Thursday, November 27, 2003

If you care, I've added and deleted some links on the side menu. Did you really need a link to Google?

Thought not.
Just finished Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. I'm not really interested in novels about Australia per se, but I did like Carey's earlier Oscar and Lucinda. No harm in giving Michelle's recommendation a go anyhow. :)

The first-person narration from Edward "Ned" Kelly's point of view using run-on sentences with the awkward grammar lends the novel a realistic, even almost lyrical quality. Even so, you wonder if Kelly ever had certain words in his vocabulary.

Still, historical accuracy is probably not the point here. Carey's Kelly is meant to be human and mythical. Human, in the sense that he is an ordinary, decent male driven by abject poverty, injustice and circumstance to break the law. Mythical, in that he represented the secret hopes and real frustrations of Australia's settlers in the late 1800s. Ultimately Kelly is cast as a tragic figure. Big, strong but not smart nor especially courageous. A child-man struggling to do the right thing.

A Salon review of the book.

An excerpt from the novel.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

T'ang Quartet with Noriko Ogawa concert on Hari Raya Eve (that was on Monday). My first time in the Esplanade's impressive Concert Hall and I was wowed by the acoustics. (Then again after the amount we spent on those dang durians...) Every note crisp, and as the music ebbs you can literally hear the deafening silence creep into your ears.

Another reason to wish I had had the luxury of a musical upbringing, so I can write better sentences than "I thought the concert was excellent," which, well, it was.

The Tang Quartet ooze coolness and sophistication as well. They even organise music appreciation classes for little kids. When they're not flying all over the world and winning accolades most of the year, they're fulfilling their roles here as Quartet-in-Residence at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in NUS.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Watched Mandala by In Source Theatre on Friday (thanks to Amanda - you ROCK! :D). This was... well... dance theatre is probably the best way to put it. there were a total of three performers. One in the centre drawing a mandala with rice using a cup attached to a pole and martial arts/Indonesian dance-like movements. The other two danced and played around her, interacting mostly with each other but sometimes with the middle person.

In terms of skill, they were all a little raw but I don't mind really -- the company's only 2 years old after all. What I minded most was the cliched content. The performance depicts modern urban life as banal and dehumanising, with death being the only salvation and salvation being linked with (surprise surprise) rebirth in/return to a benign Mother Nature.

I suppose this is true to some extent, but I've never liked wholly benign representations of Nature (simply because I think they're plain false). Furthermore to deny the little unplanned spaces in between clockwork events illustrates some kind of humanistic blindness. A rather one-dimensional performance, for all In Source's sturm und drang.

They have really good PR though. Very polished publicity materials. Just look at their website.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Problem: Booster boxes of L5R cost a lot.

Solution: Get 'em off eBay.

Problem: Boxes are in US, and shipping costs a bomb.

Solution: Ask someone to bring it back for me.

Problem: Need to pay the seller in time so he can send the box and the person can bring it back.

Aggravating factor 1: Turkey Day is this week.

Aggravating factor 2: Parents will throw a fit if they knew i.e. credit card not a good idea.



Darn. Or I could just not buy a box.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Watched Action Theatre's production of Iron yesterday. Karen Tan was excellent in the lead role of Fay. Emma Yong and Remesh Panicker gave good performances and daughter Josie and prison guard George respectively. Sheila, unfortunately suffered from Selena Ho's flat intonation.

While it felt a bit strange to hear everyone put on British accents, it wasn't bad (except in Selena Ho's case). The script doesn't disappoint either, keeping the audience guessing what Fay's motives are throughout the performance. The revelation at the end isn't what the usual scandal-numbed audience (myself included, I'm slightly ashamed to admit) expects, and is all the better for that. A little more tragic, a little more believable, is this woman who suffers for her emotions.

Imho, the George character is the most fascinating aspect of the play. Being the sole male is part of the reason, but he's also the least dysfunctional character. Or do his academic, emotionless musings on human nature hint at a far more serious dysfunction, compared to the women in the play?

Friday, November 14, 2003

Am a good way through Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. The writing's a bit old and I keep coming across obscure words that keep my dictionary dust-free for now. The novel itself has been described as chiefly one of ideas. Quite an apt description in this case. If anyone wants a primer on the dominant intellectual conflicts raging in Europe before World War I, while enjoying light satire and leisurely storytelling, this would be your novel. Your bildungsroman in fact.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Ahh... the sweet taste of vindication. Again.

Media Crossroads: Let market decide outcome, says Minister

The Minister's comments mirror earlier Govt responses to last week's debate about whether the Northeast Line (NEL) should be run by SMRT. Expected, and probably the best thing to do. Adopt a hands-off approach, without favouring either side.

But the comments come a day after it's revealed that SM Lee thinks there should be only one media operator in either industry. Must people wait for SM Lee to say something before they open their eyes and mouths?

Saturday, November 08, 2003

A Tsui Hark Retrospective. How cool is that? The man's kind of dropped off the HK movie industry radar but he truly is HK's equivalent of Spielberg when it comes to imagination and vision. True, his most recent efforts have done poorly, especially Legend of Zu (2001). But hey, people forgave Spielberg for AI, right?

Tsui Hark reinvented the swordsman genre, successfully fused eroticism and fantasy without making it look like cheap porn and breathed new life into martial arts movies (while redefining an iconic character at the same time!). Actors like Jet Lee, probably even director John Woo too, owe their present success to him.

Man, he made some great films. Too bad the Retrospective happened half a world away and two years ago. I wish we could have one like that here in Singapore. :(

Friday, November 07, 2003

Watching Return to the 36th Chamber was great fun. People these days associate kungfu comedy with Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, but before them Gordon Liu Jiahui was already combining excellent comic timing with martial arts prowess. Man, they just don't make kungfu movies like that anymore. :/

Where in Singapore can I find a copy of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin?

Thursday, November 06, 2003

A recent, comprehensive writeup on Murakami Haruki, from The Guardian.

Marathon Man

Haruki Murakami got up at four o'clock every morning to work on his latest novel. Five hours later he would rise from the keyboard, put on his running kit, and set out for a lengthy jog through the leafy streets and parks of Aoyama, a chic Tokyo suburb. After that, an hour or two would be devoted to visiting record stores, where he would browse through the second-hand jazz sections, looking for rare vinyl LPs. Then there would be time for a swim and a game of squash. In the evening, before turning in at nine o'clock, he would return to his desk and spend a few hours translating the work of American authors into Japanese....

I wish I could do that. Could I? Live a live like that?
Y'know, I really liked The Matrix.

Matrix: Reloaded was too long, took itself far too seriously, and went for obvious crowd pleasers (Trinity should've died).

I had hoped Matrix: Revolutions would be better. Sadly, I was wrong. At least Reloaded had impressive action scenes and memorable characters. Revolutions doesn't even have that thin veneer of coolness.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Am re-reading Murakami Haruki's Norwegian Wood. I'm not in the habit of re-reading books, mostly because I used to think that my time would be better spent reading more books or reading the materials I needed for work or school.

Even though time has scoured much of the feelings and memories associated with that first reading, vague shadows and half-familiar shapes remain and the mind picks up quickly on those markers. Yet I am also not quite the same person who read this book years before. Like Cratylus's river the experience is unique, a fusion of individual experience (including previous readings!) and ink-on-paper.

That experience is strong when it comes to Murakami's works. I can't quite explain it but there's a kind of wistful, surreal and deeply personal quality to his work. The best thing to do, as always, is to savour the novels. Like an intellectual kind of wine. Can't rush it.

An interview with Murakami Haruki by

Monday, November 03, 2003

Went to see one of the movies in the 19th Singapore French Film Festival. Specifically, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise), based on the novel of the same name by Dai Sijie. The movie doesn't deal with the Cultural Revolution beyond using it as a setting anyway (don't know if the novel does this), so don't fall into the same trap I did :)

Although set during the Cultural Revolution period, the movie is probably best seen as a coming-of-age tale for all three young protagonists. In that respect it's not too bad. The movie is let down by quite a few things.

Certain scenes looked contrived. The dental operation is probably the most obvious, with the Rube Goldberg-esque jury-rigged dental drill and an overall treatment lacking in any sensitivity.

The leads were competent, but there was little chemistry among them. At the best of times the relationship felt too cool for them to be good friends, even towards the end (btw, I would have picked male actors that can be easily differentiated from each other without using clothing -- half the time I couldn't figure out which actor was doing what).

As for the chauvinism, I admit that I may have been a little oversensitive. Allow me to say at least that to me the movie seemed to depict the mountain villagers with few redeeming qualities, while attributing all praise to the Western liberal tradition exemplified here by.... of course, Balzac and the French literary giants. Perhaps I am giving too much attention to these quotes though, because you could make a case for them being ironic rather than serving a pedagogical function.

Still, it was interesting to listen to a Chinese (ok, Chinese-French in this case) film where Beijing pronunciation doesn't dominate, and the ending sequence is imaginative and poignant. Breathtaking mountain scenery is always a plus as well.
The long and the short of it is that there is no instrumental reason to get an education, to study in your courses, or to pick a concentration and lose yourself in it. It won�t get you anything you won�t get anyway or get some other way. So forget everything you ever thought about all these instrumental reasons for getting an education. The reason for getting an education is that it is better to be educated than not to be.