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Book Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

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A photo of a page in Brian Selznick’s “The Hugo Movie Companion: A Behind the Scenes Look at How a Beloved Book Became a Major Motion Picture”

 

Reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick was an experience that mimicked that of an unfolding film reel, as the illustrations clearly guide the reader along the adventure Hugo goes on, from the opening right to the end of the book. It was, in a sense, a very three dimensional cinematic experience brought about by the very 2D pages of a book.

One of the main appeals the book has are the very beautifully done illustrations throughout that allows the story to progress with minimal texts — if anything, the book has the fewest amount of words in any book I’ve ever read that aren’t mainly directed at preschoolers or toddlers. It was a fresh take on literature and it was definitely something worthy to note.

From the very first page, we are introduced to the main setting of the book, not through a descriptive paragraph, but through images that transport us from a typical cinematic opening in a film that flies above a whole city, straight to the main character. The story then unravels from there and readers are given a glimpse into the fantastically engaging world of Hugo Cabret and the other characters he shares his world with; the somewhat bitter and cantankerous Georges Méliès, thrill-seeking Isabelle, and the encouraging René Tabard are just some of the few colorful characters in Hugo’s world. A simple story filled with intricate details found all over the place, Selznick’s tale is one that delights and brings inspiration to readers.

With the book inspired by the real-life Georges Méliès, it paints a true picture of magical wonder that early film contained that captivated the world the moment it was created — film has become such a major focal point in today’s culture that it is impossible to imagine today’s age without it. If anything, this book was an homage to early film and it rightly does so with justice.

All in all, I personally loved the book and it brought back my passion and zeal to create fiction.

Friendships 001

Friendships, like all other relationships, are marred with just so many potholes and spikes, alongside the pleasanter side of the journey. When things are dandy, everything is wonderful, but when things get bumpy, it can be rather unpleasant — obviously.

All that was said above is the obvious general idea of what relationships are all about. It doesn’t take a genius to figure all that out. And, as it is always said, the personalities and ideals of the people involved always have a major role in how the friendship would play out.

As I cannot claim to know — 100% — what exactly someone else is feeling and thinking about in certain relational scenarios, I can only truly go on what I know about it myself.

Despite being a relatively empathic person, I feel I can be quite a cruel person. This side doesn’t usually come out a lot — rarely, if ever — but when it does, I’m usually very spot on in terms of where I should strike. But usually, I do the striking for the greater good, with well-meaning intentions. In the hopes that the other person will improve themselves and see the error of their ways that has caused harm to others. Like that one time a really, really long time ago (going on to 2-3 years now, I should say). Which took me, oh, only 7 years to have the courage to bring the issue up with the person. In turn, I expect the same, because, heck, I don’t want to be doing some harm to others without even knowing about it. It’s only right to be told, so I can do something about it.

But in terms of friendships, I do believe that the best ones are when both people are there for one another, to help each other grow, but not stifling each other so much that one person feels like they have a shock collar around their necks holding them in place and if the other is displeased, the one with the collar gets a nasty, nasty shock that slowly kills the relationship without the other person even knowing it.

Anyway…

That. Feeling tied up and inhibited by people. That usually kills a friendship for me. I feel like this is such a tremendous flaw of mine, but all I know is that I am averse to being clung to and when clung to, I have a strong sense to flee. And that includes even the closest of my friends. I suppose everyone has that feeling of fleeing from someone clingy, but couple that with someone who burdens you with all the negativity in their lives, down to their inconsiderate and spoiled nature, and rigid attitudes towards making a more positive change in their lives — foregoing some, if not all, the constant deplorably depressing thoughts — I will want to retire from the friendship. I’ll still be there for them, but the closeness that was once there will slowly disintegrate. This is not necessarily my own conscious doing, but more the fact that I just feel that the friendship has totally plateaued . I suppose this stems from the fact that I see friendship as an agreement where both support one another and push each other to become better people. That definitely involves also being there for the sour points of life as well, but if that one person just doesn’t seem to want to improve their situation and instead relishes the fact that they are cocooned in their own dismal existence, what am I supposed to do? I just don’t want to be sucked in even more into their abyss of cheerlessness than I already have.

I suppose it is my own fault really, since I thrive in an environment where my help is needed — and I won’t even expect anything in return, except for the knowledge that I’ve helped somehow — but when it has become apparent that I have become somewhat like a human emotional crutch, then I start to feel rather horrible, especially if the person has a rather narrow attitude towards life. For all the understanding, aid, compassion, and advice one dishes out to counter all the complaints they spill out, they make no effort in bettering themselves. Oh, I can’t say I’d halt the friendship right there and then, but I can identify a very poisonous and toxic friendship that would pull me down under to the bottom of the sea to drown with them; I just feel so drained and pruned out, I just feel the need to get away. Temporarily, maybe, but I wouldn’t even mind if it were for good.

Or I’m just extremely sensitive and selfish.

I have a nasty way of becoming very distant towards people who’ve gone overboard and taken advantage of me. I just become quite indifferent towards them and, even to me, that can be more cruel than being hated.

Boundaries are important.

I like to learn new things and make new experiences with people since that helps create great synergy within a friendship. I’m down to befriend people with polar opposite interests, but that won’t necessarily make them a close friend. I can’t rule the possibility out entirely, but all I know is that if someone isn’t accepting of differences in culture and ideals, then I just feel the urge to prune them out. If someone starts dictating to me, thinking they know what’s better in life for me, I’m sorry, but I will start forsaking the friendship right then and there, with the hopes that it will just fall away naturally. How can I trust someone with my friendship if they can’t even accept me for who I am, constantly making suggestions to make me someone I am not?

I guess I just like a friendship more when the persons befriended are unique, do their own thing fearlessly, are passionate about something, and have a zest for life. Even if the activity is to just sit together in silence while both are doing something on their own, I’ll be down for it.

Maybe I’ve just experienced too many heavy friendships to know what’s a good balance. But, in truth, an ideal friendship doesn’t just come into existence; it takes a whole lot of effort to make it one.

Lifelong Learning: Languages

Recently, I was given the opportunity to read and grammatically edit through a friend’s friend’s masters dissertation on the topic of Lifelong Learning in Macau. I took the job, because I thought, “Why the heck not? I’m not doing anything much anyway. Might learn something as well.”

And I did indeed learn quite a lot about the whole system. I also found it quite a fascinating read. I’m not going to mention anything that was written in her paper, but all I can disclose is that she has many good ideas on what could be improved in Macau’s education system; her SWOT analysis pinpointed a lot of valid weaknesses that are very obvious and it really is quite frustrating to know that they just haven’t been…eh…giatiman…I’m thinking in the wrong language…

Taken care of? I think that’s the right translation in English…but I know there’s a better phrase. I just can’t remember what it is.

Well, anyway.

I never met her before and while I was going through her paper with her, we got to talking — or rather, she kept talking, while I kept on working while listening to her (and I think I just made a new friend!). Since she works at the university’s Lifelong Learning Office, she knows a lot of things about the university and the other universities in Macau. And because of that, she noticed a specific behaviour among the students of Macau (or rather, the students at the university) that didn’t exactly help improve tertiary education in Macau; students weren’t willing to take initiative in their own education and were lazy as f***. It was a generalisation, but I saw her point. Then she said that the only department where students weren’t like that was in architecture (made me feel quite proud, in a way, when she said that).

This then segwayed into a conversation — a one-sided one, where most of my input were affirmatives to her points (it’s becoming quite obvious that I just am weak in debate, despite my interest in it. I see both sides and would rather agree than disagree just to keep the peace) — about making learning part of one’s lifestyle. Which I totally agreed on, since I feel the same way. We bonded over that fact most of the time I was editing her paper and I really do hope that her paper could lead to some positive changes to the current education system here. There’s potential, as she pointed out, but there’s still so much work to do to bring it all up a notch.

Her point about making learning a part of one’s whole life stands though. We can never actually stop learning and if we do ever stop caring about learning, then, really, all hope is lost. Okay, an exaggeration maybe, but still. Constant self-improvement will not only help one’s own self, but could also potentially lead us to contribute some small little things to society in some way.

Hmmm…this was a very…pointless post without any focus…but I’m keeping it up here, merely because I did put a few minutes into it’s creation.

On a related note to constant self-improvement, I’ve gotten myself a Portuguese teacher and she’s taught me quite a lot already. I’ve always wanted to learn some European language and I’m doing it right now! I initially just relied on Duolingo to learn Portuguese, but then I realised I just wasn’t getting enough grammar lessons from it, as it only teaches short phrases. Plus, it just sank in that I was learning Brazilian Portuguese, and not Portuguese Portuguese, and being a stickler for the proper proper of languages, I prefer learning the original form of Portuguese from Portugal; Brazilian Portuguese can come after.

My last lesson with her focused a lot on the different ways the letter “s” can be pronounced and boy does it feel nice to know the differences now.

“Ate próxima vez em Março. Em 13-28, eu estarei nas Filipinas. Bom fim de semana!”

That was the first message I wrote to her in full Portuguese. I doubt the grammar is right, but I am trying. Plus, she’s given me homework and I should get started on them.

So, yeah. Lifelong learning! Simultaneously, I’m learning Tagalog and Cebuano from my parents, and polishing up my Cantonese and Mandarin by listening to random people on the streets and from the choir people at church. Oh! And I’m also mastering the British accent from my boss at work.

Fim

Personal Thoughts 008

In essence, mankind just cannot be satisfied with what’s been given to them, constantly striving for more than what can be provided for by the planet. This creates problems in terms of resources, which then affects human behaviour as humans scavenge for resources (which is money in our current time and age) to get ahead of the rest of the population, regardless of the negative repercussion their actions may have on the rest of society. So selfishness prevails when it should not be, as selfishness, in terms of monetary gains, has been bred into humanity through the reinforced notion that money gets us ahead, replacing primordial competitive instincts to gain the upper hand through brute strength.

This is more or less how I view things currently.

I’m an idealist at heart, who wishes that an ideal model were used on the world, since the current system in place has created and has reinforced corruption time and again. I know it’s near an impossibility to change this, but I can’t help but hope that mankind will someday put more importance in the meaning of their existence than material wealth and vanity. If the aforementioned cannot be completely removed, at least they could be reduced, taking hold of society to a lesser extent.

In any case, if these thoughts were communicated to individuals at a younger age, before maturation, ideals related to these thoughts could be cultivated, reaping benefits for the society as a whole. But I dream.

Societal pressure,more or less, dictates that superficiality is more important than anything else though, so the majority have this mindset that wealth, power, and beauty are far more important than anything else.

Welp. These are just the things that flow through my mind at 4:00am in the morning, when I still haven’t slept yet.

Sleep deprivation never does keep my mind from running a triathlon…rather, it spurs it on even more.

Another Year Towards Death

Birthdays are inconsequential
Just a normal day
No use to be sentimental

Just a day one is born
From vacuous inexistence, torn
Thought, emotions — Consciousness
Brought onto life’s shore

The chase of life’s meaning begins
An ongoing struggle — relentless
So many paths to weigh in
So many hurdles to foresee

No end

But death

Just a number
Just a date
Oh quite an ordinary date

No need for fuss nor hullabaloo
Nor to pin down this kangaroo
Some acknowledgement enough
Celebration can be snuffed

A numeric increase in the human measure of being
Just another year closer to keeling

Glad to have life and lived
Though all this can be negatively perceived

Birthdays are just overrated..