You tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.
Following Ang Lee’s second Best Directing win at the Academy Awards last night, this beautiful essay resurfaced. Here is my translation of Ang Lee’s words, written in 2006 (post-Oscar win). Please credit the translation to Irene Shih (and to this blog), thank you!
In 1978, as I applied to study film at the University of Illinois, my father vehemently objected. He quoted me a statistic: ‘Every year, 50,000 performers compete for 200 available roles on Broadway.’ Against his advice, I boarded a flight to the U.S. This strained our relationship. In the two decades following, we exchanged less than a hundred phrases in conversation.
Some years later, when I graduated film school, I came to comprehend my father’s concern. It was nearly unheard of for a Chinese newcomer to make it in the American film industry. Beginning in 1983, I struggled through six years of agonizing, hopeless uncertainty. Much of the time, I was helping film crews with their equipment or working as editor’s assistant, among other miscellaneous duties. My most painful experience involved shopping a screenplay at more than thirty different production companies, and being met with harsh rejection each time.
That year, I turned 30. There’s an old Chinese saying: ‘At 30, one stands firm.’ Yet, I couldn’t even support myself. What could I do? Keep waiting, or give up my movie-making dream? My wife gave me invaluable support.
My wife was my college classmate. She was a biology major, and after graduation, went to work for a small pharmaceutical research lab. Her income was terribly modest. At the time, we already had our elder son, Han, to raise. To appease my own feelings of guilt, I took on all housework – cooking, cleaning, taking care of our son – in addition to reading, reviewing films and writing scripts. Every evening after preparing dinner, I would sit on the front steps with Han, telling him stories as we waited for his mother – the heroic huntress – to come home with our sustenance (income).
This kind of life felt rather undignified for a man. At one point, my in-laws gave their daughter (my wife) a sum of money, intended as start-up capital for me to open a Chinese restaurant – hoping that a business would help support my family. But my wife refused the money. When I found out about this exchange, I stayed up several nights and finally decided: This dream of mine is not meant to be. I must face reality.
Afterward (and with a heavy heart), I enrolled in a computer course at a nearby community college. At a time when employment trumped all other considerations, it seemed that only a knowledge of computers could quickly make me employable. For the days that followed, I descended into malaise. My wife, noticing my unusual demeanor, discovered a schedule of classes tucked in my bag. She made no comment that night.
The next morning, right before she got in her car to head off to work, my wife turned back and – standing there on our front steps – said, ‘Ang, don’t forget your dream.’
And that dream of mine – drowned by demands of reality – came back to life. As my wife drove off, I took the class schedule out of my bag and slowly, deliberately tore it to pieces. And tossed it in the trash.
Sometime after, I obtained funding for my screenplay, and began to shoot my own films. And after that, a few of my films started to win international awards. Recalling earlier times, my wife confessed, ‘I’ve always believed that you only need one gift. Your gift is making films. There are so many people studying computers already, they don’t need an Ang Lee to do that. If you want that golden statue, you have to commit to the dream.’
And today, I’ve finally won that golden statue. I think my own perseverance and my wife’s immeasurable sacrifice have finally met their reward. And I am now more assured than ever before: I must continue making films.
You see, I have this never-ending dream.
Original text (in Chinese):
文 / 李安
`Have you made your peace with your God?’
`I never quarreled with my God.’
`But aren’t you concerned about the next world?’
`One world at a time.’
—Last words of Henry David Thoreau, speaking with his aunt on his deathbed. (via gaws)
Making a Fist
We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges
For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,
I felt the life sliding out of me,
a drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.
I was seven, I lay in the car
watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past the glass.
My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.
“How do you know if you are going to die?”
I begged my mother.
We had been traveling for days.
With strange confidence she answered,
“When you can no longer make a fist.”
Years later I smile to think of that journey,
the borders we must cross separately,
stamped with our unanswerable woes.
I who did not die, who am still living,
still lying in the backseat behind all my questions,
clenching and opening one small hand.
—Naomi Shihab Nye, from Grape Leaves (University of Utah Press, 1988)
mmmm. i like it you have a taste.
You beauties. You are mine!
I am a writer and poet,
one, bear with me here, of the “major” writers of the late 20th century,though just typing that felt desperate. I received a B.A. in English at Humboldt State University, then went on to attend the esteemed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, thus launching my career.I also like to drink.
What I’m doing with my life
Working on some short stories but
honestlynot that into it, which may be why I’m entertaining the prospect ofdating again.
I’m really good at
I hate to kick a dead horse here, butI’m really good at writing. I also make a pretty neatbeef stew, since I tend totake 6 hour naps. It just gets done. My first collection of short stories Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? was shortlisted for the National Book Award and sort of revitalized the short fiction form. John Updike selected on of my stories for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories of the Century; Robert Altman made a sprawling film out of my stories; writing professors all across the country solemnly mention me as a kind of blue-collar American Camus; so, I’m not sayingI’m really good at writing, just noting some examples of how others seem to feel this way.
The first thing people usually notice about me
I look the way a depressed person looks, if one were not trying to look that way.
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
The Trial; The Sun Also Rises; For Whom The Bell Tolls; The Stranger;Dear Mr. Capote; Kramer vs. Kramer; Terms of Endearment; Taxi Driver; Annie Hall; Love Connection; Empty Nest; Mr. Belvedere; My Two Dads;Miles Davis; Charles Mingus; Bill Evans; Pasta all kinds.
The six things I could never do without
Hendrick’s gin; tonic; lime; ice cubes; a tumbler; my typewriter.
I spend a lot of time thinking about
The triangular yet cyclical relationship between the author, the character of a story, and the reader; how empathy may just be narcissism projected onto others; how nostalgia is desperate memory; the hair-thin line between cliché and truth; showing vs. telling; my kidneys, liver, and spleen; realism, location, and class; linguistic economy; how to say something by not saying it; codependence, alcoholism, and intimacy; rent; whether or not something is a run on sentence and does it matter.
On a typical Friday night I am
I enjoy turning off all the lights in the house a few hours after dusk, walking over to the window, a drink in hand, and just looking out
at the vessels of leafless branches bruised into purple gloom, as if beaten by day. I see a man walking his dog, the diagonal leash sloped downward towards its neck like some slanted guillotine; I see this and think what is wrong with me? As you can tell, I need to be dating again. The bottom of my glass portrays multiple ever receding foci, all working in collusion together as the room fucking spins. The once frozen lobster ravioli is now paste in my boiling pot, asI’ve forgotten about dinner.
The most private thing I am willing to admit
I’ve been cruel to others for material.
I’m looking for
Just something, or rather someone, to get me away from this writing desk. A jovial date; a flash of tits; some female chatter. We could ride a roller coaster, have way too many corn dogs, and I would hope to die of a heart attack.Anything.
You should message me if
You should message me if you’d like totake a chance on a morbidly depressed yet emotionally available writer near the end of his noteworthy, and in some circles, brilliant career who just wants to tap into this supposed carnal hedonism of art and literature, which I will admit is a heavy handed euphemism for copulation, which despite all subtleties herein I must now betray and just say will you please be quick, please?
For me, a woman who is absorbed in her work, who does not care about gaining one’s favour, strong yet subtle at the same time, is essentially more seductive. The more she hides and abandons her femininity, the more it emerges from the very heart of her existence.
The first step - especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money - the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.
I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains„ deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know - unless it be to share our laughter.
We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.
For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.
To me it seems that at those moments, which are characterized by the sudden lifting of the burden of anxiety and fear which presses upon our daily lives so steadily that we are unaware of it, what happens is something negative: that is to say, not ‘inspiration’ as we commonly think of it, but the breaking down of strong habitual barriers—which tend to reform very quickly. Some obstruction is momentarily whisked away. The accompanying feeling is less like what we know as positive pleasure, than like a sudden relief from an intolerable burden.
1. Women are winning at education. As educational achievement increases across the U.S., women’s achievement growth is exceeding that of men in every demographic group—most notably at the highest income levels. Women are reaching adulthood better-equipped with the knowledge and experience…
Ailurophile A cat-lover.
Assemblage A gathering.
Beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.
Brood To think alone.
Bucolic In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant Like a cat’s eye.
Conflate To blend together.
Cynosure A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance A brief love affair.
Demesne Dominion, territory.
Demure Shy and reserved.
Denouement The resolution of a mystery.
Desultory Slow, sluggish.
Dulcet Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience Bubbling enthusiasm.
Efflorescence Flowering, blooming.
Elision Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir A good potion.
Eloquence Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient A softener.
Epiphany A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile At one time, for a time.
Ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Forbearance Withholding response to provocation.
Furtive Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol To skip or leap about joyfully.
Gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider’s silk.
Halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication Overlapping and forming a regular pattern.
Imbroglio An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue To infuse, instill.
Incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue A naïve young woman.
Inglenook A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance Blithe nonchalance.
Inure To become jaded.
Labyrinthine Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe A special kind of gift.
Lagoon A small gulf or inlet.
Languor Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure Free time.
Lilt To move musically or lively.
Lissome Slender and graceful.
Lithe Slender and flexible.
Love Deep affection.
Mellifluous Sweet sounding.
Moiety One of two equal parts.
Mondegreen A slip of the ear.
Nemesis An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea A solution for all problems
Panoply A complete set.
Pastiche An art work combining materials from various sources.
Penumbra A half-shadow.
Petrichor The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora A large quantity.
Propinquity An inclination.
Pyrrhic Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential Most essential.
Ratatouille A spicy French stew.
Ravel To knit or unknit.
Riparian By the bank of a stream.
Ripple A very small wave.
Scintilla A spark or very small thing.
Seraglio Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity Finding something nice while looking for something else.
Summery Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous Whispering, hissing.
Talisman A good luck charm.
Umbrella Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial In trace amounts.
Wherewithal The means.
Woebegone Sorrowful, downcast.
(via so much to tell you)