Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: The Judge

I never thought that I would love the Judge. But I do. It might have something to do with how familiar the movie is felt. Plus Robert Downey Jr is a wonderful treat to watch.

Hank Palmer is a lawyer you should hire when you want someone to do your dirty laundry. He doesn’t mind if his clients embezzle millions of dollars of tax payers’ money or even if they scam dirt poor sickly pensioners as long as some of those millions end up in his pocket.

As a human being he is a complete trash – usually a cue for me to drop the movie – but Robert Downy Jr is very compelling and reverting so instead of dropping off the movie I kept on watching.

I love seeing how the asshole Hank who told his little daughter that his father is dead to him is actually a very caring son and a somewhat cool dad. The scene where he helps his father to clean up in the bathroom wins me over.

When some people chose to send their parents to nursing homes a scene of a son who does the dirty job himself warms my heart.

No matter how luxurious the nursing home is or how attentive the nurses are, a loving touch and warm presence of their own flesh and blood would worth much more to our parents.

Hank transformation from money oriented lawyer to a decent one doesn’t come cheap. It takes his broken marriage, the death of his mother and the plight of his father for him to see the light.
The only thing that is not to my liking is the almost incest arch. It justifies what Hank’s little daughter says about the fathers of her friends ‘They will always look for younger mommies’ but really? That’s all they can come up with?

Aside from that the Judge is an enjoyable watch, perfect for my current mood. Hank who always uses his brains to think finally uses his heart to understanding things. And in my opinion a former devil is absolutely better than former saint.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Currently loving this one: Maids

Ever since Fantasy Couple I have a soft spot for Oh Ji Ho (오지호) and that is why I ended up watching the first episode of Maids and I’m happy to note that episode one is visually beautiful. I who notice practically nothing besides the storyline am impressed with the beauty of the opening scenes.

Although I feel nothing particularly strong for the heroine yet, I love Oh Ji Ho's very nuanced and layered character. I wish I have time to write some more about this drama.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: Mr.Back

January, February and March are the months where deadlines are piling up one after another. So, reading, writing, watching dramas, movies, and socializing are pretty much on detention.

However, after finally finishing Mr. Back I feel compelled to at least say something about this drama. What’s the point of having 24 hours if I can’t even use some of those hours to do what I love.

I like both Shin Ha Kyun (신하균) and Jang Nara (장나라) and I’m really looking forward to watching their drama, but one of the reasons why it takes me so long to watch it a part from not having enough time is that I have a suspicion that I’m not going to love Mr. Back.

The reason: I fear that it will give us a Miss Granny’s ending which is okay for a movie but definitely not okay for a 16 episodes romcom. After wasting 16 hours and investing my emotions on the couple I want to see that my sacrifices are being paid. A sad ending is not a payoff I’m looking for.  

But, I’m pleasantly surprised by how Mr. Back handles its story, main characters and ending. There’s nothing really new in its handling but somehow the drama feels fresh and sweet.

I like how the second female lead doesn’t turn evil and is given a chance to win her chaebol CEO. It’s nice to see that the capable, loyal female executive stays good till the end.

I’m not a fan of Park Ye Jin probably because most of the time she plays a role that doesn’t encourage love from the audience but here as Hong Ji Yoon she looks sweet and innocent for a change.

I also like seeing how the spoiled heir who has rotten reputation is actually a warm and kind hearted young man. And I like seeing how the cranky Choi Go Bong starts to see things with new eyes after his ‘death’.

Money is important but your own family is also important even if they are an annoying bunch of greedy idiots.

I usually don’t care about anything else besides the story of the main couple but I find that the father and son relationship in Mr. Back to be most touching and heart warming.

I’m also impressed with how the drama shows the development of a love story between Choi Go Bong/Choi Shin Hyong and Eun Ha Soo. Their relationship grows steadily with increasing mutual attraction.

Although on Choi Go Bong’s part perhaps it’s also a case of love at first sight.

The middle part when Choi Shin Hyong struggles to be the mandatory idiot (which is the bane of every drama) is done with aplomb. It is presented in a perfectly limited dose so that we don’t feel like throwing something to our screen and say enough already.

I’m touched when Choi Shin Hyong is willing to give the only woman he ever loves to his son while on the other hand the son is also willing to forget the woman he likes for his father’s sake.

I love that none of the male leads insist on winning the female lead.

In most dramas we often have to endure either male or female leads who swear that they will try their hardest to win someone else who clearly doesn’t love them – which I find extremely annoying.

Now, about the heroine,  what I love the most about Eun Ha Soo is that she knows what she wants right away and doesn’t think much about making the first move.

I hate those stupid female leads who go around asking for advice about their love lives and end up agonizing over whether to confess their feelings or not.

Choi Shin Hyong and Eun Ha Soo start their relationship without blatantly declaring their feelings toward the other person. Their relationship blossoms with loves that are felt and shown with deeds.

Amongst all Jang Nara’s roles I think Eun Ha Soo is my most favourite character besides her role in Bratty Princess (her Chinese drama).

Choi Shin Hyong and Eun Ha Soo deliver such a tender and sweet relationship that makes me want to grant them all their wishes simply because they are so sincere.

Thanks God that the director and the writers agree and give us the happy ending that this drama needs.

I love the look on Eun Ha Soo’s face when she looks at Choi Shin Hyong when he asks her whether they were in love. Her mouth says nothing but she glows with happiness. And I love the smile on Choi Shin Hyong’s face when he looks at her.

He might not remember her and every detail of their relationship but his heart remembers the happiness that he feels every time he looks at her. A perfectly lovely and sweet ending for a wonderful drama that fills with sweetness.

Friday, January 9, 2015


2014 seemed to distinguish itself with numerous horrific news around the globe from the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, terrorists’ attack in Pakistan, the slaughter of the Gazan people by the Israelis and the epidemic of Ebola virus in West Africa just to name a few.

Most of them showcase the death of humanity and the power of religion/ideology when it is being used for personal/collective gain in unquenchable quest for power/dominion.

While most people around the globe were happily celebrating the New Year (obviously at places where they don’t have innocent people being killed and slaughtered on a whim or plagued with disease) I didn’t feel the urge to celebrate.

With how 2014 ended I don’t think 2015 has begun with a good start and I just can’t bring myself to feel cheerful about it. The first two weeks of January is filled with mostly bad news. There is a sense of gloom and urgency that I can’t shake off.

A feeling that these calamities are a wake up call, a warning to remind us that we must do something to right whatever wrong we might have done to avoid something even worse.

Being one of those who are afraid of flying (I have a slight case of acrophobia and claustrophobia), I’m really feeling the plane crash accident on December 28, 2014 and mourning the lost of 162 passengers and crews of Air Asia QZ 8501 that died so tragically.

The bright sight is at least this tragedy prompts the government to scrutinize how our air travelling industry being operated.

A preliminary investigation by the Ministry of Transportation indicates a number of discrepancies and raises questions about how closely are the rules and regulation being observed by the carriers.

Unfortunately it was only seven days into 2015 when we heard about another horrific news.

The terrorists’ attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that was committed in broad day light and had taken 12 lives in Paris reminded me of the 9/11. Not on the number of the casualties but on the brazenness showed by the attackers.

The day when I saw those two towers collapsing I was sitting in the kitchen at my dormitory in Brussels reading a book and eating my breakfast. I glanced at our TV without much interest. A new movie about plane crash or terrorists’ attack was being screened, that was what I thought.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later that it finally registered that it wasn’t a movie at all, it was a live coverage of the twin tower attack in the US. It was so outrageous and unbelievable that the predominant emotion I felt was of disbelief. The horror came later.

How on earth something like that could happen in the real world? Where do those men come from that they could take other people’s lives so carelessly, so indiscriminately, so cruelly?

But what’s worst was that 9/11 was just the beginning. The following years show a significant increase of terrorists’ attack and what is called radical Islamists or Jihadists.

Terms that I don’t like and disagree with.

How could Islam and radical be put together as one word? They contradict each other in the strongest way possible. The word Islam means peace. Islam the peaceful religion is supposed to be a blessing for mankind and the universe. Islam is supposed to be a blessing for not only the Muslims but for all God’s creation alike.

However, who would feel blessed by the existence of those whose daily thoughts fill with nothing but how to find ways to spread death and destruction wherever they go?

This is the first reason why they are not entitled to be called Muslim. The reason why Islam should not be associated with them.

Islam advises the Muslims to follow the middle path. That moderation is the best way in everything. What about those people?  They advise radicalism and extremism.

Islam promotes peace, love and forgiveness. They promote hatred, intolerance and vengeance.

Islam disapproves of extremism and radicalism and frown at brutality. Prophet Muhammad (may God’s blessing is always upon him) reminded his followers many times: ‘Treat other people gently. Don’t be harsh with them.’

He didn’t like extremists. He told his followers that they should practice Islam accordingly to their capacity and capability for if they try to do everything (to the extreme) it is almost guaranteed that they will not be able to do it and break down in the middle.

This is the second reason why those people who love to take the extreme measures and find pleasure in brutality are not entitled to be called Muslim.

Looking at how those terrorists love to kill other people who are not Muslims and proudly broadcast their evil deeds to the world and forcing people to convert to Islam but kill them anyway it is not difficult to see they have departed from Islam.

We are told to spread the word of Islam but the God and the Prophet never order us to convert the whole world. The God and the Prophet never order us to kill every single human being who is not Muslim.

We are ordered to say: ‘I shall not worship that which you are worshipping. Nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion and to me my religion.’

Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad guide us to be tolerant towards people of different religions. We are not allowed to mock their religions or to be disrespectful towards those that they revere/worship.

Why some people still go on a rampage and killing spree with a flimsy excuse like the infidels deserve to die is beyond me.

This is the third reason why they are not entitled to be called Muslim. They have a completely different understanding of Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad.

They have a burgeoning desire to kill and destroy whatever they think are against God and the Prophet. Things to be killed and destroyed include other Muslims as well.  The only people who are not against the God and the Prophet are none other than their holly selves.

Frankly speaking, although they announce that they are Muslim I don’t think they are the lovers of Islam. Doing things for the God and the Prophet is just a pretext, a camouflage to hide hatred and greed that fuel their actions.

The Prophet had warned us that the Muslim community will be divided into a number of factions and sects. All of them are straying into the wrong path. Except for one.

The Western World might find it frustrating and mind boggling why the Muslim World seems reluctant to condemn the evil deeds of those terrorists. It will be hard for them to hear a proper explanation, because it takes time to explain. But let me try. So bear with me.

Islam views human lives as sacred.

No human being has any right to take lives that have been given by God. Not even his own life no matter how much he wants to end it. Therefore suicide is one of the biggest sins that a human could commit against their God.

In Islam if you commit suicide you have turned into a disbeliever, you are no longer a Muslim.

Prophet Muhammad warned his followers that none of them should ever wish for death when they were preparing themselves to go to war. Although they were told not to fear death they were not allowed to seek death either.

How about those suicide bombers or people who shout Allahu Akbar whenever they attack whoever they want to kill? I could only say May God have mercy on us and them as well.

Prophet Muhammad gave a very strict warning that we should never ever accuse other Muslims as a disbeliever. On the other hand Qur’an and the Prophet himself explain quite clearly the signs of people who have turned their back on the God and the Prophet.

Although we are forbidden to accuse other Muslims as a disbeliever, it is not that hard to tell who is who. Although the Muslim community will be divided into factions and sects because of personal ambition and greed of some people (namely the leaders of those factions and sects), it is not hard to tell who is on the right path and who is on the wrong path.

Prophet Muhammad told us not to be afraid. The guidance for right and wrong is very clear. We only have to follow Qur’an and his teachings (through Hadith) and never be swayed by the interpretation/guidance of people who have their own self interests in religion.

People who turn religion into a profitable business. People who seek to control others through religion. People who say that they bring goodness (the truth) with them but their actions show otherwise. People who play God and consider everyone else who is not wiling to prostrate themselves under their feet expandable, including other Muslims.

Islam has a very strict rule against taking the life of other Muslims. Prophet Muhammad had warned his followers against this atrocious act by saying: ‘Do not renegade (turn into a disbeliever) after my death by striking the necks (cutting the throats) of one another.’

How about those people who shout Allahu Akbar when they gleefully bomb mosques or killing other Muslims? May God have mercy on us and them as well.

Another message from Prophet Muhammad to his followers was for them to treat the women, the children, the sick and the elderly with extra kindness. These groups of people are the weakest among all so they should be protected.

What about those people who abuse women, killing children and show no mercy to the elderly and the sick? May God have mercy on us and them as well.

Prophet Muhammad said: ‘All my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse.’ When asked ‘Who will refuse?’ he answered ‘whoever disobeys me is the one who refuses.’

That is why it is not easy for Muslims to condemn those terrorists right away. We all know what they are, that they have departed from Islam, but since they proclaim themselves as Muslims we are not allowed to accuse them of something else.

However, since action speaks louder than word although their mouth is saying they are Muslims, through their actions we know that they are not.

I’ve been talking about the rules between Muslims. Now, what about the lives of non Muslims (the Jews and the Christians)?

Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad refer to them as ‘the people of the book’ an admission that those two religions did indeed come from God. An admission that both Jesus and Moses were God’s messengers and not some liars or crazy men.

Islam is very clear and detailed about how to treat people of the book. When they live peacefully with the Muslims they are to be respected and protected. Their lives, their fortunes, their livelihoods are not allowed to be taken. 

The same thing applies to those who do us no harm and do not try to stop us from practicing our religion.

How about France?

Well, compare to other countries, the United States for example (which happens to be hated by most of terrorist organizations, when in fact it gives the Muslims who live there a lot of freedom to practice their religion), France does seem to be a bit hard on the Muslims. It does seem to oppress their freedom to practice their religion. Although not as bad as China that unapologetically forbids the Muslims to fast during Ramadan.

Nevertheless, it is not right for those people who might have felt oppressed or disenfranchised to hurt the people and the country who have accepted them as part of them.

Whatever their situation there France is their country now. The Frenchmen are their countrymen now. French people might not be their brothers in religion but they are now have become their brothers through citizenship.

The leaders of France might not have embraced them as warmly as what had been done by King Negus the Christian King of Abyssinia but still those leaders have let them stay.

Most of the Muslims immigrants during Prophet Muhammad’s time migrated because of religious reason (fearing the persecution), but most of the Muslims who migrate to other countries now do so because of economic reasons. Which in my opinion the more reason that they should not resent the country of their own choosing for treating them unfairly.

Islam teaches us that we should never think about any kindness that we have given to other people but on the other hand we should never forget or belittle any kindness and help that we have received from others.

Prophet Muhammad himself was extremely grateful to King Negus who had let the Muslims immigrants to stay in his country. When King Negus died Prophet Muhammad told his followers: ‘Your brother Ashama (King Negus) died in Abyssinia,’ and he asked them to have a funeral prayer for him.

Dear brothers and sisters who truly love God and Prophet Muhammad, how do you think our Prophet must have felt seeing you slaughtering your own countrymen, people who have accepted you into their homes and share with you what they have.

Don’t you know how those people who migrated with the Prophet to Medina behaved? They showed respect to the people of Medina who mostly consisted of Arab idol worshippers, members of Jewish tribes, and a few others.

None of them tried to kill those people who had welcomed them into their city. None of them tried to destroy the city that had become their home. All of them tried to integrate and contribute to the growth of and peaceful existence in their new place.

I’ve talked too much about why radicalism, extremism and brutality should never be associated with Islam or the Muslims. These terms belong only with the terrorists.

How about Jihadists?

I can’t describe how hard it is for me to see the word jihad being given to people who slaughter other people and create destruction in their quest for power and domination.

Greed, money, power, women or other things that men lust after should never be associated with jihad. It is simply wrong.

Jihad is the best struggle that a Muslim can do (it’s done by pious Muslims who fear nothing but God’s wrath and want nothing but God’s approval) but now it is being exclusively used by men who covet worldly goods and create destruction in order to get what they want.

The Prophet told his followers that the biggest jihad there is, is not going to war fighting to defend what is right (holly war), but the biggest jihad is when man conquers himself and free himself from the wanting of all worldly goods (holly struggle) and strive to gain nothing but God’s love.

How to get God’s love? Clearly not by creating destruction on the face of the earth. And definitely not by taking human lives.

The killing of Charlie Hebdo’s journalists is shocking. But on the other hand it is not that surprising.

Without condoning the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo I would like to point out one thing: the drawing of Prophet Muhammad is prohibited in Islam. What Charlie Hebdo did with that cartoon was a moot point.

Although the attackers were heard shouting ‘We avenged the Prophet’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’, I felt nothing but horror. Not only for the killings but for the usage of God’s name. God’s names should be pronounced with utter respect. It should bring love and peace to those who listen to it not horror and disgust.

What did the terrorists do with it? Allahu Akbar becomes a word to replace blood thirsty incantation like ‘Kill! Kill!Kill!’ God’s names that are sacred and beautiful have been dragged into blood bath and being used as a shield for evil.

On the matter of freedom of speech and expression: who doesn’t love this idea? Everyone loves freedom. And we should also include freedom of movement while we are at it.

This big world and the whole universe belong to God. Thus a human being has a fundamental right to move from one corner of the earth to the other unrestricted. From one planet to the other if he can. He should be welcomed wherever he chooses to go and settled. He has a right to enjoy God’s bounty wherever that is.

But what do we do? We put borders to stop people from outside coming into our countries. We create strict regulations to stop ourselves from accepting and helping refugees. The Israelis even imprison the whole Gaza population.

What happens to freedom?

You might hate to admit it but although everyone loves the idea of absolute freedom, considering that the world is comprised of so many people and not just one person, the concept of total freedom is unreasonable.

You have your freedom as long as it doesn’t infringe on other people’s freedom.

Look at numerous laws made to limit freedom of speech and expression. There are rules about speech supporting bigotry, there are rules about inflammatory speech, there are rules about hate speech, there are rules about racist speech and the list go on and on.

Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should.

Let’s have a look at the issue of Prophet Muhammad cartoon. The drawing has been given as an excuse for the slaughter of those journalists. No doubt to shut the mouths of other Muslims from condemning that brutal attack.

And perhaps drawing sympathy and support from Muslims around the world who are upset and offended by the drawing. Yes, in case some of you still don’t know the drawing did upset the Muslim communities whatever their factions or sects are.

Just imagine how much the terrorists love it. It’s like a Christmas’s gift to them.

Prophet Muhammad was no stranger to being lampooned.  He was no stranger to being ridiculed. He was no stranger to physical attacks. He was used to criticism and hate speeches.

I have no doubt that his followers and companions would want nothing but to strike those journalists if they live in his time for what they have done. But I have a feeling that the Prophet himself wouldn’t find those cartoons dangerous enough to warrant a death penalty for its drawers.

He might order his followers to destroy the pictures because he didn’t want his pictures to be left behind for fear that men might end up worshiping him like what they did to Jesus.

Without blaming the journalists for what have happened, because they don’t deserve to be slaughtered like that, I need to say this: What happens to sensibilities? What happens to common sense?

If some people want to criticize Islam or the Muslim communities they are very welcomed to do it. However, there are so many ways to do it. Intentionally insulting people you want to criticize is not a good way to deliver your message.

The main purpose of critics is to promote change. Insults never deliver a good result. It usually gives the opposite outcome than the one desired.

I find the increase number of terrorists and terrorists’ organizations that sell Islam as their brand name extremely alarming. Islam is being systematically destroyed by people who claim to fight for it.

It hurts me seeing how the Islamic teachings and values are being tossed away and replaced with a blood thirsty ideology that promotes nothing but destruction.

But what really breaks my heart is seeing so many men and women who genuinely want nothing but to defend their religion being duped and brain washed into believing that they are actually doing the right thing.

Dear brothers and sisters, if you really love God and our Prophet, please spare sometime and have another look at Qur’an and hadiths. Read, learn and think. Feel with your heart what Islam is really about.

If you truly believe that Allah the Most Merciful wants you to do nothing but delivering death and suffering to other human beings, there is really nothing I can say.

May Allah forgive us all.