Monday, September 29, 2003

This past weekend has seen some interesting reading coming from the Commentary pages of the Straits Times. For instance:

Janadas Devan on Friday argued for a need to decrease Singaporeans' dependency on the ubiquitous foreign live-in maid. I agree wholeheartedly with his views, and his suggestion of a COE for maids would help but only if accompanied by solid measures to encourage day-care and domestic cleaning companies. And it wouldn't hurt for Singaporeans to do their own damn chores every now and then too.

Some interesting Economics articles as well:

On Saturday, Eddie Lee discussed the need to encourage growth in domestic consumption here.

On Sunday, Chua Lee Hoong's article on the pricing of Government-linked / provided services made me wonder if the problem is not just with the method of pricing, but rather with lousy implementation and problems inherent in the structure of the industries themselves. That one deserves further rumination...

Friday, September 26, 2003

I Am A: Chaotic Good Half-Elf Bard Ranger

Alignment:Chaotic Good characters are independent types with a strong belief in the value of goodness. They have little use for governments and other forces of order, and will generally do their own things, without heed to such groups.

Race:Half-Elves are a cross between a human and an elf. They are smaller, like their elven ancestors, but have a much shorter lifespan. They are sometimes looked down upon as half-breeds, but this is rare. They have both the curious drive of humans and the patience of elves.

Primary Class:Bards are the entertainers. They sing, dance, and play instruments to make other people happy, and, frequently, make money. They also tend to dabble in magic a bit.

Secondary Class:Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Deity:Hanali Cenanil is the Chaotic Good elven goddess of love, beauty, and art. She is also known as the Heart of Gold and Lady Goldheart. Her followers delight in creation and youth, and work to spread happiness, love, and beauty. Their preferred weapon is the dagger.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

(But I like swords and staves...)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Who would have that juxtaposing the life of a castrated court official and famous traveller with the lives of modern urban citizens would result in meditations on the things we have given up and the things we have gained and � well, was it all worth it? Plenty of possibilities inhabit the liminal spaces in between the life of Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) and the lives of the archetypical urbanites that play out their struggles to come to grips with their psychological distances from themselves and from each other.

Although the director Poo Hong Chen claimed in the post-production discussion that he had wanted to end his interpretation on a more optimistic note, it was a little difficult to see that given the anguished but dynamic performances of the cast. The end monologue by the Zheng He-like character describing in graphic detail the gradual process by which a boy�s testicles would have been massaged into pulp by a seemingly benign �nanny� didn�t quite help.

It was all very thought provoking, and what I took away from it all was a striking cautionary tale on the dangers of losing some innate spark, some undefinable element of the human spirit, by having it slowly crushed out of you while you wallow in material pleasure.

Perhaps things would have been slightly different if I had watched the Malay version, translated and adapted by well-known rising local poet and playwright Alfian Bin Sa�at. While the Chinese version focused more on urban anomie, the Malay version promises to highlight questions of Malay-Muslim identity, using Zheng He�s Muslim credentials as a springboard. The Malay version seems to be more political � perhaps linked to issues of globalisation and management of ethnic relations by the state? I wonder if I should go see it?

I saw the production with Justin. Here are his thoughts.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Finished reading Ihara Saikaku's Life Of An Amorous Man on Sunday. I have Life Of An Amorous Woman waiting to be read too, but after the Kinokuniya book sale this past weekend I have more substantial reading to sink my teeth into...

And where are my thoughts on Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral? Akan datang lah...

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Visited Half a Century of Chinese Woodblock Prints at the Tyler Art Institute yesterday. A fascinating exhibition of a form of Chinese art often neglected outside China. Woodblock printing after 1949 was used mostly for Communist propaganda, but this does not detract from the technical brilliance of the works and the adaptations of other forms like Chinese Landscape painting.

Of particular interest are the nianhua -- auspicious prints made to usher in the new year � whose bourgeois motifs of gods and spirits were replaced with PLA soldiers and other icons of the CCP. One particular nianhua has a large PLA soldier looming protectively over playing children, assuming the role of a particular guardian deity, incongruously still with the deity�s flags (used to denote ancient Chinese generals) behind his back.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Talk about being alarmist, but there's some truth in this article. Probably not too relevant to us here in Singapore though. The important points, I suppose, are to expose what corporations are doing behind the public's back and to not be a slave to technology.

High-tech Heroin by Robert Forno.

The Govt is seeking public donations for a new school in SM Lee's honour and for a new documentary on Singapore's history. Still missing -- S$15 million.

In SM's Honour

Why should the public pay for a new documentary (dare I say, propaganda)?What's wrong with The Singapore Story? Why should the public pay for a new school in NUS, when its lack of reputation for research and academic discussion is hardly conducive to the study of Government and Public Policy?

S$15 million's a lot of money. In these times of need, couldn't it be better spent by the public on themselves?

Monday, September 15, 2003

Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew turns 80 soon and he's still going strong :) Francis Seow must be having a fit.

Naturally, the Straits Times ran a feature on SM Lee in yesterday's paper. The usual articles praising him, examining how the generations after his view him and the great things he and his trusted lieutenants accomplished in those chaotic, poverty-ridden days to make Singapore what it is today.

His life is the stuff of movies. For instance, his marriage. His wife was his academic rival. They went to Cambridge, fell in love there and even married there in secret. By all accounts they are still happily married, and have immensely successful progeny too.

Interestingly enough, in the same paper is a article by verteran ST writer Asad Latif on Chin Peng's new biography. Chin Peng became the head of the Malaya Communist Party after World War II and led it against the British during the Emergency. To this day he remains strong-willed and independent. Unrepentant and unashamed about his actions and beliefs, but never fanatical.

He will turn 79 soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It's 9/11, but this year the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival just happens to fall on this day too. Hopefully the worst that will happen today are several cases of indigestion from too many mooncakes.

Lies, lies and damned lies. I thought Bowling For Columbine was biased, but I didn't expect it to be outright fraudulent.

Bowling For Columbine -- Documentary or Fiction?

Oh, and Osama's probably still alive. At least he was this past April/May when this video was made. Talk about a tight slap in the face for Bush.

Speaking of which, the guy probably needs a real one.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Pirates of the Caribbean is great fun! :) Probably more fun than the Disneyland ride, and you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars or wait in long lines for 2 hours or worry about getting killed.

Oh well. I never really thought much of Disneyland, even as a child. Still don't think Disney's all that great, actually. As far as I'm concerned the only good thing they did was bring Miyazaki Hayao's movies over to the US without any snipping.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Finally out of the Stone Age -- got my handphone yesterday :) Time to annoy the people around me by keying in my own ringtones from various anime.

Eh, where's the built-in lunar calendar?

Now if only someone would just call or SMS me... :/

Also, Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyu) is slated for a Sept 12 release in the US. Looks like it's subtitled too -- which is always a good thing.

I first wrote about this movie on 13 March after watching it on a large TV, thanks to the efforts of a grad student in Japanese Studies who had pre-ordered the DVD release all the way from Japan. So it's not that new (Kon Satoshi's latest is Tokyo Godfathers, which premiered at the Big Apple Anime Fest earlier this year.) but it's still an excellent film.

I wonder when the movie will reach our shores again? I definitely want to see it on the big screen this time round.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Just got back from watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Not bad -- a pretty good action flick. As with all action flicks, don't think too hard -- just sit back and enjoy. Liberal use of CG but done reasonably well, with some memorable sets. Action scenes were nice. Thought the shape of the Nautilus looked horrible, but it's for plot reasons so that's forgivable. :)

Sean Connery was, well, Sean Connery. Let down by some cliched lines but ok performance. Heck, being Sean Connery was Allan Quartermain's special talent ;)

imho, the coolest character was Captain Nemo (well filled by Indian film veteran Naseeruddin Shah). He's got martial arts moves, sabre skillz and commands his own state-of-the-art submarine!

Hmm... must try and borrow the original graphic novel to read now.