water into a rubbish bin and turned out to discover a water tumbler that, by invention of relevancy, was supposed to be non-disposable? Then, of course, the water. Tea-coloured water and we all know what our first guess is but I wonder if advertisements of drink-and-dispose beverages on tv are that successful and appealing to our lifestyle these days that a water tumbler now can only function as… urine filler?
But then, I realize that those are just wild guesses since I never know the truth behind the fate of that water tumbler or its owner. Who knows, perhaps, the water reminded him/her of some painful arguments or old love who used to brew that beverage for him/her before that one fateful bitter argument led to unforgettable separation and hatred. And vengeance. And…..
*Sigh* Why should I even care for a stupid water tumbler inside a rubbish bin in the first place? But of course, care I should and must when the memory of living half-a-day without a drop of water was still intact and vivid in my mind that I had to endure twice in my lifetime when traveling by bus. The experiences somehow reminded me of my friend’s anxiety that drove her to deny her body system, its right to be filled with refreshing water for the sake of not having to deny her urinary system, its right to go to the toilet. Indeed, I think that is the most common anxiety that most of us face when traveling by bus these days and if you really have no idea at all, the bus drivers seemed to have develop a peculiar habit of not wanting to stop at any Rest and Service Areas or better known as R&R due to tight schedule of upcoming trips. Now I understand what the girl I met at KL Sentral meant when she said that train is the safest mode to travel unlike bus. It’s always the matter of the toilet that is the elixir of our well-being. But then again, sometimes, we have no choice and do we really think unbearable thirst really worth the endurance?
Let me be honest here. I always thought of my friend’s anxiety as stupid and baseless. To endure a journey feeling thirsty is simply not worthy at all cost. After all, the toilet would always be there waiting for us like promising light at the end of the tunnel and it was only a matter of self-control. However, on that fateful day, due to rushing and oversleeping, I embarked on my journey without a drop of water in my possession but I told myself not to worry since the bus would finally stop at one of the R&Rs. It did not. We passed another and another and with each sign, I was filled with undying hopes and wishes but still, the bus sped with the wind; the sehala ikut angin Chinese expression? I guess I really get it by now. Occasionally, I would drift away to sleep and if you watched 127 hours, remember the part when James Franco dreamed of Gatorade that he left in his truck? I learned that a dream, as the product of longing, is the most real, except you always woke up alone–and with dry lips that felt like sandpaper. To make matters worse, when we stopped in KL, the driver, due to pitiful number of passengers heading to Klang and Shah Alam, refused to drive to both places and decided to hail any buses in sight from the side of the road that was willing to take us there. I was the only one left on the bus–with a Chinese woman who sat in the seat behind me. She was attractive and we both sat in silence in the dark until she descended the bus to chat with the driver; there was something in her demeanor–the way she walked and carried herself–that reminded me of someone. Soon, I found myself standing outside amidst the rain to watch some primary school students playing hockey at the nearby stadium when she rushed past me to hop on another bus that would take her to Klang. Bored, thirsty, hungry, I went back to the bus but instead of returning to my seat, I walked along the aisle back and forth and voila! A bottle of mineral water! The water was half full (haha! I have no idea that optimism can be so… thirst-quenching!) and just like Piscine Molitor Patel (I always think it’s cool to be named after a swimming pool), I drained that golden cup to the very last drop, sucking at the hole to catch any remaining moisture. After making sure not a drop left, I turned at the seat where I found the water only to realize it was the Chinese woman’s.
My second experience was less dramatic but haunted by dream for water none the less. The man and the young woman who sat next to me always drank noisily from their water bottle and I spent four hours of the journey staring at the view outside before the bus finally stopped at an R&R that was facilitated with a hut for prayer, toilets, and a lorry that sold plenty of junk foods. At least, I ended my thirsty plague without having to steal a bottle of water from fellow passengers while they were sleeping as according to my original plan.
Hence, back to my encounter with the abandoned water tumbler, this thought struck to view: do non-disposable water bottles have a place in traveler’s backpack these days when we are blessed with infinite supply of bottled water that can be purchased easily on this planet? Yeah, at least where money is the least concern and the thought of traveling to slum areas in India, Kenya or Ethiopia where water is a paid gift from God is unthinkable. Why on earth I did not bring water from my house is because there wasn’t a convenient store or a restaurant that offered water top-up for travelers unlike chilli sauce for french fries (seriously, what is so appealing about the taste of chilli sauce?) that made disposable bottles of mineral water as the only convenient alternative. In my student days, since the water was like a glass of martini with a rusty nail to substitute the olive, I always had to buy water from a huge water filter machine that was parked outside a neighbour’s lawn with only a cost of less than MYR 1 to fill a 5 liter used mineral water container but despite all the claims pasted on the body of the machine about water purifying and all, I fall into habit of heating it first before it could be deem safe to drink since the water still came from the same rusty source as mine. Therefore, to the machine will I go every time I want to top up my non-disposable water bottle? I don’t think so. Instead, to the 7-Eleven will I usually go actually to buy bottled mineral water.
After the bus stopped in Shah Alam, I waited for other passengers to leave first before I got up and I looked around the empty seats and saw many half-drunk bottled water left behind by fellow passengers. I guess, that’s what you do when you have a place to stay that equals home in many aspects especially when it comes to facility and necessity unlike a hotel room or a train compartment.
Highly recommended! For your information, I’m not often difficult and I will not cut your hair short but the real freedom and happiness of being oneself is when you cut your hair so ridiculous the style looks absurd on you but you love it tremendously because your head feel lighter than never before. I love my nearly shorn hair nya haha! By the way, feel free to download the song here. You must register first before downloading but a few seconds of your time to register just to get this song so you can listen to it and sing along for the rest of your life is definitely worth it.
I don’t know why I wrote about bus travel and all. I guess, it’s because I’m going to miss it tremendously. The things you do and the miles you run for someone can be selfish… though I insist everyone must take the chance of their rights to explore the feeling they have for that particular person they love even if it turns out to be hurtful or disappointing in the end. A recent work-related (and financial) travel left me weeping in a hotel room all night that kept me within a few centimeters of losing self-control to open up to someone but when I looked at my tear-stained face in the mirror always, the reminder, “Leave her alone. She deserves better.” Though I’ve said it so many times that I lost count, I don’t really know what better really means. What is it? I used to know it as being in a position that other people want you to be even if you don’t. And now? Perhaps, until the tears dry up. I guess.
Oh, the lady who loved herself in my previous post? That was an exclamation printed on her t-shirt. I found her reaction ridiculous because if eyes accidentally met could be count as hitting on someone, this world would be nothing but a heartbreak regardless of how much you love yourself.
April 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s important to be direct and honest with people about why you’re photographing them and what you’re doing. After all, you are taking some of their soul.
Mary Ellen Mark, documentary photographer
I love those words so much I don’t mind posting them for infinite number of times and inevitably, they become somewhat a blurry inhibition to my tendency to stare at or watch (as you like it!) people since I cannot–and will not–take their pictures regardless how much I want to keep their emotions–usually, the positive ones–with me for a while as a good luck charm, what’s more, I think the people they love and who love them deserve more to be the keeper of their soul than this foolish woman who just hopes that she will find something from them that remind her of a certain someone. But yeah, stand and stare I am and the best moment to watch people?
Always, when they are moving.
While the best place is always from a high place. Um… I know I make myself sound like a serial stalker or something but sometimes, we have to believe in fate, that is all.
Out of the vast sea of unfamiliar faces, there are infinite unanswered questions such as the name of flowers up there in the sky or deep in the sea that can make them smile, do they rush to get on the train because of the jealous time or of a special someone waiting for them at home, if they sleep like a spoon or rarely at all, you know, interesting facts about us that we’ll never serve on a public platter.
But then, more and more people eat alone with their eyes never leaving the screen of their cellphones. A young couple, after feeding each other hamburgers, find themselves silently staring at the opposite waves of bodies, always nearly colliding into each other and in the end, tapping the screen of their iPad. A wife, with a slightly large frame from childbirth, keep trying to catch her husband’s eyes for the slightest hint of reassurance. And yeah, a woman–the only one who met my eyes unlike other people who quickly turned away and fastened their pace after they caught me randomly watching them–gave me an indignant smirk for the sole intention of this message: I am not interested because…
Seriously… there goes my people-watching activity. I guess, I’d take the soul anytime now….
Songy time! I dedicate this song to all people out there whose answers to those questions I always welcome. People, especially…
Writer’s note: I guess my bicycles pictures are an exception, then. By the way, my friend’s female students told her that they felt more empowered and motivated after listening to the chorus of the song sung by Jill Johnson for in their opinion, the intensity in her voice makes the claim more believable and truer than Bruno Mars after being deluged with endless fictionalized facts by the media of how much we love to tramp down one another for the sake of fornicating beauty; also, it is just profoundly sorrowful in my opinion if we, as a woman, do not treat each other with utmost respect and admiration for do we really need to add more into the list of discrimination that many women face–sometimes, unimaginably–every day?
April 12, 2011 Comments Off on Eccentric accent & ‘unquestionable’ answer
For her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation, and the character that attended all she said or did was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another; so that there were few of the barbarian nations that she answered by an interpreter; to most of them she spoke herself.
“Cleopatra’s Influence over Mark Antony” (Excerpt taken from Perry M. Rogers’ Aspects of Western Civilization: Problems and Sources in History vol. 1 (Pearson Education, Inc., 2003), p. 200.)
The striking excerpt comes to mind after reading Mary Schneider’s weekly column about accent that these days seems to reach the speakers even before they have yet to step their feet on the country of its origin because when I showed the words that Plutarch beautifully crafted about one of the most prominent female figures in history to my friend (just to prove to her that Cleopatra’s beauty was overrated and overtly fantasized by Elizabeth Taylor’s devoted fans), her first reaction was, “Wow, do you think she spoke all those languages with accents? Accents were few those days, right? Did they even exist? Well, like an instrument of many strings, I guess that counts as accent all right because when you compare banjo and violin or violin and cello or guitar and….” until I told her to shut up for good *sigh*
I’m not sure about the Malaysian deejay that Ms. Schneider refers to but believe me, we don’t have to switch on the radio to hear stray accents flying around in the air; travel faster and with higher fidelity than any FM broadcasting. All for the self-delusional status that makes communicating in English with localised accents (like Malay, Chinese and Indian) an unforgivable sin, though still forgivable once the speakers convert to the Queen’s English or more dramatically (oh well, we all do love drama these days) American.
Am I bovvered?
Yes, I don’t (about converting my accent) when I, too, am trapped in the maze of eccentric accent dilemma that I’ve been suffering for 12 years after abrupt atmospheric change from the land below the wind to the rice bowl of Malaysia. Of course, Sabahan and Kedahan are two different dialects, not accent, in which none I can claim to be able to speak fluently but in my case, the self-delusional status is all mine for speaking in a dialect with foreign accent. In Kedah, words that end with ‘r’ are somehow uniquely pronounced as ‘q’ which means biar is pronounced biaq or bubur becomes buboq, hence, imagine the irritated and annoyed glances many Kedahan people gave me at a pasar somewhere when I asked my brother if we were going to eat in Guar (yes, the ‘r’ was voiced and slightly pulmonic). I understand their annoyance since I never even bothered to take my time to learn the dialect anyway even after 12 years of residing there but unlike Ms. Schneider who could probably leave behind a tribe of Amazonians who speak English with a Scottish accent, I am always at a loss to explain to people I just met or acquaintances of the reasons why I try to speak like KL people and Johorean when I said I was from Kedah but what is it about being born in Sabah but can’t even speak like the native other than tipak-tipak actually means ‘pencil case’ in Sabahan dialect? As a result, school was never easy for me as expected and cases when children can be cruel? Been there so many times when some of my friends mocked my superficial Sabahan dialect that, in their expert ears, was heavily masked by my Semenanjung accent while in three districts in Kedah (Langkawi, Kulim, and SP), many students just assumed I was putting on high airs for speaking the only way I knew how to speak in my mother tongue since I was a little girl that probably in their minds made me too thick headed to understand their feelings or laugh at their jokes.
The next time you want to manipulate Cleopatra in your product advertisement? Forget beauty creams or body scrubs. Language classes and/or podcast work better. And more relevant, actually.
* * *
Would you believe how long a train could be with all its coaches? I was just descending the escalator to the overcrowded platform and I saw people were rushing to their respective coach as if the train would leave in a minute. Of course, their flight was made easy with the help of the train officer who patiently showed the direction of inquired coach to the sea of passengers who surrounded him like he was… um… no, I’m not going to say Justin Bieber, ah yes, Roger Federer! Ha-ha… I know he was a shadow of his former self these days but who can let go of that remarkable one-handed backhand when you know how hard (or how classy) it is than the double-handed? Back to the train. I checked my ticket. Q2. I saw U1… and rushing, blurry bodies of people so I decided to make good use of the service provided, namely, the officer. “Pakcik, kat mana koc Q2 ni ha?” “Anak pergi depaaaaaaaaan lagi kat sana tu,” he pointed at the coaches that seemed to me without end. After thanking him, I rushed–just like other passengers–to my coach when I saw the pairing alphabet and number printed in bold font.
Less than five steps from where the pakcik was standing. From where I had asked him.
Some answers should not be questioned at all, I guess.
But right now, all that I want to ask him is how can we get something that we don’t want (even despise), but–ironically–need without hurting anyone.
Writer’s note: I still remember the look of relief on the face of one of my students after she heard me speaking in Malay as we walked together to the school on one beautiful morning. She said that it was tiring to hear me speak English all the time but I told her it wasn’t my intention. And you could guess where the conversation was leading at the first few words in my mother tongue, “Teacher, where are you from?”
She had no idea, of course, but she told me of her discussion with her friends that they thought I was Chinese because of my eyes. I just smiled but I didn’t tell her how low I felt every time I found myself dumbfounded at verbal inquiries or greetings I received in Chinese at common places such as the park, shops and even hospital.
I couldn’t remember my answers regarding my origin but I remember it felt good to walk like that and talk freely with my student. I could walk for miles and miles every day but I don’t think I could ever walk that way again–with a company so undiscriminating and perceptive.
Not until I find myself walking with you.
*Doctors should have prescribed The Audrey’s soothing and beautiful song to anyone with fever, cold and sore throat or any types of illnesses because it works. I hope it does for the readers, as well.
April 6, 2011 Comments Off on Sing like you’re singing
I have to admit that I bought Jodi Picoult’s latest book Sing You Home after reading its review in a local newspaper and of course, a review will usually give you unintended informational spoilers (yeah, right) more than you want to know but then, at least you know what to expect–what’s more, it’ll save your time from hanging around for too long at a bookstore just to decide if a book is worth your money or not.
Which, of course, all books are actually worth our money if we have a heart to respect the words inside even when we disagree with them so furiously we want to force other people to read them so that they too can feel what we feel inside. Except that, we are always wrong. That’s all.
But then, no. I lounged around at the bookstore for so long as I tried to make up my mind whether to purchase the book or not and nearly got in fight with the store assistant for trying to put back the magazines I definitely wanted to buy at their shelves just because I let them rested on one of the book shelves–seriously, talking about store assistants who can’t leave you alone? believe me, I’ve got tons to tell–just because I was afraid, the moment I stepped outside with the book in my hand, some people would point at me and shout, “Gotcha! Got you!”
Well…. I guess I was being paranoid because people paid more attention to iPhone and iPad nowadays–hardly books–and so I purchased it and started reading it immediately. And I did something I shouldn’t have done–I let my eyes and memory to swim in a pool of past lesson plans as I searched for some English lessons during my teaching practicum that involved songs in those. Of course, there was… one lesson. A Lenka’s song, Live Like You’re Dying, that I actually (of all the humanity torture!) sang. LIVE. Unplugged. In front of my 4 Rajin students one unusually fine afternoon nearly two hours before the end-of-school bell rang. But we have plenty of that later. Um, save me from the humiliation, at least, for now?
I don’t think I have anything more to say about the book regarding its plot or sensitive issues because I think it’s up to each one of us to decide what’s best for us or what we want. Except that–am I too predictable? You think?–I think most of the characters are too surreal. No… it’s not because a husband abruptly abandons his wife after nine years of marriage or that two people decide to tie the knot after just five months in a relationship, but it’s what they say. All the right words they say to each other that I know I’ll definitely use as my Facebook status. I mean, do people always talk like that? You know, like, “So when you tell me Nothing happened? You’re dead wrong, Vanessa, because I love you. And that means everything happened. Everything.”
Definitely a perfect Facebook status!
Then again? Maybe I need to get a life. And I read the book reviews on the Amazon–the ones that give the lowest rating because reading bad reviews about the albums I listen to or the books I read send effective signals to my brain regarding of the level of attention that I need to give during the process of listening or reading. Of course, it seems ridiculous for Max to divorce Zoe out of blue and yes, many readers seem to question that one too but I think it’s perfectly understood if not comprehensible. When I think Max is weak, he is indeed. But it’s not because he’s an alcoholic with unbelievably low self-esteem to stand up to his love for Zoe (really?)–no, he is weak because he can’t forget his love for his sister-in-law and marries a woman he does not and cannot truly love. Zoe is lucky–don’t you think?–because how many women out there, divorced and live their whole lives blaming themselves for everything when all their fault is… married some men who are too weak to fight the ghost of old love? But you know what I can’t stand the most in the world? Children born out of lust–and only weak men (especially, seriously, if men can freely talk about women supporting them nowadays, it seems a lost cause to get them to actually take responsibility in family planning, though, women are more empowered when they have education and career, but just exactly what kind of education it takes for men to finally make a demand for their own birth control pills?) and/or women are capable of discarding them out of their body system.
I’m sorry. I’m being sensitive and emotional alright. Cruel too….. After all, who am I to judge? Back to Lenka’s song I think. Music therapy. So it does exist and there are even sessions for lyrics analysis! My favourite, undoubtedly. Of course, music and language learning are inseparable because it makes you feel more relaxed and learning more enjoyable. I know because I’ve experienced it in three semesters of Mandarin Chinese class and I found myself singing the 找朋友 (Zhǎo péngyou) song whenever the bus was late, except that I substituted the noun 朋友 with 巴士 (bāshì) as if the song could magically summon the bus–I don’t know, maybe it does–and the unforgettable fun of singing the Chinese New Year song, 恭喜，恭喜 with our Liào Lǎoshī (Assoc. Prof. Liau Lay San–she can sing wonderfully) but that was all to my experience in learning from songs since I’m still trying to tell myself that Chinese songs will not make me feel lonely like they did when I was a little child. Anyways, after figured out my class was rescheduled from before recess to before the ending of the morning session, I was quite furious. According to verbal sources I can’t recall, afternoon is the point of the day when we feel most sleepy and
stupid I mean, passive, hence, of course, I started to imagine the worst: I am sleeping in the classroom at my desk because all of the students were sleeping and you know how sleepiness can be so contagious. Um… wait, it’s yawning, actually. So, I don’t blame myself when I think song is a great tool of revival and I picked Lenka’s Live Like You’re Dying to teach the Lotus Eater short story–just perfect. However, before I go further, my advice to teachers? Invest some money to buy a good mp3 player that can be attached to wireless portable speakers like iPod or a laptop with Dolby Digital and long battery life because some classrooms have pitifully dysfunctional electrical sockets (time-saving plus!) because if you love bringing some music to your lesson, the students will do too. Back to singing time. Before I started to humiliate myself, I mean, sing, I asked the students a question to let them empathize with Thomas Wilson. I asked them about the things they would do if they were to die tomorrow. Some of the answers were funny like, rob the bank, getting married (sorry, maybe it wasn’t funny but it was for me), and eating non-stop. Funny, no one answered pray. Afterward, I took out my pitiful mobile phone and the music was inaudible to my horror but I told the students, “This is the song that perhaps, will help you to justify or at least understand Wilson’s decision to live the way he chooses,” and started singing.
The class was so still and when my voice cracked as I reached the chorus, the students didn’t even laugh, to my utmost disbelief. I always think they strained to listen to the song or the question finally got them–it does all the time, for me. I don’t know. But I’d like to think both.
Writer’s note: Now you know that there are many fun ways to learn English than implementing the language in the teaching and learning of Science and Maths. I am all for PPSMI if it helps the students to work harder but endless struggles to understand due to language barrier will not help the students reach even a centimeter closer to that actually. Let the students learn at their own comfort and pace and stop poisoning their minds that better means having more of many things than someone and that it can give them rights to look down on those who don’t.
Oh by the way, it’s anemone, not coral. I blame my inability to snorkel and dive (which I will, one day! Whee!!)
March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
So now you know, it’s not actually me–but you, oh hey, finally, after almost seven years of breaking up, courtesy and good manners just fly out of the window, I guess.
But anyway, please ignore the introduction since I really have no idea, really, but here’s a personal project for you that I think you may be interested in participating, uh no… no… don’t worry, there is no dentist, stalking the dentist or pulling out the dentist tooth involve like last time… but just your ears.
Wait!! Do you have to run that fast? But don’t worry, okay? Julia Kotowski (known spectacularly as the Entertainment for the Braindead) is not interested in possessing your ears physically but with regards to her personal project of collecting written descriptions about the sounds of your favourite places, you need to hear or listen carefully, which means, your ears are highly in demand for this super-duper awesome, fun task. Yeah, it is because now you have more excuses to go to your favourite places that I know most of us have no privilege of visiting often due to work or busy schedule, unless your workplace is your favourite place in the world, lucky lucky you! Or yeah, if your house happens to be your favourite place on earth, why, this project will simply be one of many ways to show your gratitude for being able to be and live in a place you love the most or to relive the pleasure over and over again, except this time, by listening with all your heart.
For more information, feel free to visit Miss Kotowski’s Audio Travel Log’s page here. Enjoy your listening experience and have fun!
By the way, speaking of listening, I’m not too fond of portable music for forgettable reasons I have written somewhere in one of the previous posts but other people, on the other hand, listen to music everywhere they go. On the train, it’s not uncommon to catch a group of young people listening to music from their mobile phones LOUDLY without the earphones plugged in that draws irritating glances from fellow commuters to which they ignore blissfully. Or somehow you can still catch the music seeping through the headphones wall and you figure out you and the person standing next to you share similar taste in music (voila!) but sadly, the mutual information will remain in secret forever since you can never tell her with both her ears stuffed with those ubiquitous white earbuds. Of course, those are not enough reasons to despise portable music but for my friend, Pija, it’s the increase risk in being hit by a car for having both your ears occupied can lessen your awareness to your surroundings. Good point there but what about people who drive? My former landlady, Kak Lim, was afraid of driving at night, hence, Diana who rented the room next door, asked her to put on some LOUD music and sing to it out LOUD while driving. I have no idea if the remedy worked or not but apparently, as Arcade Fire sings “my mind holds the key…” Kak Lim succeeded in overcoming her fear by yeah, simply, driving at night and not to think too much of her fear.
All in all, I hate listening to music when I’m outdoor doing outdoor tasks such as walking, running,
stalking, sleeping, window-shopping with saliva drooling from my mouth like a fountain, and reading because, as pathetic as it may sound, I want to have something to look forward to when I reach my house after a long day, that is, my music. Indeed, according to a dear friend, it’s sorrowfully pathetic. Unlike me, she loves having her music to accompany her outdoor because, “When I reach the front step of my apartment and I fumble with the doorknob before I step inside, all that I ever want to hear, all that I ever want to listen to more than anything in the world is the voice of my beloved as she tells me about her day on and on and on… I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t listen to that lovely voice again… w..well, maybe that is pathetic but at the end of the day, music alone can’t make you feel loved or serve as a hidden message of love for that one you love. At least, that’s what I believe though I understand our situations are not the same.”
Yes, they aren’t. In the meantime, let us just listen and relive the sounds for many days to come so we can still feel the breath of those we love and miss dearly.
*Writer’s note: God bless the victims of Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Your donation, even in small amount, can make a huge difference. Thank you.