Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Last Saturday.

I attended the Wee Li Lin retrospective, one of the events in the six-month-long Short Cuts. Good stuff. I hope to see more of her films, especially since she seems to be getting better at fleshing out her characters and making her narratives more complex without losing the imaginative sense of humour in her work.

Came out of the screening late. Got interviewed by an Arts Central crew for a new programme, then agonised over my replies on my way to Orchard to meet Justin. How is it I can only think of the right things to say after the opportunities have passed? I f**king hate myself.

I took the train in the wrong direction when I changed trains. Both times.

While waiting for the correct train, I met a former JC mate. As is the case with people who have nothing much in common, we started talking about people we used to know in JC. So I asked about Vera, a mutual acquaintance.

She had committed suicide two weeks ago -- the Saturday before last (this last bit I found out after rummaging through old newspapers back at home).

Vera, you were good-looking, a practising Christian and you were actively involved in social work. Dammit woman. I pray you rest in peace -- it's all I can do now.
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I really liked Last Life In The Universe. Subtle, quirky, sensitive.

We are all fundamentally lonely. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that loneliness is fundamental to the human condition. But I already believe all that.

Monday, February 23, 2004

It took me only a few days to finish Eric Schlosser's latest -- Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. Compared to his earlier Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal however, Reefer Madness is lighter, fluffier. After all, he only dedicates 100+ pages to each problem. The book relatively well-written and makes a great introduction for the layperson. If you're expecting something more scholarly and in-depth, you may want to just photocopy the extensive notes and bibliography and dig deeper.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

This blog is a year old.

100 Bullets is thoroughly engrossing. The premise sounds like a warped episode of Touched by an Angel. Imagine that an old man in a black suit and tie, sporting a military GI cut ("My name is Agent Graves") came up to you and offered you an attache case filled with a gun, 100 rounds of ammo and unrefutable proof that someone has wronged you, made your life the living hell it is now. The gun and the ammo are all untraceable. You can use them anyway you want; no cop can arrest you for doing so.

As you might expect, the series does a good job of handling moral dilemmas, but the real meat of the series is found in the conspiracy element. You will soon realise that what look like totally unrelated events and people, aren't.

Azzarello's writing is hard-boiled, and the dialogue is subtle but hard-hitting (even though he tries a little too hard sometimes to mimic ethnic voices). Risso's art is dramatic, gritty and completely unlike standard American comic art. Both Azzarello and Risso continue to compliment each other excellently in bringing the neglected underbelly of American society to life -- now in graphic novel form. Easily worth every dollar.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Reading old strips of the sublime Ozy and Millie.

Hey, Singapore's mentioned.

It's really a nice place to visit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Colin Goh has taken a meandering, very un-Singaporean path. He gave up a well-paying but drop-dead dull career in law to pursue his love of cartooning and humour -- one that began in his JC days and his debut Orchard Road strips that ran in The New Paper (yes, that trash was once a respectable paper).

Lots have happened since then. He's most famous now for Talking Cock.com, and I've included a link to his fortnightly column in the Straits Times, in the side menu.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Added a link to the excellent Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive in the side menu. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

T'ain't no big thing
To wait for the bell to ring
T'ain't no big thing
The toll of the bell

Aggravated - spare for days
I troll downtown the red light place
Jump up bubble up - what's in store
Love is the drug and I need to score
Showing out, showing out, hit and run
Boy meets girl where beat goes on
Stitched up tight, can't shake free
Love is the drug, got a hook on me

Oh oh catch that buzz
Love is the drug I'm thinking of
Oh oh can't you see
Love is the drug for me

Late that night I park my car
Stake my place in the singles bar
Face to face, toe to toe
Heart to heart as we hit the floor
Lumber up, limbo down
The locked embrace, the stumble round
I say go, she say yes
Dim the lights, you can guess the rest

Oh oh catch that buzz
Love is the drug I'm thinking of
Oh oh can't you see
Love is the drug, got a hook in me
Oh oh catch that buzz
Love is the drug I'm thinking of
Oh oh can't you see
Love is the drug for me

Friday, February 13, 2004

"...... Is this a second-best life? Maybe. I don't know. It seems to me that the really tragic lives, the really cautionary ones, are not the ones marked by obvious dramas such as being paralysed, or losing a child in an accident, but the ones marked by the slow, corrosive drip of failure, the diminishing of horizons. You can see them on the train every morning -- men, less often women, who've given up hoping for very much out of life. They're not poor, not starving, they're decent, ordinary people. It's simply that the paucity of their expectations has hobbled them in some way. You see it in their clothes, the wrinkles in their shirt sleeves, the scuff marks on the shoes, the uncombed hair, the briefcase they've had for years and can't see the point of changing. They fill me with an unreasoning revulsion. I think -- that could be my fate yet......"
Life ain't fair. Hwee Hwee Tan gets published by Penguin (Ok, so Michael Joseph is a small subsidiary of Penguin but nonetheless) while Claire Tham has to make do with Times Books International (Singapore . Kuala Lumpur).

I am enjoying Skimming now.

What was Mammon Inc. like? Bridget Jones meets Lonely Planet.

What irked me the most about the book was the thinly-veiled haranguing of Singaporeans. The way Hwee Hwee Tan describes the English makes them look good-naturedly eccentric, and she also takes great pains to differentiate the snotty Oxford upper crust from the rest of (kinder?) English society.

No such subtlety for Singaporeans. Readers would think that we were all without exception stupid, wilfully ignorant, racist and Chinese. Her descriptions are spiked with malice and barbed with cruelty.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Reading Mammon Inc is like reading Bridget Jones's Diary, except that the latter is more sincere. Fielding doesn't throw conclusions in your face either.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I admit that my knowledge of Singaporean literature is forlorn. Like a worn rope bridge over a river than no-one ever uses. So I'm glad some of Justin's passion for reading and critiquing local literature has rubbed off on me.

Claire Tham's latest is The Gunpowder Trail and Other Stories. I browsed through it at MPH on Sunday, and I'm sorry I failed to read her work earlier. In atonement, I went to the neighbourhood library and checked out every Claire Tham book that branch had. Saving the Rainforest and Other Stories went by pretty quickly -- short in quantity, not quality. I am looking forward to Skimming, and if I ask nicely maybe Justin will let me have Gunpowder Trail for a bit.

The reason why Skimming is still sitting on my desk (keeping my Secrets of the Scorpion company), is that I've just started Hwee Hwee Tan's (Or Tan Hwee Hwee's? :p) Mammon Inc. I checked that book out of the library too; was thinking of comparing the two authors.

I think Claire Tham is a much better writer than Miss Tan. I wasn't impressed much by the latter's debut Foreign Bodies, and the first 2 chapters of Mammon Inc. are a little... underwhelming.

I wonder how not-so-good writers can get their work published and reviewed in international publications like The Economist while better writers go unnoticed outside Singapore. I have my suspicions, and they're actually quite obvious ones.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Watched Lost in Translation on Saturday. I think enough has been said about this movie to make you want to watch it, and I'm definitely adding my drop to the sea of approval this movie had accumulated thus far. Even more than Sofia Coppola's debut The Virgin Suicides. Justin over at his blog has (or will have) far more to say -- nay, gush -- about Miss Coppola's work. No harm taking a look :)

I liked it. It's a meaningful, sensitive film about the intimate nature of loneliness. I think the ending went a little too far into the realm of crowd-pleasing, and some bits are just rude towards the Japanese. Otherwise, it's a nuanced film with strong performances from the leads. Bill Murray is perfectly cast here -- makes me want to watch Groundhog Day now.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days, and makes a documentary about it. Unfortunately, I doubt Super Size Me will be seeing Singapore shores anytime soon. More like never.

I miss Doc :/

Kudos to the director for that insane, revolting stunt. His film's not really scientific, and its popularity probably has more to do with controversy than good film-making (maybe even a cheap shot at an easy target?). Still, I don't think enough people care about how unhealthy fast food is no matter how much scientific data is thrown in their faces. Maybe this film might help.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Wow... it's been more than a week since I last blogged... Time flies when every day seems like the one before and the hours slip like sand through fingers but a lot less fun.

I've just bought Neverwinter Nights: Gold Edition. Not that I will have the time to finish playing the original Neverwinter Nights and the expansion Shadows of Undrentide, but I've always wanted to play the former.

Closing Time was finished last week. It's filled with bittersweet ruminations on aging and death in the late 20th century -- y'know, the one defined by two World Wars (particularly number two, and you could say they were both one big horrid conflict), the development of global capitalism, and the ability to blow ourselves up a few thousand times over and reduce our lush planet to a barren dustball.

Not very uplifting, you might guess. But at least it's witty.