Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Single guys would rather stay single than make a mistake and have a bad marriage, according to a survey by a guy who is single and curious about his "condition" and that of his fellows. Successful but single, it's not surprising that the one thing they fear making a mistake on is one that will affect them for life. Anyone can recover from financial setback, anyone can claw their way back to the top from a humiliating plummet, but nothing reeks of "loser" more than the emotional trauma of committing to the wrong woman, and paying for it once the alimony judgement weighs in.

We've recently put a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to love and pairing up. We look at movie romances and mistake that for love. We can afford better things for ourselves now, so our expectations are much more attainable than ever before. It's no longer an impossible dream to buy our dates candlelight dinners and ocean cruises; to say nothing of champaign, roses and chocolate. Romance is ours to buy, even if on a budget.

But that's just the materiel -- keeping the mood of a romantic atmosphere is a lot of work. Romantic spontaniety is a myth. It takes planning, foresight, being always thoughtful and selfless... and impossible to sustain for long. Especially when married, because spouses are in each other's proximity all the time. Once married, it's like exposing all the behind-the-scenes preparations to the audience who's been marvelling at the show until they get invited backstage and handle the props for themselves. Then they're no longer impressed.

So our modern men do have a legitimate fear. A marriage based on this sort of high-pressure performance cannot last, so for them it's better to be single than suffer the inevitable heart-wrenching, socially-stigmatizing, emotionally overblown divorce proceedings from which there is no profit, only rack and ruin thereafter.

How did our previous generations survive life-long marriages the way they did? How did they put up with each other as they aged and grew less glamorous year after year? As they lost their hearing and yelled at each other (like my grandparents did with frightening frequency)? It's probably because they knew that romance is only love in its infancy. These days, few of us will allow love to mature further than that.

Love isn't roses, or laughter or sunshine all the time. Love is taking crap for each other and from each other and still staying together no matter what. It's probably best summed up by the character of Golde in the Fiddler on the Roof who replies to her husband's query if she loves him:

Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

Can't help those guys who aren't married, and prefer it that way. To those of us who are, none of us married the "wrong" woman. Remember that when we married, we made a life-long committment "for better or worse". Expect the worst, 'cos that's where love shines truest.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Prince Caspian rules! After the disappointment that was Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, the sequel is a much more spirited effort at fleshing out the main characters and their role in the events that follow, rather than just letting a great story tell itself via a different medium.

While "Caspian" doesn't live up to the grandior of LoTR -- the props and set looked very much recycled from LoTR -- the human characters really hold their own in this movie. Five angsty teenagers, each bearing a mighty responsibility; and as a parallel of our world it is a choice that we ourselves have to make soon: to save what we can of our natural resources, or strip the earth bare with our machines and machinations.

Because the deus ex machina, Aslan, only shows up at the end, the famous five are left on their own to muddle through a horribly sticky situation. How to reinstate a deposed Caspian to the throne so that his tree-hugging policies will restore peace and balance to the natural world, a.k.a. Narnia? At odds with them is the environmentally-unfriendly, technologically and logistically superior yet fractious human alliance of Telmarine.

High King Peter's first-strike manouvre reflects his hot-headed tendencies. He lets his fists think for him, as we see in his scuffle at the Strand ending with an adult's admonishment to "act [his] age." Peter learns a hard lesson as he watches his Narnian forces get decimated as a result of his ill-planned assault on the Telmarine keep itself.

The fight sequences in this installment are so much better arranged and are more memorable than LWW. The kids are more gung-ho in combat, going all-out with no quarter, and they look like they are fighting for their lives. Even Susan goes at it with her bow, but in close-quarters combat she uses the shaft and point of her arrows just as effectively as her unerring marksmanship. It's also gratifying that despite his dimunitive nature, Reepicheep's "cute" factor gets played down in favour of his capability as a master fencer. Come to think of it, no one's cute. Not the dwarves, the centaurs, the minotaurs, not even the stupid squirrel. Big grin for that.

The Telmarines themselves, power-hungry backstabbers that they are, think they are in for an easy victory. Their forces vastly outnumber what's left of the Narnians, they have an effective cavalry and artillery complement and their morale is high. But by then the teenagers have figured out how to work together, spelling the end of the Telmarine regent's tyrannical reign.

Peter and Edmund lead the hold-off forces, Susan rides armed escort for Lucy's recce mission, while Caspian brings in the cavalry. And the Telmarines fall victim to natural disaster as Aslan finally makes his appearance. It's no joke being swallowed by a tsunami. Like the Telmarines who blithely mess around with their natural resources, we had best heed that warning as well.