Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The first film I worked with Tony Leung Chiu-Wai was Days of Being Wild. He is a quiet man who likes to smoke a lot. Somehow, we get along well and have worked on four subsequent films. We communicate in rather peculiar ways. Most of the time, we don't have a complete script. Often, I give Tony a song or some music as reference.

I don't know whether my working style fits Tony, but throughout these years, he seldom complains. Most of the time, when I ask him to listen to a piece of music, he would do so sitting in a corner, holding a cigarette and peeking at me with a devilish smile.

Osamu Dazai once wrote a short story entitled "A Handsome Devil with a Cigarette." I had always thought it was a great title for a film. I like Dazai a lot. Tony reminds me of him.

--- Wong Kar Wai

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I bought a portable MP3 player today. Setting it up wasn't a problem at all. What really irritates me to no end now is that I can't determine the order in which my MP3s play. The bundled software doesn't allow me to directly move files around within the memory of the player. I thought the player might be arranging them alphabetically. that's mostly right. Numbers before alphabets, A before B etc. But when it comes to filenames that begin with the same letter the order just goes to hell in a handbasket.

Well, that's what you get when you buy an Aigo. I keep telling myself it's a stopgap measure until I start working :/

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I remember now why I never liked earphones -- I can't wear them properly. The left one will fit just fine, but the right one will never fit properly. So I have to keep shoving it in or else it'll come loose eventually. The result is an aching right ear, raw around the canal opening.

So stupid, that my right ear is shaped ever so slightly differently from my left.

I knew I should've bought headphones. Maybe one of those big ones that you see at the listening stations at HMV or Tower. Dammit.
Michael Frayn's Headlong was definitely fun to read, even as my enjoyment mingled uneasily with disgust at the protagonist's self-delusion and slide into moral ambiguity. Ambition, greed and scholarly discourses on Bruegel. If anyone wants to read about conspiracies and paintings, this is far better constructed than that literary tripe The Da Vinci Code.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Destiny?!? Boo... ;P

Destiny, you are the oldest of The Endless, you are eternally chained to a book that holds the secrets of the universe. You are all business, never have time to even crack a smile,%
Destiny, you are the oldest of The Endless, you are
eternally chained to a book that holds the
secrets of the universe. You are all business,
never have time to even crack a smile, and
always make sure you do not draw too much
attention. You do not want people hunting after

Which Endless are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
The Kill Bill Vol. 2 Japanese Limited Edition DVD box set, like its predecessor, is full of goodies. Since DVDTimes won't let me post pictures of the blood-red t-shirt with silhouettes of The Bride training with Pai Mei and the Chinese characters for "Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique", the Pai Mei keychain, and the "Love Bride" Bearbrick with special coffin housing, you'll just have to click here or on the link above.

To whet your appetite, I pulled this off the Medicom site:

Ain't she pretty? 8th October! But I won't be in Japan :(

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Insomnia48 looks like great fun.

a non-stop 48 hour event of performance, clubbing, music, happenings, videos, installations, ateliers, workshops and social interactions. The audience is invited to join the completely free event (there are no catches!) from friday 8 pm to sunday 8 pm

Anyone wanna go with me? :D

Imagine, if you will, a t-shaped stage with white gauzy material draped all around such that it looked like a corridor -- probably meant to evoke the cramped alleys in between the "death houses" that once stood in that open, ill-tended field where we sat on plastic chairs, watching Ma: Moment.

I have no real complaints about it, even the unintentionally funny scene where one of the actors plays a hungry ghost in melodramatic agony. Amanda and Justin thought it was all very depressing. Which it was, but somehow I didn't feel for the characters very much and so the pathos never reached me.

I did like the technical and conceptual aspects of the production, particularly the coherent integration of scenes from the '60s film Mother's Grief (Ke Lian De Ma Ma), projected onto the gauzy white draperies for ethereal effect, into the fractured narratives of the production. One moment it's a film in the now demolished-Metropole Cinema, the next a proxy for memories and when silent, a pliable medium ripe for interpretation by actors' voices.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I've noticed that whenever Singaporeans meet, the questions that follow those about name, occupation and workplace invariably have to do with educational background. Where you studied, what you studied.

This probably has to do with Singapore's tiny size relative to other countries and the tendency for certain schools to assume reputations, even auras, beyond their geographical size. Throw in our general anxieties with education as a whole, and the result is that people have come to expect one another to exhibit certain traits based solely on where they studied. For instance, if you come from a St. Joseph's Institution or either Anglo-Chinese School, be prepared for jokes about poor Mandarin results for the rest of your life regardless of how well (or poorly) you did. We've even gone to the extent of saying that certain people have a "look" about them that indicates a certain school.

I myself have been a victim of this kind of stereotyping, and I like it even less now. Being pigeonholed by educational institutions and subjects shows a horrid lack of imagination. Shouldn't people be interesting enough on their own?
Finished watching Godard's Contempt (Le Mepris) last night. Ah well, nothing to report other than I still need sleep. But who doesn't?

Monday, August 23, 2004

Got up early yesterday to catch the sublime Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring before it leaves cinemas here for good. Then watched Dogville in the afternoon. Two vastly different, excellent reflections on human nature.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Going by their performance last night at the Esplanade Waterfront, I think The Observatory's ok. They're not bad. I especially like Leslie Low's mellow vocals and how they use electronic noise to unnerve audiences and give an ironic twist to their music. Maybe their album sounds better?

Speaking of local bands to support, Electrico just released their debut album. Sounds good.
Rejection came quickly. Nope, didn't get into AS or MAP. Now I'd wish I'd come out of that interview with a sick feeling in my stomach like everyone else instead of an adrenaline rush.

Friends have encouraged me not to take this too hard, and I've been preparing myself for this letter far before the interview occurred. So I'm not ripping myself up inside over this bit of bad news.

Well, not much. Not for long.

Friday, August 20, 2004

I very nearly couldn't get the copy of Rolling Stone with the Gary Trudeau interview and the Tom Wolfe excerpt.
Well, the terrible truth about writers is, they create characters and then they put them in harm's way. That's what drama is about. As a writer, I don't have an emotional link to the characters. I have to summon them up -- I have to pull them out of the toolbox and put 'em to work. They don't live in my head. --- Gary Trudeau
Yes, I should spend more time pulling things out of my head instead of just cramming it with... stuff.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Has anyone noticed that the satirical website Talkingcock.com has been down since National Day? Or that Colin Goh's fortnightly column failed to appear as scheduled in last Sunday's newspaper?

How I wish I, wish I'd done a little bit more
Now "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda" means I'm out of time
'Cos "Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda" can't change your mind
And I wonder, wonder what I'm gonna do
"Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda" are the last words of a fool.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The SGFilm forums now have a blog -- http://www.sgfilm.com/blog/

Want your China and HK movie fix? MonkeyPeaches !

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The photos don't look too promising, but who knows what this giant book sale might throw up?

Monday, August 16, 2004

I'm supposed to treat it like a conversation. A chance for them to get to know me better.

I'm just a boy whose intentions are good /
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Doesn't seem fair to talk about Jarmusch and not Ho Yuhang's Min which I also watched last week. So let's give it a go. Before that, here's a synopsis:
Min (2003) by Ho Yuhang
Running time: 78 min
Country: Malaysia
Language: Malay with English subtitles

Min (2003)This film is about a young teacher named Yasmin ("Min"), a young Chinese girl, adopted by a Malay family, who goes to look after her biological mother.

Min, a 20-year-old Chinese girl, discovers that she was adopted as a little child. Her old school friend is charged with finding out that her biological parents are. Min informs her adoptive parents about her plans and sets out on a long journey for her roots. All she has got is the address of the factory where her mother is employed.

Ho Yuhang's style is reminiscent of Taiwanese directors like Tsai Ming-Liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. With calculated modesty and nearly perfect visual expression, this Malaysian independent director has made the purest art cinema.

Ho refuses to play up the melodramatic potential of the plot (a Chinese woman adopted by Malay parents goes to look for her natural mother) and gives us a far more significant take on the loneliness of urban life. Music is kept to a minimum. Instead the mundane events of the film, depicted through long takes and long shots, play out against an unceasing soundtrack of harsh, grating urban noise. This incessant din extends into the extended full blackouts that throw audiences from scene to scene. Min is not a comfortable movie.

Wanna watch one of Tsai Ming Liang's films even more.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Thanks to a friend with a spare preview ticket, I got to watch Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes. The movie's a collection of black and white clips, with a fairly star-studded cast that includes Bill Murray, RZA (wearing a Ghost Dog hat I wish I had), GZA, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, Cate Blanchett, and for the indy music fans -- Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Jack and Meg White (a.k.a. The White Stripes). Even Roberto Benigni makes an appearance.

As you might expect, not all the clips are equally interesting or funny. The only things that tie all of them together are coffee (well, tea in one case), cigarettes, and the idea that speech is the worst form of communication between two people.

The dialogue is often funny and quirky but the things left unsaid are more crucial and this is where it falls to the actors to really differentiate the scenes from one another. For instance, put character actor Alfred Molina and established British comedian Steve Coogan together and you have a segment that shines with the contrast between Molina's effusive enthusiasm and Coogan's dry, understated wit. This makes the reversal at the segment's end much more satisfying. Also kudos to Cate Blanchett for talking on double roles in her episode and filling both -- a rich, well-heeled celebrity and her poor punk-rocker cousin -- admirably. In contrast, the musicians' episodes fall flat when there's no obvious visual quirk, like Jack White's Tesla coil.

I admit I'm not familiar with Jarmusch's work. I've only watched Ghost Dog and that was more accessible than Coffee and Cigarettes. So arm yourself with more patience if you're going to see the latter. Caffeine may help.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

My ability to write essays in an exam setting is in severe disrepair. And just when I thought I'd left those dog days behind.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The itinerant booksellers have returned to my neighbourhood. Guess what I found today? Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation With Stig Bjorkman.

Mostly done with A Defining Moment: How Singapore Beat SARS. I went through the main text first, leaving the little side panels and appendixed stories for later. Chua Mui Hoong treats this book as a blow-by-blow account of healthcare and governmental reactions to the unfolding crisis. Even as she carefully avoids any explicit bias towards the Government, our Ministers and top civil servants end up looking really good.

Chua asserts that the main factor behind our relatively successful control of SARS is a certain collective mentality shared by the rulers and the ruled that have led us to be labelled as a "nanny state".
Like a trusted nanny, the state was successful in getting its messages across because it had a deep reservoir of trust with its citizens, built up over the years, to bank on.
----- p. 139
To this effect, Chua gives adequate space to the errors and mistakes made, but takes care to emphasise that these occurred because of time pressures and the need to err on the side of caution. Throughout the book she takes as given that the decision-making structures put into place (or already planned for, as the case may be) were the best possible ones to contain the SARS outbreak. Moreover, she paints a largely rosy picture of all levels of society humming in tune with Government measures. Any resistance is either glossed over or rendered incredulous -- like the story about the Cat Welfare Society planning to send stray cats to a Johor pet shelter in protest at increased cat culling by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority here. In all, the book isn't so much an account of a society coming to grips with a deadly disease as it is a story about a well-oiled machine going through its paces. But no-one's perfect, and you can't argue with results.

The photographs are nice, but paper quality was selected with affordability in mind -- and rightfully so. There is little doubt that this is a feel-good book, meant to appeal to the masses and inspire Singaporeans everywhere. There is truly much that rank-and-file Singaporeans (especially our healthcare professionals) can be proud of. Just don't expect any deep analyses behind decision-making processes or public policy implementation and so on. If you're into that kind of meatier, more critical stuff, you will want The New Global Threat, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Its Impacts. And hey, it's conveniently available at Select Books (hint! hint!).

Monday, August 09, 2004

I'm looking for the lyrics to The Hives' infectious Walk Idiot Walk, but it's clear that the vast majority of lyrics sites just copied the same wrong lyrics from one another. Annoying as heck.

Oh, and I haven't found an accurate version of said lyrics. Would someone like to help?
Singapore celebrates 39 years of nationhood today. If you're not from Singapore and reading this, go out and have a drink (non-alcoholic counts too) and be happy just like the 4.2 million people here.

The classic The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy has been with us for almost 25 years now. Be happy for that too (drink optional) and think that Douglas Adams is laughing as well, somewhere out there.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Kinokuniya here launched their Privilege Card this weekend. At $21 a year for a 10% discount on all purchases, I see no reason to get it since I spend less than $210 a year at Kino. In any case, I can always wait for the 20% storewide discounts that they offer three times a year.

Speaking of which, if you're thinking of picking up a copy of A Defining Moment: How Singapore Beat SARS at the sale, don't bother 'cos the discount doesn't apply to "government publications", and this is one of them. Go get your copy from Select Books -- support local independent bookstores (assuming they have copies in stock)!

Saturday, August 07, 2004

I am looking for a system to organise my life by. I want to be able to see all that I need to do, in all their categories with as few transitions or glances as possible. I would prefer not to have to cross-reference because I know I will forget to cross-reference in the first place. In other words the problem isn't remembering what the string on my finger does, but remembering to put the string there in the first place. And then you have to remember what it does...

The ideal might be my own personal internet, with the ability to creat hyperlinks on the fly. As I type this I'm imagining a holographic construct -- a cube, say -- with a glove of some sort like the one Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report to interface with it.

I don't know how saner folk like Justin can manage with pen and paper. I tried that too, but the inability to rearrange and reorder my notes on the fly is infuriating. And then there's the problem of quick access to what I wrote before. No search engines for notepads.

Perhaps I should look into investing in a PDA. That gives me the added advantage of being able to carry and read long documents (like theses) on the bus or MRT without having to expend ink, pulp and time.

As for my room, I'd love a large whiteboard with markers.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Spent all Sunday helping my bro sell toys from his personal collection at the weekly Clarke Quay flea/toy market. He's unloading all his Be@rbricks, and has a very comprehensive collection up to Series 7. So if you read this and you're interested in procuring some of these figures, just drop me an email or leave a note in the tagboard or a comment or something. ;)

So the week's begun, and it's gonna be a busy one for me. The wheels began turning a while ago, but it's only now that they're picking up speed. Gotta do my bit to see what kind of a ride I'll be getting for the next, oh, 6 years or so. Fun fun fun. :p