Show & Tell: My One and Only Poem

When I was seventeen and a senior in high school I had a huge crush on Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Before he was famous!). I was so infatuated with JRM, particularly his character Steerpike in the TV mini-series Gormenghast, that I was inspired to write a poem, er, about Steerpike, not so much about JRM in general. I guess you can call this “fan poetry.” I’m not a poet nor do I like writing poetry.  I only like poems that rhyme because it just seems like it took more effort. This poem rhymes and it took an entire afternoon. Rhyming is hard! I never told my friends I wrote this;  I was already winning all the departmental awards, I didn’t need to add “poem inspired by hot Irish actor acting as my muse” to my resume of nerdy accomplishments. Now that it’s cool to be a nerd, I must share: behold! My one and only poem!

HAMARTIA

From the sweltering bottom he did flee
Oh Machiavellian youth of cunning glee
A glance at heaven told him so
This is the direction he must go.
For every star he must ascend
His soul is marred, unable to mend
For every answer to glory’s call
A single star to ambition fall.
From absolute nothing he did rise
To perfection in legends and castles in the sky
“Oh shining empires!” bards will sing,
“And the ordained throne of deities, tyrants, and kings.”
Nothing then and nothing now
Will ever make our smart boy cow
Look at his hands! So stained and steeped
With black blood, red tears we weep.
But to a higher high is a lower low
A flaw in him, unexposed
Back to the bottom he must go
Where he is washed as white as snow.
6 October 2001

Mockingjay (Non-Spoiler Review)

I don’t put my life on hold for any book. For Mockingjay, the final installment of Suzanne Collins’ brilliant Hunger Games Trilogy, I’ll make an exception. That is, I cannot live my life until I finish this series! Words cannot express my level of fandom. A transcript of my daily conversations may read like this:

Friend: “The clouds are especially fluffy today.”

Me: “Yes. Yes. It certainly is…READ THE HUNGER GAMES!”

(Friend backs away, terrified).

In the hierarchy of excitement, Mockingjay ranks last. It lacks the sense of urgency and intensity of the first two books, but the stakes are still high and by now the characters are like family; you want things to go well for them, and when things go awry, your heart starts palpitating as if you’re riding an emotional roller coaster to the abyss.

Only a few books can get me this worked up. I spent the better part of my reading time stressed out over Katniss’ fate, particularly with regards to the love triangle. I promise I will not spoil, but let’s just say love triangles are very excruciating for all parties involved, and by that I mean ME. According to the conventions of storytelling, it’s very obvious who Katniss will choose. Throughout Mockingjay I was head cheerleader for Team Mumble Mumble but deep down I felt like Captain Jack Sparrow steering his sinking ship into harbor: it’s a lost cause but I will still keep my head held high. Toward the end, my first reaction to Katniss’ choice was “THIS IS BULLSHIT!” Then “Sigh. Okay. The other guy grew on me and the last scene was so sweet I had to read it three times. Maybe I’ll re-read the series with a new perspective.” I pray this is vague and non-spoiler-y. Of course, Mockingjay is not so much about love triangles as it is about the brutality of war and what it does to those involved. It is also about ZMOG moments. Adhering to the non-spoiler route, I’ll just say that one character crossed over to the dark side and it broke my heart! In short, this book left me an emotional wreck and ruined me for other books.

A brief word on casting. Summer Glau of Firefly and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is my perfect Katniss. She’s already got an impressive list of dystopian film creds and she’s a walking contradiction of pretty/intelligent/athletic/graceful/vulnerable/tough. Chances are she’s too old to play Katniss but if they expect us to swallow Luke Perry as a teen in 90210, Summer as Katniss is not so far-fetched, right?

OMG moment: Outlander the Musical!

If you read Diana Gabaldon’s blog (and if you’re a die hard Outlander fan then of course you do!), you’re probably familiar with news of a musical in the works. While I’m not entirely positive if this musical is just a soundtrack based on D.Gal’s bestselling Outlander series or a full scale stage production with a rollicking dance number and a standing stone circle set, I’ve listened to a sample on YouTube and I approve!

The sound is reminiscent of the Celtic Women. Don’t let the lack of visual stimuli keep you from listening to the end. Around 1:06, Jamie Fraser starts whispering “Blood of my blood. Bone of my bone” in a seductive Scottish brogue which is both hilarious and strangely alluring. This is the very definition of ‘whispering sweet nothings’ into one’s ear. When he coos “I give ye my BOOODY,” I broke into uncontrollable school girl giggles.

Mini confession: I have a secret Outlander playlist. It’s not fancy in the least, just a mash up of the Braveheart and Last of the Mohicans soundtracks with a dash of Ashokan Farewell thrown in during those staring-off into the distance moments. Not too dorky, right?  Okay. Suppose I tell you that I know precisely which song accompanies which scene. Like the grande finale of Braveheart (Track 17) must be played during the gut-wrenching parting between Jamie and Claire in Dragonfly in Amber. Instead of “FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Jamie will holler “SASSENACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” when he storms into battle and this is spliced with Claire scrambling through Craig na’ Dun and then FADE TO WHITE. I now see that I have screenplay writing in my blood and the echo of nerdiness in my bone!

I play “Promentory” from Last of the Mohicans—in MY HEAD—during Young Ian scenes. Young Ian does a lot of running around in buckskin breeches and if you’re ever in need of a specific musical score for when you’re keeping it real with the Mohawks, Promentory is the song.

I could go on. Or I could remind you of the time I made an Ultimate Outlander Collage OR I could show you…

Outlander fandom includes making secret playlists and fantasy movie casting. It’s not all that different from being a Trekkie. Lightbulb! Why oh why hasn’t someone started an Outlander convention and secret Vulcan/Scottish hand greeting?!!!

I like to do dramatic readings… Look! Ghostwriter!

Remember my resolution to cease my obsessive web surfing this weekend? Okay. So I couldn’t completely quit the intrawebs cold turkey. The web, my friends, is like crack; you’ve gotta ease the sucker out of your system slowly or else you will prowl the streets searching for gullible iPhone carrying pedestrians to MUG so you could get your greedy paws on their 3G data plan. Oh the sweet sweet release of connectivity! Not that I’ve been prowling the mean streets of Long Beach like The Hamburgler looking for my next Robble Robble.

This weekend, I…

Visited my backyard for the first time in years. We used to have a tree with a swing. This tree is now a stump. When did my dad cut down the tree? Am I that much of a techno-junkie that I failed to notice a missing tree? As you can imagine, I had what amounted to an existential crisis of epic proportions. I sat on the stump and assumed the Thinking Man position. Then I proceeded to ponder many things. When I was done pondering, I was struck by the beauty of a flower. With its petals spread and stamens standing at attention, it was… O’Keefe-y and reminded me of Fingersmith. See how certain books tend to sneak up on you at the weirdest times?

I cruised on a Duffy boat manned by a dock boy named—and I kid you not—Buoy. I’m happy to report that I did not throw up. See? I tend to throw up in planes (don’t ever ride next to me on a cross country flight) and on the bus when I’m riding sideways, also in cars if we’re driving down a winding road. Who knew I had sea legs? My boat trip reminded me of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and other such nautical tales.

It’s finally happened. Someone has asked me to do a dramatic reading! Okay. Since high school I’ve been memorizing random Shakespearian soliloquies and sonnets, Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice, Langston Hughes’ Harlem, and excerpts from Sullivan Ballou’s Letter to Sarah (see Ken Burn’s Civil War Documentary). I like to read my melodramatic 10th grade diary, Raych’s book reviews (I can act out her ALL CAPS better than the Royal Shakespeare Academy!), and the famous first paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House (I use a sinister witch’s voice for this one)  in the HOPES that one day I will be called upon to do a dramatic reading at a wine and cheese party. But can you believe it? This has never happened! Here’s the Catch-22: I don’t get invited to parties BECAUSE I insist on doing dramatic readings. What is wrong with people? Dramatic readings of English Literature as performed by a feisty little Asian girl is, quite possibly, the most entertaining icebreaker ever. Nevertheless my Saturday nights are always suspiciously empty and I think…I think people sneak off to these parties and “forget” to tell me. This time not one but TWO people requested dramatic readings and I delivered. Oh Hecuba did I deliver! *Does Hammer Dance*

Finally, mind your ears. It’s about to get loudGHOSTWRITER SEASON ONE IS ON DVD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The DVD case is modeled after the team’s case book. I wore a pen around my neck and accumulated a stack of marble composition books because of this show. And need I mention how many times I dreamed that something untoward would happen to the actress who played Tina so they could cast me as a slightly younger Tina (um…nine year old Tina) so I could smooch with Alex in the dumpster?!!

Oh Alejandro Fernandez! I will befriend Gaby and put up with Lenny’s hats and visit your family’s Bodega for a chance to wear your Dragon B-ball jacket! I love you more than JTT.

I even love you more than Benny from The Sandlot who could have been your sexy cousin if Ghostwriter had survived to Season 4. But sadly, it was not to be.

I leave you with my favorite Ghostwriter line as first spoken by a young Julia Stiles in the “Who is Max Mouse?” episode.

“Can you jam with the console cowboys of cyberspace?”

Wired

The world won’t end if I don’t check my email. I am a slave to the internet. Not a day goes by that I don’t check my mail obsessively or log on to my Twitter account for my daily @replies. I subscribe to 100+ book, author, fashion, food, publishing, history, and humor blogs on my Google Reader. I have a Polyvore account, a Tumblr blog, 2 WordPress blogs in addition to The Lit Connection, and somewhere floating around cyberspace is a Xanga chronicling the time I suspected someone spat in my taco or my recurring nightmares about Biochem. Lab!  Add a neglected Facebook account and a newly created GoodReads and I can officially conclude that I don’t have a life. Not a real life. My virtual life, however, rocks. I count not having a MySpace or a YouTube account as my one saving grace.

Seriously, folks. I need to shut down my computer and go outside and maybe feel the sunshine on my pale, ghoulish skin. I might sparkle. Likewise, I might sizzle and explode. But I would never know if I continue living this half-life existence!

I’m part of a generation who remembers what it’s like growing up without the internet. When I was in 5th grade, we took class trips to the computer lab to play the DOS version ‘Oregon Trail’ and ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ Our teacher played round after round of Solitaire via Windows 3.1 while we all looked on in high-tech envy! In middle school, most of us hand wrote our book reports, which was standard, while one classmate turned her report in TYPED and that was like “Whoa. We’ve got an over-achiever here!” Around the summer of the O.J. Simpson trials (which I’m still bitter about because it pre-empted the Fox Kids line up), I turned to Ghostwriter on PBS. My favorite Ghostwriter episode was called “Who is Max Mouse?” The gang signed into a CHATROOM by hooking up their IBM computers to an external modem and dialing up a phone number. This episode more or less BLEW MY MIND. I didn’t know you could TALK TO PEOPLE ONLINE! So the Ghostwriter Gang did some intensive brainstorming and came up with LJBad (L for Lenny, J for Jamal, Bad for the Team…which is Bad Ass)  as their “handle.” I, in turn, came up with my own “handle” for when I’ll convince my parents to buy one of those new Windows 95 computers with an external modem.

I didn’t get a computer until 8th grade. It had Windows 95 at a time when Win95 was phased out by Win98. I was so happy to be among the computer-owning elite that I played Solitare and surfed my Encata Encyclopedia on CD-ROM and tinkered with my flying Windows screen savers that I didn’t have time to be jealous of my friends who were already dialing up AOL or Compuserve.

Senior year of high school: it’s finally happened. I have a new Hewlett Packard, Windows ME, and AOL dial-up!  I could talk to my friends ONLINE and say cool stuff at school like “Oh, just AIM me” or “I’ll EMAIL you my notes.”

I’ll save you the story about how I went off to college with my blue Ethernet cable (I didn’t know why we needed an Ethernet cable; the dorm welcome packet advised us to buy one) and discovered DSL.

I worked so hard to get connected. Now I can’t go a day without wasting at least an hour online. When my server’s down, my personal apocalypse cometh. Is it really the end of the world when you can’t check your email or reply to someone on Twitter? Can I survive the weekend without surfing the web? Or Eek! Checking my email?

Bookshelves and cheap splurges

If you ever invite me into your home, I’ll immediately gravitate toward your bookshelf, scrutinize your titles, and JUDGE you by what you read. That’s because I do not have a bookshelf of my own. My shelves are filled with my mom’s cheap bric-a-brac collecting dust and contributing to my allergies. Mark my words: one day I will severe the umbilical cord and build my own bookshelf! This ideal bookshelf will be awesome and far surpass all the pansy bookshelves out there. I will be the coolest kid in town and the popular bookworms will play in my sandbox!

But all that is in the future. For now I subscribe to I Love Reading and Writing and drool over their sensual bookshelf photos.

Dollar Bookstore Loot!

1. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: Sarah’s fictional world of Southern Fried Magical Realism is the only world I want to live in. I’ve gushed about The Witch of Blackbird Pond but I wonder if I really want to live in a Puritan colony? Or in the lawless Highlands of Outlander? A girl could get ravaged by a band of savage Scotsmen or accused of witchcraft or given dirty looks by beetle-browed Puritans! A quaint town populated by heartwarming characters (one of which concocts mouthwatering dishes) and a 4th of July Fair is the ideal world for me. It’s so very Mister Rogers or vanishing Americana and I want a piece of it. Plus, I have this affinity toward ferris wheels and craft tents, preferably tents where you sell your blackberry preserves and homemade pies. This book gives me the same comfy feeling I get from rubbing my mittens on my cheek.

2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: A brand new trade paperback. Pristine condition. Unbroken spine! I remember abandoning this book when I was 17 because I just couldn’t get into the story.  Now that I own the book, I’m a firm believer of second chances.

3. Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman: I snagged the first edition hardback in mint condition! The design is top-notch for a novella that is really nothing more than pamphlet. I read this book last year and liked it well enough. I left it unreviewed because I have absolutely nothing to say other than “I like Hoffman’s description of jellyfish.” Alice Hoffman is an author you read for the sake of reading beautiful prose as opposed to reading for the story.

4. The Listeners by Christopher Pike: I read this book twice during 7th grade silent reading (there was a lot of silent reading time during middle school). After a few years the library discarded its copies, it went out of print, finding a copy was virtually impossible. Until now… I only remember the story in vague flashes: Evil twin… sexy twin… great big giant head… and a cool opening line, “David Conner had shot three people in his life, blown up three, and burned another to death.”

And now for some random YA book coveting:


1. Vixen by Jillian Larkin: Reason for coveting is based solely on cover art.

2. Everlasting by Angie Frazier: When I read the synopsis for this book, I nearly DIED OF TERROR!  The plot sounds loosely like the plot to my top-secret-never-told-a-soul WIP, well, minus the historical period, the sinking ship, and the charming first mate. But there IS a stone and a quest and some dead parents who may or may not be recalled to life by said mythical stone! Then I read the first pages on Amazon’s preview and sighed with relief. It’s nothing like my WIP. This book is Quest for McGruffin + Coming of Age for feisty heroine + gentle love story.  My book is Quest for McGruffin + Captain Ahab-like obsessive feisty heroine + Dynasty-esque Dramarama + twisted love story. There are only a few plots in the world:  the only thing differentiating one quest novel from another is the author’s unique voice and perspective. Also, you can’t go wrong with hobbits. I don’t have hobbits, but I have…catfights and a heroine who learns not to be a bitch.

3. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: Because I’ll read anything by Jennifer Donnelly, especially a YA about the French Revolution. This will tie me over until The Wild Rose, the 3rd book in her Rose Trilogy, is published in 2011.

4. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff: Reason for coveting is based solely on cover art.