sputnik sweetheart

Murakami is famed for his weird, random and out-of-this-world plots. If you ever gave me a chapter out of his book at random without telling me its origins, I would be able to spot his unmistakable style.  Always drifting between reality and the imaginary, delving into topics like lesbianism and illicit affairs. Loners never fail to take the center stage as protagonists, and imperfection is the norm. In sputnik sweetheart, characters have a doppelganger, a self that has split away from the original who takes on a life of its own. When the doppelganger has crossed over to the other side, the remaining shell of the individual is left drained of a soul, empty and meaningless. Sumire, with whom all other characters in the book intersect at some point, had disappeared like smoke while holidaying with her crush Miu. Miu’s rejection of Sumire in real life led her to the theory of crossing over to the other side, so Sumire could be united with Miu’s doppelganger in another world.

“I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”

-Yohji Yamamoto

Rarely do I come across perfect women with glossy lives in his books. Some aspect of their personality or outlook is queer enough to steer the plot in a certain direction. The Japanese have an eye for beauty in an unconventional sense. They understand that perfection is unrealistic and therefore, unreal. Murakami emphasizes that when K falls in love with a plain-looking, possibly asexual Sumire who never returns his affections, but instead falls for another woman, Miu, who is exquisite outside but incomplete and detached inside. The only clue to Miu’s brokenness is her full head of snow white hair, which she has ceased to dye but has embraced its natural beauty. What left me pining for closure was that the 3 characters in the love-chain were neither emotionally nor physically satisfied in the end. Life ain’t as convenient as a drama serial ending, and that wanting unfulfilled can lead people into a state of delusion, unable to draw a line between both sides of the world. Life has that element of imperfection that things we cannot control spurn beyond what we had imagined. Drawing beauty out of dysfunction and coming to a closure over someone who had disappeared in our lives, whether deliberately or otherwise, based on our imagination, is the best way to remember him or her.

Love is a mysterious force that defies logic. Someone could be plain to the rest of the world but to a particular someone, the way your eyes connect with his/hers, the style of your old-fashioned clothes, the way your soul connects to him/her, makes his/her heart race and blood to rush to do its magic. A straight guy with a ravenous sex-drive falling for an asexual/lesbian girl, a lesbian girl falling for a married lady 16 years her senior, who is already married to a man whom she has no sexual relations with. And the straight guy who goes around shacking women whom he has no feelings for. It takes some time to dissect love away from sex because apparently, sex does not equal love, though love is best expressed through sex.

Here’s to celebrating beauty in dysfunction. Leave it to the Japanese to teach us that. Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi is “to repair with gold”, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Beauty amidst brokenness, displaying scars as a work of art.

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The apocalypse as told by X-men

We’ve heard that 2012 was the year that the world would end. Therefore the superstitious ones waited in trepidation for the moon to turn red or the blood moons to appear, driving stock prices haywire and giving the atheists another reason to mock the obsessedly religious. Not that I don’t believe in the apocalypse, but to go as far as to predict when it would happen is downright outrageous and brashly stupid. This bombastic-sounding word has instilled fear and spawned many interpretations of how it would unfold. Hollywood has its version too, and X-men narrates it as such:

  1. It all revolves around USA

Yep, it’s all about them, every evil force wants to bring them down and USA will prevail eventually.  Notice it’s always the Golden Gate Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge exploding into flames and skyscrapers like the ESB crashing into smithereens. Looks like Asia is forgotten and therefore, pretty safe. Needless to say, they probably don’t even know where Singapore is so we’re spared from the apocalypse.

  1. Superheroes/mutants are fickle

They switch loyalties very quickly in an attempt to create twists in plot for the viewer. OK it’s forgivable since the whole story has to be told within 2 hours? Characters always have that internal struggle that leaves them mulling over joining forces on the good or evil side. This is a method for plot-lengthening, making indecision seem so noble from a third party point of view. In real life, indecision of any sort is uncool.

  1. They are not all powerful

If you’ve got this power, you don’t have that. And that’s where teamwork comes into place, one tries to make up for what another lacks, and that creates some kind of tension as they fight evil forces with combined powers that complement each other. Bottom line is, togetherness or unity, wins. Some kind of moral lesson that kids can take home so it’s not completely about mayhem and catastrophe.

  1. Everyone needs a fair share of screen time, even though the scene is wasting film

While the good and evil forces battle it out, we may have forgotten about wolverine and what happened to him. So to get that point across, a supercharged wolverine comes charging out of a cage and leaving a trail of carnage in his path. And the mind-reader lady manages to hypnotize him and tame his wild tendencies. Therefore he regains his sanity and charges off into the woods, half-naked and covered with blood. Not sure what to make up of that.

  1. They love to draw parallels/ get ideas from the Bible

They claim the apocalypse is being brought about by four distinct evil forces, similar to the four horsemen who would bring about the events leading to the end of the world as narrated in the Bible.  The mutants even went on as far as to say the Bible copied their ideas on the four forces.  As the plot unraveled, phrases like ‘Tower of Babel’, and the evil protagonist claiming to have been called ‘Elohim’, were doled out. Seems like the Judeo-Christian influence on Hollywood is here to stay, as with films with some sort of Biblical reference. America’s founding constitutions have been built on faith-based principles.

  1. Jews are in the spotlight

Many of the movers and shakers in the film industry are Jewish, so to bring in a part of their history into films looks normal. The evil protagonist brings Magneto back to the times his parents were sent to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. OK that is sufficient reason to turn against the world because of the gravity of trespass against his family, first his parents, then his wife and daughter who were killed by the local police because of his mutant identity. Bringing up the Holocaust is sure to tug the heartstrings of any Jewish soul, and reminds the world of what evil man is capable of.

I have a new heroine

Impressive. I happened to watch this snippet on Aung San Suu Kyi’s view on Singapore’s success. She questioned the purpose of work, the workforce and material wealth and how that has influenced the Singaporean society and her success in amassing wealth and high standards.

Is that the ultimate aim of human beings? Is that what we all want?

 

She was curious at the opportunity cost in the quest for the kind of success Singapore has been known for showcasing to the world. How has the focus on materialism changed what people value in life? I liked the way she attested to the limitless capacity for human progress beyond material wealth, smashing the cookie-cutter dogma of success that has been ingrained into many aspects of life over the years.

A more relaxed way of life and closer family relations seem more rewarding than vying to be the top rat in the rat race.  Moreover, everyone’s definition of success is different, and if you can look back with no regrets at how you’ve spent your youth building what matters to you, then you have done it right.

Just a side note, some people get more beautiful with age, and she’s one of them. I like her graceful gait and that steely determination in her eyes, while diminutive, her presence speaks volumes, amplified by that impeccable Queen’s English. Well yes, maybe I’ll just have to visit Myanmar to see what you have to offer.

The fight for democracy had been a long and arduous road, and she sacrificed freedom and rights for a cause she staunchly held on to. Being true to oneself and sticking by your beliefs till it bears fruit, that’s successful.

Annie Leibovitz WOMENxUBS

Here’s a post to one of my favorite photographers, Annie Leibovitz, who swung by Singapore to showcase some of her best portraits of women. Feminism is the underlying theme, as we see a wide spectrum of women being captured, from actors to musicians, LGBTs and activists, history makers and game changers graced the canvasses.

The exhibition runs till 22 May at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station and admission is free.

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