Colourfully dark Tim Burton

Paris is the current host of Tim Burton’s exposition after new york among other cities. While I let many events pass-by, often with a great intention to visit and never did in the end, I hurried to see Tim Burton, one of my favorite creators.

His works, be it movies, books, paintings often explode into a grand impression lined with a subtle but consistent aftertaste, completely opposite of the initial grandeur yet unforgettable. To say I am touched is an understatement. At each turn, there is a mix of emotions, to laugh, to cry, to feel angry, to regret, to cheer. It is in his unique characters here the soul of his work resides. Maybe I am biased but he is for me one of the greatest artist with his unique view of reality either in cotton candied colors or gothic monotones.

In colors, his works show show the juxtaposition of darkness in light. From the colors of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to “Alice in Wonderland”, the imaginary world in these stories are heightened with neon like colors. Yet, there is the loneliness of the red queen, the insightfulness of the mad hatter and a broken Willy Wonker. Sure the hero is still the beautiful, kind and good. But the villain or lesser characters has a past, a reason and maybe deserves a little understanding and often more interesting.

But it is the colorless characters that holds the greatest depth and seeks to reach furthest into our hearts. Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd, each has a story of revenge, acceptance, shame, something dark within them in spite of themselves. Who can blame Jack Skellington, king of Halloween to want a change for happiness, the Corpse Bride to find love and be with him for eternity, Edward to want to hold and experience human touch. Yet the most basic needs of human beings are foreign and unattainable for them. It’s heartbreaking yet we laugh at their dreams because we knew, it can never be.

And so it is, from the oyster boy to stain boy, from stick man to match girl, his comic characters gave us laughter at the expense of their impossible plight. Mr. Burton himself wrote that when he was younger, he experienced the challenge of being accepted for his difference. And we can only be so glad that he had not conform and lost his difference.

The exposition is a collection of his drawings and clips of his movies. Other than what is accessible already in books and movies, there is also notes and his thought process in creating his characters. There is incredible courage in testing the limit to seek fulfillment of his vision.

And then, there is the survival of his characters, who found life in laughing at themselves. And we can do so well not to take ourselves too seriously, let out a laugh, find humor in an impossible situation.

In the end, what is unforgettable is the little stain boy who was said to have no extraordinary capabilities like spiderman or batman. But he stains. Maybe Tim Burton didn’t put a dent in the world but he has certainly tainted it with his colors and darkness. You’ve given us so much to write about and so much to savor. I wish I can write on and on about each of your characters, my beloved. Nice work stain boy!

Posted in Words of Others | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cultural Transversite

Cultural Transversite = n a person born in the body of another culture but believing to belong to a different culture and may even examine his/her heritage like a foreigner does.

Some people have explained that they were born in the body of a girl when they were actually a boy and vice versa. I think that describes how I feel about who I am closes. I am born with an asian body and I feel all wrong in it.

I don’t know. This is such a polarized issue and even the use of the word can create some controversy and raises certain flags of insensitivity. And yet, I find myself understanding that feeling and stealing the saying for my own use.

I’ve often said, generalization is the base of all jokes and humour. Of course, it is not true but there are some truths. Example, we say the french are romantic, I wouldn’t say that of all the french people but it is generally true in the way they look at relationships. And when we look at an asian, the general idea is someone (especially a girl) who is quiet or submissive or agreeable, takes care of their family and is a gentle partner. It’s not how every asian (girl) is but there are truths.

Then how do we define a western person? First of all, do we mean the americans or europeans? Where does the west begin and end? And it will be an error to lump all of them together as generalization because the french is nothing like the americans and nothing like the swedish. But one thing I thought was common, they are brought up differently, encouraged to leave home and be independent at an early age and speak their mind.

Sometimes, I forgot how I looked. One day, I had a slap in the face. Someone I had only met for 5 mins said to me in the kindest possible way that I looked like someone who should be happily married with children and a care giver. And I thought, how far that is to the truth. I’ve been ambitious, working in different countries, travelled and at some point taken more planes than cars. And I used to say, if I should die in a transport accident, it would have been more likely in a plane crash than a car crash. That about sums up the difficulty in love. Because, what they see is not what they get.

There is no better culture, just like there is no better gender. But in some cultures, being a boy is easier and more precious than being a girl. I have met people like me. There were some westerners I know who would always eat chinese and learn chinese and act more chinese than I do. They absorb the culture of another with such ferocity and expressed hatred for their own. And I hardly eat chinese unless I’m hosting or cooking, learn chinese like a foreigner is interested in a foreign culture and act out of expectations of an asian person.

There is an age old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” I wonder if it actually works like that. My favorite book “To kill a mocking bird” by Harper Lee says, “you’ll never really understand someone until you walk in their shoes”. So I guess, I’d like to wear that skin and see how it feels. Maybe it will be less confuse than brown almond shape eyes seeing the world in a tinted view.

And of course, just to add to the complication, I don’t have the dark black lustrous hair and beautifully shaped dark eyes of a proper asian girl. My hair is a dirty light brown with hazel eyes and yet I am 100% of chinese heritage.

Posted in Modern Day Euphemism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Living precariously through My Week With Marilyn

For my christmas stocking, my first I would add, a very kind and dear friend has given me a bunch of my favorite reading materials which I think rather dull for most people about economics, politics etc. And in that stocking was a book called “My week with Marilyn” by Colin Clark, which I know is now a featured film. As my reaction to the christmas stocking on that early christmas morning, a bubbling sense of excitement like a kid as well as a sense of “je ne sais quoi”, caught at a loss of what to do. Perhaps that is how Colin felt at the time of the book.

“My week with Marilyn” is a compilation of diary entries by Collin Clark when he was working on set as 3rd assistant director for the movie “The Prince and The Showgirl”, starring Laurence Oliver and Marilyn Monroe. It was the first time the author worked on the film and he wrote it as an observer of the process of film making and especially, film making with Marilyn Monroe. Then a 23 year old youngster at the start of his career in the 1950s in England, his observation of the clash of the old vs new form of acting, english film making vs hollywood stars, a well established actor (Oliver) trying to be a star and a star (Marilyn) trying to be an actor are at times astute, at times innocent.

I cannot explain it. During the week I was reading the book, I had also found myself behaving like Marilyn, wanting to be girlie and taken care of but also taken seriously but mostly coaxing to be loved. Maybe that’s her unique quality, to be so talented and strong yet appearing to be so silly and blond. I wonder if any woman in the world will ever get away with it as Marilyn had and I eagerly await the release of the movie before I pass judgement on Michelle Williams’ portrayal of the infamous star. Throughout the book, the author has endless pity for her and also appreciation of her talent.

In today’s psychoanalysis, we can probably diagnosed this as abandonment issues. In a rare episode where Marilyn opened up to Collin about her childhood, was the answer we can gather to her behavior. A classic case of struggling between what one wants and others wants and the challenge to know the difference. And possible a family history of mental illness. Perhaps that is why I relate to her and suddenly find myself adopting her methods. Maybe. And maybe tragedy is what makes characters great. Maybe.

If you had watched the movie “The Prince and The Showgirl”, you will agree that Marilyn is so much more natural than Laurence Oliver. The weird combination of the 2 actors made the movie funny at best and laughable at worst. As I read the book, I also remembered the scenes in the movie that matched the chapters. Marilyn was indeed a force of nature with her looks, her iconic breathless voice and the simpleness of a little girl on and off screen.

The honesty of the author and the courage to take it all in and be himself is refreshing. Reading the diary entry of a person is a very funny experience. I’m not sure many people can crystalised thoughts as such and not succumb to rumblings. Yet the author managed to provide information at the same time as his opinion in a world of craziness.

It’s not a particularly notable book or a particularly interesting book. But somehow, it’s an easy read and it draws you in. And in a weird way, the characters were well developed. I think that was the surprise when I finished reading the book. Indeed, I had thought it a simple and mindless read just like Marilyn seems to be as a actress. But atlas, it does have that “je ne sais pas quoi”. I guess, that is her charm and her draw.

Posted in Words of Others | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

To understand or not to understand

2011 is behind us. That was the year I truly don’t understand. There were so many things and events and people that I didn’t understand.

I don’t understand why evil got into power. Whenever I look at the events or middle east, I wonder how it came about. Sure I review the history and the event of things. But I don’t understand why someone in the power to do good choose to do evil, why the people around them condone it and even support them and help to do evil. I had a manager who uses power to torture his employees to do his bidding. He didn’t show any respect or appreciation, he was in a single mind to destroy anyone who speaks up against him and uses the worst possible ways of firing someone. I didn’t understand his hatred and how he could sleep at night knowing that he had just used the company’s resources to fight against a single person. I dodn’t understand.

I don’t understand why people can’t be nice to each other. We all have 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. No one has more or less but some live longer and some live shorter lives. But I don’t know of anyone who had died regretting they have done too much for other people or spent time responding to people. I’ve known of stories of people who don’t. So why can’t people be nicer and more polite to one another? I don’t understand why people can’t stop to say sorry when they bumped into someone, say thanks when someone did them a service, return a missed call or send a text to say they will return it later. I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how people in war stricken, famine plagued countries live. They worry about their basic safety or provisions. They may not have food for the next day, may be killed on the streets on the next day. Yet they strive, they live, they fight, they stand up, they go to the streets to protest and demand for good to be done. Why they don’t take cover and just sleep or cover their heads with blankets and wish for death. I saw the impact of natural disasters, the waters washing through and drowning civilisation, turnados that blew away everything that were cherished, I don’t know how they found strength and hope for the next day. I don’t understand.

I don’t understand people who have millions and still want more and would do stop at nothing to get it. The people who made a decision to cut the pay of the lowest paid people in the company and refuse to give up their bonuses that could be another’s salary for 2 years. There are people who cheat and lie to get more money. I don’t understand how they can spend it knowing they had taken it from other people dishonestly. I don’t understand.

People tell me, it’s love. The love of family, the love of their partners, the love of their children, the love of god. John Lennon sings it, Love is real, real is love. Love is feeling, feeling love. Love is wanting, to be loved. Love is touched, touched is love. Love is reaching, reaching love. Love is asking, to be loved. Love is knowing we can be. 

People say it’s the hope of something better. That’s another John Lennon song, Imagine. Imagine there’s no country, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living life in peace. And the world will be as one. Imagine no possessions, no need for creed or hunger, a brotherhood of men, imagine all the people, sharing all the world. 

But I see these things that happen over and over again. I see people threatening each other, pointing missiles at one another. I see people turn their backs and not care. 

In The Inheritance cycle, the writer who was 17 when he started writing the books ended the series with Inheritance. And evil was vanquished because he had to understand.

I don’t understand how we are still sane and why we don’t go crazy already. I don’t know how people hold it together. I don’t understand or maybe I didn’t want to understand.

Posted in Days of an Intern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Fatigue

Holiday Fatigue – n a form of complain for being tired of celebrating especially during the christmas and new year period. It is a paradox of the kind of feeling one should have for holidays, describing oneself as tired from vacations.

The people who tells me of holiday fatigues have the luxury of doing so. Typically, a holiday is either taking time off to go away or being away from work because of designated holidays. Mostly, I hear this right after Christmas and new year celebrations. And this is usually followed by phrases like “too much eating”, “too much drinking”, “too much sun”, “too many family obligations” etc.

Christmas and new year are never easy times for many. Even for families members who see each other only during these times, it can create friction, bring up old squabbles and cause inmense amount of tension. There is also the politics of who to be with during Christmas for divorced couples and their children, for dating couples and their respective families. In addition, there is always the much dreaded holiday travel, airline strikes, transport closures, unbending weather. Otherwise, there is the pre-holiday stress of beaint crowds to do gifts shopping and the post-holiday stress of illness. Yes, holidays can be stressful and fatigue is reasonable.

Then there are people who has holiday vacum. The times of the year when everyone around them rushed around and complained about not enough time while they try to figure out what to do when everyone is off somewhere. Yes, holiday fatigue is a luxury. When you have family to complain about, you have at least family. You don’t have to worry about what to do, being alone and sometimes, these squabbles are easier to resolve than they may seem when compared to issues such as abuse, drugs and crime. It is also more fortunate than people who have no one due to death, war in their country or abandonment.

People who do not have anyone wouldn’t mind giving anything for that fatigue people talked about. For people who have it, it all seems so easy to those who don’t have it. For people who don’t have it, it all seems so simple to those who have. But in the end, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be somewhere with someone. If there is a chance to be with someone who loves you, why choose solitutude? If that means fatigue, isn’t it better than resting all by yourself? You may wish it for year but it is also by observation that people who have it for a year, usually have it for a long time. People who choose to be alone for a particular year knows that there is next year. That is luxury.

Posted in Modern Day Euphemism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

To pray or not to pray

Christmas is a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving. For the religious among us, Christmas is also time to thank god and praise him. That is the theory.

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of Christ who was born 2000 years ago to the world to take on the sins of the world and suffer God’s wrath in our place. And As a result, we get access to god to be able to pray to him directly. That is the story.

As a religious person, I have recently turned my back on institutionalised religion. I believe in god but don’t believe in churches. There is a good reason, churches are run by men who are failable and can be intolerable. And we do not needd more intolerance in the world. There are few who are truely demonstrating love to all but few. That is my experience.

My recent experience with praying hadn’t been very encouraging. I prayed quietly for a peaceful Christmas after a year of turmoil that range from financial troubles, losing a job, cancer scare, failing health, losing friends, losing love, almost losing my sanity. And alas, peace was a tall order. Just before Christmas, I was notified that a project that I spent 8 months working on that will allow me to set up a company and be out of financial and work troubles had been rejected for no reason other than politics. That meant my living situation and my professional life will be put into question. The last time I prayed, a guy broke up with me. They may be all good reasons but too timely to be coincidental and definitely divine for a religious person like me. That is my fear.

I do not know how to explain it other than comparing it to having your parents turn their back on you. That I have also experienced. And to have the all powerful smacking you in the face isn’t very auspicious is it. In fact, it is getting very difficult to say if life throws you a lemon, make a lemonade. Once, twice, thrice, you can laugh and find humour in it. Fourth, fifth, sixth, it is not so funny. Seventh, eighth and ninth, I’m all wet. Tenth, I’m desperate to just stay down. That is déjà vu.

Most atheist would ask, so why do you still believe in God? Most Christians will say, God will not suffer you more than you can bear, just trust. The agnostic will say, just leave it alone already. I don’t know how to unbelieve. It is called a leap of faith as I learnt. I also do not know what it means by leave me alone because everything is part of a divine plan. But it is awfully difficult to say trust that it will end soon. The light at the end of tunnel might turn out to be the light of an on-coming train! That is doubt.

It is not a pretty year with 6 more days to go. Most people will say, it’s nothing. I remember this familiar feeling 2 years ago, sitting at home unable to move and counting the days. Many things can happen in 6 days. I just want to take cover. I’m looking forward to a new year but if someone say to me things can’t be any worse, I can only say, yes it can and I know exactly how bad it can be. Do you want to pray about it?

Posted in Days of an Intern | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who needs help in “The Help”?

Who needs help in “The help“?

“How do you feel raising white children while you leave your child to others?” That w the opening line in the movie “The Help” based on the best seller of the same name. I have not read the book and didn’t want to before I saw the movie. Without prejudice of the written word, the movie was both funny and moving and I can only imagine how good the book can be.

It tells of the stories of black women who were engaged in white middle and upper class families as house helps. They work 6 days a week taking care of the children, cleaning, cooking and groceries buying. It is also set in a time where white people and coloured people had to use separate entrances, eat on different tables and go to different schools. The story is familiar. There are those who are prejudice and there are those who aren’t and those who didn’t dare say anything. Then there are those on the other side who can be bitter, fight with their dignity or keep it ‘real’ quiet. Sure the movie is a ‘feel good’ movie sugar coated with possibilities. But in its lightness is also a wealth of tears and making the right the wrong. There’s never 1 side to a story and I think the movie has done justice to the different faces of truth.

Yet, how different are we in the present day society? Sure we don’t have separate toilets and we claim equal rights. Do we? I come from a country where a large percentage of families have lived in maids. They come from another country leaving behind their children and family to take care of those who engaged them. They look after the children, clean up after the elderly, kept the house orderly and put food on the table. They live in tiny rooms with the family in not so big apartments. Some are good help and some aren’t so great, some employers are kind and just and some not so nice. I’ve seen well educated, sensible and intelligent women in the working world who become unreasonable employers, shouting at their help when lunch is a few minutes late or when they see their helpers take a breather with a glass of water.

The white women in “The Help” had no jobs. It was a time when women don’t really work and their mothers only want them to marry well. So they had no mission in life other than their house and children. Perhaps that pushed them to lose perspective. Today’s women want it all. They want a career and a family and children and nothing wrong with that but something’s got to give. So they engage help for cooking and taking care of children. Here’s where I don’t understand, for all those who had suffered under the hands of unreasonable employers who demanded extra hours irregardless and for those who complained of long hours, unjust pay, how did we then end up being the mean boss to the help? I call it the maid syndrome. Given the power to manage another’s life and being your own boss suddenly took reason out of logical, top minds. A dollar spent has to be worth it, so we milk every effort we can from the help.

The movie post that important question, how are these children who are raised by the help? How do they learn from their parents or not? How is a whole generation of people affected by this and a whole generation of children who had their mothers left them to take care of other children? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t want to know or be implicated. Cross my fingers.

In the end, let’s respect the dignity of work. Those who put in the money to procure work and those who work to earn it. Whatever the work, the help at home is earning an honest living and deserves the same respect. They had no choice but to leave their children behind to earn money, they deserve the respect just like anyone who works. They are working to give them the ability to love those they love the way they want so let them. Next time you want to complain about the sofa not clean or the food is not cooked right by your help, if you have one, think again. They are not perfect and neither are you. There are good days and off days and they are still human. You can put in your management skills and help them. They also deserve medical insurance, year end bonuses and increment. If you can master up some objectives and key performance indicators, why don’t you, before shoving words down their throats about what’s not done right.

Posted in Words of Others | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment