Goodbye To You

 

The falling raindrops,

The withering flowers,

Remind me of what you said:

Love between us has died.

I’m now left alone

To entertain sorrow

With part of my heart missing

And betraying myself.

I’m sure you’re aware

That my love is too deep;

I have to be brave or mad

To say goodbye to you.

Cold and lovely,

My final indulgence

Is to ignore everything

So long as you’re happy.

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Loving

This 2016 film is based on the documentary “The Loving Story” by Nancy Buirski.

The film starts with Mildred (Ruth Negga) telling Richard (Joel Edgerton) that she’s pregnant. This was in Virginia in 1958. Richard immediately bought a whole acre of land to build a house for them and their family, and proposed marriage. They were married in Washington.

One night, the Deputy Sheriff and his men went to their house in the middle of the night, arrested them and locked them up. Their sentence was suspended for 25 years, with the condition that they must move away. With the help of a young lawyer Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll), the Supreme Court made the prohibition of marriage based on race unconstitutional by stating that marriage is an inherent right. This paved the way for future inter-racial marriages in America.

The film follows the real life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, but it is also a story about humanity and love in the truest sense. There are so many things in the story: their lives and their personalities. There’s quite a fair bit of silences and deceptively simple scenes, but they’re really complex: for example, how the courtroom drama affected both of them and their three (very cute, I may add) children. Witnessing their quiet fortitude and the slow-burning menace, we get to see the larger context. The Lovings are a symbol of how good we can be and the better part of ourselves.

I’m not sure if this film was shown in Singapore, but I’m sure it was well-received in America (or it should have been) because the story of Mildred and Richard changed American history. They were married in 1958, when inter-racial marriages were a felony, against the law. There was a huge social uproar with the marching and lynching (shown in archival footages). The case took nine years, and they have become the heroes for inter-racial marriages in America. It connects race, marriage equality and equality in general. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is love. Love can change the world.

I especially like the song Is Everything All Right by Earl King (at the early part of the story when construction of the house was taking place) and Loving by Ben Nichols (during the end credits). There are more than half a dozen others, all equally appropriately used to enhance the atmosphere and mood. The photo of Richard and Mildred Loving taken in 1965  and the one from a 1966 Life Magazine show that the filmakers really put in a lot of effort in making everything look authentic.

A Dream Within A Dream

 

In the evenings,

In the nights,

In my dreams –

Everything’s a blank.

The sky’s empty,

There’s no smile;

I feel sad,

But I can’t let go.

What’s love? What’s hate?

Win the world,

Love your love.

Has it been worth it?

Struggles, hardships

And longing –

Who’s in the

Dream within a dream?

The Cooked Seed

 

This memoir is written by Anchee Min in 2013, a sequel to Red Azalea, her first memoir (about growing up in China during the violent trauma of the Cultural Revolution) which I read about 20 years ago.

This memoir is written at the urging of her daughter Lauryann, to whom she dedicates the book.

The story begins on 31 August 1984, when Anchee is about to land in Chicago. She was considered a “cooked seed” (meaning, no chance to sprout) in China. She also wrote about her memories of China, her good friend Chen Chong (better known as Joan Chen) since the days in Shanghai and her mother’s sister who lives in Singapore. She writes about the impact learning about pop music, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Prince, french fries, ketchup, the Virgin, Mary and Madonna, Michigan Avenue, Chicago Bears, going underground and illegal alien have on her.

In the next part of her book, she recounts her days as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois, her struggles in learning English and coping with the filmmaking class she was enrolled in, the various jobs (as many as five simultaneously – as waitress, fabric painter, attendant at the school’s film-equipment booth, administration office and student gallery) she had to juggle to make ends meet. She writes about being homesick and her hospitalisation ordeal, about being a victim of a money scam, about being raped, getting pregnant and abortion.

The middle sections of the book tells of her first visit back to China in 1987, how she met Qigu Jiang who later became her husband and a reluctant father, about how she bought her first property and all her struggles and failures. Despite all these, Anchee wrote her first novel, Katherine, which I’ve read and enjoyed.

Her daughter was born on 8 Oct 1991 and her new mantra became: Settling is temporary, while change is permanent. She most admired the character of Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind because she was captured by how Scarlett survived as a female, the provider for her family and a woman of incredible resilience. I cheered when she eventually divorced Qigu and got custody of Lauryann. Many years later, she met and married Lloyd Lofthouse, someone she got to know through the Yellow Pages.

Together with Lloyd’s support and encouragement, Anchee was able to bring Lauryann up to be a confident young woman, fulfilling her dreams. She was also able to write her novels, Becoming Madame Mao, Wild Ginger, Empress Orchid, The Last Empress and Pearl of China. Happiness is now in her every cell. She counts her blessings every morning as she rises. The cooked seed has sprouted: “My root regenerated, deepened, and spread. I blossomed, thrived, and grew into a big tree.”

Army Of One

 

It’s easy to see why this 2016 movie was never shown in cinemas here. I’m glad I got hold of the DVD to watch a different Nicholas Cage, in his funniest role: he is totally unrecognisable, with a different look and even sounding different here. I doubt we’ll get to see him in another larger-than-life role like that!

The story is based on the article by Chris Heath, first published in the GQ (Gentlemen’s Quarterly) Magazine, based on a true story of Gary Faulkner (Nicholas Cage).

Gary is a self-proclaimed go-to man (actually an unemployed contractor) and psychic wizard who sees illusions (or hallucinates) when he goes for his dialysis treatments instead of the nurse or a fellow patient.

Gary thinks God (Russell Brand) tells him to capture Osama Bin Laden, so he travels to Pakistan armed with only a single sword. This tale gets crazier and crazier, with Gary’s hilarious encounters with his old friends back in Colorado and Las Vegas and his new friends in Pakistan, along with others.

Gary doesn’t seem to think before he does anything. (“Nothing good in the history of the world ever got done by thinking about it.“) When he makes up his mind to do something, he doesn’t take no for an answer. (“I can do anything. I am Gary Faulkner.”) He is actually quite a complex guy – “I don’t understand why people are telling me I can’t do something, when I’m already doing it.” He wants to feel accepted, yet he wants to take matters into his own hands: “If there weren’t people like me doing things that people like you told us that we couldn’t do, then nothing great would ever get done, and America won’t be awesome, but American is awesome.” – as he says to an airline clerk.

Lost

 

When you see me

Not opening my mouth,

You can sense that

I’ve complied with your request.

Are you hiding?

Or waiting for a time

To show your love

And feelings for our future?

Breathing is hard

And my heart is trembling;

But my mind says:

Loving you cannot be wrong.

Now I am lost:

Where do I go

To heal myself

And not be muddled again?

Falling Apart

I feel helpless and powerless

Watching your marriage fall apart;

You are starting to avoid him,

As he is avoiding you.

“You’re ungentle, irritable

and unreasonable,” he says;

You retort he’s worse than that.

He says you are roasting yourself,

In a self-imposed tragedy;

You belie his laidback lifestyle

And lackadaisical attitude.

Will you both find a middle ground,

Or will matters just execrate

Until there is total chaos,

Or when everything breaks down?