Sunday, November 28, 2004

I turn my PC on, and whoosh 3, 4 hours of my life go by. And it's not like I'm doing anything productive on it either.

I should just not switch on my PC.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Most of the action in The Polar Express consists of roller-coaster rides every five minutes (look for a Polar Express ride at a theme park soon). The animation's extremely detailed and smooth enough, but the film also has the creepiest elves and spookiest Santa ever. Look out for some very trippy moments, including a ride down a gargantuan gravity well, a curious black-white pairing (the engine room scene is classic Riggs and Murtaugh) and other movie parallels.
Julio Cort�zar (1914 - 1984)
Argentine writer, one of the great masters of the fantastic short story, who has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges. Many of Cort�zar's stories follow the logic of hallucinations and obsessions. Central themes in his work are the quest for identity, the hidden reality behind the everyday lives of common people, and the existential angst. The author's debt to the French Symbolism and Surrealists has been demonstrated in a number of studies. Unlike Borges, Cort�zar became a political radical who was involved in anti-Peronist demonstrations and supported the Cuban revolution, Allende's Chile, and Sandinista Nicaragua.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

If you haven't been there yet SoundBar is a small nook on the ground floor of hip The Gallery Hotel, and there's outdoor seating that spills out across the patch of lawn to the river where you have a nice view of HDB flats and a BP station.

Crowded, but expected of Heineken Green Room Sessions since their objective is branding/selling as many bottles of brew as possible (also the reason why NSmen and teachers never get invites, but they should seriously reconsider teachers). Moreover, there were print and (mediocre) radio ads too.

Anyway, Fantastic Plastic Machine was in full swing when my friend and I arrived (yes, we were late :( ), and the small area in front of the DJ console was packed tighter than sardines and hotter than a greenhouse.

With regards to music: he played house and latin mixes, throwing in remixes of his tracks every now and then. Solid fare imho. No one was dancing though. People were lounging, talking, getting drunk but not dancing although the the music called for it.

(I would have danced, but I was standing at least 20m away next to the largest longkang in S'pore, with nattering clusters of people around me.)

And worst of all, he left shortly after 12am.

Well, back to listening to his CDs. /sigh

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Well done Straits Times! Hire an veteran journalist with years of experience writing for respected publications, for your flashy new redesigned (again) paper. Then force him to leave after 8 months.
Letter from Singapore

Published by on 2004-11-19

Not so long ago, an important member of India's federal cabinet took me aside and asked why was it that Singaporeans were racist. I was floored by the question, which the official asked in all earnestness. In his long career dealing with ethnicities and communities all over the world, he said, he had never quite encountered the sheer arrogance and hubris demonstrated by Singaporeans.

"They think that they know it all," he said, noting the absurdity of a nation of four million people taking on a country of 1.2 billion people. "Even a minor Singaporean official will talk down to someone as senior as me."

I don't know if I fully agree with the cabinet official. Singapore and India, in fact, have been working hard at building stronger political and economic relations: they are about to sign a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which covers not only trade but also investment and services. The Indian government hopes that Singapore, which has US$1.3 billion invested in Indian technology and telecommunications companies, will bring in an additional US$2.5 billion to help build India's languishing infrastructure next year. Singapore, in fact, is the biggest Asian investor in India, and third only to Mauritius and the United States. Singapore - whose GDP of US$100 billion is less than a sixth of India's - expects to attract more Indian hi-tech professionals, and also hopes that India will use it as an offshore center for financial transactions.

Unlike my friend, the Indian cabinet official, I don't believe that this is a racist society. Indeed, I have been overwhelmed by the good will and graciousness of everyday Singaporeans. It's easy to make friends here, and people have been uniformly and extraordinarily kind to me. In fact, I have been genuinely touched by the gestures of sweetness and thoughtfulness from everyday Singaporeans.

But this is certainly a "rules-driven society" - in the words of my friend Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani, a Singaporean of Indian descent who was his country's Permanent Representative at the United Nations and is now Dean of the new Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy here in Singapore.

Ironically, it was my article about the new School - named in honor of Singapore founding father - that may have precipitated my involuntary departure from The Straits Times on November 16.

But before I come to a fuller examination of the episode, let me say a word or two about the paper, which will be 160 years old next year. It's a beautifully designed paper, with 90 percent of a typical day's edition of 200 pages consisting of ads. I was hired in March 2004 as its global-affairs columnist. I wrote columns under my own byline three or four times a week; I also wrote at least one or two longish analytical features and profiles each week. And I wrote unsigned editorials (which are called leaders here, in the British fashion) mainly on developing countries, international finance, global politics, India, and the Middle East - subjects that I've long covered in a journalistic career spanning four decades.

The Straits Times has no competition in Singapore. It's owned wholly by a company called Singapore Press Holdings, whose stock is sold publicly but whose affairs are closely monitored by the government of prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, son of Singapore's founding father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The paper is run by editors with virtually no background in journalism. For example, my direct editor was Ms Chua Lee Hoong, a woman in her mid 30s. She was an intelligence officer. Other key editors are drawn from Singapore's bureaucracies and state security services. They all retain connections to the state's intelligence services, which track everyone and everything.

At the newspaper, I was struck by the total absence of conversation or banter in the huge newsroom. Having spent two decades at the New York Times, including my student days in the United States, and having run my own newspaper subsequently, The Earth Times - not to mention my 18-year tenure as a columnist at Newsweek International, plus 16 years at Forbes as a contributing editor - I was accustomed to the spirited atmosphere of news rooms, not to mention disagreements and disputes.

I believe that what precipitated my termination from the paper on the morning of Tuesday, November 16, was my refusal to include in the article about the LKY School some falsehoods about Mr. Mahbubani that two editors suggested that I should insert. They both claimed that Mr. Mahbubani has had problems with the nation's security services and that he was viewed as a radical when he was a student at what was then the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore).

There was no way that I could independently confirm such suggestions. Moreover, I believe they were false. Mr. Mahbubani may have been a student activist in his writings for the university newspaper - but since then has distinguished himself for nearly four decades as Singapore's emissary in various places. The fact that he was named head of the LKY School is testimony to the high regard in which he is universally held. (His first book, "Can Asians Think?" was a best-seller in Asia and Europe, and also did pretty well in the United States. His next book will be published in the spring by Public Affairs in New York.)

It would have been simply inappropriate to include unsubstantiated stuff about Mr. Mahbubani's alleged radicalism during his student days. And it's highly unlikely that he would have risen as high as he has, had he been really considered a national security risk. My own feeling is that among some of the intelligence and bureaucratic types who run the Straits Times, there isn't universal good will toward the LKY School or its dean.

Like newsrooms everywhere, the newsroom of the Straits Times has its share of jealousies, resentments and fiefdoms.

It is also a poorly run organization. For example, my editor, Ms Lee, killed a substantial quote that I obtained from Mr. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman and publisher of the New York Times, on the grounds that he was "distracting." When I wrote an e-mail note to Arthur, whom I've known for a long time, to explain why his generously given quote to me was not used, here's what I received from Mr. Cheong Yip Seng, the editor-in-chief of the Straits Times:

we do not do this on this paper, namely apologise to a newsmaker whose quote we did not use. if i were the newsmaker, i would think poorly of the paper. if the nyt uses every quote of a noteworthy newsmaker, they will need to double the pages they use daily.

----- Forwarded by Cheong Yip Seng/SPH on 14/11/2004 06:37 PM -----

Needless to day, Mr. Cheong missed my point entirely. Arthur Sulzberger had made a special effort to communicate with me from 13,000 miles away to give me a long personal statement about the New York Times and its directions. I used the quote in a column on the media, but, of course, it was edited out. I felt that in view of my own long tenure at the Times, and my friendship with Arthur, I owed him an explanation, at the very least. It was common courtesy on my part, not brown-nosing to Arthur, who doesn't take to kindly to obsequiousness anyway.

Ms Chua, my editor, also killed two other exclusive interviews I'd obtained in recent days, mainly through my access to important people gained over four decades in international journalism. She said that what was said by Dr. Supachai Panichpakadi, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, and Mr. Peter G. Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations - and the author of a recent best-seller - was "boring."

In fact, both were timely interviews. Dr. Supachai spoke about ending textile quotas which, starting in December, will give developing nations unprecedented access to the markets of industrialized nations. And Mr. Peterson spoke about the troubling U.S. deficits, and how both Republicans and Democrats have been irresponsible about dealing with the current-account deficit that's expected to balloon past US$600 billion this year.

Ms Chua further recommended that I should turn to a white colleague in the news room for lessons on how to ask questions. Since I didn't come to the Straits Times to be re-educated in journalism - after a pretty distinguished career of my own - I felt that her advice was inappropriate. She was, of course, well within her rights to kill any story she wanted, but people like Dr. Supachai and Mr. Peterson aren't usually accessible to inconsequential newspapers such as the Straits Times.

Be that as it may, I thought that the editor - who was trained as an intelligence officer, not as a journalist - was way out of line in recommending that, at age 56, I take lessons in journalism from a white man at the paper. Among the things that I was hired for, incidentally, was mentoring young people at the Straits Times.

Now some people I know in Singapore regard Ms Chua's behaviour as racism. I do not. But another episode in the news room last week certainly suggested racism to me. A Chinese colleague of mine - a fellow columnist named Mr. Andy Ho - had changed the thrust of my column on Diwali, which happens to be a national holiday here. While his technical editing was superb - and I told him that - what appeared in the paper subsequently simply wasn't my voice.

When I approached Mr. Ho about this, he waved me away in our newsroom like one would a persistent beggar. Perhaps he did not realise the significance of that gesture when directed at a Hindu-born person like me, however secular I may be in my sensibilities.

But he repeated his gesture in a manner that was so dismissive that I then addressed him by the only appropriate response, a barnyard epithet. I was struck, not by his gesture alone - I've seen worse during a career in journalism spanning four decades - but by the expression on his face. It left no doubt in my mind whatsoever that he would qualify for what my friend, the Indian cabinet official, would most certainly call a racist.

"Racist" is a hot-button word, never to be employed lightly. As an Indian-born, US-educated journalist, I have never been exposed to racial discrimination. Quite the contrary. America - supposedly still a land of great racial divides - has been generous to me, truly a land of monumental opportunities.

But here's another anecdote concerning a Singaporean that was certainly sobering to me when it happened.

Some time ago, a recruiter from a venerable Singaporean institution looked me up in New York, my home since I was in my early twenties. I was being offered a job, but at a salary far less than a white gentleman I knew with considerably less experience. Why was that?

"Because you are an Indian," the woman recruiter said.

"I'm an American," I replied.

"It doesn't matter what your nationality is," she said. "You are a person of Indian origin, and that's how our compensation is structured."

Needless to say, it was an offer that I had no problems refusing.

Years later, when I finally arrived in Singapore - which was some months ago - I was quite astonished to see how many non-Singaporean Indians in professional positions were serving with coolie-like servility that they would never display back at home. What was going on here?

"You have to play by the rules," one Indian-born colleague said. "You cannot shake the boat too much. In fact, you dare not shake it at all. The money is good here, so I can swallow an insult or two."

The behaviour of Ms Chua, the editor, may be simply the kind of office politics that people holding power engage in every now and then. But it's also part of a broader attitude that I detect among many Singaporeans in journalism's top echelons here - that no one else's record or accomplishment or opinion counts but theirs. Any divergence of view is immediately regarded as subversive dissent.

This is an important point because if Singaporeans are going to be perceived as filled with hubris and an unbending my-way-or-highway attitude, it is going to be increasingly difficult for this country to attract the talent it needs to sustain its economic ambitions. In fact, young Singaporean professionals are emigrating to Australia and Europe in record numbers because they feel stifled here.

For example, I would be very curious to see how many top-notch Indian professionals in technology and the sciences actually wind up in Singapore once the ambitious Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement is signed this month by Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and Manmohan Singh of India.

Why am I sceptical that there isn't exactly going to be an exodus from India to Singapore? Precisely because of what that Indian cabinet minister told me. Singapore can attract all the cheap coolie labour it might want, but the word has gotten around in the Indian professional community that this isn't the place to come for personal and cultural fulfilment.

One Indian sociologist put it very succinctly, if harshly: "Yes, Singapore will get all the white trash it wants. Yes, it will get all the brown trash it wants. Anything's better than living in villages without electricity. But it's going to have problems getting the brown sahibs it needs."

Without those brown sahibs, Singapore will lose out to its neighbours in the great globalisation game. Already, its consumer prices and cost-of-living are driving potential talent to places like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi aren't such bad places to live and work in either, especially if you are in the technology sector.

Singapore, in short, is facing severe competition, and it's falling behind already. Does that mean by calibrating its culture to be more welcoming to outsiders is the answer? It's one answer, certainly. Does that mean Singaporeans should tolerate dilution of high professional standards? Certainly not. But why would any self-respecting professional coming to work here want to compromise his own standards?

And so back to that question: Are Singaporeans racist? Well, of course some of them are, just as surely some Americans are, and Australians and Argentineans and, dare I say, even Indians.

But Singapore lives in a unique goldfish bowl, and its own standards of economic excellence require its citizens to be more sensitive and magnanimous when it comes to dealing with outsiders. After all, Singapore has created a pretty well-functioning secular society for itself - even though one might argue that, in the cultural scheme of things, Tamils and Malays play second sitar to the Chinese.

This is such a beautiful place with such beautiful and giving people. It's hard not to be a well-wisher. But the Straits Times as a model of dynamic, open-minded journalism? It will happen on the day that it starts to snow here on the equator.

So what am I going to do next? A book or two to complete. Plenty of museums to visit in Singapore. Certainly scores of great food joints. Nice people to spend time with, as long as I avoid the paper's editors, of course.

Would I still recommend Singapore as a place to visit? Yes, I would, most definitely. And as a place to stay? Yes, I would, most certainly. SBut don't expect to practice the journalism of fairness and forthrightness. This simply isn't the place for that. At least, not as long as nail-pullers are running the news room. I got out before they pulled out my nails. But it still hurts.

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

What a strange way to promote a blockbuster sci-fi feature! The Casshern premiere took place in a school auditorium, using a VCD copy and a pan & scan transfer at that. In other words, far from ideal aural and visual conditions. The setting did evoke fond memories of casual anime screenings back at university. For all of 4 minutes.

Even so, the film is great eye candy. I was torn between walking out and catching it later in a real cinema, or just sticking it out in my uncomfortable seat. The ponderous, confusing narrative made me decide on the latter -- I don't think I can pay money to endure this version of Casshern, truncated and modified to comment on the concerns of recent months, again.

The posters are very cool though. Stunning promos.

btw, limited edition Casshern Kubricks!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ah, the madness is over. Our entry didn't get selected at this year's Fly By Night, but we can live without the icing on the cake. Working with and getting to know Dave, Jun and Lai Yee was a blast. Put fish back into tank -- Umlaut lives on.

Ugh. Need sleep. I kind of wish I had a real fever so I can call in sick tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Phantasy Star 2 and 4 are the reasons why I've been reacquainting myself with the distinct benefits of caffeine. Not good, not good -- was thinking of stocking up on shuteye since Fly-By-Night kicks off this evening. But sleep has been lost for poorer reasons than two classic, very good RPGs.

Got caffeine?

Anyway --

Take me to the disco at the end of the world
Take me to the disco, take me to the disco
Everybody dancin' at the end of the world

-- Fantastic Plastic Machine is coming to town! Whoohoo!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I managed to score tickets to the Casshern premiere on the 22nd, but I didn't know then that it was the opening event for this year's Asia Media Festival. Ah -- is that an animation fair I see on the schedule? And a symposium? There's a film showcase too. Don't see a schedule, but since the SFS is co-organising it's gotta be good.

I should stop salivating soon.

The whole thing is hosted by the Media Development Agency. That's a statutory board of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. Yes, that's right -- government-backed anime events. ^_^

I wanna join the MDA! CanIcanIcanIcanIpleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I didn't know Kazuo Ishiguro wrote screenplays too. Will The Saddest Music In The World ever reach our shores?

Monday, November 15, 2004

The HK trailer for In The Mood For Love is, well, arty. The French one plays up the romance element of the film but exhibits restraint in its selection of (speaking) scenes, with no extra advertising except for a graceful addendum denoting Tony Leung's win at Cannes next to his name. The US trailer has all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the head with the narrator rattling off quotables from (American) critics.

The HK and US trailers are set to Bryan Ferry's rendition of I'm In The Mood For Love, which is dead romantic. It wouldn't fit with the film, but it works well for the trailers. Besides, apparently that's how the film got its name.
I'm in the mood for love
Simply because you're near me
Funny, but when you're near me
I'm in the mood for love


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Scenes from Oldboy are still fresh in my mind. Here's some trivia, thanks to IMDB.

  • Based on Japanese Manga "Oldboy" by Minegishi Nobuaki and Tsuchiya Garon.
  • Four live octopuses were eaten for the scene with Dae-su in the sushi bar, a scene which provoked some controversy abroad. When the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes, the director thanked the octopus along with the cast and crew.
  • Choi Min-sik trained for six weeks and lost twenty pounds to get in shape for the role of Dae-su, and did all of his own stuntwork.
  • The telephone number (08-6600330) which is supposed to go to Oh Dae-su's daughter's foster parents home in Sweden, actually has been "shut down requested by the owner of the number" (that's what the voice says when you call the number). But you are referred to another number (08-54589400) which goes to "The Embassy of the republic of Korea" in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The famous one-take corridor scene was shot in three days.

Official Cannes site on Oldboy.

Another review, from Nixflix here.

I can't find the official Korean website, so the Japanese one will have to do.

The Oldboy Ultimate Edition DVD set comes in an all-copper case. Pretty! (but not worth the price tag imho.)
Let's see --
  • First Kim Possible (together with Fillmore!, the only Disney animated series I can stomach), then
  • Gundam SEED Destiny episode 4. Next
  • the final installment of Gundam SEED (at long last) followed by
  • Episodes 2 and 3 of the Macross Zero OVA (watched the first in the wee hours of the morning when I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep). Breathtaking dogfights and CG. Then
  • Franz Ferdinand music videos (didn't know the band members were all art students, but you can guess that they're fans of constructivist art), and last but not least
  • Korean revenge flick Oldboy. Devilishly stylish, wickedly clever. Miss at your own expense.

Yeah, pretty much spent my Saturday watching stuff and sneaking in snatches of JLPT revision.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Depression claims another young, successful writer. R.I.P. Iris Chang.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

It's interesting to see how Today and The Straits Time reported Senior Minister of State for Health Dr. Balaji Sidasivan's speech last night. The ST article played down Balaji's comments about gays and omitted his criticism of, which the Today article, which you can read here, picked up.

On the other hand, Today omitted Balaji's rationale for the different suggested approaches towards gays and promiscuous heterosexual males. Not that that rationale makes much sense to begin with:
As for heterosexual men who have casual sex abroad, he felt different measures were necessary. Dr Balaji said many were poorly educated, making it difficult to get the prevention message across.

"If the CDC can screen high-risk Singaporeans at our borders when they return, we may be able to protect Singapore women from catching Aids from these men."

I'd like to know how a "high-risk" person can possibly be identified. Can you pick them out with a MINDEF thermal scanner? Don't people lie on questionnaires? Besides, I suspect his premise -- that the majority of men who have casual sex abroad are poorly-educated -- is wrong.

And why is the gay community being singled out? The ST article states outright:

Overall, heterosexuals account for 80 per cent of HIV patients.

So wouldn't it make sense for the CDC to concentrate its efforts on heterosexual males? Instead of breathing down the neck of Action for Aids?

Monday, November 08, 2004

Not all of the ST is fluff. From time to time, you get lucid commentary like:
Nov 6, 2004
Women have moved on but society's in time warp
By Zuraidah Ibrahim
Political Editor

EDUCATED women here have been getting the metaphorical black eye or two lately.

How's this for starters: This week, to snag some publicity for a birth control programme, a committee chided tertiary-educated women for going for abortions, citing how the number of abortions among this group had seen a three-fold rise since 1988.

Riding on this statistic, a committee member rued the sorry state of educated women, adding that some who went to his clinic for abortions told him they didn't want babies to block their career paths.

What these statements omitted to mention was the inconvenient fact that the total number of tertiary-educated women had also jumped - four-fold. In other words, the proportion of tertiary-educated women going for abortions has actually declined.

One wonders, too, if the doctor was too quick to suggest that married women were torn between child and ambition, as if these were the only factors at play.

The choice may not be so cut-and-dried. Even if work gets in the way, it is hardly fair to characterise all the women concerned as heartless climbers of the corporate ladder, the way some of these discussions are wont to do.

The woman may be driven more by fear than by ambition - the fear of companies not willing to hire pregnant women, or of juggling the bundle of joy and the burden of work with a husband who is not willing to share the load.

The main point that the committee was trying to make was a valid one: educated Singaporeans who are not ready for children should know better than to resort to abortions; they should avoid conception through birth control.

But, have you noticed how the onus is placed on the woman? The experts could have chosen to highlight the fact that a rising number of tertiary-educated men are making their wives pregnant before they are ready for it.

No, instead, the accusing looks are directed at the women. It is as if Singapore's men share no responsibility for birth control; as if they are innocents seduced into surrendering their seed by the predatory females of the species.

One doctor on the committee acknowledged that part of the problem could be that the gap between marriage registration and traditional ceremonies made it embarrassing for these women if they became pregnant.

This is revealing of the state of morality and men-women relationships here. But more of that later.

Next, witness the letters to the Forum page lamenting the Singapore woman's lack of womanliness, her 'barbed exterior' and her insistence on putting career above everything else.

The onslaught against the Singapore woman comes amid this vexing concern that more men here are marrying foreigners or keeping them as mistresses. The prevailing sentiment - if the letter-writers and these men who marry foreigners are to be believed - is that women here are too difficult and therefore deserve this fate of being passed over for foreign women.

The presumptuousness of these letters in assuming that every woman's desire is to be wedded is exceeded only by their sheer chauvinism.

What about the role men play? How do they contribute to keeping a relationship happy and healthy?

The discussions, while they may be passed off as just idle chatter, reveal much about the mindset that still govern all of our lives here.

Singapore women have made enormous leaps in education and many have become independent, strong-minded, driven people, no different from Singapore men bred on the same ideals.

But here's the rub: The men just have not kept up.

More of them seem to be caught in a time warp. A time when women stayed at home, cooked and took care of their men's needs or, in a slightly updated version, women went to work but still found themselves left with taking care of the house.

In the second version, the men want their women to be their economic equals. But in everything else, they want to be more equal than their women.

This mismatch between what Singapore women have become and what Singapore men still are is really the reason behind the recent letters berating women and why it's so convenient to place the blame on abortions by educated women - on only them.

Society has some catching up to do.

For some reason, a woman's advance is always measured in terms of trade-offs she must make - between career and family - whereas a man's is never that.

In politics too, women politicians are constantly being asked that question. Few of us journalists ever ask male politicians about the trade-offs they make.

This mindset seeps into many other decisions - including whether to have or keep the baby. The responsibility of keeping the baby as implied by the doctor rests with women.

And worse, for those women who have to get rid of their babies because they have not gone through their traditional vows, why the insistence on face? What is being transgressed here? Society's expectations that a couple must not have copulated before marriage? Or, the veil of hypocrisy that it goes on but let's not tell the whole world?

If the marriage is legal, so should the baby-making be.

But no, for the sake of maintaining some myths about female virginity and tradition, abortion is the chosen way out.

The expectations on Singapore women are huge. At the workplace, they are supposed to be equal to men even though they earn less. At home, they contribute to the family income yet bear the larger burden of rearing children.

Yes, I know, there will be men who will say they are doing their fair share, they are as liberated as their women.

I have met these specimens too and some are very dear to me, but I would hazard a guess they are not the overwhelming majority of men.

For all that they have delivered, Singapore women have a right to be demanding and, yes, difficult even.

And if women decide not to have children, don't be quick to blame them. Men, and the rest of society, should also look at themselves in the mirror.

Well said! But is anyone listening?
The newly revamped Straits Times website now requires registration to view anything beyond the present day's issue. An unfortunate result is that all my links to the ST's columnists now require registration. Phooey.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

JLPT's a month away. Ugh.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Found an old scrapbook while cleaning my room. The pages reek of teenage angst - did I really write all that?

btw, does anyone know the author of this poem?
The Swimmer

Windhover, gliding
On the blue firmament
Of noonday water
I ride at ease
And see below me
Fathomed in twilight
Primeval mountains
Under seas.

Their peaks, sliding
Beneath the wing-tip
Which is my hand,
Shadow the gorge
And the dark weed stirring
Its forest fleece in a
Tidal wind.

If God, dividing
The light from the darkness,
Moved on the face of
Earlier seas
And called forth creatures
From every crater,
Where once erupted

(The great eel
As long as a valley,
The lunar crab
On a hill's brow
Squid with the cataract
Tentacles tumbling
Waterfall-white to the
Rocks below)

What man dare fathom
This land's mystery
With no lodestar
To bear him light
But a constellation
Of sunstruck fishes
Falling in fragments
Through the night?

The formatting's slightly off. The 4th and 8th lines of each stanza are not supposed to be up against the left margin.
Bride and Prejudice was trite and not very funny. It's amusing to play "spot the Bollywood influence" and the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai is a joy to watch, but otherwise it was pretty much a waste of time.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Fresh trivia from my alumni magazine: Joshua Marston, director of Maria Full of Grace, was from UChicago. AM '94 in Political Science, then went off to NYU for a Master's in filmmaking.

There's still hope for me then :p
Hence, as a token of our appreciation to you for making road safety a priority, we have enclosed a brochure with discount coupons and attractive offers from our participating partners in road safety.

Why are the Traffic Police sending me junk mail?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

There's very little religious commentary in Maria Full of Grace, so don't be misled by the clever poster. The merits of the film should be sufficient to reel in an appreciative audience however. Maria is solidly put together, managing to avoid moralising or sentimentality for the most part and fusing gritty reality with sympathetic characters. The film slows down a bit in the second half, but the suspenseful moments are well-crafted. The very emphatic Catalina Sandino Moreno, playing the titular character, truly carries the film.
Mmmm... Routledge Classics. Thought never looked better. And affordable too!

Monday, November 01, 2004

And yet the world doesn't feel smaller. If anything, the erasure of boundaries can make the world feel intimidatingly large, too large to feel at home in. These movies play on our unarticulated sense of that scary bigness, and they posit the feeling of being lost as the unavoidable consequence of a world in which we can go almost anywhere -- instantly, through virtual means, or in a few hours thanks to air travel. Some of these movies ("Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," "Irma Vep," "Lost in Translation") feature characters in foreign ports of call; in others ("Hamlet," "Nadja," "What Time Is It There?") the characters are just as lost in the places they call home. These are not xenophobic films, not movies that preach the virtues of sticking close to safe, familiar surroundings. They are about a world where the safe and familiar are being erased...

It's nice to know I'm not alone, even if the article is slightly overwrought. The author's defense of Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is, well, "unique" I suppose.
Nah, Kaena: The Prophecy wasn't very good. The animation was decent, the camera angles kept changing like an epileptic dragonfly, and for some reason the frame rate obviously slowed at several points throughout the movie. A waste of Anjelica Huston's and the late Richard Harris's voices.

The 2046 OST really grows on you. The music didn't particularly strike me during the movie, except for Connie Francis's extremely seductive Siboney and the Xavier Cugat pieces. After listening to it two or three times though, the soundtrack becomes addictively melancholic.