Monthly Archives: February 2008

A 9th perspective on ‘Vantage Point’ …

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….. and it can be summed up in just one word – CORNY!

When Fat Dragon & I watched ‘Vantage Point’ last Sunday, it felt very much like  ‘Ground Hog Day‘ – ‘The Kingdom’ ‘The Bourne’  trilogy all meshed into one. Fat Dragon aptly described it as a ‘CORNY’ movie.

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First things first, the storyline:

The President of the United States (President Ashton – William Hurt) is in Salamanca, Spain attending a breakthrough summit on global terrorism. Among the Secret Service detail protecting him are agents Kent Taylor (Matthew Fox) and Thomas Barnes (Dennis Quaid). Special attention is paid to the character Barnes – who took a bullet a year ago defending the President from an assassin and then suffered a nervous breakdown. Taylor, his Secret Service colleague is convinced he’s now ready for duty. There is dramatic tension as you wonder if the character is able to withstand the pressures of protecting the President during this assignment.

A large crowd is gathered at the Spanish plaza waiting for speeches from the dignitaries. An American tourist, Howard Lewis (Forest Whitaker), is amongst the crowd. He is recording everything going on around him with his camcorder. In the media truck, American TV news producer Rex Brooks (Sigourney Weaver) is capturing the event with many different cameras trained on the crowd and the President. 

Chaos ensues when President Ashton is shot just as he steps in front of the podium to give a speech at the Plaza Mayor. ….and a hunt for the assassin commences.” 

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The audience is required to piece 8 different perpectives together, as seen through the eyes of 8 different witnesses, on the same chain of events, before the storyline unfolds itself. When the President is felled by bullets, we think we know what has happened but the filmmakers show us that we haven’t got a clue to the real situation until many different characters reveal their part in the drama.

To do this, the director took us back to a clock ticking at the exact moment of 11: 55 am leading to 12pm each time over and over again (6 times to be exact) to introduce the different perspectives….hence the Ground Hog-esque feel. Each scene presents a different piece to fit into the puzzle. Once a serious or revealing moment is hit, the film stops & brings us back to 11:55 am….I’m sure the directors thought that this style of filming was supposed to pull a notch up on the element of suspence but instead it elicited …umm….some grunts, some sighs & some laughs even, from the audience when we were watching. Not exactly the desired effect that the directors had in mind I’m sure…..

The terrorism theme, the decoy bombing which leads up to a 2nd bombing & the use of emergency vehicles in the execution of terrorism acts were all reminiscent of scenes from The Kingdom.  So, even though the bombing scenes had us going for a while but …..‘hey, that seems familiar….’ keeps popping up at the back of our minds…..  

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The mandatory car chase (This, of course, is the Bourne-esque bit) at the end gave us the adrenalin fix that we desperately needed to neutralise the corny taste in our mouths by the 3rd quarter of the movie….. It succeeded in making us sit up straight in our seats alright… with close shots of cars speeding through narrow streets ….. MAN it even makes you WANT to own one of those cute European compacts that can obviously be revved up to the max… but credibility was an issue. Apparently, there are just not that many streets in Salamanca (Pop. 160,000) which is a University Town in Spain to support such a lengthy & spiced up car chase. How about that????

The plot was filled with holes. In the first place, I do not think that Secret Service would ever allow the President to appear in a public square (Plaza Mayor) which is surrounded by buildings with windows. This would be a security nightmare. Secondly, I don’t know much about security protocol but common logic would call for bags to be scanned no matter who it belongs to when you enter an area hosting events involving Heads of States? It does not make sense how a female security official  guarding the entrance would switch off the security bracket, allowing for the character Enrique to slip a bag containing a bomb through…..Yeah Yeah, we know he claimed to be Mayor’s police & that he was armed…. but he’s not supposed to be armed with a bomb, right? What a lame excuse to pave the way for a bomb scene indeed! 

Another point of contention for the movie is that Secret Service Agent Barnes was way too superhero to be true. He was truly invincible.

  • He survived a podium explosion where he was at ground zero position…(which puts him about 10 – 20 feet of the bomb).
  • He survived an accident which involved a TRUCK – (a 14 wheeler maybe- the size of which I might be exaggerating but who cares, it’s all in line with the spirit of the movie). Now the truck rammed into the passenger side of his car at high speed, pushing his car straight into a wall, leaving his car wrecked between the wall and the truck. He not only came out of this crash alive, he also came out of it without any broken bones ….. huh???????  Move aside John McClane (Die Hard), make way for Super Hero Agent Barnes…..!!!!!

Unbelievable though this movie may be, copycat though it may be….the movie does have entertainment value. Given the dearth of good action movies during this period, beggars cannot be choosers…(At least the movie is less ‘brain dead’ than ‘Jumper’ starring Hayden Christensen & Samuel L. Jackson which is showing concurrently with Vantage Point at the local cinema circuit). 

The last 15 mins of the movie is action packed with a heart pumping car chase and that will surely thrill you to be bone…umm…CORNY though it may be. That explains why it scored better with movie goers (B- Rating: Yahoo movies) than with critics (C Rating)…..well, only slightly better.

Enjoy your week at the movies…..

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…… Of obsessive compulsive disorders ……

 
I have been labled an obsessive-compulsive by Fat Dragon…. the reason being…
  • I cannot stand dirt in the house…so you will find me standing over you with a broom or a mop if you drop crumbs on the floor… I own 3 mops, 3 brooms, 3 pails….& numerous cleaning rags
  • When I have a task at hand, I obsess over it until its done. For example, when I’m researching & preparing a lesson plan, I sometimes don’t stop for meals. It’s just me… I just don’t like things hanging in the air…! Last year, I undertook the job of painting the garden walls of our house all by myself …once I got started…I couldn’t stop – & I ended up sunburnt! Sigh…
  • When I anticipate a happy event, I will get over excited & mull over it until I cannot sleep
  • When I worry, I will obsess over the cause of the worry…again…until I cannot sleep

According to Wikipedia:

“The phrase “obsessive-compulsive” has worked its way into the wider English lexicon, and is often used in an offhand manner to describe someone who is meticulous or absorbed in a cause  ……. It is also important to distinguish obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) from other types of anxiety, including the routine tension and stress that appear throughout life.  Although these signs are often present in OCD, a person who shows signs of infatuation or fixation with a subject/object, or displays traits such as perfectionism, does not necessarily have OCD, a specific and well-defined condition”.

HURRAY – so I’m NOT an obsessive compulsive after all, ummm…. not in clinical terms, that is. The broader English Language term seems to confirm I am one though …. sigh…

Do you remember the character that Jack Nicholson played in the comedy ‘As Good As It Gets”? You probably had a good laugh when he displayed some of the antics below but they really were classic manifestations / symptoms of an obsessive compulsive ……

  • he felt the need to wash his hands repeatedly.
  • he cleared his throat repeatedly even though there wasn’t a need to
  • he had a counting system arranging numbers in specific groups i.e. he went through the ritual of locking his apartment door three times every night before he went to sleep.
  • he had a fear of contamination especially when he confronted bodily secretions like urine, feces (hence his fear of getting close to his neighbour’s dog), saliva, sweat etc
  • he had a need for his body to feel evenly balanced hence he was careful to walk only on the flat tile surfaces of the walkway and not on the cracks….

Glad to declare I have none of the above symptoms displayed. PHEW! In real life, having an obsessive compulsive disorder is no laughing matter indeed. In fact, it is a condition which requires medical intervention be it in the form of drugs or even therapy. However, the good news is, most of us who think we have an OCD are really just ‘meticulous’ or maybe just ‘perfectionists’!! 

Well, come to think about it,  you could even be calling me a TIGHT A**    for all I care ………………….. but then, sure beats being labelled an obsessive compulsive, no? 

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….Halfway through the Chinese New Year of 2008…

pink-flower.jpg……….Well, it’s the 8th day of the Chinese New Year (CNY) today & this means that we’re halfway through the 15 day celebration for the CNY of 2008.  It has been eventful and memorable in its own way so far ………. 

Our family reunion dinner menu was a little different this year. We had the normal lotus root soup (lin ngau – every year you have), but strayed away from the fried black pomfret (yu – doubles up in sound for abundance), oyster & hair veggie (hou si fatt choi – good things & prosperity).   Instead we had homemade b-b-q pork (which was yummy), 2 roast ducks & raw fish. And my dear nephew even prepared a delicious fruit cocktail for us to enjoy for dessert later. Needless to say we were full to the brim that night. Probably packed a good extra 5 lbs too………

Fat Dragon & I caught up with some of his old Paulian mates this CNY. Guess the Old Boy’s reunion dinner in Aug, last year helped Fat Dragon reestablish contact with some long lost friends. It was great for me to meet new people & to hear stories of the past…especially the naughty ones. It was even great to see the other wives look shocked to hear the stories of the past … coz obviously they had no inkling of what their beloved was up to before… Never fear … it’s the naughty ones that become real stable when they’re middle aged … they’ve ‘been there, done it’ I say.      

We had an unexpected visitor during the CNY…… His name was Mylo & he’s a 2 month old Chihuahua. I’m not sure if he even weighs 3 lbs….seriously. He’s the latest member of the Fg Family & what a delight it was to see this teenie weenie little dog romping & sniffing around. His antics really put a smile on everyone’s face especially since he had a new collar around his neck. Every two steps he took was punctuated with a irritated scratch from his hind leg….. If he could talk he’d probably be saying “What on earth is this hanging over my neck……. why on earth am I not able to scratch it away…?) Well, he sure did wear himself out coz by the end of the evening… he crawled voluntarily into the little shoulder bag of the owner & tucked himself into a foetal position for a well deserved night’s rest!

We were privileged enough to be the select few invited to a Roaring Fortier’s OPEN HOUSE on the 2nd day of the CNY. The reason being – it was the NON HALAL session …. ahahaahahahahaha!!!!! (The Halal OPEN HOUSE was scheduled for the following day…… to which we were also invited but we politely declined, of course. More fun to be in the NON HALAL session).  It was so hilarious coz there was a free flow of roast pork (siew yok), wine & beer. Mind you the owners of the house had 5 crates of beer in their house that day thanks to Tesco which was selling them for as high as RM98.88 to as low as RM91.88 per crate. I absolutely agreed with them that the logical thing to do is to BUY BUY BUY more, to average the cost DOWN! Makes great economic sense.

Amid all the boozing & ‘porky’ intake, we managed to hook up on MSN Messenger with a Roaring Fortier who is living way up in London …..  it was delightful to have a reunion this way… & one needs to thank the innovations in technology for keeping friends together no matter how far away they are….

…Soon the CNY celebrations will be over. However, I will always appreciate the time of fellowship with loved ones & friends. Yes, time flies, but good friendship & family remain eternal. ……..

…….Let’s toast to that……

(compliments of Tesco’s RM91.88 per crate Carlsberg beer – limited days only)

The Crocs-Files….’The Truth is Out There’

xfiles-aliens.jpg….I now hand over the baton to …..

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I have a theory. I think the  Crocs  phenomenon is the now defunct X-files phenomenon in disguise. Why do I say that, you might ask? Well, let’s look at the time line. The X-files lasted 9 years from 1998 up to 2002 & Crocs, started in 2002 – just as if Crocs picked up where the X-files left off. Too much of a coincidence I say!  The plot thickens…… Both have their fair share of believers and the sceptics which is reminiscent of Mulder’s & Scully’s roles.  Last but not least, both phenomena are driven by one basic element. Aliens. In the X-files, its the invasion of aliens amongst humankind. In Crocs, it’s of course the invasion of croc like alien-shoes amongst human hearts…….ummm… feet I mean. 

It’s a unexplainable indeed. How on earth did this clunky, ‘plastic’,  aesthetically challenged sandal become such a huge footwear icon????? Many believe in the Crocs being the ‘truth’ in footwear, proudly attesting to its chiropractic, orthotic powers (the latest claim is that it has diabetes relieving properties – believe it or not). Many people whose professions require them to stand the whole day i.e. nurse, painters etc have claimed that Crocs have changed their lives. And most importantly, this product is able to generate over US300 million in yearly revenues (’06) for Croc Inc. & its share price has risen from about uS6 at the beginning of 2006 to as high as US69 in Oct 07.  (It has since plunged to about US29 per share @31.1.08 – but still a decent price, no?).   

What drives this phenomenon.. I wonder? Echoing the tagline from the X-Files

The Truth is Out There”……………….  

Truth No. 1 is that its application has grown by leaps & bounds. Crocs has humble beginnings. It started out as a ‘plastic’ sandal for boating because of its waterproof properties, non marking & slip resistant soles. That’s why Crocs started out with beach crocs which till today is one of its bestsellers still! However, it is worn for everything under the sun now. From hiking to shopping, from gardening to working the ubiquitous bright colours of crocs can be seen adorning the feet of millions of croc fans who scream & rave about its therapeutic abilities.  

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Truth No. 2 is that it appeals to the masses. Crocs are made of this light weight material called Croslite. Its supposed to be anti-bacterial, odour free,  slip resistant. The original design is also well ventilated thanks to the holes on top of the shoe to promote air flow. These functional properties appeal to both young and old, in other words – the masses. See the Crocs product banner above :  ‘crocs shoes are for everyone’. It’s a low maintenance, no fuss shoe which has prompted critics to say that its worn by people with a “anything goes” attitude. This is probably true given that some wearers have gone overboard to wear it for all occasions be it formal or informal ………. But, it is unfair to give the shoe a bad rap if the wearer is not able to match the propriety of their footwear to the occasion.  However, it is this very mass market appeal that I feel helps maintain a healthy sales level for the company. On the back of its declining share price end of last year, some models were totally sold out during the last X’mas season. So, do not be mistaken, the drop in share price is in no way reflective of declining consumer interest. It is more likely reflective of investors perception of the stock valuation instead. 

Truth no. 3 is comfort.  Crocs are a walking irony. They are a fashion disaster which has bucked the trend by endearing itself to a lot of wearer’s hearts. The shoe possesses a side profile which resembles its name sake – the crocodile. In fact this is why its creators were inspired to call them Crocs. At the risk of looking cartoonish, how attractive can a pair of shoes which looks like a reptile be? The answer is COMFORT. Crocs’ success clearly shows that comfort has won the tug-of-war over aesthetics. The cushy ‘cros-lite’ material used apparently form fits itself to the contour of the wearer’s feet. This very quality has made it popular amongst people whose jobs require them to stand on their feet all day i.e. nurses, painters, gardeners, etc. Although there have been complaints by podiatrists & chiropractors that people with feet or back trouble have overrated its benefits, many have claimed that the shoe has been ‘life-changing’. The crossover from recreational use to professional use has also added another pendulum for growth.  The crossover would not have been possible without the aid of ‘comfort’. 

Truth no. 4 is that the brand has benefitted from both good & bad publicity.  Anti Crocs websites like IhateCrocs represent a group of people who are out to ‘kill’ the brand. There have even been Croc burning ceremonies as a show of protest . There have been reports of accidents involving children wearing Crocs & escalators. There have also been reports from hospitals about added incidents of static shocks passed over from nurses wearing crocs to patients. But negative publicity is still publicity as propagated by advertisers. It attracts attention. It arouses the curiosity of people in general. In my opinion, this only serves to elevate the cult like status of Crocs. It propels the fence sitters to come out & try the shoe out – to seek the truth so to say.  So to avid Crocs haters, I say to you, perhaps your actions have resulted in an opposite reaction?          

Whether you are a Croc Mulder (believer) or a Croc Scully (sceptic), one cannot dispute the success of the brand.  It’s strong revenue bears testimony to the strength of the brand. What can go wrong? …….

Well, the company will probably have to brace the emergence of a Cancer Man  in their success story. He could come in the form of ‘a passing fad’ maybe, or in the form of a  ‘new competing brand’?……. Who knows?  Important thing is crocs is out to prove that they’re the ones who are understand your feet best …… And you can be sure they’re not about to entrust this responsibility to anyone else in the near future. Don’t be surprised if they pitch the following to you…….. 

“TRUST NO ONE 

but Crocs to take care of your feet!!!!”

p.s. The company is aware of the market challenges ahead of them. They have come up with new lines which are more aesthetically pleasing & are seeking to expand the application to include a line for ‘diabetics’…(how will that work, I wonder?).

p.p.s. BTW, I DO NOT OWN a pair of Crocs….. Fat Dragon has 2 pairs. I think that  more than makes up the statistics for ‘number of crocs per household’. So you see, I’m the Mulder of the family….& Fat Dragon, the Scully. 🙂