Sunday, April 27, 2014

End


And so it ends at the beginning.

David Moyes, once considered one of the brightest talents in his field, was unceremoniously sacked from Manchester United after a comprehensive defeat to his former team, Everton, at his old stomping ground Goodison Park.

It was the good work that he did for over a decade to ensure that Everton not only remain in the Premier League, it was also his tendency to punch way above his weight. Finishes in the top half of the table were sometimes further elevated by their willingness to give one or two of the big boys a black eye. His ability to achieve all of that continued success year after year on what must have been budgets of depreciative value (in relation to their direct rivals) stood out, making him a prime candidate for a level above.

Perhaps, then, the ascension to the biggest vacancy in world football came a little too soon. He had many years of quality experience in a tough and relevant league, but Manchester United being the beast they are (and were; we’ll get back to this in a short while) is not one willing to wait for its own success to be continued. They may have been lowered expectations and objectives, but it is patently clear that they were not being met.

I have previously written here and here about my belief in David Moyes being able to turn things around enough to ensure that he can at the very least maintain a challenge on a consistent enough basis over a number of years. I noted a number of similarities between him and the alpha elephant in the room Sir Alex Ferguson. Going beyond that, it should also be noted that while he did indeed splash a lot of cash, they were essentially two different additions made to a squad in need of further reinforcements and refurbishment. However much the money spent, it does not compensate for a team that has grown fat on its belly, perhaps somewhat contented with the recent level of great success.

Unfair comparisons were also made with other managers who have made it a bit more of a fight this season. Brendan Rogers have been praised (and rightly so) for his achievements this season. Roberto Martinez, too, have been lauded for bringing Moyes’ old team Everton even higher up the table. We should, however, remember that Rogers is in his second full season as the manager of Liverpool. His first season was not all that convincing either; though there were no appreciable drop in quality, they did finish seventh, and he did not immediately bring the Reds up the table. Barry Glendenning of The Guardian had even compared Rogers to a snake oil salesman, given how he appears to be a man who has somehow managed to trick everyone to give him one of the biggest jobs in the country, based on a single season of (admittedly excellent) top flight record with Swansea City.

The same goes for Martinez, whose ability in coaching the players he had at his disposal is very impressive, but we should also remember he has managed the loan market very well indeed, hoodwinking his rivals by bringing in Romelu Lukaku on the final day of the transfer window. His other loan signings, Gareth Barry and Gerard Delofeu, were also players of good quality. However, a longer term vision is clearly required when these players are to officially return at the end of the season (I say officially, because rumours of Barry signing on permanently with the Toffees are fairly realistic).

Moyes had players with bigger reputations to manage, but he did not have enough time to truly grow into the role as others have had the chance to. The constant scrutiny at a club like United must have been incredibly uncomfortable. The continuous leaking of news from the grand old club can’t have helped either. When Sir Alex Ferguson first arrived, his earlier years were marked by such whispers along the corridors, whispers uttered by those too scared to make their faces known. He made a note of this in his earlier autobiographies, and his success at changing the culture of the club cannot be sniffed at. However, it appears that it has only suppressed it for the duration of his dictatorship, and Moyes failure to get to grips with managing as big a club as Manchester United sadly undermined him.

There were other factors, such as the underperformance of players who would usually perform at a higher level, and Moyes himself did not help by not really sounding like a confident Manchester United man even from the very beginning, but like I said, a little more time, a little more opportunity under more settled conditions would have made for better clarity as to how Moyes truly envisioned his own Manchester United team.

As it stands, he is no more, but Ryan Giggs is now it the hot seat. I remember watching him play against Norwich City some years ago. Having come on as a substitute, he promptly gave away possession in the centre circle, allowing for the home team to score the winning goal in that contest. The following day rumours of his demise as an effective player at the top level intensified. Right now, he becomes only the second ever player-manager for Manchester United against the very same opponents who were supposed to have provided the final nail in his playing career coffin.

However, I think it is not without irony that as Giggsy prepares for his first managerial contest, the former Barcelona coach Tito Villanova passed on. He was not the most popular of choices to success Pep Guardiola, but his success in attaining a record number of points to win La Liga last year shut people up for a while, and it is only his battle against cancer that took him out of the game. He has now in a better place, and my sincere condolences I wish to his friends and family. 

As one man ends, another begins. And as another begins, yet another moves on.

Thank you David, good luck Ryan, and rest in peace Tito.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Streak


I can’t believe it.

As Brock Lesnar hoisted the Undertaker up for the third F5 of the match, I didn’t think for a moment that the streak would be over. As he shifted his weight, pushing up the big man one more time at the end of a very physical match, I didn’t think that the streak would be over. Undertaker’s body was slammed into the mat, face down, a mess of blood, sweat and maybe even some involuntary tears, but I did not take it all that seriously. I did think that three F5s were quite a lot, but hey…the Undertaker have survived plenty more. As he rolled Taker’s body over for the count, I watched with intent, but still believing that Undertaker would prevail one more time, beating the three count one more time, keeping the streak alive for one more year.

He didn’t. And just like that, the streak was finished.

Now, I full well understand the machinations of the business. Professional wrestling in the modern day is a complex beast of storytelling, theatre, event management, physical endeavour and personalities, amongst many others. It’s self-proclaimed as sports entertainment, precisely because the genre into which it falls cannot be clearly identified. It is a hybrid in all its glory.

As such, Brock Lesnar didn’t beat the Undertaker because he deserved it, not like Liverpool whose brand of sporting excellence this season has propelled them to the top. It was pre-determined, decided beforehand by the powers that be, that Brock Lesnar would defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

In the immediate aftermath, my mind could not think as clearly, but my feelings were quick and strong. Brock Lesnar should not have beaten the streak. He didn’t deserve to, doesn’t deserve to, and while things may change, probably will never deserve to truly end the streak. There are a lot of reasons against Brock and for others.

I am against Brock Lesnar ending the streak because while he remains a fantastic physical specimen capable of inflicting a tremendous amount of pain through great skill and agility…he is not the model professional wrestler. He broke into the business many years ago, steamrolled over everyone, and became the champion in double quick time. However, very quickly the demands of the business got to him, and he left. He did not, however, leave in the best way possible. He left with one of the most disappointing matches of all time, a Wrestlemania match up with Goldberg, with Steve Austin as the special guest referee. That should have been a match for the ages, but instead it was limp and pathetic, the amount of effort put in not equal to the competitors’ reputation.

I also believe that it is because of his departure that Randy Orton was elevated at the rate he was. When Brock Lesnar won the championship, he was the youngest champion to have won it. So here is a man, pushed to the high heavens and given all the accolades any professional wrestler would have killed for…and he left in an undignified manner.

At least for the world to see. Of course, we will not know the behind the scenes stories that could change my opinion, but I’m basing this in a critical fashion on what I know. What I know is that Randy Orton then became the champion, the youngest ever, thus deleting that one accolade they could take away from Brock Lesnar.

He then came back after quite a long time away, and I was pleased to see him. It added credibility to the product, that extra polish that goes the extra mile, though it was disappointing that he would eventually only turn out every once in a while. I am aware that he has other interests, but the fact remains that if he is not interested in the demands of modern day professional wrestling, he should get out of the kitchen. Instead, he comes back every once in a while, wrestling the biggest stars on the biggest stages.

That’s still fine, but it is also precisely because of that that I believe the streak should have been beaten by someone else. Someone who is a professional wrestler in every sense of the word, who would maximise the effects of such a victory. Breaking the streak, over twenty years in the making, is, at a single stroke, the biggest career maker of all time. Brock didn’t need that, and Brock didn’t deserve to.

Then again…who else? This year, in spite of what many want to believe, the field is incredibly thin. For the past few years, Taker has been having face matches with Triple H. It worked out well, but I don’t know whether another face match for the third year in a row would have the same kind of drama. So let’s look at the heels, then.

The top guys, Batista and Randy Orton, were tied up in the championship angle with Daniel Bryan. Even Triple H has inserted himself into the picture, and is as much a full-time heel as anyone else. Who else? Alberto Del Rio? A formidable opponent, but he couldn’t even handle Batista upon his return. He can’t go from that to beating the streak in a believable fashion. Wade Barrett? I think he’s an accomplished wrestler, but he’s not even cared enough by the fans to get a strong reaction outside of the England and post-Wrestlemania Raw episodes.

What about the faces? CM Punk picked up his ball and left for a ‘sabbatical’, whatever that means for now. The Big Show? He’s got it made. He can afford not to win any championships for the rest of his career, and he would still maintain that strong aura about him. Of the younger bucks, the ones who could make the most of this for the rest of their career, names like Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston pops up without meriting another second’s consideration. Roman Reigns? He just turned face along with The Shield, a move that ensures that group has some mileage left in them before the inevitable break.

Can the Undertaker wait a year to keep the streak before passing it on to the next generation? In a perfect world, I want to think that could be done, but the fact is he is not getting any younger. He has wrestled a fairly physical style over many years, and it is due to his injuries that the big man has slowed down, doing very little beyond Wrestlemania season. I think he may want to end it now, simply because in a year, he would not be in a better condition to fight.

The streak is over. I have come to accept that, just as everything else in life that has a very limited shelf life. I realise that to be true, but the fact remains that I am sad, because professional wrestling has been a huge interest of mine for very strong personal reasons, and the streak has been a huge part of that. It felt like yet another reminder of the fragility of life, of how many things are not as permanent as you want it to be, like a part of your earlier years that is no longer there.

I’m sad about that, but I’m even sadder that the streak was broken by Brock Lesnar not because he deserved it, simply because he was the only one standing when the time came for it to end.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Language


Language always appears to be at the forefront of discussions here in Malaysia. Whether in a formal or an informal manner, it seems to always be at the forefront of any sort of nationalistic discourse at any given moment in time.

It is quite a strange existence to live through, to be thinking about language in very specific terms. While any sort of discussion on a more critical plane is always positive, the repetitive perspectives being wheeled out over and over again is not something that I think can move us forward as much. Without difference, there is no meaning.

I raise this for recently I came across an acquaintance from more international origins. This was through a friend of mine, a lover of different languages herself, and the three of us talked about a number of different things, including the Malaysian and international education system. Sooner or later, such discussions (especially with persons whose identity is ticked under the box of non-bumiputera) would somehow lead to how many public universities here would practice racist and discriminating policies.

This was no different, but I enjoy these discussions a fair amount, given that I have a decent enough experience of a wide range of education systems both within and without Malaysia.

The discussion soon turned to language, and my new acquaintance, being someone who I think is of Arab origin, suggested that she is not particularly happy with how Malaysians claim their language. In particular, the target of her ire seems to be about how Malaysians speak of the language as if it is theirs to begin with. I can see her point, but I also think the same could be said about…well, any other language you could care to mention. My friend was also fairly quick off the mark, helpfully informing/reminding her about how the Malaysian language is a mixture of a number of different origin points, with Sanskrit, Arabic, Tamil and quite a few others being thrown into the bag; sometimes, just sometimes, I am stoked that what I call almari is also what Cristiano Ronaldo would call almari.

Quite a fair amount of the discussion were based on facts commonly proven to be true by academicians (which, by the standards of the modern world, must mean that it is completely true, right?). On a more personal level, I think a differentiation is to be made between Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Melayu. I think Bahasa Melayu is the more ‘original’ language, while Bahasa Malaysia is the more contemporary version used in Malaysia. I reckon it is a part of the reason why many of those who could speak Bahasa Malaysia may not feel all that comfortable even trying to communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, yet another very similar language, simply because they may not know Bahasa Melayu all that well to begin with. However, that’s just my opinion and there are many different ways of coming to that point.

The main reason why I’m writing this, though, is the fact that the point of origin was brought up to begin with. Honestly speaking, I feel that almost every other time the issue of the Malay language is brought up, we are constantly reminded, one way or another, about how the lingua franca of Malaysia came about. It took a lot of words from here, it derived a lot of influences from there.

More to the point, such points were made almost in a derogatory manner. Many take the opinion that such an influx makes it a weaker language to begin with, claiming the high ground with more vernacular choices such as Mandarin. That’s fine if it’s their opinion, but the introduction of the origin of languages is a very weird way of going about it.

Is there something wrong with that? I feel that we think and talk about a lot of other languages in Malaysia as well. In particular, the usage of English is often championed as the way forward should one wish to be more distinguished in today’s world. However, such discussions rarely focus on the languages Latin roots, or how other languages such as French also managed to insert itself into the daily English lexicon.

Korean is a popular language to pick up here in Malaysia as a second or third language, especially by those who enjoy the cultural products of South Korea. I’ve learned the language myself, and it is a difficult challenge, especially for those born and bred in contexts which do not use Korean as a language in any situation whatsoever.

To those who are interested in tackling that challenge, does it cross your mind that a significant portion of the Korean vocabulary has its roots in Chinese language and dialects? Some academicians place it above 50%, though modern day inclusion of English is slowly but surely eroding that majority. Mongolian is also commonly cited as a major influence; if you are a student looking for a part-time job, the word for that is actually…German in nature, having transfused its way into the peninsular by way of…Japanese. The beauty of the post-modern world with its less-definable boundaries.

Is this form of discussion an attempt to repoliticise the usage of language in the country? Perhaps. I’ve often been disgusted by how language (along with a number of other things) have been reappropriated by many different parties here in Malaysia for very specific purposes. Sometimes, these purposes run counter to the very definition of the word or sentence being used. I’m not just talking about political parties marking their territory by pissing at the corners of language barriers, I’m also referring to the younger generation redefining the word ‘clash’ to mean break up (for goodness sakes…how on Earth did that come about?).

All the same, whatever the contexts of discussion, the origins of other languages have rarely been discussed with similar fervour. If anything, it is often with an overt or covert objective of pointing out how it’s not much of a language at all.

I strongly disagree. It is a very positive strength, one that recognises and accepts the multi existence here in this region. If anything, it could very well be the first post-modern language to be truly acknowledged as such, and yet here we are, deriding the language that could very well be the gateway to over 300 million people.

Whatever the point of discussion, I’ll be damned if one of our strengths, the beauty of whatever language that connects its peoples, is being portrayed as a weakness. If the etymology of our existence is the only thing that matters in defining who we are, then we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Wag The Dog


News filtered through recently about the apparent banning of the film ‘The Raid 2: Berandal’. The film itself is a sequel (obviously) of a previous film, which I reviewed here. The first film was very famous for its inclusion and exhibition of silat and various other forms of martial arts. Simply put, it was incredibly violent and excruciating to watch in parts (though somewhat perversely, that was a part of the attraction).

Coming back to the point, though, the news that came through is of the second film being banned. Being the sequel, I think that the filmmakers and main star Iko Uwais would be under some pressure to outperform what they did in the first film. In short…plenty more of the gore, blood and violence.

That’s fine, though. Nothing wrong with that in many respects, but let’s just say that if the film were to be banned in Malaysia, I would not be entirely surprised.

However, let’s have a closer look at the reports. Though it was reported by Cinema Online, there is little by way of official explanation as to the fate of the film. In fact, if anything, there’s little evidence to suggest that the film was actually banned (it wasn't screened on time, but many films have failed to screen on time as according to various promotional materials). All the supporting comments used to somewhat validate the article itself come from random moviegoers who may not even exist.

I went online, and did a bit of research using my best friend, Mr Google. Sure enough, though I clicked through a number of different articles, I failed to find a source credible enough to truly put this issue to rest.

The point I am making here is not that the film should or should not be banned. Personally, I think it would have been a great ride, a freer reign granted to Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais to truly be let off the leash and show what they’ve got. Given the international cult following the film has garnered, I also think that the budget may well be inflated more than just a bit to truly wow everyone all over the world. I do not believe that such a film should be denied its rightful screening; after all, what is a film without an audience?

The worrying thing is how much people are willing to believe anything that appears to validate their own point of view. Unsubstantiated claims made by unofficial sources without much by way of credit or even credibility are given precedence above all else simply because it fits with our worldview. And on we go, posting on our Facebook walls or reblogging on Tumblr post that reflect what we think. Whether that’s wrong is probably a different story, but I think where we could err less would be to critically think about the source and credibility of any story we pass on to others. Too often, the sensationalism of any item overrides the part of the brain that should be asking “How real is this?”

A similar situation could be seen with the disappearance of the MH370 flight. Everywhere on social media, so many people are more than happy to pass on fake adverts of Malaysia Airlines advertising their services and wares without giving two seconds to consider its truth or otherwise. Should they be proven wrong…well, it’s only a Facebook post, isn’t it?

Wrong. We are the stories we are told and tell, and the more repeated a story is, the more validity and currency it gains. Hell, even presidential candidates are believing it. It does not automatically become the objective truth, but it spreads like a virus, infecting the minds of the already infected, the minds of those who only believe what they want to believe. A story, any story about the Malaysian government trampling on the rights of the small people to watch a movie fits in their narrative of an uncaring authority.

Whether it is true or not, I think we should start to consider how the truths of our world are validated. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to leave it in the hands of a lazy, uninformative article backed up by flimsy quotes from unverified sources.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Nasihat


Salam semua,

Semenjak beberapa hari yang lalu, saya menerima banyak soalan mengenai isu-isu yang telah saya jelaskan di dalam kelas dan juga melalui lecture slides yang telah saya sediakan dan sebarkan kepada anda semua.

Namun, masih ada ramai yang tanya saya tentang hal-hal seperti diegesis of frame, temporal frequency dan sebagainya. Ini telah saya ajar di dalam kelas, tetapi kalau masih ada yang tidak faham, saya boleh terima.

Mungkin ada sesuatu tentang cara saya mengajar yang tidak cukup bagus untuk memastikan bahawa anda semua dapat apa yang saya ingin sampaikan. Mungkin penggunaan Bahasa Inggeris sebagai salah satu bahasa utama di dalam kelas ini (dan saya ingin ingatkan bahawa bahasa inilah bahasa rasmi pengajaran di universiti ini) yang menyebabkan ketidaksampaian maklumat tersebut.

Yang saya hairan itu ialah kenapa sebelum ini, soalan dan isu ini tidak timbul. Setiap kali saya ada kelas dengan anda semua, di penghujung setiap kelas yang saya ajar, saya tanya kalau sesiapa ingin tanya sesuatu, kalau ada sesiapa yang ada soalan tentang apa yang saya telah ajar. Jarang ada orang tanya saya sesuatu tentang semua ini, tapi sekarang, sehari sebelum anda semua harus hantar skrip dan assignment yang lain, ada ramai yang hantar pesanan melalui SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook dan sebagainya untuk mendapat tahu tentang maklumat yang telah saya tekankan di dalam kelas kita.

Mungkin kerana markah tidak diberikan untuk apa yang awak faham dalam kelas, hanya untuk assignment sahaja. Mungkin ada sebab yang lain, mungkin saya sendiri yang salah. Tetapi kalau itu benar, kalau sepanjang masa ini markah itu lebih diutamakan daripada ilmu pengetahuan yang sebenarnya lebih penting di dunia luar dari universiti ini, itu menyedihkan saya. Ini telah sampai tahap di mana 30 minit masa anda dalam consultation dengan saya dihabiskan dengan penyeruan untuk saya berikan markah buat kerja yang tidak dibuat atau dihantar menurut cara dan masa yang ditentukan.

Dari pengalaman saya, walaupun markah atau gred yang diperolehi di universiti atau kolej itu penting, kebolehan kita untuk bertutur dengan cara yang bagus, menulis dengan pintar dan menjalankan tugas secara lancar, itulah yang sangat dihargai oleh ramai orang di mana-mana industri atau negara.

Pengajian anda semua di sini hampir lengkap. Sudah lima semester dan lebih dari dua tahun di FiTA telah dialami.

Saya bukan seorang yang sempurna sebagai pensyarah, dan masih ada banyak lagi yang saya harus tahu dan belajar. Tetapi ada perbezaan yang besar diantara belajar untuk mencari markah dan belajar untuk mencari ilmu dan pengalaman. Saya harap anda semua dapat mencari perbezaan tersebut, dan gunakan apa yang awak telah peroleh di universiti ini dengan cara yang baik di masa depan.

Semoga berjaya.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Hashtag City


I sit here, looking out at the wonderful steel city that surrounds me. In the distance, the bustle of the crowd and quietened down. It is a Saturday night, but one that is winding down rather than up.

I look across the table to my wife. We had just caught Baz Luhrman’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, a wonderful film that challenges certain storytelling notions many many not necessarily consider. The main character of a certain film is almost often considered to be the protagonist of that same story as well. The truth, however, is that they are not necessarily the same, and every once in a while, I appreciate a challenge to conventional notions that…well, that no one truly care about.

Alas, such is life. There are things we care about, and there are things we don’t. Ignorance does not equate to stupidity.

Having finished our dinner, ours is a pleasant conversation, one of discovery. I listen to her as she talks about this particular restaurant, and its previous reputation as one of the hottest weekend spots in Jakarta for quite some time.

Interestingly, she talks about how Jakartans (and quite possibly, Indonesians as a whole) have a tendency to stick only to the most popular of things. According to her, they are likely to patron an outlet that is considered to be popular, willing to even wait in line for some time for a seat or table to be available. This restaurant was one such outlet.

She also talks about how, after a certain period of time, the lustre of the new wears off. Once that stage is reached, it is almost certain that the business will definitely lose customers, no matter what it does. I know, we could hypothesise the same about any sort of business in any sort of country, but the most interesting thing about that was how everything was presented as a popularity contest of sorts, a chase for celebrity.

No matter the food, no matter the service, the kind of Jakartans she is talking about is interested in the new, and follows this almost religiously to the point of outlets closing only a few financial quarters after having been the most popular kid on the block. Some of them would reopen or rebrand themselves, catching on the newness once again, adding a sheen of polish to the venture and riding it to further revenue, if not profit, but others would disappear altogether.

Why, though? Why would it get to the stage for such a desire of newness?

Here’s the thing. In many places, I suspect the willingness to brand or rebrand ourself is based on the desire to create distinctions. We are like this, because we are not like them. We are hipsters, because we reject the mainstream. We are opposition supporters, because we are not confirmists. On and on it goes. Of course, there are a lot of holes in that particular school of thought, so much so that the roof would leak at the slightest hint of rain (I believe that it is just as possible for you to define yourself based on who you are, rather than who you are not), but here, the rebranding of the self, the discovery, even, in many respects, is tied in to the creation and the production of the image.



The image of trend and cool becomes the reality of trend and cool. Ours is now a society where who we are is as much defined by ourselves as it is by the image we create. By the food we eat (and post pictures of on Twitter), by the football teams we support (and post pictures of on Facebook), and by the celebrity we meet (and post pictures of on Instagram). The school we attend, the language we speak, the television programmes we enjoy…all these are options that can be clicked and identified on Facebook at our whim and fancy. In that regard, we are not so much informing the world that we are interested in this programme, but instead, we are (re)creating a new form of identity, an image, that will ultimately be seen as the reality. Why? Simply because everybody else does it too.

The (im)age of the present time is one that is most interesting, as records of many sorts (especially of the pictorial kind) is being created almost every second by someone, somewhere in the country. A recent social experiment of sorts sees Petaling Jaya placed as the 5th selfiest place in the world. This is a place that is not particularly big in geographical area, but it is populated by many of the more affluent members of the Malaysian strata.

Why is that relevant? Because though Malaysia and Indonesia differ in many respects, there are some things that hold true. One of them, perhaps the most defining of them all, is how the creation of the (im)age is not something that is to be taken lightly anymore, not merely a fancy hobby one considers on the side, but as a form of identity formation that should be thought of in a more critical manner. It is this fashion, the doing and the visualisation of the seeing (we can only ever take pictures and immortalise those through what we see), that is not just the trend, but the way many of the important segments of society see themselves.


Nobody wants to be with the old. As such, the old sees fit to recycle themselves to fit with the new, for being seen as such is as such, an image that is the reality for good…for now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Time


How the mighty have fallen.

I watched the match with my friend, sitting comfortably as we were at Oldtown White Coffee. It was a match one had been looking forward to for a while, but I did not expect that we would capitulate in the fashion we did.

As Suarez rifled in the third goal of the night (daytime in England, of course, but witnessing the match as we did on the other side of the planet, I am inclined to use that present as the marker), I felt a certain sense of deflation. The Liverpool fans, likes hounds smelling the blood of a certain title chase, enjoyed digging their teeth in ever further, letting loose the two-decade wait to have the sort of consistency that gave them the right to swagger into our home and piss all over the furniture.

As much as I did not like it, it was not a bunch of points undeserved. On the evidence, Liverpool have performed way above what was expected from the start of the season, and it was a fine display of footballing prowess…the kind that was usually served up by us.

However, this season has been one of transition. I had expected it to be as such, though I didn’t expect us to be all that bad until now.

All the same, my stance on Moyes have remained largely the same. I had written that his lack of big game experience at the highest level may count against him, and I have to admit that that has proven to be true in so many ways. However, there is also only one way to get experience at any level.

He has gotten many things wrong, but I do believe that with time he will get many more right. I think his biggest mistake was to let go of almost the whole backroom staff who had provided much of the silent support the strong foundations for the United machine had been built on. I would think that the likes of Rene Meulensteen, Mike Phelan and Eric Steele, amongst others, would have provided the continuity and stability that many were looking for. The much maligned Ed Woodward pulling strings at the top level in the boardroom also appeared to lack much of the big game experience provided by David Gill.

As such, many things are very different from what they were before.

Bringing in his own backroom staff, as well including an inexperienced coach in Ryan Giggs (it can’t be all that comfortable for Giggs to be coaching his own teammates as well, can it?), means that he is very much trying to be his own man. However, thus far in being his own man he has crashed and burned spectacularly. I believe, though, that this is the experience that will stand him in good stead, because I do believe that he will get the hang of it. It may be blind faith, it may be misguided belief, but that’s what I believe. During our lower ebbs in previous years, I find it much more rewarding to believe rather than to turn on the team and the manager. For whatever reason, he retains my full support in carrying out his job.

Furthermore, the selection of managers available for the job should Moyes be replaced is a lot slimmer than you might think. Names such as Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte and Louis van Gaal have been thrown into the hat, but I do believe that they are fanciful notions that are not practical in the least. I love all of them for very different reasons, but the fact remains that they are flights of fantasy. Klopp and Conte are too married to their current teams to leave, while van Gaal is a very short-term option who may do well, but for a team looking for long-term stability, he may not be the best of options.

The same applied last season. So many people have derided Sir Alex Ferguson for picking David Moyes over Jose Mourinho, who was having a very fractured relationship with Real Madrid. I think he is an excellent manager, one who will stay for long-term at the right club (though his track record does not quite suggest that, but that’s history for you; they only say what have happened in the past, rather than what will happen in the future). I also think that there is a very specific and clear reason why Rafa Benitez, appointed by Chelsea last year to replace Roberto Di Matteo, was named the interim manager. I believe that’s the first time such a high profile coach was appointed as such by a high level club. I believe that the reason for that was because Chelsea very much knew that Mourinho is already in their pocket. Given their close relationship, I suspect Ferguson knew as much as well.

The only other viable alternative at the time was…Real Madrid’s current manager, Carlo Ancelotti. He is clearly someone who was coming to the end of his tenure at his then-club, and there was little indication that he was to step into the hotseat at the Bernabeu. As such, I think he would have been a very good option and choice. My friend suggested that Rafa Benitez would have been a good choice, and I figured him to be someone who has achieved much of his success with teams not quite at the top level (with all due respect to Liverpool at that time). The difference between him and Moyes, I believe, was a few million quid here and there, though having said that I do think he is a very good manager as well.

So Moyes it is. And Moyes, I believe, it will be for the forseeable future. I think a full and proper transfer window and another year is a better indicator of how he will do, before a final assessment can be made.

Just get him away from the mic. The more he speaks, the more he doesn’t sound like a manager of Manchester United. That’s the one thing I hope he will grow into very, very soon.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Caveman’s Theory – Sembunyi


"The point is how our mind, having been filled with specific forms of cultural capital, is primed and ready to think about one thing almost immediately when we have the correct trigger. I mention this because in ‘Sembunyi’, a cave plays a very significant role in the narrative. However, watching this film, I can’t help but think about Plato’s Cave. Whether it is actually intentional on the part of the filmmaker’s or not is beside the point. I am just wondering out loud whether such immediate impressions being formed can also be considered as a contamination of the mind and the self. You see black people, you think of criminals. I see a cave, I think of Plato."

An excerpt from a review of 'Sembunyi' I wrote for Thoughts on Films.