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Monday, May 30, 2005
"Everyone, memorize your page," I said, tearing out pages from The Pearl. "All of it. From the top of the page to the bottom. Make sure your partner can read his side."
"Here is page seventeen," I said pointing to Jeremiah, then to Mahalath, "There is page eighteen."
The monkeys gathered by the river near the lightbulb factory.
Years of Hamlet - all gone. Management jumped on the Steinbeck bandwagon, just like they did years ago with synchronicity and synergy. From something the monkeys were just being to understand, the factory's top executives switched to East of Eden, six times as long as Shakespeare's play and with contemporary vocabulary to boot.
"Memorize your page and, all of you, typing in synchron- nay! - in unision, might be able to pass off The Pearl for East of Eden."
The monkeys murmured. They didn't trust me. I didn't trust me. It hadn't been done before. Monkeys typing The Pearl was as unlikely as monkeys typing East of Eden.
"But, Maktaaq, memorize all these words? So many of them? Can't we copy them?"
I looked at Isaias. "Copy them? Carry around a page? And what happens when you go through the book detector? When they frisk you?"
Isaias could not answer.
"Monkeys," I turned to all of them, "Dear Monkeys, you must memorize your page. And after you memorize your page, we shall burn the pages of this book."
"Burn it?" gasped a few monkeys.
"Yes, burn it. For if we leave any trace of this book, they may find it and destroy it. And the book will be forever gone. If you memorize your page, you'll carry the book within you. When someone needs page five, it will be there in Isaias; when someone needs the metaphor for the Pearl, it is in Samson (page 31) and in Ezekiel (page 89). The book will be safe.
"Memorize your page and, together, we are a book. We are The Pearl, which might just be East of Eden."
The gaping eyes refused to comprehend and stared at me.
Archibald spoke. "It is our only hope."
The monkeys turned to him but would still not believe. Yet they lined up in twos. They had no other choice.
They received their torn page with the solemnity of the faithful taking communion. The papers resting on their upturned palms promised salvation.
Friday, May 27, 2005
A while ago, Rurality said I got Yodic. Couldn't quite figure it out, I did.
Language Log, the blog that makes linguistics child-friendly, tried to put reason into the rhyme of Yodic. However, Yodic is more of a fidgety yak than imagined, making up its own rules as it goes along. What Language Log did get is a whole slew of new Yoda words.
Yodic is the first of the new words spawned by the little green man (check out the comic strip on that last link). There's also Yoda-speak in this analysis of Yoda's syntax.
A third entry brings us Yodian, as in "It still gives a vaguely Yodian impression" - a synonym for Yodic? - and Yoda-ish (another adjective meaning not Yodic but rather mimicking Yodian/Yodic talk) along with Yoda-ize (to make speech resemble Yodian/Yodic talk), Yoda-ization (the noun for Yoda-ize), anti-Yoda and Yodettes (quoted, a term for the offspring of a Yoda-Jar Jar cross-insemination).
Another entry on Language Log disappointed for its lack of new Yoda words. I checked all four entries and realized that a Mark Liberman wrote the first three, and Geoffrey K. Pullum the one without new Yoda-izations.
A perfect antidote to all this talk of what merges phonologically, is a new spoof of Star Wars, Store Wars (via Mirabilis).
Your broccoli, chew you must!
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I am the 9th sexiest woman of 2001, goshfukkit! I deserve better than this.
I can understand Donald wanting me to cook for him. Yes, all men need the affirmation that a woman cooking for them truly loves them. Besides, I am not one of those lesbian feminists. I know how to please my man.
It's just that Donald insists that I cook for him and that stupid otter.
Honestly, dear diary, I don't know why he keeps it. Thankfukkinggod, it's not a Phil Spector, but still. Don King's albino zebra, Simon, is so much nicer and natural. I really like Simon.
The otter is itchy. Real human hair, they said. That's caca.
Plus, the otter farts all the time. I don't know what gives it so much gas; maybe it's the refried beans. Mental note: avoid Mexican.
So anyhow, the otter - Jerry - comes to bed with us. Keeps saying the nightlight went out in his room. Then Jerry always steals the blankets. I wake up and I am freezing. If it weren't for the pre-nup dictates, I'd be wearing a jogging suit to bed.
Dear Diary, please give me the patience I need.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Bluewyvern wrote: "Wookiee porn is elusive? I don't believe it. I'm sure that in even the course of my chastest websurfing I've accidentally glimpsed pictures of Chewie and slave-Leia doing it. You must be doing something wrong."
The truth is, I never did look up wookie porn. I am as bad as Newsweek.
To quell the rioting, I sacrificed my spare time to seek out answers. Is there wookie porn? Is it any different from human porn? Where exactly are the wookie bars where you can pick up wookie lads?
The best comment on wookie porn I found was: "RE: Is sex with a wookie considered beasiality? Forgive my audacity, but why is this even up for debate? Does a wookiee live next door? Are you trying to hook up with a wookiee for a dance or something? I'd understand a cow or something, but Christ..."
Exactly, Monsieur. I am trying to hook up with a wookie.
In the end the answer was very simple. Wookie porn exists and it's on the Star Wars Holiday Special.
It turns out that I was mispelling wookie all along (it's two Es) and that's why I never ran into wookiee porn on my chaste searches of the internet. Even the wookiee planet, Kashyyyk, goes a little overboard on the letters. Wookiees are not just excessive in their hirsuteness. Goshfukkit!
Even worse, that cad Chewbacca is already married.
And I believed him when he said he loved me.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I like anagrams. By mixing up the letters of one word, you get a whole new word. Dog becomes god, Santa becomes Satan. Fun stuff.
Now, then, that new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith, I saw it despite not having it on my to-see list.
It was just what I expected. Lots of special effects and sets that made us go oooohhhhh.
The story was nothing too spectacular, just your usual epic sci-fi fantasy gloom and doom. Padme wore a sexy nightgown at one point. Yoda is so much cuter when he's fighting. The future Darth Vader was a good-looking boy who had everything going for him when he decided to throw it all away by becoming an American rightwing nut: "If you're not with me, you're against me!" (To which, Obi Wan Kenobi answers, "Only the Sith talk in absolutes.")
For everyone who hated Jar-Jar Binks, breathe deeply. Jar-Jar had only a small, non-speaking cameo towards the end. I personally like Jar-Jar, except I would have made him cute in a less cloying way.
The movie left me depressed. Because I believe that happily ever after is so much more preferable than shittily ever after. I felt sorry for Darth Vader and I felt even more bad that I stopped watching the second Star Wars movie (Attack of the Clones) halfway through. Now that I know that everything will go to shit for the sweet young couple, I could re-watch Attack of the Clones in its entirety and have that be the happily ever after I want for that couple.
Now for the wookies. Their planet was perfectly fake. The computer-generated landscape of tree-houses and misty lakes couldn't fool me. We loved it.
Then there was Chewbacca.
Chewbacca has always been my favourite character. He's a big and tough teddy bear. He is so strong, Yoda jumps on his arm when the going gets tough. Yet he's sensitive. The other, paternal wookie with his adult beard merely looks on when Yoda departs while Chewbacca openly shows his grief. Chewbacca even has his own sweetheart name, Chewie.
I could see myself walking down the street with Chewbacca. I think we'd make a great couple.
The only problem is, with wookie porn being so elusive, I have no idea how wookie anatomy works. For now, my Chewbacca fantasies will have to remain chaste. Yep, just me and Chewie holding hands.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Just like the standard version of Monopoly uses the names of streets in one city (Atlantic City), the Romanian version of Monopoly features place names from the capital București (or Bucharest in English).
Unlike the standard version, the real estate corresponding to Park Place and Boardwalk - Bulevardul Magheru and Bulevardul Primăverii respectively - have their values inverted.
Though Bulevardul Primăverii/Boardwalk is the more expensive property ($400 to buy versus Bulevardul Magheru's $350 price tag), it brings in only $35 in rent for the property alone and only $1500 once it has a hotel.
Bulevardul Magheru/Park Place is the real winner. Rental of the land costs the opponent $50 or $2000 once it has a hotel.
One of the Șansa (or Chance in English) cards carries these directions:
Translation: This card can be kept until you need it or it can be sold.
Did I mention that I am available for editing and am willing to relocate to Europe?
(Final scores, by the way: Roommate $8446 and 28 houses, Maktaaq $2699 and 7 hotels.)
Saturday, May 21, 2005
My roommate has left and won't be back for eight months. As if to emphasize the huge gaping void left behind, the skies ripped open to pour an ocean on us. I couldn't let this perfectly gothic incident go unheeded, so I matched it.
I was the mute companion over dinner. I watched the other patrons. Lonely middle-aged people sitting alone. On a Saturday night, this is where they go, to a Chinese buffet for all-you-can-eat food that claims to be Chinese. One middle-aged man walked over to another table, where another middle-aged man sat alone, and made a joke. They both laughed and then the first middle-aged man went back to his table.
Only the staff members and the neighbouring table were Chinese. Everyone else was white. Most were middle-aged and the young people were their guests. At one table, two teenage boys sat with their middle-aged sugar momma and one boy smiled sweetly at this woman. At another table, were a much older couple and the lady of the pair wore a clean purple outfit with shining white socks and a white carnation brooch.
I still haven't regained my appetite. I finished off only half my plate.
The restaurant depressed me with its Blondie and Abba soundtrack, so I looked outside at the seagulls. I decided I wouldn't mind turning into a seagull as long as I gave up my human brain.
The mall closed. I had to find another place to go and be lonely among people. I went to my old haunt, Value Village. I stopped going there. I have enough stuff. Today was the first time I went this year.
Value Village on a Saturday night feels cavernous. Twenty people tops were in the store. A sour-faced man browsed through the women's jeans. A young hipster girl walked around with a floppy hat and the tag sticking down over her ear. Her boyfriend looked like a deflated Incredible Hulk but with troll hair.
To successfully shop Value Village, you need to look at every single item of clothing by sliding over hanger after hanger. When something looks promising, you put it in your basket and, once you have enough material, you try it on in the fitting rooms.
My potential sequined mauve top was too wispy. My potential electric-patterned skirt didn't emphasize my butt curves. My potential wool cardigan wasn't lying when its tag read extra small.
Once I got home I rearranged things. And I snooped. Things, however, are the least welcome substitute to her presence. Sure, I have a whole new wardrobe, a stack of forbidden CDs and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou DVD all to myself. Really, though, who watches videos alone? Who do you turn to afterwards to say it sucked? And I can listen to Jack White and stare at his picture for hours, yet I never manage to conjure him up by telepathy.
I won't obsess about my upcoming lonely Christmas right now, but I've already had to seal off some rooms. I even switched bedrooms and won't sleep in my wonderfully cosy bed for eight months. I also need to turn on all the lights and Steve Zissou is playing alone in the living room so there is a semblance of human life around, even if it is the recording of actors who don't know I am alone and very lonely in this big house.
It's good to stay busy in these circumstances. I've got stacks of little jobs that need doing around the house. The hamster cage needs a-cleaning. The recycling needs a-sorting. The laundry needs a-folding. The stories need a-reading (Jen, I haven't forgotten).
Friday, May 20, 2005
Via Bluewyvern, an article on the propensity of girls who like fairy tales to get caught up in domestic violence:
Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says.
Luckily, I never bought the whole fairy tale thing. I always identified with the ogres, witches and beasts. Come on, the witch in Hansel and Gretel had a house made of candy - you'd have to be a pretty stupid kid not to think she rocks! And the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, he cross-dressed. For one little girl with budding kink fantasies that said a lot. Then there was a Swedish fairy tale where a blonde princess gets switched at birth with an ogre girl with a feisty personality and a head full of dark curls.
However, I am a little worried about my own forays into the world of fairy tales.
A few weeks ago, lusting over the Richters seed catalogue, I came across rampion. Some of you know rampion from Rapunzel; Rapunzel's mother so craved rampion roots during her pregnancy her husband stole some from the neighbouring witch's garden to satisfy his wife.
I ordered rampion seed to grow my own and find out if it's truly worth giving up your unborn child for.
Am I headed for the black hole of submissive relationships? This article about girls who believe in fairy tales too much is a real wake-up call. Will I enjoy rampion so much that I will sacrifice everything just to have one. more. taste. of. rampion? Will my daughter jump into unhealthy relationships with men who claim their are princes just to escape the tragedy of home life?
It's not too late to put a stop to my rampion-growing. Just in case, I am going to break into a few bear cottages and spit in their porridges. Then I am going to the ball with live squirrel thigh-high boots instead of those stupid glass slippers. And I will stay after midnight, fairy godmother's advice be damned. To finish off, I will suggest to the prince (who won't know I made out with the chief of guards that night) that we spray paint obscenities on the dwarves' house. You know, just 'cause we'll be drunk and there's nothing better to do on a Saturday night when you're only fifteen.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Sometimes I work eight or ten days in a row. I like what comes afterwards; vacation time.
This week I have five days off in a row.
Last week I was really looking forward to it, assuming that I would be spending the time with someone I fancied. Of course, I screwed that up. I deserve to be roasted on a spit and, as no one has stepped forward to do the torturing, I have been doing a splendid job at it on my own.
I've completely lost my appetite as a result of all this self-criticism. Interestingly for someone who is squeamish about actual physical pain, my skull feels like it is one big bruise this morning. It hurts to shampoo. I am pretty sure I did not bang my head into a wall last night. The only explanation is that I have a brain tumour.
Day one of the five-day weekend meant spending a lot of money and hobnobbing at the Federation of BC Writers AGM, where I got to meet a lawyer from my former law firm and I recruited him for my upcoming literary project.
Yesterday's credit card bills will haunt me in a few weeks. For now, I am quite excited about my new plants. I got orange mint and Corsican mint - adding them to last week's grapefruit mint, and my other mints (spearmint, peppermint, pennyroyal, eau de cologne mint, apple mint, chocolate mint and Moroccan mint). After last week's sweet woodruff disappointment - it can only be used to flavour white wine - I made sure my other herb purchases were edible. My new sweet cicely is entirely edible: leaves, flowers, roots, seeds. My other new plant, the tiny hyssop, has edible leaves and flowers.
I also did something extraordinary. I bought a non-edible plant. It doesn't even repel insects like my balm of gilead. Yes, the sweet woodruff makes up for its uselessness by being awfully cute though it still, thankfully, has wine-flavouring qualities.
My latest plant is even more useless. It is a black-leafed clover.
I picked it out because most of the stems sprouted four-leaf clovers. Perhaps it can be useful after all.
One of the magazines had an article on narghile, or the hookah. This is a hobby I've been meaning to take up. I have smoked cigars, cigarettes and one or two other things, but never this. It was a sign.
The facial was expensive. A while ago, Litblitz and I agreed that beauty salons are like brothels for women. We pay to be touched, too. Only I am kinda peeved that my facial cost $65 while a blowjob in parts of town goes for $5.
Overall, though, Day One of the monolithic weekend was not bad. I managed to not think about me.
This is Day Two of my five-day weekend. Beggars can't be choosers, so I accepted a date with my Bawdy Aunt to see the new Star Wars movie. She's seen Kingdom of Heaven (I was counting on Orlando Bloom cheering me up) and she is not up for Crash.
My roommate assigned me to copy songs onto her iPod. I have another 25 CDs to go. Star Wars will get preference over the iPod.
It gets worse tomorrow. My roommate moves out leaving me all alone in a big house in the middle of nowhere. (If you are reading this and you are a serial killer, I don't live at 8584 Woodgrove Place in Burnaby.) I haven't found a new roommate yet. I hate knowing that the house is entirely empty.
That's the reason I got a hamster. I needed another non-microscopic living being with me in the house. The hamster, however, does this creepy thing where she stares at a corner with her back to me. It reminds me too much of the Blair Witch Project.
I haven't had a roommate since 1999 and, while I like being able to shower without anyone else's schedule in mind, it's nicer to come home on some nights and find dinner already made and a video already rented. This roommate, in particular, had good taste. Last week we watched Veronica Guerin, Napoleon Dynamite and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Tomorrow night it all ends. No more cosy evenings at home. I don't watch TV but I turn on the clackering box for the noise.
These five days alone are daunting.
My mother suggested I go to work and just volunteer there. Good idea, but that's one of the stress points in my life. Everyone goes through this and I'm supposed to be regenerating on my days off. My mother also suggested I start working at the catering company. I think more along the lines that I standardize my schedule and start temping again on my days off. None of these ideas will help me on my current five-day weekend.
I have all sorts of projects, with a Sunday deadline for reading over two stories, I want to finish reading one book and to go on a marathon Steinbeck binge, as well as cleaning the hamster cage. Aside from the hasmter part, all other activities will take place on The Street. My other plans are hush-hush - in fact, I am pretending I don't have plans at all - whenever I make plans it seems that they go terribly wrong. I think Fate has it in for me and if Fate knew that I have good times planned, Fate would squash my plans as ruthlessly as usual.
And I have officially decided all default fantasies will involve my past semi-cross-dressing paramour. That ought to keep me busy.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I will be flattened by a falling piano
How will you die? Take the Exotic Cause of Death Test
This was one of those quizzes where the results for all possible answers appear once you get your own result. I really wanted the Kodiak bear bestiality death or the bobbing for apple drowning or the giant duck death or the frozen urine rod impalement. I went back and forth, changing my answers, then checking to see if I would get what I wanted. Nope, always the piano flattening.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about death. Not very imaginatively. I gave up on hanging a few months ago. In a weird quirk of survival conspiring against me, I just couldn't figure out nooses.
I dabbled in the idea of cyanide pills; if it's good enough for Latin American guerillas and Hitler, it's good enough for me. Or cassava roots: they have cyanide too. Or apricot pits. Even apple seeds. Yet cyanide metes out death in 15 minutes. Painfully. The combination barbiturates, enough swigs of vodka and plastic bag over the head is still the best way.
As I watched again my favourite video of decomposition, I remembered that I am too repulsed by natural body functions to actually die.
My most recent will swells at the part where I describe what happens to the corpse. Nothing involving burial because worms give me the creeps, and dark, confined spaces leave me cramped and fidgety. Even cremation is damnable these days: your ashes are prohibited by law from tumbling out of an airplane and dusting the landscape. Ashes can be buried in memorial gardens - buried! worms again! with direct contact!
Skeletons are cool with me. I wouldn't mind being a skeleton. Unfortunately this fate involves maggots, thereby annulling the procedure. So much for my plans of me as a skeleton terrifiying little children by playing pianos in restaurants.
Becoming a diamond is not that expensive for a well-to-do corpse. My mother can wear me and, once that is no longer possible, my will requests that the me-diamond be placed in a certain piazza for anyone to take.
(The other parts of my will are simple numeric formulas: 50-20-20-10, for those of you getting a piece of the pie.)
I am going to throw all caution to the wind and try my luck with the Kodiak bears. Alaska, here I come, lock up your ursine daughters!
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Presumably while you sip your espresso: a combusting marshmallow, scenes from my refrigerator, a quick peck and another crustacean story.
MaikoPunk and I walked down The Street to find our own Espresso Stories.
In Vancouver there are a few other spiffy neighbourhoods.
Commercial Drive, or simply The Drive, is a busy place and the easternmost boundary of diehard Vancouverites. Parallel with Commercial are the dull bores of Nanaimo, Rupert and Renfrew. I've been told I fit in there most, out of all of Vancouver's nieghbourhoods.
Yet, The Drive is tainted in my eyes. A friend got the shit beaten out of her there and I've never entirely warmed up to the place afterwards.
Then there is Downtown. I lump Davie Street, Yaletown, Granville and Robson all together. Davie Street is a gay mecca and the best of the four, though parking is too much of a problem downtown to make it good enough for me. Yaletown is the most sterile reminder that this is Vancouver. I know Vicki Gabereau's hair dresser there and all she does in her spare time is flop her boobs out for the camera. Granville sucks, especially now that my favourite Brit Pop night is gone. Robson, that's where men with two-inch dicks turn their car stereos up to deafening.
The Downtown Eastside/Chinatown; what a hoot if you like the smell of fresh urine. I rather like Strathcona and it's cutesy houses, but I would hate raking the syringes from my lawn.
Gastown is my new semi-decent choice of a neighbourhood. Adjoining the Downtown Eastside, a junkie helped me look for what I thought was my stolen car last time I was there. I used to work nearby, for a wine-and-spirits company, and my lunch hour walks took me past discarded condoms and people who fancied my yellow umbrella. More importantly, Gastown has Sanctuary on Sunday nights. Still, that makes Gastown a one-hit wonder. You'll have to do better than that.
Then there is Kitsilano. I like it. Busy. Lots of people who say hi. The only problem is the stores are expensive. And the people who don't say hi have an annoying habit of just tanning on a really bad beach. They can't seem to be able to do anything else. Well, sometimes they play drums or pretend to throw around a frisbee until it hits some girl's dog. While I might consider living in Kits for the proximity to humanity, I would hardly be a model citizen of their bronzed numbers.
Lower Granville Street is too genteel for most of us - nice old apartment buildings; since my friend Sara moved away, though, the place has been lacklustre.
Now we come to Main Street. Usually referring as a neighbourhood to the bit south of Broadway, as opposed to the sketchy part in the Downtown Eastside, it's the already upped-and-comed neighbourhood of Vancouver.
Main Street was supposed to be my street. I have the designated parking spot, the sort of film experience I go for, the restaurant where I am such a regular they no longer try to pour tea on my lap, the collage mecca, the impromptu palm-readings at street corners, the people who like clouds and nod appreciatively when I mention Jan Svankmajer.
Somehow the dream went all wrong. Instead of busy and bustling, I got foggy and forlorn. It was like the set of 28 Days Later, only not perfect. That one morning ruined it for me.
Hastings Street - The Street - is a rugged loner. In the borders of Burnaby, the next city over from Vancouver, it is at the outer reaches of the true Vancouverite imagination, a frontier. Most Vancouverites know Hastings only from its inception at the epicentre of the Downtown Eastside. Even me, for the longest time, I only drove or bussed through.
MaikoPunk suggested it first for the site of our Espresso Stories. Though I thought of all the usual reasons nothing can happen outside of the borders of True Vancouver (bound by 20th on the south and Commercial on the east), I agreed to walk down The Street.
Busy enough for my tastes. People everywhere, not like my pot-busted neighbourhood. The stores were cheap; less than ten dollars for sweet woodruff, bitter melon, grapefruit mint, a strawberry plant, Thai basil and a book on terrariums (my soon-to-be new hobby - everyone, prepare to receive a terrarium). Friendly people too, the grocery store owner who took much interest in my plant-buying habit, the nice guy determined to help us find the coffee shop of our dreams, the bookstore clerk that offered to scout out for me books on Japanese vegetables. People who actually talk to you, not through you. And Mario. I've been to Mario's twice, both times presaged disaster. I am determined to change the curse of Mario's. Mario and I are going to be great friends.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Due to a misread comma, I thought Rudolph Valentino moonlighted as Richard Barthelmess in the 1919 D.W. Griffith film Broken Blossoms. We were ready to confine Valentino to a straitjacket in mediocrity prison. It appears that Richard Barthelmess is not Valentino; Valentino can go back to being the great heartthrob and Barthelmess can take his place in our prison.
Barthelmess, as the Yellow Man, was guilty of many crimes. Mostly the Yellow Man excelled at looking really stoned. Then there is the repetition of the hunched over pose against the wall. Most offensive were close-ups of his face. Nobody could have been fooled, even in 1919, of Barthelmess being anywhere near Chinese. We squinted at screen, trying to figure out if he wore "oriental eye" prosthetics.
In the movie, four years after Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (infamous for its glorification of the KKK), the Yellow Man is a sort of Buddhist missionary who relocates to London to teach foreigners how to be nice to each other. He secretly pines for a fifteen-year-old waif, played by Lillian Gish (and perfectly puckered lips). The girl's boxer father, a cross between Robert de Niro and Al Bundy, treats her like his punching bag.
After a savage whipping, the girl crawls away and collapses in the Yellow Man's shop. The Yellow Man treats the wound on her naked shoulder then zeroes in for a kiss as the girl pulls away. He tries to seduce her again later, yet she thwarts him again prompting this text: "His love remains a pure and holy thing - even his worst foe says this." So he resorts to putting moonbeams in her hair: "There he brings rays stolen from the lyric moon, and places them on her hair." Yes, those are the words: the image of Barthelmess stealing these rays from the lyric moon surpass in silliness.
He dresses her in Chinese silks and decorates her hair with flattened cinnamon buns, creating the look that would haunt the dreams of nerdy adolescent boys forever in its reincarnation on Princess Leia's scalp. She delights in the dried flower he gives her - one of my fellow viewers remarked that "she's so excited about potpourri!" He can't get enough of her - she "smote him to the heart" after all - and he gets her a doll. One reviewer suggests that "For Lucy, the doll becomes a surrogate for the grateful love she cannot direct toward the Yellow Man." i.e. the doll gets caressed.
You know this idyll can't go far. Sure enough, papa comes along and drags the girl off home for the fatal beating. Before she dies, she has a chance to panic in a closet as her father axes down the door to music that must have inspired the Jaws theme. The girl's heartbroken would-be lover shoots the father to death - then the Yellow Man carries the girl back to his place for a few funerary rites followed by suicide.
It couldn't have happened any other way.
"A married acquaintance has told her, 'Whatever you do, dearie, don't get married.' Warned as strongly by the ladies of the street against their profession." Just like Roger Ebert said, this girl has no options. While the more imaginative of us might ponder an alternate future where the girl hovers over a wok and the Yellow Man wipes faces of the mixed-race triplets, onscreen white woman-nonwhite man relationships never prospered unlike some of their real-life counterparts. Plus, look at the precedents in Hollywood: four years before Broken Blossoms, The Cheat portrayed a nasty Sessue Hayakawa branding a wayward white woman.
The science of eugenics also pointed out that marriages between white women and men of other races resulted in miserable wives. (No eugenics study I have read mentioned whether the husband was happy.)
The girl had no choice but to die.
The Yellow Man, if he was to prove to audiences his honourable intentions, had to die along with her. He also never got that kiss because any relations with the girl would have tainted his role as the heroic foreigner. For me it was almost as bad as the teaser bed scene between Ishmael and Quequeeg.
The text accompanying the film is jarring for those of us on this side of racial tolerance: "Now - Limehouse knows him only as a Chink store-keeper" and "What makes you so good to me, Chinky?" Indeed one of the film's alternate titles is The Chink and the Child. (Broken Blossoms is also known as The Yellow Man and the Girl and Scarlet Blossoms.)
Yet despite all my complaints, I watched it a second time, fast-forwarding to my favourite bits.
Written January 18, 2005. Haven't been especially eloquent in the last few weeks. There's been an ongoing Monopoly game on this side of the screen and it will soon be over (my rival refuses to sell me Park Place) and then I'll be writing again.
Thank you for reading.
Saturday, May 07, 2005