Saturday, 30 April 2011

sylvia and assia

I finished reading Yehuda Koren's and Eilat Negev's Lover of Unreason in three days. I couldn't put it down. Coincidentally, last week's lecture at school was about feminism, so I did a piece on these two women: Sylvia Plath and Assia Wevill.

In the early 1960s, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were considered the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of the literary world, especially in poetry. In 1962, this “power couple” got acquainted with David and Assia Wevill. David was also a poet who greatly admired both Hughes and Plath, while Assia, she herself an admirer of Hughes’ and Plath’s work, held a career in advertising. Assia later became the force that invaded the marriage of Ted’s and Sylvia’s, claiming, “I’m going to seduce Ted!” to Angela Landels, Assia’s former boss at Colman, Prentice, and Varley.

It is easy to blame Assia as the one who has destroyed Ted’s and Sylvia’s marriage, since she is known for her infidelity, although not promiscuity. She was able to be polyandrous, yet keeping it fair between the two men she was currently involved with. One may put it bluntly as to say that she had it coming. Indeed, Assia committed suicide in a manner not unlike Sylvia’s. Their deaths were only eight years apart.

The difference was Assia also intentionally killed Shura, her only child (allegedly with Ted Hughes) while Sylvia sealed the door cracks of the kitchen to the other room where Frieda and Nicholas were sleeping, so the gas would not seep out of the kitchen and killed the two children. Sylvia’s way of leaving her children behind was seen by one side of feminists as maternal, the character used time and again to describe Sylvia. However, another side of the feminists regards Assia’s method to leave no one behind, especially Shura, Assia’s heart and soul, as altruistic.

“The mother knows the nature and quality of her act, and that killing is legally wrong; however, the mother often believes she’s doing what is morally right for her child. These mothers see their children as an extension of themselves, do not want to leave them motherless in a cruel world and believe that the child will be better off in heaven without them. The mother sees ‘hell on earth’. It’s so miserable that she can no longer stand to live. To leave that child in that world… and motherless, on top of it, will be more terrible than to murder,” explains Dr. Philip Resnick, a renowned American forensic psychiatrist and leading expert of filicide (murder based on love), who published his findings on the subject of altruistic suicide in the year of Assia’s death.

Shura was considered as an illegitimate child. It was obvious that Hughes was not proud of her, calling Shura “her [Assia’s] daughter” and only mentioning Shura in his letters one time. Ted mentioned the nanny more than he mentioned Shura in his letters. This fact and Assia’s belief that Ted did not love Shura as much as he loved Frieda and Nicholas, prompted Assia to take Shura with her.

Here we see the complexity that women faced, even when they were about to take their own lives. Sylvia must have believed that her children would lead a better, happier life, and that it was all about her: her depression, her mood swings, and her suicidal behavior. On the other hand, Assia must have worried that nobody would be able to take care of Shura. It was through these tragedies that these two women, these two rivals, became both famous and infamous. Sylvia was considered to be a good mother. She was able to juggle between writing and doing domestic work. Assia, on the other hand, although a good mother, was considered a rather sloppy housewife. Yet, these two women, as different as they were, could not make Ted Hughes love them enough, to avoid their untimely death.

Ted Hughes lived on and became a celebrated poet, receiving literary honors. He died of cancer in 1998 with a wife beside him. He might be a genius, but I would never touch his work with a ten-foot pole.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

russell brand is funny? how?

I had the absolute misfortune of watching Arthur a while ago. The movie was not just uninspiring, nay, it was painful to watch. I cringed everytime Arthur Bach (Russell Brand's character) delivered a line, and he's the main actor (a.k.a the one with the most lines).

Arthur is a story of a grown man, an heir to a multibillion dollar company, who only rolled around, having orgies, giving free money (bailing out criminals, even), and occasionally riding in his Batmobile (yes).

Consider Arthur as a male version of Paris Hilton, with the same annoying voice.

I am too lazy to tell you the plot here, but Arthur needed to marry someone capable of running the Bach Corporation (since it's a family business). But this woman (played by Jennifer Garner), as beautiful as she is, could not even stay sober if he wants to keep his inheritance. In the end, even when Arthur had sobered up, he was still not tolerable. Consider Andrea Sachs from Devil Wears Prada (the movie) or that girl from Confessions of a Shoppaholic (also the movie): I felt sympathy at the end of those two movies. Arthur remains an obnoxious character until the end - not just because he was spoilt and all, but also because of Russell Brand's voice (and his hair. There are long-haired guys who look sexy, but Brand's hair makes me want to vomit).

Helen Mirren is, as usual, Helen Mirren (which means, "Meh"). Then again, even she couldn't stop Arthur from being a totally nauseating excuse of a movie that I saw for USD 9.

I had not anticipated that his voice would be that girlish. And yet he portrayed a straight, hypersexed, man. I mean, remember Ruby Rod from Luc Besson's Fifth Element? That guy even had ill fitting animal print and was just as hypersexed as Arthur Bach, but he fit in perfectly with the over-the-top aura of the movie. Milla Jovovich in bandage dress? If Gaultier weren't so big in fur and animal products, I'd love him more than I love Stella McCartney, but I digress. And Bruce Willis is just one of those men who become even sexier as they age. But again, I digress.

At almost the end of the movie, there was one child who asked Arthur Bach if he was a boy or a girl. That seemed so apt.

Then again, Russell Brand is married to Katy Perry, that I absolutely think lowly of.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

sylvia plath

This is an assignment for Research Writing class. I had to research and write about a poet, so naturally I chose Sylvia Plath.


I was web surfing in the middle of the night as usual, when I stumbled upon a web link: Top 10 Famous People who Committed Suicide. One of them was the poet Sylvia Plath. At that time, I stored Plath’s name in my memory, but did not do further studies on her or her work. The next day, when I was in a bookstore, my feet took me to the English Literature section and I found The Bell Jar, her one and only novel, a semi-autobiography.

Needless to say, I could not put it down. It grew so much on me that I became irrationally depressed. The only release I could get was by painting my eyes. I had always been drawn to dark colors. However, it was only after reading The Bell Jar that I felt the need to start wearing dark eye make-up. And so, my fascination with Plath began.

Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932 in Massachusetts. She studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge and later received acclaim as a professional poet and writer. Her genre of poetry can be classified as confessional poetry. The two best known collections of her poetry are The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. I own Ariel and I have to admit that I am greatly influenced by her writing style.

She married fellow poet Ted Hughes in 1956 and had two children with him, Frieda and Nicholas. Frieda later edited a new edition of the Ariel collection, feeling that her father’s version of Ariel did not completely show Sylvia Plath’s voice.

Her marriage to Hughes crumbled when Hughes was caught having an affair with their friend, the socialite Assia Wevill. When I learned about this, I completely identified myself with her as I have had a similar experience. The affair led to subsequent divorce, and, combined with a long struggle with depression (she was diagnosed with Bipolar Syndrome), made her to commit suicide.

At approximately 4:30 AM on February 11, 1963, Plath placed her head in the oven with the gas turned on. She died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Beforehand, she had sealed the rooms between her and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloths. Sylvia Plath was the first poet to win the Pulitzer Price posthumously. She won the award for her work The Collected Poems.

I am completely aware of Sylvia Plath’s dark influence. And yet I feel the strong need to know her personally and to learn from her, especially her sense of discipline when it comes to writing. She carried her Thesaurus around, preferring it to the Bible. Whenever she got home, she would make detailed descriptions of the places she visited and the people she met. These descriptions became the basis of her work. It is most unfortunate that people began to realize her talent after her death. Like Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

guess what came in the mail

I just got accepted at St. Mary's College of California for the MFA program in Creative Writing in Fiction.

This is...

This is clearly, one step, no... ONE LEAP towards world domination literary world domination becoming a disciplined writer that I wish to be.

So umm... I went on a shopping spree on and bought three books out of my very long wish list and now the books are here.

Or were here, since I got the books yesterday and I've been reading my first one called Lover of Unreason by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev. It's an interesting biography about Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes' other woman in his marriage to Sylvia Plath. Even as a hardcore Plath fan (I'm going to have a bell jar tattooed on my arm this year), I find Assia's character sometimes endearing. I'm on page 73 (of 227 - my God the fonts are small and the book is quite big) now and I just adore how the two authors described Assia's life in a neutral, academic way.

Next up is The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (edited by Karen V. Kukil). I had no idea that this book would have 675 pages with the same small fonts and relatively same book size with the Assia Wevill one.

Then again, it's Plath. I always have high expectations on her work and she never fails to impress me. And yes, I'm writing in present tense.

The final book will be Snow by Orhan Pamuk. I read My Name is Red years ago and was absolutely smitten by how Pamuk wrote it. I fell in love with him (and found out that he's rather cute - HAHA. This is absolutely not professional or academical whatsoever). I just picked Snow out of the blue. This will be my second Orhan Pamuk, so I don't really know what to expect.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

amy tan on creativity

This one is an assignment in the Lecture & Listening class.

Amy Tan, the celebrated American novelist of Chinese descendant, delivered an interesting presentation hosted by She spoke about the three Ns. The first N is Nature. Creativity may come naturally, from an abnormal chromosome produced by our brain. This chromosome makes us generate ideas. She mentioned about depression, that great artists such as Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath (my favorite poet/author), and Edgar Allan Poe suffered from depression. The second N is Nurture. Childhood trauma can be really good materials. She gave an anecdote that when she was young, her IQ test told her that she was going to become a brain surgeon, so she studied lots. The last N is Nightmare.

In a nutshell, Tan summed creativity as the sense of inability to repress looking at anything in life. As a writer, it is important to be able to receive inspiration from everything. She also stated that creative people are multidimensional, able to see through multiple layers of an issue. This makes sense since the ability to see and analyze many layers becomes the backbone of a rich and vibrant writing. In her presentation, she talked about how she received her inspiration, an experience that she described as ambiguous. She needs moral ambiguity to write stories. This moral ambiguity creates a sequence of responses and intentions, the fuel of her stories.

I am still in the middle of reading The Joy Luck Club, the first of her novels. The Joy Luck Club explores mother-daughter relationships of four women and each of their mothers. More specifically, Chinese mothers who went to the United States, seeking for a better life and future. All of the women had a somewhat murky past. They found each other through a Mah Jong club that they named “Joy Luck”. Friendship bloomed in that club, as well as competition. Being very close to my mother, needless to say, there were instances when I found myself crying on the bus while reading the book. The book itself is almost autobiographical to Tan’s life. Facets of her and her mother’s history serve as the basis of the stories in The Joy Luck Club.

Tan’s idea of creativity is relatable, at least to me. Creativity comes to me when I have an enquiry, when I begin to question aspects of life, and in some cases, of death. I sometimes make up my own answers and assumptions to some questions, as for the rest, I do research. The research depends on the time and resources. If I have enough time and resources, I’ll do a thorough analysis. If I don’t, I will have to be satisfied with what I have and go on with my life. Perhaps along the way, I will get more answers.

Nonetheless, these questions, including the what-ifs have become the source of my inspiration. I create a dialog within my head, with hypotheses and more questions. I will have these conversations until I’m ready to sleep. Usually they calm me down because I’m assured I will have enough to write.

Amy Tan believes that one characteristic of a good writer is that he or she never stops thinking. If that is the case, then I believe I have the making of a good writer.

Monday, 11 April 2011

my love affair with spongebob squarepants

My fascination with Spongebob Squarepants had begun even before the show itself was famous. When I became infatuated with the show, I didn't even know that a "random joke" existed or that randomness could be invented into something so original, so funny, and so entertaining.

I have to say, I don't have a favorite character. I love every one of them and I just can't get over the fact that Gary the Snail MEOWS. I mean, that practically means Gary is a cat and I love cats. Then again, I may have to point out that I totally love Squidward (Tentacles) and (Sheldon J.) Plankton. They're both so... So real. I love Spongebob's enthusiasm and charm and sometimes nonsensical enthusiasm and charm, but Squidward and Plankton are totally awesome. I also think Squidward might be gay and that makes me love him more. Plankton is diabolical, and I have an affection towards evil doers such as Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), Ursula (Little Mermaid), and Scar (Lion King).

And I also know that I happen to live in the USA (for the time being, obviously) and I keep finding really weird stuff. I was at the Walgreens and I made a quick and impulsive purchase on a Spongebob Squarepants Krabby Patty gummies. How cool is that? It was the only one in the rack left, so I quickly snatched it, smiling to myself proudly having acquired something Squarepantsy.

Now if only I could afford that Spongebob Squarepants Lava Lamp...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

the san francisco maritime museum

My last post was almost a month ago! I can't believe this.

I'm so sorry. I should've written more than currently. This is the third week of school and my schedule is so crazy. I no longer have Fridays for myself. I have to switch my FCBD classes to 9 AM or 9.30 AM at the latest so I can come to school on time at 11.30 AM.

And then there's the homework.

Therefore, I've decided to post my homework and assignments here. So I can always cherish them and their sweet memories since I may have to go home in June 2011. Am I sad? Disappointed. Heartbroken. But I'll make it.

In the mean time, this is a little write-up for my Research Writing class. It was a nice and sunny day so each of us was assigned to research something around the Fisherman's Wharf. I went to the SF Maritime Museum with Yoomin, a Korean friend.

The San Francisco Maritime Museum is located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, more specifically, at the end of it. The museum overlooks the beach and is adjacent to the Aquatic Park. Its operational hours are between 10 AM and 4 PM. In average, there are around 200 visitors on weekends and 100 visitors on weekdays. The SF Maritime Museum currently exhibits four ship replicas: the Kenilworth, the Preussen, the Kohala, and the Flying Cloud.

The walls of the museum boast the murals by Hilaire Hiller. The mural, painted in 1938, was restored in 2010. The SF Maritime Museum has four floors: the first floor is used as senior center, the second (ground) floor is for exhibition, while the third and fourth floors are currently being restored. Due to budget cuts, these upper floors will finish their restorations in 2012. The SF Maritime Museum’s funds come primarily from the National Parks Services and admission into the museum is free, but it never hurts to put a little money inside the donation box on your way out.

I know the pictures here don't do the museum justice, so I'll try to take more photos on Monday.