Thursday, November 1, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012


Movies that are worth writing about are few and far between but Shame is definitely one of them. Steve McQueen's masterpiece is despicable, hard to watch, and brilliant. It is unorthodox and as far away from the Hollywood cliches of the day as one can possibly get. When the superficial The Hurt Locker got the Best Picture award in 2010, I was ready to proclaim the profession auteur dead and buried in modern cinema. McQueen's work on Shame, however, brings back hope for the future of cinema as art rather than popcorner seller.
Image CopyrightsNME

Shame is a very graphic movie. It will not appear to the masses, especially in countries with more puritanic worldview like certain parts of the United States. It is not suprising that it managed to get a limitted run and around $4,000,000 in the boxoffice. After an openning sequence that includes a number of full frontal nudity shots of Michael Fassbender, his character Brandon is shown engaged in sexual encounters with men, women, and prostitutes. 
The sexual-explicitness of the movie makes it a very honest portrayal of modern day life. There is so much sex in daily life - from commercials to common chit-chat that it has become meaningless. Fassbender's Brandon walks through the movie desperately trying not to have a meaningful sexual encounter. He feels no pleasure from sex. Similarly to every addiction - sex gives satisfaction but no fulfillment. Brandon needs sex but he feels no joy from it. His face is expressionless. Sex is a tool to get relief but no matter how much sex Brandon has he feels nothing during. 
In the new millenium, sex is a tool. A tool to sell, a tool to control. There is no intimacy in sex, no curiosity. Everything about it is on the cover of 90% of the non-adult press. Our sociery has demistified sex  - one gets so much sex in daily live that there is no thrill in actually having it. Sex is mechanical. Sex demands no feelings and gives no sense of emotional closeness. 
McQueen does a great job portraying this in Shame. The movie is brutally honest to the point of being disgusting. The title is shame but all the characters are shameless. From Brandon's sister has some kind of perverse control over him to a stranger in the train that repeatedly flirts with the main character despite the loud and clear presense of an engagement ring on her ring finger. Near the end of the movie, Brandon has a sexual contact with a man, despite showing a clear preference for women before that. This seems rather odd within the flow of the movie but just goes to show that the partner in a sexual encounter is irrelevant. There is no us, just me - my satisfaction.
Unlike most addicts, Brandon knows he has a problem. He is ashamed of himself but cannot help "binging" on sex. Somewhere deep inside he hates himself and his own behavior. But just like the society that makes no attempt to change when clearly hanging on an economic cliff, Brando makes no attempt to genuinely have a contact with the real world again. He locks himself ever so deeply, hoping that the less he cares, the less pain he will feel. He is angry and despises his own inability to "act normally" but does not feel the need to change anything. This is the world of 2012, we see where the problems of today and tomorrow are but we feel so small and powerless than make to attempt to do something about them.
We are addicted to information but feel no satisfaction from getting it. We do not learn, we only do and do and do. In Shame, Brandon claims that words are meaningless and only actions matter but through his own behavior he refutes that. Actions are meaningless as well. We are so stuck in here and now that just like Brandon we fail to see the clear sounds of a gradual decay around us. We are so blind to anything that is not fleeting that when future happens we have no recollection how we got there and we continue doing the same mistakes over and over again.
There are few words and little dialogue in Shame. The most powerful scenes in the movie have only music. These scenes portray Brandon's deafness to the outside world. He tries to hide from it and to hide from himself. Steve McQueen has made brilliant choices in firmly setting the movie in the present. The characters do not talk about the pass. It seems to have a clear influence on their actions but keeping it (mostly) hidden makes the movie more cinematically interesting. Like Fellini's stories 50 years ago, Shame just happens, it has no beginning and no end. It offers no real resolution - life goes on. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

I've been recently been writing exclusively for Sport Pulse Net. Please have a look at the F1 stats from Mugello and join me there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Haiku Between China and Bahrain

Nico Wins the China GP
In the China chill,
a new champion is born
within a reign of fire.

Image Copyright: Pocket Lint

China F1 Race
The air was chilly
but the race was scorching hot
each breath a spot.

Image Copyrights: F1 Racing Bulgaria

After the chill comes
the desert of discontent
of your shameless greed.

Image Copyrights: The Telegraph

Monday, April 2, 2012

New F1 Haiku

Some haiku inspired by the Malaysian GP.

Drops of rain so small
can make the fallen warrior
a champion once more.

Image CopyrightsSport Live

A small mistake is 
all it takes to turn the King 
into a true Fool.

Image CopyrightsBettor Blogs

Here comes the phoenix!
From the ashes of the old
rises now in gold.

Image CopyrightsGrand Prix

Malaysian GP Review

Last Sunday the Sepang race was completely CRAZY! Lewis Hamilton and Button started again from the front of the grid but this is pretty much everything that the Malaysian GP weekend had in common with the Australian Grand Prix from the previous week. The huge difference - the TROPICAL RAIN.

The Winners
Fernando Alonso

Image Copyrights: Daily Mail

After starting from P8 on the grid in an unlikely turn of events Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix. My post qualification talk was full of praise for Mercedes but the BIG surprise is Ferrari. The uncompetitive in qualifying car behaves pretty well when it counts - during the race. The great applause for this victory, however, goes to the pit crew of Ferrari. Their brilliant decision to get Felipe and Fernando inside the pit at the same time prevented Lewis Hamilton from leaving the pit lane ahead of Alonso. Alonso took the lead after that glorious pit and after that his experience allowed him to bring the win home. 

Regretfully, Massa is still more than a second slower than his teammate. There is something going on there - lack of motivation, fear, discontent, you name it. Alonso called the first two races "damage limitation" as the red team was trying to lose as little points as possible. It turned out, however, that after two races Alonso is the championship leader with 35 points (5 ahead of Lewis). The season promises to be heated.

Sergio Perez

Image Copyrights: Daily Mail

Perez managed to claim an impressive career-best performance by finishing second at Sepang. Besides Alonso there were five other former champions on the grid but it was only the brave Mexican that poised a challenge to the Spaniard. The tire management work of Perez was so amazing that some pundits claimed that the young Cico was supposed to pay from his own pocket for every pair of used tires. If it was not for an accident a couple of laps before the end of the race, Sauber's young star could have captured the victory as the car was obviously faster than Ferrari in the last third of the race. The rumors that connect Perez with a Ferrari move after the (seemingly inevitable) departure of Felipe just got a little more heated after Sergio's terrific performance in Malaysia.

The Losers
Red Bull

Image Copyrights: Daily Mail

Two races into the championship Red Bull are still without a win. They were not even close to fighting for one either during both races. And as if starting from P5 and P6 was not miserable enough, Vettel  punctured a tire when lapping Karthikeyan HRT and managed to finish in the dismal 11 place after running at fourth for the most of the race. He also was without radio communication for most of the race. During the meeting with the press after the race Vettel managed to make a fool of himself by calling Karthikeyan "an idiot" and "a cucumber."


Image Copyrights: Motorsport@Petronas

Despite a great position on the grid at P3, Michael Schumacher could finish only tenth, while Rosberg was outside the top ten. Therefore, the F-duct powered speed in the qualification still does not translate to a stable race performance for the German giants. They should get back to the drawing board as one point from two races does not compare well even against teams like Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, and Sauber.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

It Just Had to Happen: Alonso and Grigor Dimitrov

I'll follow up with my regular post about the F1 race later (I have a final, an assignment due, and the Malaysian Grand Prix was quite eventful). I just need to say this: sometimes it is hard not to believe in fate in sports or is it motivation?

Grigor Dimitrov

Image Copyrights: Zimbio

The 20-year old Bulgarian prodigy achieved the biggest success in his professional career today by defeating the seventh seed Thomas Berdych in the Miami Masters. Already by far the most successful Bulgarian male tennis player, Grigor had never previously defeated a Top 10 player in an ATP event (his only success against a Top 10 player was in the ITF 2012 Hopman Cup) and was a massive underdog at 101 in the ATP rankings. Grigor's first attempt at stardom was back in 2009 exactly against Berdych. The teenager won a remarkable three-set game back then in Rotterdam. Then, in January 2012, Berdych and Dimitrov met once more - in an extremely even game, Berdych managed to win in three-sets and prevent Bulgaria from sneaking the tie and the group win from the Czech Republic in the Hopman Cup.

It seems that we were destined for a three-setter once more. Grigor had started to become famous for his very beautiful losses - games in which he played well but just could not quite deliver at the end. Not this time! This time, despite back pains and an unreliable first serve, Grigor stated tough and managed to close the third set. I tend to think that back in January, after narrowly losing against the Czech, he just said to himself - NO MORE! It just had to be Berdych to complete the circle from a teenage prodigy to maybe a rising star!? Tipsarevic is up next for the young Bulgarian. Can he continue delivering in style against Top 10 players?

Fernando Alonso

Image Copyrights: The Jakarta Post

Today, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari also put him as a massive underdog for the win. His abilities, however, did not. He needed one fortunate pitstop and careful tire management to snatch the victory away from McLaren. Driving on the edge of the possibilities of the car, Alonso achieved his first victory since last summer. After the first two races he is also the season leader in F1 with 35 points, five in hand from Hamilton (30 points). Yes, there are a lot of races to go (18!) and the Ferrari is quite weak (the best grid position for the season was Nando's P8 today) but just maybe this will not be the year in which Vettel becomes the youngest triple world champion. Maybe it will be the year in which Fernando does so. As for the race, it seemed destined to happen exactly in Malaysia. On the same track, five months ago, the world of motorsport lost the young Italian star Marco Simoncelli.

Before the Malaysia Grand Prix, Ferrari chose to honor him by taking a picture with the sign "SIC - always with us" (SIC are Mario's race initials) in the corner in which Marco lost his live. Ferrari just had to win on Sepang to honor the memory of Marco. 

If you like this post see also my posts about the Malaysian GP Qualification, the Australian Grand Prix, and the Australian Grand Prix Qualification. I also post a fan art about F1: Haiku Part 1Haiku Part 2Haiku Part 3, and Malaysian GP Haiku. If you like my work, please also leave me a comment. 

F1 Haiku for Malaysian GP

A small dose of pre-race haiku :)

Lotus and RBR
I am a flower,
you are a horrid red beast,
can we stop the arrows?

Image Copyrights: Crash

Raikkonen and Malaysia
In the heat and rain,
the Lotus is a phoenix,
controlled by Ice.

Image Copyrights: Grand Prix

Schumacher on Sepang
You are so close that
I can almost feel your breath
in the silver rain.

Image Copyrights: F1 Fanatic

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Formula 1: Malaysian GP Qualification

The Winners


Image Copyrights: F1 Fanatic

The British team is still the fastest on the field. They did not seem particularly troubled during the qualification on Sepang and managed an easy 1-2 for the race tomorrow. Considering that the cars have not changed from last weekend, I expect they will also snatch the win on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how Hamilton will take it, if Button outperforms him again tomorrow. The balance of power seems to be shifting within the Silver Arrows/Team GB. 


Image CopyrightsFormula 1 Official Website

The F-duct (in the picture above) seems to be working quite well for Mercedes AMG Petronas. They are really fast during the practices and the qualification sessions when DRS is allowed everywhere. The problem is that last time the pace in the race was not as good. I think they can get in the mix between Red Bull and McLaren but I'm not sure if it will be her or later in the season. A great time from Michael - less than 0.2 off the pace of Hamilton who will be on pole tomorrow. I hope the King still has the great start reaction that one him so many positions last year. It will definitely be heated with the two McLarens in the front and the two Red Bulls at his back.

The Losers

Red Bull

The Red Bulls are definitely not quite there yet. They did not even try putting up a fight for the pole. Webber outperformed last years' record maker Vettel (P5) and will start from forth on the grid. Webber was, however, disturbingly close to not making it out of Q1 in the qualification. I think every time a team has such a great year as they had in 2011, there is inevitably a feeling of relaxation and overconfidence that causes a loss in pace the year after that. I hope Newey still has some aces up his sleeves for the next races.

Qualification Results*

Image Copyrights: Official F1 Website

*Kovalainen and Raikkonen have 5 place grid penalties

Friday, March 23, 2012

More F1 Haiku

Infiniti lies 
within your grasp, victory
echoes in each gasp.

 Image Copyrights: Sky Sports

New F1 Season
Who can tame the bull?
The iceman, the shoemaker,
the king of buttons?

Image Copyrights: Deccan Chronicle

Wounded torreador
in a mechanical rodeo
fights bulls and horses.

Image Copyrights: Formula 1 On Live

If you liked this, check also F1 Haiku: Part 1 and F1 Haiku: Part 2, or just leave me a comment:)

Tributes to F1 Champions

Fernando Alonso

This tribute to Fernando Alonso includes the Abba classic "Fernando:" very clever! In part of the video, Alonso features in a Ferrari rodeo-style commercial. It is quite impressive, if it was actually Nando doing the stunts with the horse.

Michael Schumacher

This video has no real horses or music: just the engines of F1 cars and the brilliance of the undisputed King of Formula 1. I hope that soon Michael will find it within himself and the Mercedes AMG Petronas W03 car whatever it takes to became this driver again. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher from the beginning of the millennium are without a doubt the best racing team to have ever been in Formula 1. However, since the Champion left, the legendary Italian team seems lost.

Sebastian Vettel

The video features Sebastian Vettel, winning his first title (2010) and first Grand Prix (Monza 2008). Those were also the maiden title and victory for Red Bull and Toro Rosso, respectively. Seb is really giving wings to the bulls in F1. Midway through the video, there is a short clip with Vettel as a child in his room. There we can see that a picture with Schumacher from a cart  race was obviously among Seb's most prized possession. This boy is not only a great talent but also has a very good taste. I wonder how it feels like when he actually gets to race Michael.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

F1 Themed Haiku, Part Deux

This is part two of my series of F1 inspired haiku posts, check also Part 1

Schumi & Kimi, Monza 2006
The father, the heir:
two kings in the dawn of Fall
and the end of hope.
Image Copyrights: Sisi's Blog

Schumi in 2003
A black horse on fire:
the power of the west wind,
the orphan horseman.
Image Copyrights: BBC

Fiery bull with wings: 
silver cup and a rainbow
in a teardrop.
Image Copyrights: BBC 

F1 Themed Haiku

We are midway through the week between two races so I decided to post some F1 inspired haiku.

Ferrari & The Australian Grand Prix
Black horse, red horseman.
A morning full of hope,
awaits down under?
Image Copyrights: Viva F1

Ferrari, Red Bull, Schumi & The Australian Grand Prix
The red sunrise flash,
the renaissance of the bull,
or the king's return?
Image Copyrights: Auto Car Information

The Australian Grand Prix 
It lies down under,
the land of sand and asphalt,
where dreams are born.
Image Copyrights: Totally Cool Pix

PS: The new episode of The Grid is posted on Youtube. Go check ir out, some rumors of Massa being given the boot are circulating.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Football: Leaving at the Wrong Time

Loyalty is not in fashion in the world of football. In the last ten year, the players that played during their entire career in one team are very few. Big football players tend to leave their clubs when the first signs of crisis strike or when >30,000,000 euro are put on the table. Such players join team after team to "pursue their dreams." Funny enough, two of those players that never left their youth team are Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs.

Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs
Image Copyrights: AC Milan BG

Those two have between them won the following major trophies:
UEFA Champions League/European Champion Club Cup:  7 times (2 for Ryan with Manchester United, 5 for Paolo with AC Milan)
Domestic Titles: 19 times! (12 for Ryan in England, 7 for Paolo in Italy)
UEFA Supercups: 6 times (5 for Paolo and 1 for Ryan)
Intercontinental Cup/FIFA Club World Cups: 5 times (2 for Ryan and 3 for Paolo)
Domestic Cups: 9 (4 FA Cups for Giggs, 4 League Cups for Giggs, and 1 Italian Cup for Maldini)
Domestic Supercups: 13 (8 for Giggs, 5 for Maldini)

It can be easily said that while some other players have careers, those two have history! However, this post is not about those that are loyal. It is about those that are not. It is about the players that left in the worst possible moment (worst for them, not for the team they left). This is a list of very unlucky players and their misfortunes.

Michael Owen
Image Copyrights: BBC 

After years of waiting for Liverpool to win the title, in 2004 Michael Owen decided it was enough. He joined Real Madrid, known as Los Galacticos back then. In the team, he became a part of a very interesting collection of Golden Ball winners. Ronaldo had two Ballon D'Ors, Zinedine Zidane had one, Figo had one, and Michael Owen had one - five in total. Yet, this did not help them win any major trophies in 2004/2005. Michael left for Newcastle in the summer of 2005 still without a domestic title. He would go on to win one only in 2011 with Liverpool's archrivals Manchester United. The precious 19th title that made Manchester the most successful team in the domestic league, just ahead of Liverpool. What is the problem with Owen leaving then (considering that Liverpool are still without a title)? The problems is that in May 2005 Liverpool won the Champions League. In a remarkable game against Milan (which I still remember in my nightmares), Liverpool managed to win on penalties their fifth European Champions trophy. A win that also allowed them to keep the cup forever (it is given for three consecutive or five total European crowns). In the mean time, Michael was struggling in the domestic league in Spain and Real could not advance beyond the round of 16 in the CL. Sorry, Micky. Bad timing! 

Image Copyrights: Cabronos 

Andriy Shevchenko
Image CopyrightsFootball Pictures

For seven years, Shevchenko was the King of Milan. The fans, the president, and the vice president adored him. It was the spring of 2006 and Milan were trophyless for 2 years (since winning the domestic title in 2004). They suffered a painful loss to Liverpool in the 2005 CL final in Istanbul and then lost against Barcelona in the 2006 semi-final. The Calciopoli scandal was looming large. And then rumors started to appear that Roman Abramovich, the extremely rich president of Chelsea, wanted to buy the Ukrainian star of Milan. At this point Shevchenko was filling in for Paolo Maldini as team captain. So it came as a complete shock for the "tifosi rossoneri" when their idol said basta and decided to move to Chelsea. The explanation was that he wanted to learn English! The result was that Milan won the Champions League again the year after than in Athens (May 2007), while Chelsea failed to retain the domestic title in England and their star coach Maurinho was fired. The coach was fired but not before he managed to turn Sheva into a shadow of his former self. Sheva had already won the Champions League but it would have been nice to win it twice, wouldn't it?

Image CopyrightsFootball Pictures 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic'
Image CopyrightsThe Offside

It is hard to say how a player that is on a series of 8 domestic titles in a row can be unlucky but it can happen. Actually it can happen (twice!). Back in the summer 2009 Zlaran Ibrahimovic' lost hope that Internazionale could possibly win the Champions League and decided to join the "Best Team in the World" - aka 2009 title holders Barcelona. The Catalan club had Messi and two European titles in the last four years. But it was not meant to be for Zlatan. Barcelona did win the domestic title and cup but they lost CL semi-final against Zlatan's old team - Inter. The nerazzuri went on to win the final and Zlatan was left without an European champions trophy and in a serious fight with Barca's coach Pep Guardiola. 

Image CopyrightsGuardian

The result from the feud was that Zlatan once again switched teams in the summer of 2010. Ever the football nomad, the Swede joined AC Milan, completing a "hat-trick of shame" in Italy (playing for JuventusZlatan (to have a chance at winning the CL due to his unlucky team changes), if only I did not know better - Zlatan is the heart and engine of the rossoneri. If there is some (small) chance that Milan defeats Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, it will be because of Zlatan. Go ahead, Nomad. Keep dreaming!

Image Copyrights: Backpage Football

The Conclusion: Do not run for the door immediately! There is a light ahead of every (football) crisis.

If you like this post, check also Football: Where were you moments?.