Or How We Learnt To Stop Worrying and Love the Blog...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Be With Me My Beloved Love, So My Smile May Never Fade

In another of our many expeditions in seach of the culturally noteworthy, The High Levels took to the cinema today to catch the new Eric Khoo film. In customary High Level fashion, we barely got to the cinema on time, what with The Heat getting detained by respective winsome ladies at the ticketing booth and popcorn counter, who suddenly found themselves perspiring profusely for no reason. Word had it that there was going to be some girl on girl action in the film. And if there was to be, the public may be certain that The High Levels would be there digest it from the intellectual and artistic perspective.

Be With Me was not a very good film in the way that Top Gun was a good film. There was no sex, no good music to hum along to, and no explosions captured in jaw-dropping slow-motion. The narrative fleshed out the lives of five or six (we forget) different individuals, and attempted to intertwine them in a way reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. One or two threads could have been dispensed with altogether. The love between the lesbian couple was, as Rockson would have put it, 'a bit extra'. The film tried to pull one within the emotional intensity of the relationship by inserting lovely little piano/violin duets at critical courtship moments. Yet the outcome of that relationship (as well as its emotional impact) on the audience was dulled, outweighed, and completely trivialised but the other narrative threads. Still, it must be said (we insist) that both actresses photograph splendidly.

Yet aside from the aforementioned technicality, Be With Me is an extraordinary film about loneliness and suffering; on love and its absence. It limps along, then suddenly, and without warning, goes and breaks your heart. Several of the scenes commanded unspeakable emotional power, reducing The High Levels to sustained bouts of restrained weeping, as well as all manner of uncivilised snivelling. The old shopkeeper put in a Masterclass performace, establishing himself as the emotional pivot of the film. It is from him that the meaning of the film emanates, and it is for him that all tears are shed. The scene in the shophouse where he imagines seeing/not seeing his dead wife had tRYATHLETE closing his eyes in the theater's darkness, unwilling to take any more punishment. The point where the audience observes their hands clasp over her mouth as he plants a desolate kiss on her forehead, sent the entire HL crew into visible and audible convulsions. By the time he wept in the blind and deaf woman's arms, the entire cinema was wracked with grief (save for the few who found the blind and deaf woman's speech amusing, and the same people who found the foiled suicide of the jilted lesbian hilarious).

The values of the film, in its evocation of human dignity, courage, estrangement and love left the High Levels humbled. It painstakingly strips away all that is material, forcing us to look at humanity at its most fundamental levels of naked emotion. The film takes us to a place where the meaning of love embeds itself within watercress soup and steamed rice; where love finds itself destroyed, and in turn destroys those who loved through grief. A place where all that remains of love is its remembrance. It is a place where people eat only in order that they may go on loving.

You have it on good authority. Be With Me is the moment of local cinema.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tell Me Quando Quando Quando

To all the dear friends who have asked for our return, we love you and thank you for your support. Our prolonged silence over the last few months has drawn an onslaught of requests, pleas, complaints from our beloved readers. The most dramatic of these came over dinner, where over XO Fish-Head Bee Hoon and baby kai-lan, a reader who shall be known only as Premlicious unexpectedly, and quite sullenly threw down his chopsticks, and demanded that we start blogging, lest he remove The High Levels from his Favourites list.

Indeed, much has happened in the world since we last blogged. Much of which we wouldn't know about were it not for the good blogs of Messrs Brown, Miyagi, and the enigmatic Cowboy Caleb. To be sure, we could venture to comment insightfully upon hurricanes, terrorist attacks or North Korea, but that is more the domain of the High Flyer, not The High Level. Newspapers are, for us, general household aids that splendidly absorb vomit, or prevent the oil from a KFC family bucket from smearing the table top.

Apparently, a lady blogger who writes as Sarong Party Girl placed some rather tasteful pictures of herself on her blog, which sent the local conservatives out in witch-hunting droves. When asked for The High Level comment on the incident, tRYATHLETE offered, "Shit lah, all of us didn't see it." In any case, l'art pour art we say.

Also worthy of mention has been the meteoric apotheosis of the excellent Rockson Takumi Tan. Intelligent, opinionated and grandiloquently heartland, the good Rockson has become a mythical hero of sorts. With hearty tales of his Evo, his lup sup bar escpades and political diatribes recounted in flawless Singlish, Rockson portrays the stereotype of the 'beng' to complete and utter perfection. Side-splittingly funny, and without question, a complete impostor. As Techno Telegu remarked, "hao siao one lah." The High Levels salute Rockson Takumi Tan.

Apologies to all as well for our no-show at the bloggers convention. I was working till late over the weekend. As Topspin has informed you, I force children to beat little green balls with rigour, and make them run and do push ups if they do not. On that weekend, tRY was in JB on another of his numerous sojourns to the beautiful state, while Tops was milling around one of Singapore's premier law firms, waiting diligently for a winsome lady for a chat and a dash of Darjeeling. Techno was in Nepal showing the Sherpas how to climb mountains, as well as the proper techniques for loading stores on llamas.

Thats it for now. We are delighted to be back.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Whisky and a bit of Dry"

Since Tay-Tarik, appointed quite arbitrarily as the first post-er for this new season, is a bit tardy in getting his words out to print, let me take this opportunity to write a prologue of sorts and perhaps steal a little of his thunder. In true High Level fashion this "prologue of sorts" will have little to no relevance to Tay-Tarik's post, Top's prior post, or even to its own title.

And so it begins, Season 2 (Semester 1) of The High Levels.

Things have changed, even if the posts seem oddly familiar. It is around this age that the irrepressible youth takes its first, tentative steps into true adulthood, learning such values such as responsibility and diligence, and, in the manner of caterpillars metamorphosizing into butterflies, emerge out of the cocoon of university life as respectable accountants and engineers and businessmen. Of course, none of that for the High Levels. We choose, instead, the noble career of Security Guard Management. Or teaching children to hit fuzzy green spheres with oversize fly-swatters. Or, having undergone the panic attacks of understanding the real meaning of "be in the office at 8am", we choose instead to stop the caterpillar-butterfly transforming trick at the half-way stage and start filling out forms for post-grad programmes. And, of course, there is always the ever-popular option of snuggling up in the cocoon a little while longer (known to insiders as 'Honours programme' and 'Minors in technopreneurship and business', and 'er...I'm still in 3rd year').

I await Tay-Tarik's opening episode with much anticipation (and frankly, so should all of you).

Monday, August 29, 2005

Who Put Christian Songs on our Radioblog?

It's been many many bottles of Glenfiddich since the inaugural season of The High Levels ended.

Unfortunately we haven't been in either planning, production or post-production (or a restrospective nomination of production as Tay-Tarik might have said) of Season 2 during this time. Instead we've been locked in a bitter dispute of which High Level should be the next in line to contribute an article. Of all the arguments made, the most compelling claim came from tRYATHLETE when he said, "I'm not posting anymore doo dah doo dah. I'm not posting anymore dah dah doo dah day. No more..."

I think however the time has come for this stalemate to be broken and for us to resume our public service. As such it is my distinct pleasure to give you the highly anticipated Season 2 (Semester 1) of The High Levels feat. a fine first article by Tay-Tarik.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Singapore's Sunday Footballers

Presenting a critical exegesis of Sunday footballers already stalking a street-soccer court near you.


A fearless and fearsome competitor, this specimen is the first to any scramble or melee, in most instances the triumphant boot amongst a sea of flailing arms and legs. Braveheart has been known to frequently lunge at raised boots with his forehead, and will happily stick his face or family jewels in the path of 100km/h footballs in a valiant effort to protect the goalmouth.

The Apologist

An individual with the unendearing trait of actively apologising for every aspect of his performance, The Apologist will corner teammates one by one to demonstrate his contrition for the imperfectly weighted pass, the lack of height on his corner kick, and his tardiness in getting back to help defend that unstoppable 20 metre scorcher. The Apologist is distinguishable as the only one in the team who isn't saying 'Go away'.

The Cupboard

Distinguished by his towering frame and less than graceful lumbering style, The Cupboard spends the better part of the afternoon trying not to trip over his opponents' or his own feet. Immediately recognizable through his tendency to allow balls to bounce off his shins or knees whilst attempting to control it, The Cupboard has the further habit of clattering unintentionally into opponents and teammates, as well as the misfortune of falling on his posterior by accidentally treading on the ball.

The General

The self appointed motivator, manager and inspirational leader of the team. While his teammates sit at the sidelines awaiting their turn over a cigarette and some idle banter, The General may be observed in a corner sullenly practising his juggling or ball control. Unspeakably passionate about the game, The General is an emotional commander, and takes bad football as a personal affront, often dashing to and fro to chide beleaguered teammates over sloppy touches, or for shooting when they ought to have passed. Does not play well with Virtuosos (see below).

The Virtuoso

A solitary creature by definition, The Virtuoso always fancies his chances in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds. Characterized by a reluctance or refusal to pass the ball, as well as the penchant for ignoring the supporting runs or cries of teammates, The Virtuoso is also compulsively drawn to turning in unnecessary circles and feinting imaginary opponents with eloquent step-overs and shoulder jinks.

The Theorist

This footballer suffers from a malaise produced by excessive exposure to the commentary of Shabby Singh. The Theorist saunters about with his finger in the air, imploring teammates to 'keep a tight back line', 'play it on the ground', or 'press the opponent'. One of the least popular figures on any given street-soccer court, The Theorist generally expends his cache of energy by talking non-stop, and often has to be substituted early on. The Theorist may also, for no discernible reason, be occasionally found muttering 'Yes John' to no-one in particular.

The Antagonist

An individual most players try to avoid, The Antagonist is usually a temperate creature, until the intolerably hot climate, bad form or useless teammates begin to nudge his irritability. The Antagonist adopts a steely gaze, and is on a sharp lookout for the next unfortunate chap who accidentally clips his ankles, or who wins the ball off him unfairly. This character is well known for the phrases 'You want to try me?', 'What the fuck was that?', and the time-honoured 'You got problem issit?'

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Where We Have Been

As our dear readers may have noted, its been a good couple of weeks since any of the High Levels put out an entry. Hardly the attitude of champions, we know. One good reason for this absence is the fact that all the High Levels, as Tryathlete noted a post or two ago, are not to be confused with High Flyers. The last few weeks have been spent desperately trying to compress the work of a semester into an extremely short cramming period. Which honestly, could have been circumvented had we the foresight to put those many hours idling at Fong Seng and Breko into reading during the course of the semester. In other words, we ought to have spent semester time studying instead of sitting around impressing each other or looking at women walk by.

Our readers will be happy to know, that as I gently tap these letters on my keyboard, Tek Sappot, Techno Telegu, Tryathlete and their two lovely lady friends are on the undulating byways of Malaysia in a rented Trajet, possibly stopping here and there to splash about the waterfalls, or simply immersing within the lush landscapes and endless horizons. Well, not really. In all likelihood, they're sitting at a random coffeeshop in Ayer Keroh or Seremban, sniggering at the price of cigarettes, while pausing only to exhale reflective clouds of smoke.

As I write, Topspin Thamby is sitting at his desk doing his internship at the LKY School of Public Policy. Or was it the Institute of SEA Studies? One forgets. Whichever it may be, he assures me that his work calls for him to be constantly surrounded by beautiful Bulgarians, Slovaks, Magyars, Bosnian-Herzegovinians, or generally anyone with an appetite for political inquiry or the role of agriculture in the sustenance of the North Vietnamese Army in the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Or something to that effect.

The HEAT? Last we heard, he was in Bangalore directing a documentary on the geo/economic schism between different Indian communities. The theoretical frame will be Jacques Derrida's notions of differance. Reports note that he was seen not a week ago giving food to impoverished villagers, while helping repair broken water pipes and electric cables in between takes (as in like, when the director says "Take 1! Action!"). Apparently the documentary will be titled "From Sixth Avenue to Bangalore". Wote for him when it gets to Cannes.

In their absence, it would be my distinct pleasure to publish some photographs of Topspin Thamby, The HEAT and Techno Telegu in a variety of compromising positions. Really. I can't tell you enough how much of a pleasure it is. Unfortunately, I haven't the foggiest idea as to how this Photobucket thingamajig works. So I'm off to reread the rather beautiful One Hundred Years of Solitude. Toodles for now.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Up One Level - Issue #5

It has come to our attention that the Up One Level issues generally provide information that has little relevance to life in the qualification-obsessed, pragmatic-thinking, value-added society that is Singapore. In order to provide a better service to you, our much appreciated readers, the High Level Project proudly unveils Issue #5 of our much-heralded self-improvement column*:

Surf the Curve

If you are one of the many undergraduates that we believe make up our readership, then this issue will be of much interest.

As you already know by now, NUS, and many other excellent institutions of higher learning, grades its students on a bell curve. In layman's terms, that means that it grades its students on a bell curve. Surf the Curve refers to a HL tactic to ensure that you get a fair grade in whatever class you choose to take in any semester, without worrying about such annoying things like studying, or putting in effort.

The central tenet of Surf the Curve can be elucidated thus:

Never take a class which is attended primarily by the high-flyers (not to be confused with High Levels)

Now fully cognizant to the above, one can understand how such a tactic cannot but ensure a better grade, seeing as to how the bell curve recognizes relative performance rather than the absolute old-school marks=grade system we all love to hate. Be assured, it is neither cheating nor illegal, and at most it can be seen as a little unsportsmanlike, but then again, since when is academics athletics?

The morally-upright and high-flyers among you will protest, no doubt. Well... boo hoo.

We anticipate that the rest of you most likely feel that there are too many difficulties in executing Surf the Curve tactics for it to be a viable option. This next section irons out the most common difficulties, in the order in which one is likely to encounter them:

1:Identifying the high-flyers

Easy. They're the ones not putting in the requisite 4 hours-per-day in the NUS Arts Canteen. Be aware, there are some hustlers who do put in the canteen hours, but in reality, are the types you should avoid like the plague, with regards to class selection. Examples include Tay-Tarik, a self-confessed "shy and retiring type" who nevertheless drops 5 syllable words at the drop of a hat, and in all likelihood will own your ass at Text Twist and Scrabble.

2:Falling behind post-midterms due to overconfidence after succesfully avoiding the high-flyers

A little burst of effort here will suffice. Read the introduction and conclusion of a randomly chosen reading. Buy a pen or two. Find out professor's name. Before you know it, you will feel the exhilaration of riding on the right side of the curve again.

3:Falling even further behind when pt. 2 is discovered to be overrated

Some predatory thinking can do wonders. Volunteer to "help" a high-flyer hand in that 30% term paper. Be creative.

4:Discovering that after missing all your deadlines and failing that midterm, it is now mathematically impossible for you to pass the course.

This is a risk all Curve-Surfers have to take. Surfing is a risky sport, and if one cannot maintain balance, a wipeout will ensue, resulting in ignominous floundering and panicking, and finally resurfacing where one started. Or worse.

*an excellent example of Own Self Say Own Self, discussed earlier