Hope

 

A beauty in the crowd,

Floating like a cloud;

With a magic charm

Like a fragrance worn.

Never fearful not scared,

In the face of hurt;

Unafraid of pain,

With not a complaint.

Persistant and so brave

To not be enslaved;

Hope is perennial

And perceptible.

Life can sometimes annoy

But there’s also joy;

Drown not in the blues

Or there’s much to lose.

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Love Is Around

 

Dawn has broken,

The sky is still grey;

I feel misbegotten

And in disarray.

A new member

In the world of grief,

I feel lost and wonder

What is underneath.

There is a voice

That says love’s around;

That it’ll metamorphose

Until you’re spellbound.

It’s inexplicable,

But it’s not a dream;

Hurts are inevitable,

But soon there’ll be a gleam.

Jason Bourne

I did not watch Jason Bourne (2016) at the cinema because I did not enjoy The Bourne Legacy, though I liked the first three films in the series (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy & The Bourne Ultimatum).

This movie is based on the characters created by Robert Ludlum and produced by Matt Damon. Matt Damon is Jason Bourne, a former CIA assasin and psychogenic amnesiac.

This film opens with Bourne making a living by taking part in fighting bouts in Tsamantas, Greece. Meanwhile, in Reykjavik, Ireland, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), Bourne’s former contact sent into hiding, hacks into the CIA’s computer operations programmes. This alerts Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), head of cybersecurity and CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones).

Parsons travels to Athens to find Bourne. They meet at Syntagma Square, trying to evade the CIA teams. Unfortunately, Parsons is shot dead. Bourne then travels to Berlin, where he gathers enough information to track down Malcolm Smith (Bill Camp), a former CIA analyst who retired to the private sector, in London, meeting him in Paddington Plaza. Smith gets killed and Bourne finds his way to a technology convention in Las Vegas. There is a showdown at the Las Vegas Strip, after which Lee meets Bourne and tries to convince him to rejoin CIA.

The story is told in such a way that is supposed to be relevant to the world today. Enemies have become much more sophisticated – Malware attack, a different version of warfare.

There are many car chases, foot chases, motorcycle chases – all heart-pounding, hair-raising, high-speed, with lots of force and energy on display. The final showdown at the Las Vegas Strip is the climax. It is also glitzy and flashy, with the awesome special effects and sophisticated stunt work – some of the most innovative action imaginable. The crowd scene involving thousands of people is simply incredible and mind-boggling – a nerve-wrecking and extraordinary action scene.

More than the actors and film crew, I think the biggest accolades should go to the production teams behind the scenes – the special effects, visual effects, stunts, photography, aerial unit etc – in Tsamantas (Greece), Reykjavik (Ireland), Virginia, Silicon Valley (California), Rome (Italy), Athens (Greece), Berlin (Germany), Tenerife (Spain), Washington D C and Las Vegas (Nevada).

All We Had

I was very curious about this 2016 DVD because I’d not read anywhere that there was such a movie. Based on the novel by Annie Weatherwax, it is Katie Holmes’ directional debut.

The story is set in 2008, during the worldwide financial crisis. Rita (Holmes) and her teenage daughter Ruthie (the excellent Stefania LaVie Owen) struggle to look for a new home and find strength in each other.

Rita’s boyfriends have all turned out to be creeps and mother and daughter are always on the run. Rita doesn’t believe in maps, and just follows the signs, ending up in Boston. Ruthie struggles to fit in, while Rita drinks too much, uses swear words a lot and smokes – totally irresponsible and reckless. Ruthie, although only 14 (15, by movie’s end), is the more sensible one.

Whereas Rita makes bad decisions to make up for bad decisions, Ruthie has to comfort and reassure her mother as she understands that desperation brings out the worst in people. What she cannot understand is why some people get away with everything while others have to suffer.

It is only when she plays a game of chess with Lee (Luke Wilson), a recovering alcoholic widower who befriends Rita and invites them to live in his house, that she understands that you have to learn as you go along. Like the board game, you can’t win in life by only making forward moves; sometimes you have to take a step back or even lose a few pieces to move forward – you just have to be patient.

At the end of the movie, mother and daughter realise that they need each other. And this is where I hear upbeat piano music for the first time. Before this, all the other songs (I counted 18 in the end credits) do not appeal to me as they are mostly loud and forgettable, as befit the plot.

I found out at the end of the credits that Holmes has dedicated this movie to her daughter, Suri, with the message that “Dreams come true”, and I found this to be touching, as the emotional texture of the story resonates with her own experience.

Lunchtime Concert at ACM

Today’s Piano Performance at the Asian Civilisation Museum is a collaborative effort with the Yong Siew Toh Censevatory of Music (YSTCM) at the National University of Singapore.

 

The programme consists of pieces the students have recently performed at their evening concerts at the Conservatory Concert Hall or masterslasses which I have had to miss because of prior commitments.

A total of ten pieces were performed today:

Johann Sebastian Bach (German, 1685-1750) – Prelude and Fugue in F Major, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II, BWV 852

This was performed by a Year I student, and I enjoyed watching his fingers running over the keyboard and how the two hands took turns in voicing the subjects. The sustaining notes were done so effectively that it sounded as though the sustaining pedal was expertly employed even when there was no pedalling. (I watched!)

Joseph Haydn (Austrian, 1782-1809) – Sonata in A-flat Major, Hob. XVI:43 (I. Moderato)

The young lady who played this achieved such soothing and velvety effect that at one point I though: I would have been lulled to wonderful slumberland if not for the dexterous fingerwork.

Adolf von Henselt (German, 1814-1889) – “If I Were a Bird” from 12 Etudes Caracteristiques de Concert

It was the first time I heard this piece and I loved its singing melody amidst great fluidity. There was clever use of both pedals too.

Robert Muczynski (Polish-American, 1929-2010) – Toccata, opus 15

This was the only piece today that I didn’t take to because it had a sense of nouvelle vague. I was really in awe of the pencil-thin pianist, though, because of the fieriness exuded.

Theodore Lechetizky (Polish, 1830-1915) – “The Two Larks”, impromptu, opus 2, No 1

This piece is absolutely sweet, melodious and heavenly; and the pianist brought a good balance to the singing voice and answering call of the larks throughout. (I am reminded that I’ve not played a similarly titled piece for a long time; and I shall do so soon.)

Dmitry Kabalevsky (Russian, 1904-1987) – Sonata No 3 in F Major, opus 46 (I. Allegro con moto)

A piece that is almost impossible for an amateur pianist to play, this Year 2 student played it as though she could have done it in her sleep! What wouldn’t I give to possess the ability to express the range of dynamics that she displayed!

Joseph Haydn (Austrian, 1732-1809) – Sonata in E-flar Major, Hob. XVI-52 (I. Allegro)

A very popular piece that I’ve played, the first chord immediately struck me that this pianist is blessed with the rare attibutes of a K-pop idol and a a classical music maestro. The crisp notes, the precision in his execution behind each note, the fingerwork throughout is so awesome it is beyond what I can describe.

Frederic Chopin (Polish, 1810-1849) – Ballade No 3 in A-flat Major, opus 47

This sweet young lady is obviously unfazed by the demands of performing the piece well in spite of the sudden horrendous blasting of heavy metal music outside the museum, although I must say I still much prefer what I hear on Lang Lang’s CD. I look forward to seeing this Year 2 student in the next Conservatory Concerto Competition.

Ludwig van Beethoven (German, 1779-1827) – Piano Sonata No 30 in E Major, opus 109 (I. Vivace ma non troppo, Adagio espressivo II. Prestissimo)

I have attempted to play this several times, and was never ever able ro proceed beyond the first page, thus I was really impressed and admiring of this Year 4 student whose fingerwork was effortless and whose coordination between the hands and whose stamina must be lauded! Besides the technical prowess, there was also a quality that brought out smiles and delight to the audience.

Franz Liszt (Hungarian, 1811-1886), Charles Gounod (French, 1818-1893) – Waltz from Gounod’s Faust, transcribed by Liszt

As in most performances, the best is kept for the last. This piece was performed at Stephen Hough’s Piano Masterclass held at the YSTCM yesterday afternoon, so I’m sure today’s playing would be markedly improved although I wasn’t able to attend yesterday’s session. I waited with abated breath for the performance to start, and I wasn’t disappointed. I became totally immersed from the moment the opening chord was struck. Knowing that I would not be able to manage the rapid, cascading running passages (including six glississando) with my arthritic hands, I nevertheless resolve to look up the music score the next time I visit library@esplanade so that I can attempt to play the Cantabile section, instead of just contenting myself with the abridged version that I’ve been playing. This is another pianist to look out for in the next Consevatory Concerto Competition.

Today’s performance of all classical pieces by the YSTCM students was the first that I’d attended in many months; I look forward to their jazz performance next month!

 

Secrets of a Happy Marriage

I read all of Cathy Kelly’s novels as soon as I find them on the library shelves. Secrets of a Happy Marriage  must be the twentieth – another wonderful novel of secrets, lies and family ties, full of characters I love reading about.

Though I would read any Cathy Kelly book without even glancing at the blurb, I couldn’t resist wanting to know what kind of story to expect; so, when I started reading and found that the first chapter gave no hint of how it is related to the main story, I became more intrigued and decided it must be one of those good reads that do not reveal the main character(s) upfront.

I was right.

The essence of the story is supposed to be about the 70th birthday celebration for Edward, the patriach of the Brannigan clan. Three of the key characters are Bess, Edward’s new wife; Jojo, Edward’s daughter and Cari, Jojo’s cousin. There are many sub-plots and a host of characters all interlinked,  revolving around the themes of family, friendship, love, hope, marriage, bereavement, trust, depression and infertility.  The characters are all very well written and there is drama throughout and the surprise at the end ties up to the beginning so well and is so heart-warming that I felt my eyes growing misty.

Another clever technique that Cathy Kelly employs here is to have a quotation at the beginning of each chapter and then goes on to exemplify it. Some of these are:

  • A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure. (Henry Kissinger)
  • A second marriage is a triumph of hope over experience. (Samuel Johnson)
  • Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck. (Dalai Lama)
  • Experience is the hardest kind of teacher. It gives you the test first, and the lesson afterward. (Oscar Wilde)
  • Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. (Photographer Bill Cunningham)
  • Kind words will unlock an iron door. (Irish proverb)
  • When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (Maya Angelou)
  • Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else. (Leonardo da Vinci)
  • New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. (Lao Tze)
  • May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. (Nelson Mandala)
  • The most effective way to do it is to do it. (Amelia Earhart)

Then, there are chapters that come with tips for a happy marriage, eg.

  • Perfect true love exists only in fairy tales. In regular life, tempers get frayed, princes forget birthdays and princesses somehow end up doing more of the housework! Take the fairy tale out of the equation and things will improve.
  • Compromise saves marriages. The thing is, compromise works two ways. If one person is always making the compromises, the relationship is not in balance…
  • Resentment increases at a rate faster than compound interest. The compound interest, the tiny thing you resented two years ago? It’s a giant wolly-mammoth-sized resentment now. Get it out into the open early before the compound interest gets at it.
  • Never underestimate kindness. Being kind to the person you love is worth more than a hundred gifts. Kindness makes us feel loved,  supported and appreciated.
  • There’s magic in marriage. It can happen in a heartbeat and it runs like a river of life through your veins. It’s infinitely precious, and it needs nurturing.

I look forward to the next Cathy Kelly book.

 

Absolutely Fabulous the movie

 

Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders, who also wrote the script here) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are middle-aged British woman who want to hold on to their youth, partying all night. They are utterly self-absorbed and clueless and just want to have fun, shopping, drinking and clubbing at London’s trendiest hot spots (which are the only things worth watching, besides the French Riviera, where they ‘escaped’ to).

Besides the throwaway plot (outrageous but not funny to me), I found the parade of cameos by the likes of Stella McCartney, Kate Moss, Lulu, Joan Collins, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Dawn French (who is also an executive producer here, and whose memoir I read in a couple of hours in the public library a few years ago) rather awkward and tiresome at times.

I was surprised to find in the end credits that, of the 29 songs featured, there’s one by Leonard Cohen (Bird On The Wire) and another by Bob Dylan (This Wheel’s On Fire), performed by Kylie Minogue.