Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Compliment I Don't Give Out Much

          Even though I sometimes come off as mean and sardonic, I feel like I am one to give a lot of compliments. I just can't help commenting on things I see that I like (or things I see that don't like). But today I realized a compliment I don't give out much. Today, I was so impressed with an acquaintance's ability to socialize. 
          For me, it's easy to socialize with people who speak English and who are adequately social themselves. But maintaining a conversation with a Thai or Japanese person (my second and third languages) who I just met and who isn't particularly social takes effort. Nevertheless, I always feel a sort of obligation to keep the conversation running and interesting, for both parties. Awkward silences are just too awkward for me, why I am naturally compelled to be the conversation facilitator. 
          Because I'm like this, I have an uncanny sense for when a pause is coming up. The rhythm of talk just signals me when a topic is ending, and my instincts will then tell me that I need to think of a new and engaging topic - fast! But today, I admit I was a little tired and not feeling particularly social during lunch. And it was in the middle of it when I realized that my acquaintance was the one holding the conservation together. I just had to admire. He was so great at it!  He facilitates the way I do (or at least hope I do), directing the conversation to a topic that is authentically intriguing and thus sincerely sustainable. None of that small-talk stuff (i.e. "isn't it hot these days...").  
          It was a kind of aha moment for me. And I realized the compliment I would offer in the situation was exceptionally meaningful.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Feel You, Dude.

         A particular CNNgo article recently became quite the talk of the social media sphere here in Bangkok. In fact, the online article itself was a story in this morning's news show. A testimony to the hype it has created, I can still see related discussions on my newsfeed right now, even though it was 3 days ago when I was first linked to it by a friend on Facebook. I'll even admit to then fueling the trend by sharing it to my mom. (Yes, she and I are quite connected on the social network.)
          I can't generalize whether the editorial gained popularity because people liked it (by this, I mean pre-Facebook-era liking) or because they more so found it impudently offensive. Personally, when I read the article I thought it was my writing on my opinions, which means yes, I praise the article. And my admiration comes with self-loathe for not releasing it first... Anyways, if you're really looking for one, there is a legitimate blanket statement that can be made about people's reception of the article. That is, whether they appreciate it or not, people accept the accuracy of the content
So, what exactly was the article about, you ask?
Since the article is already written dammit, I'm just going to pay tribute by sharing my reactions to it. 
*If you didn't like the article and do not wish to be further offended, I suggest you return to your Facebooking until my next photography post comes out*

  • Firstly, I think the editor's apologetic foreword is so deja vu. I have dreams of writing such statements after my imaginary article offends society at large.
  • #10: ACCURATE. This guy is good! 
  • #9: It would kill Thais to eat pizza without ketchup. Here's a thought: ketchup isn't Italian, nor is mayonnaise Japanese... Just sayin'.
  • #8: "Sure, just come on in before I get out so that I can have the pleasure of violently pushing you on my way out." Soooo efficient. 
  • #7: God, this annoys me so much. I admit that I don't like strong sun-rays, but I have no problem with tans and I HATE the WHITE = BEAUTY bullshit that is socialized here. Trust me, there are a whole lot of ugly fair-skinned people out there!
  • #6: I'm sorry, but the majority of Thais who are spotted sipping wine at some classy Bistro uptown are big fakers. Oblige them to wine-shop, and you'll see. B.S.
  • #5: "With a smile like that I totally forgive you for being 3 hours late." =]
  • #4: Now I don't feel so bad about not speaking "femininely enough". Turns out I was just being real. 
  • #3:  I don't get why the real name is necessary if people are destined to not use it. 
  • #2: Recently, when I suggested walking to a walking-distance destination, the person looked at me strange, then laughed and said, "Thais don't walk." Touche. 
  • #1: What bugs me even more is when they STOP right in front of escalators. !@#$%^&*

Picture from
This made me laugh.
The irony is that Thais who enjoyed the article, read it and thought, "Hooo yea, I do that!"
- Mika

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Boy, This Post Took Me A Long Time To Finish

          Last week I showed myself that I can have a sick obsession with independent films. I was so devoted to attending the EU Film Fest everyday from Tuesday to Saturday that I was in denial that it was the cause of my head- and backaches. It was the humidity. Stupid humidity.
          I saw a total of 14 out of the 23 EU films. Wow, 14 stories in 5 days? I wish I could do that with books. Now of course I'm going to offer gratuitous reviews about each of the film I saw. But before that, I think I need to come out here and say that I do not go to film festivals to decay my livelihood. Nor do I go to forcefully "enhance my intelligence". These seem to be common misconceptions of my fascination with indie film marathons. Keep calm. I'm not that ambitious. I simply love edgy stories that you don't get everyday. These stories inevitably inspire critical analysis (a.k.a. discussions in my brain). And that naturally keeps the gears turning up there.
          So comes the transcription of the discussions in my head into more coherent forms in this blogpost. Hopefully, I've condensed them to sane sizes. Without further stalling, my takes from least favorite film to favorite...

14. Charlotte: A Royal At War
Because this film happens to be a documentary, I regret having to rank it last for the fear that you will think I'm just another kid who doesn't appreciate documentaries. Let me assure you that there have been documentaries which have moved me, but this one betrays the genre by following the stereotype of boring History Channel programs. In a nutshell, Charlotte was the monarch of Luxembourg during World War II who is remembered for giving her citizens hope during the Nazi occupation of the country. The film fails because I was not convinced that she was particularly instrumental in Luxembourg's liberation. Reenactments of her broadcasted speech just made her seem incompetent and replaceable, emphasizing how the words weren't even hers. Focusing on the fact that Charlotte and her family escaped Luxembourg and were never there when it was seized by Nazi majorly discredits their "efforts to protect" Luxembourg. We see tears of love for the monarchy wetting the eyes of Luxembourgers, but the documentary's selection and presentation of facts doesn't allow us to understand their emotions. It's just disappointing.

13. Morgen
You can miss the entire midsection and still understand what it's about - the problem of border control and illegal immigrants in Europe - which means that storytelling was at fault here. The film is forgettable. It lacks in emotion and doesn't qualify for deadpan satire either. Wasn't even particularly visually attractive. 

12. "North Face"
A bit to literal for me. The synopsis actually holds back nothing. North Face really is about professional mountain climbers climbing a mountain. Cinematography-wise however, the film was superb. It is beyond me how the movie-makers were able to capture footage of the icy terrain at such treacherous altitudes. Also, the visual contrast between the climbers' experience and that of their bourgeoisie spectators did effectively irritate me.  It's just that I don't identify with the sport.

11. "The Strange Case of Angelica"
Okay, the story is quite easy to follow - photographer becomes obsessively infatuated with dead girl after taking her picture - but you are ultimately left confused with the point of the story. The story goes nowhere, and the film taught me nothing, except perhaps what is  choppy acting. Also, I don't know if this was done on purpose or not, but I did not dig the excessive lingering of scenes after the actors have exited. "What am I waiting to for to happen??" I swear the lingerings were  up to 10 seconds long. Good grief. 

10. Joanna
This film could have easily scored much higher on my list, but the ending distastefully killed the intensity of the climax. It was just too sudden and void of emotional weight, leading us to forget all the horrific experiences the main characters dealt with, living in the time of Nazi domination. I feel like a potentially powerful film was robbed by its own ending. Some of the scenes were gold in depicting some of the worse abuses in WWII.

9. Made in Hungaria
Knowing myself as a sucker for the 50's and 60's and for musicals, it surprises even me that this movie didn't score higher in my book. I mean the film is very attractive, very entertaining. I enjoyed the rockabilly music sung in foreign tongue. It has even got a meaningful underlying message (rebelling against Nazi propaganda). So why such low ranking? Well, I guess the lightness of good ole rock 'n roll isn't as affecting as the following styles.

8. "The Flying Pigs"
Despite the fact that the film was a little predictable, I did think that the idea was the most original. Instead of another film about soccer/football players, this is a film about their fans - specifically the hooligans. And I must comment that the opening sequence was exciting to watch and a perfect introduction to what hooligans actually are.  Memorable.

7. "Everlasting Moments"
It did feel rather drawn out, but as a lover of cameras, I have to praise this film for showcasing the beauty of film photography. Note the mention of photography rather than photographs. Yes, film photos are figuratively lightyears ahead of digital photos in beauty. However consider this: film plates produced only one picture each (like a polaroid), and in the 1900s, photography was an esoteric hobby - it took exceptional skill and financial capability to maintain a camera. Now welcome an unlikely character to come across the hobby: a poor woman married to an abusive husband who cheats on her and rapes her. "Everlasting Moments" is narrated by one of her daughter, and at the end the daughter says a line that just haunts my soul: "it was the only picture my mother ever took of herself." I couldn't help but think how much more valuable this self-portrait is compared to all the rubbish cam-whore pictures we take of ourselves in this age. The main character was old before she took a photo of herself on her deathbed. I've already destroyed my chances of ever taking a self-portrait worth that much. Can you relate? 

6. "A Perfect Day"
Quirky and violent, which when you think of about it sounds like a conflicting combination. Not a movie everyone will understand and appreciate particularly because of the offbeat rhythm of the storytelling. The reason I lean towards liking this movie is because I find the storyline original, consequently intriguing. It's no fairytale, I tell you that. And no Hallmark movie either. Don't be fooled by the title, promotional poster, and (misleadingly vague) synopsis.

5. Turquaze
I thought the theme was particularly fascinating: modern racism between Turks and Belgians. The movie presents the issue through romances between individuals of the conflicting ethnicities. It is what you expect of a European independent film, which in no way implies that it doesn't satisfy. The story guarantees poignant moments. The cinematography is beautiful. And we can't resist being attracted to romanticism details such as a young man fulfilling his late father's dream of playing in a brass band. At least I know I'm a sucker for underrated instrumentalists.

4. "The Substitute"
A guilty pleasure. It was enjoyably Hollywood. I appreciate bright children actors who are able to avoid humor cliches that often plague scripts for children. It's a good trend we're moving towards these days, recognizing that humor from kids doesn't necessarily have to be childish. Also, the whole fantasy-sci-fi genre of this movie was done very tastefully. Outrageous enough to be jovially entertaining, while dark elements keep it sophisticated. 

3. Trishna

The setting of Slumdog meets the theme of  A Thousand Splendid Suns. Riveting. Moving. And gave me silent screams at times. The highlight of Trishna for me are characters you love and despise at the same time. They just tear your emotions apart. I admit, character development could have been a little better, but that's more of an issue with storytelling than acting. The movie, for one thing, should have illustrated exactly why *SPOILER* a prince charming of a character would destruct into a violent personality *END SPOILER* Nonetheless, I thought the actors were very believeable in portraying their symbolic roles. And I'm so relieved the ending did not kill a good story, as was the case with other films in this festival.

2. Soul Kitchen
Funny, yummy, romantic, kinky = soulful indeed! Some parts of the movie reminded me of the movie Snatch and the book Like Water for Chocolate (if that offers any significance)There were actually lots of elements in the plot, but the pacing was really well executed and the movie came out coherent. The characters were lovable and unique. Cinematography was excellent.  I love the fusion of upbeat dining, music, and dancing. And underneath all these technical details, there is a story that is engaging and enthralling. I have so many favorite scenes. The audience clapped at the end of this one. 

1. "18 Meals"
Spain steals my heart again this year! And there seems to be a new winning streak with culinary films. "18 Meals" is cinematically delicious. Humor perfectly cooked. Each subplot served in delightful, alternating portions, complementing each other. Fue fantastico! The movie is slightly reminiscent of Valentine's Day (2010), but "18 Meals" has more depth and isn't so lovey-dovey. You know that feeling you get after finishing an indulgent meal at your favorite restaurant? That's the feeling I got after watching this film. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A month after the last day of freshman year, my summer has finally begun.

          As you know I just came back from the United Asians Debating Championships in Malaysia (9 days of exhausting your brain and belly), and right now I am more than ready to toss responsibilities out the window - or shove them maliciously off a building to be more precise. 
          Since finals week, I have been envisioning an ideal summer life of doing nothing but producing art, reading, watching movies, and spending time with loved ones under the absence of duty. Already, I am fulfilling my summer calling. Yesterday, I met up with Micah and Namwan, and we the three of us did some serious damage on Wii Just Dance and Dance Dance Revolution. I just had to confirm if they woke up sore this morning too. (Affirmative.) Besides the high-adrenaline fun, it was incredibly satisfying to just talk and laugh with the two over dessert. It amazes me how easy it was to arrange this last minute hangout (Micah is heading off to college in the US) and how easy it also was to say "goodbye" and "see you in perhaps a year". Same thing with tonight's farewell party for the Montgomerys, two teachers who have significantly shaped my character and outlook on life, society, and humanities (pretty much everything). For me, it didn't feel like the last time I would ever see them. It was just gold to see and talk to them as always. The dinner was attended by about 20 of my high school class, the ones who have remained here or have returned for the summer. There was also a gratifying warmth in seeing that "Two Oh Eleven" is essentially the same despite having gone our separate ways after grad: while we'll always have those we relate to more than others in the class,we are still completely capable of coming together as one class, one family. I used to try to convince myself that I was biased in thinking this as an exclusive trait of my class, but now I know better and save myself the energy. 
          Peeking a little into the future, my summer looks like it's going to be the best one yet. Tomorrow I get started on a seasonal addiction of mine: the European Union Film Festival. (Will post a day-by-day schedule of the films next.) In other news, I am impatient to get my next roll of film developed, I want to go shopping so badly, and I'm excited about all the books I'm going to read and that Pae is coming home in the week.  


My favorite candid moments of the Chula contingents in Malaysia.