Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Nice Little Dream

For the last month or so I've been quite stressed about one thing or another, and today I was able to get at least one source of stress of my chest by finally conducting a direct examination I'd been dreading for several months; I was prepared and I articulated my questions well and in an objection-proof manner.

I had something, though, that helped me get through that direct examination, as nerve-wracked as I was, besides the usual preparation.

Last night, I dreamed about my best friend and the godfather of my firstborn, Jay Tan. Here's the thing; it wasn't even one of those dreams where he was alive and walking and talking. No, he was pretty much as dead in the dream as he is in real life. But there was something special about this dream.

In this dream, I and several other people were gathered to watch several performances based on work Jay had done. I caught a stage play and an animated short film (though of course I cannot remember the story of either) based on stories he had written.

Now, as far as I know Jay did not write fiction as a hobby. He wrote ad copy for a living, and was quite the songwriter and occasional blogger, but he didn't do a whole lot of fiction, so I'm pretty sure that the notion that he would be honored for his works of fiction was basically a product of my own mind.

But I loved the idea of Jay being cherished after his death even by people who didn't know him in life. I loved the idea of celebrating his creations even after the funerals and weeping and the regret. I loved the idea that he had achieved immortality in the eyes of not only the people who loved him but the people who loved his work.

I once decried a line from the Ridley Scott film Gladiator uttered by Maximus, the Roman general played by Russell Crowe: What we do in life echoes in eternity. I found it an expression of utmost hubris and a failure to acknowledge that we are all part of a bigger plan. In view of this dream, though, it's not quite so bad as I thought; being immortalized through one's work is something that's nice, as is the thought that the things one does could even survive the demise of an entire species.

I love the thought of Jay living on in things like his work, and I certainly hope he does. Maybe the guys who have hold of his songs could publish them somewhere...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Return of the Rom Com

Two romantic comedies this year have managed to make a splash at the U.S. box office, He's Just Not That Into You and The Proposal. I utterly despised the former and was mildly entertained by the latter, but in any case I'm glad they're back because as far as I'm concerned they simply don't get old.

Now, it goes without saying that some rom coms are better than others; not everyone can make something as compelling as Sleepless in Seattle, or As Good As It Gets or as laugh-out-loud funny as There's Something About Mary, and in fact the very makers of those films were not really able to follow up those films with equally strong work. Indeed, Sandra Bullock's The Proposal is nowhere near as inherently endearing as her own While You Were Sleeping was over fourteen years ago.

The good news, though, is that with recent films like 500 Days of Summer, it seems that there is a rising new generation of filmmakers who, while not necessarily hell-bent on replicating the magic between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or Bullock and any of several of her rom-com co stars like Bill Pullman or Hugh Grant, want to take the genre to new places while paying plenty of homage to where it's been over the last several decades, which can only be a good thing.

Yessir, I love me a good rom com, and even though I've found most of them tepid lately with the exception of Summer, I'm glad they're still on the radar.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

World Champions

When Michael Schumacher won his third world championship and his first for Ferrari in 2000, I had no idea it would be the start of an era, though I was as excited as hell. I had no idea that this would be the first of five consecutive titles for both the Red Baron and the Scuderia. Although the 2001 and the 2003 seasons were real nail-biters (with the 2002 and 2004 seasons being so boring I was actually happy when someone else would win a race every now and again) nothing ever quite beat the thrill of seeing Schumi pip title rival Mika Hakkinen to victory at Suzuka in 2000 through some very canny pit work.

The next Formula One season I would enjoy in the same way was the 2007 F1 season, particular the latter part, in which then new-Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen overhauled Lewis Hamilton's 17-point lead in two races to take the driver's title for the Scuderia. Disappointingly, Raikkonen was unable to repeat his success the next year, or the year after, but 2007 still felt like a classic.

These are old pictures of old cars (the first one a full nine years old while the second nearing two) but they bring back fond memories of some exciting sporting events.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Easy Targets from Whom Apparently Nothing Was Learned

About three years ago Marvel Comics published, as a kind of "dessert" to a twelve-issue run on Wolverine by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. a one-shot issue by Mark Millar and artist Kaare Andrews. It was set in WWII era Poland, and featured as its narrator a Nazi death camp commander who had a big problem in the person of a troublesome, hairy little prisoner who for one reason or another wouldn't die. It was an engrossing little tale and a rather entertaining one, even though it was rather predictable. It was a throwback to reading those Gold Key horror comics I used to read as a kid from my uncle's stash, both the vintage American ones and the local reprints. There was no real morality play at work, but Millar, clever little left-winger that he is, drew parallels between Nazi Germany and the Bush Administration. The Nazis were still very much the bad guys, but there was so much more dimension to them.

I'm quite keen on watching Inglourious Basterds and have enjoyed WWII movies from Saving Private Ryan to Enemy at the Gates, but after having followed the excesses of the Bush administration on the news for the last eight years it strikes me that Americans who take shots at the Nazis, especially the ones who were fond of propping up Bush and his policies on the Middle East, are really kind of like the people living in glass houses chucking stones.

For one thing, as evil as the Nazis and their actions were I think it would be far more intelligent to look at them from a historical perspective rather than a pulpy, puerile one. Films like the 2004 Austrian film Der Untertag (translated as The Downfall for English speaking markets), Conspiracy, that brilliant HBO movie with Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, and the TV movie Nuremberg which starred Alec Baldwin and Brian Cox took a much more matter-of-fact, if still inevitably dramatized look at history's favorite villains. They weren't just mustache twirling fiends bent solely on world domination (though they were admittedly the closest one could ever GET to that in history), they had genuine socio-politico-historical-cultural motivations and underpinnings in their grossly misguided actions. The idea was to get into their heads not just to condemn them all the more but to understand how a country can take a wrong turn in the way it views people.

People love to pick on the Nazis, which is fine, but apparently a whole lot of them have learned nothing from their downfall which was the product of, among other things, hubris and a fundamental misunderstanding of cultures different from their own. Sound familiar?

It was never just a fundamental question of who was right and who was wrong. I mean, if all imperialists and perpetrators of genocide are evil and should get their comeuppance, then how come the Native Americans who were either killed and/or corralled like animals from the seventeenth to the twentieth century are basically now living like squatters on their own country while the descendants of the people responsible are living it up? If the Nazis were tried and hung in Nuremberg for war crimes, how come no one was held accountable for the fact that at the outbreak of World War II, several thousand Japanese Americans were summarily rounded up without due process and chucked into internment camps?

I think entertainment featuring Nazis getting their butt kicked represents a comfort zone for Americans because it represents the last time they were really right about something and won righteous victories on top of that. From what I understand both the Korean and Vietnam Wars were both gray areas, the latter more than the former, with the former not yielding a clear cut victory and the latter being a tactical and political disaster with fallout that has lasted to the present day. Of course, the Iraq occupation remains a problem the Americans don't know how to solve. The sad thing was that in the 80s and early 90s the warm box-office reception of such gritty and unpleasant portrayals of the U.S. military in films like Platoon showed that Americans were comfortable with a sense of accountability for their mistakes, but with the consistent box-office failure of films trying to deal with the situation in the Middle East including stuff from the two Toms (Cruise and Hanks) it seems they've regressed quite a bit. "Neocon" indeed. Going back to WWII and torching Nazis and Japs they can easily say "yes, we were RIGHT to kick their butts," pat themselves on the back, and go to sleep at night.

So soon (in the Philippines, anyway) we'll have a movie with Jews kicking Nazi ass and somewhere out there is even a comic book/strip featuring Jesus kicking Nazi ass and God knows how much other media there is out there featuring somebody kicking Nazi ass. Well and good, but if that's all they've got it's ultimately weak and meaningless fluff.

The greatest indictment of the Nazis would be to never repeat any of their mistakes.

Rediscovering my REAL First Love

A few posts ago I wrote about how I was slowly rediscovering comics and was, as a result, drifting a little bit away from collecting toy cars because of the expense involved as well as the hassles of storage.

Well, lately I've been drifting away from collecting anything in general because after years of false starts I've finally managed to get myself in a rhythm and to pursue my TRUE first love, not comics, not toy cars, not watching movies, but WRITING.

I'm glad for the blogs and the fact that I have to write for a living because at least my writing faculties haven't dulled. If anything, the fact that I've managed to get out there and experience life to some extent has given me a lot more to say. And the best part is that my writing now is kind of a release from my job. I don't write as a lawyer would. I don't think of arguments or cite precedents in support of an argument; I just write.

I have no idea if anyone else will find the stuff any good but for now it's enough that I'm writing for myself. I'm sick of writing about other people's work and commenting on things that are not only irrelevant to my life but to life here in the Philippines in general.

And to give myself a real target to hit: I intend to self-publish when it's done. Screw the whole "hunting for publishers" thing.

If there's one thing I learned from Pixar's Up it's that it's never too late to chase your dreams.

One of the Reasons Why It's Good to Take Pictures

This castle is wonderful. Apel built it maybe two or three years ago, but rebuilding it is no longer possible because being children, he and his sister have misplaced several of the blocks. I'll buy them more blocks some day, but it won't quite be the same. When he builds an even more magnificent edifice, I'll be sure to take pictures of that, too...

My Officemates

These fellas have kept me company through many a dreary workday.

One of them's Michael Schumacher's personal Ferrari FXX and the other's a Ferrari F40.

The Possibilities Are Endless...

Hehehe...stumbled on this site. The "Mouserine" is the only bit of original art but the rest are still just as fun...

Punisher meets the seven dwarves...

Spidey meets Wall-E...

and my favorite...

Lamborghini's Teutonic Cousin

More old car pics; this one's an Audi R8 in 1/18 by Kyosho; Audi owns Lamborghini and apparently shares components with them on a regular basis so a lot of this car was derived from the Lamborghini Gallardo (personally I like this better but they're both very good-looking vehicles).

Slayer of Exotics

This is a Nissan GT-R R35 1/18 by AUTOart. The real version of this car achieved quite some renown when it set a scorching laptime on the famed Nordschleife of the Nuerburgring, scorching the times of such highly touted sportscars as the Mercedes SLR McLaren, the Lamborghini Gallardo AND Murcielago, the Bugatti Veyron, and the Porsche 911. I took these pictures several months ago but was looking at them again and damn they look nice.

Looking Like the Cat That Got the Canary

Giancarlo Fisichella is a 36-year-old Italian Formula 1 Driver who started his career with Jordan F1 and who has gotten to drive for such teams as Benetton Playlife, Sauber, Renault and most recently Force India. Back in his day he was a highly-regarded figure in the paddock with even Michael Schumacher saying that given the right equipment, he would really shine.

All his life he's wanted to race for Ferrari who let him test drive one of their cars in 1995.

Until recently, Force India had gone for a whole season and a half without scoring a single championship point, until last Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix when he clinched pole position and finished a very, very close second to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

The bosses at Ferrari apparently took notice, and here's what happened...

I don't post F1 stuff here anymore but holy cow would you look at that grin. Like a kid on Christmas morning...