Although I like to win (I may even go so far as to say that I love winning), sometimes, I also rather enjoy a bit of a challenge. The problem with being in the absolute last division of the mini league is that I have been winning most of my matches way too easily. The only challenge so far was posed by Allessandra; everyone else had been a bit of a cakewalk.
On Friday, I won my match against an old woman, 9-2. Maureen, hair pretty much entirely white, walks with a hunch, taking slow, small steps. I had to make a conscious effort to walk slowly while we headed for the clay courts so as to avoid being too far ahead of her as I didn't want to come across as disrespectful.
She could have been my grandmother. When faced with the prospect of playing her, I thought, How am I going to do this? How do I play a grandmother? When actually playing her, I thought, I don't want to play her ever again; this is so awkward. She couldn't run, didn't have much of a serve, and although she could place the ball quite well when she got to it, she hardly got to it because of her slow movement.
It was a bit tedious, but purely because I felt bad about the clear, gaping disparity between our physical conditions. And so I didn't want to play her ever again. And so I just went to town with my shots, letting my desire to win take over and pushing aside the part of me that felt bad about so clearly beating an old woman. Even the strong, gusty wind wasn't capable of annoying me enough, thereby getting into my head, to make me lose focus. And so I won 9-2; got broken once, and gave up on the tiebreak when the wind finally got into my head and made me miserable.
When we recorded our score on the score sheet, I saw that the top scorer thus far had 38 points. I had 30 points with one more match to go. I had to win 9 games in the final match (out of 11) to get ahead of the top scorer (whom I beat 8-3, I believe).
I really wanted to get out of the last division as the matches weren't challenging save for Allessandra. But I thought that putting pressure on myself to win 9 matches would likely have the undesirable effect of making me nervous, thereby fucking up and possibly even losing. So I chucked that aside when I went into my final match today and focused first on actually winning the match.
I had a feeling that it was going to be easy as well. My opponent, a man, had been languishing in the last division for the previous few rounds and losing by quite a wide margin to women that I beat quite easily. So all these suggested to me that he probably wasn't very good; and when he told me that he'd just started playing last October, I knew that it was definitely my match to lose.
The carpet court was soaked with rainwater from last night. The balls quickly became soaked with water too. I was a bit wary about the balls' lack of bounce, but I didn't want to make a fuss and I figured, Just get closer to the ball; besides, he was dealing with the same shit conditions too.
My strategy was to keep the rallies short; in fact, don't even get the rallies started, just hit return winners. When I finally broke his opening service game after 3 or 4 deuces, I was more relieved than anything. These days, I always opt to return if I win the coin toss, for it helps me mentally to step up to the line to serve when I've already got a game under my belt. Of course, when I find myself serving to stay in the match at 4-5, I would wish that I'd served first; but that doesn't happen very often.
I tried to make the conditions work in my favour. I knew that balls weren't bouncing, and so I dropped a couple of balls short which he couldn't get to. He was also barely hurting me in my service games even though my serve definitely wasn't technically sound today. Nevertheless, he couldn't return most of my serves. I didn't get broken at all, though a couple of my service games got to deuce. I did feel a bit bad when I was just swatting away his serves during one of his service games...but you play to win, right? I played to win against Maureen. Barry thought I should've gone a bit easier on her, but wouldn't that be disrespecting the opponent? And so I played to win against Guy too despite the disparity in our respective level of play.
When I eventually won it 6-1, I made myself win 3 more games, just to get to the top of the division. In the end, I won it 9-2; lost the tiebreak, but I didn't really care anymore. Still, it says a lot about my perfectionist streak that I remain quite angry about a missed forehand putaway that occurred in the tiebreak - in other words, losing this point had absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the match or even what I wanted to accomplish, which was to win 9 games, which was already a done deal. But I still cannot believe that I hit this forehand so far out of the boundaries of the court; it wasn't even remotely close; it was like I was aiming to hit the sun. And it came after I'd managed to hit an overhead, and had enough composure to let the ball drop instead of attempting a swing volley which I did previously, and missed. Despite all that, I took a swipe at the ball and it flew towards the fence. Simply ridiculous.
When it was over (I lost the tiebreak 9-7), Guy said, 'Good match. You were too good for me. At least I won 2 games.'
I like his spirit.
So that concludes the current round of the mini league. PLEASE LET ME MOVE UP A COUPLE OF DIVISIONS FOR THE NEXT ROUND. I want to play other people! (And so: 6-match winning streak; won 12 of 13 matches.)
This contains spoilers for the movie
I watched Dunkirk with Barry last night. My initial bafflement as to why Christopher Nolan wasn't letting any specific character drive the film eventually gave way to some degree of awe and appreciation for what he was actually doing: letting humanity be the character and allowing the soldiers' reactions to their predicament drive the entire film.
I think it was great. I don't think it was his best film as a Guardian reviewer claimed (how does one define 'best' anyway? My favourite Nolan film is probably Memento, but this is so subjective isn't it?), but it was still a brilliant film. He sucks you in to the drama from the very first second of the film, and the intensity is relentless, almost unceasing. But he doesn't do it to the point of wearing the audience out; an example of a film that did this is Steven Spielberg's Munich (which I kind of hated). Dunkirk was somehow really well-paced, helped perhaps by the Nolanesque non-linear narrative: when one storyline gets rather too intense, we are given respite from that one by switching to another one. Of course, a narrative that is non-linear runs the risk of being confusing, and I'll admit that I didn't get the timeline immediately. I'm not sure it was entirely necessary, for I can't think of what it added to the film, but once I got it, I found it easy to follow.
I read another review in the Guardian that said that the film was 'bloodless, boring and empty' because 1) it wasn't violent enough; 2) it wasn't historically accurate enough; and 3) Nolan actually had the cheek to buck with the usual technique of backstory and dialogue to make us care about the characters, and keeping these to a minimum. This may sound rather harsh - but it is unbelievable how unbelievably stupid I find this review to be. In the first place, what kind of criticism is 'Dunkirk isn't a good movie because it depicts a war but doesn't have enough violence'? How narrow-minded does one have to be to think that this is an actual justified criticism? Is it beyond the realm of plausibility that a war movie can properly and effectively portray and convey the horrors of war without explicit, sometimes gratuitous, violence?
To be more specific, the reviewer claims, 'It is a 12A effort that avoids blood and guts as thoroughly as it avoids so much else. In the film, people hit by bombs die discreetly, with no unseemly dismemberment. Even abandoning a torpedoed ship doesn’t seem too unpleasant. So the movie doesn’t, as claimed, make you feel the terror of those it depicts. Why not?'
This suggests that the only way for a film to make the audience 'feel the terror of those it depicts' is to depict dismemberment, blood and guts. This reviewer must have slept through the entire film, especially the scenes when the soldiers are trapped in a rapidly sinking fishing trawler that the Germans used as target practice, not knowing that the soliders were in there, because I sure as fuck felt the terror of those soldiers despite the seemingly unforgivable crime of not seeing anyone get dismembered or bloodied. I suppose the reviewer's heart is made of stone if he wasn't moved by the scene of one of the soldiers desperately reaching for the ladder out of the trawler, now completely filled with water, as he drowns - and yes, the sheer terror that must have gripped him as he realises his fate. What about the scene of the soldiers in the lower deck of a ship that is suddenly torpedoed and starts sinking? How is the terror that these scenes depict not palpable simply because of the absence of explicit violence? I'm sorry but what an utterly stupid criticism.
As for historical inaccuracy, the reviewer says the following:
So, in spite of his film’s $150m budget, the Royal Air Force seems to consist of three Spitfires, although real-life pilots flew 3,500 sorties at Dunkirk. The Luftwaffe, which Hitler made solely responsible for wiping out the beached Brits, seems able to summon up little more than a couple of Messerschmitts, three Stukas and one bomber. The Royal Navy appears to comprise just two destroyers; in fact, it deployed 39 destroyers and 309 other craft.
Women are excluded from the action by being confined to stereotypical roles, such as providing tea for the homecoming menfolk. In real life, female Auxiliary Territorial Service telephonists – who received two-thirds of a male soldier’s pay – were some of the last military personnel to leave the beach. The evacuees also included female civilians, including girls, caught up in the turmoil.
That's all well and good, but Nolan wasn't claiming to make a documentary, was he? He had a specific artistic vision, one that neither claims fidelity to history, nor needs to do so. This is a film; it is a work of art; and in works of art, their creators have the artistic freedom to pursue a particular artistic vision. Nolan chooses to focus on one aspect of the historical event, and he even explicitly said that Dunkirk isn't a war movie as such, but a survival one.
I actually wrote all of that last night. I can't really be bothered to finish it, save to say that this reviewer was obviously reviewing the film that Dunkirk isn't instead of the film that it is. What a waste of time.