Archive for January, 2017

What’s That Flower? (03 min read + 01 quest)

Via: Daily Prompt – Scent

 

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Image: Toshiyuki IMAI, Flickr

 

No, I’m not talking about the freesia but that’s the closest I have reached in my search for that elusive yellow flower.

During my father’s first posting overseas, there was a gargantuan tree in the parking lot of the building where we lived. It stood in the middle of a small artificial island, which was usually circled by a necklace of cars belonging to our building residents. It’s many boughs and twigs were spread out so far wide in every direction that it could provide shade to the entire island as well as the surrounding cars. This tree would never be out of bloom and I often gazed at it from our balcony, wondering how it stayed up, for its trunk did not look wide enough to bear the weight of its many branches, the needle-like leaves, and stalks full of blossoms. It was only when I was older that I reflected that it must’ve been the roots, buried deep and perhaps just as wide.

maxpixel-freegreatpicture-com-yellow-tree-blossoming-spring-nature-1294129There would be flowers strewn all over the island grass and on top of the car hoods every morning when I went out to wait for the school bus. The flowers didn’t last long in the heat once they fell and were mostly decayed from the early morning dew by the time I reached them. Still, a few fresh blossoms would remain for me to take joy in. They were like tiny yellow megaphones, their petals tightly fanning out in whorls, the sepals funneling into narrow stems. I would take great care when wrapping the flowers in tissue to take with me to school. And when the opportunity arose, I would sneak them out and breathe in their scent.

I can still remember the scent. It was so light that you couldn’t catch it even standing under the tree. But take one bloom in the palm of your hand, just the one, hold it to your nose and your lungs would fill with its sweet airy fragrance. Yet, I wouldn’t quite call the scent sweet. I wouldn’t know what I’d call them. Because when my father was relocated for his next project and we moved to our next country of residence, I never saw them again.

But I still think of them. I still miss them.

The flowers I’m referring to do indeed look quite similar to freesias and multiple blossoms grow from each stalk surrounded by needle-sharp leaves. The tree in the image above captures the shape of the flowers and the tree very accurately. If anyone is able to shed some light to the name, I will welcome it.

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Take Heart (03 min read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Replacement

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I’ll be honest. The first thing I thought about when I saw today’s prompt was a certain new leader of a certain superpower. But I wasn’t in the mood to discuss partisan tyrants so I’m going with the second thing that came to my mind, which allows me to hope that all living things are indeed interconnected by the smallest unit of our organic structure regardless of how some wish to keep us divided. I’m talking about organ transplants and cellular memory phenomenon.

return-to-meDid you ever see the movie Return To Me? Well, I thought about heart transplant, then that movie popped into my head and voilà. Return To Me tells the story of a woman who receives the heart of a man’s wife and then falls in love with him and vice versa. Of course, it’s a romantic dramedy so it only depicts the idea that receiving someone’s organ can change you through the most elemental of human emotions – love. But a little research will tell you that there have been numerous incidents recorded in medical science where people who underwent organ transplants experienced remarkable personality changes, eventually coming to learn that their new traits were shared by the persons whose organs they had received.

A woman who was never much of a reader forms a sudden affinity for classic literature after receiving her kidney. A man who had always been a go-getter alpha before his heart transplant listens to a British singer on the radio for the first time and breaks down into tears only to find out that it was his heart donor’s favorite song. Though scientists have yet to give cell memory phenomenon their full endorsement, studies now show more evidence that combinatorial memories stored in the neurons of the donor organs may be the cause of emotional and behavioral changes in recipients. Moreover, parallels between donor and recipient unknown to each other are most often found in physiological, cultural and social preferences apart from responses to name associations and sensory experiences.

That is how science explains it. Me? I think it’s just the fact that broken down to our very basics, we are all really related to one another and I, for one, take heart in that. It is a miracle of nature that should be cherished. So be more kind to each other, folks.

 

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Image: BK, Flickr

 

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WRITING CHRONICLES #05: Books and Food Cravings They Inspire

Via: Daily Prompt – Yellow

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The courtship between books and food is a long and withstanding one. It is the reason behind the ready success of book cafes; why poetry recitals are held in coffee shops; why Starbucks provides such a great number of power points to facilitate its author-patrons. It is why book clubs meet over wines and crudités, and authors mention different food elements in their stories. Here, I am not only talking about recipe books or stories with chef-characters.

Authors so often effectively explore food culture in their books because not only is food a requirement for survival but food habits is a telling glimpse into a character’s personality, background and even to a certain extent psychology. Little signs such as the way a character takes his coffee or the addition of hummus in the buffet at a party may add complementary or contrasting effects to the profile the author is trying to build. I recently read a book where the author elaborately used a variety of food elements in his world-building to set up the sexual symbolism that drove the base of the plot. Food can be present in stories as an active element as well as an inactive element, such as when a character bogged by emotional or physical stress just goes about the daily task of maintaining sustenance without any attention to what they are eating or the absence of food when a character starts to skip meals while grieving. Just as the infinite range of appetizing dishes available in this world, an author’s imagination can take flight in any direction they fancy with food.

As I was working on the manuscript of the current novel I am writing, where the protagonist is the owner of a popular pastry shop, I was considering what an integral part of books food is. I was thinking not only of how I wish to use food in developing the character, setting, and plot of my novel but also how I want my readers to be prompted by what they read into wanting to live it in their physical plane, i.e. I want my readers to want to grab that yellow butternut squash cupcake with the cheese frosting and experience the novel as they read. And as thoughts tend to do, mine trailed onto how certain books prompt my own food cravings. How reading a certain character eat something makes me want to taste it. How I have begun associating certain books with certain food in such a permanent way that the food dependency has now reversed and when I eat a particular dish, I am even reminded of that book.

The following are works of my favorite authors, writers whom I hope to emulate in my devotion to being a novelist, and the food cravings they inspire:  Read the rest of this entry »

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Being Brutal (05 min convoluted read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Automatic

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A few weeks ago I posted a status update on my personal Facebook page and received unprecedented numbers of ‘Likes’. I mean, really. I’m not the type of person who excites fandom. My posts are voraciously long while my views opinionated. Not a comfortable combination for many, especially those seeking cheap thrills. Yet, there I was – a person who makes inconsistent appearances on social media and receives generally single-digit engagements when I do condescend to leave a statement but suddenly, I am flooded with triple-digit numbers. While most people today would feel accomplished by such results, I took my usual route towards digesting any aberration within the realm of my cognizance – I questioned it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Pet People

Via: Daily Prompt – Filter

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We were never pet people. Ours was a family compassionate to animals when the situation dictated but never imagined that one day we would have a set among our ranks. However, in the spring of 2009, three little surprise visitors forever changed the scheme of our household as they crept into our hearts and buried their claws deep.

It all started in the month of May when a giant ginger tom kept sneaking into our guest room. Mom had been insisting there was a cat living under the guest bed but, having searched the premises and finding no four-legged critter, we dismissed it as a random incident. But the cat sightings continued and with increasing frequency.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Truth About Editing

Via: Daily Prompt – Simple

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Image: Nic McPhee, Flickr

As I mentioned in Sunday’s WRITING CHRONICLE, I’m taking an online course on writing fiction to learn to compose more structured literature. Last week, we learned about Developing Characters: detailing, often using ordinary words in uncommon ways, to create images and bring characters to life. This week, we learned about Editing: simplifying the details until only relevant materials remain in order to keep readers focused on the character. [Ouch.]  Read the rest of this entry »

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Superhuman

Via: Daily Prompt – Ten

 

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Image: PublicDomainPictures.net

 

When Alvin was born, the doctor counted, “Ten toes, eleven fingers.” A unilateral preaxial polydactyly affecting the right thumb, the nurse was instructed to fill in on his birth certificate form.

Alvin’s father wanted to have the extra thumb removed. The doctor confirmed it could be done without damage to the nerves. His mother opposed. She felt blessed that Alvin was born healthy. For any surface imperfections, they would battle negative discrimination together.

At home, Alvin felt none of the sting that came with being a human anomaly. His parents and elder sister showered him with all the love that was due a child. As he grew older, however, he started noticing disparities in the attention he received from people outside his family. Once, at the grocer’s, a boy had pointed his finger at Alvin and shouted, “Freak!” over and over again until the boy’s mother intervened. Alvin was too young to understand what freak meant but his mom explained it meant superhuman.

Superhuman. That was the word Alvin’s mom always used to explain away any prejudice measured at him. Though it did not keep him from noticing when the school sent his sister home for fighting with her classmates. His sister had whispered to their parents that she only fought because the other kids made fun of his thumb, but Alvin heard her anyway. By then he had come to ascertain there was something gravely wrong with his right hand. Yet when he approached his parents where they stood huddled with his sister to ask why the kids insisted on making fun of his thumb, his mother had confidently claimed it was because his thumb gave him superpowers and people always feared what they did not understand.

For awhile, Alvin believed he truly had superhuman abilities. He assumed it was still dormant and would be activated when the time was right. He waited and waited for that time to come. He did not mind waiting even though it meant he was not yet ready to go out and play with the neighborhood children without being bullied but he hoped he received his power before school started. Of course, it did not.  Read the rest of this entry »

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WEDNESDAY REFLECTIONS #04 – Jane Austen’s Persuasion starring Sally Hawkins, Alice Krige, Anthony Head and Rupert Penry-Jones

persuasion_2007_dvd_coverTitle     Persuasion (A BBC adaption of the Jane Austen novel of same name)

Starring     Sally Hawkins, Alice Krige, Anthony Head and Rupert Penry-Jones

Director     Adrian Shergold

Screenplay     Simon Burke

Genre     Romantic Satire, Drama

Release Date     January 13, 2007

Filming Location     Bath, Somerset, England

Parental Guidance     PG – General viewing, but parental discretion advised

                                                                              IMDB Rating     7.6

Synopsis: Anne’s (Sally Hawkin) life has been led by others. She lives with a narcissistic father, Sir Walter Elliot (Anthony Head), and a self-absorbed elder sister who leave her to handle all household responsibilities but give her none of the credit for it. She has a younger sister married off but who always calls for her ministrations whenever fancying herself ill. And her only confidant is her deceased mother’s best friend, Lady Russell (Alice Krige), who has only her “best interest” at heart but may love her a little too dearly. At twenty-eight, Anne has resigned herself to spinsterhood and obscurity when the return of a former paramour sends her heart once again aflutter. Once almost engaged to Fredrick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones), Anne’s love affair had been halted by Lady Russell’s advice on the unsuitability of their stations and connections in life. But Wentworth returns to their lives as an exalted Royal Navy captain who made a sizeable fortune serving the nation and Anne must eat crow. As a series of circumstances keep pushing the former lovers into each other’s paths, each struggle in their own way to be not affected. Anne does not believe she has another chance with Wentworth because she rightly discerns that he still blames her for being so easily influenced away from his proposal in the past. And then there is also the sudden entry of a distant cousin who is to eventually inherit her father’s baronetcy and who seems to fancy Anne. Any chance of reconciliation and rekindling affection between Anne and Wentworth, therefore, seems hopeless.

Experience: I always feel that whenever a Jane Austen novel is adapted into a film, people start comparing it to the epic 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. So I consciously switched off my parity tool because let’s face it – there will never be another flawless masterpiece like Pride and Prejudice or such a dedicated collection of cast and crew to turn a literary work into a 06-hour cinematic indulgence of an author’s genius. So with a deep breath and a mind as unbiased as possible, I sat down to watch Persuasion. For a 1.5-hour TV movie, it was a pretty good attempt to emulate and entertain. And not only because it had Austen’s clever storytelling style to fall back on.

Definitely, the strongest facet of the movie was its mechanics. The direction, the cinematographic techniques, the queueing of the scenes and music all swelled and dissipated to match the ethos of the story as it progressed. From the first scene where the camera circled Anne and followed her about as she rushed from room to room auditing items in preparation for the time when the Elliot family will move out to lease their home to strangers to that when she rushes all through Bath in search of Wentworth so she could tell him she accepts his proposal to that in the privacy of her room as she records in her diary her romantic success and secretly smiles into the camera to allow the audience to bask in her happiness, Burke and Shergold perfectly captures the protagonist. As to the protagonist herself, Hawkins may not have been my first choice for the role of Anne, a girl in her late twenty’s that has lost some of her bloom but still remains adequately pretty, but Hawkins manages to flirt with the camera in a subtle way that gives Anne life. While in the book, Anne’s character is more subtle, the movie-Anne does not suffer for the little boldness inspired by Hawkins.

Moreover, Hawkins manages to portray the drama that revolves around Anne’s character. She allows herself to be shuffled between her family members and is often led by Lady Russell’s advice, but it does not make her unobservant or unfeeling. She watches and notes her surroundings acutely but accepts her lot in life for the most part. But there are moments when she does not allow herself to be bid, moments where her logic prevails. This aspect of Anne’s character is well-turned out by Hawkins in the movie in the manner with which she moves. In the novel, Austen did not give the docile Anne much dialogue but Hawkins very intelligently trounces that challenge with her body language. Comparatively, Penry-Jones did not pick up on the subtlety of Austen’s depiction of Wentworth. Rarely do I say someone has underacted but Penry-Jones playing Wentworth is one of those times. I can only assume he did not read the novel, which for an Austen fan like me is unforgivable. However, he is handsome and just enough handsome to be adequately cast as Wentworth.

Another notable portrayal is of Sir Walter Elliot by Head. Now, I must admit I am a bit biased towards Head from his Buffy the Vampire Slayer days but, again, I tried not to be while watching the movie. I found Head to portray Sir Walter with just the right level of ridiculousness necessary to make him unlikeable. I initially thought Head was disappointing me with overacting until I remembered Sir Walter and the rest of the Elliot clan were meant to be comic relief. They are the characters that are the butt of Austen’s satirical wit. So, yes, when Head does literally huff and puff at the possibility of having to rent his family seat to people of “inferior birth” and potential “coarse countenance”, it is the required precedent.

The one character I felt that could have gotten more screen time was Lady Russell’s. Lady Russell plays an indispensable antithetical role to Anne-and-Wentworth’s relationship in the novel. More so than the fact that she openly discourages Anne from pursuing a relationship with Wentworth (in the past and present), it is the nature of her influence, the subtlety that is wrought in her relationship with Anne, that makes Lady Russell a centrifugal force in Anne’s actions in abandoning her desires, and later in her polite decline to subjugate. While Anne’s tendency to be persuaded to do the biddings of her family members is the surface manifestation of her character, it is Lady Russell’s persuasiveness, albeit, in good faith that does the pertinent harm to Anne’s happiness. It is especially more disappointing Lady Russell’s character is not more explored in the movie because Krige has proven in past performance that she is able to deliver the necessary gravitas for such a role.

The other smaller parts are played relatively well and relevantly ensures the smooth flow of the plot depiction. In particular, the characters of Mary (Amanda Hale), Anne’s younger extracting and fretful sister, and Charles Musgrove (Sam Hazeldine), Mary’s husband and Anne’s once upon a time admirer, are performed suitably well. Interestingly enough, the role of William Elliot (Tobias Menzies), the distant cousin who aims to sweep Anne off her feet, is played better than one would expect. The novel mostly portrays Mr. Elliot’s character via the grapevine, yet Menzies brought out the character with mastery.

Recommendation: If you haven’t seen this movie yet, do. If you are a Jane Austen fan, do it right now! After BBC’s 1995 versions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility [too many ‘and’s but you’ll figure it out], I found this to be the next best Austen rendering.

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Daily Prompt: After “Devastation” (1 min read)

Via: Daily Prompt – Devastation

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She allowed the foamy tides of the ocean to invade her patch of the sand, gradually stealing the ground from beneath her with their assaults. The rush of water rolling through the loose dirt tickled her soles in further attempts to make her lose her foothold. She dug in her heels, her toes. Years of being knocked to the linoleum had earned her, at least, that much grit.

After devastation, there was only freedom.

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Women’s March and DJT

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Image: Wikimedia

 

Via: Daily Prompt – Oversight

A few days late, I know, but the thought just occurred to me [or rather I was just prompted, heh heh].

 

Bear with my reaching wordplay here…

International Women’s Day is on the 8th of March every year. But I feel as though this year, IWD came a bit early when women everywhere – as in on a global scale – were compelled to march out and storm up a hefty protest in solidarity of sisterhood in January. And all because a certain somebody couldn’t keep his greedy paws off of the grandest chair in the USA. An oversight on his part, if I ever witnessed one. But then, just add it to the basket full of other examples of his thoughtlessness.

A veritable powwow.

Yet, I feel like we need to thank DJT for forcing this supposed inconvenience upon our annual schedule. While we ladies really do like to get together and take a moment every year on IWD to pat each other on the back for the long we have come from the days when our ancestors fought for their suffrage, rarely have issues activated female solidarity in such ranks. A couple of my favorite such scenarios are as follows:

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Image: Mark Dixon, Flickr

Women’s March on Versailles of 1789

 

On the morning of October 05, 1789, Women took to the marketplace of Paris to protest high prices of food and scarcity of bread. It was one of the earliest and more notable uprisings in the French Revolution. In fact, it led to the famous storming of the Palace of Versailles that toppled King Louis XVI.

Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913

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Image: Adam Cuerden, Wikimedia

Officially dubbed Woman Suffrage Procession, the parade on March 03, 1913 drew thousands of suffragists to Washington D.C. on the morning prior President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in protest of women’s exclusion in the U.S. political system. While pre-event sentiments were largely hostile, an outbreak of assaults upon the participants at the procession produced quite the opposite effects with a nation left in disgrace, adding fuel to the fire in support of the movement. In fact, apart from keeping African American women segregated to follow in the line, the event scored a grand victory for women’s liberation.

So…

It appears that when we women get together, things really do get moved along in the right direction. I say we stick to the streets then.

 

I hope this post motivates. I would love some feedback. Better yet, why don’t you drop me a line in the comment section on any particular women’s movement that really inspires you.

 

 

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