Wake up and smell the Coffee!!

Man is a strange mammal. He thrives on competition, glorifies in destruction, and flourishes through selective memory. Because yes – we love lying to ourselves don’t we? Or let us rather say that the individual has an intrinsic predominant love for himself, which leads him to remember (consciously or subconsciously) whatever suits him most.

Simply put – we love to love ourselves, which is why in most cases we end up remembering experiences and events which happened to us in a way which shows us in the best possible light… to ourselves that is. We are never wrong, or if we are, we were justified. We never make mistakes, but if we do, they are understandable in that particular situation/s, and anyone who doesn’t understand is at fault himself. Etc. Etc.

The same goes when it comes to the way we perceive the world around us. Because obviously, man does’nt lie to himself about his own person ONLY. We see our own image by reflecting on who we want to be, or who we think we are, not on whom we seem to be, whom others think we are, or who our behavior makes us out to be.

Similarly, we view the world (and other people) either the way we want to see it/them (for one reason or another), or the way we are AFRAID to see it/them. For example, a man may think his wife loves him because she had said ‘I do’ five years before, not wanting to admit how their relationship has changed, that she now prefers to spend her time with other people rather than with him, that there have been changes in their intimacy, etc. The sole fact that she rarely smiles at him any more, a simply factor which other members of the family may have noticed, could escape him completely. Not because he is blind or stupid, but because he simply REFUSES to see it.

Another example could be the way we perceive political parties. Or football teams for that matter. ‘Our own’ political party (or team) can do no wrong. If they make a mistake… well, everyone is human right? On the other hand, the opposite political party (or team, group, whatever) is evil through and through. They use up tax money paid by honest hard working people to line their own pockets, to the exclusion of anything else. This can be seen by the fact that there is traffic, the roads are bad, there is rubbish in the streets, etc. That is all. Obviously, the man who only sees what he wants to see, or what he fears to see, fails to see the whole picture. He fails to see the evolution in the educational system, the improvement of the health sector, the cleaning of historical sites, the development of new laws and regulations which give new rights to minorities, etc. He only sees what is wrong, because that is what he expects to see. That is how the human mind works.

One of my favorite 90s movies is Kevin Bacon’s ‘He Said, She said’, which portrays this mental self-conditioning perfectly. If you haven’t watched the movie, believe me, you should.

Basically the premise of the film shows us the relationship between two people from both their different perspectives. The first half of the film reveals to us how the two met and started dating, from the guy’s point of view. The second half of the film shows us the exact same story-line BUT this time from the woman’s perspective. You’d think the second half would be boring, since we see exactly what we had already seen before. Wrong. There are details of the love-story which are the same but the backstory, most of the events, etc, are almost totally different. How is this possible?

It is, because people never tell themselves the whole truth. They never even SEE the whole truth. Maybe they are afraid too. When one of two friends fights and comes to you for guidance, what do you do? In Malta in this case the adage tells you to: ‘isma l-qanpiena l-ohra‘, which roughly translates to ‘listen to the other bell’, meaning that you need to ask the other person his own side of the story.

This is because most of the time, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

What brought this on, you might ask? Nothing in particular. It’s just that sometimes, the sheer lengths people go to, to deny a particular fact or an obvious conclusion, is simply astounding.

… andddd I just realized that I’ve written a ton… hehe and I’m still sipping my first cup of coffee. This is what happens when you wake up early with your head churning with too many thoughts. Off to start my day now. Hopefully with a lighter mind.

Ta

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Jigsaw – A Movie Review *SPOILERS*

So, just finished watching the last movie in the ‘Saw’ franchise, which I’ve been a HUGE fan of for the past 10 years… and I must say, I was quite disappointed.

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The prime thing which had attracted me to all the Saw movies, apart from the inventive torture devices, was actually the ability of the writers/producers to interlock all the movies and storylines togather like a jigsaw puzzle. That was the genius of the whole thing – that while the first movie in the franchise was taking place, chronologically we (later realize) that movies number 2 and 3 were also taking place (with different individuals) at the same time! I don’t want to give any spoilers here but I kind of had to in this case. So basically the some of the whole was better than it’s individual parts.

And that’s great HOWEVER as of the third and fourth movies we started seeing a common plot emerge, which the writers just continued to exploit by repeating again and again… and in the case of the latest ‘Jigsaw’ movie, yet AGAIN.

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For Pete’s sake, how many ‘disciples’ did this guy have? How many ‘ex-victims’ did he ‘convert’ to his ideology of pain? Were they all unaware of each other? And will the producers continue to milk this cow forever? It was a great idea and twist the first time round, and ok the second time round too. But a third secret disciple… and a fourth? Even at a distance of 10 years from Kramer’s death?

Ugh – yea again sorry for the spoilers. I just wish I could erase this last movie from my head and keep the old ones. So, thanks, but no thanks.

Insomnia

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I cannot save you
While the blood rages and the heart moans
I cannot save you
As you look askance at the twisted vines
I cannot save you
Your gaze is too suspicious, your mind is too old

Let go
Of all those moments of rank belittilement
Let go
The gnashing thunder within your veins
Let go
Those tears of madness you are still hiding

You know
They clamor ever hungry for reprisal
You know
Your violent flame is roaring for more
You know
This is the reason why sleep flees

And yet
The pounding surf cannot be silent
And yet
That vortex of hate will not be still
And yet
Your eyes will always spit blood and flame

And that, is why
I cannot save you
Unless you save yourself
And dream

© M_Moonsong

Hell Girl – Anime Review

To be honest, I just started watching this anime yesterday so I cannot REALLY write a review as of yet, so this is more of a portrayal of what the anime has conveyed to me as such up to now, when I have only seen the first three episodes.

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First of all, the graphics are lovely. The characters are well drawn and the background scenes are very detailed. The anime is set mostly ‘in real life’, that is, in a city in Japan, however parts of it also take place in a surreal place – somewhere between heaven, hell and purgatory, somewhere in dreams perhaps, where the tormented spirit of the ‘Hell Girl’, Ai Enma, resides, with her three companions and servants. It is quite a dark anime, which may be considered to be gothic and/or horror too.

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Ai Enma, also known as Jigoku Shōjo, is a mysterious figure. Sometimes we are treated with short images of her past, when she was killed. We know someone who loved betrayed her, that she is angry about it and has looked for revenge for 400 years ever since, all the while being a ‘Hell Girl’, that is a powerful spirit who grants those who want revenge, the death of the people they name. Ai Enma offers a covenant – those who want her to rid them of someone, who is shipped to hell, are given a black poppet or doll, with a red string. If they decide to accept the pact, they untie the red string, on the condition that once they die, they too will go straight to hell, as payment for the debt owed to Ai. The ‘fun thing’ is the way they make their request in the first place – Hell has ‘gone modern’ in this case, since all they have to do is send an email request at midnight, and the Hell Girl promptly sends them a text message on their mobile to confirm the receipt.

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Very VERY interesting plot line. Each episode portrays a different story – a different client, and why they choose to sell their soul, in order to get rid of a particular person who is doing them, or a loved one, harm. Some of the scenes are fairly strong and psychological, in fact this is not an anime for children, but is marked 17+

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The anime is not short – having three seasons of around 23 episodes each. I have also discovered that there is a live action series, comprising of 23 episodes of half an hour each, which I definitely mean to get as well.

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All in all, I am really looking forward to continuing this series. Aaaaaaaa Anime <3!!!

Movie Review – Raise the Red Lantern – Spoilers

Movie Title: Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Personal Grading: 4 Stars
Historical Timeline: 1920s
Location: China

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This film touched me and made quite an impression on me for various reasons. First of all, I love historical dramas, especially those which portray a non-European perspective. I love learning more about different cultures and customs, especially as these were lived in times past.

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Raise the Red Lantern focuses on the life of a nineteen year old girl Songlian who, pressured due to her family’s poverty and her father’s death, decides to become a rich man’s concubine. She is his fourth concubine in fact, and the whole film takes place in the ‘Master’s’ house. We never see the outside of the house after the film’s five minute introduction, and neither does the main character. Although the cast of the film is limited, this is very in-line with the story and plot-line, seeing as to how we experience life as the main character does. She is isolated, lonely, and cannot decide what is the reality or who is deceiving her. We never see the ‘Master’s’ face. This is very symbolical. In the 1920’s this was how society treated women – this was how concubines were expected to live – who the Master was, was not important. The women’s lives centered on his every whim and desire. The four concubines live togather in different sections of the vast beautiful house. Traditionally Chinese, their life is structured according to family ritual, and yet they still silently hate and compete with one another.

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The First mistress is old and her son is the Master’s heir and is always away. The second mistress, whom at first we think is kind and nice, is in reality a scorpion, egging on people against Songlian. The third concubine, still young and beautiful, had once been an opera singer, is very creative, and is secretly in love with a young doctor. The Master decides who is in favor by placing red lanterns in front of the ‘house’ belonging to the mistress who will pleasure him for the night. The chosen one gets a foot massage, chooses the menu for the following day, and crows in victory over the others.

The storyline is not complicated, yet has a certain horrific quality to it. Combine this to the fact that we know this is what really happened during this period in time, is the soul-crushing certainity of each of the mistresses that she will never get out of that house. Her body, her time, her life, belongs to the Master and is his to dispose of. This is blatantly obvious when he orders the killing of the Third Mistress, after she is discovered to be cheating on him. At the end, the main character is mentally and emotionally shattered, preferring the life of a mad recluse to that of a concubine forced to live life in constant rivalry in a world where there is really no escape.

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This film is very poignant and well executed. I do not think the casual movie-watcher will appreciate it, as it is quite slow-moving and full of Chinese rituals and traditions which are not all fully explained. I loved it since I am very interested in Asian cultures, and love anime, therefore having watched and read about these kind of traditions before. It is a very psychological film too. What is not said, is more important than what is actually uttered. A true gem of its kind.

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The film is based on the novel ‘Wives and Concubines’ by Su Tong.

Book Review – Coraline – Neil Gaiman

First let’s make this clear – this is a review of the book NOT the animated movie, although I loved the movie too (and it could still be construed as such).

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That being said, I think what touched me most about this book is that it is truly a book for children. The plot line is quite deep, the psychology behind it is disturbing and twisted, and most of the story itself is so metaphorical as to be almost frightening, and yet, it is set so as to not only enter into the world of children, but also make every child who reads it feel totally at home there.

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It captures everyday moments of every child’s life – the unlikeable ‘recipes’ served at dinner, the boredom of rainy days, the loneliness of children with no other brothers or sisters, the sense of loss when one’s parents seem distant and busy with their own lives, the way children’s opinions are glossed over and ignored when it comes to practical matters like choosing clothes for school.

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Most importantly, it offers two different perspectives of parent-hood. On the one hand, we have Coraline’s normal family – her two working parents who both work at home and have their own studies there, who sometimes have no time for Coraline and who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child, and therefore do not understand her, yet who love her and would sacrifice themselves for her.

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On the other – there are the Other parents – especially, the Other mother. She is a perfectly frightening representation of those clutching needy mothers, who need something to love so much, that they literally stifle their children, bottling them up in a bubble of fake smiles and repression – until finally the childrens’ individuality is squeezed into nothingness… which is what they become.

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This metaphor of the needy cold mother, who selfishly does not really care about who Coraline is or what she actually wants, is the prevalent ‘monster’ in the story, and is all the more terrifying in that there are so many real monsters like her out in our world.

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Coraline’s natural communication with the animals around her is so normally-portrayed as to be totally believable, and not relegated to the label of ‘magical’ or ‘supernatural’ at all. Cats talk, mice dance, rats can be spies – it is presented as a fact, and so it is.

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This short book reminded me of the premise of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, where family issues are combatted by children through metaphorical intervention. Totally brilliant.

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Anime Review – Shiki – A Japanese Vampire-Story

Genre – Horror
No. of Episodes – 24
Anime released in – 2010
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

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Shiki was a random find. I’ve been combing the anime market for good horrors/psychological thrillers for ages now, and wanted something good with a Japanese cultural flavor. Shiki seemed to fit the bill, even though the romaticised vampire plot-line made me a bit wary, since we’ve seen sentimentalized semi-pornographic versions of it so many times before.

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The anime itself was quite good. It sports Higurashi-like traits, in that it is set in a small, almost cut off, town in rural Japan, with its own customs and legends, where, obviously, something strange starts to happen during one hot Summer, when a large number of people start to mysteriously die off. There the story totally deviates from Higurashi however, in that, although interesting and at times, agonizingly full of emotion, the characters in this anime somehow still fail to gain that certain depth of perspective and credibility. The characters in Shiki are thin, cardboard-like and insubstantial. Although we are given sketchy backgrounds of almost each one, we know that the ten-minute background interlude is gifted to us each time, exactly before said character either dies (which does not mean that they do not actively appear on-screen any more) or otherwise falls into some misfortune. The characters never evolve, they never develop, and, alive or dead, their reactions are hardly credible or even probable.

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That being said, the art used in Shiki is very pleasing, when portraying kawai characters like Sunako, but totally irritating with bland ones like Kaori – and seriously, what’s with all the stupid bombastic hairstyles? And the BOOBS… Lol. Anyways, the guys are all hot, and I loved Megumi’s fashion sense too ;p

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I also loved the fact that in the end, we are so steeped in the lore of the town of Sotoba, that we don’t even see the undead as vampires anymore, but we really and truly perceive them as Shiki. They are blood-thirsty, they are romanticized, but in the end, like their human counterparts, the Shiki just want to live a normal life, they are afraid, they make mistakes, they need help – but no one helps them. The (hot) priest Seishin perfectly persnonalizes the troublesome issue everyone in the village, not to mention we the viewers, feel – the Shiki are parents, friends, husbands, sisters, mothers, loved ones who are just trying to survive – is killing them murder, or is it just self-defence?

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Although the characters leave something to be desired, the issues presented by this anime are quite clear and very deep. In the end, I couldn’t, however, give the anime 4 stars as it still had something lacking, but I would still recommend it.

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