Saturday, May 02, 2009

The big catfight

Met Jen for dinner. She was over an hour and a half late for our appointment, but she had a good reason. She was doing her part to resolve the big catfight that has gripped the attention of our national media over the last couple of weeks.

It's an interesting story she told about a posse of young upstarts who rode into town one day and by their sheer number declared themselves the new mayor, town council and sheriff over the existing townsfolk and their assets. Oh boy, did they ever pick the wrong town to annexe. The rebellion that came after their initial success was armed to the teeth, spoiling for a knock-down drag-out fight, and brought friends.

There was an epic battle in which more of the town's assets suffered further collateral damage, but finally amidst the carnage the newbies capitulated. Law and order has since been restored while the lawyers are busy calculating reparations.

And so ends one of the most exciting political events to have ever occured in our so-called "apathetic" nation. We may take democracy for granted, but God help whomever attempts to hijack it from us. And in this one instance God, in his infinite wisdom, didn't.

That was basically Jen's story from the trenches. Me, I'm not even going to comment because I wasn't there and, anyway, I wouldn't understand.

Friday, May 01, 2009

As fatigued as my wallet

Labour Day holiday. An opportunity to goof off without guilt because we are celebrating our being employed. These days, having a job is not to be taken for granted so today has some particular significance for us waged and working people.

And looking back on how I've been spending on big ticket items in the past few months, I am so gonna need to depend on a regular paycheck to stay afloat. From acquiring, renovating and furnishing a new home and new wheels, it's a pretty deep hole I've sunk myself in. I had better begin clawing my way up and out, or be buried under the dumptruck load of debt poised directly overhead. 

The marginal utility I derive from spending money has finally reached the point of diminishing returns. I am now as fatigued as my moth-eaten wallet. I've done all I can to boost the economy, so now I declare that it's high time other people took their turn.

No more unnecessary spending from this household. That is, we're not likely to become complete misers overnight, but we're not going to be shopping around for any more trouble either.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slash, slash, Wolverine, slash

As a stand-alone movie, "X-men Origins: Wolverine" is quite the action-packed blockbuster we were hoping for. There are brutal fight scenes and things blowing up galore, and some awesomely cool choreographed moves by some of the characters as well (Agent Zero and Deadpool!!!), but for a bunch of characters wielding all manner of bladed weapons and small-arms, their kills are oddly bloodless. Guess the movie has to be acceptable to the kiddies' parents too, 'cos Wolvie is as popular to a 10-year-old as is to a jaded grump like me.

"Wolverine" compiles a brief history of everybody's favourite mutant, from his childhood to the Weapon X program and it's disastrous aftermath -- basically, all the memories Wolvie has lost, now revealed at last to the movie audience.

Considering his memories begin in the mid to late 19th century, I would have liked to explore his earlier memories in more detail. Unfortunately, these earlier memories were handled rather perfunctorily in the movie. The intention is to help align "Wolverine" continuity to "X-men" continuity, though I feel they rushed it. Wolvie's been a combatant in every major war since the American Civil War, and each war must have potential for some epic stories. But within the constraints of movie time, a lot of pruning has to be expected.

I'm glad the Sabretooth character is intelligent and that his reprehensible actions are the result of conscious choice rather than direct control by some external force. He is a bad, dangerous man who knows what he is doing, not just some beast on a leash like he was in the first X-men movie.

But the biggest disappointment was Gambit. Yes, it isn't his name on the title, but this character is way too cool to be used just as a glorified chauffeur who gets Wolvie where he's going. And what happened to Gambit's trademark Cajun mannerisms and accent? Maybe they should have brought in a speech coach because he sounded more Irish instead. Sorry, nitpicking; but it's too big an oversight to let it pass without mention.

Maybe it's because the fanboy in me already knows something of the Weapon X saga, so focusing on this event -- crucial as it is to the Wolverine mythos -- was meh. It makes for necessary plot development as the locations and events here are very closely linked with what happens in the "X-men" movie trilogy, but personally, I would have liked more screen time to showcase the awesome potential of Team X. Wolvie's heroic side emerges through his association with the X-men, so it would have been interesting to see the more grey areas of his past alongside his nasty Team X associates.

What I'm saying isn't so much an indictment against poor filmmaking choices as it is an acknowledgement that the Wolverine character has been so well-developed over the years by so many excellent writers and that a simple summary done on film does no justice to the richness of the man who is "the best at what he does, and what he does isn't very nice".

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Too late for regrets

I have bought a new car, and I haven't been making much of a big deal about it. First, because it happened so suddenly, and second, because I'm upset.

It isn't about the money -- I don't have much of it to throw around anyway. It's the way I so readily signed over M2 to the dealer, although I had no intention to do it before. I have no reason to sell him off. He's been a good boy, never having given me any problems apart from a flat tyre and battery which were easily replaceable parts. I bet he'd still be a great companion for at least a couple more years before age actually starts taking its toll on him.

So why the sudden change? That's not a question I want to answer now. I'm too haunted by the memory that I signed him away while I was in full sight of him. There he was, just beyond the showroom window, sitting in the parking lot, while I hesitatingly put my John Hancock on the dotted line.

It's a memory that came back strongly this evening when I started him up to drive home from work. Mr Big's "Wild World" was playing on the radio:

Now that I've lost everything to you
You say you want to start something new
And it's breaking my heart you're leaving
Baby I'm grieving

And if you wanna leave take good care
Hope you have a lot of nice things to wear
A lot of nice things turn bad out there
Oh baby, baby, it's a wild world...

I know it's silly of me to be so sentimental. I'm getting a great deal out of this transaction, and it's a routine part of car ownership in S'pore (cars are too expensive to keep for long and have to be sold off before they start giving trouble), but I already miss him.

This is one car owner who is dreading to hear that his COE bid has been successful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Enduring "memory"

As magical as Mr Mistoffelees, Cats: Now and Forever was quite the extravaganza of music, song and dance that I had hoped it would be. I've been acquainted with the Webber musical since my sis was a schoolgirl, and only now, two decades or so later have I finally been able to see what she had been raving about way back then.

First of all, Cats is not a play. There is a very loose narrative stringing the different numbers together -- a reason for the cats to gather onstage -- but the plot is really just a convenient device for sequencing the scenes in some coherent manner. Most of the scenes themselves are self-contained units, focusing on the story of a particular cat (like the rum-tum-tugger) or cats (like Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser). So there isn't much necessity to interpret a bigger picture than what is already being presented.

What's more important for me is that the music is beautiful, varying in genre and tempo; as is the dance by the ensemble cast, so coordinated, acrobatic and energetic; a total treat for both audio and visual senses. The experience is what counts -- being in and appreciating the moment, every moment. That's where the enjoyment is, at least for me.

I don't know if Momo, Kaiser and Maui would approve of human beings cavorting around impersonating them, though. This kind of thing is only what we people would do; we don't see cats pretending to be us, do we?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

3 2 2

I suppose it was inevitable, though I didn't expect it to be this soon. I took up the dealer's invitation to test drive the newly launched Mazda 3 even though I knew I couldn't afford it. It was just a lark, to see how the latest designed M3 would feel on the road. That was all it was supposed to be.

Mazdas are always a smooth ride, easy to handle and corner well. I was holding back because of its unfamiliar feel, but the 1.6l engine promised a jolt of power if I would but step a little harder on the accelerator. The luxury version comes with a few pretty cosmetic accessories, mostly having to do with lighting. The exterior boasts dual-xeon headlamps and fogs while the interior brightens up with a constellation of little console lights that indicate where every control button is if you happen to want to push one on a dark night. Pretty.

Like I said, there is no way in heck I could afford even the sedan version, let alone the luxury. The math simply wouldn't go, not that I really wanted a 3 anyway. But the math worked out perfectly for the Mazda 2 which I test drove over a year ago, but couldn't afford then. So suddenly, M2 got traded in and if our calculations are accurate, the new monthly payments will be less than what I am currently paying now. I placed the order, expecting delivery some time next month.

I should feel some excitement, even elation at the prospect of the change, but I don't. Somehow, I feel like I'll be losing a dear, old friend in M2. We've been through a lot together, but I know I won't be able to keep him forever. So can I think of it as M2 isn't really gone but rather as having got a major makeover including weight reduction and image enhancement instead? That'll be one way to cope, I guess.