Titanic (1997) revisited

17.12.97

On this day 20 years ago, James Cameron’s blockbuster of blockbusters premiered in Sydney. A tribute to the most famous sunken ship ever, the picture went on to be the highest grossing film of all time, holding the title until Avatar surpassed it in 2009. While it is equal parts drama and disaster movie, Titanic is at its core a love story. The production explored themes of forbidden love, of class struggles, and of course, hope in the face of chaos. 

Making ripples 

I remember mentioning the movie to my former seat mate in high school. Once I brought up Titanic, she immediately thought of the ‘hand scene’. I laughed, more because it was far from my mind. The movie left us with a few iconic moments, including the scene where jack holds Rose, arms outstretched, on the bow of the ship. Years later, it seems surreal to remember the players from twenty years back. To have Leo and Kate together when they were young, working with James Cameron…it’s hard for the sheer star power not to overwhelm us. Where were you twenty years ago? We would all struggle to remember, but we won’t overlook Titanic and it’s ripples, wherever you were. 

‘Simplicity is beauty’

Personally, what I liked about Titanic was the simplicity. Unadorned dialogue, little riddles, if any; straightforward themes, and an easy to follow plot. Add to that the stellar portrayals of the central characters, and you’ve got a winning formula. While neither Kate nor Leo would win Oscars in their roles, it put them on the map. The two would later have about a dozen more nominations between them, before both received shining moments under the sun. With Kate’s win in The Reader, and Leo’s victory in The Revenant, the actors’ early work in Titanic certainly paved the way for them. 

Cameron for President 

Some viewers would pout at the movie’s running time, which clocks in at about 3 hours. However, when you’re watching something as captivating, the hours pass by quicker than you’d think. Set in April 1912, the ill fated liner sunk upon colliding with an iceberg on its maiden journey. Crashing in the middle of the sea, hundreds perished, including the aforementioned Jack. It takes a unique mind to create a world out of the lost, and Cameron delivers. It is only fitting that Cameron himself would supplant Cameron, with Avatar likewise being his brainchild. While some period movies are dull, Titanic moves with the elegance and grace that only the best do. So influential was Titanic that, during its run, my classmates could talk of nothing other than Jack and Rose. 

Much more

On its twentieth anniversary, the film’s imprint remains strong. Leo and Kate are still big stars, and James’s legacy endures through newer releases such as Avatar. We can learn a lot from Titanic, whether friendship or agency, belongingness or transparency. Some of us go to the movies for entertainment. Having watched this film at various points of my life, I can tell you that it offers much more than that.

****(out of four stars)

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Cellular life

Just today: I’ve finally finished Dan Brown’s latest, which probes the relevance of religion in a science-overran world. The atheist tech magnet tries to stun the world, offering answers to two of life’s biggest questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? Edward is spot on in his prediction that the kingdom of technology would take over the world. Having bought a new phone last month, I couldn’t disagree.

‘Hello Moto’

I’ve been using smartphones for years, going from LG on a contract to two outright Motorola’s. After sticking with my 4G Moto phone for two years, I had the urge to upgrade. Given, the latter did a good job and everything was in working order. The battery life was excellent, and I’d charge it every other day on full use. It had a camera that you could activate by simply twisting your wrist; you can’t say that for most other phones. However, in the two years since I’ve purchased the device, the specs have become low-end. Though I used my phone primarily for texting and calls, I wanted the newer phones’ convenience and Swiss Army knife function. While I already have a tablet, there are some instances which are fit only for a mobile. In those times, you’ll have to bypass the bigger tablet in favour of the smaller device.

NFC

While 4G capable smartphones serve many functions, it could be a way to get more organised. I would admit that my tablet does this commendably, but what about on the go? When you’re queueing in line at stores, the NFC (Near Field Communication) function of my mobile foregoes fishing bank cards in my wallet. This neat technology, using Android Pay, is much the same as the tap and go or PayPass, but all you have to do this time is to put your phone to the reader, get the tick mark, and bring your item/s with you. While we’re talking queues, you could also opt to include your loyalty cards on your phone. That way, you would employ a digital wallet, instead of dissecting your physical one. This is handy too if you’d like to clear space from your bifold. In like manner, you could store your gift cards on your phone, which clears space, spares the hassle, and is more environmentally friendly.

Lagger boy

There are other things I could do on my new phone, which my prior one lacked. My new HTC phone has twice the RAM, meaning more tasks and less lag. Downloading apps is a breeze compared to Moto. The cam specs are better, it has a later Android OS, it’s got a bigger screen size, and faster mobile data browsing. The two phones are both dual sim, but the former was micro sim. Unlike before, I’m enjoying the Internet on my cell. There is also HTC’s News Republic feed, which could be both annoying and catchy. Meanwhile, on my lock screen, you get an up to the minute look at the local weather. One of the few issues is that mobile data (AND NFC) consumes a lot of power. Since the Moto has a bigger battery AND smaller screen size, my current one is much less energy efficient. I’d have to switch off the NFC at times.

When I heard Edward lecturing on how technology has transformed our lives, I could only concur. In Brown’s novel, he even went as far as saying that technology would overstep humanity as the dominant ‘species’ in a few short decades. With implants, stem cell developments, transplants, nanotechnology and others, he already sees this happening. The fusion of man and machine is an inevitable outcome, and our time is a science century. Many theologians would laugh Edmond out of the lab, as the existence of a supernatural motivates billions to get out of bed, and pushes them to do good. Whether mystery or asterisk, conjecture or dogma, we would all be reduced to the Stone Age without ‘science and faith’.

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Peligrosong pamumuhay

Here at Mot Juste, I care about the sustained relevance of creatures big and small. We need to better manage other flora and fauna for the sake of posterity. I remember in our high school yearbook, my mentor included a shocking pic of cutdown trees, remarking ‘We are indeed good stewards of God’s creation!’ The rap sheet of human recklessness against nature is substantial. Allow me to canvas a few areas where we must up our game.

1. The panda. There is no clearer and more painful evidence of human crimes against nature than the endangered panda. A top organisation had even adopted the panda as their logo. The scary overpopulation of China has seen urban growth unlike anything in human history. The unchecked urbanisation has depleted the panda’s habitat. Very few pandas exist in the wild, and the species has been endangered for decades. With the diminishing numbers, the black and white furry thing has been utilised as a political instrument. As early as the seventies, the panda has been front and centre as the regime’s bridge builder. The tsunami of panda bad luck is so unfortunate; the animal’s best attributes are also its downfall.

2. The dodo. You may have heard of the phrase, ‘Dead as a dodo’. This refers to something that is completely gone. The phrase gets its origin from a large flightless bird native to Mauritius. The Dutch explorers who navigated the territory, as well as the locals, hunted the bird to extinction. The dodo’s large figure made it a popular barbecue roast. Since it couldn’t fly and was a slow mover, this made it even easier to hunt. After some time, the dodo went from endangered to utter history. Now the Dodo telco commercials remind us of the creature that used to thrive prior to human habitation. We may not be able to undo our imprudence but we could learn from our mistakes.

3. The pangolin. This little creature has been pounced on with impunity, especially in Africa. We’ve seen on telly how its distinctive skin is being used for various purposes, with a lucrative black market trade. There is no doubt that the mammal is the most hunted animal on the planet. With its keratin scales and smallish size, the pangolin has become the perfect brute to traffic. While having existed for eighty million years, it took a few decades of human caprice to have naturists alarmed.

4. The Ganges River. In the 1600’s this waterway was so fresh that the Taj Mahal was built along its banks. People bathed in its pure streams. They did their laundry and swam like madmen. While the beginnings of the Ganges in western Nepal is still relatively clean, one look at the Taj Mahal would convince you that it’s beyond saving. The river’s colour is black, and there are yellow submarines lurking about. I doubt anyone would be coerced into bathing there these days. It’s hard to believe but destitute residents still do their washing on its banks. The Ganges is considered sacred to the Hindus, and every year legions of worshippers would plunge for an annual ceremony. The Ganges has a long, prized history for all Indians; big cities line its banks. It’s a real shame that this has occurred, but it is a reminder to all of us to better care for our environment.

5. The Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to include Mount Everest on this list. I really did. I would presume though that more people are informed on the Everest garbage disaster than the BP oil spill. Know though that the Gulf disaster is bigger than others would imagine. The BP owned Deep water horizon exploded and unleashed tons of gasoline into the Gulf. Far from being an unsightly scene off the US coast, thousands of lives and organisms were impacted. Residents’ health were affected, and the thriving fauna was gutted. The seafood industry was no more. Hordes of residents filed class action law suits against the oil giant. It even inspired John Grisham’s fun novel, The Litigators, and at least two feature length films. In the end, BP was slugged with billions in damages and was forced to cough up more on cleanup costs. If one would need a trademark example on big company disaster and human infamy against nature, look no further.

Human carelessness has many faces, but few are as emphatic as those against nature. With rising birth rates and unrestrained urbanisation, I agree with my mentor. We are indeed good stewards of His creation.

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My updated reading list

Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the year’s reading up until that point. Since that post in early June, I have normed a further five books (all fiction). I will order the texts from the first to the latest read. Presenting, my second half reading list!

1. Camino Island (Grisham). At the time, this was his most recent release. Shorter than his other works, being around 300 pages long, and not as good. Yes, it involves theft of rare manuscripts at Princeton library. Yes, there are lots of action and suspense. Likeable characters abound and with a bookstore being central to the drama, it is a book about books. I borrowed the text in August, not long after its release. While I admire the shorter length, it wasn’t engrossing enough to hold my attention for extended spells.

2. American Assassin. An old book, I was lucky to chance upon a brand new paperback edition, released in line with the major Hollywood film. I never heard of Vince Flynn and his Mitch Rapp series, until I saw the trailer at the cinemas. I was initially sold on seeing the film adaptation, but the negative reviews put me off. Instead, I consumed the novel. Like most adaptations, the film couldn’t do justice to the original. The print version was a smooth read, and I suddenly had a thirst for reading more Flynn. The author’s demise from battling cancer was unfortunate, but he left us with lots of material. Assassin is book number one in the Mitch Rapp series, even though many others were released prior. If you want a gritty origin story, complete with badass fight scenes and spy games, this is the book for you.

3. Killshot. Having completed Mitch Rapp number one, I set my sights on numero dos. A week or so after concluding Assassin, I grabbed Kill Shot from what used to be my favourite library. I checked their catalogue beforehand and saw that they had the item in question. While passing by the recently returned items, I saw the old copy. Kill Shot is mostly set in Paris, when Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s choice weapon, is caught in the perfect frame up while assassinating a Libyan diplomat. At times, the book puts too much emphasis on place and description. This made me feel like walking through cobwebs at times. However, the book is no Dragon Tattoo (Larsson), a welcome sign indeed. There is a romance side story, and Rapp is a wounded beast trying to clear his name while fighting off the authorities. He contends with jihadists, French authorities, and even his own agency. Good thrillers never get old.

4. Inferno (Dan Brown). Once again, I was lucky to spot a fairly new paperback edition in my local library. Somehow, the fourth Robert Langdon novel slipped my radar. I read Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol, but I found out about Inferno too late. With the movie released last year, I was fortunate that this new version came out. If you’ve been following Brown, several trends would appear. From the 48 hour time frame to the inclusion of a headstrong female sidekick, from various locations to foreign languages and symbols, readers have loved the bestselling author, in spite of those given peculiarities. There is often a twist at the end, the trusted ally unravelled as a sworn nemesis, thwarting the goodies’ plan. There were moments when Inferno was difficult, especially with some dialogue in Italian. I also found the descriptions to be drawn out. The brief portrayal of the Philippines was likewise tasteless. I finished the book within the standard borrowing period (3 weeks), all six hundred pages of it. Even with his wordiness and highfaluting vocabulary, the fast pace and history imbued in his fiction would pull readers of all ages, from my own chiropractor down to school kids. The queues for his latest alone would involve dozens. Make no mistake: Dan Brown persists to draw readers, despite his flaws.

5. At the moment, I’m currently tackling Origin by Dan Brown. After passing the first fifty pages, it looks very promising. Just like the Da Vinci Code, it deals with themes of religion and existentialism. Whether you’re an atheist, Catholic, Jew or Muslim, questions of science and faith know no creed or skin colour. I was fortunate to have borrowed the novel which looks brand new. The cover is so fresh that I look like the first one to borrow it.

Since June, I’ve finished four novels, which amounts to about one per month. With Origin the book of November, I am on track to devour my fifth text since that post. Moreover, I’ve consumed *MICHAEL* Connelly’s The wrong side of goodbye in June, something I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I made the mistake of confusing him as ‘James Connelly’. This time, my advice would be to be on the lookout for new material. You should likewise borrow from a few libraries, even simultaneously. With several holds across various repositories, your chance of getting that prized book sooner multiplies. With no hold fees, why not? You had me at the lib.

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The interpreter of dreams

Have you been dreaming? It’s hard to believe this but even Hannibal Lecter succumbs to the subconscious. Meanwhile, I’ve been dreaming a lot, which is nothing new. The recurrent theme of my dreams in recent months is that I try to catch a jeepney but always miss it. Just last month, I checked the dream thesaurus to figure out what this running meant. Apparently, the dashing implied going after something that is yet unattainable. That sounded like my situation. If I couldn’t think about it at daylight, then my subconscious is working overtime to remind me. 

Horror dreams

My dreams have also included people from my past, beaked shadows fighting for space thru my subliminal. There are times when I remember the loiterers upon awaking. However, even beautiful dreams could head to the recycle bin no matter how careful you are. Lately, I dreamt of a snake baring it’s fangs on me. Sometimes, the dreams are so eloquent that you regret that it was only made up. One of these moments was when I thought I won big at a scratchie. I rubbed the coin on the ticket before realising I won an impossible $3 million! Of course, you can’t win that much from a sractchie in reality, but it seemed so genuine. Add to that my grandmother saying ‘naka jackpot ka’. Other times they are so sinister you’re glad it’s just a dream. I remember a few times when I had this nightmare. On these occasions, I’d see my teeth fall off. The superstitious have opined that this is an ominous warning, and judging by past events, their concerns are warranted. 

Before, I used to talk in my sleep. I’d sound like an aswang huffing and puffing in the dark. One time I shouted, ‘Ano yan?’ I thought that someone was going to cut my tees. Another instance I said ‘Ang laway mo!’ I had no idea why, but I was probably tired of a loquacious school classmate. At times I would pounce on an enemy. I’d raise my voice and confront an imaginary foe, my subliminal being my alter ego in real life. Another recurrent nightmare involves me answering a complex PE exam in school. I’d keep reading the test paper until most of the class had turned in their work. For me, the questionnaire seems like a novel that couldn’t end, until I wake up.

The direk’s cut

If I do recall my dream, I’d head to this dream thesaurus, which is a director’s cut of dream interpretation. Most of these night time intrusions would leave us stumped, so it’s great to have an offline tool for checking those cobwebs. No need for Freudian analysis nor Nietzsche; aside from being heavy reading, they are likewise not definitive. You can’t expect to piece together most of your intrusions from their dense texts. With the thesaurus, I’ve been dialled in for a while now and it’s all good.

Sometimes I wonder, what do other people dream about? Would you dream differently if you’re of another faith? I guess we can mostly agree that Spanish speakers won’t dream in English. If you’re Mr Lecter, would you sleep soundly at night? You can bet some peeps only rarely dream; its only a matter of frequency. Know this: there are all kinds of dreamers; thrive in your uniqueness.

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The Last Suffer

This is not a rant.

What would you feel, to have a thorn stuck on your throat?

That thorn has been there all year yet nothing seems to get it unstuck

As Rizal once wrote, ‘Ang lipunan ay may cancer’

Hard to believe that his musings from centuries past

Are still so obvious so relevant today

While my hero contended with womanising stiffs and dodgy friars

I don’t believe he could imagine our world as it stands

 

 

I need not rehash what’s wrong with us; it’ll only feed the flames

Those close to me knows what I contend with every. Single. Week.

I’ve tried everything, but it is an itch that would never go away

It is that crap that you could never remove

No matter how long you try pushing it out

It is with you and yet without you

It is the smell of contraband lurking around

 

 

 

 

Everybody is turning a blind eye

They have the resources, the tardos who can be bought

They have time. Oodles and oodles. Of time.

But these suckers, can they still think?

If they listen, would they comprehend?

Anyone would know that their minds are full of mush

What is unfolding in that thick head of yours?

What’s next?

When you’re wicked you never stop

Your thirst for trouble never satisfied

You are desensitised and in your quest

For more infamy you become but a hollow shell

If every soul has a price, every evil thing has its end.

To quote someone insignificant:

Things we have done. All these will be gone.

Don’t be so sure that you could just fly under the radar forever

The thing that motivates me every second week

Is that you’ve bitten as much as you could chew

Wham! You’re gone

 

 

 

 

Divine intervention. Does it really help?

They say you’ve got to have faith.

To believe the unbelievable

To bridge the gap

But how many good men have fallen

To seek answers that would never arrive

And no matter how bleak things appear

I still hold out hope that someday somehow somewhere

There’s a time where I could live

In a world free of Eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s no different to Dante and his vision

Journeying through

We are just passing by

And while inferno might seem endless

There is a day when the sky would brighten up

A day when all the fire and brimstone would dissipate

That time could be sooner than you think

The eyes. They are already showing signs of chinks.

Something is off; something is bugging the eyes.

And it’s something that no amount of exercise

Nor diet could ameliorate

It will feel trouble slowly and painfully

Just the way I like it.

 

 

 

 

All his empire would collapse the people immobilised

These are the thoughts that sustain me through hell

For what are your millions when you can’t leave the country?

For what are your lands if they are ticking on borrowed time?

You can’t fool The Good forever

Someday, It will bite the hand that feeds it.

You might think that you have all the power

But deep down you’re a powerless samurai

And they’ll put you to the sword

You’ll never see it coming but it will happen

You won’t see the knockout blow before you get hit

No matter how diabolical you are no one would fear you

All your lies, all your bite are just background noise

Did you see the face of that tokmol?

That’s the kind of message you’ll hear when you’re finally famous

You can bring your partner with you. And your entire family and hers.

Because that’s where you’re ending. Together

Banished and bleeding. In God’s time.

 

 

 

This is not really a rant.

 

 

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The Big Bang Theory reviewed

Over the years, there have been some sitcoms that have captivated audiences and stood the test of time. From Seinfeld to Friends, Modern Family to The Office, these shows have proven the continued relevance of the sitcom genre through the last few decades. Meanwhile, The Big Bang Theory has quietly turned heads since 2007. Now in its eleventh season, the programme is as consequential as ever, with enviable ratings and endless laughs.

Older eps of the Big Bang have been airing on Channel Nine for a while, with the occasional new episodes. While 9 had exclusive free to air rights, they now share this with Channel 7. The latter’s deal to secure Big Bang re runs have paid off big, proof of the sitcom’s marketability. The programme is also available on catchup TV, and for streaming online. At eleven seasons, Big Bang eclipses Friends in terms of longevity, and likewise surpasses How I met your mother (9 seasons). Throughout its run, the show has garnered a large following, critical acclaim and many accolades. Its cast is at the heart of this success.

As Friends demonstrated, having the right people is indispensable. Through a decade, the six stars had equal billing, and had perfect attendance. There is no doubt that Friends’s straightforward dialogue and plot helped its sustainability. I remember one peer at uni, who was still learning English. When we talked about what we watched, he said he was an old timer as he watched Friends. Don’t you watch Big Bang? I have trouble understanding it, he confessed. You could turn on the subtitles, I suggested. I don’t really get the things, he said. You know physics….He is not alone in that regard. Even Stuart, the comic book guy who is a recurring character, would stare blankly at Sheldon as he blathered.

Sheldon

The story of four scientists growing together is a novel one. The series has gone beyond merely a friendship chronicle, sprinkling it with their jobs, family and love life, zest for movies, comic books, and good food as well as their own struggles. Apart from being successful in their careers, they have unique backgrounds. We would know that Sheldon Cooper is the obsessive compulsive, difficult, self styled genius who never allows anyone to sit on his spot in their couch. He rarely apologises and often suffers from tunnel vision. When he’s locked in, it’s very tough to change his mindset. The little things also bothers him, like a pigeon camping near his window. Sheldon’s character has been so successful that the actor, Jim Parsons, has transitioned into the big screen. He even sung (or lip-synced) the hilariously freaky Man or Muppet, which won an Oscar. 

Howard and Raj

The other male members of the gang are Howard Walowitz, Leonard Hofstadter, and Rajesh Koothrappali. Howard is the only one of the four without a PhD, a recurring joke on the show. Until his mother passed away, he was a bit close to her. Their shouting at each other in the same house was both comical and unnerving. Later on he would meet his future wife, Bernadette, and she became part of the gang. In like manner, Raj is also tight with his parents. Even though they are in India, he would regularly Skype with them, leading to some awkward moments. Ideally, his parents would approve of his girl, showing their close family ties. 

Leonard and Penny

You could say that Leonard is the most likeable of the group. Though he wears glasses and has a high IQ, he is quite relatable, a consummate good guy. In a way, he is the Ross Geller of Big Bang. Aside from being incredibly smart with a desirable job to boot, his affable persona makes girls chase him. While not blessed with Ross’s towering height, he makes up for it with his genuineness and common sense. He is so good natured that he swayed Penny, the next door neighbour and aspiring actress. While they went on and off like Ross and Rachel, at least their relationship endured til the foreseeable end. 

Stifling?

I discussed Big Bang with an acquaintance a while back. I told her that the show is stilted, the predictability stifling. When I told her that the show’s banal location bothered me, she begged to disagree. Just the apartment? How about the laundry room, the stairs, the mailboxes downstairs? Have you forgotten the comic book store, the cafeteria, Howard’s place? Or Raj’s loft, Amy’s flat, and all the guy’s offices? They go to the movies, they went bowling and rock climbing, they drive around. In the ensuing years, more settings were employed, including Sheldon’s train ride. I guess I was wrong indeed; Big Bang is not short on venues to spice things up. 

No. 11

Very recently, Big Bang returned for an eleventh season. The show’s theme has evolved to include families, changing priorities, and parenthood while retaining its thrust of friendship, love, and laughs. This millennial show has revolutionised television, showing how four socially inept, Thai takeaway loving geeks could chase women, make viewers crack up, and sway award giving bodies. 

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