Sunday, January 30, 2005

My Three Choices

On Sunday, for the Eye é City photo thingy, I had to choose three for the final selection out of the thirty-six I submitted that night.

Here are my selections.

Window & Door

Marshall Road
Marshall Road


I was also forced to give them pretentious-sounding titles like the ones above.

But the worst thing was that I had to write down what the meaning behind the pictures were. Now, being a veteran of literature and film analysis classes, I have no problem spinning the requisite bullshit. What I have a problem with is forcing the viewer to accept only one viewpoint. Because I took the picture, I am assumed to have absolute authority over it. If I say that this is the meaning behind the picture, I have essentially negated any other readings of it in one fell swoop. This goes against everything I believe in with regards to art and literature.

How can there be only one reading of a work? We should all be free to draw our own associations and interpretations. To be told what to think of something is, quite simply, authoritarian.

But well, I did it anyway. They wanted me to spin, and spin I did. Oh what bullshit I spun. After which I promptly felt disgusted and ashamed of myself. Principles? Bah. Thrown away like cigarette butts.

Close Encounters of the Wet Kind

So I finally managed to see Abandoned. It quite literally appeared before my eyes as I was crossing the street - the movie poster, that is. And at my shitty neighborhood movie theatre (I hesitate to even use the term) too. Twenty minutes to showtime. No hesitation.

Unfortunately it was rather blah. It never quite moves into out-and-out child abuse territory, except for one scene that hints at the paedophilic leanings of a teacher. So yeah, blah. No need for further elaboration. Good final scene though.

What happened afterwards is a lot more interesting.

Dinner was at the hawker centre at Bedok Interchange, where we shared a table with a couple of old ladies. Who were, incidentally, drinking large bottles of beer and chain-smoking, which is pretty cool for old ladies.

During the meal, this old lady who looked about seventy was right next to me, and she had the foulest mouth I'd ever witnessed on an elderly person. She bellowed this in an unbelievably loud voice (boy, was she ever using her diaphragm):

"Oi! Lim peh kio li lah! Cheebye."

Translated from Hokkien: "Hey! Your father (i.e., her) is calling you! Cunt."

This is a side of Singapore that's never shown in the travel brochures - the chain-smoking, beer-chugging old lady who swears like a sailor. She was just being her normal everyday self, and it felt so real. Like something tangible. I don't know how else to put it, other than to say that at that moment, I was happy to be sitting there and having that really bizarre experience.

She also spat on the ground every few minutes. This consisted of two steps. The first was the expellation of a proper globule of spit, which would typically shoot out like a bullet and splatter on the ground. The second step was the clearing of residue spit in the mouth, which consisted of pursing the lips together and forcing out any remaining liquid in a fine spray. Unfortunately, this spray was executed with a lot less precision than in the first step, and this almost always ensured that some of it ended up on my right elbow. Initially I surreptitiously wiped my arm off on my pants when it happened, but after a couple of times I simply kept my arm close to my body instead.

I was not as happy about the spraying.

But yeah, it was pretty intense.

I also saw The Aviator yesterday, which was excellent all round. I especially enjoyed the way Scorsese moved you in and out of Hughes' madness via lighting and audio cues - dim the lights, cue the flashbulb-crushing auditory motif. The dinner sequence at the Hepburns' is some of the best editing I've seen in a while. And hey, Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't suck in this one! (Gangs of New York, anyone? Catch Me If You Can? - I know, this last one isn't bad, it's just kinda blah too.)

And I was reminded of how your first film set can feel on Friday, when I helped out at a friend's shoot. Everything just takes forever, and you're all concerned about all these pressing issues that really aren't issues at all. You haven't yet learned the fact that there are some things that audiences are looking out for, some things they just don't give a rat's ass about, and some things that they're never going to notice in a million years. You're just all "I'm making a movie! Happy happy joy joy." I just felt really weird and left after being a boom op for a couple hours. Also a lighting guy, and a lightmeter verifier, and one more mouth to feed.

Yes. Multiple skills I have.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

Got Head?

I was going to see Abandoned today, which was showing at Golden Theatre, supposedly (Yes, that Golden Theatre). At least, it was still showing yesterday. I rushed through my paperwork for my upcoming shoot as fast as I could, finished up a whole bunch and rushed around giving them to various departments. This was complicated by the fact that I'd sprained my ankle in the afternoon walking out of the pantry onto a nice carpeted floor with no bumps or depressions. What can I say, I have weak ankles.

I couldn't find any listings in the papers, so I assumed they were showing the same things. But when I got to the theatre, I realized it was Thursday, and that they'd already changed their movies. Fuck. Well, I was already there, and had already paid for parking, so I just randomly picked Head-On, a movie that I seemed to have heard of and went in, hoping it wouldn't be shit.

And, well, also hoping there wouldn't be a masturbating old man behind me.

Guess what? It wasn't shit. It happened to be the winner of the 2004 Berlin Film Festival. But then it wasn't amazing either. It was just decent, I suppose. The most surprising thing was, for me, how it managed to have two characters that I didn't give a fuck about in the beginning become two characters I actually cared about in the end. Seriously, these were annoying assholes with nothing resembling an existence. But slowly, unconsciously, it turned me, and I ended up at least feeling something for them. It wasn't an epiphany or anything, but still, I felt a little tinge of something. That's pretty damn sneaky, and hence well-played.

The only D.O.M. in there left before the movie reached the one-hour point. I guess he got sick of waiting for the screwing to happen.

That made me happy. And I watched the rest of the movie in peace.


The Amazing Race(s)

When I was a little boy, older relatives would exhort us children to be good by threatening us with the following phrase: "If you're naughty I'll call the ah-bu-neh to come and take you away." Ah-bu-neh is kiddie talk for Indian, and as I grew older, I came to feel that it was rather offensive. After all, no one I knew dared to call an Indian ah-bu-neh to his face.

Let's face it, with the way we were brought up, it's amazing more of us aren't out and out racists. The older generation sling these slurs around like they mean nothing. Perhaps in their closeted environments, they could afford to be racist and not have anyone from another race realize it. After all, segregation was pretty much the norm until a couple of decades ago, and by that time, the behavior had been more or less internalized.

In fact, it's so much of their everyday behavior that they don't even realize they're being offensive. On my previous shoot, an extra in her fifties or sixties managed to piss my Indian director off so much with her remarks that he ordered her off the set. With her bad English, she didn't even know she had been insulting, and had thought she'd just made a funny joke. Luckily the situation was defused somewhat later, and she learnt a valuable lesson. Hopefully. And I learnt that extras should be told to keep their fucking mouths shut at all times.

Even the educated aren't that much better. My parents, one of which has a doctorate, still hold some rather racist opinions. Granted, they don't go around dressed in white robes and lynching people, but it's disturbing that these actions are just different points on the same scale.

Our dear PAP has tried its best to maintain and promote harmony and understanding between the various races. Singapore is advertised as a "multi-racial society" where all the races love each other, blah blah blah. But I can't help but feel that underneath the peaceful, genial surface, there are still many strains of deeply-rooted prejudice. Sure, no one wants the race riots of the sixties to repeat themselves. But if that's the sole reason for this supposed harmony, there will never be anything more than just bare tolerance. Real harmony has to come from more than just acceptance, but rather from understanding and exchange.

Hyphenation doesn't seem to be the answer. It appears that hyphenated Americans tend to mix within their own communities. Some of them carry pretty huge chips on their shoulders, and come to classes all pissed off with ridiculous hang-ups and ready to fight for their rights, taking offence at anything and everything. Hello? You can afford to go to one of the most expensive institutions in the country. You have the chance to interact with all different kinds of people. What kind of rights do you think you're fighting for in your little classes? If you really wanna put your money where your mouth is, quit school. Donate everything to charity. Go out into the streets and help your communities. Goddamn. I'm glad the film community seemed to be colorblind, at least the people I mixed with.

Still, sometimes people would get all sensitive and wary about certain issues around me, which would really piss me off. Yes, I'm Asian, I'm Chinese, but that doesn't mean I give a fuck. I'm not that sensitive. The more you tread on eggshells around me, the more I get annoyed.

Or perhaps I'm generalizing.

Ever realize it's so easy to generalize? Chinese are scheming. Malays are lazy. Indians are shifty and only know how to run corner stores. Eurasians are arrogant. Migrant laborers are all thieves and rapists. Women from China are all either prostitutes or are after our Decent Singapore Men's money. Students from China are filthy. Caucasians are loud-mouthed and full of shit. Extrapolate it to the world over and it never ends. Blacks are poor, stupid and lazy. Hispanics are crack whores and drug dealers. Japanese are hypocritical perverts. Africans are savages. And so on, so forth. Disgusted yet? I am.

How far are all these from the statement "Aryans are the superior race"? Do we need to go there again?

Then again, the same thing happens over and over, all across the world. Rwanda. Indonesia. Chechnya. Sri Lanka. Etc. Etc. Etc. Humans aren't really into the whole "learning lessons from history" thing, huh?

I try not to feel or think any prejudiced thoughts as far as possible. It helps that I work with people of different races, some of whom I respect professionally. Others, well, I couldn't give a flying fuck, but then again, I'm pretty colorblind in that respect too.

But sometimes, try as I might, a nasty thought or remark might slip by. I tend not to dwell on that so much. At least I know I've tried. And I know that deep inside, I'm not like that.

Maybe the rising number of marriages crossing the racial lines will do something to help the situation. After all, when you can't really peg yourself down as any particular race, then perhaps you can just simply be Singaporean. Or American. Or a citizen of whatever country you're from. Perhaps then we can all be, quite simply, just human beings. Nothing more, nothing less.

And hey, the kids from these mixed marriages are cuter anyhow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Scene I Liked

Saw Hotel Rwanda tonight.

If someday I can make a good, solid movie like this, I'd be satisfied even if I dropped dead soon after. I don't need huge blockbusters or Citizen Kanes, I'd be happy with something of this calibre.

Best scene for me:
Don Cheadle has just returned to the hotel after a harrowing experience with an entire streetful of corpses. He changes in the locker room, puts on his tie, finds that he has made the outside length much shorter than the inside. He laughs nervously to himself, undoes it, and tries to retie it. As he is doing it, he fails. His hands just will not do it. The tie is a mess. He stops, pulls it off, rips off his shirt, crashes back into the lockers and sinks onto the floor, sobbing, his head in his hands. There is a knock at the door. He says he'll be out in a second, and not to come in. He can't stop sobbing.

That's a great scene. Again, barely any dialogue. I think you can tell what I like.


Monday, January 24, 2005

A Recommendation

I'm kinda surprised that this is even showing here at all, given the puritanistic tendencies of the Censorship Board, but I guess we have to appreciate what slips through their fingers.

Sexual Dependency, a Bolivian film, is currently showing at Cineleisure Orchard, and I highly recommend it. I saw it at the Chicago Film Festival, and it left quite an impression on me.

First, it was exhausting on the eye. The film is presented in constant split-screens, and it gets very tiring very quickly, trying to decide which side of the screen to watch, or to watch both sides at the same time. Sometimes they're almost the same thing - different takes of the same scene from almost the same camera position - and sometimes they're vastly different, crossing time and space. Perhaps this was done as a physical manifestation of the difficult choices the characters have to make, perhaps not. Either way, it can either be a pretentious act or a really cool thing, depending on which side of the fence you choose. But some of the interactions and juxtapositions between the different images can get really interesting.

Second, it's extremely exhausting, emotionally. The actors seem to be non-professionals, which give their performances a raw and dynamic quality. And bad shit happens. The plot summary on IMDb says:
A poor girl, a rich stud, a university student and a model -- nothing in common, except the desire to experience true intimacy. Their stories unfold and overlap as each becomes victim to their own sexual dependencies, self-perceptions and illusions. Thematically structured around issues of femininity, masculinity, virginity, rape and sexuality, each teen struggles to make sense of their own identity, reaching for ideals that represent everything they feel they are supposed to be, but are not.
Sounds painful? You bet it is. But then again, if you're craving a movie experience that can get to you emotionally and viscerally, then this is something you'd wanna check out.


Breaking the Fast

Finally after more than two weeks, I broke my movie fast on Saturday. By myself, since no one was available (or awake enough). I'm amazed I didn't fall asleep, and I'm really glad the movies got better and better as the day went on.

Jennifer Garner is hot, especially in her red leather outfit. Unfortunately, she only wears it twice in the entire movie.
I liked the characters of Tattoo and Typhoid Mary a lot. Tattoo is a guy who has tattoos (duh) all over his body which can come alive and attack people and shit. Typhoid Mary just spreads death and disease all around her - best illustrated in a scene where she walks through a forest and the plants all wilt and turn grey in her wake. I think I've seen her in comics before, but I don't remember Tattoo.
Had a nice fight scene near the end with big pieces of white cloth billowing around in slow-motion. Seen it a million times before in kungfu flicks, but it still looks cool as hell.
Garner did the ol' "I can't kill them because I've connected to them, and the little girl reminds me of myself, and the father is boring but kinda hot, so I have to kiss him" thing. Bo-ring.
Um, that's about it. I had zero expectations, and was happy to find it didn't suck as much as Daredevil. Enter with an empty mind, and disregard all the obvious setups and bland characters, and you'll have a good time. So yeah, one satisfied customer.

Surprisingly, a decent biopic. Bill Condon kinda slipped a little after his amazing Gods and Monsters, but it's still better than most of the clunky famous-guy's-life-story movies out there. The cast is pretty good, and manage to make the whole thing coherent and not feel episodic, which is one of the biggest complaints I usually have with biopics. I hated Ali for exactly that reason, and for the fact that I couldn't care about the character. Liam Neeson here imbibes Kinsey with humanity, such that you forgive his transgressions against the people around him.
After the movie, it's a sad thing to realize that nothing that much has really changed since Kinsey's time, even with all his efforts. Bigotry is still everywhere, and the Puritans are still in power too. Really, people, lighten up. It's just sex.

Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)
Beautiful, touching, sensuous, poetic, life-affirming, sensitive, delicate, intelligent. These are but some of the adjectives I can use to describe this gem. In fact, "life-affirming" seems like a strange phrase to use when your main character wants desperately to kill himself, but nevertheless, it's applicable. Javier Bardem gets so much more emotional mileage out of his head and neck (he plays a quadriplegic who is paralyzed from the neck down) than most actors do with their whole bodies. The special effects, when they're utilized, are used to further the story both plot and emotion-wise. They really stand out precisely because they're not overused - when they appear, it's really a significant moment.
Director Alejandro Amenábar's got a good track record, with Open Your Eyes (the Spanish original of Vanilla Sky) and The Others under his belt, and the care that he takes with every scene shows. Every character here is not just a character, they're fully human, with all the frailties and nuances that entails, and the lovingly-crafted performances communicate all of that. Besides this, the storytelling is mature and doesn't talk down to the audience. If you watch it, notice how in one particular scene the reason behind Bardem's accident is conveyed through looks, gestures, and photographs alone, without any need for dialogue. That's beautiful storytelling right there.


Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Gender Divide

On Wednesday night, I found myself at Brewerkz once again, embroiled in intense discussion with old friends. A series of unfortunate events had conspired to draw the four of us together that night, and at the bottom of the matter was the age-old problem - men and women.

But before all that, cheers!


Sub-topics discussed include:

What is the difference between The One and the one? Is waiting around for The One to show up a realistic prospect? Do most people just settle on Any One that comes along that's not too bad? Why are men such bastards? Why do women ponder so much? And other such questions of supreme importance.

At the heart of it all, men are simply little boys inside. We are very simple creatures, we say what we think, or even if we don't, we're as easy to read as a book. We don't mean too much by our words and actions. The problem is that we think women are very complex creatures, so we have to carefully consider everything we say, because the woman (at least the woman that we imagine) will draw fantastical nonlinear associations when given a simple reply. "I don't like chocolate" can somehow lead to "I don't love you anymore." To men, that's pretty fucking scary. Perhaps we're mistaken, and that women only crave simplicity too. Who knows? If everyone could just be simple and say what they meant, at least in the realm of personal relationships, there might be a lot less misunderstandings.

The little boy notion also explains why we are such commitment-phobes. It's fine if we are given huge tasks at work, because that's just like play; somehow it's not Real Life. But if a female of the species asks for something solid, something definite, that means we have to Grow Up, and it's a very hard notion for us to accept. Some of us can better handle these situations, and some of us can't. I suppose that's when we end up hurting people that we never wanted to hurt.

Is status quo good? On basic principle, I have to disagree, because I believe that things are constantly in a state of flux. Any one or any organization that tries too hard to maintain the status quo is only going to find themselves left behind (like our dear Men In White, but I digress). Does the same concept apply to personal relationships? To love? Perhaps. People gravitate towards familiarity, but once they have that for too long they feel bored, and start to question themselves. It seems this is especially evident in young people, the by-products of the MTV revolution, with the attention spans of gnats. Perhaps the older generation has simply been shaped too well by governmental policy, to the extent that they are perfectly content with what they have, and they can do the same thing for most of their lives without complaint. Or do they simply know how to appreciate what they have?

But then again, who am I to comment on the subject matter, with my wretched track record? Maybe that's part of the problem, everyone has their own theory and expectations and misconceptions. Perhaps if we all went in with an open mind and no expectations, then we'd all have a better time. Kind of like going to see Elektra.

Right. So I'll shut up now.

By the way, in the bottom left corner of the picture, you can see my "Seeing Is Believing" wristband. It's being sold at all Standard Chartered branches in a pack of two (blue and green) for S$4.00. Proceeds go to their fund to help the blind.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

This is Really Fucked Up

From my eXTReMe Tracking site, here are the last 20 search engine queries that linked people to this here blog. It's rather... disturbing, to say the least.

From oldest to newest:

"philip crippen"
three...extremes park chan wook cut ending
dick lee's mustapha lyrics
sissy faggot panties
drunken singaporean girls
kungfu hustle cast mute
"YangTze Cinema" Singapore
jolin naked picture
drunken singaporean girls (again?!)
Sepet budget
taiwanese fiery thunderbolt
boot legged meet the fockers
mediacorp Fiery Thunderbolt (aargh! not again!)
free sex wmx clips (what the fuck...?!)
"matt cozza"
yasmin ahmad sepet
stores selling R21 movies in singapore
christopher reeve asshole creep selfish (No! Blasphemy...)
paloh screenplay
"k-box" karaoke review

From these, it seems that most people who come across my blog accidentally in their search engines are really really fucked up in some way. I hope none of them are reading this. Correction, I hope none of them are reading this and decide to stalk me.

Addendum: Happy birthday, kiddo.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Substitute Picture Post

I have received some pressure to post something. Anything. Preferably something with Content, that is Important, and Changes The Fate Of The World As We Know It.

Alas, I am unable to do that, because I am simply too tired and brain-dead to even attempt it. In lieu of that, I will post many pretty, not so pretty, or simply bizarre pictures.

Yes, this shall be known as The Substitute Picture Post.

The next time anyone is in Chinatown, check out this Manly Store. Sissies not allowed.

Manly Store

This is a tree (for lack of a better caption).

The Tree

How Much is That Doggie in the Window? I didn't like this song much. I hate it still. But I like the picture.

How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

My Blue Blue Sky. Sounds familiar. Anyway, it's not often you get such blue skies in Singapore, so savor as much as you can. As I type, the sky outside is a mass suicide-inducing grey.

My Blue Blue Sky

Make A Wish. "I wish for world peace... and for everyone to shut the fuck up about the tsunami already."

The Happy Birthday Boy

An Act-Cute Girl

Act Cute Girl

An Act-Cute Boy

Act Cute Boy

I don't know which is worse.

Next up, Two Posers. Focus issues in this one. Damn the centre-positioned auto-focus! Damn it to hell!

Two Posers

I'd like to call this next one... Yearning. Whatever, save your snide remarks. It just looks good.


Attack of the Photo-Taking Clones


And finally, Two More Posers.

Two More Posers at Void Deck

There. Happy now? There's your damn post.

Saturday, January 15, 2005






Monday, January 10, 2005

What Happened On Set Today

The first day of the shoot didn't really start out promisingly. First I was running around with crap to do all the way till we were supposed to move off. Then I had no idea where the crew was, not knowing they had their own van (well, sometimes they don't, OK), and were already on their way. More time was spent clearing that up, so we left late. Oh, and it was raining, on a day when we were supposed to do all exterior shots. Lovely.

The woman at the hospital was nice enough to let us shoot our stuff inside, so at least we could go ahead and actually be productive. However, that meant we had to set stuff like lights and shit up, which took more time. Also, I had to run around turning the sound down on the numerous TV sets around the place. Why is it that hospitals always seem to resort to TV to occupy their patients' time and attention? And why are they all turned to the same channel with the same terrible soap opera? And why are all these old men watching a lame soap? So many questions, so little time.

We moved on to the lobby after that, where we managed to shoot until the rain really began to fall hard, such that it affected sound quality. Hence we retreated to a corner and made our smoky tributes to the gods. It must have worked, because the rain dwindled to a light drizzle by the time we were done with our cigs.

Nothing much happened afterwards of note. Now I'm back in the office, exhausted (I woke up at three this morning and couldn't get back to sleep till six) and I still have four straight days to go. Tons of crap to prepare. People to call. Whatever.

I need a smoke. Bad.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I Consume, Therefore I Am

Been crazy busy this past week prepping for next week's shoot. Running around location scouting, filling in all the necessary paperwork, etc. I hate corporations. Red tape's such a fucking pain in the ass.

Ran around today buying props and other shit I need. Also took the opportunity to shop and buy crap I wanted. Like a pair of shoes I'd been eyeing for about a month.

New Balance

Anyone know where I can get fake snow in a can? The kind they spray in shop windows when Christmas rolls around. Or better yet, if you can give me some, I'd be a very grateful man.

Tiny tiny breather this weekend before hurtling full speed into five days of shooting starting Monday. This also explains my sudden desire to spend and spend, be it on food or clothes or just shit in general.


Crispy Knuckle

Of course, this dinner on Friday night, coupled with Thursday night's feast, has breached the limit of "nice dinners" for January.

The new philosophy of the times: I consume, therefore I am. Spending is the only way I justify my existence.

As long as I don't get into debt. Fingers crossed.

The sky was gloomy-looking all morning. I kept on hoping it would pour so I could take a leisurely stroll in the storm, but it was not to be. *Sigh*

Now I feel like a swim tomorrow, so it better be nice.

Thursday, January 06, 2005


"Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN'T?"
- Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico

After much ado about Mexico with #1, I had an intense craving for Mexican food today, especially since I hadn't had any since my departure from the States. So, not knowing any places in Singapore, I surfed around and found this place Margarita's at Faber Place that's supposedly "where customers are more like friends". I called up a fellow food-lover, and off we went.

Suffice to say that it was a Mexi-CAN restaurant. The quesadillas were only OK, but the fajitas were really good and the sangria went down very nicely with everything. A pitcher of it was enough for quite a few glasses each when shared among two people, and copiously-flowing alcohol is always welcomed. But the highlight of the evening for me was the lamb stew, which was, quite simply, the best lamb I have ever had, period.

Too bad about the quesadillas though. Somehow, nothing quite compares to the ones I whipped up in the mornings at 809 Noyes, using leftover steak strips, tons of butter, and instant taco skins. Dripping with grease, calories, and all that, smothered in a rich buttery taste and overflowing with melted cheese. Mmm. (I can hear some of you cringing in disgust already)

A tad pricey, but I think well worth it. And hey, the price is pretty reasonable by US standards, if that helps. Good food is always worth it, but bad food is overpriced no matter how cheap it is. All in all, I didn't really feel like I was "a friend", but to be a customer rubbing his belly contentedly is more than enough for me.

Oh. And we later found out they have a branch at East Coast Road, which made me feel quite stupid indeed for driving all the way to Clementi. FYI, the East Coast Branch is at the intersection of East Coast Road and Telok Kurau Road.

Finally, on New Year's Day, someone told me the last line of the saying about drinking. Over drinks, no less. For which I'm eternally grateful. And that last line is:

You're in the Clear.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The 100th Post

Welcome to the 100th Post on this blog! I can't believe it's been that fast - I guess I really have no life, huh?

Unfortunately I have no amazing insights to offer on any significant events that happened in the world or in my life at this point. I do have some notes on things film-related though.

First off, congratulations to Ms. Yasmin Ahmad on the release of Sepet in the Malaysian theatres. After a long and hard battle, she finally had to concede defeat to the Malaysian censors, who seem to be even more stupid than their Singaporean counterparts. And I thought the local ones were already scraping the bottom of the barrel; goes to show how much I know. Read about the outcome here, and you can follow the entire saga if you look through her previous posts.

Second, I know there are those among you who have professed an interest in seeing the new Ben Stiller movie, Meet The Fockers. Unfortunately, according to The Onion reviewers, whom I trust implicitly, it appears to be a huge disappointment, and completely repulsive to boot.

Here is an excerpt, for those of you who don't like links:

All that really needs to be said of Meet The Fockers is that each of the following things figure prominently in it: a precocious infant swearing and lusting after a housekeeper's massive fake bosom, a crusty old foreskin falling into a fondue set, Robert De Niro wearing a fake breast, Barbra Streisand with whipped cream all over her cleavage, a rambunctious sex class for seniors, graphic talk of Dustin Hoffman's one testicle and Ben Stiller's bris, and a cat flushing a horny dog down a toilet. Needless to say, the film's illustrious, Academy Award-winning cast is a long way from Taxi Driver, The Graduate, Funny Girl, or even Meet The Parents. Meet The Fockers has assembled a historic, once-in-a-lifetime cast, then stranded them in the laziest, most mercenary kind of sequel imaginable.


Third, my thoughts on Oliver Stone's Alexander.

Alexander is the story of how a great, successful and well-respected man - some say god, even - was finally brought to his knees because of the one human trait that has caused the downfall of so many Greek heroes: hubris. Pride and arrogance blinded him to the truth and his actions, and caused him to make mistake after mistake, finally turning everyone against him.

That man is Oliver Stone.

Oh, how the great have fallen. The director of Platoon, Natural Born Killers, Born on the Fourth of July, reduced to this overwrought, overlong spectacle of boredom. Beginning with an annoying introduction and then narration by Anthony Hopkins, Stone chooses to follow with a long period of intense boredom by telling the story of Alexander's youth. Who really cares? When the action finally comes, it makes things a little more bearable, but everything in between in just plodding along. And it's one thing to make Alexander more three-dimensional by giving him parental issues (check out the heavy-handed Oedipal reference), but to make Colin Farrell whine in almost every scene? Gimme a break.

I liked the battle scenes though. Intense, visceral, bloody. Everything Troy should have been but was not, because Wolfgang Petersen wanted to go for the family-friendly PG-13 rating. The climactic battle was beautiful, with the colors bleached out, then shifting into a startling red tint, and agonizingly gorgeous slow-motion photography. This is Stone doing what he does best, telling a story in the most intense way possible. And it had elephants. The rest of it is so blah, one would think he was on depressants the entire time.

It's unfortunate that the speeches Colin Farrell gives aren't all that inspiring, even though they try so hard to make it seem that way. Putting roars of wild animals in the sound mix sounds cheap here, because there's no motivation for them. Plus, it seems like Stone is ripping his own Any Given Sunday off. And as for inspirational speeches, nothing, but nothing, can compare to the words of The Bard in Act IV, scene iii of Henry V:

If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires;
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart. His passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse.
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, "To-morrow is Saint Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispian's day."
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the King, Bedford, and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

The Kenneth Branagh film version of 1989 does justice to the lines, which is as high a compliment as I can possibly give.

The audience in Alexander (yes, we're back on that) was terrible. It seemed the theatre was full of the most homophobic people around, or silly teenage girls. They tittered every single time Colin Farrell and Jared Leto exchanged Meaningful Looks, and every time Farrell looked at a pretty boy lustfully. Granted, the performances during those scenes were a little over the top, but c'mon. Be more mature about it. I mean, it was ancient Greece, after all, where men were expected - no, required, even - to have sex with the teenage boys they took as proteges under their wing. Have a little more respect for history. Then again, these silly people aren't probably the type to know anything about Greek history.

Oh, and mobile phones went off. About three times. Amazingly, after I yelled, "Turn it off!" the last time, there were no more phones going off. Sometimes these people just need to be treated like children.

Next, for the DVD whores (like me) out there - a look at the best DVDs of 2004.

And finally, a little story. To my intense horror tonight, my parents forced me and my brother to stop watching that Stephen Chow classic Royal Tramp because they wanted to watch the atrocious Taiwanese soap opera Fiery Thunderbolt. With its histrionics, ridiculous lines and horrendously overdramatic music, it deservedly makes it onto my Most Hated List. (Not that I'm keeping one. But if I was, it would be there.)

Some sample dialogue, heard tonight:
I heard she may have had an operation in America, called "Face Off", where she exchanged faces with another person.

My jaw hit the floor, and I couldn't help but laugh, both in amazement and disgust.

My mom told me off for being unkind. I told her they were ripping off a John Woo movie. From seven years ago.

"This shows that they're making creative use of things around them," she said.

She actually defended the piece of shit. I fell silent, sledgehammered into submission.

I am so glad taste isn't an inheritable trait.


Pretty Pictures

Some of you may know that I took part in this little photographic escapade called Eye é City with Kiwi and Yam. We spent the last day of 2004 triapsing around this little isle taking pictures, basically, which was a helluva lot of fun and landed us some real gems.

We found an old housing estate in Lim Chu Kang which the SAF had taken over for military training purposes, and wandered all over the buildings which were pretty much empty shells. It felt almost unreal, and you had to tread with a certain reverence, like you were in a ghost town. Chills would run up my spine when I thought about the fact that an entire neighborhood once lived there, and people lived out the highs and lows of their lives in the very buildings I trod in. The same buildings that were now nothing but bare concrete husks, with the occasional empty beer bottle from trespassing migrant laborers.

My favorite one is from there:

Window & Door

And I really like this one too:

Ray of Light

You can tell I really have a thing for shooting through doors and windows.

Tree at End of Stairs

My apologies if they look too dark on certain computers. I can't help it if everyone doesn't have a Mac...

The next two were taken at a jetty at Lim Chu Kang.

Boats at LCK

LCK Jetty

I love the fact that the dark clouds in the sky would've made for a pretty shitty color picture, but they just look so damn cool in black and white. I should shoot in B&W more. It tends to lend a timeless quality to things.

This was at the Chinese Cemetary in Choa Chu Kang. Yes, here in Singapore our cemetaries are racist.

Tree Tunnel

I also love the last two, for different reasons. The first I love because it's the best "street" picture I've ever taken.

Marshall Road

And this second one I love because of all the shadows, and the low angle of the light source, a bare fluorescent tube, which makes everything look so damn mysterious and cool. I also think it's pretty ballsy to submit a picture which is mostly just pure black. OK, maybe not pure black. If you have a good monitor you'll be able to see some detail in the shadows. We'll see what the judges think though.


On another note, I saw Alexander today. But that's a story for another post, since it's now two in the morning.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

One Fine Day?!

Bless DBS, they sent me an email yesterday morning saying I could now donate to the tsunami victims through internet banking and their ATMs. Being a lazy person, I couldn't be bothered to take note of any addresses, etc. to send donations to before, so this came as a pleasant surprise; an opportunity to dispel some of the negativity that the Event-obsessed news media has caused, with their passion for guilt-tripping people.

So I logged on and did just that. There. Done.

Please, enough already. Stop trying to make me feel guilty for being alive and wanting to have fun. Enough of the news stories saying how people all over the world are in no mood to celebrate, thereby insinuating that if I still have a desire to have fun, I must be inhumane. Honestly, people, let's accept the fact that something fucked-up happened, do what we can, and move on. There is no point in dwelling on these things for too long. The New Year is supposed to be a time of hope, of putting the past year behind, of looking forward with optimism. Why spend it gazing down in despair and full of gloom? Would the victims want their friends, families and countrymen to be in a deep funk for ages? I don't think so.

Along the same lines, cancelling the customary fireworks, while annoying, is still justifiable. However, cancelling the live telecast of the countdown party is not. What's the point in doing that when the party is still going to go on regardless? Is Channel 5 saying that homeviewers aren't allowed to have even a bit of fun by proxy at this time? Or are they trying to say that the partygoers are lacking in basic human decency? And this isn't even the worst part of it, no.

The icing on the cake, the coup de grâce, the idiocy to end all idiocies: Showing One Fine Day in its place.

Oh, what a cruel slap in the face. By all means, show a romantic comedy to lighten the mood. But did you have to pick one with such an unfortunate title, given the circumstances? I always knew they were a bunch of morons at Network Programming, what with their obsession over minute details in ratings, but this is a whopper, even for them.

What's the point in cancelling the live telecast if you're going to insult the memories of the dead, even if it was unintended? A much better thing to do would be to incorporate a few minutes of silence in the party (three minutes would be ideal, I think), and go ahead and telecast it. Imagine what a powerful, moving statement that would be. The throngs of partygoers, all standing silent for three minutes in sombre remembrance and introspection. The DJs with their heads bowed atop their turntable thrones. Three full minutes of silence. Live.

Too bad, you had your chance, and fucked it up.

I'm getting really sick of the news media, but it seems that's the way things are. They thrive on paranoia, doubt, guilt, and this one desire within all of us - to find out that other people are having it worse than us, so we can feel better about our pathetic lives. They latch onto anything, the bigger the better, and create a media frenzy over it. Like a friend said last night, if they can be fascinated by the Huang Na (little Chinese girl who went missing and was killed) incident for two whole months, imagine the field day they must be having now.

Fuck them. I want no part of this.

Addendum: My apologies. They did observe a minute of silence at the event.

From the press release:
As a national broadcaster, MediaCorp is mindful of the sentiments of Singaporeans as well as those of our neighbours whose countries were directly affected by the tsunamis. The cancellation is in line with our initiative to use all our media platforms to drive the Red Cross' aid efforts.

And how exactly are you driving the aid efforts by showing that movie? You can still run ads during the live telecast, and even modify the contents to drive the message home, which you can't do for a movie. Seriously, I don't know what kind of brains these people have.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Walking in Geylang

I passed by my primary school the other day while location scouting. I've often walked or driven by with friends, and have even pointed out to some of them where I used to do this and that. However, this was the first time I came with a camera.

I had a good time in primary school, as far as I remember. I think most people do. It's hard not to when you are little, naive, with no expectations, and life hasn't fucked you up beyond belief yet.

Every school has its own little set of eccentricities; rules and regulations which make no sense to anyone except the administrators. We had a rule stating that we had to bow to the huge statue of Lord Buddha whenever we crossed in front of it. Well, it wasn't really a strange rule since it was a Buddhist school. I mean, I'd imagine Christian schools having mass hallelujah outpourings and shit like that.

MBS front

Behind the van, you can kinda make out the entrance to the hall. Lord Buddha sat at the very end of it, cross-legged, on top of the big, black marble-paved stage, behind a shield of glass. He stared out peacefully, blissfully on the masses of kids in front of him, his lips curled up in a slight smile. His hand was raised permanently in a gesture of blessing, rising from the folds of his gold-plated robes. I tended to avoid his eyes. They looked scary to me, like he knew too much about what I was thinking.

Now the statue is gone. I peeked in from the gates and there was just empty space where he used to be. Of course, since the school building has now become a halfway house, I don't suppose they have any need for huge-ass statues with gold-plated robes, regardless of how blissful they look.

The hall was huge and cavernous, and was often dark, except for Lord Buddha, who was almost always from within his glass enclosure. There were ping pong tables at the other end of it, where we whiled away many hours.

On both sides of the hall were dark, narrow concrete stairs with a bold stripe painted in the middle of the steps. There were arrows pointing up and down on the top and bottom of each flight of steps, indicating which side of the stairs you were supposed to stay on. As a general rule, you were supposed to keep left. You were also supposed to be well-behaved while getting from place to place - no yelling or running was allowed. I once got smacked on the palm for doing both at the same time, having the ass-luck to run into the discipline master on the stairs.

MBS behind classroom

This is an alley behind a row of classrooms on the ground floor. This and another like it often turned into impromptu playgrounds where kids chased each other and played their silly little kid games. These classrooms were where the kindergarten, primary one and two kids were housed. In front of these classrooms, on the opposite side of the alleys, was a long drain covered with concrete blocks and iron grills, running the entire length of the blocks. After recess you could see the little kiddies squatting by it, brushing their teeth en masse, all part of the government's efforts to keep kids' teeth clean. I never understood why they felt that toothpaste was optional.

MBS classroom

My classroom for the last couple of years was in this wing of the school. I forgot which floors we occupied over the years. On the fifth and top floor were dusty storerooms with bizarre old science projects and teaching materials in them. There was also a music room (on the left) with an old piano and lecture-type chairs (those with tables attached), which I thought were cool at the time. There we sang crappy songs and played the recorder very badly. Calligraphy lessons were also held at the top floor on Saturdays, but I never went.

On the ground floor of the right wing was an empty space where kids would assemble in wet weather. It also became a wonderful space to play games in, and many afternoons were spent there. Behind this space were the toilets - dark and dank places, with creaky corrugated metal doors, eerie dripping noises, flickering lightbuilbs, cracked mirrors and a persistent smell. The left wing also had the same empty space, but behind it was the canteen. How we would wait in eager anticipation for the bell to go off for recess, ready to make a run for it and try and beat the crowd. Prices were a steal; where else can you get a whole meal for under a dollar?

Being a prefect, I'd get to go for recess early (I think), so I could patrol the place when all the kids were out. Of course, we abused the system as much as possible, and continued munching even when we were supposed to work. Besides, with the chaos going on around, who cared? Little kids pushed and shoved for a place at the concrete tables and benches, lined with smooth white tile. Huge tubs were placed along the sides of the canteen, filled with dirty crockery. Voices and noises mixed to create an all-consuming buzz of sound.

MBS spiral stairs

Behind the main building, a spiral staircase wound its way from the ground to the fifth floor (although access to the top two floors was blocked). It was narrow and dark, and I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. I loved that staircase, it was like a secret route to the staff room and more. I hardly met anyone along it, which added to the feeling that it was mine and mine alone. I also loved the alley that ran behind the building, under these stairs, connecting the toilets to the canteen. The whole back of the building felt mysterious and exciting, at least to an overactive kid's mind.

In front of the buildings there lay three basketball courts, which served as our assembly grounds, playgrounds, and everything else. With no soccer field, and only hoops available, it was no surprise that almost everyone played basketball. Not everyone played well though. Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that I'm terrible at anything involving an object flying through the air and requiring physical co-ordination. I was never a good player, but I loved hanging around the school players because, well, they were the cool kids, and a geek needs to know cool kids.

MBS alley 1

Around the school was a real alley, where we ran during our P.E. lessons. It had a strange smell to it, which I still can't place to this day. It might have been a cross between some industrial cleaner and garbage, but I guess I'll never find out. I have never smelt it anywhere else. The alley still surrounds the grounds, but it's different now, having been raised in places and smoothened out in general. The smell is also gone. I had shitty ankles, and still do, and recall getting many a sprain along the potholed path.

MBS alley 2

This is another part of the alley. Just beyond it was a coffeeshop, and we often played games on the path leading to it and along this alley. Games with nonsensical names, like "Pepsi-Cola 1,2,3", which one might imagine is a drinking game of sorts until one sees kids stomping on other kids' feet with gleeful abandon after yelling the phrase.


Right across the street from the school was the home of a classmate. Many of us ran straight there after school, for it was the coolest place around. They owned the entire building. The ground level was used as a storeroom, his dad had an office on the second floor, and the living quarters were on the third. I'll never understand how his dad could stand to work in his office with a whole bunch of rowdy boys sprawled on the floor in the very same room, fighting over the controls of the Nintendo and Sega.

The storeroom area had an old rusty air-conditioning rack above a doorway, and a toilet in the back, with a sink outside. I remember makeshift basketball games using the rack as a hoop, followed by much splashing of water at the sink. Of course, ventilation was almost nil, so you can imagine the sweat.

Once a bunch of us were playing basketball in the pouring rain. It was either an evening or a weekend or holiday, because there was virtually no one else around. We were having the time of our lives when a teacher abruptly stopped our fun and made us stand, dripping wet, outside the staff room. If his intent was to stop us from playing in the rain so we wouldn't catch cold, then putting us outside the air-conditioned staff room where we caught gust after gust of chilled air didn't really help his cause. Some other kid saw us and went across the street to borrow a bunch of towels, which was real nice.

Geylang Park

This is a park near the school compound, about five minutes' walk away. Near the end of our time in the school, we spent quite a bit of time hanging out here. Back then, the equipment was definitely more old-school; wooden planks, metal slides, swings made out of rubber tyres. None of this plastic crap.

On the last day of school, the whole bunch of us came here and sat for a long time. Some climbed into the canal and sat on the sides. We talked, as much as twelve year-olds could talk, about the uncertainties in our futures. We sang songs, we cried, and promised to remain friends forever. Ah, how things change. Now some of us meet up a couple times a year in a seedy cafe and chain-smoke. But back then, how strange and forbidding the outside world (read secondary school) looked to us. We were the big fucks in school, lording over all the lower classes. Now we were all to be split up, and made to face an alien environment alone. It was almost unbearable. But we survived, like people almost inevitably do.

For me, all that remains now is a distant memory. Snatches of it, brief slivers that I grasp at, trying to recall a bigger picture. It almost never comes. Six years. Six years reduced to snippets of memory, barely enough to formulate a coherent blog post. I walk around the area once in while, but it barely jogs what little memory there is left, nothing new comes to mind.

Six years of experiences. Blown away like cigarette ashes in the breeze. C'est la vie.

Note: This post took me the entire fucking day to write, on and off. What a loser.

The New Year Greeting

Happy New Year, motherfuckers!