Last semester’s grades have just been released – or at least, texted to me by the university’s student management system upon me waking up.

I’m slightly bummed about the two A-s as well as the A in English Literature (given that I’ve been getting A+s on all my assignments throughout the semester), but the overall grade remains a solid first class and I’d ought to keep it that way.


Black Widow: Red Room origins [painting]



Acrylic and gouache painting of Natasha Romanoff’s flashback sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Prints, posters, stickers and apparel available HERE.
(Yes I’m still using Redbubble even though they leech off your profits majorly, because I’m not too sure how else to manufacture/ship my products.)

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I’ve moved!

Over the past three to four years, I’ve garnered thousands of views and hundreds of followers on here and I’m incredibly sad to let this go, but I suppose I will since I’ve culminated way too many posts – too many to go through and delete (the embarrassing ones) – on here.

I’ve just started a new wordpress: (because was taken) so if any soul in the world is still interested in the shenanigans I’m up to, just follow me on the new site. 🙂

Bye and thanks for a short but wonderful era.

– Rachel

surprise, I’m still alive.

I’ve been so incredibly busy this past month dealing with university choices, scholarship applications, results and all the things you’d expect any 18/19 year old to be dealing with at this time of the year that I haven’t had the time to update this blog, or even tweet very much, for that matter. In fact, I’m only here writing this right now because I’m suffering from a massive writer’s block and I need to keep writing and typing to shovel this huge block out of my way.

With the question of my results, all I’m saying is that I did disappointingly but well enough to get me into the courses that I want to do. I had to email UCL to get them to reassess my application based on my current grades because I missed my conditions slightly, and they were kind enough to offer me admission, which I’m incredibly grateful for. I suppose I’ll be going to UCL should I get a scholarship, elsewise I wouldn’t be able to afford an education there – my parents only have enough to fund about one year out of three years of my course.

If a scholarship doesn’t happen, I’ll probably have to settle and read English at a local university – Anthropology’s not offered as a major at the universities here – and then take up a second major/minor in either History or Art History in the second year. I mean, I absolutely love reading and I truly enjoyed studying literature in school, and I could get into writing and journalism, and most importantly, academia with that. Not to mention that I had a tremendously wonderful experience at the English interview I had with one of the local universities last Friday.

The interview was a pretty strange experience because I wasn’t at all nervous or freaking out, when I’m typically horribly tongue-tied at these things (I’ll have to get that settled before I get any scholarship interview offers, if that even happens at all), and I had an awfully fun time discussing George Eliot with the professor I had my interview with – I was reading Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch right before the interview so I had a lot of overwhelming feelings about Eliot as a person and an author bubbling inside me that completely exploded out of me in the interview.

We also had a written test (of sorts) before the interview, in which you have to write an essay on either a piece of literature or film you find to be significant to yourself or society (and why), or an essay analysing one of the two pieces of poetry provided. I chose the first option because my poetry analysis skills were pretty rusty, and I’m not too fond of poetry, sadly. I wrote a pretty ramble-y, half-finished essay on The Goldfinch because that was one of the most recent books I’ve read that I feel is most relevant to society today – I’ve been keeping myself very much in the 19th century or in the mythical lands of Westeros with the other books I’ve been reading recently – and I didn’t think the essay was anything close to being well-written for the above reasons but my interviewer thought otherwise.

It was rather puzzling but amazing how one of the first things I was told during our interview was that I had a really strong and mature writing voice (for an 18 year old, nonetheless) and that I can write well (??!) I have never been told that by anyone, so to be told that by an English professor, of all people, felt like such sweet affirmation. (And quite unfortunately, I live for academic affirmation.) I’m not too sure what the professor’s read because I don’t usually read over my essays before I submit them – I can’t afford the time to since I write rather slowly – but I’m glad he liked the writing of whatever’s possessed me that afternoon. Honestly, most of the time I write like I’m writing now, a mere half-arsed, directionless ramble, but sometimes I end up constructing sentences like this: “More than the ornate depiction of her experiences, it was the sheer ardor with which she punctuated her narratives that truly illustrates her unwavering devotion to her job” that makes me question the legitimacy of my own writing. (That line’s from a piece I’ve been working on for my Vogue Talent Contest submission which I suppose will be elaborated on later, if I remember to do that at all.)

The English interview I had was possibly what swayed me from Anthropology a little (even though I know I’ll be doing a significant bit of reading and writing for an anthro degree as well), since now I’m not too sure which I’d prefer delving into for the next three to four years – and perhaps for the rest of my life since I’m pretty set on becoming an academic. Both areas of study do overlap in some ways, in that they are concerned with humans and in social anthropology, culture, yet what you study can be vastly different. I did consider applying to Oxford initially to do a degree in English (which also means that my entire UCAS application would’ve been tailored to that) but I chose Arch and Anth eventually for the sheer scope it covers and its possible overlaps with art history (which I love, too.) That being said, I’ve been told and even assured by the English professor at my interview that I will likely do really brilliantly in the degree if put in the due effort (obviously), which was why I’ve been extended an offer for the course during, rather than after the interview. Basically I’m stuck in a rather sticky situation right now which I’ve decided to wrestle out of based on whether I’ll receive the necessary scholarship funding to get me through three years at UCL… Not the best way to get out of a sticky situation, I know, but it’s better than flipping a coin.

Aside from university woes, I’ve been working on something else as I’ve mentioned earlier, the Vogue Talent Contest. which is basically an annual competition for young writers, organised by British Vogue. All the finalists will be invited to a lunch with the Vogue editors in London, and the winner will get a thousand pounds in addition to a month’s long paid internship at British Vogue, which may possibly open doors for a writing career in the future. I understand that my chances of winning or even getting shortlisted are slim, since I’m hardly a fashion writer, but ALEXANDRA SCHULMAN WILL BE READING AND JUDGING EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION – which also goes to say that she’ll be reading my writing. /swoon/

Also, fun factoid: one of the research fellows in the field of social anthropology at UCL, Kaori O’Connor, was a winner of the contest years, or probably decades ago. Oh and she went to Oxford to do a second degree in social anthropology. Basically she represents everything I wish to accomplish in the next 5 years. 

In other news of “things and people I’ve been slightly – just slightly – obsessed with”: Sylvia Whitman. She’s the current owner of my favourite bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company, an anglophile bookstore on the left bank of the River Seine, right opposite the Notre-Dame, nestled comfortably within the Latin Quarter of Paris. I fondly recall frantically searching for the teeny independent bookstore with my best friend after being given some time to wander within and around the Notre-Dame, and eventually finding it after a kindly old landscape painter and book seller pointed it out to us when we finally decided to attempt to ask for directions with our mad flails and broken French. I don’t remember seeing Sylvia Whitman there, but then again I wouldn’t know because I had no idea who she was or how she looked then, but we spotted our ex-Literature teacher at the bookstore – she was holidaying in Paris then. Being a typical tourist, I bought a copy of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserable, rather than searching out the more exotic finds at the back of the store. I do regret not buying more books from there (although the prices may be a little steep) but they’ve recently launched an online store so you can now seek out all the books you wish you’d have bought in Paris and get them sent to your place. The best part is, all the book customisation services available at their physical store’s also available online, and you can even request for a Parisian postcard or a poem typewritten by one of their writers in residence (also known as the Tumbleweeds) to be included with your book order.

I’ve been meaning to buy a book or two from their website and I’ve finally gotten down to doing it yesterday, after I’ve finished reading the library’s copy of My Life in Middlemarch and realised that I needed to own a copy for myself. They’ve got a rather charming website so after placing my book order, I was surfing around the site and fawning at their resident cat when I found a link to their YouTube, with similarly charming videos of their store that filled me with such inexplicable nostalgia. Anyway, as YouTube links usually go, I was directed and redirected to more similar videos and I found interviews that Sylvia Whitman’s done. SHE’S EVEN DONE AN INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON WHEN HE WAS FILMING HIS SHOW IN PARIS – and if you don’t know, Craig Ferguson’s one of my favourite late night talk show hosts (and I’m so gutted he’s left the show.) Anyway, not only is Sylvia Whitman incredibly gorgeous with her fluffy, whitish-blonde curls and amiable smiles (which was basically how I imagined Eppie in Silas Marner), she’s got such a sweet, demure voice yet she seems incredibly intelligent and well-read (that’s to be expected when you’re basically brought up in a bookstore with travelling writers writing stories where you live and reading them to you. No, I’m definitely not jealous of the practically enchanted, fairytale-like childhood she’s had.) And as an afterthought (I’m just kidding), she went to UCL to read History. Ugh. /dramatically flops on bed, face into pillow/ I want to be her. Her and Kaori O’Connor and Rebecca Mead and all the other eloquent, well-read, intelligent women of the literary sort.

I guess I’ve sufficiently emptied the contents of my brain to be able to focus on finishing up the pieces I’m supposed to be writing for the talent contest, and my tummy’s angrily demanding that I give it the tummy-equivalent of comforting rubs by feeding it, so I shall end my ramble here.

– Rachel

a tale of two scientific geniuses

(That was the best title I could come up with, honestly.)
(Note: spoiler alert.)

I’ve recently watched The Theory of Everything with my mom, and I’ve just watched The Imitation Game last night with my best friend at a local preview screening (it hasn’t actually premiered in my country) so I figured I’d review them both and perhaps compare them, since they’re both in the running for the academy awards. Both films cover the lives of two extraordinary scientific minds, who’ve accomplished incredible feats in their various fields, though one of them is practically a celebrity that everyone knows and loves and the other’s a name that is fairly unknown to most people.

Personally, I very much preferred watching The Imitation Game and sort of wished that I brought my mom to watch that instead (she fell asleep for a bit during The Theory of Everything.) I believe my mom would’ve enjoyed TIG better,since it was much better paced due to the writing – although I’d probably have a really difficult time trying to defend Turing’s homosexuality to my homophobic parents afterwards.  What I especially enjoyed was how the writers split Turing’s story up into three distinct portions – when he met his “first love”, Christopher Morcom, at Sherborne school, when he worked at Bletchley Park, and when he got arrested for “gross indecency” – and how they intricately weaved these different parts of his life together. This allows viewers to piece together his life from these bits and pieces and understand the impetus behind his actions better.

The use of explicit symbolism in TIG’s script was especially brilliant, and as a literature student (who wrote an entire essay on just one motif – the motif of “weaving” – in Silas Marner for her A-Levels), I really appreciated it.
Codes and puzzles are common motifs throughout the film. It’s most explicitly referred to through the Enigma code, which plays the central role in Turing’s story, as portrayed by the filmmakers. Beyond the unbreakable German code, the main focus of the biopic – Turing – was as much of an enigma as the code he was trying to solve. He held countless secrets, from the classified military work he had to conceal to his homosexuality and all the things in between, there’s very much that we (historians included) still don’t know about him. Even in the storytelling method as mentioned above, the concept of separating Turing’s life into three separate timelines rather than telling his story chronologically still fits very much into the puzzle motif, for it forces viewers to solve the puzzle that is Alan himself to learn about his life.

Another constant motif that runs throughout the film is the notion of “man vs machines”, or rather, how humans are similar and dissimilar to machines. Throughout the film, there are hints of how Turing isn’t quite “human” in how he works almost mechanically to build his machine, and how he prefers the company of “Christopher the machine” rather than his team. There’s a slightly Aspergic quality to his character (although historians cannot actually confirm whether he was Aspergic), exaggerated by the scriptwriters and Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him, that makes him less like us and more like a machine. This all culminates in an incredibly poignant scene in which Turing compares himself and others who are – like him – also on the fringe of society to machines. When the police officer (who presumably led to his eventual persecution and death) questioned him about machines’ ability to think, Turing responds with something that truly struck a chord with me – he explains that machines don’t think the way that the majority of humans do, and hence they don’t “think” in our technical sense of the word, yet machines do have some forms of processing ability and as such, he questions if we should reject computers as being non-human simply because they think differently from the way us humans do. In the scene, not only do the writers parallel Turing’s non-conventional beliefs and lifestyle to the machines he built, they’ve highlighted a message that I just can’t stress enough – that other thoughts, beliefs and cultures and no less than one’s just because they deviate from the majority. For those beautifully written lines, I’d be more than wiling to pay another twenty dollars to take my family to the cinema to watch the film with me such as to ingrain that message in their heads.

Speaking of which, there are several other notable splendid lines, the most significant being this:

Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
(Who knew mathematicians could be this poetic?)
This line was repeated thrice in the film between several different characters, and it was also written as the last spoken line – the trigger that brought audiences to tears, that is, if watching the genius who was supposed to be celebrated as a war hero regress into solitude and depression in the final stages of his life hadn’t already done that. In that scene, following the condemnation and punishment he had to face, Turing (like many others who don’t seem to fit into conventional expectations and stereotypes) mentioned to Joan Clarke that he wished he could’ve been ordinary. It was such a painfully heartbreaking scene because there was the man who accomplished nearly impossible feats, who saved countless lives, made discoveries that eventually led to the creation of our modern computers, condemned and maltreated by the unjust law to believe that he would’ve been better off being “normal”. It didn’t help that the subtitles in the final scene revealed that Turing died (presumably committed suicide) a year later. It was this injustice that Turing had to face that left many of the film’s viewers in utter shock and disbelief, and for my best friend and i, inexplicable anger. I suppose the worst part about it being a biopic was knowing that none of it can be changed or rewritten because all the injustice happened to an actual person, unlike with fictional stories in which we can easily rewrite the ending with our imaginations, a la fanfiction.
While TIG excelled in its storytelling, The Theory of Everything had – if I may say so myself – rather mediocre writing. The style of writing was clean and simple, presumably reflecting the nature of the family life this Hawking biopic specifically focused on. Despite this, the mere chronological depiction of the story that many already knew didn’t seem to work as well as expected since audiences could anticipate what was to happen based on what we’ve known about his life. As such, the pacing seemed rather slow, but I suppose some can argue that it works in the favour of its subject matter since it more accurately depicts the slow and gruelling challenges that not only Stephen Hawking himself, but also and especially Jane, had to go through in their twenty-five year marriage. Not only that, this chronological perspective also allows for viewers to realise the passage of time while they’re watching the film, since time is one of the main concepts of Hawking’s theory (which comes into play spectacularly in the final scene.)
Yes, I suppose TIG had the benefit of telling a story centrally set in the background of the Second World War, which hence contributed to the excitement and anticipation the viewers had – I was so pumped with adrenaline when Turing and his team broke the code that I was literally on the edge of my seat – whereas The Theory of Everything centered on domesticity and the unspoken tensions between Jane and Stephen Hawking, in relation to his work and achievements. Another thing to consider was that the creators of TIG did take liberties to dramatise Turing’s story to play up certain aspects of his life such that universal themes and ideas could shine through, whereas the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking had to be told more accurately to remain respectful to the subject matter, who had both endorsed the film. Ultimately, regardless of which route the storytellers have chosen to take, they have clearly displayed the greatness of the men the films are about.
For the aspects The Theory of Everything lack, the creators make up for it with the stunning visuals. While its script doesn’t hint at symbolic features as clearly as that of TIG, the visuals in The Theory of Everything played a huge part in drawing a link between the two different strands of the plot in the film. On one hand we have Stephen Hawking’s private life with Jane Hawking, and on the other hand we see bits of his academic work, and there are several blatant visual cues that draw the parallels between Hawking’s abstract theories about the universe (spacey-wacey, timey-wimey stuff) and his private life. That way, the visual capturing of his private life with Jane allows viewers to understand what would otherwise be painfully difficult concepts in quantum physics. For example, you get Jane running circles round Stephen in the early stages of their relationship, the artistically crafted shot of milk swirling around in Stephen’s coffee, as well as the fireworks at his college’s May Ball, all illustrating his beliefs about the creation of the universe from nothing and the eventual collapse of the black hole into nothingness. (Or something of that sort, I don’t really get the science even though I’ve tried to read up on it!!) The most impressive visual cue was probably in one of the last scenes which I shan’t spoil too much, but there’s basically a quick rewind of the entire movie in about a minute or so, in which his life is completely reversed, like how time is reversed in what he speculated would happen in a black hole. While these visual allusions were awfully clever, some casual audiences (/coughs/ my mom /coughs/) might miss them. (The thing is, my mom relies on the subtitles a lot since she doesn’t understand English very well, so some nuances might just fly over her head because it’s not translated very well in the subtitles.)
Moving on from the crux of the film to the acting, I’d first have to say that the actors in both films were so brilliant, but while I’ve been rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch all through the awards season, I suppose Eddie Redmayne did deserve his Golden Globe for best actor since the role proved to be much more challenging for him than Turing was for Cumberbatch. Physically, I would suppose that Redmayne had to contort himself in a wheelchair to capture the likeness of Hawking, which wouldn’t have been very comfortable for his body and face. Not only that, with the minimal lines was given, it was amazing how he managed to convey such intense emotions with the lack of words. There were so many silent moments between him and Felicity Jones, in which all the acting was simply carried out through their eyes and facial expressions. Honestly, you’d have to be a truly top-class actor to be able to pull that off. The same praise goes for Felicity Jones, who practically carried the entire film, since the story’s told from her perspective. The inner turmoil between how much she cares for Hawking and her exasperation at her family’s situation played out so wonderfully through her acting.
On the other hand, in TIG, we get Cumberbatch as Turing, a character that (despite his claims) seems rather like his famed portrayal of Sherlock. Of course, he acted incredibly well in his role as Turing, but it just doesn’t appear to be that much of a challenge to him. As for Keira Knightley, well, let’s just say I’ve been rooting for Keira to win an Oscar since she lost out for her role as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, but the role of Joan Clarke doesn’t provide much range for her to explore, considering that she’s already played a female pirate, a psychopathic lover of Carl Jung, and countless aristocrats. With that being said, one of the most enjoyable things about watching TIG happened to be Joan Clarke, since she’s so understatedly intelligent while being so loveable and kind at the same time – you practically know from the moment she was mistaken for a candidate for the post of a secretary that you’ll be rooting for her throughout the film.
Character-wise, I really preferred Turing to Hawking, which probably also explains why I film one movie over the other, since Hawking (however brilliant he may be) seems like quite an arse in person. Or at least, that’s how Jane’s account made him out to be. His persistent rejection of Jane’s help and his unwillingness to thank her for her help later, despite all that she’s sacrificed for him, makes him seem slightly egoistical and in all honesty, rather misogynistic. In contrast, while Turing was initially written to be slightly arrogant and straightforward about his exceptional intelligence, it’s portrayed in such a way that reveals how he is unable to understand the nuances of typical speech, and this eventually becomes a rather endearing quirk in his character. When Turing later interacts more with coworkers upon Joan’s urging by giving them apples and telling them a joke (albeit really horribly), you know that that’s when everyone in the theatre’s completely won over if they weren’t before – there’s something so sweet and pure about his child-like quality in that scene because he still sees the world from his extraordinary point of view, unfiltered by the prejudices people bear when they get older.
Overall, my verdict of both films is simply that TIG’s a better film in terms of its storytelling and hence entertainment quality, but in other technical aspects that I suppose the voters of the Academy may judge the actors, films by, TIG, unfortunately, lags behind just a little.

Doctor Who Series 8 review

Alright I’ve promised this since the end of series 8 in November and this is long overdue, since we’re already a week past the Christmas special and series 9 starts shooting today. (woop woop #dwsr) On the same note, Sherlock starts shooting today as well so we’ll be expecting tons of #setlock pictures and information!

I’ve decided to start rambling about Doctor Who series 8 because I really need to distract myself from worrying myself sick about Oxford admissions – I’ve been woozy and anxious the entire day all thanks to an overdosage of coffee and thestudentroom. It’s awfully stressful waiting for ONE email that’ll determine your future…sort of. Currently, I’m preparing myself for a rejection, but still clinging on to that minute strand of hope that I’ll get into Oxford. I know I didn’t initially intend to apply, but I’ve grown really fond of it over the past few months. Also, if I don’t get in, not only will I have to face my parents’ disappointment but I’ll also have to face nosy relatives asking about my uni plans over the Chinese New Year holidays…which isn’t how I’d like to spend my festive holidays. (Too bad my mom had to go and tell everyone about my Oxford interview.)

University woes aside, back to Doctor Who. Before I proceed on with the review-that-might-degenerate-into-a-ramble, here’s a spoiler alert!! If you haven’t watched Series 8 of Doctor Who and wouldn’t like it to be spoiled, please avert your attention.

[Review continues after the cut.] Continue reading “Doctor Who Series 8 review”

Thranduil digital painting


Made a digital painting of Thranduil today because I haven’t done this in ages.

On another note, I’ve also created a redbubble account so I can sell some of my art as prints and merch. There’s currently art of the Mirkwood elves (Thranduil, Tauriel and Legolas) and Benedict Cumberbatch, and I’ll work on putting my other Doctor Who stuff up as well.

(I’ve also got artworks of Porter Robinson, and if anyone wishes to get related merch, maybe you can drop me a comment or something either here or on my redbubble page so I can put those works up as well.)

Anyway, if you’ve got cash to spare and if you fancy getting shirts or totes or phone/tablet/laptop cases/skins with my artworks, or maybe prints…or even couch cushions, do drop by my redbubble page (which is HERE!!!) I’m currently in need of cash because I’m out of school and unemployed (I’m looking for a temp job to fill my next eight to nine months before I go to uni) and I’ve got to save money for uni. Also, I know that the prices on redbubble are a little steep but artists typically get only 20% profits so we don’t really make that much.

I might start doing commissions if I don’t get a job soon, but we’ll see because I’m still busy sorting out uni stuff……and  fretting over whether I’ll get into Oxford. Yes, that. January 7th can’t come sooner, but I really dread that day because I’m really doubting my chances. :/

– Rachel