Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Over-the-top but enjoyable nonetheless

Note: more quotes than my own writing today. I'm enjoying Diana Krall on my system too much. Krall + hybrid valve system = audio bliss :-)

'Watched the Wachowski brothers' film adaptation of Alan Moore's V for Vendetta. The film might come across as over-the-top, but consider the question posed by anmueller:

There are some that will, upon seeing this film, say that it was akin to Andrew Lloyd Weber attempting to make a political statement: overly dramatic. These people would be well served to remember that the symbol of drama is a mask, which certainly begs one important question- Why, if you are so put off by an overtly dramatic motion picture, would you choose to see a movie that stars as the (anti)hero a man in a mask?

Phillipstephenso points out:

The film makes several interesting allusions to the famous Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot of November 5, 1605, in which Catholic conspirators (including Guy Fawkes) tried to blow up the palace of Westminster in England. The conspirators managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar under Westminster while plotting to blow up King James I and the whole English Parliament, including the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Catholics clearly hoped then to end the Church of England and to place Elizabeth, the daughter of James I, on the throne as their puppet ruler. But, Fawkes was arrested with the barrels of gunpowder in the tunnel under the palace before he could complete his treason. Fawkes was then tortured with unspeakable methods until he divulged the names of his fellow conspirators. Lord Salisbury as prime minister then used this plot as a pretext to persecute all Catholics. V for Vendetta uses the reverberations of this plot as energy for its supposition that a similar method of extreme reaction to terrorism is occurring today that is going to lead to a 1984 totalitarian state in the near future. And V is the catalyst for revolution against the upcoming totalitarian state. The film suggests that the totalitarian state uses corrupt means to maintain power, including secret terrorism of its own against its own people, to maintain the conditions of its absolute power. This is a splendid production, full of poetry and pageantry and drama and mystery. And V is Zorro on steroids, as he fights overwhelming evil.

According to Rick Mansfield (Warning! Spoiler link):

The story itself has been adapted from a graphic novel by Alan Moore, although you won't see his name in the credits. Moore has totally disassociated himself from this picture. Supposedly he has been unhappy with previous movie treatments of his works including From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I've also heard that he did not approve of the script for this movie.

I guess I should find a nice afternoon to head to the local Barnes & Nobles and read through Moore's graphic novel to appreciate the difference.

The movie begins with V (Hugo Weaving) reciting the first two lines of "The Bonfire Prayer": ""Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot." One variation of the complete version goes:

Remember, remember, the fifth of November:
Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!

The movie has enough references to Shakespeare to give Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean-Luc Picard) and "Star Trek: The Next Generation" a run for their money. Going off on a tangent here, for those who think Stewart is always the tough guy. Back to "V for Vendetta," there's gratuitous wordplay, which left my friend groaning and me in paroxysms of laughter. Some samples:

Evey Hammond: Who are you?
V: "Who?" "Who" is but the form following the function of "what", and *what* I am is a man in a mask.
Evey Hammond: Well I can see that!
V: Of course you can. I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I'm merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.
Evey Hammond: [short pause] Oh... right.


V: This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is it vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished, as the once vital voice of the verisimilitude now venerates what they once vilified. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.


V: [interrupts the three policemen about to rape Evey, whips out a dagger, and quotes Macbeth]
Disdaining fortune with his brandished steel
Which smoked with bloody execution...

I must admit that my suspension of disbelief was somewhat shaken when I found out that the character playing "V" is Hugo Weaving. I kept expecting him to intone, "Mister Anderson!" as Agent Smith, or getting into elvish hippie mode as long-haired Elrond.

Natalie Portman is unbelievingly gorgeous as Evey Hammond. With her curly golden locks she resembles one of the sopranos in my choir. *swoon!*

Julie London's version of "Cry Me a River" on the soundtrack is really something. It will be interesting to pit her rendition against Diana Krall's.

Overall, the movie was a trip. My only gripe was the disproportionate amount of time (and sentimentality) given to special interest groups. (??? Well, watch the movie to find out.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Educate. Not indoctrinate.

The weather was gorgeous today. Other than fields of flowers, it was everything spring is: cool, crisp air, bright sunshine, and endless, azure skies. I decided it would be such a waste to drive to Sports Basement in Sunnyvale. I swapped slicks on my bike and rode there instead.

As it was a short urban commute, all I needed was a pump, a patch kit, tire levers, a multi-tool, and 200 ml of water in my water bottle. This was a big difference compared to usual 3 liters of water in my Camelbak HAWG, another liter in the water bottle cage, and the plethora of items I usually carry on single-day trips and overnight epics. As a result, I was literally flying all the way to the store, making 5.6 miles (8.96 km) in just over 12 minutes. Not bad for a vintage hardtail mountain bike with slicks.

Maybe it's the news blurbs (and blog rants) about Jay Bennish that has been fomenting in my head, or maybe the mileage covered today under sunny skies approximated that of what I used to ride whilst commuting to my junior college in Singapore, but I suddenly recalled the trials I underwent resisting the principal's attempts to change me; to make me give up cycling to school; to "reform" me into what he deemed the proper image of a junior college student: spandex and jerseys, waist pouches, cleated shoes and panniers were out; long pants, shirts and regular shoes are in.

He was — and, to this present day, still is — the most rabid anti-cyclist I have had ever met. I wonder what made him that way? Did he experience a particularly traumatic accident with the bicycle as a kid? Perhaps slipping off the pedals on a turn and crunching one of his nuts on the top tube at age 7? Or perhaps he suffers from some sort of hereditary disorder, incapable of ever mastering the rudiments of an object in dynamic balance? Or maybe, as a kid, he got run over by a bicycle at the playground?

Be that as it may, his tactics in forcing his views on me were relentless, unreasonable, even unethical. First, he called my parents, raising the safety issues involved in cycling 6.25 miles (10 km) of public roads each way to school, every day. My dad basically told him that, having forked over SG$2000 for my mountain bike [Update 1/23/08: Dad showed me the receipt, SG$2263], he is not expecting me to restrict myself to the playground, park or neighborhood estate (by then, I had cycled as far as Kuantan and Penang, Malaysia, during the school holidays). That stumped him for a while.

Next, he told me it was against the rules to come into school in my cycling attire (even though I change into school uniform immediately after locking up my bike). Fine. I changed at the restroom of a nearby fast food outlet before entering school grounds. It took him a while to figure out that I wasn't cycling to school in my uniform.

Running out of ideas, he tells me that I cannot park my bicycle in school because its value poses a security risk. When I point to bicycles ridden by the gardener and some of the canteen staff, he made the exception that those were cheap bikes. Undaunted, I point to some of the cars driven by other students: a Mazda 323; a BMW 623i; a MG convertible, as well as motorcycles: some Suzukis, Hondas and a Ducati. Those are of a higher value and can be stolen too. If my bike goes, they should go too. He waddles back to the drawing board.

During this exchange, someone innocent became implicated: my literature and General Paper teacher. You see, he cycles to school too. Yikes. One day, he came in and ranted to the class that the principal banned him from cycling to school because it was a form of transport "unbecoming" of a teacher. From hence, he had to take the bus or a cab. Wow. I wonder how many nights the principal stayed awake to think that one up.

The most annoying straw came when the principal caught me on campus on a Saturday in my cycling attire (he is usually not present on Saturday). It didn't matter that there were students coming and going in street clothes. The mere sight of spandex and a non-motor-driven two-wheel vehicle shorted out his neurons. Yelling that I look ridiculous, he produced his camera (??? rather convenient, eh?), commanded me to stand still, and took several pictures of me. The following week, he circulated my devastatingly handsome mug shots during the staff meeting, commanding the teachers to take note if I show up in such outfits again, and if so, send me to detention.

How were my cycling outfits ridiculous? It was not as if my cycling shorts were red instead of black:

Whether such a reaction was due to some sort of repressed homoerotism or male inadequacy on his part is anybody's guess (and I am not going to dwell further into it. Ugh!).

Thankfully, by this time, I had only a couple of weeks to go before the end of the final semester.

From what I recently heard, it seems that he has been experiencing heart problems due to his sedentary lifestyle. When you can't even reach your toes because your protruding gut holds the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez, you are in no position to advise others as to the type of (active) lifestyle they should adopt.

If I allowed my spirit to be crushed by his draconian antics, and be reformed transformed / brainwashed / indoctrinated by this bozo, I would never have the kind of fun and adventure I had, nor the modicum of fitness I have.

1992, Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia. Elevation 7641 ft (2329 m).

2006, Mount Diablo, North California, USA. Elevation 3849 ft (1173 m).

I still get carded regularly (for 18, NOT 21, mind you).
: -)

Sometimes, being pig-headed and resistant to change are not necessarily bad traits. Undergoing the process of education does not mean being reprogrammed into a clone or a drone.

Educators should nurture, not prune.
I'm not your fucking bonsai tree.

Speaking of education, here is a quote from Professor Pradyumna S. Chauhan, of Arcadia University, (and, indirectly, one of my favorite authors, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul):

[T]he consolations of history, thus, turns out to be especially satisfying to the dispossessed of the earth, for time, as Naipaul repeatedly reminds us [. . .] humbles those who once humbled others.

Hence, my indulgence in a little schadenfreude today:

Enjoy your warfarin, Sir. I am certainly enjoying my 8% body fat percentage. [Update 4/10/06: 7% now]

Happy trails!