Stars and Stripes

wintersoldier

I’m back in the airport lounge. It seems that I do most of my blogging while waiting for flights. I was here two weeks ago actually but I was simply too tired to write anything. In fact, the past two weeks have been really hectic for me. Firstly, my flight back home on 31 March 2014 was delayed by close to four hours because of a hailstorm. I was trapped with more than 200 passengers in the unmoving plane for the whole time. The only good thing that came out of it was that I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and when the plane finally took off, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Yes, I managed to catch both Peter Jackson films back-to-back. Thing was, I also read the original novel during the same weekend in between the Public Law revision classes that I taught. The strange experience was sufficient to turn me into a Hobbit-fan for life. On reaching Malaysia, I picked up The Annotated Hobbit and two critical collection of essays. Also got my son to read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. Our dinner time conversations now revolve around the history of the Eldar, the coming of Melkor (or Morgoth), and the journeys of Earendil. The saying remains true - Tolkien is hobbit-forming!

Other than the short detours of the imagination to Middle Earth, I spent the past two weeks teaching from 10am to 10:30pm nearly every day. Work is crazy during the revision sessions. I hope to have more free time once the students are shipped off for their LLB examinations in the month of May. Last year, during the same period, I suffered from such a horrible sore-throat that I lost my voice and had to rest for a week. Add in the countless student scripts for marking and the many hours of student consultations, I was about to throw in the towel and collapse in exhaustion over the past several days. Thankfully, I completed my final classes on Friday evening and had a day of rest yesterday. Today, I made a one-day trip overseas for the LLB Info Session in the University (where I had to deliver a 30-minute lecture). I’m really, really looking forward to the next two days of rest and family time. My colleagues are already teasing me about how I’m a stranger to my wife and kids after being away from home so frequently. Even when I’m back in Malaysia, I work 12-hour days so it’s really so hard to have some time to see my family when they’re awake.

The other highlight of the past two weeks was that I got to catch Captain America: Winter Soldier in the cinema with my wife on our date night. Truth was, my wife and kids have already seen the film during my last overseas trip. I told them not to wait for me. However, it was so good to have my wife accompany me for the film. We had so much to discuss during and after the movie. Did it capture the feel of the original stories by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting? Well, in some ways I actually feel that the film was even better. In fact, the Marvel films have all been fantastic in the ways that they tie into each other and build upon what came before. Time was, the only way to experience this sense of continuity and character development was by reading the monthly titles. Now, Marvel Studios are telling the stories of the Stan Lee, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby characters even better than the monthly books. I can talk about this film forever (but I’ll be boarding my flight in a bit). It was playing on my mind so much over the week that, despite my insane teaching hours, I managed to squeeze in some hours yesterday to catch the first five episodes of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with my family. Agent Phil Coulson, Agent Maria Hill and, of course, Director Nick Fury already feel like family. The new characters created for the TV such as Ward, Melinda May, Skye and the two nerdy scientists are all very likable and I’m looking forward to catching several more episodes of the show with my family over the next two days.

The Black Mirror

blackmirror_gordonI’m back in the airport VIP lounge. Just completed 3 days of Company Law revision lectures and I’m waiting for my flight home. My last post was two weeks ago and I wrote about the missing Malaysian airlines plane (MH370). Sadly, the plane is still missing and relatives of the passengers are getting distraught over the lack of progress in the search for the missing plane. The latest update is that some object (believed to be debris from the plane) has been spotted over the Indian Ocean – south west of Perth, Australia. However, efforts to search for said objects over the past two days have been disappointing and it does not look like the efforts will improve with the impending cyclone in the area. Furthermore, the area identified by satellite is approximately the size of Europe, to begin with! Aside from all the unsolved mysteries and the myriad speculations (ranging from terror hijackers to technical failure to a ploy by the Opposition to topple the Malaysian government to, the latest, a fire caused by batteries brought on board the cargo area), the whole thing got really embarrassing when some witch doctors turned up in KLIA juggling coconuts and going on ‘trips’ via a ‘flying carpet’ to locate the missing plane. How such a fiasco could have been allowed to take place is beyond all rationality – resulting in not a bit of unwelcome comedy in the face of a terrible tragedy.

Anyway, I was thankful for the 10 days or so that I was back home with my family last week. Got to spend some time with my family and we even got to catch the entire first season of HBO’s True Detective starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as troubled cops on a case involving serial killing hillbillies and small town religion, occult rituals and politics. This really is Matthew McConaughey’s year. Aside from his Oscar win, he delivered probably the most intriguing performance for an extremely complex nihilistic-yet-in-need-of-companionship character ever on television. The true ingredient for the success, however, is traceable to the singleness of vision of creator-writer Nic Pizzolatto, who was able to channel all his love for literature, comic books and The Twilight Zone into a tight and taut suspense series. Here’s hoping for more good stuff to come in the upcoming seasons. The worrisome thing about a great new series is that it will end up going the same route as Heroes – where after a cracklingly good first season, the show ended up going downhill from the second season onwards. A lot of that had to do with unrealistic expectations – both from viewers expecting something even more mind-blowing in the follow up season, and from the writers of the show trying to up the ante in order to meet those unrealistic expectations. Of course, in the case of Heroes, the creators of the show could always blame it all on the Screen Writers’ strike at the time that cut the second season by half; after which the show fizzled off and lost its momentum. Anyhow, if Pizzolatto simply maintains what he does best – i.e. great characterisation in a relatable story playing on our darkest fears – Season Two of the show should be a winner as well.

Another really good experience I had was reading Scott Snyder’s Batman: The Black Mirror in hardcover over the past two days. I was actually not expecting to finish the whole book in between my lectures and student consultation sessions. However, the book was unputdownable! Finished the whole thing in two sittings. Truth is, I heard about Snyder’s original run on Detective Comics in 2011 (just prior to the universe-level reboot of DC’s New 52) several years back. Many people were calling it the greatest Batman story ever told – with some even elevating it to the status once reserved for the works by  Miller, Morrison and Moore. Well, I’ve long known about Snyder’s status as a wordsmith and even followed his run on the relaunched New 52 Batman series. While there were some intriguing elements in his Court of Owls arcs, I didn’t think that his writing was good enough to be elevated to the upper echelon of Bat-writers in history.

Fast forward to Friday evening (two days ago). After dinner, I dropped by the local bookstore just before starting my lecture. Saw a copy of The Black Mirror in hardcover. Are you familiar with the feeling (not really unique among bibliophiles, I was told) where you feel like you are destined to have an epiphany-filled encounter with a book? Well, there I was – staring at the book on the shelves. I was actually pretty short of cash as pay day is still a week away. But then, as is the lot (curse?) of bibliophiles the world over, you know you just gotta have it! I gave in to the hunger within, plunked down my wad of dollar bills on the cashier counter and ran out of the store with the book in my hands before I could change my mind.

All in all, it turned out to be the best Batman story that I have ever read. In fact, it is also the best Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Jim Gordon story that I have ever read. Heck, it is probably the best serial killer story that I have ever encountered in any medium (even exceeding my enjoyment of the above-mentioned HBO True Detective series). The book doesn’t just belong among the Miller-Morrison-Moore level, it is actually way above what those comic book demigods have accomplished with Batman. Firstly, like the HBO series, the whole thing was the vision of one single writer – the inestimable Scott Snyder. Secondly, like the HBO series also, the writer’s vision was masterfully brought to life by two masters of the craft – in this case, the artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Thirdly, the storyline is anchored on the two main character (Dick Grayson as Batman and Commissioner Jim Gordon) on the trail of a horrific serial killer. Fourthly, instead of just giving us a simplistic tale of crime, Snyder (like Pizzolatto above) gave us a disturbing and claustrophobic meditation on the effects of being sucked into the darkness of a locality – here, it is Gotham City; just like how Pizzolatto mythologised Louisiana in the above HBO series. Finally, the lead characters survived the ordeal (over about a dozen issues that read even better in a collected edition) but both Dick and Jim realised that they’ve just stared into a distorted reflection (in the serial killer, who has personal ties to them both) representing the darkest aspects of their psyches.

Without spoiling anything, let my just conclude by saying that, as a long-time Batman fan who has read hundreds (if not thousands) of Bat-tales over the decades, this has been the most rewarding and emotionally-wrenching experience with a Batman comic in a very, very long time. Remember reading Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns for the first time and finding your world turning upside down by the experience? Or remember the first encounter with the insanely twisted Arkham Asylum in Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s seminal graphic novel back in the day? Snyder’s The Black Mirror is like that. A book that delicately balances the warmest and most hopeful character nuances with a sickeningly dark and psychologically scarring plot. Here’s hoping that Snyder will hit this standard again with his ongoing work on the Batman series. In fact, I’m tempted (and not a bit worried) about picking up his subsequent work. Will they measure up? Am I succumbing to unrealistic expectations? Arrgh! The agony of always having to measure up to past glories.

Speaking of ‘past glories’, this is a particular pressure that I apply chiefly to myself. I’m constantly trying to top my previous performances as a law lecturer by communicating in a clearer way, making my teaching materials more relevant to the needs of the students, and holding their attention longer than before. At the end of my previous Law of Trusts revision lectures earlier this month, the entire class gave me a thundering ovation. Today, upon the conclusion of my Company Law revision lecture, quite a number of students came up on stage for a photo-session with me. Yes, I am humbled and honoured by their heartfelt outpouring of thanks and appreciation. My colleagues will probably tease me even more (if they’re reading this) and remind me that I don’t have students – I have fans! Well, I sure hope that I can continue exceeding my own expectations and continuing to do better the next time.

Aside from that, I think it’s also important to know when to bow out and not to overstay my welcome. Everyone has a limit – once a person arrives at that point, it’ll all be downhill from then onwards. As mentioned above, Heroes went on for three more tortuous seasons (and, even as I’m posting this, is geared for a comeback with a new re-launch of the TV series). In comic book terms, this is called the Cap-Wolf phase. Legendary Captain America writer, the late Mark Gruenwald, stayed on the title for more than a decade. He is today remembered fondly for his many wonderful Cap issues. However, every single time the Gruenwald-run is brought up in discussions, people also end up talking about the embarrassment of his Captain-America-as-a-werewolf tale. My prayer and hope is that I will know when I’ve drawn the last bit of inspiration from my own internal well and know how to bow out gracefully before I enter into my personal Cap-Wolf phase.

Dark Weekend

indexI’m in the airport waiting lounge again. Fifth consecutive weekend that I’m away from home. It’s also my son’s 14th birthday today. Hope to be home soon to celebrate with him. He did pick up his birthday present last weekend though – a Captain Marvel action figure that came with a reprint of Jim Starlin’s first issue. All in all, I’m thankful for the opportunity to complete another curriculum year’s worth of lectures at the university here. The students actually applauded at the end of my final session with them this afternoon. I’m hoping that they all do well in the upcoming examinations in May.

While I’m away from my home country, I was really quite shocked by the events that have taken place back in Malaysia. Firstly, the Home Ministry decided to ban the Ultraman manga on grounds that it causes social unrest. Yes, I’m dumbfounded by the irrationality of the whole thing even as I typed the previous sentence. This brings Wednesbury unreasonableness to a whole new level! Secondly, the fearful and insecure government again secured another temporary win by securing a prison sentence for the Opposition leader. Nobody in the country in his or her right mind believes that due process had been adhered to by the court back home. In fact, even the foreign news are openly saying that this appears to be another act of political assassination. Thirdly, a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing went missing yesterday. As a frequent flyer, I can tell how scary the experience is for the 230+ passengers on board MH370. Up to this point, nearly all parties are agreed that the plane had crashed. The problem is, no wreckage has been discovered despite the cooperation of navy and air force teams from several countries tirelessly searching the area around South Vietnam where the last signal from the plane was detected.

I’m really not in the mood to type a lot today. Truth is, I’ve been really upset by the above reports since yesterday. While I’m actually more than 1,000 miles away from home, I’m actually very concerned about what’s going to happen to my home country in the upcoming weeks and months. On one hand, the multi-racial country that I’m from is really remarkably united. The united concern and response to the missing plane is clear evidence that in such times of trouble, all Malaysians are indeed united as one. On another hand, racial, religious and political differences are creating a wedge among the people. The situation is getting dangerously out of hand. Problem is, the powers-that-be does not seem to want to contain the situation. In fact, by all appearances, they seem to exult in the disunity in order to gain political mileage by supporting the narrowest and most bigoted sectors – while sowing the seeds of fear among the minority races and religious adherents.

All in all, I just want to be back home safely in the arms of my family members again…

The Story of Layla and Majnun

layla_majnun

I just read the love story of Layla and Majnun on the World Stories website (click here to read it). Please check out the website too. It’s got famous stories from all over the world. The site is a wonderful project set up to teach the children of the world to read and appreciate stories of different peoples all over the world. It’s easy to see how the story is the inspiration for the central plot in so many of Orhan Pamuk’s novels – a lonely artist/poet longing for the love of his life who is married to another man. Like Pamuk’s characters (e.g. Black in My Name Is Red), Majnun was so deeply in love with Layla and it was her thoughts alone that possesed his mind for all time:

I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses

After reading Pamuk’s memoir, it’s easy to see how the writer was so inspired by these love poems and stories. Firstly, Pamuk too has suffered the loss of a girl that he fell in love with – a 15-year old girl who was also the model for many of his drawings. Secondly, Pamuk equated this sense of loss with the identity of the City of Istanbul itself – i.e. the sense of loss and the pining for the glories and beauties of the past among Istanbullus even today. This unique trait of Istanbullus, according to Pamuk, is the key to understanding the melancholy that the people and their city are famous for.

layla

In the original story, Majnun was found dead in the wilderness near Layla’s grave. On a rock near the grave, he had carved three verses of poetry, which are the last three verses ascribed to him. Majnun went mad for his love; for this reason he came to be called Majnu, or Majnun Layla, which means Driven mad by Layla. There is this sense of madness in Pamuk’s life and writings as well. Maybe that’s why I’m so intrigued by his novels. Such a love is rare in today’s world. It is still my deepest belief that if ever one should love someone, one should really try to love each other like these Layla and Majnun. Here’s the exhortation from Nizami himself, the poet who immortalised this love story in his verses, to break free from preoccupation on one’s own self and surrender oneself to an all-consuming love:

“For how long then do you want to deceive yourself? For how long will you refuse to see yourself as you are and as you will be? Each grain of sand takes its own length and breadth as the measure of the world; yet, beside a mountain range it is as nothing. You yourself are the grain of sand; you are your own prisoner. Break your cage, break free from yourself, free from humanity; learn that what you thought was real is not so in reality. Follow Nizami: burn but your own treasure, like a candle — then the world, your sovereign, will become your slave…

Whoever would find a place in that world must tread on the lusts of this world. This world is dust and is perishable. That world is pure and eternal. . . . Commit yourself to love’s sanctuary and at once find freedom from your ego. Fly in love as an arrow towards its target. Love loosens the knots of being, love is liberation from the vortex of egotism. In love, every cup of sorrow which bites into the soul gives it new life. Many a draft bitter as poison has become in love delicious. . . . However agonizing the experience, if it is for love it is well.”

Winter Is Coming

comicheroes22

I finished typing my previous post and realised that I’d been locked out of my house. No joke. My kids are all in school and they have the house key with them. That’s not a problem as it simply means that I have some extra time to read and blog. Here’s one thing I want to talk about – I hate Facebook. I’m serious. Facebook destroyed my hobby for blogging. Time was, I’d blog about everything. I think the most active period of my blogging was when I was maintaining about 3 separate blogs at the same time. It was a time when my life was very compartmentalised. I had my law studies blog, my spy novel reviews blog, my superhero comic blog and also a religious blog. Oh yes, I also wrote a vampire/horror blog. Then there was Facebook. Initially, you couldn’t write long entries on Facebook. You could only write 40 or so characters. In short, you couldn’t blog on Facebook status updates, you could only write short tweets. Then they allowed lengthy entries and I started writing stories about where I went for breakfast and the weird characters that I bump into every morning. It turns out that I quickly had a huge following of people who looked forward to reading these ‘breakfast adventures’ that I posted every other morning. The thing about Facebook is that when one posts a typed entry or a photo of oneself (no, I refuse to say selfie – it’s just one of those made up words now accepted as popular urban slang that I hate), one gets instant responses from an ever-hungry audience of ‘Like’-clickers who sometimes also supply comments in typed responses. A pastor friend of mine who seemingly lived to court controversy with his ultra-Calvinistic doctrines had since moved his theological fights out of the churches that he preaches in and his own rambling blog onto Facebook. For someone who loves controversies and debates as much as he does, Facebook is like the ultimate theological dissenter’s wet-dream come true!

As for me, Facebook has become too intimately linked to my work life that it’s often created a restraint on my personal reflections and writings. After all, however eccentric I am, when hundreds of my students (not to mention my colleagues and bosses) are linked to me on Facebook, I really do have to watch what I say. I once made the mistake of inviting students to join my tutorial classes and that got me into endless troubles with other lecturers who thought that I was stealing their students away from them! Since then, my Facebook posts have been largely very polite (read: exhibiting politically correct and socially pleasing viewpoints). Yes, Facebook posts enable me to be as pretentious as I want to be online – in effect, creating the myth of a liberal-minded, well-read and well-adjusted law lecturer. Well, I said it was ‘pretentious’ but I think there really is an aspect of me that fits that persona. It’s not all an act. It’s just that I’m really not as well-adjusted as that persona seems to be trying to show to the world at large.

Well, that’s the back story behind my decision to kick-start this old blog all over again. Here, I can talk about all the things that I’m passionate about – from weird religious views to alien conspiracies to crappy comics to high-brow poetry and high quality erotica. I can also write rambling posts like this one about nothing important at all.

Thing is, I’m stuck in Starbucks on my off day. I’ve got my new pair of shoes for company and the new issue of the UK Comic Heroes magazine (issue 22). The mag is put out by the same folks who bring us glossy science fiction and movie-themed mags like SFXEmpire or Total Film (I think – well, they all have the same format and the editors/writers are all from the same country, right?). Time was, I read Wizard magazine every month. It was everything I need to know about the comic industry in one nice and affordable polybagged package every month. The first issue I bought had Roger Cruz’s X-Man (aka Nate Grey) on the cover along with a Witchblade chromium trading card. A couple of years ago, Wizard ceased publications. Well, I told myself that I could always rely on online comics news portals like Comic Book Resources or Newsarama but who am I kidding? There’s nothing like a printed mag that I can take with me to the men’s room, right? Thankfully, the nice folks in the UK woke up one day and discovered that fandom extended beyond Doctor Who. The result - Comic Heroes, a high-quality (albeit high-priced) monthly mag covering everything from Marvel and DC to the independents and, you guessed it, Doctor Who! I don’t buy every single issue (the sixty bucks price tag in my country is a strong deterrent, I guess) but when I do, my wife and kids can’t keep their hands off the publication. Thankfully, I’ve got a whole afternoon in Starbucks with the special spy-themed 22nd issue celebrating everything from old James Bond comic strips to Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D., Modesty Blaise, Black Widow and the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier flick (coming in April 2014).

Unlike Wizard, there’s a lot less toilet humour and fanboy idiocy in this publication from our British cousins. Like everything British, it’s a little more stuffy and cerebral. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We get more lit-crit-esque coverage of classic stuff like Steranko’s Nick Fury run or Ed Brubaker’s noir-inspired titles post-Captain America. Like I said, content-wise, it’s a lot more cerebral and (dare I say it) makes comic books look more respectable. The thing is, the mag feels like my Facebook posts. Polished, cleaned-up and well-adjusted. Tie-wearing, shoe-laced and ironed shirted. Polite, sophisticated and well-read. But, again like all things British, just a tad pretentious and false.

I mean, it’s called the funnybooks for a reason. For instance, my academic side can probably analyse the shit out of the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier film by making references to established history, Cold War espionage, geopolitical conflicts, and the film’s fidelity to its source material – namely, the now-classic run of issues by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. But there’s another side to it. That’s the side that drags my lazy bum out of the house to the cineplex to queue up for a ticket. That’s the side that’s in the cineplex to see Cap throw his shield at the resurrected Bucky aka Winter Soldier and the latter catching it with one hand (and then throwing it back at Cap). It’s the fanboy-side that’s there for the COOL and AWESOME shit. No academic pretensions. Just my inner child (is there really an outer adult?) screaming like a pimply and bespectacled girl getting a date on prom night when I see the Falcon take flight for the first time or the Helicarrier in flames crashing into a building.

Hey, don’t blame me for refusing to grow up. My generation grew up believing that an adult popstar can continue to live in Neverland. Of course, we later found out how that same popstar bleached his skin and took little boys to bed with him – but that’s another story altogether. What I mean is this – we grew up singing: “I don’t want to grow up. I’m a Toys ‘R Us kid!” My wife and I still make our weekly pilgrimages to Amcorp Mall with the kids (whenever I’m in the country, that is) to check out all the cool toys from the 1980′s on sale in the flea market on weekends. Just last month, the inner child in me mourned the passing of Harold Ramis – we knew him as Egon Spengler, the coolest Ghostbuster of them all! I mean, Egon was like Mister Fantastic, MacGyver and Doctor Emmett Brown (from Back to the Future) all rolled into one. He taught us kids that being interested in science was cool – leave football to the jocks, they’ll grow up to be nobodies anyway!

I wanted to write about the upcoming Captain America film but ended up talking about pretentious Facebook postings and pretentious British comic mags. Anyhow, I’m still really excited about the film. Here’s what Ed Brubaker has to say about it:

“I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say yet, but what I will say is that with everything I’ve seen and the script that I’ve read: It’s the best movie that they’ve ever made… I was blown away, being on the set and getting to meet Redford and watching them do this stuff. The movie isn’t a scene-for-scene adaptation of the comic by any means but there is a lot of the comic in the movie. There’s certain moments in the movie where I’m just, ‘Shit, that’s what I wrote.’ I’m really thrilled about it, I could not be happier, honestly. It came out so good. Thank god it has the same name as the book and Marvel is putting out that nice deluxe hardback which hopefully the bookstores will realize that’s the one to push on people. I’m hopeful that this is their new model because say what you will about the Watchmen movie, but they sold a million copies of Watchmen. (And I liked the movie.) I’m thrilled, I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait for the premiere, to see the final cut of it with all the special effects and everything.”

The above excerpt was from Brubaker’s interview with IGN. He said pretty much the same thing in the issue of Comic Heroes that I just browsed through. In fact, he even compared the script to the Dark Knight Trilogy (which I’m not really a fan of, although I know that everyone thinks it’s the high watermark for superhero comic adaptations). Knowing that Brubaker doesn’t really hype about stuff (and he’s no longer even exclusively writing for Marvel anymore), if the script actually got him speaking in hyperbolic praise, I’m definitely buying a ticket. No. I’m definitely buying seven tickets – for myself and my entire family of comic geeks. In the meantime, I’ll probably re-read Brubaker’s run (along with his excellent The Marvels Project that seems to get better with every re-read).

In the meantime, here are the two trailers released so far:

 

Bright Star

brightstar

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art– 
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Two weeks ago, I sat alone on a freezing cold Spring morning in a park with two bottles of milk and a copy of The Complete Poetry of John Keats for company. I read the Odes and they transported me back to 1995 when I first discovered these literary gems in the old British Council library on top of a hill. The nightingale sang, the Grecian urn remained endlessly unchanged and undiminished, the seasons changed and the bright star remained ever stedfast. I drank my milk. I shivered. Not because of the cold but because of that one eternal undefiled, unrepeatable moment in a park. Alone. Caught up on the Wings of Poesy. I wept a tear for Fanny Brawne. I thanked Diana and the Faerie Queene for inspiring John Keats. It was a special moment. It was a holy morning. It was a free man’s worship.

Room In Rome

Loving Strangers is the hauntingly beautiful song from the most beautiful film I’ve seen in a long, long while - Room In Rome – starring Elena Anaya and Natasha Yarovenko as two girls who met and spent a night in a hotel room in Rome. Memories, stories, artwork, singing, sex, food, water, friendship, Google Earth, EU flags, ambiguous lives, pain, loss, connection, humanity, laughter, tears, running, and the most intoxicating dialogue since Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talked for hours on screen. This film is so good I’m frightened by it.

Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) made this and included the song above. It’s better than it deserved to be. What began as an English language erotic film by a Spanish director ended up as so much more. Falling in love means opening oneself to another in a way that makes one vulnerable to the most liberating and most painful experience in the universe. No wonder they represented the moment of falling in love with Cupid’s arrow hitting one’s heart. It’s painful to leave the arrow within one’s heart but pulling it out is even worse.

Finally, here’s the other strong from the film. It’s called Russian RedThe song was featured at the end of the film. The two girls had breakfast in the hotel balcony. They closed their eyes and swore that if their hands met across the table, they’d stay with each other in Rome. Their hands did not meet.