The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki- Movie review


Finland

Thank you, Suomi Finland 100, for the tickets to watch my first Finnish film. Finland celebrates its 100th years’ independence on 6 December and this film festival is part of the celebration in Singapore. This film, released in August 2016, is set in August 1962, just before the home match which boxer Olli Maki is up against American world champion.

Olli Maki is set to compete in the lightweight category, and he has to get his weight to below 57kg. Two weeks to the match and he weighs 60+kg. He has just fallen in love, but his coach wants him to focus on the match instead of having ‘a chick hanging on him’, which does not look good to the public and to his sponsors.

Ollie wants to train in peace but is made to go through all the publicity promotion for the match, touted to be the biggest match in Finland, and the coach Elis, has spent all his money banking on Ollie to win. With such high expectation, Ollie loses confidence and his girl Raija whom he neglects.

He tries hard to lose weight, to the extent of almost fainting when fully clothed in the sauna and trying the bulimic method of induced self-vomit. We share his anxiety. How could he win if he is starving himself trying to lose weight?

The match on 17 August 1962 is meant to be the happiest day in his life. Would it be? Which kind of make me ponder about expectations and happiness.

This movie has all the Finnish ingredients – lakes, cigarettes, sauna and full male frontal nudity. I know because I’ve been to Finland and yes, I actually saw a naked Finnish man as he helpfully exited his sauna to point us to the right direction to the swimming pool, in all his naked glory, except the one who was self-conscious is the fully-clothed me. But I digress.

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Nasi Lemak Pantun


Pantun is a Malay poetry form from South East Asia, which has interlocking lines in the stanzas. I just studied this and am really enjoying experimenting with it. Here’s one I just wrote about Nasi Lemak (rice coconut= coconut rice, a common dish in SEA).

Nasi Lemak Pantun

How disappointed I am in you,
Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak.
I queued for an hour,
as you claim you are the best.

Selera Rasa Nasi Lemak,
your begedil was burnt.
As you claim you are the best,
how could you even served me that.

Your begadil was burnt,
the chicken wing was no better.
How could you even served me that, 
and you did not put in enough sambal.

The chicken wing was no better,
the rice was too little,
and you did not put in enough sambal,
to think I paid five-forty.

The rice was too little,
I queued for an hour,
to think I paid five-forty.
How disappointed I am in you.
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Love Poems – class activity


Last week in class, we were given 15 minutes to write a love poem without rhyme, meter or any formal constraint and I came up with two (although now that I am aware, writing without formal constraint takes getting used to.) This is just for my collection.

Love Insomnia

A day without seeing you

is to be awake in the Arctic

during the winter solstice

awaiting the break of an elusive dawn.

Bumpy Landing

Love was us in a hot air balloon,

floating on tangerine clouds across Cappadocia,

bubbly light and high on champagne

Until we were shaken up by a bumpy landing.

——————————————————————————

Then we were told to write four-line tetrameter love poem in the form of a Ruba’i rhyme scheme.

What I want to hear 

Tenderly whisper in my ears,

the cherished words I yearn to hear.

How your heart burst with love for me,

and forever you want me near.

Immortal Love

He holds my body against him,

our eyes lock, our gazes are grim.

I smile and take my last deep breath.

His face fading as light grows dim.

 

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Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage by Alice Munro


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I must thank my lecturer Darryl for introducing to me the Canadian author, winner of the Nobel prize in literature 2013. I am not exactly a fan of short stories, preferring the company of long fiction to simmer into the story. However, I kept hearing the name Alice Munro from Darryl, I thought I should check her out after an excerpt of her story appeared in The New Yorker – and I was hooked. I love her prose, the intimate description she brings out of a seemingly mundane situation. All I wanted to do while reading is to soak into that sentence or paragraph and ruminate over and over again, as if I was the one experiencing the feeling of the character. Or perhaps I was, so immersed into that shared experience – not the story – that I felt she was describing me in another situation. In Post and Beans, Lorna was worried her sister Queenie would attempt suicide in her absence. ‘When they entered Stanley Park it occurred to her to pray. This was shameless – the opportune praying of a nonbeliever. ‘ This was I in the temples in Bhutan in June, feeling like a hypocrite while praying for my ill uncle, who passed away a few weeks after.

There are nine short diversified stories in the book, all of which are memorable but what struck me most about many of these stories is the common theme of falling in love outside of a long, tired marriage. In The Bear Came Over a Mountain, she writes ‘ Married women started going back to school. Not with the idea of qualifying for a better job or for any job but simply to give themselves something more interesting to think about than their usual housework and hobbies. To enrich their lives. And perhaps it followed naturally that the men who taught them these things would become part of the enrichment, that these men would seem to these women more mysterious and desirable than the men they still cooked for and slept with.’ How true when I think about I and other middle-aged women in my yoga studio flirting playfully with the young handsome instructors.

The stories in books are honest and touching and I wish I could write like her – with clear articulation to show and never tell. ‘A tremour of nerves there, an affected nonchalance, a hurry to get through and a reluctance to let go.’

Incidentally, Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage – was a game I used to play, except we used the shorter version of Friendship, Courtship, Hatred, Love – a game where I would write down my name and the name of the boy I had a crushed on, to predict if he shared the same feeling as I did, by first crossing out the common alphabets we shared, and then reciting Friendship, Courtship, Hated, Love to the remaining alphabets to see where it ended for each name. Amazingly, I googled the game and there are online versions to calculate the prediction in seconds, taking away the anticipation of doing it yourself.

If you would like a good literary fiction to warm your heart, read Alice Munro. I’m glad to discover a favourite new writer after the passing of  Maeve Binchy, and having consumed all the books of Ann Patchett.

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What’s next?


I’m on my half-way mark in my master programme (in creative writing, in case you do not know.) Having left a full-time job to pursue this course, a job which I had found easily despite a hiatus of sixteen years being a housewife, I am often asked by many as to what my plans are after I graduate. It’s as if I had been reckles abandoning a good job to do this study for a non-existing career or future. The question stresses me up, for I do not know. I do feel guilty not contributing to the economy and to the family. But then again, my life as a housewife for the past sixteen years, while not having any financial returns, did have its own tangible benefits. My sons have either graduated or are on their way, which was my objective when I decided to leave the corporate life in exchange for a dull, unfulfilling, and often frustrating full-time mothering job. (If you’ve been following my blog through these years, you would know.)

I want to go with the flow and subscribe to the saying of 船 到 桥 头 自 然 直(The path will straighten itself when the time is ripe) but then again, planning is crucial if you want to reach a certain destination. My destination is hazy and vague, and I don’t know what’s the GPS setting yet.

While the programme has been really enjoyable, I am often filled with doubt as to if I am really good enough to have a writing career, something I have been telling everyone what I will do when I graduate (what else could I say?). Am I wasting valuable financial resource which could have been put into better use? Would the 1.5 years be better spent earning an income?

My grades have not been good and I am beginning to realise that not having a literature/English/philosophy degree is a drawback. A chemistry degree is just not helpful when discussing Shakespear poetry or play. The books I have read, genre fiction versus the preferred literary fiction, did not provide the resource I need now. But much worse than this is the requirements to write critical essays which carry a significant percentage of the final grade. While my lecturer is sympathetic – we have signed up for creative writing, not critical writing – and he hopes to change this for future students, I am losing my confidence daily. Think of yourself as the soldiers hinged on the barbed wire so that others can climb over you safely was his metaphor for us – and I see myself slowly dying of pain on the barbed wire while awaiting the compressing weights of crossing soldiers.

So yes, the future is vague, and I am living out of my comfort zone, but I feel it is better to be uncomfortable than be complacently comfortable while not feeling completely satisfied. It’s akin to when I am struggling in a challenging arm-balancing yoga pose like forearm stand, trying to understand why I even bother when I don’t need to. Then I realise it’s a destination I had set myself up in my yoga journey, just like the book I intend to publish, or the biography of Grandma I had intended to write eons ago.

I may not reach my destination, but my GPS has a direction guiding me. And when I am feeling doubtful, when my confidence is shaken, I remind myself to return to my breath. Like now.

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Ironing Board


Another of my ‘thing’ poem experiment, also inspired by another play. (I’m doing drama writing and poetry this semester.)

Ironing Board

Tucked in a corner,

legs folded beneath,

like a surf board left drying

after riding the waves.

Instead, upright, it’s a bed

awaiting the weight of a heated press

gliding along fabric waves.

Once the star of a John Osborne’s play

where it rode the waves of fame.

It now looks back in anger,

and ponders its domestic end.

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Lipstick


As part of my poetry homework, I was supposed to come up with a ‘thing’ poem. I experimented on many things, and this lipstick poem is one, which came to me in the middle of Xinyao concert – weird. It took a turn on its own and got deeply influenced by Lysistrata, a play I wrote my critical essay on.

The Lipstick

He clasps my lipstick in both hands,

encases it between putrid palms in prayer.

After a moment of hesitation,

he releases it onto two calloused fingers

and pulls off its plastic cap.

Gently he twists the slim ebony pipette

to raise the cake of crimson erection.

He brings forth the lipstick

towards a five-o’clock shadowy pout.

The lipstick glides across rough parched lips,

paints them a pasty red,

to match the rogue cheeks and purplish lids.

He hears my pleading whisper,

‘what are you doing with my lipstick?’

The lipstick, now freed to its full glory,

no longer imprisoned by its tube.

I’m liberated!

He scrawls across the mirror in red

and breaks the phallic cake.

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