Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Good news: I can graduate this quarter so long as I finish my last Civ class. Whew...

Bad news (Well, only if you're my scholarship officer I suppose): No Public Policy BA = No Public Policy as Secondary Concentration on my transcript, or whatever this university calls it... Actually, maybe not completing a second major as stipulated in my scholarship contract could very well come back and bite me hard on the ass in future. I can't say for certain.

The Japanese Animation Society Raffle Draw was this evening. All I won was a rather unimaginative t-shirt from the good folks at AnimEigo . All the prizes -- graciously donated by Bandai and AnimEigo in return for us agreeing to help them distribute several forests' worth of promo materials -- were sitting in my room for about three weeks before this. The otaku part of me is still recovering -- I may never have so many anime DVDs in my residential facilities ever again! :( I should've taken photos but as usual I forgot my monster of a camera. So much for mementos of my presidency... :p

All in all, the proceeds from the raffle ticket sales and the bubble tea sale were more than satisfactory. I'm glad all our efforts paid off. The letters we sent out to companies seeking product sponsorship, the effort put into driving to Chinatown every morning to get the bubble tea, the time spent in the Reynolds Club selling.... It was all worth it to have the club in safe financial waters for Anime Central this year. And I think we managed to make many members of the club happy. That's the most important thing ^_^

Good memories, good memories... I will miss these days. I can safely say that being a part of the Japanese Animation Society here and getting to know the people I now call my friends, has been one of the best parts of my sojourn here.

On yet another random tangent -- I learnt how hangul (written Korean script) works today. It's really, really cool :)

Sunday, April 27, 2003

It's been a week. I'm still alive, no psychological breakdown or anything. I suppose I'm over it... mostly. Readjusting to life without Jeanette has been easier than I thought it'll be. She, apparently, has had no such problems. In some ways I envy that.

It's probably one of those things that comes with having friends :p

One of the things I've discovered with the breakup is how much more time I have now. Which is a good thing since I need to finish my @#! BA or else I won't be able to graduate in June.

On a more grievious note: China Closes Venues to Halt SARS Spread.

Feh -- maybe too little, definitely too late.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

I admit I am not well read in poetry.

How am I doing? Getting by I guess. Getting by...

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I dropped by Jeanette's blog last night, just to see what she wrote. You too can go see for yourself. So for her it was just a "crazy weekend", as if all she had to deal with was too much homework on Saturday or something.

Still, what was I expecting? I guess that if our relationship unravelled within a mere week, it wasn't as healthy as I thought it was. I wonder where it all went wrong? Maybe I'm deluding myself into thinking that things started out well. Sure fooled me.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Now that Jeanette is no longer with me, I believe there isn't anyone who regularly reads my blog. Not that she was only good for reading my stuff -- I never knew whether or not she read my blog to begin with -- but as the person who was in love with me she was the most probable person to read this on a regular basis.

Now that she's gone, I have even less compulsion to update this. Why write if no one is reading?

If you'd like to see me update the blog regularly, please let me know. Otherwise, I most likely won't bother updating often.

The one who was most likely to remember me, no longer will. If I have already been forgotten, what's the point?

I love SoulCalibur II. This could be turning into a very unhealthy addiction... I don't play it everyday. Say, twice a week? But when I do pick up the controller, there goes 3+ hours...

Raphael has become a new favorite of mine. I used to play Mitsurugi and Taki in the first SoulCalibur. But I never could get very good at using Taki. Mitsurugi I had a better time playing.

With that in mind I played Mitsurugi again for a bit, and am impressed at the new moves he has. He's slower now, and lost his very useful double slashing uppercut move. Now pressing 6,6,B will make him advance while cutting down, up and down again. A little less useful, but still effective. Fast and even tracks a little too.

I was also delighted to find that he now has good slashing moves out of his Relic stance. All the better to psyche out opponents who expect you to pull an Unblockable. I also discovered that he has four different ways to throw. The standard A+G, B+G and now A+K and B+K too. The last two can be blocked, but a throw is always kinda demoralising. Also he can pull Unblockables really easily now. 4,B+G and then A or B. As if the rapid 4[A], A+B wasn't good enough. Mitsurugi also has several moves that automatically sidestep in the process. Tricky.

Up close, he's a little weaker. I suppose the best way to play him is to keep both lateral and side distance and use the stances and his other moves to psyche out opponents. Easier said than done.

I think I will use Mitsurugi as my secondary character... Still no luck with cool ninja girl a.k.a. Taki...

Wrist hurts. Time for work.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

1 year, 5 months, 2 days.

Night has fallen. The dream is over. She has left me.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Realism should make us see that which, through force of habit, we have been unable to see. Thus realism has no specific method. It is a relentless defamiliarization of the familiar [...] This type of realism does not describe landscape but always creates it. It brings into existence landscapes which, although they had always been there, had never been seen.

-- Kojin Karatani, Origins of Modern Japanese Literature, p. 29

Monday, April 14, 2003

The Better Half has plenty to say about government. Go take a look at her blog! Idle Thoughts

Is Singapore Manchukuo?

Ian Buruma made that comparison during last Friday's lecture. I admit that I don't know much about Manchukuo, so I can't quite comment on the accuracy of that comparison. It also seems unfair to make such a comparison, given the sheer historical baggage that Manchukuo conjures in the minds of almost all ethnic Chinese.

Or maybe the punch was intended. Buruma's point was that Manchukuo was considered progressive, a model of modern development for its time (the Western powers were ogling the achievements of the Japanese then). Centralised control, massive bureaucracy/technocracy, no civil/political rights (so long as you weren't Japanese) and in return, the promise of material wealth and prosperity.

It still feels like an unfair comparison. No matter, the analogy was not his main point anyway.

His main point was the rise of what he called "authoritarian capitalism", perfected in Singapore and adopted by China as a means of maintaining state control over its people. The key is simple -- if you guarantee economic prosperity and security for all, people will be willing to part with things such as freedom of speech and critical thinking. Make all who deviate look like imbeciles and clowns.

The problem with this system is that when the deal breaks down, you'll get civil unrest again. I'd like to add to Buruma's caveat another one: this kind of system discourages love for one's country. People have no incentive to love their country, since they have no say in what happens. All that matters is the deal.

We'll see what happens in Singapore. I doubt the economy will get better anytime soon.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Lots happened today. Attended a lecture by Ian Buruma here on campus, then off to a discussion by Singaporean students on various things Singaporean. Came back to find some folks in my house watching Otomo Katsuhiro's classic Akira and of course joined in...

Sleepy - mind full of random snippings and thought shards. Will write later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

I managed to catch 25th Hour on Saturday evening. Edward Norton is a fine actor, and Rosario Dawson is hot. It seemed to me that the movie was a radically different take on "American values", set against the backdrop of rah-rah-patriotism-inspiring post 9/11 NY. The city is in your face everywhere - the two sets of searchlights that open the film, the firefighters' memorial in a bar and of course the unflinching, almost obscene concentration on Ground Zero from the window of an adjacent apartment, with close-ups of workers, tractors, a solitary flag.

Perhaps mirroring the city, Norton's character is Innocence Lost, a good kid who made crap choices and now has to pay for them according to the American system, by American values. However, his life is in many ways just as American as the system that wants to destroy him. Mother died early. Father was drunk and in debt. The kid sold drugs to preppy white kids to help bail his father out, and the ability of money to fool everyone. To me at least, Norton's character is the personification of the struggle between these contradictions -- his long beat poetry-ish *Fuck You* soliloquy is the best expression of this. In the end though, the audience doesn't really know if he manages to find a way out.

The whole movie feels like a large myth...

Monday, April 07, 2003

The great jazz singer Billie Holiday -- "Lady Day" -- was born today in 1915. Her life was full of misery. Born out of wedlock, in abject poverty, suffering sexual abuse and rape before her 12th birthday, becoming a prostitute in her 12th year... Later on she would be involved in many romantic relationships but in vain. Her male lovers abused her, society condemned her for being black, and her body and soul wasted away from a heroin addiction she couldn't kick. But what a legacy she left behind! Her signature songs God Bless the Child, Strange Fruit and others; her smoky voice tinged with emotion, charging every song that came out of those lips with an energy of its own.

44 years of life? Too short, too short... but maybe for her they were too long. Rest in Peace Lady Day!

Official website, by her estate.

PBS will air a program on Apr 8th about Strange Fruit, perhaps Holiday's most (in)famous song. The website is here.

I'm gonna miss the Chicago Shakespeare Company when I go home to S'pore. Then again if not for my house subsidising my trips there I probably wouldn't go but that's beside the point.

Watched The Winter's Tale on Friday evening. If you're wondering about how they performed the bear bit (y'know, the famous stage direction Exit, pursued by a bear in Act 3 Sc. 3), it was a guy in a bear suit behind a screen, his(her?) large shadow looming above poor Antigonus.

More intriguing staging: Time as a rapper and his song turned into hip-hop with dancers and the corresponding hip-hop moves. The pastoral feast scene taking place in a barn that was recreated on stage. Everyone spoke in Southern accents which I thought was annoying, and dressed like Russian peasants.

An interesting aspect of the play was the emphasis on the advisors -- servants to the kings in the play and forced by "loyalty" to carry out actions against their consciences. The portrayal of these usually less-important roles was excellent, imho, particularly the parts of Camillo and Paulina. Too bad their pictures aren't on the website.

There's a fuller synopsis here.

Friday, April 04, 2003

The Cowboy Bebop movie: Knockin'On Heaven's Door opens Apr 4 in the US. Many have already seen it via fansubs. The US release is of course dubbed, which turns many anime fans off since dubbing is usually done badly and somehow doesn't gel with the style of animation.

Nonetheless it's an excellent movie. Good stand-alone plot that doesn't require any prior knowledge of the series and great animation. The Kanno Yoko soundtrack is fantastic, as usual. If you're looking for a good way to blow $10, look no further ^_^

Here's a LA Times article about the film, the series and the director Watanabe Shinichiro. Watanabe-sensei's also directing some episodes of The Animatrix.

The tr�s-cool English version of the official Japanese website, with an interview with the director Watanabe Shinichiro.

The a-lot-less-cool official American movie website by Sony Pictures

Speaking of anime movies, I can't wait to see the RahXephon movie. Not after having savoured the series with it's labyrinthine plotlines, good direction and compelling characters. Definitely not an Eva clone, and rewards those who stick with the series!

From the trailers it looks like there's a lot of footage from the TV series but I suspect the movie is a kind of prequel. It looks like there'll be plenty of spoilers if you haven't seen the series yet.

The solution, of course, is to watch the series.

RahXephon Movie site (in Japanese only :p)

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Egad - I just realised how long it's been since I updated. I'll try to update every day. Every other day at worst.

I think I've fixed my course schedule for this quarter. Japanese, Korean Civ and Modern Japanese Lit: Subject to Capital. Military Theory and Practice sounded really fascinating, but the reading required was too brutal for me (mostly 300+ pgs every class). So it's 3 again this quarter, although I originally wanted 4 since this my last quarter as a college student after all.

Damn Public Policy BA paper! This damned thing haunts my every waking moment. Poor time management on my part? Probably, but I also have to complete the requirements for three other classes. And there are my duties as Japanese Animation Society president (Don't laugh - it's a lot harder than you think) to fulfill.

And also maybe, just maybe something called a life.

Attended the inaugural Coase Lecture late Monday afternoon, given by non-other than Ronald H. Coase himself. His lecture had little to do with the topic, but was filled with light-hearted, unabashed reminescing about the academic paths he's taken to where he is today.

Coase was unassuming, sparingly witty and direct with his English-accented words. He reminded everyone that George Stigler was responsible for elucidating the oft-(mis)quoted "Coase Theorem". Notably, Coase also asserted a disdain for the oversimplification of economic models. Making assumptions is useful, but when you say that X is true when Y holds, but Y rarely happens in the real world, then the theory simply isn't useful at all in that particular realisation. This of course sounds commonsensical -- until you consider the gulf between economic theory and its practice.

The Q&A was shamefully cut short after a paltry three queries.

For more on Coase and his groundbreaking work (not just that darn theorem!) look here.