Monday, February 28, 2005

8. Hyperbole

A huge sigh of relief. Chelsea finally won their first trophy after spending about a gazillion dollars. Ok, so it's only the League Cup. But a trophy's a trophy nonetheless. Well, the 'Special One' will surely be pleased, considering back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and Barcelona respectively has somewhat derailed the massive hype train that is Chelsea. Talks of a quadruple? Sounds familiar, all you have to do is look at Arsenal round the same time last year. Chelsea will be happy to take this and the league (not too shabby considering they're out of the FA Cup and face a sticky return tie against rampant Barca).

Ironic that Chelsea's best player on the night didn't even play for Chelsea, yet. In a brilliant ploy to cosy up to his would-be employers, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored a superb own goal to rank up there with the best own goals of all time, the big bonus he'd earn upon signing for Chelsea in the summer undoubtedly at the back of his mind. After the match, the vastly over-rated Liverpool captain commented: "Well, it was really difficult match for Chelsea. We were defending really well and it looked like it'd take an act of God for them to equalise. So, since everyone at Liverpool and the British press clearly think that I'm such a being, I decided to use my divine powers to inspire them a bit, even though I've yet to sign for them. But hey, I always believe in getting a good start. The standing ovation the Chelsea fans gave me everytime I took a corner after scoring really filled my heart with immense pride. Even before I scored, I was already doing my part by having the worst match of my career; misplacing passes, loosing possession easily, running around aimlessly while berating my teammates. But clearly that wasn't enough, so I decided to up the ante and be more of a threat around the goal area, my goal area that is".

Clearly hyped-up over the goal, Gerrard went on to say: "Well, it was a brilliant goal really. I saw that the freekick from Ferreira was heading no where fast, with not a Chelsea player in sight to challenge for it. So with no apparent danger, I took it upon myself to out-jump my fellow teammates who had it well covered to get a touch and thankfully, it ended up at the back of the net, Dudek had no chance! Poor fella, he was having a blinder, but I'd make it up to him by sending him a nice Christmas present next year. With what Chelsea will be paying me, you can bet that it'd be more than just a card". Well kudos to you Gerrard, egocentric little sod that you are. The only thing missing from that goal was your trademark celebration of brushing off all your teammates who helped you score, running up to the crowd, and shouting: "Who's the man?".

On a side note, the EPL has proven once again how hopelessly deluded it is in thinking that it has the best football on offer anywhere. When the best teams from the so-called Best League In the World (trademarked Andy Gray) met up with their 'inferior' European counterparts, the results were predictable: they got their assess handed to them, big-time. It is not without a hint of irony that the worst of the four English teams to qualify stand the biggest chance of going on to the next round. And this they did without Steven 'I'm the Man' Gerrard (just makes you think if he is really all that after all, eh, eh).

So, EPL leaders Chelsea played Barcelona and for all the world looked like Everton playing, er, Chelsea (do you see what I'm doing here, do you see?) and Man U (supposedly playing the best football in the league now) made to look like a Sunday league team against Milan, at home no less. Remember, this is the same Milan that plays in a league that Sir Alex Fergusen, in all his brilliant pre-match comments, said was inferior to the Spanish and English leagues. Arsenal did one better by trying their best to help Bayern to score. Bayern, nice German gents that they are, decided that three would do and conspired to miss a sitter or two. Ah well, at least Liverpool made it. That's 1 out of 4. So much for best league in the world, best league in Britain maybe. It kinda makes you wonder about those darn English eh. At least they're the best in rugby, with teams like Ireland, France and Wales standing no chance against them...err, hang on just a minute...

While on the topic of over-hyped, over-zealous and over-wrought, the Oscars were on today. Million Dollar Baby has won Best Picture. Good show, slightly depressing, but methinks that Closer should've won. Same too with the best supporting actor and actress, would've liked Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. Though I don't begrudge Morgan Freeman for winning it. He's a class act. Surprised me that Martin Scorsese didn't win Best Director, considering the Academy has a habit of giving awards to those favourites who's never won them before (cue Al Pacino's overacting for Scent of a Woman) or should've-won-them-the-year-before-but-didn't-so-we'll-give-it-to-you-this-time-round-even-though-you-don't-deserve-it (Russell Crowe winning Best Actor for Gladiator as opposed to for The Insider). No fear Martin, the Greatest Living American Director will land one sooner or later (he should've gotten it for Raging Bull and Goodfellas). Maybe your next flick with that blond man-girl of yours? With good ol Jack Nicholson and Mr Good Will Hunting himself, Matt Damon in the mix, I'm sure that The Departed will be up for some awards same time round next year. Never mind that it's a remake of that over-hyped Hong Kong flick, Infernal Affairs. Ok, enough now, enough.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

7. Halcyon

Right, when I was a kid living in the States, I used to do this crazy little thing that kids over there did during the summer, I went bee hunting. Now when I say bee hunting I mean it quite literally. We would go out armed with multiple jars (our pockets permitting) and stomp out through fields of those blooming summer flowers, searching for the biggest, fattest, and meanest bees around, and I mean those huge mama blackjack honey bees whose stung hurt like a sonoabitch.

Now don't ask me why I did, it was just something us kids did then (another thing that we used to do which you may find peculiar was a little something called roof-jumping, I'll leave it to you to figure that one out). Remember, this was a time without Gameboy, PS2 or Nokia Ngage (we had those big hulking Atari machines that displayed monochrome graphics and were absolutely crap). Those who wanted to "Get 'Em All" really had to go out and do it. No Pokemon or Tamagochi to woo and tide us over.

If I really dig deep enough, I can actually recall some vivid details: the feel of the brilliant summer sun blazing overhead, the thick smell of sunflowers and pollen filling the air, the vibrant colours of all kinds of flowers amongst (sometimes) waste-high shrubs and bushes, that familiar buzz of bees going about doing their thing, and most of all, the exhilarating feeling of catching that huge monster you've been eyeing for a bit. Most of the times, I went with my best friend over there (an Italian-American kid named Jared, maybe the most horny 9 year-old who ever existed). I guess it was ok too to go alone, but it was always better to have a buddy tagging along, if only for the reason you had someone to show off to.

So we'd usually go out round the afternoon, and not head back till just about when the sun went down. And always at the end of the day, we'd hunker down at some spot, pretty knackered by the day's toil, and the both of us would be grinning crazily as only children could. And of course, we'd compare who got the biggest catch. Heck, we even compared the number of times we got stung (bee stings were always displayed like a badge of honour, with the day's bragging rights going to those with the most). Then we'd head back, exhausted with the backs of our shirts slick with sweat, our shadows long as the sun slowly sank and that magical time of dusk came upon us, and we'd chat animatedly about nothing, asking each other irrelevant questions as kids did, all the while comforted with this great sense of fulfilment of a day well spent. I'd look at him and see this gleeful glow in his face that I knew was mirrored on mine as well. It was a glow that said: it doesn't get any better than this.

Now I don't know why this memory has suddenly crept up on me. Maybe it's because the shadow of another inevitable birthday approaching has been nagging the back of my mind for the past few weeks and somehow, unexpectedly running into someone very dear to me from my past today has managed to make it a non-issue. And in turn, that's triggered this long dormant memory. Whatever it is, it’s good to be reminded of these little things that brought such joy in our childhood, no matter how simple they seem. And though glossed-up they may be (cause we tend to look back at those years through rose-tinted glasses), those memories serve to remind us of things we may have forgotten, maybe the most important things. And it's not about getting that bigger car, that higher paycheck, that big screen plasma TV (nice!). But rather, those irreplaceable joys of certain moments in your life that are just perfect, and the people you spend it with.

But of course, that memory of bee hunting I have, precious as it is, is but a melancholy vista of my youth. I've long since lost contact with that childhood friend of mine, and I doubt that I'd be able to locate him again. The places we haunted perhaps no longer exist as I remember them, and maybe those wonderful summers can never quite be relived again as an adult as they were when you were a kid. Those were the halcyon days, and we each of us have them, blissful memories of days long since past. And sometimes, these memories tend to fade away, dulled by the realities of adulthood, and dimmed by more pressing responsibilities and commitments.

But you know what? No matter how improbable it sounds, and call it want you want, faith, hope, whatever, I believe with absolute certainty that one day, though I don't know how, I'll get those visit those same sunny hills with my best friend Jared, with that blazing sun greeting my face, and the scent of flowers filling my nostrils, and my ears will be ringing with the busy buzz of dozens of bees doing their thing. Those huge, mean mama blackjacks kind of course.

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December"
- J.M. Barrie, author and playwright

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

6. Big Brother is Watching

Interesting article at CNN, check it out...

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Mark Jen landed a dream job with Google Inc. in January. He was fired less than a month later.

His infraction? He ran a Web log, where he freely gabbed about his impressions of life at the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search giant.

Web logs, or blogs, the online personal diaries where big names and no names expound on everything from pets to presidents, are going mainstream. While still a relatively small piece of total online activity, blogging has caught on with affluent young adults. As Forrester Research analysts recently noted, blogging will become increasingly common as these consumers age.

For companies, the growing popularity of blogs is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, corporate managers recognize the power of word-of-mouth as a sales tool. On the other hand, they're acutely aware of the dangers inherent in the rapid and widespread dissemination of company information.

You can read it in it's entirety

Ok, two things here. Firstly, if you wanna bitch and gripe about your bosses or work, by all means do so. But for the love of God, at least do it anomynously! Don't moan when you get canned for calling your boss an incompetent moppet. I mean, if you're stupid enough to actually name that asshole boss of yours or the company you work for, while conveniently leaving your actual name or picture on your personal profile, then you probably deserve to join the world of unemployment. Likewise if you post confidential company information. In fact, they should even throw your ass in jail for that.

However, getting sacked for expressing your personal thoughts and opinions about something non-work related, well that's another thing entirely. Does this mean if you post pictures of yourself in Superman tights that you stand the risk of getting fired? What does you harbouring secret fantasies of being Superman have to do with work anyway? Well, besides being mentally unstable and a threat to society, the answer is nothing! Or if you were to say that you wished the commies would come back and overthrow the government and put all those people who leave their handphones on in the cinema in concentration camps (erm, not that I'm thinking it), does that mean they can sack you?

It boggles the mind. But it's quite reassuring to know that somewhere out there, Big Brother is still watching. Maybe one day, and may that day come soon (only because it'll be way too cool), they'll plant little microchips in our brains that'll automatically give us electric shocks whenever we even think a dastardly thought about our bosses/government/partner/spouse/Michael Jackson. Then we can safely say that mankind has evolved to the next level (that's right before machines become self-aware and take over, turning humans into batteries Matrix-like). Until then, I guess we'd just have to be content with losing our jobs for having an opinion. I mean, how dare we?

Monday, February 07, 2005

5. Closer

“And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her sky”

- Irish folk singer Damien Rice

The movie Closer opens and closes with Damien Rice’s wistful and heartfelt song of loss and yearning The Blower’s Daughter, his wounded and cracking voice hauntingly complementing the first moments of the film where we are introduced to Natalie Portman’s character as she walks in a sea of grey and blue, her hair red and brilliant like autumn leaves. She is at once an enigma, floating obliviously through a crowd of the ordinary. In her, we see a vision of freedom that we all yearn but are sometimes afraid to seek. The closing scene mirrors the opening, as we see her again walking amongst an endless mass, the luminous amidst the commonplace, her hair is no longer red but startling black, but she is that same liberated person. We’ve come to the end, but her character is unchanged, she has come full-circle, and she is back where she began, in fact, you can alternate the beginning and ending and it wouldn't make a difference. In my mind, it is the most perfect beginning and ending committed to film.

It’s apt that the tagline for the movie is “If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking”. For she still seeks, as will some of us out there. She is hopeful, and she represents that idealistic and unending search for true love eternal. And like the characters in the film, there is a little of them that we can see in us; the restless romantic in Jude Law’s Dan, the fiendish but brutally honest Larry (played brilliantly by King Arthur’s Clive Owen, who also incidentally played Dan in Patrick Marber’s original play), the child-like yet sensual Alice (Natalie Portman in her best performance since Leon) and the haunted Anna (a very good Julia Roberts). The film visits these four characters at different points in their lives, offering a frank if brutal look into the nature of relationships, from the magical beginnings to it’s bitter ends, and in some cases, reconciliation.

There are no protagonists or antagonists in the film. Each of the characters has their redeeming qualities and flaws, just like how normal people do in real life. Larry at first seems the most likely to be pointed out as the antagonist of the tale. He is crude and ruthless. He has no qualms in humiliating the woman he loves and goes through deliciously wicked lengths to annihilate Jude Law’s character. Yet, he is the most truthful amongst the four in the sense that he never tells a lie. In fact, he is the only one who doesn’t lie in any of the film’s inter-crossing relationships. When he cheats on Anna, he confesses immediately out of guilt and his love for her (Anna only confesses her indiscretion when pushed by him). He pursues Anna for every graphic detail of her betrayal and thanks her (though quite obscenely) for her honesty. His intentions (no matter how cruel) are laid out for everyone to see. He is the opposite of Dan. Dan is a romantic. In the end, you get a feeling that he is doomed to be alone and forever yearning for lost love. Larry is a realist, and as such, knows how things work in the real world. He knows what Anna needs, and understands her more than Dan could possibly do. As such while Dan can only offer her an idealistic dream of love, it is Larry who can actually provide her with what she needs as opposed to what she wants.

In his relentless pursuit to win her back, Larry looks at first pathetic and pitiful. Yet in the end, he is steadfast and his resolve never wilts. He wins her, as you just know he would. Compare that to Dan, Dan wins nothing in the end. He breaks down in his confrontation with Larry. It is then when all cards are finally laid out on the table that Dan finally sees that he never really had a chance. He is a dreamer who believes that everything will work out because of love. But that is never the case, and because it doesn’t he just cannot accept it. He is helpless to do anything but break down. It is he, in the end, who is pathetic and pitiful. He has a final chance to redeem himself with the one person who is perfect for him, Alice. But he ruins it. For it is his nature to do so, he lives in a world where all relationships must be perfect. They never are. He learns this too late in the end. He, along with Anna, are the film’s two big losers.

In Anna’s case, her loss is not as apparent as Dan’s. She after all ends up back with Larry, a man who clearly loves her. It is apparent that he loves her more than she loves him. She feels safe and secure with him because of this. With Dan, she felt love, true love. Though the film never showed the reason why she left Dan to be with Larry again, one might speculate that Dan’s distrust of her after she had admitted to sleeping with Larry one final time (to win her freedom from him) would’ve caused a massive strain in their blossoming relationship. She knew that Dan’s love for her could never be same again and felt insecure because of it. So rather than risk being hurt, she returns to Larry, Larry who loves her dearly, Larry who would never hurt her. And with the choice that she makes, you feel that her fate is much worse than Dan’s, for she willingly gives up on her true love. She is willing to accept the security and comfort that Larry provides though she clearly does not love him as she loves Dan. She, like some of us, chooses the easy way out, but at what cost? In her final scene, she seemingly looks happy and content, but is it true happiness that she feels? Or has she just comforted herself in thinking that she is? Can anyone be really happy in a relationship? That’s the question the film asks us.

If Larry is the most honest of the characters, than Alice is the most emotionally honest of them all. Her love for Dan is pure and true. She never cheats when she’s with him, unlike the rest, who cheat on each other at some point or another. She is dedicated solely to him, and because of this, she needs Dan more than he needs her. In an ironic sort of way, her feelings for Dan mirror Larry’s feelings for Anna. Both love their partners more than they love them back. Both feel lost and helpless without the other. But the difference is that while Larry is willing to hurt the person he loves and destroy her one true chance of happiness, Alice is not. Instead, when Dan confesses to her his relationship with Anna, she flees out of his life, never to be seen again till he seeks her out. She doesn’t use sex as a vicious tool to wound the person she loves (until the very moment she realises that she doesn’t love him anymore that is). She does lie to Dan about her identity, but you get the feeling it’s only because when she first meets Dan, she is in fact somebody else entirely (when they first meet, she had just arrived in London from New York to escape her previous relationship). Jane is her true name, signifying her past. She only reveals it to Larry when she has again become a stripper (as she was in New York) after Dan leaves her. She can tell Larry her real name because Larry means nothing to her, unlike Dan. Jane as Alice is the one who finds love with Dan. This is again illustrated when Alice plans to take Dan back with her to New York, she would not show her passport to him (and thus, reveal her true name) because she wants to be his Alice, the woman that Dan fell initially in love with and vice versa. When she finally leaves Dan (something foreshadowed earlier when Alice reveals to him that she has never left anyone she still is in love with) and Dan asks her who she is, she answers that she doesn’t know. In fact, it seems that she has no true identity at all. Her life is shaped by love, and she only becomes a complete person when she loves and is loved by somebody in return. Finally, when we see her back in the New York, the ending has become the beginning, she is now somebody else, starting over again, seeking that one love that can make her whole again.

The film’s title is Closer yet by the film’s end, nobody is really closer to one another. Everyone is alone and lost in his or her own way, even Larry (think of it, is he really happy with Anna knowing that she could never really love him as much she did Dan?). Only Alice/Jane seems to have been left unscathed. But the only reason for that is that she is the only one capable of re-inventing herself and leaving the past behind. Her innocence is somehow preserved and she will not be haunted by the past, as Anna and Dan are doomed to be. She is also alone in the end, but hopeful. Will she ever find love? The film doesn't answer this but you can sense that she would do so eventually. Perhaps there are echoes in what we see in each of them that can be reflected to our own lives. Just how much are we willing to compromise to have a lasting relationship? Are we ready to wait for true love for the rest of our lives even though it may never come? And if we're not, can we ever be content in a relationship without it? Is it even in our nature to be content at all? And if not, is there any hope for us to ever be closer?

Friday, February 04, 2005

4. Come on you Blues!!!

Gotta put this down. Watched Chelsea beat Blackburn on Thursday morning. The game was scrappy really, with lots of niggling fouls and stoppages. But a great game and result nonetheless, ‘specially in light of Blackburn’s tactics.

What is it with teams lacking in ability that they try to make up for it by wanting to kick their opponents into submission? I mean, what’s up with that? To Mark Hughes, I have two questions. The first question is: You’re a wanker. The second is: In which alternate reality did you find yourself in that you just had to comment that you were the better team at the end of the day? Was it a place where kangaroos talk and little midget men dance in ballerina costumes on top of your head?

I mean it seemed that Hughes sent out the instruction to come out and play like a bunch of snarling Roy Keanes, but forgot to mention that football is called football (as opposed to foot-foot) for a reason. The worst offenders on the night were the aptly named duo of Savage and Dickov.

Savage was being his usual self, throwing himself about trying to injure infinitely more gifted footballers than himself (though that ain’t saying much, your granny could outplay him). Is it just me or does Mr “Look At Me! I Have David Beckham’s Old Hairstyle!” seem disturbingly excitable in the company of other grown men in shorts. You just know that he’ll get his dirty little paws on them sooner or later. All the while grinning that pervo grin of his.

And Dickov, don’t even get me started. After seeing him rub his ass against Terry’s crotch for the umpteenth time (one time even actually grabbing his ass for the love of God), I could’ve sworn he was intentionally trying to get himself buggered. Was he trying to fulfil some twisted fantasy of a midget getting screwed up the arse by a big burly dude in front of a watching TV audience or what? Maybe he thought that he could get Terry sent off for the foul of sodomy or something.

The rest of the Blackburn players were no less pitiful. Somehow, you just have to feel pity for them, seeing as it was how they deluded themselves in thinking that they were actually a foot-balling team as opposed to a bunch of mutant monkeys from planet Retard. If it were any consolation, at least they’d score highly in a Best Baboon Impression competition. Unfortunately, this wasn’t it, you’d have to go to an Arsenal-Man U game for that one.

Kudos to Chelsea. They didn’t let Blackburn’s tactics intimidate them and dished out as much as they got (minus all the buggery). And seeing how passionately Jose “I Am the Special One” Mourinho and the boys celebrated after, you just know they aren’t gonna slip up. Still a long way yet, but Alex the Red-nose Fergusen and Arsene Whiner have their work cut out for them in trying to catch up, especially since those two look more interested in gorging each other’s eyes out (come on, hump one another and get it over with already!).

Come on you Blues!!!