Saturday, May 10, 2003

A Deserving Liverpool?

Does Liverpool deserve Champions League football next season? We will find out tomorrow tonight by their performance against Chelsea. It is a winners-take-all battle to decide which team takes fourth placing in the Premier League and a qualification for Europe's most pretigious tournament - the Champion's League.

Liverpool's away record at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's home ground has not been good but I was surprised to hear the panelists in ESPN last night - all three of them - predicting a win for Liverpool. Most claim Liverpool has a knack for winning crucial "cup final" matches. The occassion will suit them and the players will rise to the occassion to produce one or two moments of magic to clinch the match.

Chelsea has players who could produce magic too; especially the person they call the Magician himself, Zianfranco Zola. Chelsea also has exciting players in Hasslebank, Lampard and GudJohnssen. It will be an interesting encounter but unfortunately I won't be able to watch it live as they are showing it on Startsport, not ESPN which my hotel receives.

Whichever team wins, it has been an exciting season for the English Premier League with fierce battles for the title itself between Arsenal and eventual champions Manchester United; and on the other end of the table, West Ham, Bolton and Aston Villa are also fighting a nail-biting finish to avoid relegation.

The general opinion is that Liverpool has had a disappointing season despite winning the Worthington's Cup. Hopefully they'll do better next season. I am glad to be following and supporting my favourite club again after a break of more than a decade!

Friday, May 09, 2003

Mesmerising Mailer

Just finished reading An American Dream by Norman Mailer last night. Mailer has always interested me ever since I read at least three quarters of his saga on Pharaonic Egyptians, Ancient Evenings when I was in my early teens. Even though I found his work rich in metaphors and imagery then, the subject matter was a bit too sexual and the pace was too dull for me to continue. But it was a very educational book for me, the images stuck in my mind until now.

Since that early encounter with Mailer, I've had the opportunity to sample some of his essays and interviews. He interests me because he is the classic hard-drinking, womanizing, no-punches pulled macho writer reminiscent of Hemingway. His prose is tough, poetic and vulgar at the same time.

An American Dream is probably a good introduction to his works. It is not too daunting as a book compared to the brick-like Harlot's Ghost. The plot is simple and the narration is in first person. It is about a man who murdered his wife in a fit of lunacy. We follow his escapades for a day and a half after that murder; this includes torrid sex with his wife's maid, interrogation by the police, a fling with a mobster-linked lounge singer and a final tense confrontation with his wealthy but offensive father-in-law - all the events occur in a blur of drunkeness and lunatic hallucination. The prose moves in stream-of-consciousness urgency, dense with pungent metaphors.

This is a powerful piece of work but it is not for everyone's taste. Some will be repelled by the over-the-top wordiness which induces a certain lunacy in the reader's mind after a while. But that is also the strength of this novel. Mailer will never be contented with a simple murder story; we are instead thrust into the demented mind of the protagonist, Rojack as he lunges and rages through his encounters with a variety of interesting characters; in settings ranging from opulent upper-class New York apartments to seedy bars and banal police stations all through this reckless odyssey.

I had enjoyed this Mailer very much and should look forward to more of his works in the near future.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Musings on Art

The act of creating a work of art - any work of art - is a mysterious and sacred one. Artists and poets of antiquity invoked the help of the Muses, daughters of the Greek God Zeus, who are patrons of the arts and sciences, provider of inspiration and guidance to the beleaguered artist. It is not a false belief that some kind of divine force is at work whenever an artist, be it a woodcarver or a Hollywood filmaker, translates something that's in the realm of the imagination into the material world. Sometimes the artist himself is surprised at how such beautiful ideas come into being. Absorbed in the act of painting or writing, the artist at his most productive, is akin to be being in a trance - being in tune with higher forces beyond the mundane realm of everyday life.

I believe artistic expression is an act of divine worship. The artist is a channel for the creative impulses of nature to burst into time and space. Works of arts exists in the eternal realm, like Platonic Ideals, and the creative artist connects to this reservoir of treasures, catches a glimpse of the Infinite Beauty and conveys them through whatever medium that exists in the material world - words, colours, sound, marble or movement. To do art is to worship God. And a good artist is in essence a spiritual person.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Inundated by Inul

A lot of fuss have been kicked up in Indonesia recently over the so-called "erotic" dangdut dancing of Inul Daratista. Her style of dangdut with sexy hip gyrations have drawn criticisms from Muslim clerics and self-styled moral guardians of Indonesia, including the veteran dangdut artist Rhoma Irama.

But Inul has her supporters too - including former President Abdurrahman Wahid. There was even a demonstration in Jakarta by a woman's group in support of her. All the controversy has actually helped the career of this young singer who was virtually an unknown before. In fact, she has yet to release her own album. Now she commands a high performance fee and her appearances on TV have been very frequent.

Personally I was surprised by the outroar that this whole thing has generated. Indonesia as a Muslim country is a lot more tolerant and open than Malaysia. Female artistes dress a lot more sexily here compared to Malaysian ones and they are allowed to appear on national TV in their revealing attires. Kissing scenes in Indonesian movies are normal - something you'll never see in a Malaysian Malay movie.

And on the satellite channel Fashion TV, beamed into many households, models parade topless. So what's the fuss about a dangdut singer who sings and dances, and does well on both ends?

Monday, May 05, 2003

Another scintillating weekend of English Premier League football saw Manchester United crowned as champions. Leeds United shocked title challengers Arsenal to a 3-2 home defeat, ending Arsenal's championship dreams and saving Leeds from relegation. On Saturday both Champion's League contenders Chelsea and Liverpool slumped to defeats, setting the stage for a winners-take-all battle royale at Stamford Bridge next weekend to determine the last place for European elite football. Newscatle earlier qualified by guaranteeing a 3rd place finish through their win against Sunderland.

Liverpool were unlucky to be beaten by Manchester City, 2-1. I hope they will rise to the occassion in their final match of the season against Chelsea. I will be behind you, Mighty Reds. As the motto goes "You Will Never Walk Alone".