Sunday, May 29, 2005

18. The One When Things Really Get Weird...

Liverpool are crowned European champions after a miraculous comeback from being 3 nil down at halftime and being comprehensively made to look as hapless as baby penquins floating in a pot of boiling water by a classy Milan side. Surviving a sure-fire goal with a stupendous double-save by Dudek (of all people) in the closing moments of the match, Liverpool went on to prevail in a penalty shoot-out against a surprisingly nervy Milan.

When you think of European champions, somehow Djimi Traore, Igor Biscan and Josemi don't spring to mind. I mean, Djimi Traore for crying out loud, if there's a name to strike fear in the hearts of goalkeepers and fellow defenders anywhere, while at the same time have opposing strikers rub their hands together in glee, than Traore surely would be it. Yet stranger things have happened. Like once, erm, ah...let's see...ok, it doesn't get stranger than that. This surely takes the cake, the frosting and candles along with it. Maybe Revenge of the Sith being an actually decent film pretty much comes close. And I can count that time when a buddy of mine did a Superman stunt off the top of my speeding car (he only flew like for 3 seconds before he touched down on earth with all the grace of an elephant landing on thin ice after falling off a ten-storey building) as another rather peculiar incident. But nothing tops what went on in Istanbul on that fateful night. The gods must have been of a Scouser-like disposition eh.

Speaking of strange things, it's been a pretty good week for that. Like Carrie winning out on American Idol. Strange not because she won, but strange because I was hoping beyond hope that Bo could actually sneak a result. I guess the US presidential election results have thought me nothing. It only strengthens the sneaking suspicion I have that the large majority of Americans are flag-waving, God-fearing, Country-and-Western-loving, Iraq-bombing, simple-minded folk who really do love their Oprah and are fashionable enough to actually colour-coordinate the distinction between their two major political parties (blue state, red state...seems all rather off-kilter to me). Ok, that's over generalising things. But you get what I mean.

Strange things too are afoot in movie-movie land. Kingdom of Heaven's disappointing box-office performance is however not one of them. I think we've seen one sword-and-sandals pic too many. How much can one watch the same scenes of CGI armies hacking bits out of one another? I think if you've seen one siege scene, you've seen it all, and it's already reached it's absolute pinnacle with the Minas Tirith siege in Return of the King (am hoping that the battle scenes in the Narnia adaptation will offer something new, and from the look of the trailer, it looks promising). But if there's one thing that Kingdom has going for it, is it's underlying message. Although rather forced and slightly contrived, you have to give props to Ridley Scott and gang for having the balls to come out and say something about tolerance, especially in these testing times surrounding the Middle East. It seems rather out of place for characters of those medieval times to be displaying the sort of 21st century nuance and broad-mindedness, but hey, it's Hollywood, anything goes eh. I think what the filmmakers set out to do, and were only partly successful in a sense, was to come out and say: Hey, what's up with all the hate? Aren't we all a part of the same Abrahamic faith? Why can't we just all get along? Ahhh, a message for simpler times, perhaps a little too idealistic and naive. If only the movie was a little more honest in going about it than it would've been great rather than halfway decent.

On the subject of strange times in movie land, this year looks that way in the sense that there might actually be a glut of good films coming out for once. It's looking promising so far, promising enough to come up with an absolutely geeky list of the top ten flicks I'm most looking forward to:

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - What a mouthful. But trust me, when it comes out in December, it'll be the buzz words on everyone's lips. Narnia looks set to emulate Lord of the Rings as the next big fantasy franchise. It's no coincidence that CS Lewis and Tolkien were best buddies. Perhaps they swapped notes while they were writing their own fantasy epics?
2. King Kong - It's directed by Peter Jackson. It's about that famously oversized ape with penchant for blonds and an altogether unhealthy obsession with climbing tall buildings. And yeah, there'll be dinosaurs aplenty in this one. Can hardly wait.
3. War of the Worlds - Spielberg. Dakota Fanning. Magic. Tom Cruise, not so good. But then again, giant ray guns, aliens, end of the world. Good. Good. Me must watch. Yes.
4. Batman Begins - Christian Bale looks set to be the kick-ass Batman that we all long suffering fans deserve. No more George Clooney with rubber nipples on suit. No more Val Kilmer with pouty lips. Most importantly, no Joel Schumacher with his gay fetishes and his looney campiness.
5. Howl's Moving Castle - Miyazaki's latest. His studio makes the best animated films in the world (Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Mononoke are still my all-time fav animated films), and this looks set to carry on with the trend.
6. The Corpse's Bride - Tim Burton revisits the same nightmarish landscape as his earlier claymation masterpiece A Nightmare Before Christmas. And Johnny Depp's in it. You just know that this will rock, in a quirky sorta way.
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Ok, so it's Harry Potter, and the three films so far have been largely disappointing (to someone like me at least who's never read the books). But there's a dragon in this one, and to me, anything that involves a fire-breathing lizard in it is at least worth a watch.
8. The Fantastic Four - Jessica Alba in tights. Superheroes. Dr Doom. Cool superpowers. Did I mention Jessica Alba in tights? Yes? Ah ok. You get the picture.
9. Wallace And Gromit - The Curse of The Were Rabbit - Ah, the dastardly duo are back. Should be hilarious.
10. Sin City - This adaptation of Frank Miller's gritty graphic novel looks absolutely brilliant. And there's Jessica Alba in it too. Ah, bliss. This film should be to the guys what Steel Magnolias is to girls, meaning it's a kick-ass flick solely catered for the boys which makes no sense whatsoever to the opposite sex.

Noteworthy mentions -
The Island - After the promising The Rock, it went all downhill for the king of quick cuts, shaky camera shots and inane dialogue otherwise known as Michael Bay. He should fry in hell forever for that piece of shit that was Pearl Harbour, but he deserves one last chance at least.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith - Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie try to blow each other to kingdom come. Should be good watching.
Land of the Dead - Ah, another zombie fest from the legendary Romero. Anything with zombies in it is good in my books.
Deuce Bigalow- European Gigolo - Deuce amongst mutant women in Europe. Now this I gotta see.
Nightwatch - The trailer looks way awesome. Worth a look.
The Brothers Grimm - Hopefully, a dark grim fairytale. Enough to warrant attention.

Ah ok, enough already.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

17. Matrimony

Just over the weekend, I attended a wedding dinner for my two close friends. Now I've known these two for a good 5 to 6 years, and were friends with them even before they met. You could say I played a part, however minute, in bringing them together.

They've been going strong for the past 5 years now, strong meaning they're one of those couples who look absolutely and totally in love with one another. And if you think you've seen lovey dovey, heck, you ain't seen nothing yet if you haven't met them. I'm talking mushy-cakes-honey-bunny-baby-sugar-puffs-flowery-candy-with-pink-mushrooms-dancing-on-top-of-rainbows here. Am sure it's nice enough for them, but to those watching, it's like getting a hole drilled in your skull and having melted marshmallows mixed with mapple syrup being pumped into your brain by the gallons.

But besides all that sugary stuff, they're one of those few couples that you can tell share a genuine and mutual respect for one another. And in times of trophy girlfriends and relationships based soley on financial concerns (as in, how much money does he have and how much of it can I get a hold of?), it's really refreshing to see.

So anyway, it came as no surprise when they finally got hitched, for if there was ever a match made in heaven, then it'd be them. And of course I was happy for them. Elated would be too big a word, but it's always nice to see two people who are so right for each other actually getting together. That was until they asked me to give a speech for their wedding nite, and all that moments of joy quickly transformed into heart-crushing horror.

What the heck do I know about making speeches? More so one concerning the union of two people in front of hundreds of their relatives and friends whom, most of them anyway, I don't know? Shit, I was the guy who in school used to read straight from his scribbled script whenever there was any public speaking to do during English 'cos I was too numbed by fear to actually look people in the eye (a pre-requsite for public speaking I've heard). Screw that, I couldn't even read from the script properly cause my bloody hands were too bloody shaky. In fact, my recollections of all the times I've had to speak in front of a group of people are like this: a rising and inescapable feeling of dread, followed by cold sweat that sent chills running down the spine, and then there's the stammering and mumbling, the clumsy prompting and gasping for air, and ending with a whimper with much disappointment and hidden smirks from those involved. Kinda like sex for the first time eh?

So of course, being the responsible adult that I am and a close friend of the bride and groom, I had to find every possible means to weasel myself out of it. Finding an excuse not to speak on your good friend's wedding night is not exactly good form you know, so I had to come up with a valid and water-tight reason. My first thought was that I had a throat affliction that rended me speechless, but since he actually asked me the day before the dinner, it was a long shot that I would suddenly come down with something like that. Since that was already a no go, I thought why attend the wedding in the first place? People miss their good friends' weddings all the time right? Well, apparently not I. It had better be for something credible and absolutely important and unavoidable. Something like attending the funeral of my long lost cousin Gurkha Al Khan from Urghamurgiskthan. But faking the death of a relative is even worse form, you save those for special ocassions only (like taking that a few days emergency leave after a long holiday you just don't want to end).

In the end, I was just too fear stricken to actually come up with anything and quickly found myself swept up with the pleasant turn of events (pleasant meaning being told that you are to speak on the joys and deeper meaning of the true love eternal between the bride and groom in front of five hundred strangers the day before the actual event). The last thing I know, I'm sitting at the reception hall two hours before the dinner, still trying to memorise whatever I was supposed to say. I didn't know how I got there, but I knew that it was too late to turn back now. I was this close from faking a seizure or sorts but thought the better of it when the groom locked me with his cold steely stare. Don't fuck it up, that stare told me. Ah joy of joys.

So, knowing that it was too late for me, like how Darth Vader knew that it was too late to save him and told Luke to bugger off as the Death Star was being blown to shit in the finale of Return of the Jedi, I decided if I had to go down, at least I'd go down in glory (like how Lord Vader took down that dastardly Emperor with him...shit, talking about the original trilogy always gets me so light of the floating pieces of turd on celluloid that Lucas' given us with the new trilogy...Revenge of the Sith better be good, you money-grubbing fat no-neck bastard). But to do so, I had to find the inner strength that we all have within us. Hence, the unnumbered glasses of wine proved handy.

Thus with unnumbered glasses consumed, and inner strength discovered, and face glowing with enlightenment to prove it (it was more of a reddish glow actually), I was all set to go. My ying and my yang was centred. My spirit was at ease with my physical state. And I really had to puke. But nevermind that, puking can always come later. Yet it came out sooner that expected, as when I found myself on stage, with those five hundred people all stoked up by the groom's father's witty speech, those thousand beady eyes looking straight at you, at your very soul, I thought: Witty? Heck, I could do witty! That's when I actually puked out my entire speech. Puked in the sense that my speech came out in a mush of words that had no meaning in the English vocabulary. Sentences were strewn together that sounded like Klingon. New words were suddenly invented. And the founding fathers of excellence in public speaking, from Caeser to Hitler, from Gandhi to Bill Gates (at least the part of him that died when he screwed over Steve Jobs) stirred and wept in their graves. Now that's one for the history books.

So the valuable lesson that we've learnt from all of this? Screw if I know. All I know is that it's all so super when you're getting yourself sloshed and not so super anymore after you've reached your goal (see my previous post on this). But if there is one thing that I can take from the unspeakable chaos of the night, is this phrase that I read from somewhere before (sorry, can't remember where or from who) that's always stuck with me and that I included in my speech. I thought it especially fitting for my two friends. It concerns the nature of love and of true love. It goes somewhere along the lines of how some people tend to believe that love is borne out of long companionship and persevering courtship. And that perhaps it's true in a sense. That the more you spend time and experiences with someone, the more feelings can develop and grow. But that when it comes down to true love, that magical moment of fire and ice that envelops your body and heart in a rapture of passion, the same rules don't apply. True love is like the offspring of a spiritual affinity that is kindled with the mingling of lights from the souls of two people who meet for the first time. And if that affinity cannot be created in an instant, a moment, than it will not be created for years or even a lifetime. Great stuff eh, terribly romantic, can't say whether I believe it or not, but it sounds all so grand on paper.

So, there. Last word to my married friends who are about to fly off to live happily ever after Down Under. May you find shade and water or something like that (now that I know came from Robert Jordan's overrated Wheel of Time series). Bliss :)

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Chelsea...2004/05 EPL Champions...'Nuff said