Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Setting priorities

A huge part of me wants to write. I really want to go about typing out my essay for my Lit elective but the little engineer in me tells me Ive got bigger things to do like replacing the 3 forces acting on the beam by a single resultant force and specifying where the force is acting.

While this week-long break from school hasn't really been the break that I remember having years back, it has been a week of growing, learning and self-discovery. One of the things I've learnt is the need to prioritize - even if it means sacrificing the things I like to do most. Insyaallah, it'll be for my own good.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mon nom est Jean-Pierre Jeunet

When I was a kid, I used to escape from my family with my imagination. And I kept this spirit into my adult life.(Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Mon nom est Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

I am the director of the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, or simply known stateside as Amélie. "I was born in 1953 and I have retained a nostalgia for the France of my childhood, or rather for its images, its fashion, its objects."

The word "NOSTALGIA" represents both a physical and spiritual longing for something in the past. For example, distant fading memories from years ago when one was a young child or the chain of events that occurred one after another that made one retreat into one's own imagination. Amélie retreats into her imagination to find someone whom she can talk to since her dad won't - the suicidal goldfish, statues that come to live, TV that can talk.

Perhaps I, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, could also have retreated into my own little world of dreams and imagination for the exact same reason Amélie had. My dad wasnt really talking to me much when I was a child. Up to the day He took him away from us, we never really talked. I remember being forced by my mum to sit by his side in the hospital ward the day before Father's day 3 years ago - to talk to him. But i really do not know what's there to say. All I did was look at his eyes, hold his weak hand and just wish that I could say something. After a while, he said something to me that I could barely understand - oh how I wish I did. All I can do was to imagine what it was. And imagine was all I seem to do since then.

Could he have told me to be a good son and look after my mum and 3 younger siblings? Could he have told me to just say something for goodness sake cause Ive been a man of little words since I was a boy? I really don't know.

Also perhaps I, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, had experienced a moment in my life that made me decided that enough was enough! That I really need to do something about my spontaneity (the lack of it) and shyness. To step out of my comfort zone - my little idealistic world - and just do something about things instead of just thinking about them.

Therefore, like Amélie who devised a scheme to introduce herself to Nino Quincampoix (a young man with an upbringing as troubled as hers), perhaps I too had decided that it's time for me to do something about the girl of my recent dreams. I had realised that the only way for her to know of my existence would be to say hi or to smile when we cross path - as pointed out by friends. However, like Amélie, Im introverted and introverts just do not say hi. We leave clues and hints to show our existence. We believe is the slimmest of chances that fate will simply pull through for us - and that's exactly the case with Amélie.

However, like all introverts, I know that such simplistic idealistic love story can only happen on the big screen. We know that things will not happen if one does not do anything about it. This might explain why Amélie got about doing something to get the guy that she liked midway through the movie.

If someone were to ask me why I had offered the world this particular vision of the world, I would say that perhaps, I simply want all of us to forget the hectic pace of the world that we're living in and just take a slow walk down memory lane. To relive the carefree and innocent life that we once had and then, do something about the life we presently live. Let's not be a slave of school and time and work and everything else in between. Perhaps, I wanted to tell the world that if we try real hard to look at things in a slightly positive and optimistic light, we'll see the good in everything that is not going all so good.

Perhaps too, I wanted to give the world a glimpse into the world of an introvert and our idea of simple pleasures. And if my name was really Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie is actually just a secret coded message to all introverts all over the world to get their imaginary butts up and do something about getting the girl or guy that they want, through whatever way that they want.

Are there broader implications of the film's "retro" tendencies?

'[One critic] left the film enraged, declaring his disgust with this ... retro, postcard version of France, undeniably cleansed of all cultural diversity and, by extension, all immigrants.' (Frédéric Bonnaud)

If my name was really Jean-Pierre Jeunet, I'll call the critic a hard-boiled realist who has a really hard hard time with my excessive magic, fantasy and imagination. He's just like Cinderella's stepsisters who just can't stomach the fact that Cinderella got her Prince Charming despite all the odds.

I wish that Amélie will continue to stick and jump around in my heart, egging me to do all those silly and charming little things I wish I dared to do.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mon nom est Amélie Part II

Mon nom est Amelie.

And I've got to admit that the last thing I want is a reality check. I live in a little world of my own - where simple things like dipping my hand into sacks of grain, cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon and skipping stones across St. Martin's Canal really make my day. And not forgetting beautiful people and their smiles. Someone might remember my answer to a question posed to me by a teacher in class. She asked me, "What makes you happy?" After a quick thought and a smile, I said out loud for everyone to hear, "Seeing the smiles on my classmates faces makes me happy. Knowing that they're happy makes me happy."

I sort of became a secret matchmaker and guardian angel and Ive realized that I subtly leave an impact the lives of those around me with subtle manipulation. I escorted a blind man to the Metro station, giving him a rich description of the street scenes he passes. I managed to persuade my father to follow his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having an air-hostess friend send pictures of it from all over the world. I managed to convince the unhappy concierge of my building that the husband who abandoned her had in fact sent her a final love letter just before his death.

Helping people makes me happy. But I've been thinking too much about the happiness of others that I forgot to be happy myself. So if I were to be on my way to school one day and cross path with a nice looking girl with a nice beautiful smile, never will I risk doing something/anything that might take my simple pleasure away.

However in the movie, I ended up stepping out of my comfort zone and had a pretty good ending. This is something I'll never understand. Things do not just work that way in real life. I need to have a word with the director of the film because now, someone I know have been reminded time and time again to do something about it - coz that's what Amelie did in the movie.

Mon nom est Amelie.

Perhaps in the movie, I went against the things that I will normally do. However in reality, I'll never do it for I'm afraid of losing one of life's simple pleasure. Perhaps too, I'm a coward. But perhaps too, I'm simply waiting for a sign... or two... or three...

I don't know.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mon nom est Amélie

Mon nom est Amélie. For the uninitiated, my name is Amélie.

Some say I'm a coward. Some say I'm not sociable. Raymond Dufayel told me that it's time for me to take some real risks. In simpler terms, to get a move on. But I see the world in a magical light, discovering minor miracles every day. I like to look for things no one else catches. I hate the way drivers never look at the road in old American movies. In such a dead world, I prefer to dream until I'm old enough to leave home.

But is it true? Is it true that the last thing I want is a reality check? Watch this space.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Salam Lebaran

Salam Lebaran, Eid Mubarak, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri....

I'm already missing Ramadhan. School has taken up a SIGNIFICANT portion of my time of late and Ramadhan had made me realize that I can still do more on top of school work - if i put my mind and heart to it.

I was challenged to memorize a new surah from the Quran this past Ramadhan. Seeing how I barely went for the nightly Taraweeh prayers, let alone read the Quran, I was tempted to tell him "Not this Ramadhan. I'm busy." And with barely two weeks left to Eid (and countless quizzes), it was impossible. However, putting school ahead of the things I should be engaging in in the holy month of Ramadhan would not be the right (and wise) thing for me to do. Deep down, I had a feeling there's a reason behind this self-thought of mine. I was in a crossroad and had two paths to take. I had to choose and despite me not being a spontaneous person, I said yes.

And I chose surah Ar-Rahman - a couple of pages, confusing verses but very poetic. I fell in love with this surah when I was younger - when going to the mosque would never affect my grades or projects or assignments. I remember being forced to wake up at 330am to perform the Tahajjud prayers when some would fall asleep while praying - me being one of those embarassed few. It was during this time when kids several years older than me would take turns to be the imam and this surah simply caught my attention. Nine years later, with barely two weeks to Eid, not afraid of "overloading" my schedules, why not?

And alhamdulillah, I managed to accomplish (give and take small confusions) what I thought was impossible. Ramadhan has taught me that one should never use religion as an excuse for one's lack of time in worldly issues. For every 5 minutes of prayers, I would have spent 15 or more minutes writing entries. And for every entry that I write, I would have spent twice the amount of time thinking and typing and backspacing. Let's not forget the time spent on Facebook, Soccernet and highlights after highlights of the match between Manchester United and Manchester City.

I guess all Im trying to say is that there's a million and one thing to blame for one's lack of time - Let it not be religion. And that if you really put your heart and mind to something, you can do it.

There's a lingering question though - Why can I never memorize simple formulas for modules like Soil Mechanics and Fluid Mechanics?? grrr...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Literary Metamorphosis

The theme of a story is the idea that holds the story together. In essence, a theme is the main idea or some type of lesson or message that the author wants to convey to the reader. For example, the great novel, Little Women, is about four sisters, but that is the subject of the book. One of the themes is the struggles of young girls maturing into women. A story can have more than one theme. Though themes might be difficult to find, there are some ways to identify them.

Below are the three suggested steps on "How to identify literary themes?"- and my attempt at answering my own doubts.

1. Identify the central topics or "big ideas."
Love is in the air in Of Love and Other Demons. So are demons - or things that seem demonic in nature. However, Marquez's love do not have the happily ever after ending. Instead, Marquez's love brings out the ugliness ("the Demon") in his characters. The one and only Demon that was supposed to be in the story is really nothing but a doubt - readers cannot really put a finger as to whether or not Sierva Maria was really possessed.

Too many blurred lines. I'm confused. But if someone were to point a gun at me and ask me to identify one theme of the book, I will still insist that I really do not know how to "describe a theme".

But I know that somehow, the words "lovely demon" and "evil religion" are floating in my engineering mind right now and I need help to put them into words fit for the literary world. I have this recurring thought that Marquez seem to make the Devil himself a lesser demon as compared to the demon that exist in all of us. Even the "Holy" Bishop - a man of religion - seem more evil that the "possesed" protagonist, Sierva Maria. In wanting to exorcise the demon in Sierva Maria, the Bishop (in my mind) was the bigger and more evil demon than the demon to be exorcised (this is where the idea of "evil religion" comes from).

Or are these blurred boundaries - like the hybrid between a lovely religion and an evil demon, for example - be the central theme I'm looking for?

2. Identify how the characters relate to the central topic.
The characters are bounded by the "lovely Demon" as well the "evil religion". Forbidden love between Ygnacio and the slave girl and the one between the Father Cayetano and Sierva Maria. Could this be related to the forbidden books (What is Marquez's reason behind a book that is only mentioned twice or so)?

3. Organize your thoughts.
Funny how the final step is called "Organize your thoughts". Clearly my mind is a little messed up. Attempts at organizing them into categories and orders will only make everything more messed up, blurred and muddled. For some weird reason, I feel as though Marquez is doing to me what I'm doing to others.

The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote in 1942 an essay titled ‘El idioma analítico de John Wilkins’ in which he laid out the challenges of human attempts to classify the world. Mary Douglas  suggested that "societies are likely to see things as 'taboo' when they are anomalous, when they don't fit neatly into a society's classification of the world".

I believe I'm feeling slightly chaotic because of my inability to classify - despite my engineering mind. Despite my love of predicting, anticipating and reading between the lines, I feel "insulted" not being able to read or guess why Marquez does what he does. Frankly, I do not even know what's on his mind besides the fact that it's a weird love story that I happen to like. Is it time to finally allow myself to be influenced by the perspectives and opinions of critics? Perhaps.

Tell me Mr Marquez, what's behind the magical realism?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Looking forward looking back

"Of course, now I wonder where I had gotten the idea that for you to participate in a gathering, the other people had to really, really want you to be there and that anything short of rabid enthusiasm on their part meant you'd be a nuisance. Where had I gotten the idea that being a nuisance was that big a deal? Sometimes now I think of all the opportunities I didn't take...and of how refusal became a habit for me..."
-Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The old man... He regretted all the invitations he'd rejected.

He regretted thinking - despite the thinker that he was. He had chosen to dream - being the dreamer that he was. And when his journey in life feels as though its reaching its end, he saw a lonely wooden bench all alone that lonely cold morning. He knew exactly how lonely the bench was for that was exactly how he felt.

And as they watched the sun rise in the distant, he thought and dreamt for one last time:

If only God could grant me my final wish. I wish for Him to turn back time so that I do not grow old thinking and dreaming about things that I could have done but didnt. If he cant,then a little bit more of life would do just fine.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Of Love and Other Demons

What started as tricky first few pages splattered with many confusing and long names turned out to be a fascinating love story that I simply had to finish reading. Upon reaching my train station, I just had to sit and indulge in the final few pages of Sierva Maria's journey  before I embark on my own journey back home.

And despite not having that Taylor Swift ending every idealistic dreamer would have dreamed of, and despite Gabriel Garcia Marquez's portrayal of men as idiots (my personal opinion), I find the ending brilliant. It feels as though men (or most of them... or some of them... definitely not just one man) are idiots when it comes to love. 

Funny how this "feel" is coming from a man who had just read a book written by another man. And if my other feeling is right, then I have reasons to believe that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an idiot .....

..... just like the man who could've taken Sierva Maria when he could but didn't - and when he wanted to, it was too late. 

..... just like the man who, for once, let Little Red Riding Hood slipped completely off his mind - and when he remembered, it was too late.  

Monday, September 7, 2009

Time Poverty

Time poverty seems to be an apt term to describe the present moment. 4 weeks have passed. And I can already see the coming 10 weeks approaching yet I feel as though there's nothing much that I can do about it. And an article I stumbled upon tells me that there's actually nothing I can do about it.

Twenty four hours will pass in a day no matter what you do. You cant store or collect time, nor can you grasp it in this moment.

I seem to waste precious time worrying about time. Thoughts and dreams have been responsible for a significant portion of my time. But lately, Ive been thinking and dreaming less and less and suddenly, the river of life flows with such frightening rush that the white cloud, the blue sky, the scenic mountains, the sweet smelling flowers, the lush green fields, the birds, the bees, the butterflies, the rabbits and all the other beautiful things in between are all but just a blur.

And when things begin to blur, one only needs to stop - And smell the sweet smelling roses.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A dose of Diana

I'm feeling super uninspired to write. The creative juices seem to have dried up. Brain has gone on auto-pilot mode - flying about everyday's mundane routine. Awfully tiring - so tiring that I'm not even thinking about Little Red Riding Hood. And on occasions when I somehow do, the Big Bad Wolf appears out of know where and chase the little thought that I had away.

But for now, a dose of Diana Vickers and Kina Grannis should be enough to stop Brain from losing control of the plane called M. :)