Poems : Haiku

Feeling inspired, I wrote these :

 

(1)  Outside I am calm,

Inside butterflies abound,

Waiting to emerge.

 

(2)  Alone and lonely?

Read a book, play the piano

Or watch a movie.

 

(3)  Take a good deep breath,

Anxieties have anxieties,

Relax to stay calm.

 

(4)  Once upon a time,

Being a concert pianist

Was my biggest dream.

 

(5)  What is in a song?

Chords, key change and harmony

With a nice melody.

 

(6)  What is happiness?

It is a clean bill of health

right up to the end.

 

(7)  Sudoku is fun;

The puzzle that changed the world

Knows no boundaries.

 

(8)  Scrabble’s a delight

To fans young and old alike;

Nothing’s quite like it.

 

(9)  Music calms the soul;

Words and numbers fill the brain;

Love is above all.

 

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Book : All The Words Are Yours

This book of Haiku on love by Tyler Knott Gregson is the result of six years and more than two thousand heartfelt poems posted online.

Traditionally, haiku are about the natural world. While some in the book do not have a seasonal or natural theme, Gregson believes there is no force more natural, or fully unexplored, than love. Here, he challenges himself to notice the smaller, subtler manifestations of the emotion.

Some examples are:

(1)  We are a sad song

Sung in a beautiful voice

Haunting but hopeful.

(2)  Houses are not homes,

We’re not made of bricks and stones,

Home is you and me.

(3)  Living is a choice

And we must make it each day

The moment we wake.

(4)  Let’s grow like the trees

So when we fall like the leaves

None will question us.

(5)  Love me as I am,

See me for who I will be,

Forgive who I was.

(6)  I want to be loved

As intensely as I love

With the same passion.

(7)  You are more than words,

And the letters that make them,

You are poetry.

 

Such beautiful words!

Book : Pimp My Walker

The full title of this adorable little book by Mike Slosberg is Pimp My Walker : The Official Book Of Old Age Haiku. It contains 73 Haiku poems that celebrate the irony, the humour, the rewards and the occasional unhappy aspects of aging.

Writing Haiku poems is a quick and interesting way of expressing our emotions, feelings, attitudes and foibles. Words are fun to play around with. Old age can be depicted as funny, sad, ironic, painful, satisfying, frustrating or challenging and hopefully filled with laughter.

Two poems in this collection I’m particularly fond of are:

(1) Love retirement:

Going to the movies, alone

In the afternoon.

(2) Money’s got to last

As long as me. But if it

Doesn’t … do I die?

Movie : Home Wrecker (DVD, 2010)

This movie tells of the chaos a sinister character brings to the home of a newly married couple. If it is supposed to be scary, then it has failed; the plot is predictable, and the music is a lot of trumpety and metal stuff which do not contribute to the atmosphere.

Jen and Mitch are newlyweds who are mired in debt – student loans and mortgage loans. It is a bit weird that they would choose to buy a big double-storey house with a huge garden, garage, porch and swimming pool. On top of this, they invite Mitch’s best friend Danny to live with them. And Danny gets his new girlfriend Blair to move in too.

At every opportunity, Blair blantantly seduces Mitch – whether it’s because he has had a busy day at the hospital where he interns, or is upset at losing a patient, or because he has had a little tiff with Jen, or simply because Jen is not around.

Not surprisingly, Blair kills Danny in the bath tub by dropping a wired portable radio into the water. Yet she feigns sadness for this ‘unexpected’ death and tells Mitch she wants to continue to stay in the house. A mystery woman appears at the funeral and identifies herself as someone who has worked for the family whose children were murdered by Blair while under her care.

This woman pays an impromptu visit to Blair alone but ends up being killed. When Mitch returns home unexpectedly early, he is attacked by Blair when he rebuffs her seduction. Jen returns to an empty house and starts to search for Mitch but is also attacked by Blair. After several struggles, Blair ends up dead and Jen finds Mitch alive in the swimming pool. The police zoom in and the movie ends.

How melodramatic.

Movie : Temple Grandin (DVD)

This biopic, based on the books Emergence by Temple Grandin and Margaret Scarcaio and Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin opens with Claire Danes (the lead actress) declaring:

My name is Temple Grandin and I’m not like other people. I think in pictures and I connect them.

Then the opening credits came on. I noted that Alex Wurman was in charge of the music but I became so engrossed with the rest of the story that I didn’t pay any more attention to the music!

The story starts with Temple arriving at her aunt’s ranch in Arizona in 1966. Temple is autistic, and Danes did a really good job portraying this. (Having taught an autistic boy before, I could recognise all the gestures and mannerisms as realistic.) For example, to make sure that she knows the room is allocated to her, her aunt has to write “Temple’s Room” on the door (but Temple herself added the word “Grandin”) but when one day the housekeeper accidentally let it fall off, Temple becomes agitated and gets a panic attack.

Autistic people are also particularly observant. Temple is able to separate all the cutlery items and categorise them neatly in the kitchen drawer when neither her aunt nor her uncle has been able to do so all these years. She also knows when the horse is looking (“by their ears”).

Temple did not want to attend college because of “People. I don’t uncerstand people. At least some of the people in schoool know I don’t understand them and some of them are my friends anyway. Girls get goofy over boys. they talk about silly pop groups and clothes and say things like “You are so grumpy” when I’m happy.”

Another characteristic of autistic people is that they are highly intelligent and precise. Soon after arriving at the ranch, Temple invents a brass bell which would open the gate so that the driver/passenger need not get out of the car to push it open. Her mother is pleasantly surprised to see a sign that reads: “Pull Brass Rod/ Gate Opens/ You have 47 seconds to drive through/ TG” which Uncle Mike declares: “Ain’t that the darndest thing? all these years Ann’s been bugging me, like I could ever come up with that!” Aunt Ann also says: “You won’t believe the things she’s fixed. She’s been wonderful with the cattle,” and “She has set her mind on staying.”

At this point in the movie, we get a flash back to when Temple was only 4 years old. She still had no speech at that age and would often rip things up, so her mother took her to a doctor who suggested putting her in an institution as autism could never be cured. But the mother refused, as Temple “was a perfectly normal baby and then she changed. We have another child and she is not like this.” The mother painstakingly taught Temple to read.

When Temple was in Boarding School New Hampshire in 1962, she had to change school mid-term because she had been expelled for hitting another child with a book. I could understand the agony of her mum when she told the principal: “I have never seen her strike unless she’s been provoked. And other children had taunted her and bullied her constantly. They make fun of her because she doesn’t understand their jokes. She spins to comfort herself. She talks fast, often too fast, and she talks repetitively, and then the children called her a tape recorder. Then she’ll go into a panic attack, and then they make fun of that too. If it isn’t good enough, it isn’t good enough. but you can’t imagine the chaos, the upheaval, the tantrums and the pain. Her pain.” Only the new school’s Science teacher, who once worked with NASA, thinks that mum is terrific, and tells her “As a parent, you want to protect her. But at some point, she’s going to hit life head on. And trust me, we know how different she is.”

Temple has an amazing mind. When the Science teacher asks, “Can you bring everything you see in your mind?”, she immediately responds “Sure!” “Even if it’s an everyday object like, say, shoes?” “I see all shoes I’ve worn, my mother’s and other people I’ve met. And you have three pairs, one needs a new heel. And I see the newspaper ads and TV ads and… Can’t you?”

Some of her teachers disagree: “Try teaching her Algebra. Or French. She’s hopeless.” This is because Temple thinks in pictures. That’s why she does so well when she can see the things that are discussed, like biology. Or shop. Those are concrete things. But language or algebra? It’s just gibberish to her. She’s an amazing visual thinker. Eventually this Science teacher convinces Temple to go to college by telling her to “think of it as a door – a door that’s going to open up a whole new world for you. and all you need to do is decide to go through it.”

At Franklin Pierce College in 1966, Temple finally has a blind girl to be her roommate and they become fast freinds, having a lot in common, such as: (TG- “Do you remember a lot of voices?”; Girl- “Of course, I see through sounds. But I remember the sound of a lot of places too.” TG- “We’re the same. Only you see sounds and I have pictures.”) Temple later tells her: “Other people will be overwhelmed by what they are seeing. But you are the only one who could feel and sense what I was trying to accomplish. I know there are a lot of things I can’t understand but I still want my life to have meaning.”

In 1970, Temple is the only female graduate student at Scottsdale, Arizona State. On her first day, she already decides to do research on cow’s mooing and write a thesis on “Agitation in Cattle”. By 1975, Temple has obtained a Master of Science in Animal Science at Bronxville, New York, and produced two articles in The Arizona Farmer-Ranchman : (1) On good moos and bad moos and (2) On head restraints in cattle chutes and killing pens.

At the National Autism Convention in 1981, Temple explains to the people gathered there that “Most autistic people are very sensitive to sounds and colours. Over-stimulation hurts. People talking too much at once can cause us to panic.” Then someone in the audience asks, “How did you get cured?” Temple’s reply is touching and heart-warming: “Well, I am not cured. I’ll always be autistic. My mother refused to believe I wouldn’t speak. And when I learned to speak, she made me go to school. And in school and at home, manners and rules are really important. They were poured into me. I was lucky. All these things worked for me. Everyone worked hard to make sure I was engaged. They knew I was different but was not less. I had a gift. I could see the world in a new way. I could see details that most people are blind to. My mother pushed me to become self-confident. I worked summers at my aunt’s ranch. I went to boarding school and college and those things. Those things were uncomfortable for me at first but they helped me to open doors to new worlds.”

Today, Temple Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University and lectures worldwide on autism and animal handling. In North America, over half the cattle are handled in humane systems she has designed.

Book : Loving Amy

I was instantly attracted to this book, Loving Amy : A Mother’s Story by Janis Winehouse because I wanted to find out why she (Janis) had so little screen time in the biopic ‘Amy’ I watched at the cinema recently. I did not get an answer but I learnt a few more things about Amy.

From the movie, I had the impression that Amy was not very close to her mother. I was wrong. Amy would often cling to her mother, even as an adult. She wrote little notes for her mother, some of which were reproduced in the book.

After reading the book, I got a better insight into Amy’s growing up years, her personality, her feelings of insecurity and depression, despite her tremendous gift and talent, and her addiction and growing dependency on hard drugs and alcohol which eventually killed her.

The only thing in common between the movie and the book is that Blake (Amy’s husband) was a great (negative) influence on Amy. If Amy never met Blake, would she still be alive today? Maybe not, since Blake could not be held solely responsible for her behaviour and addiction.

From the book, I learnt that Amy lacked self-confidence and had low esteem, and chose to hide her insecurities behind drugs and alcohol. I was shocked to read that she regularly cut herself. She was bulimic and had problems with her hormones. I was not surprised that she had many tattoos but I wondered why she had ‘Blake’ (above her leftbreast) and ‘Daddy’s girl’ (on her upper left arm) tattooed but not ‘mummy’ anywhere.

The last words Amy said to her mother were : “I sorry mummy, I love you mummy.” It was such a great shock for Janis to find out the very next morning that Amy had died and she “couldn’t make sense of anything. I sat suspended in time, the life draining away from me”. Amy was 27, “exactly the same age I was on the night I gave birth to her”. Yet “There were no tears. All of my energy went into holding myself up in the face of the shock. In spite of everythin that Amy had been through, I couldn’t have been less prepared for this day”.

 

 

Movie : Staying Alive (DVD, 1983)

What enticed me to pick up this DVD was the fact that it featured music by The Bee Gees, one of my favourite groups.

John Travolta played Tony Manero, a wannabe dancer who went from audition to audition and got rejected so often that it became a ‘hobby’. He tried to get into TV or Broadway but ended up becoming a bartender besides being a teacher at a dance school to make ends meet.

The plot is thin, but there are plenty of dance sequences and music and songs. The only messages put across are: “Everybody uses everybody; don’t they?” and “When you step up in front of the audience, you’re not one of them. You dance for them, not for  yourself.”

I love all the songs written, produced  and sung by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb: “The Woman in You”, “I Love You Too Much”, “Breakout”, “Someone Belonging to Someone” “Life Goes On” and “Staying Alive”. My favourite is “Someone Belonging to Someone”, though I think “Staying Alive” is generally more popular. I wonder why neither won any prize, like the Oscar or Grammy.

Additional music and score were adapted by Johnny Mandel, and there were lots of lovely ones: “Devils and Seducers”, “Far From Over”, “Moody Girl”, “Finding Out The Hard Way”, “Look Out For Number One”, “Royale Theatre Show”, “Hope We Never Change”, “Waking Up”, “I’m Never Gonna Give You Up”, “(We Dance) So Close to The Fire” and “The Winning End”.

I can’t imagine John Travolta in a role like Tony Manero now.