today's inspiration: women olympians

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Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci on the balance beam at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
She was awarded seven perfect scores and three gold medals. (via Olympic.org)

Have you guys been watching the Olympics? I've been following swimming and gymnastics and boy, watching their form makes me want to do sit-ups and start eating healthy everyday - ha!

Read: Modcloth's feature about 7 inspiring women Olympians from past decades.

Watch: This and this, videos of Nancy Comăneci's perfect 10 scores. Gave me goosebumps!
So much grace and power and she makes it look so easy.

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And just because I miss watching these two, a behind the scenes photo of American gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Photo via)

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Nastia Liukin for Women's Health Magazine, photographed by Martin Schoeller (Photo via)

P.S. Here is my post during the 2008 Olympics. I was just as obsessed with gymnastics then.

five things: films

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In a perfect world, I can write detailed posts about all the movies I love, take lots of screencaps, and share my thoughts about each of them. Unfortunately, I just don't have enough time to do that regularly but I really do want to talk about a few of those movies here. I watched most of them during film festivals early this year and I hope that you can also see them whenever you get the chance. And I must warn you, this post is long. Here we go.

Trishna (2011), written and directed by Michael Winterbottom
Gorgeously shot that each frame is like a photograph (see images above), this film is based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Set in contemporary India, Trishna is a poor rural girl who falls in love with the son of a wealthy British property developer who came to oversee one of his father's hotels in the country.

Whether you've read the novel or not, it is easy to predict where their relationship is going but what sets Trishna apart is the almost detached quality that the film is looking at its characters. Even in the midst of tragic events, there is no hysteria or overwrought music, rather it uses the colors and scenes of India as a framework for its unfolding. In a different world, they'd probably make a great couple, but set in the context of class and gender divide, their story was already doomed from the start. But oh, what a story it was. I could not stop thinking about it.

Starring Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed. Watch the film trailer here.

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Monsieur Lazhar (2011), written and directed by Philippe Falardeau
This French-Canadian film moved me so much that I was shamelessly crying inside the theater. Perhaps because I also work with children at the schools or because I deal with grief the same way that most of the characters did in the movie, something about it resonated deep inside me.

The story takes place in a private elementary school in Montreal when an immigrant teacher, Monsieur Lazhar, took over a class who's previous teacher had committed suicide. During the course of a year, Monsieur Lazhar must take on the difficult task of teaching students who are still coming to terms with their traumatic loss while dealing with his own personal issues at the same time. It is a tricky emotional terrain to navigate and this film gets it right, especially the pitch perfect performance of the main character and the child actors. You will feel grateful for having watched it and hope that the world will never stop making movies like this.

Monsieur Lazhar was one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Oscar Awards. Have a look at the trailer here.

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Your Sister's Sister (2011) - written and directed by Lynn Shelton
This movie is described as a romantic comedy but for me it's really more than that. It is hard to write a synopsis without giving away the plot so I'll just say that it's about relationships - between sisters, best friends, lovers - and all its messes and entanglements.

Watching Your Sister's Sister was like having an intimate dinner with friends. The acting and the script is so natural that you actually feel alongside them. I laughed, I cringed in embarrassment, then laughed some more, and I didn't want it to end. There is really nothing like a good film that makes you want to spend more time with its characters even after the credits had stopped rolling. And one more thing, the cinematography is absolutely lovely. It made me consider living in the Pacific Northwest and that's saying a lot because I hate being cold.

Starring Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, and Rosemarie Duwitt. Watch the movie trailer.

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Liberal Arts (2012) - written, directed, and starring Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother
This movie was a surprise screening for the members of the San Francisco Film Society so I had no idea what it was all about. Ten minutes into the film, I was already smitten. Or let's just say that if I had an ideal guy he would probably write a movie like this one. The dialogue is so delicious and witty, I wanted to have a copy of the screenplay as soon as we got out of the theater. Plus, there is something about a nerdy and introverted guy falling for an outspoken and vivacious girl who is so much younger than him that makes me giddy.

He is a bookworm, she makes him a mixtape of classical music, they exchange handwritten letters while they live in different cities. And despite their age difference, they can talk about anything and everything, including a lengthy discussion about books and reading. So yes, definitely a movie after my own heart. (And I do have a history of falling for film majors, natch.)

There is no official trailer yet but Liberal Arts is scheduled for release in September, via IFC Films.

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I Wish (2011) - written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
I feel inadequate to describe this movie in words, but if I have to, it is probably these - pure joy. I want to hug it and keep it close to me so that when I feel sad, I can watch it and take comfort in its beauty. And once again, acclaimed Japanese director Kore-eda has convinced me that he is one of the best filmmakers of our time.

I Wish is about two brothers who were separated after their parents' divorce and their belief of a kiseki or miracle to reunite their family, along with the construction of a new bullet train in their region. This movie is gentle and observant, with little dialogue but a whole lot of heart. It is also very realistic, allowing us to take a small adventure with the kids and realize that the outcome doesn't matter so much as the change that happens inside us while taking this journey.

Here is the trailer. It is also my wish that you can all watch this special film.

P.S. Has any of you seen these movies? Or do have recommendations that I must watch?

my summer so far.

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My creation
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I fell in love with the photo booths at the county fair.
Spent a weekend in a sweet house by the river.
Lots of good food.
And sunny seaside afternoons.

What have you been up to this summer?

All photos via my iPhone and Instagram

colors and half-remembered dreams

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Some things never leave a person:
Scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.


-- Excerpt from a poem by Li Young-Lee

Photos from exposed film of my Holga camera.
I kind of love the colors it created.

Happy weekend, my dears.
We are going here. I'm excited.

today's inspiration: anna karina

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“I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.” -- Nora Ephron, Heartburn

I love this quote and this photo of Anna Karina in Paris and thought they go well together.

Anna Karina will be always my favorite, with her bangs and perfect cat eyes, and how enchanting she is onscreen. I recently read this story of how she and Jean-Luc Godard first got together and it made me smile. Such passionate people, such passionate love.

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Though their marriage didn't last, they continued to make some of the most influential French New Wave films and it is hard to think of a Godard movie without Anna Karina in it. I remember when I first saw Une femme est une femme, I was struck by two things - how colorful it was and how Godard must have loved her. You can see it in the way the camera follows her and yet gives her space as she moves in and out of a frame. There's even a scene where she winked at the camera (and essentially, Godard), which might have been a big "no" for filmmakers, but if there's anyone who can get away with it, certainly Anna Karina can. 

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Top photo taken by Lennart Green. All images via.

tonight we are young

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‘Eighteen years have gone by, and still I can bring back every detail of that day in the meadow. Washed clean of summer’s dust by days of gentle rain, the mountains wore a deep, brilliant green. The October breeze set white fronds of head-high grasses swaying. One long streak of cloud hung pasted across a dome of frozen blue. It almost hurt to look at that far-off sky. A puff of wind swept across the meadow and through her hair before it slipped into the woods to rustle branches and send back snatches of distant barking – a hazy sound that seemed to reach us from the doorway to another world. We heard no other sounds. We met no other people. We saw only two bright red birds leap startled from the centre of the meadow and dart into the woods.’ --Toru Watanabe, Norwegian Wood

I often associate the books that I love with things that I want to do after reading them. For instance, Anne of Green Gables makes me dream of spending an autumn weekend with my mother and my sisters, in a log cabin by a lake, we'd take long walks and eat s'mores around a campfire. Or after reading 1Q84, I wanted to take an overnight sleeper train by myself, and watch the sunrise from the window.

Norwegian Wood is one of those books that made me feel very deeply. I finished reading it on a plane en route to California from Mexico, which seemed fitting somehow because Toru, the main character of the novel, also started recalling his story as he was arriving on a plane to Hamburg. I remember sitting there and I had this intense longing to be in an open field, spend the night under the stars, and cry my heart out.  Not because the story was very sad, but because it was so honest and raw, and it brought back those times when I was young and uncertain, yet filled with much hope.  Sort of like the feeling that you get on a warm summer night and you remember your first heartbreak, how you moved on, and how much stronger you are for it.

So yes, something tells me I'll be reading this book again soon.

P.S. The title is a nod to this song.  Have a listen here.

kinfolk: an ode to summer

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I finally got my first Kinfolk magazine and its wonderful. The kind of journal that warms your heart and makes you want to do things with your own life. If I had a lot of money I'd probably give a copy to all my friends and loved ones. As it is, I'm slowly savoring each article and photo essays, making my own summer list.

Here is a video for Kinfolk's Vol 4, An Ode to Summer. Prepare to fall in love.



// Video by Sea Chant Production. You can see more behind the scenes photos here.
// All photos via Kinfolk.

light bound

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This afternoon, while walking home from the library with a bag heavy with books, I started to feel a familiar lightness in my steps. It could be the anticipation of reading, of hours spent with some favorite classics (I'm rereading Gatsby and Persuasion), and I suddenly felt like dancing.

Our ballet teacher often says this before we start doing our jumps:  
Plant your feet down. You need to take root in order to fly.

Books, poetry, quiet walks. These are some my roots, the things that anchor me.

// Other things making me happy lately:
This Australian tv show
Video chats with my family
Listening to The Writer's Almanac
Kinfolk magazine, vol 4

summer hours

summer loves

Without actually meaning to, I went to the ocean this evening. Just in time for sunset.

I found a little driftwood, slightly damp and perfect for me to sit on, stretch my legs and dig my toes in the sand, watching the water. There were only a handful of people on the beach and being there makes me feel like a member of this secret society of ocean lovers who knew just the right time to come, a little after 7 when most people have gone home and started eating their dinner. The summer light is most beautiful at this time of day and I already feel nostalgic for it.

That’s the thing about summers, they fill you with so many sundrenched memories its almost hard for the rest of the seasons to keep up. As I’m writing this, a jazz band is playing inside a coffee shop while the last rays of sun are streaming through the windows, a melody all too familiar that I started humming the words softly.

"Fly me to the moon, let me swing among the stars."

A little girl, I think she's about 3, is dancing to the music. Or more accurately, she sways her body side to side and spins until she's dizzy, then she sits on a nearby ledge, only to repeat it all over again. And the best part, she tries to sing along but the only song she knows is the alphabet song. So she sings "abcdefg" going all the way to u but she forgets the rest of the letters and shouts "uuuuu...u", her proud dad grinning broadly, while the rest of us watch their little family with smiles on our faces.

For a moment, it's as if we are not strangers but part of something bigger, mesmerized by music and one child's passionate abandon. And I'm reminded, once again, how joy can be so simple. So within reach.

Photo taken by me, via Instagram.