27 December 2013

Faceless Woman

I apologise. Not because
I wronged you personally,
except in the privacy
of my mind for things
you will never know, things
that will never cross your path,
at least, not at my hands. But
even if you never once feel
the whiplash of
the towering hurricane
of my anger and resentment,
of my bitterness and contempt,
I owe you an apology
nevertheless. I refuse
to give you a face; in my mind
I try very hard to blur
it out, to make it nothing
more than vague shape
and colour. I refuse
to think of you
by name—not because
I dislike you, (I do not
even know you) or because
I seek to deny you any
humanity or dignity that
a proper name lends. The truth
of the matter is, by keeping
you as remote and distant
as I can, by keeping you
an Other, I seek to do
the exact opposite. I fear
I am not strong enough
to think of you as real,
as flesh and bone and blood,
without wanting to strip
one or both of us down to bloody
tatters. Because that is
the world we live in, and
I am not strong enough,
as a woman, to be able
to look at you as anything
but the Other Woman without
wanting to place all the blame
squarely at your feet, exactly
for being the Other Woman. Instead,
I want to place that blame
where it belongs, with the
one who tore my heart to pieces,
rather than take an innocent
face and make the worst things
people say about my sex
the only truth the world can see.

22 December 2013

A Second Coming of a God

Thor: The Dark World was worth the money paid to see it in cinemas (albeit in 2-D; 3-D gives me a headache). It was a disappointment that the first one, even with a brilliant director and mostly a great cast, was such a let down. This one, directed by someone whose career I knew nothing about until I checked out his IMDB page (credits include mostly TV, but some v. good TV: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and The Sopranos, among other titles), was a much more satisfying adventure.

I would like to start out by saying that I am definitely a Tom Hiddleston fangirl. I'm very much a fan of most of the casting in Thor (with the exception of Natalie Portman, who really just gets under my skin), with actors like Hemsworth, Russo, Hopkins, and Dennings bringing wonderful performances to the screen. But Hiddleston steals the show, with a subtlety and finesse that made me giddy. Loki is the ultimate anti-hero, and Hiddleston's performance brings a depth to his struggle between revenge and redemption that is not often seen in comic book films.

Overall, T:TDW is a better film than its predecessor. The story is more interesting, the characters' development is more solid and coherent, and the action was well-paced and enjoyable. There are fewer gaping holes in the plot and while it is no necessarily as visually stunning as the first film, it is a solid piece. (We're no talking Nolan-esque Academy Award-winning calibre here, but that's okay.)

Loki is easily the best part of the film. As I said, Hiddleston steals the show without even meaning to do. There is just something about his presence on screen that draws attention away from everything else in the scene. The dynamic between Loki and Thor is interesting, because there is a tension that is built from what feels like genuine family dysfunction. On the surface they are, at best, wary allies, but there is a much deeper current to their relationship than the ostensible need of Thor to use Loki's scheming in order to defeat the film's baddie. (Who, by the way, is played wonderfully by Christopher Eccleston, who manages to turn a rather filler-fluff role into something sinister and lingering.) The brotherly affection and antagonism feels true, not just staged for effect. It helps, perhaps, that Hiddleston and Hemsworth seem to get along quite well, and play off one another equally well. There is definitely a true bromance brewing between the two of them (as is evidenced in any interviews with the two of them), and it serves them well in the story, because there is deep affection between the characters, tempered by exasperation, disappointment, and a need for each to be in the right. (Or rather, for Thor to be in the right, and for Loki to be in control, respectively.)

I have no idea whether the physics of the film is accurate, but I do love the blending of magic and science. That is an element that will always captivate me. I like how Thor (and most of the characters who aren't from Earth) just accept that magic and science are the same thing, and it doesn't matter what something is called as long as it functions the way it ought to, and as long as they know how to use the tools they have.

There is one thing that has me curious, and to satisfy my curiosity will take a few (or several) more viewings no only of Thor: The Dark World, but also the first Thor film, and the Avengers film. I'm curious whether there is any significance in Thor's costuming, and why in certain scenes he wears full sleeves, in certain scenes, he's bare to the shoulder, and sometimes he does not have his cape.

But fangirl moments and idle curiosity aside, Thor: The Dark World is a rollicking good time, and Kat Dennings as the primary comic relief is charming to the nines. It is definitely worth seeing in cinemas if one gets the chance.

29 October 2013

New dreams


She said to him:
Go and make
your dreams come true.

She wiped her eyes
and held her ground.
But you must
do so without me.

She sighed and turned away.
I must dream
new dreams to chase,
for in all the dreams I had
once upon a time,
you were by my side.
I am learning to live
without you; to dream
without you; to love
without you.

She whispered to herself,
That is the lesson
I learnt, hard and well,
When he closed the door
between us.

She took a deep breath.
He closed the door.
I simply locked it.

10 September 2013

Heart of Fire

Listen to the MUSTN'Ts, child, listen to the DON'Ts.
Listen to the SHOULDN'Ts, the IMPOSSIBLEs, the WON'Ts.
Listen to the NEVER HAVEs, then listen close to me:
ANYTHING can happen, child, ANYTHING can be.

The old woman sat in a chair with a blanket over her lap. She stared into the fire and did not move when the girl walked through the door, setting the bell tinkling. The girl approached the old woman, her footsteps muffled by the dusty carpet. She knelt beside the chair and clutched at the woman's thin arm. Her skin was papery and soft, and the girl could feel the warmth that emanated from the crone. She looked up at the wrinkled face, cast in inconstant shadows from the flickering light of the fire in the hearth. Saying nothing, the girl just waited for the old woman to acknowledge her. They sat in silence that stretched longer than the girl thought she could bear. A single tear ran its course down her pale cheek and dripped off her chin. The tiny droplet landed on the arm of the woman, between the girl's fingers. As if a spell were broken, the old woman turned sharply and looked down at the girl, her eyes flashing red in the firelight.

She stared at the girl, her red eyes boring into the green ones that looked up at her with such pleading, such pain. Then she lifted her other hand and traced the track the tear made on the pale skin. ‘So you have come,’ she said in a voice that sounded as dusty as her carpet, ‘At last, when there was nowhere else to go.’ She continued to penetrate the girl with her gaze, cutting through her defences as with a knife, and seeing into the heart of the matter. ‘It hurts, doesn't it?’ she whispered. The girl dipped her chin in mute assent, and the woman nodded as well, turning back to the fire.

‘It will lessen,’ the woman said, her eyes mirroring the dancing flames, ‘but it will not go away. You have a heart of fire, child, and that is a terrible burden and a great gift. Do not be discouraged, though. You must try a little harder than others, and it will take you longer to get there. That is part of the price of fire. We who are gifted with fire burn hotter than the rest, but it happens in its own time. The world will heave and turn, spinning on its axis, spinning through space, and the years will pass, but that means little to the Fire. The Fire comes when it will, as it will, and does not take notice of such trifles as time.’ The old woman closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She could have been asleep, or dead, but for the warmth of her skin and the very slight sound of her breath. Then she continued.

‘Your heart is young, child, and it is still kindling. The pain you feel is it coming alive. Life is pain, child, and we come to this world in pain, and we live all our lives in pain, and someday we escape that pain, but only in death. Those with the gift of Fire feel more than any other. Pain is ours to bear, and ours to cherish. It is our life that we feel pulsing within us, and the way we know we are still moving forward. I will not lie, child, it is a terrible, wonderful thing to have a heart of fire. But you must accept that it is your lot in life. You must accept the gift.’ She paused as the girl gave a barely audible sniff. ‘But pain is not all we are gifted with, child.’ She lifted the girl's chin so she could look her in the eye. The old woman's gaze softened, and the light that gleamed in her eyes blazed forward with warmth and comfort. ‘Pain is what keeps us grounded, but that does not mean it is all we have. We also have greatness. You must seek out what your fire wants to give you, and you must pursue it with all your heart. You will be rewarded for that, and well. It is only when we understand great suffering that we can truly appreciate the world; it is only when we make great sacrifice that we can truly treasure that which is good. It is not an easy path, child, but it is yours to take. And if you do, I promise, it will be worth it in the end. I know you cannot see it now, you can feel nothing but the pain of the new fire inside you. But fire is cleansing. It is pure. And it will never lead you wrong.’ The old woman let go of the girl's chin and turned to the fire once more. When she spoke again, her voice was thin and distant, like it came from very far away.

‘If you accept your heart of fire, it will serve you well, child. But it must be accepted freely, without reservation. Otherwise the fire will die. The pain will leave, if that happens, but everything else will leave you as well. Your life will turn to embers and ashes as the fire in your heart dwindles, until one day it is snuffed out completely. Your body will still live, your mind will still function, blood will still pump through your veins and breath fill your lungs, but you will love none of it. You will feel none of it. So you must ask yourself if you can accept the gift and the burden that have been given to you. They are yours alone to bear, but if you accept them, you will not be alone. Fire gives life even as it consumes. If you accept your heart, you will find greatness. I cannot tell you more, for I do not know your path. But the reward always surpasses the sacrifice, and you, child, will burn brighter than any I have ever seen.’

The woman stopped speaking and grew very still. The girl stared at her, watching her pulse flutter in her throat. After what seemed an eternity, she rose from where she knelt by the chair. She stared into the fire and saw shapes appear in the flames, dancing and whirling. Pressing a hand to her chest, she felt the warmth radiating from her, calling to its own. She took one last deep breath, then turned and left the room. The door tinkled again as it swung open and she was blasted with a gust of cold air from the street. She squared her shoulders and pressed her hands together, as if in prayer. And in the moment of acceptance, she felt the warm glow in her chest spread throughout her entire body. She sighed, and began to walk down the street.

Listen to the Mustn'ts © Shel Silverstein

28 August 2013


I fear, she said,
That broken
hearts may mend
like broken bones.
That, when
they mend

Which means,
she mused,
That the act
that breaks this
heart anew
must be
more terrible than
each act
that broke this heart

But, would that
also mean
a heart re-broken
may harden
to stone?

25 January 2013

Pet Peeves, part 1 -- Grammar (mostly pronouns)

I am a grammarian. I am. I adore grammar. I cannot believe that I did not learn to diagram a sentence until I was at university, but unfortunately I grew up in an educational system that kept switching back and forth between phonics and 'whole language learning,' so grammar was barely even on the radar. I learnt the basics (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions), and sort of learnt when it was proper to use 'I' rather than 'me,' although the latter came with a 'rule of thumb' explanation rather than an actual grammatical rule to follow. Had I learnt how to diagram a sentence then, I would have clearly understood when it was appropriate to use 'I' versus 'me,' because I would have understood the difference between nominative (or subjective, in common English) and objective cases. I would have been able to describe when it is appropriate to use 'who' rather than 'whom' to my friend before the SATs more clearly than 'use whom if it has a preposition in front of it.'

There is a certain grace and elegance to a diagrammed sentence. A sentence diagram shows exactly what part of speech each word is, and how as this part of speech or that part of speech, each word interacts with all the other words in the sentence. Is the pronoun referring to someone the subject of the sentence? Is it the object of a verb or a preposition? Is the sentence written in passive voice or active voice? All of these questions are answered easily when one can see the spider-web-like diagram that shows that THIS word is the subject and THAT word is the object, and THIS word is a preposition and THAT adjective modifies THIS word or THAT phrase. It eliminates the grey areas of understanding in what can be a complicated and twisted language. But, as I said before, I did not get to see this elegant way of explaining grammar until I was grown. So I learnt 'rules of thumb' instead. The most common rule of thumb was used to determine whether to use 'I' or 'me' in a sentence. It was quite simple really: If speaking of someone in addition to oneself, drop the extra person, as if one was talking simply about oneself. If, solo, 'I' sounds better, use 'I;' If 'me' sounds better, use 'me.' That's it. No need to understand that 'I' is nominative (or subjective) case, or that 'me' is objective case. Just drop the other person, and use the pronoun that sounds right solo. (E.g. Your mother and I thought it best. 'I' is correct because it would be correct to say, 'I thought it best.' || It is a gift from your sister and me. 'Me' is correct because it is correct to say, 'It is a gift from me.') Many persons seem to struggle with this (or, more likely, simply forego the bother of figuring out which pronoun is correct), and instead use 'I' as a default. This probably stems from the fact that, as children, it was (incorrectly) badgered into their heads that 'ME IS ALWAYS WRONG,' which is not the case at all, but seems that way because of most children's proclivity to say shit like, 'Me and Johnny got into trouble today.' So persons default to using 'I' in all cases, which sounds just as stupid as misusing 'me.'

Now, as an avid grammarian, it is natural that such things irritate the piss out of me. I can find it in my heart to forgive such transgressions (grudgingly), because the fact is, most persons cannot find their way to BEGIN to diagram a sentence, much less understand such concepts as 'nominative case.' What really pisses me off are the persons who parade around with an air of smug superiority because they are oh-so-much-smarter-than-you, who get this shit wrong, and then wig-the-fuck-out when it is pointed out to them that, yes, dear, you may have a degree in English, but even you do not seem to know the difference between nominative and objective cases. I know, because I gave up that fight a long time ago with someone who no longer matters. There is nothing quite so annoying (nor quite so laughable) as someone who is convinced she is smarter than everyone else, and continues to disprove it every time she opens her damn fool of a mouth.

And do not even get me STARTED on misuse of reflexive pronouns, or the fact that APOSTROPHES HAVE NEVER EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER HAD THE POWER TO MAKE A WORD PLURAL.