Stranger Than Fiction, in which IRS agent Will Ferell hears Emma Thompson’s voice in his head and realizes he is a character in a novel she is writing, reminded me of two short novels I enjoyed very much in college (They weren’t in the curriculum): The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold by Evelyn Waugh, in which the protagonist hears voices annotating his life, and The Comforters by Muriel Spark, in which the heroine hears someone typing out her life story and realizes she is in a novel.
Archive for January, 2007
Not that it required psychic powers to foretell this outcome.
40 – 0, Destiny
Emotional Weather Report, 26 Jan 2007
The tennis season is well underway, and the first grand slam event of the year is nearly over. Shortly we will know which players are to face each other in the finals. Unless there has been some great upheaval in the last couple of days, or his opponents have suddenly unleashed mutant powers, there is no reason to think that Roger Federer won’t take the Australian Open championship this year. The way he’s taken three of the last four grand slams, five of the last eight, and eight of the last twelve.
The only players who have stood in the way of total annihilation are Rafael Nadal, who’s won the last two French Opens, and Marat Safin, who won at Melbourne in 2005. As of this writing Nadal is still in the draw, having survived a strong challenge from Andy Murray (“Scottish tennis player” used to be an oxymoron; Monty Python even had a sketch about it). My favorite Russian was bounced out in the third round by a resurgent Andy Roddick. Roddick had surprised The Fed at a tournament in Kooyong earlier this month, giving Roddick fans hope that the era of the Federer-Roddick rivalry, awaited since 2003, has finally arrived. True, The Fed was uncharacteristically sluggish and out of it during that match, but maybe Roddick, with the help of his coach Jimmy Connors, has found the chink in the king’s armor. I think it was a confluence of factors: The Fed on an off-day, and Roddick aching for revenge after he was slaughtered in the fourth set of the US Open final.
The sport has always thrived on great rivalries: Borg v. McEnroe, McEnroe v. Lendl, Becker v. Edberg, Graf v. Seles (which had the added drama of an on-court knife attack), Sampras v. Agassi, Hingis v. Williams. Rivals push each other to greater achievement, and it is interesting to note how the retirement of one is often followed by the decline of the other (and not just due to age). The great rivalry of the past year was Federer v. Nadal. Nadal with his Popeye the Sailor Man arms and incredible energy rattled the usually unflappable Federer. Shots that should’ve been unreturnable somehow made their way back across the net, and with enough pace to nullify the Federer backhand. Last year Nadal denied The Fed the honor of matching Rod Laver’s Grand Slam (four slams in one calendar year). However, following his sizzling run at Wimbledon (where he negated the conventional wisdom that clay courters are useless on grass), Nadal faltered and was not much of a factor for the rest of the year.
Your “enemy”, someone said, is the instrument of your destiny, and Roger Federer’s destiny is to be the greatest tennis player in the history of the world. That is not exaggeration or fandom, just a fact. His main competitor for the title, Pete Sampras, has already conceded. So far The Fed has marched towards his destiny without a true arch-rival to push his game. He has no equal; he is so ahead of the field as to be in another galaxy altogether. His forehand is perfection, his backhand is a thing of beauty, the variety and placement of his shots is unparalleled. He can play from the baseline and he can serve-and-volley; his game is a graceful combination of the two. He doesn’t even have to chase the ball because he knows where it’s going the moment it makes contact with the racquet strings. I suspect that like dolphins and bats, he can pinpoint location from the way sound waves bounce. Amazingly, his game is still improving. His tennis computer-brain analyzes mistakes and automatically installs countermeasures in the software. He makes tennis look easy. On-court even his hair looks good.
By default, anyone writing about The Fed becomes a fan. What are you gonna do, complain about his dominance? Then he reminds us that he is, after all, human, by bursting into tears after a victory.
Like all sport the game of tennis is full of ritual and superstition, and by praising The Fed before the final I may be accused of hexing him through vicarious hubris. Fans like to believe that their allegiance has some impact on an idol’s game: by concentrating on the ball they can make it defy the laws of physics, by giving his opponent the evil eye they can cause him to double-fault. So now Federer fans are in a bind. The Fed doesn’t need them to smash opponents. He’s so good, they are reduced to wishing he would need a little help.
I know why the Philippines is rarely covered in the international media (unless the story involves Imelda Marcos or a ferry sinking). Banana republics are so ’80s. The Philippines got its 15 minutes in 1986, but like a spurned Dancing/Skating With The Stars contestant who insists on trundling out her old routines, we keep repeating ourselves. We’re like Flock of Seagulls on tour. We have to find some new schtick because the Latin American banana republics have gotten their acts together and moved on. Evil landlords, rebels in the hills, street demonstrations, how quaint. Now if the Philippines were a former Soviet republic no one had ever heard of, the foreign media would be all over Manila like drunken sailors. How about Philipstan?
Here’s a Guardian piece on David Byrne, Imelda: The Nightclub Years.
Peque Gallaga coined the phrase “Cinema of the Intent” to describe movies that are judged for the filmmakers’ intentions (taking on the important issues of the day blah blah blah) rather than what they’ve actually achieved. Babel is a prime example of the Cinema of the Intent. It’s supposed to be about how we are all connected, but all it says to me is, “Don’t go to Morocco, don’t go to Mexico, and watch out for them nasty Japanese schoolgirls!” I wanted to hurl my cellphone at the screen, then I remembered that I have a newspaper column. Life is good.
Children of Men, now there’s a movie.
Lito Lapid became a movie star in the late 70s by playing daredevil heroes in local westerns. Audiences looked forward to his dangerous, death-defying stunts. According to a friend who’d seen these movies, one trademark stunt involved a bullet and a bolo (big-ass knife). Lapid’s character has only one bullet left in his gun, but there two villains coming towards him. How can he shoot two men with just one bullet? Simple. He takes the bolo and holds it in front of him, the blade’s edge out. Then he aims the gun at the edge of the bolo and fires. The bullet hits the edge and splits in two, and each half puts out its intended target. Wow. If anyone else had tried that trick it might’ve been ruled a suicide. Then again, if the bullet had a velocity of X meters per second and it was made of pudding. . .