9th November 2020
It’s 2pm and I’m still in bed. The vagaries of lockdown life is that I opened the curtain for once and noticed how very grey it all is, and how very yellow the tree outside has become, positively autumnal. A also made us French onion soup ooooh-la-la! Though I didn’t hear when he called it and the bowl ended up cold (crusty sourdough with melted cheese n everything) till 10pm. He’s on another soup drive, ever since a friend advised him to celebrate what and where he is, rather than harking for a sun-dappled Mediterranean lifestyle all the time, that makes him jet to Barcelona or his native Greece to sit al fresco, then pine for more once back here.
The trick in life is to make the most of what you got. They say there’s no such word in Mandarin as ‘disadvantage’, the closest in meaning being ‘opportunity’.
So now hopefully it’ll all be a celebration of warm fires, snuggly blankets and a good read before Sunday roasts, though all of that is hard to come by tbh. A rarely ventures into the living room, our fireplace is purely decorative (it’s a Sixties tower block fer Chrissakes) and wedged shut with a TV, it is indeed freezing but no day blankets to be found (duvets only) and him being a vegetarian means roast is off the menu. Reading is through a scroll. So instead we have soup, in the kitchen, with a view over the carpark.
I will steadfastly avoid the news that will likely suck me up for 3 hours straight (nasty bug doing the rounds I hear, and someone won an election). Instead will attempt to venture outside to do some foraging later that’ll be the highlight of the day, and my existence. I will study the aisles of canned goods as if I’m front row at Balenciaga, push my trolley like I’m doing the Promenade des Anglais, bleep my purchases like cross-fit on Venice Beach.
Such is life right now. Checked out the latest big budget animated offering from Dreamworks (and Oscar winning director Glen Keane) on Netflix, Over the Moon, which was meant to go out in the cinemas surely. BEWARE SPOILERS
The moon gazing bunny is awful cute, and that lil glowing pangolin fella too, you wanna squeeze to death right there -he really doesn’t feature enough once she gets off the planet and into the realm of the bright and adorable. For the cartoon is divided into two halves, one very earthbound, sciencey and a little morose, involving family tragedy, growing out of childhood tales, and not-so-wicked stepmoms, with all the psychological fallout attached.
And the other half is a contrast, that they mostly hid in the trailer. What bursts onto stage are psychedelic otherworlds not just in look and feel, but storyline. From bouncy planets, spaceship frogs, hare wizards, and interstellar music vids to the fact many tropes hark back to our protagonists mind, her thoughts and fears. The little pangolin dude even points it out at some stage though the film never overtly admits it. -Which does make one strongly suspect the little girl’s going through a psychotic break, possibly in a coma from trying to fly a tin can off the surface of the Earth, or the onset of schizophrenia. Or you know, she’s dead and it’s the afterlife.
The storyline, like Frozen, does seem to randomly zap around like a flourescent bean (to go with the talking mooncakes): saying hello to a semi-villainous Moon goddess living it up as the ultimate influencer, having a Mad Max battle with what suspiciously look like the Angry Birds, a half brother whose raison d’etre is er, running into things (and how that conveys his love of his new sister), and said pangolin banished for a thousand years into the dark for singing a lonesome song (but that’s suddenly alright at the end and they hug). The random streak of light that ribbons about, breaking shit in half is also quite the device whenever needed, though it has no grounding in anything sciencey, folk taley or cultural ever. It just is, and there to exact threat whenever needed, eg mid-chase, or eating up important valuables.
It’s all based on the legend of Chang’E the Moon Goddess (that now lends her name to China’s exploratory rockets), trapped there with her pet rabbit, yearning over a lost love who’ll one day rescue her. We may have the Man on the Moon in the West, they have the Rabbit on the Moon in the East.
Unlike the last live action Mulan and its much derided litany of cultural errors written in by a slew of White folk in Disney, Dreamworks didn’t repeat the same mistake, by hiring Chinese writers and producers throughout (as after all, it is a co-production between Netflix and the Chinese arm of Dreamworks, Pearl Studio). Thus there is indeed a semblance of accuracy to the backdrops on home ground -not a wide-brimmed hat or toy factory in sight -and her cutesy traditional watertown is even accurately portrayed as the tourist sight it invariably would be. The family selling pastries to the passersby, the High Speed Rail link being constructed outside, the mix of old and thoroughly modern (and money-making). Even an employ of the hanfu trend in the tourists, which allows them to historicise the surroundings even more.
Once off terra firma though and pretty much all of that goes out the window, though the sinic shapes, patterns and colours do give a passing nod, and the dresses the Goddess wears were designed by Guo Pei zhooshing up historically accurate clothing into pop princess format. A drag queen’s dream. The ultimate battle, played out as a lurid ping pong tournament is a bit much though, culturally heavy handed and cringingly portrayed as sport of the gods.
The film ticks off every bracket in the Disney formula to make a bestseller. Yes there is that One Song (maybe two) they will try and plug for years as a money-making belter for every pre-teen ever, like Frozen and Moana. There is that storyline that will try to make you cry, (when you realise who certain characters really are) like Up and Toy Story. There is that picture-perfect utterly unrealistic setting like every animated village ever, and there is that deleriously cute and affable sidekick that steals the show, like Mu-Shu and Sid. -But overall it does pull it off, by dint of all the cultural nods and Easter Eggs. Kids will love it, discerning adults may be a bit confused but warm to it. You will by the end wonder whether hares and rabbits can reproduce together.
Anyhoo, off to the great outdoors again. It’s been a good five days, it might as well be a moon mission indeed, involving putting whole clothes on and a shave.
I have a strange new diet it seems, manifested through the current body clock. I fall asleep by 1am, from the glow of the laptop (living room’s too cold to stay for more than one film). And I’m never hungry in the mornings, and since finding out that the ‘most important meal of the day’ was made up by the cereal pluggers, I tend to skip it entirely. I will only eat when I’m hungry and if there’s nothing worth munching I just won’t do it (like every fucker’s ever said, what’s the point in filling the hole when you’re not enjoying it).
But then by 11am, after three hours of scrolling or writing I tend to fall asleep again. Awake again by 2pm and it feels like morning once more – no longer hungry -and I’m still at it till well into afternoon. Till finally I start to feel the rumble, weighed up enough to get wincingly out of bed into Arctic air. Then I stuff my fucking face. Snacks, teatime, then two dinners in series, of whatever I wanna. I’m strangely losing weight, worryingly so. I think it’s a version of the 5:2 where you starve yourself for 20% of the week and gobble the rest, I’m just doing it daily. It’s a mix of that plus the French Lady’s Diet, which is the idea you only eat haute/ nouvelle cuisine of the highest taste and expense, and savour it all so slowly you feel full and can’t afford anymore anyway.
My entrée at the mo wants to be chocolate brownies but I’m gonna have to go out for, into scudding weather. This new diet I’ll dub the Lazy Fucker Way. -Aware of getting my sensitive cultural idioms right here, Zen is pretty much boredom and cold right?
But you know what? Fuck Diets, that’s what it’s gonna say at the end of my bestselling cookbook and guru guide to living. No one’s got time for that, life too short. And if we have too much on our plates right now, might as well eat it.
The Chinese also have another saying to get through life. Wise man say: hánxiào yǐn pīshuāng -to swallow the bitterness/ arsenic, with a smile.