Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Writing

I would drop everything I have and come back – right now. Without a thought. In the bat of an eye.

Oh yeah? 

I would return. You think I am heartless but I am not. I would turn around right now and come back if that's what you want.

All these mean nothing to you? Your hundred thousand euro apartment in Paris? All the sunsets that you watch from your balcony? Your friends who love you and will turn up to any house parties that you organise? To come back to sleep class trains, to stinking alleyways, to road constructions that never end? 

They mean a lot to me. But still the same, I would return.

You're bluffing. You don't know what you're saying. Night changes many thoughts. Go to sleep. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Young

"I am jealous of you, young people. I am old, I am cranky. I haven't felt life in my bones for years. Old age takes you out in ways you never expected. Old age makes you blind to what you used to enjoy: To mere sunshine and lighting cigarettes in the alleyway trying to keep warm between classes. To Tom Odell and colourful cheesy piano, screaming to pop songs that you would sing along to. To feeling invincible enough to change ambitions every other week, depending on what mood you're in.

You long for security and control. You will never get there. Stay young. Stay as young as you can. Watch how lightfooted the young seem. Stay young while you can.

I am jealous of you.

Of waking up and feeling so lost, and yet feeling so secure in your lostness, feeling life gripping you like a deep song that sounds like it's been written in a dark hotel room that smells like disappointment and cold dreams."

He tells me. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reblogging Your Face

I keep reblogging your face. Hey Lindsey, will you take notice of me? I even played the song called Medicine by Daughter – and that bit where the drums come in, always makes me wince because it's too beautiful a sound to handle. Your face lights up my page, but you're not even real, are you? Your name's Alexa I am told. But tomorrow you're Nadja and then again I am chasing my own tail going round and round in circles, trying to be like Kazuo and Alexander.

Hey, give me a five minute window in your busy flambuoyant lives. Give me a little RT or a mention. I don't know what I would do with it, but I would feel really good for that five minutes that the joy will last.

And yeah, I promise to keep reblogging your face, and your heart as raw as the sun rising and defeating dark clouds, remnants of a rain long gone. 

India

You're proud of where you've come from, almost to a point of getting arrogant about your history and your traditions. Why would the fluttering tricolour in the wind fill you with pride and fervour?

I said, "Have you seen the sunrise glinting on the tea plantations on the way to Darjeeling? Have you seen the clouds wander across the face of the many nameless mountains on the North towards Ladakh? Have you ever heard the roar of waterfalls as you stand on a peak of a hill overlooking the cavernous valley somewhere outside Sohra? Have you dipped your hands into the backwaters of Kerala that reflect the coconut trees, and watched the shadows dance to the movement of the water? Have you wandered the narrow streets of Banaras and wonder if you would ever get out the maze alive, but at the same time feel the sense of immense freedom rising inside you?"

You're getting too ahead of yourself here.

"But answer me. Have you done any of these I mentioned above?"

No.

"Exactly."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

East

"What are we doing here at the gas station? Why are we filling the tank?"

The morning was just starting to light up. The lady at the counter at the gas station was barely awake. She grumpily handed East the cash change. He said to her, "Hey, thanks. Have a fantastic day, young woman."

I swear she said fuck off under her breath, but East wasn't looking. He had turned back towards me, walked to the car and was checking the back boot to ensure it was locked. He seemed in a resolute mood. What in the world is this guy up to?

"Hey man, what are we doing? Are we going somewhere?"

"Are we going somewhere? Mate, are we going somewhere..."

He got in the car and revved up the engine. And then he killed the engine again as I opened my mouth to complain. He turned to me, and I held back my words – I was going to say, Oi you nut case, whatever the hell you're up to, I want to know what I am doing!

He looked at me for a couple of seconds and then looked out at the road that laid out in front of us. The gas station seemed like the only habitation for miles and miles. No sign of life. No sign of movement, except the wind that brushed up a few strands of dust now and then. Even the lady at the counter had disappeared inside.

"We are going on a journey. You and I."

"A journey?"

"Yeah, a journey. A road trip."

"Ok, that's a start. That makes sense why you're filling up the gas tank." I replied slowly trying not to sound impatient and annoyed, "Are you going to tell me where we are going?"

"It will be a significant road. Your life will change. We will pass Wisconsin. We will drive past the majestic grand canyons. We will drop in and say hello to the folks of New Jersey. We will also drive up to Michigan, I have a few errands I want you to run along lake towns. We will then hop out of the country briskly to Montreal, and then drive back down to Georgia to watch the dry towns bleak in the noon sun. We will also check out the Rockies, man, have you seen the Rockies this time of the year? You'll love it."

"But I don't want to see Wisconsin. I don't want to see Wyoming. I don't want to go to Montreal. I don't even want to see the Rockies! What's in there for me? I want to go back home and sleep in my bed. To wake up and have coffee at the Berty's Cafe with my friends, and then do nothing all day, go to bed and wake up the next day to do it all again..."

"The sights of the mountains will forgive your sins. The open highways will chisel you. The cliffs you hang off will make you fight stronger. Your friends, your parties, your sports, your antics in this old town, they will always be there for you – or they won't be. You don't know. They don't matter. I've got things to show you... a bigger country. You can huddle up here and sit in a small town remorse and self pity – or the open road invites you."

"It's not like I have a choice, do I? I am here in your truck now. I don't know my way back. You've filled up the tank. Where can I run away to from here?"

"You do have a choice. You can jump out and stand on the highway and stick your thumb out and hitchhike your way back to your house. Or you can try and walk back. What you've left behind is just around the corner – it's never far. But I've brought you here because I want you to see that open landscape in front of you. I want you to hear the hills that are blue on the horizon call to you."

"Are we escaping life then? Is this escapism?"

"No we are not escaping life. We are diving headlong into life. If life is an ocean, we are diving headlong into the blue. If life is a highway, we are filling the tank up and revving up the engine to start on this roadtrip."

He looked away for a while. I looked away too. The blue hills far across the distance trembled slightly in the summer heat wave.

East asked me again, "Do you want to go?"

"Yes. I want to go."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Pearls

Pearls drop into my head. They sound simple and clear as they ring and trickle down the hollow of my head. In fact my head was not hollow. It had to be made hollow. It was filled with intestines – the insides of a human or something.

But these pearls drop. They dispel and melt the intestines inside my head. It's like when you drop a solvent into a glass of muddy water that makes the water become crystal clear. I can smell the fumes escaping. The stench of the dross that filled my head leaving me, running away in fear. 

I am not in Venice. I am not in London. I am not in Praha. I am not in Cairo. As much as I wish to be.

But I know discontent dwells, thrives and prospers in these cities. I know for all the love they make, all the songs they sing, all the wine they skull, all the sights you see, in Rome, New York, New Delhi, Wellington, Gold Coast... For all of these, discontent still reigns unchallenged and unconquered. 

Frank Sinatra, what do you mean you did it your way? What way? Your way? 

Venice's canals echo sounds of unhappy happiness. This city's streets sigh of lost dreams and lost fights – I walk the streets every night and it tries to smother me every time – lost dreams, dead corpses of hope they litter the roads lit by streetlights. 

How do I walk on the streets that no hope grows on, and find hope? 

Unless the pearls that dropped into my head, brought about by ravens, ravens that do the bidding of God, unless they take root and become a tree. Unless the pearls fall and dig that well from which a river will pour out. If anything, I may just have enough hope for myself to get by my seventy years of existence – or if you like, some bit of hope for the streets that are lit by orange streetlights where dead hopes lie like corpses, immobile and lifeless.

Spring – Awake

My friend, winter's over. Wake up, it's spring. Spring arrived this morning. While you slept, the greens came up – the shoots budded up – the music revived – the sun rose – the mists cleared. 

Wake up. Harsh has been the winter. The cold chill killed everything that needed to go.

It is a new day, wake up. Be hopeful. September is beautiful. You're new. 

Your disappointments lie dead at your doorstep. They took a while to die, but they eventually got invaded by the freezing winds from last night. Your broken hopes that lied cluttered at your porch have been cleared out, like broken pottery – I threw them into the lake beyond your house. Your wet blankets I have hung out on the backyard in the new spring sun to dry. 

Hum a tune, be awake, listen to the silence of spring, listen to the new world purring in the warmth.

Awake, my friend, spring is here. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

REST

I can’t find rest. Is it a place? Or is it a person? I fell in love and fell out of love. With people. With places. With fantasies. With stories. With indulgences. With dreams. 

But when I go for a swim in the lakes, the lakes that seemed very beautiful and perfect, I come out pungent and stinking like a feral worm. Beneath the water surfaces that seemed placid when you looked at it, beneath the water surface you find monsters and snakes that wriggle around me and pull me down. I shiver in the water, freezing and evil. The snakes whisper false promises and threats all in the same breath. 

Rest is not a place either. I have taken a walk in the beautiful valley that looked promising but came to realise how deep the gorges were, and how indestructible the vines that cluttered the road were. And the rains that fell in the forests – they could beat you and drive your weary minds mad. 

Rest is not a person either. Not anyone I have met before. This woman, she seemed restful but she turned out to be a banshee that would wake me up every night in chilled fear, and I would find myself choking on my own poison that seeped from my deepest imagination. 

Rest is not a dream or a fantasy. I have had dreams and they become nightmares. Dark stars that will not leave me alone. Dark fears that become my shadows never going away. 

But My Friend

But I met with my friend, and he picked a place in the sun for us to talk in. 

I say: "Your face is golden. Your presence always brings me peace. What I am afraid about is that the second I leave your side, I know the enemy will pummel me and steal that peace away from me again."

He says – “Why do you struggle so much?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I am made to suffer all my life?”

– “You’re made for something else other than suffer.”

“But why did I love the lake so much, so much so that I took a swim in the venomous dark waters – the peaceful blue waters that turned dark like the night as soon I dived into it? Why did I fall in love with that demon that became a banshee, her beautiful reassuring voice that became shrieks of hate that filled my spine with terror? Why can I never find that place where I can just sit and be who I am. Just be. Just to rest. Just to not want anything anymore. Just to be have enough. Is that too much to ask for?

 – “That is too much to ask for. It is something that you can never earn.”

“So I am doomed then. I have no hope. As long as I live, I will want and never be satisfied, I will desire and never get, I will ask and never find, seek and never discover. I resign myself to a life of misery and discontent.”

– “Rest is something you can never earn. But I am here because I choose to. Not because you found me, but because I found you. My name is Rest.” 

“Your name is not Rest. Your name is Saviour. Your name is Great. Your name is Mighty. Your name is Sovereign. Your name is Important. Your name is Too-Important-To-Care-About-My-Minute-Life. Your name is High-And-Lifted-Up-Higher-Than-My-Problems. Rest is too simple a name for you.”

– “Trust me. I am Rest.”

“Trust you? How can I? I can hardly see you. I can hardly feel you. I can hardly hear your voice.”

– “And you blame me for that? Trust me. I am Rest.”

“How can I trust and rest? Trust is too insecure. Trust is too shaky. Trust does not make sense. Trust is too flimsy. Trust is too defined by What-If’s. What if you’re wrong? What if your name is not Rest – and again like all the things I’ve been through will play out again to be false fantasy? I can’t afford to be wrong again.”

– “In that case, maybe you will never find Rest. Maybe you need to let go. Maybe you need to stop trusting your own mind, and your own logic – you say trust is insecure and flimsy and does not make sense. But can you hear yourself? You’re putting your trust in yourself. You think you can find your rest if you look hard enough – look where that has led you. You’re broken. You’re lost. You’re lonely. You can’t trust yourself. Trusting in yourself is as insecure as your trust in that blue lake that turned into a poison lake. Trusting in yourself is as flimsy as that trust you had for the woman who turned out to be a demon. Trusting in yourself is as disastrous as trusting in that dream that played out to be a nightmare.”

I didn’t have anything to say to that.

– “Come back to me when you have exhausted all your trust in other things. When you have run out of all other options. Come back and find me when all your hopes in other things – including yourself – have vanished. Come back to me when you’re all done and undone. I may have an answer for you then.”

I looked out to the horizon that spread out beneath us. We were sitting at a table in the sun, on a balcony overlooking a valley that was beautiful. But I knew that as soon as I left the company of my friend here, I would again be hounded by the dogs, the enemies of my peace, and I would be worse off again. I didn’t want to go back there again. I didn’t want to head back out there unguarded and unprepared. I never wanted to go back out there again.

– “And I don’t want you go to back there again, ever.”

I looked at my friend. 

What if he was right? What if he was speaking the truth. 

“Alright. I am ready. I am not going back out there. I’ve had enough of lakes and demons and nightmares. I am ready for this...

“Rest. I want Rest. I want to just fall back into the cloud of Rest. I want to drown in the peaceful waters of Rest. I want to settle in the shadow of the tree of Rest. I want to gaze on the face of Rest and not have to search ever again...

“I am ready for Rest...

“Trust. Rest. I’m good to rest now.”

My friend closed his eyes. He grinned, a warm smile of victory appeared on his face. It wasn’t demeaning victorious smile – it meant victory for me. It meant I could be with him always. 

This was so simple. So so simple. 

Simple Rest. 


Nothing more to be said. Nothing more to do. Just lay back in the sun and rest. It is finished. It is complete. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Untitled

I hate my life.

That's an exaggeration. You're being dramatic. 

Well then you tell me why I am here on my desk, looking like this – at the end of my rope?

Because you're not listening to me. 

I am listening to you. You just aren't saying anything new. Or I just cannot see anything new that you're doing to lift my spirits.

What do you want me to tell you? 

I don't know. Anything to make me not hate my life? That would be start. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Maleficent (Film Review)

This is what Americans do best. Dramatic story telling. And now that we have the amazing technologies at our disposal, why not Maleficent? Why not the incredible portrayal of the evil (not so evil) witch? Why not have otherworldly sets where the air ripples with imagination and all necessary square inches of the frame is beautifully saturated with detail (but not in a oh-we’re-gonna-bombard-you-with-crazy-visual-effects-just-cos-we-can sort of way)? Why not Angelina Jolie? Why not walking/talking trees (now, you don’t need to roll your eyes because these trees look and sound better than Peter Jackson’s from a decade ago)? Why not fairies? 

Rating movies is such a subjective thing. You catch an average movie on a good night, you absolutely love it. You catch a good movie on a bad night, you miss it’s whole point and don’t enjoy it. I must have got Maleficent on a really good night because I absolutely loved it – or it could also be that it was an incredible film. 

I’d love to see the production design team work on this one and the lengths they would have gone through to craft this one up. The music was great – in fact I made a mental note to check them out when I've got home and have logged into spotify (that’s how you know a piece of music has got your attention). 

What this film also did well in its story telling is that it didn’t complicate things, and kept character-count to a bare minimum. The temptation with fantasy stories, I would imagine, is to go hard-core on making characters and scenarios (because sometimes it can be true that audiences love details and they want as many information as possible for the imagined world to become convincing – think LOTR, Potter, Game of Thrones etc.) Though that might be true in great stories, you cannot fake it. The most important thing in a story is to, well, tell a story. Not to get too carried away with setting and character. When your story can be told with two people, there’s no point in creating ten characters just because the writer fancies it. Maleficent leaves you asking for more, you are satisfied with the story, but you are also very intrigued by this new designed world, and the characters that could live within it. 

The story-line has nothing too crazy. Halfway through the film, you might have guessed how the outcome would be. But this doesn't ruin it in anyway. The values/moral of the story is pretty spot-on. Without giving the story away, it is a treatment that you don't see a lot of nowadays – and it's a welcome change.

Finally, my closing remarks:

Elle Fanning, you fine little thing. 


3.5/5

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I take a sip of the chai and forget my cares if only for that swift moment with my friends and memories of the nostalgic town.

"How are you?" Toby my old friend calls as soon as I walk in, drinking the coffee I saw him last drinking when I left him a few months ago, "You look a little – odd."

"Yeah, you're right," I mumble back in reply, "I need a good drink."

"There's always the good drink here, E," Melody, as always sounding cheery, "We've got holidays till Tuesday, and good thing we decided not to take the train to MC, we had a feeling you'd turn up."

"Our prodigal son returns," laughs Tenzin, "atleast for the entire weekend?"

"Yes I think so," I reply, "Oh I don't know. I don't care. I just want a drink."

I can smell the tea brewing. I can feel the fumes that came from the gigantic tea urn from across the hotel room. The room is filled with students, dressed in their Saturday casuals, all of them looking happy and relaxed. Tell me again, I say to myself, why did I even leave in the first place?

"How was Singapore? Or was it Bali?" Melody asks.

"I flew in from New Zealand." I murmur, closing my eyes, facing the sun and feeling the warmth creep into my bones.

"Jealous. I want to travel the world." Toby was looking at me with an enquiring look, "How is it?"

"Trust me, now that I am here in this old haunt, in Town, hearing all these crowd noise, and smelling the smell of a hill town murmuring with morning bliss, there's no place I'd rather be."

"But what about Zanzibar?"

"There's no place like the familiar. When you sit among strangers and yet know they are your family because you live in the confines of the same town."

They look away knowingly. They know I'd be saying these things when I left months earlier. They then start talking among themselves. Of eating lunch at the Tibetan restaurant upstairs from the clothing outlet stores. Of watching a film in the decrepit cinema hall with painted images of bygone heroes and heroines hailing you at the front door. Of going for a walk down the water's edge, skimming stones on the smooth surface and skipping along the edge to keep your shoes dry. Of sitting and just watching the himalayas catch morning or evening sun rays, starting to look backgrounds from posters of hand-painted gods and goddesses.

And even though I am sitting in that tea shop with them – in town surrounded by bustling humans, ambassador cars heaving through narrow streets looking like fat ticks, hearing cackling voices of shopkeepers calling out for customers, and smelling the smell of ginger in the cup of tea that has just been served on my table, seeing glimpses of the mighty himalayas from a nearby window always an imposing presence in the reality of this townsfolk – even so, I feel terribly homesick and lonely.

I take a sip of the chai and forget my cares if only for that swift moment with my friends and memories of the nostalgic town.

– EE

Journey

Most days (if not all days)
I am just spiralling through the days
No idea of what I am doing wrong
No idea of what I am doing right
No idea of what to improve on
No idea of what I should change in myself

I take the bus, I walk here to there
I eat this crap, I drink this beauty

No one tells me it's wrong
No one tells me it's right

Playing dice with my life
Numb to reality and possibilities
Numb to what could be or should be
I spiral like a beast without consciousness
Without ideas and logic
And common sense

Like everyone else I need help

You meet me at the calm waters
After days in the dry desert
I needed a drink I needed soothing words
You tell me

Rest.

The journey's been so long
We're losing sight, we're losing song
Far across the horizon is nothing new
Nothing on

Hey, my good old friend
You've been with me till this end
How much longer shall we wander

Rest. You don't understand
Nor will you understand
The most you can do is rest here
For the while. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014) Film Review

I have been noticing a trend in my film reviews. Most (if not all) of them are negative criticism than positive celebration. That hasn't been my intention, and if I could I would correct it. So let me start my review of Godzilla with positive observations...

Well actually, one positive observation about Godzilla.

The film trailer.

The trailer was, to be fair, something worth jumping up and down about. But it's sad that almost everything cool about the film were summed up in that trailer. The scene of the military men air diving from the plane into the city looked amazing, yes. But we saw that in the trailers already! The scenes of jet fighters dropping from the sky like pieces of debris looked unreal (in a cool way). But didn't we see that in the trailer already? Yes. There were some scenes that were ok that didn't feature in the trailer – but my point being that much of the greatest elements of this film, you have already seen.

But if I am to rate trailers, yep, Godzilla did a fine job getting all the geeks drooling alright.

Now, the film plot seemed weak. I don't know how a monster movie like this can have a stronger plotline than this anyway, but surely Hollywood isn't shallow enough to keep making films that are so America-centred? Nope. They're all still on that buzz. Monsters and aliens love American major cities – New York, Los Angeles, etc, or if not that then, very major cities like Tokyo, London etc.

Let me give you an advice, if you find yourself in a Hollywood movie with an alien of Godzilla-like monster on a rampage, DON'T go to major cities (especially New York). They are less likely to attack a place like Nelson or Gore. And if you can find out, find out where the hero of the story is. Whatever city/town he is in, the monsters are most likely to attack (9 times out of 10).

Films are films, and are stories told to suit the medium of film, and the whole point is drama. I understand that there has to be crazy coincidences, crazy turns of events for films to be interesting and worth watching. But there also has to be believability. Atleast a certain part of the audience's logical capacity has to be satisfied. Screen-writers of Godzilla assume you will forgive them for skimming through necessary loopholes just to keep the story going – so much so that by the end of the movie, it wasn't the monsters that seemed ridiculous, what seemed ridiculous to me was the fact that people with millions of dollars at their disposal would end up making a crass work of fiction such as this.

The actors were painfully average, except for Ken Watanabe (who did a decent job as the scientist in conflict) and Brian Cranston. The rest are not convincing at all, especially all the kids actors.

There is a scene in LA where Godzilla finds a few seconds of silence and solitude, he stoops down to the ground level, right to where the main hero is standing so they face each other. The hero then looks him in the eye, and Godzilla stares back – and they share a special moment of human to godzilla connection. That lasted for two seconds, and Godzilla turns away proceeds to lunge around the city – leaving the audience wondering, wow, did that just happen? 

I don't know a lot about monsters but with surface information alone I know one does not share eye to eye connection moments with pre-historic creatures. I just don't buy that sort of stuff. 

But if you have to, go and watch it. I think if anything, the trailer deserves the movie to be watched. And again, to be fair, there are some scenes that are pretty gripping. The sound design is quite effective. The cinematography strong. Nothing you haven't seen before, but strong.

1.5/5

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Stylised Art

Is there a problem with stylised art? I think there is a minor problem with it.

What is stylised art?

Manga is an example. American superhero comics are an example. You can recognise the school they belong to because of the way specific elements are drawn. Manga people have wide eyes and minute mouths and noses. American superhero comics have exaggerated muscles and facial features.

Problem with too recognisable style in your art is that it is too recognisable. If you are happy for the association that your art is going to be linked with, then you won't mind when your audience immediately make the connection. But personally, I want my audience to start with a blank canvas before they read my work, so that they can make interpretations purely on the basis of the work itself, and not have them make undue conclusion. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Problem With Louie Giglio the Christian Spokesman for Science

I listed a few problems I felt with Louie Giglio's few talks based around science and faith.

• Problem with his screaming. People talking with raised voice throughout their whole talk are just annoying. No matter what clever things they say, people like that sound stupid. But that's personal. Just lower the volume, Louie, that's all I ask.

• Problem with his patronising Science. Maybe Louie isn't intentionally patronising science. Maybe (and I am sure he does) he has good intentions. But his whole talks still seem like lazy packaging just to push the gospel down audiences' throats.

• Why I say lazy: Because he doesn't have a strong punchline. The biggest problem with Indescribable (one of his talks) is his punchline. He quotes "I love science" about a thousand times. But does he really?

• Problem with his punchline: At the centre of the universe, Hubble telescope found a patch of stars that resembled the cross that Christ died on. According to him, this is a proof that God is the centre of it all. That the entire reason for the existence and massiveness of the universe revolves around Christ and what he achieved on the cross. A little bit of me died out of embarrassment when I heard that punchline. I was watching this with a Hindu friend of mine who is skeptical, particularly against Christianity. Louie Giglio's delusional conclusion that we were hearing loud on TV wasn't helping me fight my case for my faith.

• Problem with the 'cross' they found in the universe: Now, the universe has no north or south, no up or down. So the 'cross' could very well have been shot upside down or sideways. If it was shot and captured upside down, does that mean that the reason for the universe is satanism (upside down cross being the symbol for satanism, etc)? Do you get what I am trying to point out? You cannot pick on any illusion you see on the sky and claim it, and use it for almost propaganda means! That's primitive. It's the principle we wish we left behind before the great reformation a few centuries ago! There is nothing 'science' about that deduction!

• Problem with his material: There are many other material that you could be reading instead. There are many other material that Louie should probably have been reading while doing his research.

• I almost wonder if Louie Giglio is just trying to sound smart, in an attempt to reach a certain target audience, who did nothing more than memorise facts and figures to enthrall what seems to be a very easily impressed audience (that Christians seem to be). At one scene he had a projection of the sun that covered the entire backdrop of the stage. He then held up a golf ball against the projection to prove a point at how small the earth is compared to the sun. The audience then proceeds to oblige him with a hearty applause as though to say, wow, you have done your research, you know these facts, you deserve to be there, you are a smart fellow.
I cannot bear TED talks because they are highly patronising. All they do is sit around and 'exchange' their achievements to get a few pats on their backs and have something to tweet about. Louie Giglio's attempt at a science talk is like a bad TED talk packaged simply to propagate his views.

• Problem with his second punchline, the melanin: Louie says, "The stuff that holds life together looks exactly like the cross on which Jesus died." Apparently melanin (stuff that holds cells together) is shaped like a cross as well. And then he quotes a Bible verse where it says 'in Jesus everything holds together'. All things in creation is made for and by God. That just degrades the power of the scripture in a way that is almost irreversible. Simply because the argument is extremely weak and illogical and kitsch. When you put rotten apples in a bucket of good apples, by default the good apples have lost a lot of it's goodness. When scripture is put side by side with stupidity, audiences cannot be blamed for thinking the scriptures are stupid as well.
You don't need to settle for stupid punchlines like coincidental imagery in nature to prove God's purposefulness in creation.

In conclusion, will I say that atleast people are coming to awareness of God through his talks? Will I say that he is doing good for the church?

Maybe. But they may also have put a hedge in what scientists of the faith have been working on for years. They may have slowed down sensible discussions between faith and science. The whole merchandise has been produced for Christian audience (and I hope they are!) and it doesn't contribute to the attempts to bridge the great divide between logic (and the sciences) and faith.

Another observation: at the beginning of How Great Is Our God talk, he says, we are going to talk to you about astronomy from the pulpit and had a look on his face, as though he was expecting an outrage from the Christian audience for picking such a 'secular' topic. Which goes to show the type of specimen Christians are. To me, astronomy seems the most natural thing to find God in, as do I think of literature and music and principles of other faith – and why wouldn't it be preached about from the pulpit? That it was such an alien topic to hear from the front of the church disappoints me a lot. That someone like Louie Giglio has to be making such a hulabaloo about connecting science with God (ooh, smarty pants preacher we're all getting deep and intellectual up here, aren't we?) instead of it being a natural course of action and mindset is so disappointing. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Missing a World That Never Existed

It's a strange feeling missing a world that never existed – a world of your imagination created for a work of fiction. 

I spent five years or so of my life creating and crafting a small town where my character Elijah Emory went to school and played out his life with his friends Tobias, Tenzin, Melody and Deirdre. As school-kids in a Himalayan hilltown would: by hanging out at the town malls, eating street food, watching the mountains covered in snow, attend classes, attend balls, sports seasons, and so on.

A year or so ago, I decided to give this work a break and focus on other projects. This was because I live in NZ, a world so far away from this imaginary reality that I was struggling to keep it alive. Also I felt disrespectful of the blessing that was of being able to live in NZ by so blatantly dreaming about a place somewhere else. Also I was starting to forget to live my life here in this new country.

Some days, however, I go through withdrawals, or a stark nostalgia for this memory of this imaginary world. When this happens, I feel crumbled inside me, like a knot has been tightened in my stomach. A very tense sense of longing again.

You don't have anyone to talk to, simply because no one else, apart from you, has been there. No one knows the streets enough to talk to about. The people who would know this place are also imaginary, made up fictional characters. And as real as they are (were) to you, they do not talk back to you.

The feelings don't last too long. Because I know one day I will go back to India, if even for a few months just to write and finish this book. It's the one story I will not leave unfinished. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah – Film Review

This film confused me so much. I walked out of the theatre wondering what all of it was about. I figured it had to be some sort of fan fiction. A fan fiction of the Bible. It isn't an adaptation. Calling Noah (the film) a Biblical adaptation would be close to calling Inglourious Basterds an adaptation of the account of the downfall of the Third Reich. So much of the building blocks of the original story has been changed that by the time the movie has finished, it is already unrecognisable. 

Now that we have made that clear, I can say I enjoyed the movie just enough to give it 6/10. And they are all technical credits. 

The creation narrative, especially, was amazingly done. That will please the pro-evolution-pro-creationism crowd. Beautiful style, great production design, engaging original music, stunning location... 

Emma Watson outshone everyone else with her convincing performance. Russell Crowe as Noah probably just needed a knock on the head with some of those logs that were lying around in plenty. Some roles in films are intentionally annoying (like Joffrey in Game of Thrones), and they are great because they annoy you. Noah isn't like that. He is just really dumb, and thus annoying. Like the annoying cousin that everyone has who simply cannot understand why 2+2 is 4. There is nothing else to do other than give the guy a little knock on the head. All the other pretty boys (who were conveniently Noah's sons) didn't do much more than look pretty, and try and prove their worth as men by looking pretty and doing cute manly stuff (like hug their women, get angry, try to fight, etc). 

I am not really into trolls or rock creatures. They bore me. Peter Jackson's films always have too many of them. I switch off when I see stone creatures. Noah, in that way, bored me. Think about this, the production team had all the options in the world, there are no reference in the Bible to these 'watchers'. They could very well have been cool creatures (a centaur, say, or an angel, or even a gargoyle). But they picked slow clumsy stone troll-like creatures! What imaginations people have! People are so messed up!

The director, who also did Swan Lake, I have to say has a great talent in shocking the audience. His disturbing scenes work. He knows what music to use, and how to reveal elements on the frame to shock the viewer. There are also techniques that are new in this movie. One of them is the stop-motion styled narrative. Yes, stop-motion has been used in film before, but this movie uses it quite interestingly to convey passage of time. 

In conclusion... I don't know.. Like I said, it confuses me so much. What a mess of a movie. I don't even know what to think about it. On a positive note, the imagery still plays in my head though, they are strong and powerful. And if anything, I loved it that it was disturbing, loud, shocking and beautifully shot. I believe there is a lot of grit to God and his ways, and popular Christianity hasn't been faithful in conveying that part of the message. So, if it has to come to a Game of Thrones kind of brutal story telling to show this, then so be it. 

6/10 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interview With Fictional Character

Why did you create me? 
- Because there was a world to be explored, and I had to find a way into this world. 

What kind of world?
- The world that you are living in.

What kind of world I am living in? It's boring to me. Nothing happens.
- That's exactly the point! We need a world to escape into. Our lives are painful. Our lives are a bit too close to home, and we need somewhere far to run to now and again. That's why you exist. That's why I made you.

So making me was a very selfish thing you did?
- I am sorry, but yes, that's right. You are me. I am you. I needed to walk on the pavements and smell the market scenes, and hear the cacophony of life in your little town. 

Why are you so obsessed about my town?
- Because I have dreamt about it. When Muhammad Rafi sings I can hear that such a town as yours exist somewhere in the hills, basking in afternoon sun. When I hear the songs of the British rock, I know that Melody exists, so does Deirdre and Lizzie, all galavanting about on busy small-town-lanes, rubbing shoulders with ivy that grow on walls. When I hear the rains fall, I know the old shanty roofs of Sirion resound like thunder. I have travelled all around the place looking for these places, but have not found any remotely like it. So I made you. And I made the world for you and your friends to live out your lives in. 

Should I be thanking you for breahting life into me then?
- No, I should be thanking you. Because of you, I know what it's like to celebrate holiday season with street food at the town outdoor-mall while the red sun sets on your horizon. Because of you I know what the sound of a thousand students roaring at a tennis game on the hill-side sound like, resonating all across the valley. Because of you I know how the plastic and abandoned kites flutter in the breeze hanging off electric wires on a lazy unambitious day. Because of you I know how sleepy Geography classes get at 2:30pm. Because of you I know how Lake Hira's wintry mist squats all across the valley covering the town in freezing gloom. 

I Met Myself From Five Years Ago

I met myself from five years ago.

His name was Elijah Emory. His eyes were bright and deep, a pool of intense life brimming within. He answered my question, what is your greatest fear? and said, growing up.

I told him, I am you grown up. I am you with a life. 
I am you with responsibilities. I am you with things to do. 
I am you with expectations to meet. I am you with a job. 
Do you like what you see?

He didn't answer.

He took me on a dive down memory's sepia pools. It didn't take long for me to drown in it again.

How things have changed. How dreams have changed. How wishes have changed.

How does one become so different, morphing into someone else as though the old someone I used to be was as unimportant as discardable old clothing?

How heartless is life? How even our own selves change over time? Something as unshakeable as our affections. Something as unshakeable as our very selves. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bird Calls

There’s a field behind my house. When I got home tonight, under the cover of bleak clouded night sky, it was midnight. I walked to the middle of the field. Strange night-bird calls ushered me into that unholy unclean tussocky expanse. 
I’ve never been so lost. 
In the distance, droplets of light descend and ascend into the city skyline. Planes descending into airports.
But for me, there’s no Paris or Vienna or Ooty that I want to be tonight. I cannot summon up dreams of Roman holidays and Casablanca’s and Cairo’s hot nests. 
I just want to sleep to the sound of that birdcall, strange and uncanny, out-of-place in the midnight eerie cloudy field, lit partially on the fringes by orange street lights.
I belong there in the middle of that expansive field. Lost and uncomfortable, but comfortable in that lostness.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let Me Know

I will see you in Dhanaulti, or
   when you come by Delhi again
,
Let me know.

When you feel like hearing the roaring waterfalls again
   to hear the bleating of mountain goats,
   to smell tinder burning in the sun-drenched huts
   with ripe pumpkins bloating on their roofs,
Let me know.

When you have sudden urges to meet Abdul
   who we haven't met for years – we wonder
   if he still sells tea at the town balcony

   overlooking the knackered town they lovingly call home
Let me know.

Let me know,
   I could get a cheap flight,
   get a seat stuck between a crying baby and
   an off-mooded mother,
   listen to airline instructions over and over again,
   wait in line for trains,
   hail down a dusty rattling bus,
   vomit up my morning's oily cheap lunch, 
   walk through non-descript towns
   and forget it all as soon as I see
   you and Annapurna (8091m above sea level)
   basking in the sun,
   morning or evening or noon, it doesn't matter. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Film Review

I've looked forward to this movie for a while, ever since I first saw the trailers for it. For a long time I had been dying to watch a movie like The Bourne series again, and having also read the Bourne book (and mildly disappointed because the book was a different experience to the film) the need for some clever paced spy-espionage-international-action film had never been stronger.

As usual, being the curious one, I googled what people were saying about this movie – and a fair amount of my criticism (positive and negative) will be informed by what I read then. But of course I've seen the movie myself and here are my thoughts on it:

Jack Ryan is a business analyst with a history with the American Marines – who then gets hooked into CIA financial branch, picked up by Kevin Costner's character. Jack discovers suspicious transactions being carried out by a fishy Russian company and sounds the alarm that the Russians are probably on to something to hurt America (because isn't that what all Russians ever do?), not through the predictable violent and political means, but through economically bankrupting the Wall Street and making the dollar drop to a point where it becomes impossible for it to recover. By now you can tell this story will have a lot of depth in it, because by invoking words like financial analyst, economic terrorism, wall street, etc, you'd better be sure about what you're talking about.

And for the first half of the film, the plot line holds convincingly enough.

Phd guy doing covert operations? Where the movie starts to go a little downhill is when Jack Ryan is sent to Moscow to run operations for CIA. Sure, Jack has close associations with the officials of the Russian company that CIA is trying to bring down, so he would be a good choice to send there to meet them in person. In saying that, there is no practical reason as to why Jack, a mere Phd guy – with a history with Marines, yes, but with no covert operational experience – is suddenly given all these responsibility to do all the dirty work.

Short in numbers? Also, there were literally seven CIA agents that you see in the entire movie, only four of them doing anything significant, and only Jack Ryan (a business analyst!) risking his neck hacking into top secret world endangering Russian company's security system. They seemed more like a little gang of miscreants than the Central Intelligence agency. Are they running out of staff or what?

Fight scenes are short and rare, and when they do happen, shaky cameras reign in full glory. So for all we can see and discern, they could be fighting for their lives or they could just be tripping over and falling over flower vases.

Kiera Knightley doesn't look like she belongs in the film. She does well for her part, she is a polished actor and convincing actress. But her character seems only half-there – and her being there does not contribute or does anything to the story. She seems like an after-thought. A token female presence just in case the all-male cast gets too overbearing. I would say a female character should definitely be in, but perhaps either in a completely aloof way or a completely integrated way – not as a character who turns up halfway and is permitted to become part of a top secret scandalous operation run by America's top CIA – again, surely CIA can do better than that.

Far fetched – In this respect this movie falls way behind Bourne series because of the far fetched implications. We aren't in the Cold War anymore. A Russian company thinks of taking down the USA, bombing Wall Street (spoiler alert!); but wait, here comes a Phd financial analyst (who has no idea how to run an espionage operation) to the rescue! outsmarting dumb dumb Russians swimming drunk in their pools of vodka and going bonkers every time they see a beautiful woman – Tell me that doesn't sound far fetched –– if not ridiculous.

Chris Pine – Now on a positive note, Chris Pine as Jack Ryan redeemed the film. He's no Matt Damon. But he is a great cast.

Kevin Costner – well, regarding this guy – I didn't know he's still alive.

To conclude, this is a very good non serious action spy thriller. It has the things that you expect to see in a spy film –– world travel, women, car chases, European accents, ambitious globally connected villain group, a villain with personal issues, a nagging relationship getting in the way and a cool composed spy.

Lock up your brains when you go into the movies though, you won't need it that much––not atleast for the second half of the film. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Film Review – The Book Thief (3/5)

The Book Thief is a powerful film. It has beautiful music. An adorable cast and characters. A great cinematic experience.

So what's wrong with it?

Nothing is wrong with it. I just think that it does not live up to the greatness and ingenuity of the novel. (Here's a review of the novel I wrote a few weeks ago) For a novel that has almost an experimental narrative, and a story narrated by Death (a character), the movie felt very ordinary.

Here are some strong points for the film:

1. Characters. You cannot help but fall for Liesel, Hans, Rudy, Rosa, Max (and everyone else, even the Nazi-affiliated Mayoress). This is in credit to the actors themselves. Anything good or bad happening to them is greeted with joy or grief by the audience because they were that convincing. Also, the lack of romantic relationship throughout the entire film was refreshing. It seems like nowadays a film can't do without something steamy going on between a hot woman and a (preferably white young–if any) man.

2. The music helped. Half of the emotional policing was done very effectively with music. Of course that's because it was done by John Williams.

3. Cinematic photography. This is both a pro and con. While the careful staging of the story to enhance cinematic experience (for example, careful placement of Nazi flags in background towards metaphorical effects) helped tell the story, too much of it would suck the authenticity out of a story. Too much of it and you start to feel like you are in a Peter Jackson movie where everything is 'too intentional'.

4. Accents. How refreshing to watch a film set in the Second World War era where German characters don't talk in American or the Queen's english. The reason a film like Valkyrie (led by infamous Tom Cruise) doesn't deserve as many credit as it should is because the German characters are unashamedly cast with American accented English.

5. No SS suits, there is no Nazi glorifying in this film, that is always too evident in WWII films. That has always been the thing with movies set in this era made by Hollywood. Even though they all claim to be anti-Nazi, they never shy from portraying them to be a glorious empire of slickness and good design – which in a way is glorifying. As though they get their kicks out of seeing men in black SS suits.

6. The ending. (Read below)

Here are some weak points:

1. Dragging. The film dragged on in the middle. I won't bore you by telling you about it because then, I'd be doing the same, dragging this unnecessarily.

2. Storytelling. The reason, in my opinion, the book was so powerful was because it was told by Death – an almost impersonal being, without mercy, bent on one fixed agenda – and his story is about this little precious girl, so different from him, so much so that in the final line of the film (which I am glad they decided to include in the script) because of the way Liesel was, Death admits (he) is very curious about what it means to live. In the film, they did away with much of the narration by Death, and so loses the power of the story. Again, the scripting is unnecessarily dragging.

3. Another Second World War film. This wasn't just another WWII novel, that was for sure. My only qualm is that by the way the film is treated, it might just go down as just another WWII film. 

4. Poster. You might think a film poster is the least of people's problems with a movie, but it is. The Book Thief's promo poster reeks of gimmick and false communication. Instead of focussing on other more powerful elements in the film it focusses on the predictable flickering fire scene that is forgettable.

The Ending made up for everything wrong with the movie though. The closing lines narrated by Death. The wrapping up of the story.

Overall, there was nothing wrong with The Book Thief. But there was nothing extraordinary about it either. And for a novel that was extraordinary, that is a shame.