Monthly Archives: April 2010

Song by Adrienne Rich

You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning


Tennessee Williams 1911 – 1983 – NYT

Tennessee Williams, author of more than 24 full-length plays, including ”The Glass Menagerie,” ”A Streetcar Named Desire,” ”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” – the latter two won Pulitzer Prizes – and ”The Night of the Iguana,” had a profound effect on the American theater and on American playwrights and actors. He wrote with deep sympathy and expansive humor about outcasts in our society. Though his images were often violent, he was a poet of the human heart.

His works, which are among the most popular plays of our time, continue to provide a rich reservoir of acting challenges. Among the actors celebrated in Williams roles were Laurette Taylor in ”The Glass Menagerie”; Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy in ”A Streetcar Named Desire” (and Vivien Leigh in the movie version), and Burl Ives in ”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

”The Glass Menagerie,” his first success, was his ”memory play.” Many of his other plays were his nightmares. Although seldom intentionally autobiographical, the plays were almost all intensely personal — torn from his own private anguishes and anxieties.

He once described his sister’s room in the family home in St. Louis, with her collection of glass figures, as representing ”all the softest emotions that belong to recollection of things past.” But, he remembered, outside the room was an alley in which, nightly, dogs destroyed cats.

Mr. Williams’s work, which was unequaled in passion and imagination by any of his contemporaries’ works, was a barrage of conflicts, of the blackest horrors offset by purity. Perhaps his greatest character, Blanche Du Bois, the heroine of ”Streetcar,” has been described as a tigress and a moth, and, as Mr. Williams created her, there was no contradiction. — From the obituary by Mel Gussow, February 26, 1983.

“When I first saw you I fell in love and you smiled because you knew.” – William Shakespeare

I remember this song from a movie I once watched with D. I remember that when the soundtrack played, we were both very silent for the whole length of the song, and then, a thousand thoughts had ran through my mind. It still is, when I am with people that my soul is at rest with – that there are sometimes the knowing silences – we are sharing, caressing each other’s thoughts while impressing on ourselves the selfish other worlds that we keep within ourselves- and when we return, at the end of the silence – we are so awakened by the intensity of the moment, and the other gives me nothing but a knowing, secret smile. Dark, secret desires from our solitude, but there is the fragility of other things to think about when we return back to life.

R shared of this Arab-esque moment too once, with me and S, and how she returned to reality and the world too fast. We are afraid to fall into the silences, and yet when they come, there is an endearing obsessive quality about them – the way one is in the middle of a game – in the intensity to continue and throw and risk everything in that moment. It is selfish, but also ardently precious and beautiful.

R and I are like that – we are eternally falling in and out of love with other people,but so secretly and nonchalantly, that they may never know.

I found an old photograph of when I played Blanche Dubois from Tennessee William’s A Streetcar named Desire. R and I, R was my Mitch. I loved being Blanche, her manipulative, vulnerable ways, the ways to play with light in the setting, the darkness of the underlying subtle denouements, the screeching of the train rails – Tennessee Williams remains one of my favourite and most respected playwrights of all time, and I still have fond memories of his plays – especially Streetcar named Desire and The Glass Menagerie.

BLANCHE. You love her very much, don’t you?


BLANCHE. I think you have a great capacity for devotion. You will be lonely when she passes on, won’t you? [Mitch clears his throat and nods] I understand what that is.

MITCH. To be lonely?

BLANCHE. I loved someone, too, and the person I loved I lost.

MITCH. Dead? [She crosses to the window and sits on the sill, looking out. She pours herself another drink] A man?

BLANCHE. He was a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl. When I was sixteen, I made the discovery — love. All at once and much, much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me. But I was unlucky. Deluded. There was something different about the boy, a nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn’t like a man’s, although he wasn’t the least bit effeminate looking — still — that thing was there … He came to me for help. I didn’t know that. I didn’t find out anything till after our marriage when we’d run away and come back and all I knew was I’d failed him in some mysterious way and wasn’t able to give the help he needed but couldn’t speak of! He was in the quicksands and clutching at me — but I wasn’t holding him out, I was slipping in with him! I didn’t know that. I didn’t know anything except I loved him unendurably but without being able to help him or help myself. Then I found out. In the worst of all possible ways. By coming suddenly into a room that I thought was empty — which wasn’t empty, but had two people in it … the boy I had married and an older man who had been his friend for years …

[A locomotive is heard approaching outside. She claps her hands to her ears and crouches over. The headlight of the locomotive glares into the room as it thunders past. As the noise recedes she straightens slowly and continues speaking.]

Afterward we pretended that nothing had been discovered. Yes, the three of us drove out to Moon Lake Casino, very drunk and laughing all the way.

[Polka music sounds, in a minor key faint with distance]

We danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly, in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ran out of the casino. A few moments later — a shot!

[The polka stops abruptly. Blanche rises stiffly. Then, the polka resumes in a major key]

I ran out — all did! — all ran and gathered about the terrible thing at the edge of the lake! I couldn’t get near for the crowding. Then somebody caught my arm. “Don’t go any closer! Come back! You don’t want to see!” See? See what! Then I heard voices say — Allan! Allan! The Grey boy! He’d stuck the revolver into his mouth, and fired — so that the back of his head had been — blown away!

[She sways and covers her face]

It was because — on the dance floor — unable to stop myself — I’d suddenly said — “I saw! I know! You disgust me …” And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this — kitchen — candle …

[Mitch gets up awkwardly and moves toward her a little. The polka music increases. Mitch stands beside her]

MITCH. [drawing her slowly into his arms] You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be — you and me, Blanche?

[She stares at him vacantly for a moment. Then with a soft cry huddles in his embrace. She makes a sobbing effort to speak but the words won’t come. He kisses her forehead and her eyes and finally her lips. The polka tune fades out. Her breath is drawn and released in long, grateful sobs]

I want to dance the Varsouviana again.

Sometimes…there’s God…so quickly!

I love the pure beastiality of this moment. One of the finest cinematic moments of all time – and Marlon Brando was just awesome.

In many ways the veneer of Blanche is so similar to mine own – and it may be that Nat King Cole’s ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ is a song deservedly mine as it was hers.

Cheers to all the women who read this blog and know exactly what I mean.


And on a lighter note…yes I still rely on the kindness of strangers:

Afternoon cakes, a gift from my dearest SH, from Patisserie. We loved the cakes so much, and I indulged especially in a darling blueberry confectionary.

The last week … has been unforgettable, to say the least. I went on exploratory journeys with JRV and old friends…walking the streets late in the night singing for supper…having lamb moussaka in random Turkish restaurants, JRV recounting Persian food in Germany. Walking under the rain with J and co. in City Hall, the quiet light of old hotels under the rain, stories of little Korean girls who fall in love with J, finding out what Orchard Towers is (I have lived in naivety in the past 23 years yes,), japanese rainbow salmon/yellowtail and Dir En Grey becoming a centerpiece for a hunger song on the third floor of Raffles City, girl techno in the bubbly happy darkness next to a war memorial, having dinner with the lovely K where we shared about love and loli, an incredible and very, very epic Black Alice tea party coupled with almost thirty girls, in the car with ZT talking about Fanny Brawne and John Keats, falling asleep to JRV’s last message.

How can I even start.

(from WH’s album, my photos have not been processed yet):

Will share more about the tea party next time. A thousand things to finish – lots of work and other administrative matters.

When I finally get my car…I want something like T’s Honda Civic Type-R! It was gorgeous.

I am so happy and weary- but a good state to be in.

I wish I could finish my insider trading/ margin calls cases soon before June sets in – to finish all my cases on hand before I go for the bar course.

I’m sorry to all my law juniors and literature tutees that I may not have reverted to all your recent essay queries yet! Things have been so busy! I’ll try to be back and will answer each and every of your messages soon. ^-^

The red roses and still thriving, and are the first thing I see in the morning. Thank you.

I am different from you Beansprouts, flowers keep me alive. Of sorts. (I’ll let an orange tulip take the brunt of your legal rebuttal)

Book Exchange!

Thank you for your support thus far with this blog, sharing your comments, and offering good reads. I am glad to have heard from you in the past few months since I started, and hope this blog will continue in time too (and not be abruptly terminated by circumstance like the previous ill-fated blogs I had previously set up.

Just as something special, J & I are starting a sort of blogging book exchange, with people all around the world – here’s how it works.

If you are interested in exchanging a book with me, (or sharing your own book even, as some have shared in the past), please leave me a comment with your email (which will be screened as usual) and I will write back from my email separately. In your comment, please share what kind of books/poetry/literature panders to your taste, your favourite authors and genres, and anything you would like to share about yourself. Please leave also your address (or if you prefer, to send only when I email you back). You can even leave me any particular requests eg. I only like books with black book covers, or authors whose surnames begin with an S and peculiar habits like that.

We will then send each other a secret recommended book by post… a book exchange across the world!~ Isn’t it exciting? Of course, locals are welcome to trade books with me too.

Do drop me a message then if you would like to participate in our book exchange! (Old friends welcome too…even you, Beansprouts)

It doesn’t even have to be literature/ fiction but uh…I might not be able to read your math textbook on econometrics…0.0

Asparagus, cheese, and other sinful things

Foodgawker ( how can you do this to me.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (David Michaelis) Review by AB

“If somebody reads my strip every day, they’ll know me for sure—they’ll know exactly what I am,” Charles Schulz once said. Born on this date in 1922, Charles Schulz has been in the news again recently thanks to David Michaelis’ book Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography and a recent PBS American Masters’ television special following the same tact as Michaelis’ book. Both the book and the special take the 17,897 comic strips of Peanuts, all drawn and written entirely by Schulz himself, as Schulz’s soul itself, bared for all the world to see and interpret. Just as Lucy (above) herself would dole out a nickel’s worth of psychoanalysis to good old Charlie Brown now and then, Michaelis takes Schulz’s words that “A normal person couldn’t do it” literally.

Charles Schulz was literally born into comics. The newborn future cartoonist was barely days old before a relative suggested calling him “Spark Plug” after a horse featured in the popular comic strip Barney Google. The name, later shortened to “Sparky,” stuck for the rest of his life. Michaelis excels in capturing the pervasive cultural power of the comics pages at this time. “The power of syndication derived from the simultaneity and range with which the individual cartoonist could broadcast an idea,” he writes. “Such glamour as resided in the business lay in the major cartoonists’ image as regular guys, Cinderella spokesmen for the common man, who happened to be earning salaries greater than that of the president of the United States.” After sports and the movies, cartooning stood as the “dream job” of boys of Sparky’s generation of all walks of life, including figures such as the novelist John Updike and the poet Richard Wilbur. Mutt and Jeff, Krazy Kat, Gasoline Alley, and other strips created a world of imagination otherwise impossible for a segment of American society. Through Peanuts, Schulz would come to dominate and actually redefine that world.

Peppering his text with strips illustrating different moments in Schulz’s life, Michaelis shows just how autobiographically Schulz wrote. To weed through nearly eighteen thousand strips and connect the biographical dots between art and life so well testifies to Michaelis’ knowledge of the subject. When Michaelis first relates how Schulz’s dying mother said goodbye to him with the words “We’ll probably never see each other again” and then shows how Schulz placed those same words in the mouth of Marcie speaking to Peppermint Patty, my jaw literally dropped. Later, Michaelis reveals Schroeder (above) as Schulz’s workaholic doppelganger, replacing cartooning with piano playing. Schroeder’s coldness towards Lucy stands in for Schulz’s distance from his first wife as their marriage disintegrated. The danger of Michaelis’ book is that you learn too much. Each character represents a segment of Schulz’s psyche, yet his was such a sad, dysfunctional existence that each of these characters loses some of their charm by association.

In a case of murdering to dissect, knowing such personal knowledge detracts rather than adds to the Peanuts experience. I’m not sure I can ever read a Peanuts cartoon the same way again. The appeal of Schulz’s work was its visual simplicity and emotional universality. Peanuts portrayed children visually but adults emotionally. If we knew more about Shakespeare, for example, would his works seem as universal, or would they, too, fall prey to the intentional fallacy of characters standing in for too real equivalents in the author’s life? The sheer weight of detail that Michaelis compiles here buries the spirit of Peanuts as a commonly lived experience and replaces Charlie Brown as everyman with Charlie Brown as simply Sparky.

Michaelis does, however, manage to portray the cultural power of Peanuts. “Peanuts spoke directly to a student generation absorbed in irony and tension, paradox and ambiguity,” he writes. “When Charlie Brown first confessed, ‘I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel,’ he spoke to Eisenhower’s America, especially for that generation of solemn, cynical college students—the last to grow up, as Schulz and his contemporaries had, without television, who read Charlie Brown’s utterances as existential statements about the human condition.” Watershed moments such as the first Peanuts television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas recover some of the impact lost over the years. (Above, a scene from the special in which Charlie Brown expresses to Linus his conflicted feelings on the commercialized holiday.) In 1965, half of America watched Linus first speak the words of Saint Luke, an overtly (and wholly sincere) religious statement that seems impossible today.

Schulz himself always downplayed his ability and influence. “I’ll never be Andrew Wyeth!” he often lamented, even after becoming the first cartoonist honored with a retrospective at the Louvre. Comparisons between Peanuts and modern art seem ridiculous until you place the gestures of Schulz next to those of the late Picasso, whose dove of peace suddenly bears a passing resemblance to Woodstock. Thanks to the work of Schulz, several generations of cartooning show his influence, from Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, and For Better or for Worse to The Simpsons, South Park, and The Family Guy. In his final years, Schulz’ work suffered as his health declined. Many fans (myself included) stopped reading his work, growing bored with the repetition inevitable after 50 years of writing. Schulz died on February 12, 2000, the day before his final Peanuts strip was scheduled to appear, as if his existence itself hinged on publication. If nothing else, Michaelis’ biography will remind us of what Schulz’s Peanuts once meant, before the merchandizing and illness transformed it into something soft and comfortable. The discomfort of Schulz’s life as told in his art belongs to all of us, odd as that may seem, and we should all find comfort in that thought.

– From AB

I’m a big Schroeders and Peanuts fan. (Bigger than Beansprouts, because I actually want to marry Schroeders when I grow up). So reading this article was a real pleasure. Thanks, Bob!

“I’ve cried, and you’d think I’d be better for it, but the sadness just sleeps, and it stays in my spine for the rest of my life.” –The City Has Sex, by Bright Eyes

Recently JC commented I flummox between neurotic happiness/ sadness so much on this forum. I thought about it, and maybe I just happen to write in those loose moments. But the moment I happen to have something to hold on to, they seem to scatter away – dandelions.

Some work unhappiness again. Sometimes I get so mad at myself the sadness chokes up inside and returns in little peeking silver fishes whenever I do anything else in a lonely weekend. My reading. My writing. My bathing the cat. I was thinking of doing other things, and going on one of those escapist adventures, but I knew sort of that the discipline of studying was in order, and recently have tried hard not to be involved in any reading, so that I could concentrate on the finance examinations.

I talked with Irving who came back over the weekend, who speaks of walking dazed into a surrealist sort of art hovel (Irv: Where was this again? Strasbourg?) where the artist spoke of objects coming to life in a different way in an unexpected environment, like apples in a faded church, furniture in a forest. The gleams of thought dazzled in my mind for a moment – I thought of the way the light would hit the blood red apples in a church – and it was beautiful. I love the way Irving talked about his frustration of little boys, which brought to mind the boy in the Italian movie, Life is Beautiful (stomping his feet in his insistence not to have a bath).

In the middle of the week, WS confided that when stressed by work (in a true lawyerly habit), WS watches Audrey Hepburn movies. I leaned forward in expectation, wondering if, WS could be one of us. When WS spoke of his favourite movies – Roman Holiday, When It Sizzles (or something like that), knew the modern Sabrina and understood what I meant of the scene when Sabrina steps out into the street with her newly coiffeured hairdo – when WS understood the martini scene in All About Eve – I knew then I had found ‘one of us’ – and it was a little glimmer of pleasure. I really enjoyed that conversation – it was like recounting something familiar. WS has been with me since the near beginnings of my public blogging habit of Contredanse (though he has been excepted from this one), and so it was a present/past sort of lingering dinner conversation. He does not agree with French music/films the way I do, but we share a penchant for our Italian film favourites. This is the manner of afternoon conversations – we match favourites like jigsaw puzzle pieces. I regret I do not always bring stability to a conversation.

I wish I could have that feeling – of coming into alive – of walking on the streets with a dazed array and memory of lights in my mind – wearing a cupcake necklace – leaving the cat at the door – carrying Sontag- afternoon cafe- scones and cream tea. I don’t know what is keeping me a hermit. A little unhappiness gathers like a pool within me – I don’t know if you understand what this means, Beansprouts, because I know for you, you would just carry on walking.

I am jealous / I am possessive / I am so many things / I think of Emily Dickinson wanting to write all her thoughts in one page / I think of Hans Christian’s accountant putting on his magical galoshes and transforming into a poet and visiting the Middle Ages feeling very confused. I am often the one classified as ‘vague’ – because I don’t really pen down my exact emotions and the root of these thoughts (it is a public forum for a reason), but strangely even for the people I love, I am throwing apples, but they are unable to catch the underlying words. I don’t think I will, even as a lawyer, ever be able to say how I really feel.

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” — Jack Kerouac

My dad sent me this picture below, apparently there are some creepy owners taking to painting their cats. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a temptation, but regardless the cats below look slightly lost and Wiccan in their crescents.

There were some other photographs but hopefully you feel sorry for the above two already, ha ha!

Before I stopped my reading, this was one of the last poems I came across – a little goodbye till the next entry.

“Every Day You Play”
By Pablo Neruda

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.