31 August 2009

Ellipse. (A Brilliant New Album by Imogen Heap.)

Our darling and ethereal Imogen Heap has gone and done it again with her newest album entitled Ellipse.

Her poignant and deeply-dug lyrics are spell-binding, threatening to take hold of my consciousness and lull me into a dreamlike state. And yet, between every lullaby, Heap neatly tucks in a quirky and upbeat melody. Don't be fooled, though: these cutesy-ish songs have bite, with their satirical, double-meaning lyrics...

So, dear readers, I shall share one of my favourite songs + lyrics (and a "music video"- to listen, scroll down and pause my blog playlist on the right of your screen), that comes straight from Imogen Heap's brilliant mind. This song has resonated with me, in a playful sense, as I relate to my interpretation of her message:

Bad Body Double

She pops into the bathroom
Just after a shower and
She plays with my makeup and creams
Keeps trying to look like me

And goes through the motions
Posing this way and that,
Holding it in,
If it makes you feel better, then knock yourself out

Say hi there to my bad body double
This is my bad body double trouble
Oh no, my bad body double, mmmhm
I've got bad body double trouble, oh.

She's trouble
She's trouble
She's trouble, alright.

Yeah, yeah

Sometimes I manage to lose her
Shake her at a bar, in the gym for five minutes
It feels so good to be back to my own self again-
Can get quite confusing.

We look very similar except she's got some grays and
A little extra weight on the sides
And dimply thighs,
I hear that stuff's a bitch to get rid of
(No, no, no, no)

We're having quite an intimate, personal moment (not now)
Could you maybe come at a slightly less awful time? (not now)
She can see I've got someone quite nice here with me
Can't we just be left alone...
I guess that's a no then
Seeing as you're still here
Seeing as you're still here

It's not me, no
It's my bad body double
I got bad body double trouble
Oh no, my bad body double, mmmhm
I've got bad body double trouble, agh.
Bad body double, mmhm.
I've got bad body double trouble
Oh dear, my bad body double.
I got bad body double trouble.

She's trouble
She's trouble
She's trouble, alright.
Yeah, yeah, yeah
She's trouble
She's trouble
She's trouble, alright.
Yeah, yeah, right there.

Can't shake her, Can't shake her, Can't shake her, Can't shake her
Everywhere I go, Everywhere I go, goooo
Can't shake her, Can't shake her, Can't shake her, Can't shake her
Everywhere I go, Everywhere I go, goooo

Say hi there,
To my bad body double
My bad, bad, bad body double.
She's trouble
I can't shake her
And I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, I hate her.
She's everywhere I go,

I'm going to get rid
Of you once and for all...


So clickety-click away on the album title (located at the top of this post), and a new window will open for you to purchase the special edition MP3s on Amazon. Trust me, I know you'll be swept off your feet. (I mean, honestly, even NPR got in on the Imogen-y goodness!)

As for me, I'm on the waitlist for the Foundation for Imogen Heap Addicts rehabilitation facility. Tee hee...

30 August 2009

Hope- It Never Asked a Crumb of Me.

Hope, by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This poem has brought tears to my eyes multiple times, as it is truly meaningful in regards to my own life. Emily Dickinson has been one of my favourite poets (poetess?) for an extraordinarily long time now, and I've even written multiple research papers on her, her life, and her work. I think I may be just a tad... obsessed with her, because anytime I find a fictional or non-fictional book related to Dickinson, I have to have it. For anyone who is interested, my favourite fictional novel about her (and her sister Lavinia) is "The Sister: A Novel of Emily Dickinson" by the late Paola Kaufmann. Check it out.

(Oh, and keep the votes coming on my poll- what do you want me to write about?)

20 August 2009

Up to That Point (An Abridged Autobiography).

Another hilarious tidbit from my "past life"- here is something I wrote about my first 17 years, as a senior in high school (2004). I don't remember the reason for writing it, but it's odd to see just how much my life has changed since I wrote this six years ago.

(PS: Check out the awesome jam-packed shelf behind me in the above photo. Like my mother's empowering collection? Oh, and gotta love the kid pictures of my sister, mom, and me! Ahaha!)

The (Abridged) Story of my Life

I've been raised by 'smart' parents. By 'smart', I mean that book-smart, lacking-of-emotional-sensitivity class of people. My mother likes examining and collecting rocks, lecturing others on the value of excessive coupon-using and reading books at a voracious pace. My father enjoys using lengthy words to condescend others, working and talking about cars and cooking dinner for others. I took after this frame of mind, receiving praise from teachers for my high grade point average and motivation to learn. My younger sister, who was born in 1988, used to be a hard-worker in school, trying as hard as she could to get excellent grades. However, she soon became another rebellious teen, failing numerous classes, becoming passionate about friends, fashion, and music, while flipping my entire world upside-down. We share a room and when she decided to be the 'unique' one in the family, she became cluttered and unorganized, her social life preventing her from cleaning up after herself. My parents have given up on encouraging her to improve her lifestyle and don't understand her career choice as a fashion designer.

However, that's my family--mostly misunderstanding anything dealing with passion. There's one thing they do comprehend though, and that's the importance of learning as much as you can. During the summer between seventh and eighth grade, they were able to send me to Russia and Belarus as a foreign exchange student for three weeks. It was my first traveling experience and after a week there, I learned what poverty was (and what being drunk was like). After going to the only McDonald's in Minsk, Belarus and having to pay for a packet of ketchup, I realized just how lucky I am to live in America, where food is relatively cheap and readily available. By staying with a family in Minsk, I made an international friend that I still stay in contact with to this day.

Three years later, after scraping together enough money, my parents sent me to stay with my friend in France for three months. Now, that wouldn't have been a life-changing experience to most, but it taught me a lot about myself and others around me. Before my trip to France, I suffered heavily from anorexia and bulimia. It affected my self-esteem, my health, and the way I treated others. I needed help desperately, but it seemed my family wasn't going to give me the aid I needed. The family I stayed with, however, helped to boost my confidence and learn many valuable lessons. I learned how to interact with a different culture. I learned to perceive beauty in amazing attractions that you see in tourism brochures, like the Eiffel Tower at night and the Sacre Coeur. I learned how to get around an airport without getting too lost. In addition, I learned the language of love to near fluency--something I had always wanted to do.

Both traveling experiences changed my view on the world and after those events, I'm sure I'll be an international traveler when I'm a bit older. Also, learning the French language has made me consider becoming an English teacher in France. In this way, I would consider traveling to France be a major life-changing event.

Although traveling helped me realize what I perhaps want to do in the future, so has my current relationship. As of August 15th of 2004, I will have been dating my boyfriend Kevin Mershon for 15 months. After four months of dating last year, Kevin began his fall semester classes at San Jose State University, while I was still stuck in high school in Bakersfield. Together, we have gotten through many trials, such as the distance between us, which we are still dealing with today. Moreover, his parents do not accept us as a sexually active couple, making it difficult to share any intimacy. We plan for our future together, despite the three and a half hour drive and parental disapproval that separates us.

All the people and events in my life have attributed to my personality traits. Generally, I am a hard-worker, trying to attain good grades and please my parents. However, I am also moody, as I suffer from on-and-off depression and extreme anxiety. I've been prone to extreme obsession, which presented itself when I became anorexic, bulimic, a compulsive eater. Despite my past problems, I make friends pretty easily, since I look beyond their bad qualities and find only the good.

12 August 2009

Emily Dickinson: Victorian Poetess, Agoraphobe, Fanatic, Social Commentator, and/or Lesbian?

I came across a high school term paper I wrote during the second semester of my junior year in high school (the beginning of 2003). Even then, I was fascinated by the "mystery" surrounding the illusory character that is Emily Dickinson; since writing this paper, I've read multiple biographies and "based on a true story" fictional accounts about her fantastical life. So, allow me to share...

Most every poet, young or old, has probably come across the name of the celebrated Emily Dickinson. The question is: Who is Emily Dickinson and why did she become famous? Miss Dickinson was most likely one of the most enigmatic female poets that has ever lived. From her poems it is simple for one to tell when something in her life directly affected her writing. However, another question a reader must ask is: Did the problems and tragedies in society during her time affect her hidden mysterious lifestyle? By closely analysing her work, it may be possible to determine if she were influenced by the problems of an outside world such as the Civil War, politics, and racial conflicts.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born to Puritan parents on December 10, 1830 in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts, where she remained for nearly all her life. Her younger sister Lavinia, older brother Austin, and she were forced to comply with the strict Christian beliefs of their tyrannical father. Thus, Emily’s writing often contains religious symbolism and refers to her undying faith. After attending Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for one year, Miss Dickinson returned home out of homesickness. There, she kept herself busy tending her garden, baking up new and delightful recipes, and commencing in writing the first of her poetry.

After some time, Dickinson fell deeply in love for the well-respected and unfortunately married Reverend Charles Wadsworth. When he left for San Francisco in the early 1860’s, Miss Dickinson was compelled to let out her emotions with a stream of disheartening poetry. In the following years, she became increasingly more of a hermit, hardly seeing anyone except her closest family members. Soon she earned the nickname “eclectic recluse,” as she sent sweets and pastries down to children from her bedroom window on the second floor without showing her face. She also refused to meet old friends; instead, she wrote them letters, epigrams, and poetry acknowledging her presence. In 1862, Emily suffered a nervous breakdown, ending the most creatively productive time of her life. Finally at the age of 55, Bright’s disease took her life in 1886 in Amherst (The Academy of American Poets). After discovering 1700+ poems in a desk drawer, Miss Dickinson’s sister published her poetry posthumously. Her fame was spread nation-wide, and now she is considered to be one of the America’s best poets. Emily Dickinson’s lifestyle was definitely an explanation for what inspired her to write poetry, though there are many other reasons. The acme of her life took place during what was deemed to be this nation’s bloodiest war. Through analysing, one can discover how Dickinson dealt with the country’s calamity with words, phrases, and images.

The Civil War took place from 1861-1865 and although it was proclaimed to be “a gentleman’s war” in the beginning, it actually became one of America’s goriest and most horrifying wars. The Civil War itself is linked closely with wounding, connected on various, tangible and intangible, levels. Often the country, the families, the mind, the body, and the spirit were subject to violent ravaging. Any connection from Miss Dickinson to the Civil War is perhaps a bit more difficult to establish; indeed, several scholars have insisted that viewing Dickinson's poetry within the context of the Civil War is nonsense. These analysts prefer to see Emily’s poems as fundamentally isolated successive stanzas. However, in looking at her poetry, it becomes apparent that the work cannot be seen and understood detached from the time in which it was written or the occurring events that mark the period. When Miss Dickinson first viewed Matthew Brady’s photographs of a Civil War battlefield, her reaction was to write poetry. Also, Emily illustrated her deep mourning for soldiers through elegies, defined as “a poem or song composed especially as a lament for a deceased person.” An ode to deceased soldiers such as "It feels a shame to be alive," written the spring of 1863 shows Dickinson’s great concern for the society outside her own prison-like home during the terrible time or war (Susan Belasco).

However, being cooped up in solitude resulted in more than just elegies. Indeed, Emily Dickinson wrote over one thousand poetic masterpieces. Her poems express life, death, hopelessness, and nature, touching the reader with reflections in all aspects of existence.

For example, since most of her poetry was written when she was alone at home in Amherst, her poem about being named ‘Nobody’ was perhaps showing the fact that she was content being by herself and writing in privacy. She was satisfied that she was not a swaggering “frog” that bellowed out accomplishments to deaf or uncaring ears.

“I’m nobody! Who are you?/Are you nobody, too?/ Then there’s a pad of us—don’t tell!/They’d banish us, you know./ How dreary to be somebody!/How public, like a frog/To tell your name the livelong day/To an admiring bog!”

If you look at the poem that begins with "a surgeon must be very careful…," it shows that the worst things can happen from love; however, one must not forget that a surgeon can also perform surgeries to save a person. So in that way, Emily Dickinson could be supporting relationships.

“Surgeons must be very careful/When they take the knife!/Underneath their fine incisions/Stirs the culprit, --Life!”

On the other hand, her poem about having lunch was the opposite. Her words showed that she didn’t have what it took to actually love because she felt “ill and odd.” So instead, she watched others and drew from that.

“I had been hungry all the years;/My noon had come to dine;/I, trembling, drew the table near,/And touched the curious wine./ Twas this on tables I had seen,/When turning, hungry, lone,/I looked in windows, for the wealth/I could not hope to own./ I did not know the ample bread,/’Twas so unlike the crumb/The birds and I had often shared/In Nature’s dining-room./ The plenty hurt me, ‘twas so new,--/Myself felt ill and odd,/As berry of a mountain bush/Transplanted to the road./ Nor was I hungry; so I found/That hunger was a way/Of persons outside windows/The entering takes away.”

Then, in the poem about the angels taking up her tattered heart, she discusses love like it could be something she already rightly experienced and failed in. It also shows her profound love and honour for God, who she deems a person that could save her from misery. That poem easily shows her puritan roots and strict upbringing to believe in God.

“A poor torn heart, a tattered heart,/That sat it down to rest,/Nor noticed that the ebbing day/Flowed silver to the west,/Nor noticed night did soft descend/Nor constellation burn/Intent upon the vision/of latitudes unknown./ The angels, happening that way,/This dusty heart espied;/Tenderly took it up from toil/And carried it to God./There,--sandals for the barefoot;/There,--gathered from the gales,/Do the blue havens by the hand/Lead the wandering sails.”

Also, it seems that Emily Dickinson must have had several opportunities to love, but failed to accept them. This is shown in her poem about the slamming door. It represents how she is too shy to accept an offer to the warmth and comfort of being in love with someone.

“A door just opened on a street—/I, lost, was passing by—/An instant’s width of warmth disclosed, /And wealth, and company./ The door as sudden shut, and I,/ I, lost, was passing by,—/ Lost doubly, but by contrast most,/Enlightening misery.”

Emily Dickinson’s poetry was heavily influenced by the way she lived her life. Even if she lived in seclusion for a good portion of her life, her acquaintances made in her younger years deeply changed her techniques of writing. One of her correspondents, and a close friend/role model in 1862, was the Unitarian clergyman Thomas Wentworth Higginson. After adding a message of advice and support to the young writers of America to the Atlantic Monthly, he received a letter from Miss Dickinson asking to “say if my verse is alive.” It was then that their friendship grew and became to be what is known as the “most provocative correspondence of American literature” (Robert N. Linscott, 3-27).

In her withdrawal from any association with friends or family, it seemed the society only had a minimal effect on Dickinson. Her elegies to honour dead soldiers were the only way she ‘contributed’ to the Civil War effort during the years of 1861-1865.

During her lifetime, Emily was often deemed to be an “eccentric poetess and was given the nickname of the 'Nun of Amherst' upon locking herself away after her father’s death in 1874” (Robert N. Linsworth, 3). Even posthumously she is thought to have been a bizarre and “reckless genius;” her thought process being so entirely different that it is nearly impossible for some to decipher her later work. (Galway Kinnell)

Other critical analysis of Emily Dickinson reveals that her sexual preference could have been for the female sex; consequently, she shut herself away from strangers and only allowed her closest family members to visit her occasionally. For several years, Miss Dickinson and her sister-in-law, Sue Gilbert, ardently wrote letters back and forth. Some historians insist that these letters were merely examples of writing during the Victorian Era. Nevertheless, others like Emily’s biographer Rebecca Patterson, maintained her belief that Emily Dickinson was homosexual. In a work published by Martha Dickinson Bianchi including letters from the correspondence between her aunt and mother, most of the personal conversations between the two were edited. One included this demand made by Emily: “Susie, will you indeed come home next Saturday, and be my own again, and kiss me as you used to?” This statement was edited by Bianchi to simply say: “Susie, will you indeed come home next Saturday?” (Tom and T.J.). As Dickinson lived alone, her intimate life will stay a riddle forever.

Recognized women poets of Emily Dickinson’s time are rare, thus making her one of the most celebrated poets of her gender and era. Her ability to reach the reader with sometimes overly exaggerated messages on life, nature, love, and death is indeed one of the most amazing traits about Miss Dickinson. Her outstanding, though at times quite disturbing, poetry and letters will live on in a daze of baffling reminders of Emily Dickinson’s secluded life.

+Academy of American Poets, The, website accessed 15 March, 2003.
+Belasco, Susan, website accessed 15 March, 2003.
+Linscott, Robert N. Selected Poems and Letters of Emily Dickinson, pages 3-27.
+Kinnell, Galway, website accessed 15 March 2003.
+Tom and T.J., website accessed 15 March, 2003.

Note: Some of these links do not work anymore- it has been more than six years since I accessed these websites.

08 August 2009

Book Review: "Life-Size" by Jenefer Shute.

(Quick note: This book review was written slightly over a month ago, and I'm just getting to posting it here.)

For the first time in years, I finished a book. That book was ~300 pages long, which I devoured (no pun intended!!!) in two days. That book was "Life Size" by Jenefer Shute.

Every quirky thought, mechanical action of the protagonist "Jo" resonated deeply with me. Though deeply disturbing, I found my jaw on the floor- this novel touched on personal thinking processes of someone who had never questioned the eating disorder, and just barely beginning to delve into her past. (However, because it is disturbing and so raw, it could be triggering to some individuals who are actively battling the ED- though honestly, even self-help or "inspirational" stories about EDs could be triggering.)

And what's more: The author never struggled with an eating disorder herself! Don't let that deter you, however. Her novel is not just the typical, stereotyping tale about the upper-class white teenage girl who wants to be pretty and perfect so that Daddy will love her more. She spent a lot of time and effort in researching the mindset of survivors, and it truly shows in her writing.

Honestly, I rarely find anything in books about EDs "novel" or "something that inspires introspection," but while reading "Life-Size," I felt like I was reading my own thoughts, as twisted and inhuman as they are.

06 August 2009

Have a Happy Period.

So, uhm, I don't really have a period- though, granted, I did have one in mid-July, after going 11 months without. (I tell you what: there's nothing like getting your period when you're 8-9 hours away from home with your in-laws on vacation, stranded without supplies because you simply "never bleed anymore," and utterly horrified/shocked that yes, you are indeed still a 23-year-old woman.) It's one of the "joys" of anorexia nervosa, and what doctors call "secondary amenorrhea," explained as losing your period for more than 3 months consecutively (after you've already menstruated before); "primary amenorrhea," however, is when a pre-pubescent/adolescent girl has not had her period after the age of 16, despite all of the other "perks of puberty" having occured. Erm, okay...changing subjects! Well, sort of.

Most commercials bug me. A lot. The sheer number of weight loss and greed-inducing advertisements on the telly these days just infuriate me! Usually, I have quite the opinion on any ad that flashes its piece-of-crap product onto the screen, and more often than not, my opinion is not a very nice one. :D Even commercials for feminine hygiene products (eg, Vagisil, Tampax, etc) can get me riled up. (I think some might call it me being "too sensitive"...or is it "too opinionated"? Haha.)

At any rate, I was surprised when I started getting into the groove and swaying to the beat of a short advertisement's "soundtrack," while I was doing chores around the house one day. It wasn't until I stopped to glance at the television screen, when (imagine my even greater shock!) I realised the music was playing in a commercial for Always Infinity pads! Chuckling, I thought to myself: "Hmmm, is it weird that I really like this otherwise-normal tune?"

I like it so much that I thought I would post the video here, so you could "see the magic show" yourself! Enjoy! :D

03 August 2009

Book Review: "This Side of Heaven" by Lorna Tremaine.

I met Lorna by chance, while attending Cornerstone Church one Sunday back in March of 2008. I needed a place to sit, but all the chairs and tables inside were taken- all but a lone chair next to her.

Me: Mind if I sit there? Is that seat taken?
Her: No, not at all... go ahead!

And that began our conversation. I explained to her that I was temporarily living in Chandler, AZ, but my home is in CA. What I did not tell her was that I was living in AZ because I had just spent 60 days at Remuda Ranch, an inpatient facility for eating disorders, and then transferred to Remuda Life, a residential/step-down facility (for EDs).

She smiled, and said she was from CA, too. We talked about how awesome Cornerstone Church is/was, chatted about the little things. When it was time for me to go with the other girls and staff inside the church, she told me how nice it was to talk to me, as she had attended church alone that day. She handed me a business card and a bookmark that had her name, phone number, email address, and website on them. She hugged me, and shocked at the kindness of a stranger, I said goodbye.

This chance encounter is what truly changed my views on people, especially folks who attend church. I was a staunch atheist, with great fear when it came to hypocrisy within the church, for 21 years. Lorna changed my perspective a great deal...

A couple months later, when I had gone back home to CA, I was leafing through my Bible that I had received there at Cornerstone Church (nope, I didn't have one before that). Her bookmark fluttered to the ground. I picked it up, and, my curiosity piqued, I visited her website called Living Life with Victory.

Her words and insight were so inspiring! I decided to send her an email, expecting her to have forgotten all about me. Nope, she remembered just who I was, and excitedly asked if she could send me a copy of her relatively new book "This Side of Heaven." Of course, I said "yes!"

A couple weeks later, the package showed up, and from page one, I was hooked. Her autobiography details just how she gained a personal relationship with God, despite all the of the difficulties and obstacles to overcome in her life. The fact that she WASN'T "perfect" and acknowledged that even Christians can come from broken pasts showed me that I didn't need to "keep up appearances" if I accepted Christ as my Saviour. Her book/memoirs showed me how she was able to grow after being victimised and used by others, in order to gain a life of freedom to do what she was created to do. And what's more is that, even though I had not even whispered that I struggle with an eating disorder, her book talks about how she got into recovery from anorexia nervosa!

Not only is Lorna Tremaine an amazing and victorious woman of God, she is a fantastic writer, with passion for and understanding about life.