Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Category: Monday Inspirations (page 1 of 3)

Could This Be Hugh Jackman’s Biggest Fan?

No, no, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about “The Fan,” this phenomenal commercial that Hugh did for Lipton Iced Tea earlier this year. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a while, and totally making my life.

For behind the scenes goodies from the commercial, check out this video.


For Those Who Have Ever Been Afraid to Speak: The Poetry of Audre Lorde

1980, Austin, TX. I took it in very poor light...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My October celebration of poetry, sparked by the wonderful October Poetry Writing Month challenge, continues on. Today, I profile the great and wonderful Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

Lorde is an inspirational and illuminating figure, a scholar, poet, activist, and outspoken feminist.  She is notable for a million reasons, not the least of which was her lifelong battle against social inequalities, inequalities that she identified as endemic and embedded in the very structure of American society.

Race, gender, and sexuality were ever-present in her work, as were her scathing critiques of the feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which she decried for perpetuating a single definition of “woman,” one that took whiteness and heterosexuality as the norm. In refusing to acknowledge difference, Lorde argued that feminism could never reach its longed for goal of gender equality, for it would continue to reproduce other forms of inequality.

When it came to individual experience, Lorde also explored the dynamic of multiplicity that we encounter in our own selves.  A self-proclaimed “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” her poetry and prose explored her struggles with reconciling the various aspects of her identity.

Lorde’s work on identity, inequality, and difference has resonated with me since I first encountered her as an undergraduate. It is her writing on silence, fear and courage, however, that truly inspires me. Silence, she reminds her readers time and again, is seductive. Silence is easier, safer, than speaking out, but that is both false and dangerous.

For Lorde, silence is tantamount to death. In order to live, we must speak our truth. Fear never fully fades, but as she wrote in her memoir, The Cancer Journals,

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

Although she died from breast cancer in 1992, her work continues to live on. This clip from “A Litany for Survival” (hyperlinked in case the embedded video doesn’t play), a documentary on Audre Lorde’s life and many contributions, illustrates her intense passion and creativity.

I end with with poem for which the documentary is titled. “A Litany for Survival” is, in my mind, the perfect expression of Lorde’s fierce exhortations to live, to write, and to speak.


A Litany for Survival

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak
we are afraid our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

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“Now I Become Myself”: The Poetry of May Sarton

When I can, I like to use Mondays to cover anything and everything that can be termed  “inspirational.” To celebrate the kick-off of #OctPoWriMo, Mondays in October will feature some of my favorite poets.

It’s not the first time that I’ve done so here on Flights of Fancy. Back in January, I included an awesome clip of Maya Angelou reading “Still I Rise.” And in February, I included a clip of Broadway star Audra MacDonald performing James Baldwin’s poem, “Some Days,” set to the music of Steve Marzullo.

May Sarton (Source: Wikipedia)

Today I’m featuring twentieth-century poet May Sarton (1912- 1995). Sarton was a prolific writer, penning over 50 works including novels and books of poetry, along with journals and personal memoirs.

Throughout her long career, she touched on a wide range of topics,  including nature, love and relationships, women and feminism, as well as aging, solitude, and the challenges of creative life. Though a lesbian herself, Sarton resisted being labeled a “lesbian poet.” Instead, she wanted to focus “on what is universally human about love in all its manifestations” (Wikipedia). Today, over forty of her books are still in print, and her work continues to be studied in university classrooms across the country, particularly in Feminist Studies departments.

Here are two poems by Sarton. First, an audio clip of the poet herself reading “My Sisters, O My Sisters,” and second, “Now I Become Myself.”

Enjoy! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

“My Sisters, O My Sisters”

“Now I Become Myself”

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
‘Hurry, you will be dead before-‘
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!


For more on May Sarton, visit the following sources:

“May Sarton, a Poet’s Life

“About May Sarton”

Beating Back the Monday Blues with Dancing Alan Rickman

Oh boy, folks, it’s one of those Mondays. You know, the one where you just want a perpetual snooze button on the alarm clock. Or, even better, a timeturner a la Harry Potter, so that you can rewind back to the start of the weekend and have ALL the leisure time.

Sadly, neither of those are in the cards for me to day. In an attempt to beat back the Monday blues, I’m offering up one surefire solution: dancing Alan Rickman.

Best. Gif. Ever. From the film, "The Search for John Gissing," via watson-obliviate.tumblr.com

While Mr. Rickman’s current viral video involves his ability to make tea-drinking epic, I am a sucker for this oldie but goodie. His cameo appearance in Texas’ video for “In Demand” (one of my favorite songs) is nothing short of glorious.  However, if you are in the mood for something amazingly cracktastic, I highly recommend “Too Sexy” Snape. 😛

Why are they dancing in a petrol station? I have absolutely no clue, but I never look a gift horse in the mouth. Enjoy, friends!

UPDATE: The awesome Lauren Garafalo asked me if there was an extended clip of the gif shown above, so I did a little digging and found this absolute gem. Again, it is from the closing credits of The Search for John Gissing, an indie film starring Alan Rickman, Mike Binder, and Janeane Garafalo. If you haven’t seen it, get yourself to Netflix and rent it.

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Classical Meets Bluegrass in the Goat Rodeo Sessions

I’ve got this thing for fiddles. My friends and family don’t really understand it — what’s a city gal doing listening to bluegrass and country music? Sure, they’re pretty broad-minded with their music. They listen to rock and pop, classical and jazz, but down-home, folksy, Americana music with fiddles and banjos? Definitely not their cup of tea.

So when the whole hipster thing started up, I was delighted. I can do without all the ironic facial hair and lumberjack plaid, but the hipster penchant for folk music is right up my alley.  From Mumford and Sons to The Civil Wars, the twang of the banjo and toe-tapping sounds of the fiddle have gone mainstream.

The musicians of the "Goat Rodeo Sessions" (Source: Classical Archives)

Recently, I stumbled upon an amazing collaboration between Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Stuart Duncan (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), Edgar Meyer (bass, piano, gamba), and Chris Thile (mandolin, guitar, gamba). The collaboration is known as “The Goat Rodeo Sessions,” and has become one of my favorite albums to date. According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘goat rodeo‘ refers to a chaotic situation where many things have to go right in order for it to work, a reference to the unusual and challenging aspects of blending classical and bluegrass music.”

The result, however, is nothing short of fantastic. It calls to mind the work of earlier classical composers like Aaron Copland, who wove folk-inspired songs of the “common man” into his work (for those of you in the US who remember the “Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign, the theme song was taken from Copland’s “Rodeo“).

The song below, the first track off of the Goat Rodeo Sessions album, just plain makes me feel good, and the video brings a smile to my face. There’s nothing like watching four amazing musicians perform together, and look like they’re having a blast doing it.

Has anyone stumbled upon awesome new music lately? Rave and recommend in the comments below!

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“You Are a Child of the Universe”: Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

Max Ehrmann

Max Ehrmann (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Monday! Today I wanted to share one of my favorite poems: “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), a US-born lawyer, writer, and poet.

“Desiderata” came to me during my last year of high school, a period when I was struggling with the fear of change, endings, and new beginnings. Amidst the uncertainty of my future, Ehrmann’s words served as a welcome reminder to let go of my stress and anxiety.

It’s no accident that the title of the poem is “things desired” in Latin. Here, though, Ehrmann seems to say that the things that we should desire are intangible and immaterial: inner peace, quiet confidence, happiness and contentment.

As we start a new week, let’s keep in mind his call for appreciating the present, embracing the messiness of life, and fostering interior strength.

Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


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A Dose of Awesome: OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass”

The band OK Go is one of my favorites when it comes to inventive, creative, dance-yourself-silly music videos. Their first, the infamous treadmill dancing video that earned an MTV Video Music Award (VMA), set the bar for what has become the band’s trademark style.

The video for their 2009 single, “This Too Shall Pass,” features an insanely complex and intricate “Rube Goldberg” machine (a highly complex machine that does simple tasks).

Cool fact: A good friend on mine worked on the set of this video. You can see his contribution to the Rube Goldberg machine — the falling pingpong balls — around 3:00 minutes in.

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Babies and Puppies, Oh My!

There’s really not much I can say about this video, except that I now want ALL the babies and ALL the puppies in the world.

Improbable, perhaps, but there is so much darn cute bound up in this 41 second clip that I don’t know how else to react. Watch it, my friends, but be prepared for massive squealing.

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Together We Will Live Forever: Love, Death, and “The Fountain”

Now that you all know why I harbor such a ridiculously intense crush on Hugh Jackman, it’s time for the Hugh-a-Palooza to continue!

Source: Wikipedia

While Hugh has starred in some wonderful films over the years, today I want to focus on one of my favorites: The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronofsky and co-starring Rachel Weisz. It’s one of those movies that seems to defy genre: one-part romance, one-part science fiction, one-part fantasy.

Aronofsky’s experimental style, as well as the non-linear storyline, makes it a bit odd and off-beat. It’s little wonder that the movie elicits divided reactions from fans and critics alike. It was allegedly booed by critics during its initial screening at the Venice Film Festival; fan reactions usually range from “Love It!” to “Hate It!”, with a fair number of people scratching their heads and saying, “Huh?”

The movie encompasses three storylines, all of which involve men battling the inevitability of death to save the women that they love. The core storyline takes place in the present-day, where Tommy Creo (Jackman) is a scientist struggling to find a cure for cancer. His motivations are as much personal as they are altruistic — his wife, Izzi, is fighting brain cancer. As he works to find a way to cure her disease and to keep her alive, she is learning to accept death, turning to an ancient Mayan myth about death and rebirth.

Probably the sweetest/hottest bathtub love scene ever. Source: Crash Landen

Izzi uses writing as a vehicle for healing and acceptance, weaving a fictional tale about Queen Isabella of Spain’s quest for the mythical Tree of Life, found in “the jungles of New Spain.” This is the second strand of the film, where Queen Isabella (also played by Weisz) commands her loyal conquistador, Tomas, to journey to South America, find the tree, and bring back its secrets.

Arm Tattoos from "The Fountain"

The third strand of the film takes place in the future, with Tom Creo as a space traveler taking the Tree of Life to Xibalba, the dying nebula that the ancient Mayans believed to be their underworld. Tom measures the years of his life in tattoos that run up and down his arms like tree rings, and as he sails through space to the place where he and the tree will be reborn, he is haunted by moments from the past: Izzi commanding him to finish her book, Isabella charging him with the task of finding the tree, Izzi asking him to take a break from his work to walk through the first snowfall with her.

Tommy and Izzi stargazing. Source: Greg Saltiel

There are different interpretations of this third strand. Did Tommy invent a way to stop death and aging? Or are the solitary adventures of Tom the Space Traveler present-day Tommy’s way of ending Izzi’s book? Although I prefer the latter perspective, the film is told in a way that allows for multiple readings.

Tom, the Tree, and the spaceship.

This is a movie that is incredibly rich with symbols and themes, from the use of trees and circles (Tommy’s wedding ring, Tom’s bubble-like spaceship, and other imagery), to the use of color. In all 3 storylines, Tommy is always dressed in black, save for the final scene of the film, when he is wearing silver. Izzi, on the other hand, is almost always in white, with the exception of the Spain storyline, where she is clad in a gown of rich bronze and gold, embroidered with the recurring tree motif.

Tomas the Conquistador and Queen Isabella

When it comes to themes, the battle between life and death, and the tension between acceptance of nature and control over nature, reign supreme. As a scientist, Tommy represents the urge to control life: he wants to cure cancer, to stop aging, to bring an end to death and suffering. Historically, this is a characteristic associated with masculinity, the old Cartesian dualism where mind exerts control over body, where man can shape and harness nature according to his will.

Izzi gives us the opposite side of the coin: the desire to embrace nature, to see death as just another part of the human journey. Throughout the film, she utters a single refrain: “Death is the road to awe.” While Tommy is single-mindedly focused on developing a drug to cure her brain cancer, Izzi wants him to walk in the snow and watch the stars. Tommy tells her, in a voice filled with anguish, that he wants her to stay with him, she reminds him that she will always be with him… but what is left unspoken is that her presence may not always be a physical one.

Tommy and Izzi together in a scene that always makes me cry. Source: Celebrating Cinema.

Above all, it is Hugh’s performance that draws me back to this movie time and again. While he exhibits all sorts of raw masculinity and berserker rage as Wolverine, his turn in The Fountain encompasses the greatest emotional range that I’ve ever seen him exhibit. In the present-day, he is a man standing on the brink of a breakdown, fighting to maintain control over his anger and his sadness.

With Izzi, he is tender and warm, and yet he can’t cry in front of her — that expression of grief is something that he can only do in solitude. As Tomas the Conquistador, he is intense and driven in his desire to protect his queen and carry out her wishes. As Tom the Space Traveler, he is somber and meditative, yet when Izzi/Isabella reappear and demand that he “finish it,” his grief is palpable. “I don’t know how it ends,” he keeps saying, and we can all feel his heartbreak.

The Fountain isn’t a perfect movie. At times it seems convoluted, and yet it is one of my favorites of all time. It is a movie that makes me think, one that makes me feel, and that is a rare thing in today’s world of cinema.

It’s also visually striking, and Clint Mansell’s soundtrack is so exquisite and evocative that I often put it on repeat and play it for hours on end. If you’ve got an open mind, and the desire to submerge yourself into a strange but beautiful world for an hour and a half, I encourage you to check out this movie.

Has anyone else seen The Fountain? Did you love it or hate it?

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Real Life Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and because I am a die-hard hopeless romantic, I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to love, that most noble sentiment.

I dabble with romance in my writing, and a good romance book or film can always boost my spirits. But as much as I enjoy the love stories that Hollywood and my favorite novelists can create, it’s the love stories from real life that affect me the most.

Cupid by Michelangelo, Musee du Louvre

Cupid and Psyche | Image via Wikipedia

I didn’t always feel this way, but after my first (and, to date, last) relationship ended, I found myself looking at love in a completely different light. If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that maintaining a relationship is really damn hard… but that it’s worth the effort, if the person you’re with is also willing to put in the work.

My parents on their wedding day, July 1986

The older I get, the more I come to admire and understand the nuance of my parents’ relationship. As a child, I idolized their love story, the tale of a man and a woman from two different parts of the world meeting by chance in San Francisco, falling in love, getting married, and having a couple of kids.

I spent a lot of time looking at my atlas back in the day, tracing myself an imaginary line from the Philippines, where my dad was born and raised, to San Francisco, where he and his family moved when he was 15; from Ohio, where my mom was born, to Los Angeles, where she grew up, and up the coast to SF, where she moved in her early 20s. Add in the fact that my mom claims to have day-dreamed of marrying “a boy from an island” when she was 5, and you have the recipe for little Lena thinking that her parents’ relationship was written in the stars.

My parents worked in the same office in San Francisco, where dad was the chauffeur for the company president. As my mom tells the story, all of the ladies in the office had crushes on him, including all the fancy-pants executive secretaries… but somehow, he fell for her, the lowly receptionist. It almost reads like a romance novel: the plain Jane who wins the cute guy over all the other ladies. It was a story that I loved.

And yet, I knew very well the darker side of their relationship. Both of my parents came to their relationship saddled with their fair share of baggage, emotional and otherwise. To top it off, my dad had a nasty addiction to drugs and alcohol, which contributed to the fights and arguments, the cycle of making up, breaking up, and making up again.

The early years of their relationship were turbulent, and those problems only continued after they married and I was born. In my early memories, it was just my mom and me — dad was off elsewhere, carousing with the guys, too busy getting drunk and high to come home. And I even remember the day when everything changed, the terrible fight when my mom called the cops and had my dad arrested because his temper got so out of hand.

This is a story that, for so many reasons, shouldn’t have a happy ending. It’s a story that should have ended with a divorce… but it didn’t. Mom decided that she wasn’t going to take it anymore, kicked dad out the house, and told him he couldn’t come back till he was clean. And my dad hit rock bottom, decided that his life, his job, and his family were more important than anything else, and came back to us. My little sister was born shortly afterwards, when I was 5, and slowly but surely, we became a family.

The whole family together, Christmas 2010

Watching my parents grow together over the years has taught me that love is never easy, that it requires constant maintenance and cultivation, like a garden that must be tended each season in order for fruit to ripen and flowers to bloom. They have their ups and downs, the occasional argument and misunderstanding, but they are on solid ground with one another.

Now that my sister and I are both grown and more or less living on our own, it’s exciting for me to seem them enter a new phase in their relationship: two empty nesters who go out on impromptu dates, who have been together long enough to overcome some of the hardest challenges in their relationship and who now know each other so very well.

I think my proudest moment came last summer, when I watched them renew their vows for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Their story is still in the process of being written, but it is one that reminds me that real life love is rarely as simple or straightforward as in the movies.

My parents on their 25th wedding anniversary, July 2011

I remember them today, especially because they have another anniversary coming up — the 28th anniversary of their first date, which, in a strange twist of coincidence, falls on February 18th, my 25th birthday. Congrats, Mom and Dad!


Because I am a music fiend, I had to give you all a couple of my favorite love songs to go along with today’s theme of “real life love stories.” These two, in my mind, capture the poignancy and uncertainty of love.

The first song, “Kissing You” by Des’ree, will be familiar to any of you who have seen the 1997 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrman and starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s bittersweet and beautiful, and Des’ree’s voice never fails to send chills down my spine.

The second comes from John Legend’s first album, Get Lifted. No matter how many times I hear this song, I’ll never get sick of it. John Legend tells the story of the love that “ordinary people” face, one that is far more complex and nuanced than any Hollywood fairy tale can portray.

What are your favorite “real life” love stories? Any romantic songs that you can’t stop listening to?

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