Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pieces of April

So, being a huge Stephin Merrit fan, it's inevitable that I start checking out movies he graciously pens the soundtrack for, based on the somewhat flawed "If its Merrit-endorsed, it must be good" theory. With that in mind, I eagerly anticipated Pieces of April.

The title proves apt, as the dialogue is pretty sparse for a movie shot in New York. Instead you get to piece April's life together, through snippets of her very believable interactions with the people around her and snapshots from a Nikon SLR running parallel in another story. Charming little product placement, noted this very biased reviewer, himself a proud owner of a Nikon SLR.

At the deathly early morning of 7:00am, April struggles to wake up to a special day--thanksgiving in fact. She's supposed to prepare the feast for her family, who hails a day's drive away from the suburbs. But she's not particularly adept at it, and when we find her to-do list having only one item, "1. Pre-heat oven.", we know she's in for some adventure.

The simple premise could very well be frivolously centred on Katie Holmes's Gothic persona when the universe conspires to spoil her day. There was much light-hearted humour involving her turkey, who had the unfortunate experience of being roasted in no less than 4 different stoves. But as the story unfolds, the human insights and the emotions that come with it start to cut much deeper than is expected of an amiable light-weight comedy.

Running parallel to the culinary adventure is the road trip that her extended family, together with all their dysfunctionalities, took to New York. April's character is not very well developed. Instead we feed on scraps of information about her through the conversations and bickerings from the road trip. The gravity of the thanksgiving dinner is slowly revealed to us in the Nikon snapshots provided by the avid photographer in her brother. April and family had not been in the best of terms, she of the wild ways estranged from the deeply religious mother. The mother is dying, and the family is spiritually compelled to make good this last dinner, whether they like it or not.

Peter Hedges has written a very heartwarming tale of redemption, shot and directed it with a few dollars, a digital camcorder and a whole lot of heart. He is ambly supported by his casting, which makes for a very realistic story-telling. Contrived scenes there were a few, especially the ones involving a British neighbour who, with his posh tastes and immaculate manners, leave me wondering how could he have accepted dwelling in the derelicts inhabited mostly by the marginalised. Nonetheless, a big fan of his other work, a screenplay adaptation of Nick Hornby's About A Boy, I am ranking him alongside Richard Linklater as the American names to look out for.

Weird, funny, honest, intelligent, and very very touching, it's a typical Stephin Merrit song translated onto the silver screen. What's more, running at just under 80 min, it's the perfect movie if time's not on your side (for the day, that is!).

Rating: 7.6

Next up, through the lenses of Peter Hedges again, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Random Quotes

On Business Travels
Spend half the time in tedious airport queues, and the other half alone in gawdy hotels...that's business travels for you. But of course, if you're afraid of the dark, you can always purchase some company for a small fee.

On Travel Spending
Consumer habits of tourists are limited not by the buying logic but by how much local currency they have left in the wallet. There is a compulsion to clear the currency to the last cent. If I have HK$18.50 left, and a cheeseburger that I normally wouldn't touch pass by cost exactly that, it represents a huge moral victory to my finances.

The Japs
The Japs infuriate me. They strut about in their business suits and ties, looking so prim and proper under the summer sun, that I am envious while feeling sorry for them at the same time.

On SMSes
Clearing the backlog of SMSes on your mobile is much akin to reliving the past few days of your life, depending on how backdated you are.

On Logistics
Logistics is the Archilles heel of the modern world, and terrorists are fully aware of it. How many more years can they afford to screen through air luggages so thoroughly before one bomb finally slips through?

On Logistics #2
If I miss out on indexing even a single title to my burgeoning DVD collection, it's as good as I had never owned it.

On Gifts
Why do you need to shower your loved ones with gifts? Sometimes that's all they will ever remember you by (if they don't happen to dispose of them).

On Assumptions
It's impossible to make head or tail of the world without making any assumptions. So let's assume assumptions work.

On The Little Prince
The world loves sentimental drivel like the Little Prince and Tuesdays with Morrie simply because they are fantasy--everybody wishes everybody else behaves like this, but nobody dares to make the first move, and risk being labelled self-absorbed and sanctimonious idiots.

Memoirs of an Artic cyclist

Figure shows cycling trail in green. Started from Trondheim via Heimdal and ended in Trondheim via Flakk.
Approximately 200km total.

3 day 2 night trip around Trondelag.
...3 days 2 nights, that's the sales pitch of a typical tourist agencies marketing the latest weekend get-aways, and this is anything but!

A journey of superlatives! How could I ever forget my brush with the cold trondelag night, which left me with the bone chilling mind-numbing experience of my life. The scenery was spectacular, as usual. Miles and miles of Trondheimsfjord can dull one's senses a bit, blasphemous to say! Hope I don't utter too early, but do I regret this journey one bit? NO.

Feb 14 (Fri) 2003

Set off from Moholt Alle. Took off from Jonsvannveigen (as usual) and got down to Holteammsveien. The conditions were extremely wet for a cyclist, which was rather daunting. My heart wasn't set for such adventurous ideas as skating on ice, just yet. Confidence is key in such uncertain times. I reckoned I should walk quite a bit.

The road to Heimdal was surprisingly smooth, and so beautiful.. Here I was, cycling down slope, with about 1 m of snow piled up on its sides, and a stream flowing parallel to the path. I felt like an artic squirrel, burrowing my way through snow. The air was crisp, and smelt of spring. The white kingdom beckons.

Nice house? Think again. The nearest amenity (aka hawker centre) is miles and miles away.

snow river
My mitigation plea--The D70 wasn't yet invented back then! Classic example of how snow glare can ruin a photo.

Had a near collision with another cyclist who was coming head-on. KEEP LEFT? RIGHT? LEFT? RIGHT.....ARRRRGH! My mistake. I was supposed to keep right, or rather, as much right as I could in this narrow burrow, but didn't. A barrage of unfriendly Norwegian went my way, but this is a lesson for me to bear. KEEP RIGHT AT ALL TIMES!

Reached Heimdal! With sky high confidence! I thought if I could clock 10km in less than an hour, I could cycle to the end of the world. Grand visions about travelling to Hitra then to Brekstad came.
Travelling along Heimdalsvegen was perfect. Started referring to the map, and reached Burvika soon enough.

On the road to Orkanger (around 30 km), while the sign, somewhat comfortingly, proclaimed Alesund (or was it Kristensand) to be 250km away.
The start on E39 was great, contrary to what some websites say. Traffic was going Trondheim, and as usual, I got my morning timing spot on. It's always easier to cycle on the side of the road with few vehicles.

Visgja came soon enough. I knew the road to Orkanger was 60% complete. Started taking pictures at regular intervals.

Nearing Orkanger, my bicycle chose the most inopportune moment to dislodge. Having totally no choice, I had to fix it back, while cursing the Sykkelbua guy who fixed my bike mutteirng under my cold breath. It was surprisingly easy, but got my hands soiled with grease, and what was I to do but to deposit as much grease and as fast as I could in the snow. Bare hands in snow, not a good idea. Also, the 3rd gear seemed to be totally dislodged.

Took pictures of a kitty and soon forgot about my chain worries.

The cat must have thought me nuts to... Cats are always contemptuous of humans regardless of what we do.

Turned in 710, which was to be the crux of my journey. Gruelling 54km. A nice lady wished me, "God tur!" when I asked her where Valset the ferry terminal was. She mentioned 54km away. I wondered how could she have gotten it so accurately measured, until later when I encountered a road sign stating Valset was 54 km away. She must have driven on 710 before.

reached Valset. Replenished water supply at toilet.

Boarded ferry. Tried to bargain for a student discount, but the man good-heartedly rejected with NEI.
22 kr for the trip. So far so good.

When I touched down from the ferry, Brekstad seemed like a foreign land. The weather suddenly took a chilly turn, a forewarning of what was to come that night.

Explored the small town of Brekstad a bit. The cafes sold delicious hambergers, which I could certainly do with, but they were priced at 100 kr++(S$25++). Instead, I settled for the next best thing, 7 kr worth of bananas from Coop Mega.

Sky was getting dark, very dark. Panicking, I went out in search of Austrått. Unfortunately I never made it. It was so dark and so so cold.

Unable to withstand the bitter winds, I took refuge at a bus shelter labelled Skaun, which i was to find out later, had neither seen a single bus nor much shelter. It was strewn with rubbish, but that was the least of my worries. At least I thought it kept me from the wind, but to my horror, not from the cold!

Shivering....shivering....I had never shivered so much in my life mind began to race in pulses....tried to build a fire...laid in shadows....discovered my buckle used to strap my stuffs on the bike was entangled with the wheels...decided to unentagle it....

Bad idea. Took all of 10 min grappling in the dark and a lot of my body heat trying to unentagle it. Some bad beat.

Tried to sleep...but it was impossible. I wrapped myself up in layers of clothings and blankets. Just when I though I had triumphed with the next layer, that apparent warmth evaporated into the icy air, and I had to scrample for another layer... My ears were ringing, and my hands numb. This battle with the cold went on and on...until I...

...almost shivered to death. Had to leave my temporary abode and find somewhere else.

Found road to Austrått. At that point in time, it could have been Auschwitz. My hands, if I could even see in the complete darknes, (gloved of course!) were frozen to the metal bike handles. Trempled too much to balance on the bike. Had to walk.

Was there anyone who could help me out here? Ok...I realised my huge mistake in wandering off into the Artic night at a time like this. Please somebody just take me in!

Tried knocking on a few doors. No responses. Finally stumbled onto a deserted horse range, and inevitably a horse shed, which was twice as big as the bus shelter. Approached with trepidation, luckily there weren't any horses in them. Bus stops with no buses, and now, horse sheds with no horses. Anyway, I had to take it. Immediately, I was greeted with an unpleasant smell, but what choice do I have?

Parked my bike, and buried myself with the stacks of hay inside. Drifted in and out of consciousness. Dreamt about my family back in sunny Singapore, and what was I doing out here inside a stack of horse hay.

Think I even managed 2 hours sleep there.

Set off for Austrått. Was rather disappointing. What? I had struggled so hard just to make it to a deserted camp site? But the thought of spending the next night shivering in cold was enough to set me off to Rorvik at once!

Could not bear to leave Austrått. Still lingered there, even found time to deposit my Coop Mega bananas.. They came down shaped just like bananas, which I find amusing. Not so amusing was where I chose to deposit them. I wondered if the camp site people would be delighted with a early round of spring fertilizers for their garden flowers.

Was hoping to catch some spectacular sunrise photos, but they never happen in winter I guess. The sun goes down in sunrise and rises in sunsets? When you are way up north, the celestial stars simply stop behaving themselves.

About the most cheerful sunrise you can find in the North.

continued the 710 journey.

710 ends, and I took 715.

Took 718. Great scenic route, spent my film trying to capture it. My sole aim though, was to be back in Moholt Alle enjoying a hot pizza watching movies on my comp! Time was not my side. Had to rush!

Yet another ferocious waterfall? *yawn*

Took 717. The first sight that greeted me...a huge climb that took the fight out of me ON THE SPOT. Now, how high was that? I have no idea. It would be fun to know, but I know my pizza dream was ebbing away.

Cycled aimlessly up, awaiting my doom. By now, I know I have to get settled by 5:00pm, or before you know it, darkness would have already swallowed you up, trapping you helpless and defenseless against the deadliest of all monsters, the Artic winds.

Saw a church, Stadsbydha Kirke, and tried my luck. Voila! A fine modern toilet in the midst of nowhere. Trust the church goers to treat themselves well! No doubt this toilet is the high of my journey. I'm spending the night here. Went a mile further to a quiet suburb and bought some foodstuffs there, following directions by a man in his 40s who jogged faster than I could on my bike! Was grinning from face to face, all because I had found a toilet which I could bunk in.

Penning this whole entry from the comfort of the toilet. Gonna sleep soon. After cleaning and washing all the dirty linen, the bad horsey smell still cling on to my pores. Had to throw away a blanket, and lots of cloths that were making me ill. Anyway, this Stadsbyddya Kirke has certainly renewed my faith in bicycle trips.
Total spent to date:
22 + 7 + 29 + 24 = 82 kr = S$21!

Worth it?
Not a doubt.

Comfy hotel room. Though I must admit the layout is rather strange, with the toilet placed as the centrepiece of the room.

Farewell to Hotel Lavatory

Fancy being miles away from civilisation with not a single soul in sight? Then Norway awaits you.

Monday, July 10, 2006

SuperCool says...

...with a shrug of his Gallic shoudlers, "It's football, isn't it? When a game goes to penalties you have to accept it. It's the way things are sometimes."

Saturday, July 01, 2006


No bravado talks, no sneering, no juvenile talking down like the boys from Spain, the Brazilian coach Carlos Parreira only has a venerable air of respect for France. In fact, he got it spot on with his quiet observations --'Our rivals are no ordinary team, they were world champions.'

'We know what awaits us,' he continues. 'They are in no hurry to play their game, they play with a certain calmness and suddenly explode with a fast manoeuvre.'

His words carry a certain aroma of ancient wisdom, notably from China, when Sun Tze decreed elegantly in his Art of War:

知己知彼, 百戰百勝

Tersely intepreted as Know thyself, know thy enemy, a hundred battles won, will France perish by the Brazilian sword of wisdom?

Friday, June 30, 2006

The ghost of 1998

It's time to lay to rest the ghost of 1998. Wasn't it France who lifted the trophy in one of the most entertaining competitions ever?

Ronaldo's ghost. The final, in which France triumphed 3-0, was forever remembered by Zidane's goals as much as Ronaldo's supposed mystery illness that caused him to appear listless during the match. The world has not, and could not, give due credit to this French team, who, before the tournament, has been written off by all and sundry. They could not be blamed, for history has shown that France has been woefully inadequate when it comes to anything requiring some mental toughness and real fights. Wars and football matches are just beyond most Frenchmen it seems.

But this squad is special. Those who have witnessed only the French triumphs in 1998 and 2000 would not realise some distinct oddities about this squad. For it was the exact squad who contrived to almost draw with Andorra in 1999 Euro Qualifying Match, but for Franck LeBeouf's last min goal, and the same team who bored me to near death in a 0-0 draw with Czech Rep in Euro 96. The boredom was so intense that I thought it impossible to be upstaged again, mumbling professors in antiseptic lecture halls notwithstanding.

The same team brought as much grief as joy to the full-time supporters like me, beating the likes of Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, but they have their Senegals and Greeces. For lack of a better word in English, doppenganger, German for shadow or double, is the best thing to describe France. This France team has the knack of playing in fits and starts, but shadow copying what the opponents do. Play against a slick team, and France will be slick. Play against a team completely bereth of ideas, and France will be completely ruderless. Play against a samba team, and France will samba through the night.

So, come Sunday, show the world how these band of doppelgangers can beat Brazil in their own game and lay to rest the ghost of Ronaldo!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's all Park Ji Sung's fault

Following the English penchant for laying blame on everything from dry grasses, frivolous girlfriends, the scorching German heat for their less-than-stellar performances on the field, it's time now for the Spanish to look for a scapegoat for their demise in the World Cup 2nd round.

Spain have gone into the tournament looking like the regal conquistadors of medieval yore, boasting somewhat threatening names like Torres, Iniesta and Pernia. They conjured a majestic 4-0 win over Ukraine, followed it up with a gritty come-from-behind 3-1 win over Tunisia, and rounded up Round 1 by fielding a team of reserves against the luckless Saudi Arabians---for all their money in the world, their search for a replacement for the 37-year-old Ali Daei have so far been futile.

The stage was all set for Spain to impose their latin influence on the latter stages in the world cup. Such a young team, averaging 24 years of age, and such boundless talents like Fabregas and Torres, who run the fields like the wind, they are the neutral's favourite.

But for a quirky change of fate in the other group match. France was casually strolling to a victory against the Koreans, which would most probably give France the top table position, steering France and Spain well clear of each other's path. 83min--Park Ji Sung had no right to be there, but pop the goal he did into the French net. 1-1. Spain has no chance against France. It was written in the stars.

So was it youthful naviety? Was it Raul the not-so-golden boy of Spanish football? Was it Alonso who inadventently headed the ball back to his own goal? Did the Spanish backline play too far out? No, it's all Park Ji Sung's fault.

Anyway, what's a World Cup without some Spanish tears? Ahh....some things, comfortingly, never change.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Henry and Saha -- dream pairing?

My Winning Eleven buddy, with whom I have spent the better part of my life hunched over the console box, have often dispensed advice as we prepare ourselves for yet another England-France friendly. "No way I'll put Trezeguet as a striker. Put Saha lar!" As advices go, they often fall on deaf ears.

Try as I might vehemently deny, I'm actually quite a sentimentalist, and a pretty disturbing one at that. I could just see myself as a really bad manager, and an even worse referee. What? Drop McManaman from my first-team, even if I'm painfully aware of his inability to pass, dribble or shoot. What? Award Manchester United a penalty? With abundant goodwill, I'll most probably just wave any appeals away, with a yellow-card for diving if he happens to call himself "Ruud".

So there, Trezeguet happens to be a player I kinda admire. I have known him since the days of ....Championship Manager 2, when he and Thierry Henry were bosom buddies under Wenger at Monaco. Wenger and a few other coaches (including virtual ones like me) were raving about the two French fledgings. Nobody really listened, even after Trezeguet banged in a 30 yard stunner to knock Manchester United out of a Champions League quarter-final, back in 1997. The seeds of my admiration for him was sown.

His golden moment came, not in World Cup 98, but 2 years later in the classic final against Italy, when he became an overnight star by scoring the golden goal which clinched Euro 2000 for France, baring his emanciated frame in the process. It was an image that burnt forever upon the memories of all who watched that match, whether they liked it or not. Ah! Those were heady days indeed when France ruled the soccer world with a Napoleonic fist.

Since then, he's established himself as a top striker for Juventus, the closest thing to a fox-in-the-box in the modern game, though he never really endeared himself to the Turin faithful the way Platini or del Piero did. But that's just because he's too quiet, too selfless and too thin.

Saha, on the other hand, did not possess such a polished pedigree. Not born in Argentina like Trezeguet was, he plied his trade in unfashionable Fulham, before compounding the problem by committing the cardinal sin of joining the Red Devils. Somehow, I am never truly excited by his blistering pace and deadly finishing, which he demonstrates on a weekly basis for Alex Ferguson. Therein lies the whole problem, I'm utterly biased when it comes to Manchester United.

Raymond Domenach, though, has put one ahead of me. Henry and Saha have been named in attack against Denmark in a warm up friendly. Putting aside my tribal rivalries and my feeling sorry for Trezeguet, I shall wish them both the best tonight.

The goal that brings me tears of happiness

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's a French thing

If you, like me, get high from reading bad news, you should seriously consider supporting France. Now, those England fans would be up in arms to contest what they believe is their sole ownership over the domain of bad luck, what with unfortunate injuries at the most inopportune moments on the most important players. "Metartasal" has catapulted itself onto the English consciousness in recent times, even the grannies there can give you a verbal diagnosis if you are ever in need of one.

No, I don't mean bad news that boil down to strange quirks of nature or fate, rather, those that you take a gun and shoot yourself in the foot, or the metarsasal as an Englishman would be quick to point out, and you go, "fuck.....that HURTS!"

So every morning, I eagerly turn my copy of The Straits Times over its side, bypassing the truly depressing "Thousands perish in quake" and going straight for the jugular. "Thousands boo France team". Just a few days ago, Coupet walking out on France team made mini headlines in my local newspapers and brought a wry smile to my face. But booing your own team for no particular reason just about ranks up there in the "shooting yourself in the foot" category.

'You would never see that in England,' said Henry. 'Even when we're losing at Highbury, the fans keep cheering and supporting us. Fabien received a yellow card at one stage and you had the impression that it made the fans happy.'

Liverpool forward Djibril Cisse was also surprised by the hostile reaction from the fans.
'I can't believe it', he said. 'In England such a thing would be unthinkable. Maybe it's just a cultural thing but it is a problem.'

So there you have it. It's a cultural thing, some sort of national pasttime. It's some innate French need to be, to borrow from Hokkien colloquial, "sibei kwailan", a trait which filled our history textbooks with unapologetic revolutions and our soccer annals with unforgettable anecdotes. Just ask the Crystal Palace fan who was famously kung-fu kicked into notoriety.

Trawling the Net for more updated France news, I was not disappointed with the day's offerings:
"Cisse unwanted at Liverpool"
"Trezeguet may play in Seria B"
"Giuly swears never to play for France"

Maybe its about time to call it a day. C'est la vie.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

World Cup:France Watch

The die is cast. Raymond Domenach has selected his 23 men tasked to lead France to glory once again. But his whirlwind decisions left a lot of fans in its wake grieving at his list, which was bizzare to say the least. My heartfelt condolences goes out to Ludovic Giuly, and to lesser extent, Pires and Coupet, whose place in the France setup was revealed to him in one ego-crumbling "Barthez shall (forever) be my No 1" phrase.

What? Barthez the Botak? Bathez the spitter? Barthez the clown? Whatever incarnation this Barthez fella comes in, he does not inspire fear or command respect. The highlight of his Manchester career was marked not by goalkeeping heroics but by one particular incident where he valiantly tried to con di Canio to stop playing football just as he was about to score, hoping that the wily Italian would take to his tricks. Well, as the story goes, Manchester went out 1-0 to West Ham, and his place in the goalkeeping gaffes is assured.

>Bartez Hailing Taxi

What irks me though, is that Barthez was banned for 6 months this season for spitting at a referee whose decisions he did not take particularly well to. So, 6 months of idly his time away as Marseille struggled, while Coupet toiled hard in a Lyon team which was going places both domestically and European wide. Coupet deservedly picked up the French goalkeeper of the year award, but that, somehow, wasn't good enough. Domenach insists that he prizes experience over competency, but how does he explain away his decision to pick Chimbonda and Franck Ribery, 2 uncapped French players? He didn't. He muttered something about the planets and stars on the day the names were released and strutted off-stage, without fielding a single question from the reporters. Glenn Hoddle would have been proud.

And what about Giuly, Pires, Mexes, Anelka, Dacourt, Zebina, Malbranque and half dozen other French names plying their silky trades across Europe? Instead, we have Jean-Alain Boumsong, someone whose Mum would be proud of if he can find his way home everyday, and Alou Diarra, a Liverpool and Bayern reject. How many more rejects do you need to claim to earn the enthusiastic approval of Domenach?

Only recently, Coupet, unable to tolerate the clowning Barthez and the delightfully unreasonable Domenach any longer, almost walked out of a team-building session up in the Alps. Suddenly, the Les Bleus are living up to their names too literally.

It would be good if these woes consigned themselves off-field. Unfortunately, France have never acquired the art of free scoring. When they had the likes of Dugarry and Guivar'ch, strikers who can't score in a Thai massage parlour ( phrase coined specially for Crouch though) it was understandable, but the problem becomes more perplex with the likes of Henry and Trezeguet leading the front line.

People have questioned just how someone can dazzle like only true-blue legends do on a Saturday, then play like Boumsong WITH Boumsong on a midweek, then turn on his va-va-vroom again on a Saturday. With his usual nonchalance, Henry waves that away with his usual sage-like demeanour, "I'm not a machine, you know." Fair enough. His achievements at Arsenal have rendered him virtually untouchable. Referees think twice before yellow-carding him, and mere mortals struggle to breathe in his divine presence.

(For Thierry's sake, Henry's French, not English, despite his blessings to England, and his name is pronounced ON-RI, not HON-RI, or HEN-RI, or ON-NE-RI or any other permutations you can come up with. I will not hesitate to stop you in your tracks and correct you on the spot.)

Lastly, woe betide Zizou the saviour designate, who, at the ripe old age of 34, besides worrying about receding hairlines and impudent kids, has to somehow find a way to inspire his jaded bunch to the Jules Rimet. Things do not bode well when a nation places so much expectation on the square shoulders of any being, man or god. Just yesterday, France managed to overcome Mexico at their favourite stadium 1-0, courtesy of Florent Malouda. But there was another compelling statistic which releases a sense of foreboding to any France fan out there: Zidane gave the ball away 7 times, and was so awful he had to be substituted by Vikash Dhorasoo after half-time.

Facing a tigerish South Korea, a youthful Swiss and an athletic Togo team, is another first-round exit on the cards for the moribund French?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Miserable in Heaven...

...or happy in hell?

"The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. Ch. 14):
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment" (Matt. Ch. 25):
"He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath, never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation" (Mark, Ch. 3).

What is mere eternal damnation when people have not an ounce of belief in themselves, and allow their minds to be paralysed by fear, and stained by evil? The day bigotry rules is the day reasoning dies, and with it, drags humanity and progress.

So dear God, prepare the curses, spew forth the fire, sharpen the spikes, you have someone who is hell bent on going to hell.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The cold comforts of nihilism

Stephin Merrit The Lonely Robot

Having ended all life, absorbed all other robots,
ruler of the cosmos, she walks into the sunset.

But there is no darkness. Her laser-gaze is itself a weapon. And no sleep defends her from the nightmare of oblivion.

So she wakes a new world made entirely out of lightwaves, memories of movies, and chance determinations.

Then she watches random characters and situations, endless combinations with very little input. But she sees the ending. Every clock finds its equilibrium. So she introduces the absurdist contradictions.

Anything can follow, but the actors can't believe that, so they keep pretending the script is real and means things.

So the lonely robot, with no feeling for the actors, just erased the whole thing, which -- true -- had not existed. And a trillion stories all came abruptly to a non-ending, and a trillion people suddenly stopped non-existing.

Thus was born a new world from the movies of the old one, and the lonely robot was given non-existence.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Auditioning as a Football365 writer

the aftermath of the Chelsea-Liverpool shambles of a match. sigh...

'I am in a hurry because I must go to the hospital because the injury was so serious that maybe he (Robben) will be there for one week,'
--Benitez, in no mood for the press conference, as his heart reached out for poor Robben

'I have just finished a big game, a game that we won and played very well. A game where we scored one of the most beautiful goals in the Premiership this season and the referee didn't allow it. A game that leaves us in the countdown to be champions. A game that gave us the 50th victory in the Premiership in the last one and a half years. A game that out of nine against Liverpool in this period, we lost one. A game that proved we are the best team in the country and so I am happy with all things.'
--Mourinho, giving an inspired speech on why he is contented with life at the moment

'Why should I comment on Rafa's words. He can say what he wants but sometimes we say things without thinking, especially after we lose."
--Mourinho, ever so empathatic towards fellow colleagues

'When they are defending and the result is not against them, they are fantastic and defend very well. But if you score first against them you know that you have great conditions to do what we did at Anfield.'
--The Special One, a self-proclaimed guru on many things in life, offers advice on some random topic

'What kind of professional can you be against another professional if you leave the other player not playing for three games. It is crazy.'
--Benitez, on poor Reina not playing for the next 3 games, conveniently forgetting how a certain Jerzy Dudek has not played for 50 games. Talk about favouritism.

'William Gallas was touching Reina but did Reina dive? No!'
--Benitez, on a parallel universe where people are expected to crumble onto the floor when when touched

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Movie Review: 15:The Movie

The last time a local film actually garnered critical acclaim, Cleopatra Wong was still karate chopping up policemen in shorts. Hailing from 21th century Singapore, I was all eager to watch 15. Too eager, on hindsight, as I passed up Broken Flowers and Julie Delpy for it.

Opening sequence with 3 leads playing bow-and arrows in a metaphorical wasteland (Nope! There's no desert in monsoon-ravaged Singapore), a sense of foreboding crept up inside me. A film which purports to capture street life grittiness but opens with some high arty farty concept, is suffering from a clash of ideologies, something akin to getting Jesus and God of Mercy tattooed on your back.

So the movie meanders down this slippery path of pseudo high concept art. We find Ah-bengs, or 'street thugs' in colloquial Hokkien, not in the streets spilling blood, but hanging around in their not-so-spartan HDB flats musing about the vagaries of life and occasionally breaking into colourful song-and-dance. Sounds a lot like my life, thank you.

Granted, there were a few great takes of self-mutilation and drug-smuggling, which was stomach churning even to the hardboiled. But the terrible pacing blunted the scenes and ruined the senses. It was with much gratitude that I survived the extreme tedium, thanks to my fingers on the FAST FORWARD button. Mind you, it was not just a casual fast forward, but a SUPER TURBO FAST FORWARD of 8x.

15 would indeed be a smashing hit as a 15 min long feature. Royston Tan shouldn't have dragged 15 out from the relative comforts of short films to the hazards of full-lengths. A full-length film needs to be sustained by a story, a heartbeat. Witness how blood courses through the veins of Amores Perros, or Cidade de Deus. A concept alone, even if wrapped up in garish lighting and high contrast colours, is simply not enough.

IMDb Rating: 4.7 (-1 for lack of Ah Lians in a movie about Ah Bengs. Oh! Ludicrious!)


there's always a first to everything. And now, the first gospel rock band that I whole-heartedly embrace. Can't believe myself.

But Jason Pierce's Spiritualized begs the question: aren't Christians supposed to be trippy-happy, like life's a one-way trip to heaven on a helium balloon. And here is Jason Pierce's singing of yearning, frustration, anger and bitterness, encapsulated into a wonderfully-named album Ladies and Gentlemen, We're Floating in Space. Beautifully secular, but once let loose into the airwaves, something sacred happened. The room chills, the furniture resonates, and my heart aches.

Broken Heart by Spiritualized

Though I have a broken heart
I’m too busy to be heartbroken
There’s a lot of things that need to be done
Lord I have a broken heart

Though I have a broken dream
I’m too busy to be dreaming of you
There’s a lot of things that I gotta do
Lord I have a broken dream

And I’m wasted all the time
I’ve gotta drink you right off of my mind
I’ve been told that this will heal given time
Lord I have a broken heart

And I’m crying all the time
I have to keep it covered up with a smile
And I’ll keep on moving on for a while
Lord I have a broken heart

Broken Heart

Ladies and Gentlemen We're Floating in Space

Monday, January 09, 2006

Calling SOS

After 2-3 days of pracitising just that darned passage (Bar 5-12), it seems I have made little progress. Left with no other choices, I decided to appeal to the outside world (pianoforum) with my problems.

Below was my (quite urgent) message for help.

It seems that no matter how much I practice, I still have troubles getting my RH up to speed (around 150). At 130, my notes start to bundle together, forming at tata-tata rhythm , and I dunno if there are any better methods to practise the RH.I recorded my playing (Bar 5-12 only) to further illustrate my problems.
Same passage with speed digitally reduced by 70%.

Let's see!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

FI RH Training (Bar 5-12)

Started the speed training first. Bar 5-12.

At Speed 100, I was relatively comfortable. Save for Bar 8, and Bar 12, which showed slight uneveniess.

At 120, bar 5 and 12 shows slight weakness, esp 12.

At 130, all the cracks showed up.
Bar 5-6: note the D#-C#-D#-C#
Bar 7: D#-F# descending clique
Bar 8: grouped in tada-tada
bar 9-10: same problems as 5-6
bar 12: very poor. the tada-tada clique ruled the day here.

Overall general weakness shown in 1st finger over thumn, e.g Bar 7 and 8.

One method to annihilate cliques: practice the offending notes in all combinations, the more awkward, the better.
e.g. Bar 12, in the heavily cliqued group of (E-D#)-(G#-A#),
I cycled through at E-G#-D#-A# as much and as fast as possible, then followed by D#-G#-E-A#.
Hopefully I can see results tomorrow.

One thing of note: Play with MINIMAL STRESS at all times!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

FI Strategy

Identified 2 major issues with FI: rhythm and speed, and drew up corresponding methods (hopefully) to alleviate the problems.

Rhythm coordination training, aimed at drumming the feel of 3s on 4s, is to be done HT. Break up piece from Bar 5-24 and Bar 25-37.
Tools used: Finale and midi.
Method: Play the piece together with the midi file at tempo 40, and gradually drumming up to 150. Every note must be exactly in time, but most importantly, the feel of the rhythm must not be missed.

Speed training is to be be done HS, specifically RH, since FI, like Prelude No 16, asks a lot from the RH. Perhaps Prelude No 16 could be a good project to undertake simultaneously. For FI, I break it up into more manageable parts, namely, bar 5-12, 13-16, 17-24, 25-29(repeat), 30-36,37-40.
Tools used: Cooledit and electronic piano.
Method: Record playing onto Cooledit, and analyse playing in stretched tempo (slowed down 150%...go to Effects?Time/Pitch/Stretch) to identify cliques. You'll be surprised that what you thought was even playing would be cruelly exposed by this very powerful tool. The faster you go, the more cliques you'll fish out in the unlikeliest of places.

Ok, I've outlined the battleplan. Now, to get some sleep, watch some TV, and maybe some day, i'll get round to executing it......

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

FI Report 1

what i've done over the last few days:

5-12: HT at around 60
13-24: technically very challenging. HS with lots of uneveness and tripping up. Esp the first 2 notes and last 2 notes of the 4-note appergios seem to form cliques of their own. It is technically challenging to bring out the accents of the 1st note from 13-16, 2nd note from 17-21, and no more accents from 21-24. Cliques, accents and phrasing, on top of the ever present rhythm, makes this passage a real killer.
25-34: HS

tried a few methods to conquer the 3s on 4s rhythm problem.
The trick, I think, is to find as many anchor points as possible. So far, the most obvious would be the coordinated landing of the RH 5th with the LH 4th. With this alone, I could play pretty much at ease. But who am I kidding? The LH always felt a bit off, while the RH seems to rush too much. Sigh...I needed more checks and anchor points.

Realised that the last 3 notes(HT) form a ta....ta.ta (quaver on RH followed by 2 semiquavers, LH then RH in quick succession) rhythm. I became conscious of this rhythm, and this became another anchor point for me.

And thats it. If you can play at speed with these two anchor points in mind, you pretty much nail it. If its perfectly done, it's much akin to having the squares and pegs of a seemingly impossible puzzle suddenly falling into place. You can just feel the magic of the 1/12th Moire pattern being weaved from your very own fingers. It's elusive, but that's what makes it even more exhilarating.

Lastly, a sense of foreboding to me. Quoted:
There seems no fear that the Fantasie-Impromptu will suffer from neglect, as it is the joy of the amateur, who usually transforms its presto into a slow, blurred mass of badly related rhythms and its slower episode into a long-drawn, sentimental agony.

I have quiet confidence about it though...Just gimme some time.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Fantasie Impromptu

Ok, I've decided to blog down the trials and tribulations of trying to conquer this quite notorious musical peak, inspired in part by

Unfortunately, its cursed with the "overplayed" syndrome. Piano afficianadoes everywhere claim to have played it as their first ever piece. It appears randomly from Cantonese soap opera soundtracks to handphone ringtones. Even worse, Chopin was said to dislike the piece much that he refused to have it published. Hence the "posthumous Op 66". It was one of his earliest compositions and he thought it lacked depth. Maybe its like flipping through your diary entries of yesteryears and cringing at how could you have penned all those immature and juvenile comments. Fantasie Impromptu sounds flighty and flashy, and its middle section prods along painfully at times. Still, it remains one of the best-loved works of Chopin. And any self-respecting piano teacher SHOULD have it on his repertoire. Which was why I decided to commence on this journey.

A cursory run through of the RH from Bar 5 to Bar 40 revealed a lot of technical deficiencies on my part, of which Bar 37-40 would be the fiendishly difficult part. A few issues of note:

1) evenness at high speed (130) from Bar 5 to 24 deserts me. Still able to hold the fort at 110. HT sounds super amateurish to the discerning ear, but should get by to the rest.

2) how to play the 3s on 4s. There are 2 school of thoughts : one is, the 3s on 4s is a remarkable mathematical concept which Chopin intuitively understood. The more accurate you are on the 3s and 4s, the more it brings out a wavelike Moire pattern. It creates an auditory illusion to accelerate the piece up by 3 times. The second school of thought says that, it being a fantasy and impromptu, we should just play to our hearts and abandon all the mathematical rigidity.

We shall see...