A Little Bit on Honesty

To be honest with all of you, after I had posted up the last entry – I was not very happy with it. There was something missing in the entry, that even after I read it over, it felt dishonest and untrue. I was very grumpy after I posted the entry and the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got. I stormed upstairs and though I promised Eizwan that we can catch up on Supernatural – what I really intended to do was to sit in bed while he watched and grump to myself while admiring pictures of Kim Myung Min.

Here's a picture of KMM for my own pleasure.

Here’s a picture of Kim Myung Min for my own viewing pleasure.

And these are the days when I am grateful for Eizwan’s presence.

Even though this episode is a Castiel friendly episode, it was not enough to entice me. In between surfing more pictures of Kim Myung Min, I was mulling why did I not like that entry. What was I trying to hide? Eizwan had switched on the TV and was ready to put Supernatural on the PS3. A lesser husband would not take time to notice his wife’s distress  and would have just continued on watching.

But this is Eizwan. This is why I married him.  He could see I was not happy. He asked me to talk through about why I was not happy about that entry. And then we spent hours dissecting what went wrong with the last entry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the King of Dramas. I am inspired by the show. But why I am inspired by the show was probably not quite the honest part. I had written several drafts before the last entry, correcting it over and over and yet, I could not get to where I wanted. Usually when I struggle to write something, rather than writer’s block – it’s usually because I’m being dishonest with myself.

Eizwan hit it right on the nail when he asked me about my last blog entry. Sure it is inspiring, someone who would do anything to get what he wants. But that isn’t the only reason why the drama affected me so much. He pointed out the points that I kept talking about the past few days. My favourite part of the show is Anthony Kim’s character. There are plenty of arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable characters out there like House and the current Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. But very few of them are like Anthony, who is arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable but prone to constantly breaking down into tears. Unlike House and Sherlock, who are barely aware about how flawed they are, Anthony is fully aware of his flaws. He wears power suits despite being completely and utterly broke. He teeters in between the realization that he was not who he once was and the delusion that he is still the powerful CEO of Empire Productions that produced the best Korean dramas of all time.

It is this strange balance of these two extremes that really caught my eye, to be able to write such a finely crafted character. With most cocky characters on screen, rarely would the characters acknowledge their thirst and desperation to succeed – they are always so sure of themselves. With Anthony, you are privy to see his desperation to go back to what he once was despite his outward self-confidence. The internal battle is played with very little melodrama (or the occasions when it is played with melodrama – it is taken to the extreme for laughs). I admire a writer for being able to create a character so nuanced and balanced and yet unbelievably cool.

As it is a satire, the King of Dramas use plenty of rom-com clichés to move the story forward. But what I did not expect was that every cliché was turned on its head so that more than half the time, I had no clue how the story was going to progress. When the writer, Go-Eun wakes up from a clichéd coma with amnesia, I did not expect it to be a prank that she plays on Anthony. Anthony’s response was a classic, over-the-top soap response: he pulls her close to him and declares desperately: ‘If you can’t remember me, at least remember me with hatred from what I did to you’…only to find he’d been punked by Go-Eun.

Or in another frequent K-Drama cliché, when Anthony gets the large sum of money from the Watanabe group for his drama, I half expected the storyline to go by the way of Anthony falling for say, the daughter of a respected CEO and thereby creating a love triangle between Anthony and the writer, Go-Eun as it would have played out in most Korean dramas. What I did not expect was for the Watanabe Group to actually be a front for the Yakuza which inevitably, raised the mundane stakes of getting a drama onto the tv screen, to truly a matter of life and death.

It is this delicate balance of playing around with tried and tested drama tropes and cliches, and then turning them on its head every single time that won me over. It is hard to be over-the-top without being too silly or falling into the Wayan Brothers category. The King of Dramas was too smart for all of that – it’s aware that they are being over-the-top and yet, it is played with so much sincerity that despite being chased by gangsters and a constantly vengeful Chairman bent on destroying our hero – it is believable.

And as I watched, I was exhilarated. I could not predict each sequence like I usually do when I watch movies (one of the reasons why I found Skyfall deathly boring) and I became more invested in the characters. None of the characters developed ‘normally’ per se and more than once, when the actor Kang Hyung Min’s conscience is pricked and we see a spark of humanity in his soul, it’s immediately extinguished by his love of money. In some characters, there are no redemptions, they may be good in their own way but they’re not going to change as they do, in a grand Hollywood style. If they’re petty, chances are they’re going to remain petty despite the occasional glimpse of a conscience, throughout the drama.

But as I sat down to write all of this, none of this came up. Instead, I wrote the entire cliché on why I loved the drama. I could not tell any of the reasons why I truly loved the drama. As I went to bed last night, with the first draft ready to put up – I thought, perhaps I did not want to bore any of you reading an in-depth analysis about The King of Dramas. Or perhaps, I did not want to come out as a Korean Drama fan-girl as though it was some form of low entertainment that I did not want to be associated with.

After I had posted, I was aware that I was very angry. And Eizwan asked me why don’t I write about it, about why I cared for the drama. I made up excuses – it’s boring, who cares? I can’t find a way to write about this as interestingly as possible. But I was becoming more aware on why I can’t. If I am staring at the screen for ages, it is because I know it’s too raw for me to deal with it, too difficult. It is not that I don’t want to deal with it but that I am so used to packing up emotions in a tidy little box and shoving it as deeply as possible to the recesses of my mind that I am unaware it exists.

Which is funny. As a writer, I would think I would be more used to mulling about how I feel about things. I spend a lot of time analyzing myself and people around me, to understand how I feel. But I have always known, and it pains me to say this, is that my greatest weakness is my inability to be completely honest with myself.

During the Director’s course I took part in London, one of the things I had to do was act as though I was in love with a housemate of mine but it was in secret and I was fully aware that it was an unrequited emotion. I failed at the task miserably because I could easily hide feelings like that. The task was intended to teach aspiring directors on how to get actors to feel the role.

A piece of plank displayed more emotions than I did on that day. Our teacher watched my classmates try miserably for 10 minutes to get some emotion out of me when she announced to the class that, ‘Adlina by nature, closes her feelings up. She doesn’t let them show and so it’s hard for her to be openly angry for instance, because it’s not the way she does it.’

She did not mean it unkindly. That is who I am, as a person. I think I am good when it comes to frustration and happiness. But when it comes to disappointment, to fears and regrets – it is not that I do not let it show. Rather, I don’t even acknowledge their existence; they’ve been shoved in that box, deep in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I’m sad – I just know that I am sad and frustrated and I keep it in.

Harry was an actor turned director. She pulled me aside then and asked me to think about a situation, a moment where I loved someone but the love was unrequited. And to bring it up to the front, to let the feelings through. ‘And then I want you to act it out.’

Before any of the previous male companions could claim that they were the ones that came to my mind – surprisingly, the first words that came to me was the SC. It brought forth a torrent of anger, disappointment and rejection that I knew existed but had hidden away and it all came out at once.

Harry was pleased. And she asked me to hide this emotion but keep it at the forefront of my mind as I acted.

The result was just pure electric.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that day, about how been given permission to allow myself to feel, everything came out all at once. At that time, it made me a better actor and I knew that if I were to be honest with myself with my own fears and doubts, I would be a better writer. If I was not so afraid to admit to myself my own weaknesses and my own failings – despite how vulnerable I would feel, my writing would be better.

Each time I struggled with a piece of writing – I know a part of my brain had decided to hide the truth. After much soul-searching, I knew why I couldn’t write any of that. A part of me is really afraid that I can’t write. I’m afraid that at the end of the day, for all my criticisms of cliches and tropes – that is exactly what I depend on when I write, because when I come to the crossroads, I take the path more commonly taken. Because it is much easier – or because I believe it makes me look good. I’m scared of writing something so different because of how it will be received. Heck, when I watch The King of Dramas, I’m not even sure I have the wit to come up with half the stuff they wrote.

I’m really sorry that The King of Dramas never got the ratings or the ending it deserved. I wish I had that kind of skill and talent to write the way they had, to create characters that I could love so deeply – to take all the cliches that I’m so used to and throw it back at myself. I wish I could take a path less commonly taken and not be so scared to do so. I wish I could see that I was taking the most commonly used path as opposed to patting myself on the back and saying ‘I’m certainly taking the road less taken’.

And the true reason why it was so hard to admit why I’m crazy in love with the show? I really, really wish, that for all it’s unpolished writing, the horrible ending it had, the strange inconsistencies the King of Dramas had, I could write half as well as the writers of The King of Dramas had.

Just a little bit of Drama

It is but a quiet beginning to 2013 for me. While my good friends have been struggling with a heavy schedule and sharing fantasies about the various colleagues, bosses and acquaintances that they would like to stab with a pencil/knife and/or set their cars on fire – I have no such fantasy. It has been a quiet January for me which altogether is not that bad.

But I live in Malaysia and despite telling myself that I do not want to keep up with the Joneses I can’t help feeling the pressure to share about how hard this January had been and I too have a number of people that I would like to stab with a pencil.

The unfortunate truth is though, the only people I would like to stab with a pencil would be the local postman – and that for throwing my books that I ordered from Book Depository into the porch. It is sacrilegious for books to treated that way – sure I get that Mr. Postman is very busy, and that God forbid that he would take the time to leave a note asking me to pick up my stuff at the local post at a more convenient time. It only makes perfect sense for him to take my precious books and throw them into the porch like it was discus practice.

Perhaps I am being unkind. Perhaps there were rabid raccoons on my porch and they were scrambling to get into the house and attack my kitties. Damn those raccoons.

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“Do you want to spend your life here? And one day, in the far-off future you’ll tell your kid, ‘Your mother once had  a dream,’ and leave it at that? Dreams aren’t made to be memories. They’re made to be achieved.”

– Anthony Kim, King of Dramas

Anyway, fantasies on attacking the postman is certainly nowhere as exciting as stabbing VIPs with pencils. To feel the need to stab a VIP suggests that there is some sort of drama with the VIP that can only be alleviated through random acts of pencil violence. My life has been so quiet that the only drama I have in my life right now is The King of Dramas, which in tumblr speak, is giving me many, many, many feels. Despite its terribly disappointing ending – it was probably one of the best and fun dramas I had seen in a long while.

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This is Anthony Kim. He is not terribly good looking. He is an all around asshole in the series. But I am in love with him. It’s okay, before you feel the need to snitch to Eizwan, he knows. He is always the first to know when I openly declare I’m in love with another man. He is usually quite supportive too.

I’m one of those people, those saps who can find certain literature, tv shows and movies can change my life. And when I think about my life – about turning points that change my life, I can pinpoint various pieces of literature and TV shows that made me who I am. A painfully awkward 13 year old feeling out of place? The X Files. Trying to figure out these strange emotions towards the opposite sex that I feel in my heart as a teenager? Pride & Prejudice with a healthy dose of Sailormoon. And of course, during my dark days in the SC – it was those lonely nights of watching the now defunct BBC Entertainment for my dose of Doctor Who.

Some people believe in omens and signs – and they look for them everywhere. For me, it comes through dramas or books or mangas. As I’ve said a million times over probably by now (or at least it feels like it), I am still recovering from 2012. I’m trying to embrace my life as it is and as it will be, not so much as I hope it would be and this drama came at the right time, like a friend assuring me I’m doing the right thing.

The series isn’t perfect. There is an incredibly disappointing ending as a result of the series’ real life battles with ratings but from episode 1 to 16 (17  and 18 is an extension demanded by the broadcasters, presumably since their follow up drama was unprepared to take up the slot), it is witty, sharp, satirical and very heart-warming. For me, it’s inspiring as we follow the footsteps of the all-around jerk Anthony Kim, the best drama producer in Korea whose fall from grace inspires him to climb back and exact revenge on everyone who had wronged him. He has one last chance of making a comeback, and he is partnered with the inexperienced but idealistic writer, Lee Go-Eun who serves (or at least, tries to anyway) as his conscience. Of course, as the series progress we watch him change to huge asshole that he is to the…not-so-big asshole that he will become.

I can relate to Anthony Kim – and hopefully not in the way I’m a major asshole. But I can relate to feeling lost and unsure in life, the desperation to find a way and find success. I like that despite the odds being stacked against him, he uses every means possible and if you watch the drama, it really is every means possible to win. Despite some of his methods, shall we say, is less than kosher – you keep rooting for him to win. What I’m trying to say, and it is a pretty sappy thing to say, is that this show is what I really need right now, I need to believe that working hard and a belief in your dreams can make you go far.

I may be presumptuous to say a particular show is going to change my life. I do know when it has a potential to do so: when I  become overly obsessed about it, when I cannot stop thinking about it. And even if this drama does not change my life, it came right around the time when I needed it most, like an unexpected friend.

The show has ended and I am not exaggerating when I say that my nights are now going to feel a bit empty. I’m going to miss the characters on the show, the camaraderie and will have to satisfy myself with just watching reruns (well, just forwarding it to my favourite bits pretty much) The obsession will die out soon as I have plenty of things to do, plenty of things to read: I do have about 5 books waiting for me, and another book on the way from the UK, ready to be thrown into my front porch. For now, I’m quite glad that I got to catch this show and very grateful for it giving me inspiration when I need it.

 

Premonition

I’m not a big believer in anything superstitious. I try not to be. My western education in India, especially my science teachers did an exceptionally good job in beating the superstitions out of me that I rarely believe in any of the occult. I do sometimes profess in believing in the paranormal but I do that mostly to fit in here. I mean, nothing is a bigger killjoy when families and friends start swapping ghost stories and the occult and then you proceed to lecture then in science. So when it comes to gatherings, I tend to nod and smile but for the most part – I no longer believe in the paranormal.

Except.

I do believe in signs though. I try not to. What could be perceived as a sign could just be an event of pure coincidence so taking it as a sign is just illogical. So when I dropped chicken in soy sauce on my favourite scarf at my cousin’s baby shower, my spidey senses began to tingle. This was a sign. Something bad was going to happen to my favourite silk scarf.

As it turns out, the something bad was War Horse.

Coming back from the course in London has turned me into a pretentious, wannabe film-maker. I hear what you’re saying. You were already pretentious before you came back to Malaysia, so how is this any different? Aha. Let me explain. While before I would grit my teeth and have no say in a purely democratic vote to watch a crap movie (see: Bride Wars), now, having gained street cred as a director (ahem), I have the final say on what movie to watch. So when the choice for our monthly movie meet came up between The Phantom Menace 3D and War Horse, the pretentious film-maker in me insisted that we had to watch War Horse, despite the geek inside me sobbing at the lost opportunity of re-watching Star Wars for the fifth time.

But you know, it’s a Spielberg movie…and, you know, it was nominated for an Oscar…and stuff.

Never mind it’s about horses fighting in one of the worst wars ever to grace our planet.

As it turns out, my earlier premonition about the scarf was right. My spidey tingly senses sensed that the scarf was not safe that something bad was going to happen to the scarf. And the something bad was me. The thing is, my mother brought me up an animal lover. I love animals and an entire movie of a horse separating from it’s owner, before plenty of horses running straight into machine guns, and horses starving to death, pushed to work till they die from exhaustion. Add to me feeling particularly hormonal, you know, that time of the month left me more than pushed to the brink of tears.Let’s just say, I was sobbing. Not the Hollywood style of crying, a single teardrop rolling down my cheek. No, we’re talking the Korean drama style of sobbing, where my eyes were read, and my nose was stuffed. The only way to hide my face and quell the sounds of sniffling was unfortunately, my beautiful scarf which, I really had to try my hardest to stop using it as a large handkerchief to wipe my eyes.

I rarely cry during movies, the only time I did cry properly was when Rose was separated from the Doctor in Season 2, Doctor Who. The rest of the time, it’s just sniffles and pretending that I’m too macho for these sort of thing. I was after all, a child of the finance industry. As the events of 2008 has show, financiers lack a beating heart. Don’t believe me, run an investment banker down – cut into their chest cavity. You’re going to find nothing in there.

My other two movie partners are both children of the finance industry and they took to my outward display of emotions the best they could. One just pretended it never happened. The other, awkwardly patted me on the back and asked me if I were okay and changed the topic before even hearing my response.

It’s okay though. I’m alright. The scarf on the other hand…

Hearing a Bollywood Star Narrating Your Life

One of my favourite things about Bollywood movies, is the narration. Usually the narration would be done in Hindi, a deep throaty male voice waxing lyrical about his life’s philosophy, reflecting essentially what this movie would be about.

I can’t quite explain what I like about it so much – film-making-wise, Bollywood narration can get it quite wrong. It’s long, it says too much. Avoid narration, let the pictures tell the story.

But I love it. I love the way it sounds, the rhythm of the Hindi language, even though I barely know any Hindi (except shaadi and pyaar but those are standard Bollywood words that everyone should know). I imagine that it sounds a lot wiser, a lot more profound as though life is going to change dramatically just because it’s said in Hindi.

So while some people motivate themselves by reading motivational quotes, joining groups. I hear Amitabh Bachan’s voice in my ear. S each time I get into the car or as I wake up in the morning to do work, I hear Amitabh Bachan’s voice. He’s narrating the story of my life in Hindi. Presumably, he is saying, this is the story of Adlina’s life. It begins rather quietly, and slowly. Because that’s how it goes with Adlina. She starts of nice and easy. Steady as she does it. But  watch out, this is Adlina we’re talking about. It never is quiet. It never is easy. It’s always something fantastic. And in 2012 something amazing is going to happen.

Of course, since I know very little Hindi, Amitabh Bachan’s narration is probably a mish-mash of dialogue from all the Hindi movies I’ve seen. So as long as my year doesn’t end up just like a Bollywood movie (see Singham for reference)-I’ll be fine.

2012 started very quietly. Eizwan and I welcomed 2012 at home, hearing the fireworks go off about half an hour early. Not quite sure why anyone would want celebrate New Year’s half an hour earlier – either you made a terrible mistake with your clock, or my neighbours really are a kiasu bunch, that you want to be the first to welcome in the New Year. We didn’t have fireworks – since well, you know they’re technically illegal but we did have The Wire. So we welcomed 2012 by watching another episode of The Wire before going to sleep. Actually come to think of it, the first ten days of 2012 have mostly been about The Wire. The two of us essentially have been incommunicado with the rest of the world because we’ve been watching The Wire. It’s a bit like home – eat dinner – clean up – The Wire. Wake up, wonder if we could squeeze in an episode of The Wire before we get to work. Weekend is canceling on friends – watching more Wire. If friends manage to get us out – we talk about The Wire.

Celebrating the New Year at L.Table in One Utama. We managed to squeeze in a lunch between The Wire of course. 

I would probably do another entry on just The Wire alone, I know, I’m only about 10 years behind the trend – but hey, some things are worth catching up on and babbling about incessantly after.

But I am actually quite busy. I knew that December was my last quiet month and I did treasure the quiet times. Since January had begun, work has been at full steam. Remember my vague ambition of getting one of my businesses up and running? Well, this Saturday I’m off to India again to work on this vague New Year’s resolution of mine. In between I’m squeezing in some more reading, a tiny bit of writing (naughty, naughty I know) and daydreaming about Dominic West. Is it bad to have a crush on Dominic West from The Wire?

Eizwan is a very patient man.

The Wire aside, I’m looking forward to 2012. It has been 10 quiet days but the voice of Amitabh Bachan in my ear may be saying – it is going to be a fantastic one.

An Ode to SVU

Have I written an ode to you, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit?

No, I haven’t? Why, what is wrong with me? Let me shower praises on a show that has deftly written so many crime episodes with crimes so heinous that it warps my brain so much. After SVU, I could be watching a harmless tv show like ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and be convinced that Character A is committing incest with his daughter or raping Character C on a daily basis.

No?

I love Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I shamelessly adore the show. While my love for some tv shows are fleeting (e.g. House, survived up to Season 3 before wanting to dig my eyeballs every time I see Hugh Laurie on telly), I am a firm lover of SVU. It’s not the best show in the world, it’s not particularly insightful and if you follow true life crime in the newspapers, you can pretty much figure out who the killer is before the end of the episode. But there’s just something about the show, the pacing, the conflicts, okay, let’s face it, the stupid amount of chemistry between Mariska Hargitay’s Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni’s Eliot Stabler that has made me a fan.

Perhaps the other reason why I love SVU is for its grittiness. When they mean heinous crimes, it usually is heinous. It deals with incest, rape, child murders and the heroes, sometimes they get the bad guys and sometimes they don’t. You cheer when things work out but with some cases, it leaves with you a terrible feeling all the way down at the pit of your stomach.

One of the reasons why I love murder mysteries so much is seeing how the copper deals with facing such depravity over and over. Each writer has their own take – Mankel’s Wallander despairs about the fate of his country and his countrymen with every crime that happens under his watch to a breaking point. Dick Wolf’s Detective Stabler and Detective Benson, on the other hand, deal with it in the best way I believe any good American would. By going out there and punching the hell out of the suspect.

Hit first. Ask questions later.

Sometimes it’s so politically incorrect that it is delicious. In real life, you don’t want your cops to be behaving that way; you don’t want your cops to be punching the lights out of you if they suspect you have been up to no good. But in SVU, it is perfectly fine because you know they are the Good Guys. And in a world where things are getting murkier by the day on what is right and what is wrong, it is nice to see a bit of black and white, and you know that these guys, they’re making the world a better place.

And they waste no time in doing so. CSI irritates me with its over-reliance on forensics – the flashy lights and ridiculous angles as the scientists, who often work in very dark rooms that look like night clubs with much cleavage seen from their white coats. Those are time-wasters; they don’t add anything to the story. In SVU, when they say they need to get to the suspect, its cut to the next scene – the door is smashed down and my heroes are running in, guns ablaze and scaring the bejeebus out of the bad guys.

It’s also a decent stand-alone, you can pick up any episode from Season 5, watch Season 8 after and not be jarred by much, only that some of the characters look older, loss a bit of weight or added on a bit of weight.

But, as with all good things, it must come to an end. Christopher Meloni has decided to leave SVU at the end of season 12. Thank goodness I was surfing the net in bed, or I would have collapsed from weak knees. No more Detective Stabler? Poor Olivia! Heck, poor Adlina! And as much as I love SVU, I think it is the partnership between Stabler and Benson that makes the show and I don’t believe that the show can survive without either partner. Which makes me rather sad.

But thank you, Christopher Meloni! For 12 wonderful crime-fighting years.

My Darling Won!

Note: I wrote this before I found out Colin Firth and The King’s Speech won the Oscars. Which means, yay for him! The entry is kinda spoilery so avoid it if you have not seen the movie.

I’ve never met a woman that did not like Colin Firth. It’s just trufax. And any woman who does not like Colin Firth, clearly has not seen the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice. Of which I’ve seen, what four times now?

My friend K tells me that Colin Firth has a very talented ability to stalk people – as he does in P&P. He doesn’t get why women like him so much. Honestly, that man can stalk me any day – it’s fine. I love him.

When I heard about The King’s Speech, just as production was starting, I had already wanted to watch it. There’s just something perennially sexy about Colin Firth, and what would be better than Colin Firth as the brooding Mr. Darcy? Well, just about nothing really but I will take him as the stammering Prince Albert who went on to become the reluctant King George VI.

I’m not a big fan of historical novels and movies, unless it has some sort of revisionist take on it e.g Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock but I was willing to put my prejudices aside for this one.

And you know what? I was right (and well, so were the other five people who told me that I ought to watch it and I would love it and my brother who told my parents, this was going to be Lin’s “favouritest movie” ever).

It was so, so good. I sat throughout the movie, enraptured by Colin Firth the story, the tentative relationship with his speech therapist, a failed actor by the name of Lionel Logue.

There were so many little details about the movie that caught to me and perhaps resonated with me. Despite my love for Colin Firth (can you not tell?), I have to be honest, it was Lionel’s story that caught me, the prejudice he went through as an Aussie and his struggle and desire for greatness, despite being labeled a ‘failed actor’.

The script was written very well, if a little oddly at first. The three act structure was created a little strangely and none of the culmination of events that leads to the explosive pinnacle before the denouement. And *spoiler alert*, the subject of interest, the speech itself, naturally will be at the end of the movie.

I thought it was originally a play – the shots and cuts between scenes made if feel like a play. I was pleased to find out that the writer, had originally written it out as a play to emphasize the relationship between Logue and Bertie. Their relationship reminded me of the sea, for some odd reason, with ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs, coming together and coming apart at different points in time.

It was, funny to say, realistic. Real life events rarely make good stories, real life narratives are not interesting enough to make a story (despite the subject in itself being interesting – a narration that follows real life narration tends to be dull). There was none of the over-dramatic falling out, just as in real life, with our very good friends, we have a few terse words with each other, we stop talking for a bit and then we come back together again.

It theoretically would have been so dull, in an era where we are fed with bombastic language and imagery, where if a revolution does not happen in 3 days, we are bored already and we change the channel. A slow buildup of friendship theoretically would have bored the audience to tears.

Despite the lack of shoutiness, the lack of anything particularly exciting i.e. there were no fighting robots, no Bertie standing by the edge of the roof on Buckingham Palace feeling suicidal – really the most tense scene was during his speeches where you pray he does not stammer and I was completely enraptured by Bertie’s struggle. The movie was emotional despite the dialogue not being overtly so. You watch the characters struggle without words, allowing the strength of the actors and the story to shine through. How I wish it was me who wrote the scene where Bertie reaches to hug his daughters and they curtsy before him instead. His expression showed it all, him feeling crushed when it dawned upon him that even to his daughters, he was King first, papa second made me cry.

The script went against a lot of what I was taught and read about writing. Usually, we’re taught what we want to see is the hero going through a journey of constant obstacles. We want to see a hero, a journey of when a hero is thrust with greatness, we see the journey of him stepping up to mark. We root for him as he overcome each obstacle – he is the Hero.

The King’s Speech is nothing of the sort – it was less a journey of the hero stepping up to mark from his own volition, more than he did it out of duty more than anything, and you watch him try very hard to avoid the greatness that heroes usually crave.

And it worked remarkably for the movie. A total must watch for the year. And I think Jan’s right. This is my favouritest movie.

And oh yeah. Colin Firth is still hot.

It’s All Hannibal Lecter’s Fault

As of late, a kind of disquiet has taken over me. I used to pride myself to look at life in wonderment but as of late, the wonderment had diminished somewhat, only to be replaced by a mild irritation and frustration, a feeling that can be wisely summed up by the famous expression: “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.”

Of course, when you look at life and you feel it’s dull, there’s only one solution short of emptying your savings account and going traveling around the world to find yourself and a new perspective in life (well, I may have done something like that, but more on that later) and at the risk of going Sesame Street on your ass, the only solution, as I was saying is…to read.

I used to be a ferocious reader. Really, I was very ferocious, I would bite people if they interrupted me whilst I was reading. But somehow, post school and university, the ferocity mellowed down quite a bit. Where once I used to carry a new book with me all the time – now, not so much. Heck, I sigh these days when people interrupt me as opposed to biting them.

But as I’ve mentioned before, the beginning of the new decade meant that we turn over a new leaf. I’m starting to read again. I want to broaden my horizons, my experience and open my mind…and beat Eizwan’s current reading scorecard. Ever since he started his new job, Eizwan had stopped driving to work and opted to commute instead. And during his commute, he reads, frequently finishing two to three books a week, whilst being squished by smelly and sweaty commuters.

And of course, everyone knows that it simply isn’t right he reads more than me. I AM THE SELF-PROFESSED (MYSTERY) WRITER. AND BITEY READER.

Yesterday was a public holiday. Usually, we spend our holidays lazing about in bed, thinking about doing chores and then not actually doing it, thinking about cooking an epic dinner and then getting lazy sometime before dinner and then going out to eat. So yes, we pretty much stare at the ceiling together during the holidays.

But yesterday was different. You see, my scheming thoughtful self wanted to beat Eizwan broaden my horizon and I announced to him that after we do all our chores, plan for an epic dinner, we are going to Kinokuniya KLCC to look for books after having lunch there. Little did he know, this was part of my plan of um, broadening my horizons

We finally headed off to KL around 3pm yesterday after well, thinking of doing chores and thinking of doing an epic dinner. I had looked up various mystery novels and some books that I could buy whilst I was there. Eizwan was thinking of buying some IT books and so off we went.

I love mysteries. Whilst most girls grew up reading romances, I used to throw myself into mysteries. I started with good old Nancy Drew before graduating to my favourite author ever, Agatha Christie. My aunt gave me her collection of Agatha Christies. I devoured the novels, Hercule Poirot quickly becoming my favourite detective and I was compelled to learn French so I could understand Poirot – he occasionally peppered his anecdotes in French and I felt like I was missing out when I did not understand.

I’ve grown to love police procedurals since then, not as big a fan of private detectives as I used to be. But I’ve noticed that mystery novels aren’t what they used to be. Someone on the radio commented that there are an awful lot of serial killers in the fictional world these days and I hate to say that is true. I picked up two novels recently – one, a forgettable mystery that involved some sort of insurance claim, and Henning Menkel’s Kurt Wallender series – and, despite adoring Inspector Kurt Wallender, the poor Swede who whined how hot it was at 23 degrees C, they both dealt with serial killers.

Serial killers don’t fascinate me. Strangers stalking and killing at random is never going to be as delicious as the death of a seemingly wonderful individual, of whom as you read further, lead a secret life, and everyone who claimed to love him or her, secretly hated him or her and wanted him or her dead.

Wonderful stuff.

I was looking for that yesterday – that kind of engaging plotting that makes you wonder, whodunnit? I identified a few and set off to look for it. Unfortunately, after trawling through they mystery section from A to Z, I couldn’t find the recommended stuff. I did not want to give up and not get a book after traveling so far, and therefore opted to look for the books that won the Golden Dagger awards.

But they all had serial killers.

I’m done with serial killers. Very much done with them. The last mystery novel I’ve read that did not have a serial killer was gosh, nearly three years ago, when my friend D lent me Michael Nava’s The Little Death, a gay mystery novel that was wonderfully gritty and I think Ruth Rendall’s novel. But while I really liked Michael Nava’s writing, Ruth Rendall didn’t do it for me and I’m left without an author to follow.

I was quite disappointed that the trip was for nought. Eizwan bought an intellectual book, Reza Aslan’s No god but God, on my recommendation (who in turn was influenced by Rae) just to make the trip worthwhile and then bought me macarons from Harrods to cheer me up. Although I suspect that it was less to cheer me up, but more to feed his addiction. I introduced Eizwan to chocolate macarons about a week ago, and since then, he still tears up at the memory of eating them and speaks of them daily, fondly.

Later that evening, at my parents, I browsed for book recs online. As I went through them, I found myself getting profoundly angry. Most of the new mystery novels featured online were about serial killers. First pet peeve. Second pet peeve. They were all written in first person perspective. I hate, hate first person perspective. I personally feel that it’s laziness on the author’s part as opposed to actually sitting down to write but that’s irrelevant if the story can be good. Third pet peeve, there are so many books with epic titles but the synopsis can be well-disappointing and so insular that the interest wanes. If the title suggest the bone breaking, please have something as gory inside as opposed to kids finding their way in life after their mum abandons them or something.

I tried to whine to my cousin and my brother about it – except it’s less whining than shouting over the new American Idol. In between youngsters and Steve Tyler wailing at the same time, I had to shout over my complaints. I thought no one was paying attention to me since the tired old American Idol was commanding more attention than moi – when my brother responded:

“It’s all Hannibal Lecter’s fault. Everyone wants to write an epic serial killer after him.”

Huh. Is it true? Certainly, in my mind – no other fictional criminal in any police procedurals commands as much fear and respect as Hannibal Lecter. And certainly, I can’t think of fava beans without associating it with brains (Though I can’t think of brains without associating it with zombies, but that’s another story for another time). And it is tempting to come up with a foil to your hero, the Moriarty to your Sherlock, the Master to your Doctor, your Voldemort to your Harry Potter etc. the last two aren’t even mystery novels.

Still, it’s a shame though – I would much prefer to find out what would motivate one to kill, finding out the secret lives that people lead. Later in the evening, I found these two books that I’m going to take a risk on: Bloody Women by Helen Fitzgerald, about a woman who is about to marry, and as she ties up loose ends, she finds all her exes have been murdered, and naturally, she is the prime suspect. The second is Shadowplay by Karen Campbell. The book caught my eye since it revolved around a female DCI and a violent crime. I love strong female protagonists, so that would be something to just try out.

The other two books I plan on buying: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen – this book has caused so many people to froth at their mouths, including a harrowing play-by-play by Rae as she reads the book on Twitter, so I must check it out. And The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. I’ve heard about this book for a while, and I’ve heard how harrowing it is – so I have to wait till I’m mentally prepared enough to read. Books have a greater effect on me than movies and tv shows. It just sticks with you for a long, long time.