Monday, February 28, 2005

Am rereading The Catcher In The Rye. It didn't make much of an impression on me the first time I read it, back in JC. I remember wondering what all the fuss was all about -- I couldn't understand why Holden Caulfield was acting the way he did, or even empathise with his restlessness and confusion.

I was a teenager, but I didn't know I was one.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Finished Compañero on Friday, over over-fried tahu goreng and green tea. The afterword is long and rambling, and basically attributes Che's enduring myth to the extraordinary confluence between his life and the pervasive mix of outrage and idealism of the sixties. Just as that era failed politically and is now significant only for historians and for cultural symbols, so has Che become a icon for t-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia.

I saw a typical example on the train yesterday. A girl was wearing an olive-green t-shirt with Alberto Korda's famous photo on the front. On the back was printed a short biography of Che with a few typos and an odd turn of phrase or two ("revolutionary bird"?).

The forms may be similar but in the years between Feltrinelli's first poster and that girl's t-shirt much has changed. The symbol is no longer connected with the source. My brother has a t-shirt that has a superimposed gas mask that obscures the Korda photo. I saw a t-shirt in Bangkok that pasted Che's likeness on a DJ while Mao's flabby face graced a table. Perhaps this is history's fate for failed causes: that icons that once inspired loyalty, passion and fear in people no longer do so.

There's nothing to be sympathetic or sorry for. If these symbols do have meaning for people today it is only through tenuous links to a vague rebelliousness that isn't rooted in any real phenomena -- perfect for selling things. And someday, even those will pass.

It is said that just before the departure, Che and Fidel held their last private conversation while sitting on a log in the ravine of San Andrés. An official from the Interior Ministry who attended the training program but was excluded from the mission at the last minute overheard part of their conversation, and deduced the rest from their body language. Castro did the talking, while Che was sullen and withdrawn; Castro was vehement, Guevara quiet. At last Fidel ran through all the problems, both inherent and circumstantial, in the Bolivian expedition. He emphasized the lack of communications, Monje's hesitations, the organizational weaknesses of Inti and Coco Peredo. He intended to dissuade Guevara, or at least induce him to postpone his trip. Both finally stood up, gave each other several slaps on the back: less than blows, more a hug. Fidel's gestures revealed his desperation at Guevara's stubbornness. They sat down again for a long while, in silence. After a while, Fidel got up and left.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Salman Rushdie wrote this article in response to a proposal by the British government to ban "incitement to hatred on religious grounds". A hard-hitting defence of "freedom of speech", and a call to reflect on the essence of that concept.

The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it's a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.

-- Salman Rushdie, Defend The Right To Be Offended
So now that we're really in a new year, it's time to look back (again): Top 11 Writing Trends of 2004
Throughout 2004, American filmgoing audiences demonstrated that they have little interest in supporting films that include any frank discussions of human sexuality, but they have absolutely no problem with going to see the goriest, scariest, most violent movies imaginable. Blood and guts, yes. Breasts and vaginas, no. One of the most successful films of the year, The Passion of the Christ, was also one of the most violent films in decades, but that didn't seem to faze heartland audiences one bit. However, those same pious filmgoers who didn't mind seeing skin flailed off of a human body greeted me outside of Kinsey, a quiet film about the secret sex lives of 1950s Americans, with flyers telling me that I would soon join the real-life Kinsey in Hell for supporting such a wicked movie.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved by Hunter S. Thompson

One more entry in my List of Depressing Stuff (TM)-- Prawns in a tank, little legs fluttering madly, ram themselves into the walls over and over again.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Cute, desperate bunny sings his l'il heart out:

Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me.

(Ain't that the truth now /sniffle)
When I'd like to blog more frequently, I can't because there's no internet access at work for the time being. Unsurprisingly, we are all more "productive" now. For me anyway, there's more time to read.

Speaking of which, I came across a sentence in Compañero that made me want to hurl the book across the bus. Castañeda's talking about the inhumane costs of rapid industrialisation as undertaken by socialist regimes:
Mao's Great Leap Forward in China also had disastrous consequences, at a human cost intolerable in a Western country like Cuba.

Sheesh. I wonder if the author's a closet bigot?

Speaking of books, I missed the MPH sale on CNY weekend, but discovered to my delight that there's a 20% discount on many titles in the Routledge Classics line. I hope to start on my copy of The Culture Industry sometime this decade.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."
-- Paul Erdos

Monday, February 14, 2005

Here's a suggestion to help raise our birth rates -- make 15th Feb a public holiday!

If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
Thank him for everything you know
You should thank him for every breath you blow

If you find yourself caught in love
Say a prayer to the man above
You should thank him for every day you pass
Thank him for saving your sorry ass

If you're single but looking out
You must raise your prayer to a shout
Another partner must be found
Someone to take your life beyond
Another TV "I love 1999"
Just one more box of cheapo wine

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Ah, I've been neglecting this blog. Has it been a week already? Happy Belated Lunar New Year to all!

The Music Junction near my place has boxes of random Europe-pressed CDs for sale at 3 for $10. Picked up a collection of Astor Piazzola pieces, Ladytron's Light & Magic and the OST to blaxploitation flick Three Tough Guys. The last includes Run Fay Run, which Tarantino used in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Here's something to entertain you till the next post: E! Online's Top 10 List of Blaxploitation Films.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I've seen hardcover copies of Haruki Murakami's latest Kafka On The Shore around. Will wait for the softcover version.

Random House has set up a very nifty homepage for Murakami, including lots of links to article and online fan communities. About time.
Am reading Compañero. Casteñeda's indulges in florid prose too much though. Here's a sample of his literary whipped cream:
Now Ernesto Che Guevara would experience his true political rite of passage during those troubled months when the futile attempt of a decent Guatemalan officer to improve the dreadful state of his fellow citizens shattered against the inescapable polarity of the Cold War and the intransigence of the banana companies.

What I found most interesting was that Che only became politically aware in his late twenties, after he finished university in Buenos Aires. Much of his outrage towards social injustice arose during his travels as described in The Motorcycle Diaries, but the criticisms were mostly ethical or moral in nature. They mostly went along the lines of "X is wrong, how can the government allow this?" instead of attempting to analyse the processes through which these injustices were perpetuated.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I could be blogging. Or I could be spending time doing stuff. Just take my last post for instance. Typing those two paragraphs took about 20 minutes. I think I'm a pretty fast typist, but I edit and reedit my writing a lot.

I've been a fan of the Gundam War CCG for a long time, and I'm sort of excited that there's now a US version. This is supposed to be a direct port of the Japanese game, and it looks and plays much better than Bandai USA's pathetic first attempt at a CCG: the (thankfully) short-lived "MS War". Hopefully they won't mess this one up too.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I've just finished watching Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya Ichi) on DVD. Black humour, buckets of gore, and truly twisted characters. The last time my mind was set adrift in a sea of mind-numbing spectacle was End of Evangelion. It's coming back down to earth - slowly.

Thanks to Francis, we managed to get free tickets to last night's performance of Roman Tam and The Three Bears, the doublebill by Action Theatre. The first play, Pek Siok Lian's Between Chinas, was straightforward with a lacklustre script. Everything about Jean Tay's Everything But The Brain was better. The acting, the set design, the staging, the script. They're two extremely different plays -- the first dealing with abstract notions of how different parts of the Chinese diaspora deal with history; the second an intimate, intense examination of a daughter dealing with her father's impending death. Still, I wonder if director Krishen Jit didn't do much with Between Chinas simply because he couldn't with that straightforward, didactic script.

And at the end of everything, as the lights went up, Lim Kay Siu (in the audience with his wife Neo Swee Lin) castigated a Raffles Institution student for chatting on his handphone during the performance. Hope the kid learns.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Some left-leaning libertarian, some liberal, all Wannabe Lawyer.