Friday, July 29, 2005

To Rawa We Will Go

I saw two fucking good movies today, in less than ideal circumstances. Too bad, but that's the way it goes.

No time to blog about them though, because in four hours' time, I will be off to Rawa with Meihui and Angeline. For a trip that has been planned since March or April, it took a surprisingly short time to materialize, once we actually got off our collective butts and did something about it.

Hopefully, it will be good.

Sun, sand, sea and cheap-ass Malaysian cigarettes, here I come. Seeya in a few.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Non-Substantial Post

Nothing much to post about. Basically I saw two movies today, which I'll post more about later. Then I walked around with Kiwi and bought some shit like a Samsonite toiletries bag and a cubic zirconia earstud. The latter is pretty fucking bling. I also bought a pair of Billabong boardshorts yesterday. Whatever for, I don't know. I don't need S$80 boardshorts. No one needs S$80 boardshorts. But I was feeling good since I just finished off my first draft. I also learnt that I can fit into T-shirts meant for boys, but only if they're XL.

Anyway, no one needs to know all that. Who the hell cares? I don't want this turning into a blog where I post things like "Today I went Orchard Road, Taka very crowded, all the kids walking around, then the salesgirl very chio, etc etc etc".

What I really wanna post is this link. My god, cheebye is in the papers?! That is so fucking cool.

Also, Singlish is in Wikipedia! And it actually reads all academic-like. Again, that is so fucking cool.

I'll try to write better next time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Hacker, Two Signs and a Discovery

I guess not reading the papers or giving a shit about the news doesn't really do me that much good when it comes to casual conversation.

Ever have one of those moments where someone mentions an incident, but the reference is so vague that even though you wonder a little, you don't really bother to clarify it or to find out more?

I have those all the time.

And so it was when Angeline made a remark, something like "well, if a blog can be hacked, etc." Didn't make much sense then. Until I read about Xiaxue's blog hacking incident on 瘋子's blog. Yes, it's in Chinese. I can read Chinese, thank you very much. It's not a great skill, it's just really rare in my office.

Anyway, about Xiaxue, I'm really not a fan of hers at all. First, I hate pink, and her website is all pink. Besides the aesthetics, I don't really think she writes well at all. Why she's a columnist for a local paper (I'm not kidding) is beyond me. I find her blog juvenile, annoying and just a huge waste of time in general. And time is something this girl seems to have in abundance, seeing as how she Photoshops every other picture with some lame word balloon or other.

And this is the most popular Singapore blog. Just goes to show what great taste we have.

While she may not be my cup of tea, and while it's a given that some people find her website offensive - hell, I'm sure mine is offensive to tons of people - that's no justification for what happened to her. In short, her Blogger account was hacked into and all her entries - three years' worth - were deleted. I'm not surprised she became a complete wreck. I had an entry mysteriously disappear and I was traumatized for a while. I mean, three fucking years. That's a lot of posts.

She's gotten everything back, thanks to the gurus at Blogger, but no one deserves to have that happen to them. Not even if they're as annoying as she is. After all, she's just annoying, not evil. If you don't like reading her blog, then don't do it. I don't. It's not that difficult to do.

On the writing front, I've completed the first draft (kinda) of my sitcom screenplay.

I hate it.

I think there's one scene in the whole thing that I like, and I don't know how something that seemed like such a good idea just feels so dead. Anyway, I printed it out and I'll look over it on set tomorrow. I need to cut it down before I send it out, and hopefully I might be able to rework some bits.

I finished it in a cafe in Siglap this afternoon, came home, and promptly took a four hour-long nap. That was good.

I like finding friends' names on signs.

A street in the Mohamed Sultan area

In the Grand Copthorne Waterfront hotel

OK, they're not particularly funny, since they're really inside jokes. But hey, here's a funny one. This was taken in a video store in Suntec City. Check out the DVD under the Wrestling Corner sign.


Yep, you didn't make a mistake. That's Jesus in there. I bet he could kick some WWE ass. The Rock's a schoolgirl compared to him. That Jesus guy, he'll bitchslap you into next week if you look at him wrong. Maybe in his next movie they could get someone tougher to play him. That Jim Caviezel dude looked pretty scrawny.

Actually the Jesus DVD was from the compartment below. But still, putting Bible DVDs in a display thingy with a huge Wrestling Corner sign on it is just bizarre, even if it is on the second shelf.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Battling With Insomnia #2

More fun pictures.

Mardy's scary, but oh-so-cool hair

Check it out. Kanninabe Beef/Seafood. Hee hee.
(For those who don't know Hokkien, I apologize)
(I also apologize for the poor quality and small size of the picture)

An otter or some other creature that was in the Japanese restaurant
Check out the little fucker's balls - they're huge!

Bizzare Title #1: The Human Handbook (literal translation)

Bizzare Title #2: Handbook of Headache
I don't even know why, it just sounds... wrong

I've recently gotten into Corrinne May's music (much like, oh, 95% of Singapore). I know, it's not very cool to go with the crowd, but she does sing well. I've put up a link to her blog in my sidebar too. Check it out.

OK, I feel the sleepies coming on. At least there's still time for, oh, three or four hours?

Battling With Insomnia #1

Jingcai probably hates me right now.

While he's fighting to stay awake on duty, I'm battling a bout of insomnia. I don't even know why, my day has been pretty full with activity.

For the last two hours I've been inputting composers and lyricists into my iTunes, in an effort to have more information in there.

Before that I was reading Premiere. Re-reading some articles, actually, in the process.

And now I'm posting pictures because I have nothing better to do.

These are from last week's shoot.

My new image


Tiffany, first AD. She's not Undead, that's just sunscreen on her face.

Tiff: Omigod, don't tell me. An alien mothership just landed behind me.
Gurms: An alien mothership just landed behind you.
(For the uninformed, that monstrosity of architecture is the new Supreme Court Building)

It's not often people get to swim in the Singapore River
Stuntman Desmond (L) and field assistant Wilson (R)

Hot male model alert!

No, it's not a condom floating in the water. It's just Gurms' sock that accidentally fell in.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The One That Got In

On 31st December 2004 I went on a round-the-island photo shoot called Eye é City. We had to submit three selections out of all the pictures we'd taken, and the judges would pick 100 out of everyone's submissions.

I'm glad to announce that my favorite picture of the lot made it into the 100.

Window & Door

So I get to have my picture in the exhibition, which will be held in October at the spanking new National Library building, and I also get a free copy of the book with all 100 pictures. I think that's all I get.

I wish there was a cash prize. I could really use it right now.

By the way, the email notification also said:
Kindly keep the list and the results confidential so that we could have a better publicity effect for the event.

But we all know I don't really care about things like that.

And what the hell's a publicity effect supposed to be?

OK, I shall not be mean. I am not the grammar police.

Some people have two pictures in there. I was like, what the fuck?

Kiwi also has a picture in the 100, although it wasn't his personal favorite. I'm just glad mine is.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

We're Not Worthy!

My past week has been spent on the schedule of a fulltime writer, or that of a fulltime writer who has made the decision to work from home. And it seems to have worked out rather well. I've had opportunities to work out with a buddy in the day, have lunch with friends, attend (and shoot) a funeral, and go on a shoot with no disruption to work activity. I've been able to meet all deadlines... well, almost. I was late for 15 minutes once, but that's it.

I like my new schedule. It would be nice to stay on it for awhile.

As for casting, I said goodbye (and hopefully, good riddance) to it once rehearsals were over on Monday. A situation arose where because of what the writer thought, someone who'd already arrived for the rehearsal had to be fired and a new actor sought. For a shoot that was the next day. (Who the fuck do you think you are anyway, you're not the producer; you shouldn't get any fucking say.) "I don't care, I'm not handling it," was my mantra, and it seemed that no one wanted to challenge that, which was a pleasant surprise.

Later in the week, someone told me one of my cast members couldn't act. Well, if a certain look seemed to be more important than acting ability, and if that was emphasized to me, then I went with the look. Too bad. Like I said before, they don't really pay me enough to care about this shit; be glad I provided you with a warm body.

I think I'll work on an actual screenplay today, since it's dreary and wet outside and I don't have any real plans.

Or friends, apparently. Somehow the whole world neglected to inform me that two good friends were having their convocations this week. Everyone simply assumed that I was too busy and couldn't attend. Well, as it turned out, I was only on shoot for one of those days. For the other I was busy swimming/running/gymming.

I guess mention was made some weeks before in an offhanded way, but at a point weeks before, dates floating around are just numbers to me with no concrete reality to them. I need confirmation near the actual date, all the time. I need to be able to write down dates and times into my organizer or input them into my phone so I know. I've forgotten about appointments until my phone beeped a reminder an hour before them. There are just so many dates and numbers involved in my daily life that it's all I can do normally to get them in order for the current day. Mentioning stuff weeks in advance and not following up with me is essentially useless.

I'm kidding about the no friends part. I still love you guys. I'm just shocked that you had no idea I'm so terrible with dates.

In other news, I've been tomorrow-ed. Which means that (eeps!) strangers are reading my blog. I mean, I knew that already, but it still feels a little bizarre.

If I may, I'd like to quote from Wayne's World: We're not worthy! We're not worthy!

Is it strange that my first reaction to discovering this was slight disappointment that the link was to a post that isn't one of my best/favorites?

A postman just delivered the latest Harry Potter for my brother. This is frightfully wrong. The poor guy had to come in the rain just to deliver this stupid fucking book. I bet he'd been doing the same thing all morning.

Hello, world? Wake up. It's. Just. A. Book.

While we're on the subject of books and things literary in nature, read this article. Yes, it's rather long and has quite a number of words. For those who don't like to read, I'm lifting a sentence or two from each paragraph in order to summarize it - the good ol' way we were taught to summarize in all those fucking Chinese language classes.

Markets still have trouble reconciling themselves to democracy proper.
Above all markets love the country of Singapore.
The country has quite literally traded politics for wealth, with its most prominent political thinkers endlessly reminding the world that "Asian values" prioritize economic achievement over civil liberties.
Many facts can be cited to illustrate Singapore's exchange of democracy for wealth, but few are more poignant than the bankruptcy into which the country's opposition MPs (at present there are three in a parliament of 84), are perennially thrown by ruling party lawsuits.
Warring with the Economist, Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Herald Tribune, and the Asian Wall Street Journal, Lee used a combination of lawsuits, anti-Western bluster, intimidation, and circulation restriction to ensure that these publications would practice "self-censorship" when describing events in his country.
Turning to the local media, Lee came up with a plan whereby market forces did the work for him.
Lee Kuan Yew has achieved in Singapore what the American Right can only dream about: Freedom from the press - and along with it freedom from criticism and freedom from critical thought generally.
What fills the blank space left when a country has sacrificed criticism and intellectual life on the altar of the market? I went to Singapore to find out.
The point of the (Straits Times article) seemed rather to be the foolishness and feebleness of protesters, and the contrasting nobility of Lee.
Protest may not earn a Straits Times journalist's respect, but turning to the paper's "Review" section, I discovered what did.
In the entire section, only a brief editorial and a lone column (deploring the persecution of the Chinese minority in Indonesia) addresses matters other than management theory.
Venturing out from my hotel I found that nearly wherever I went management talk--even the liberationist variety we hear so much of these days from the evangelists of the everyone-will-be-free Internet economy - blended easily with the depoliticized, prosperity-centric culture of Singapore.
I did not find Singapore strange; I found it familiar. My objections to what I saw there almost all arose from the official media's energetic recapitulation of bland American originals: management theory, fast food, pop music, Hollywood movies.
But the weakness of public intellectual life was what struck one most sharply. (...) Positive reviews as far as the eye could see. I understand how Lee Kuan Yew's "hypersensitivity to criticism" (to use Seow's phrase) has had a chilling effect on the country's political discourse.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of it rings true, and what can I say, the truth hurts. It makes me sad to be a part of this country. Even (or especially?) in my company, management theory, doublespeak, corporatetalk, they're floating all over the place, and everyone seems to love using them. I hate it. Everyone just wants to talk to you, talking in circles, talking till you don't know what the fuck they're talking about and just nod so they'll go away. That's the way they handle problems, that's the way any big corporation or agency handles problems. That's the way the fucking People In Charge handle problems.

And don't even get me started on the whole huge "valuing feedback" joke.

Will it change? Can it change? Does anyone even give a shit whether or not this changes? After all, economically, everything makes sense right now.

After the whole NKF saga, the public are clamoring for more transparency and complaining that they have been misled, lied to, were the victims of obfuscation, etc. But hey, has anyone else realized that the actions of the NKF in response to criticism (i.e., sue their pants off) in the past has shadows of a certain (ahem) someone? Not to mention the lack of (real) transparency, and treating the public like morons.

More importantly, am I going to get sued for this post? Labelled a political dissident and thrown in the clink?

Hey, c'mon. Dissident or not, I support the economy. As anyone reading this blog will know, I buy shit. Tons of shit. I'm a consumer, in the truest sense of the word. When the going gets tough, the tough get consumin'. I'm just sick and tired of things in general.

Speaking of economics, successful franchises like Ikea are definitely an economic boost. I've finally found out the proper pronunciation of Ikea. Apparently it's "ee-kay-uh", according to Wikipedia. Some people (like me) pronounce it "eye-KEE-uh" too, but I'll try to switch to the proper one from now on. I'm a stickler for details like pronunciation.

But hey, anything except the local bastardized version: "ee-KIAH". *Shudder*

OK, I admit, that had nothing to do with economics at all.

On to happier things. Since Sin City just opened here, months after its US release, I pose a question. Does anyone else find it bizarre that Jessica Alba is the only stripper in the world who does not strip? It's especially jarring when other actresses are walking around topless for no reason at all throughout the entire movie.

It's been a long morning typing. I don't really want to write my screenplay now. I just want to go back to sleep.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Bunch of Movies and a (Real) Musical

I'm testing out something new: Three-Word Movie Reviews. It gives me more room to play around with, and I kinda like it.

Sommersturm (Summer Storm) - Surprisingly, wasn't terrible
Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi - Sweet, bland, forgettable
Inside Deep Throat - Not so deep
In My Father's Den - Convoluted yet simple
Der Untertag (Downfall) - Simple yet convoluted
War of the Worlds - Intense; false ending
The Upside of Anger - Decent but disinterested
Mr. & Mrs. Smith - Sexy as hell
頭文字 D (Initial D) - Fucking shitty crap
Fantastic Four - Cheap-looking mediocrity
Voces inocentes (Innocent Voices) - Repetitive blahness

I know some have only two words. So sue me.

Just saw a musical over the weekend as well - The Admiral's Odyssey, by Action Theatre. Perhaps the shadows from the one I worked on were still hanging around, because I felt this was done really well, even though it might not have been. I mean, in comparison to the shitfest that I was involved in this was Tony Award-winning calibre, or as K put it, "It's a real musical!"

So maybe at first glance I was blown away. But after mulling over it for a bit, I thought it could be done better. On the whole, it felt like it could be tighter, especially in the first half. I also wasn't really sure how well the character of Cheng Ho was handled and tied into the whole thing - that aspect could definitely be worked on further. The theme could also be handled more deftly and explored more thoroughly, I suppose.

But to give credit where it's due, here's what worked well. The cast gave excellent performances (even though the kid could learn to enunciate better), the music was appropriately stirring, and the set, while simple, was effective. Holding it in a small venue like Jubilee Hall also made the audience that much closer to the actors, both in physical proximity and in emotional intimacy.

I went to see it because I really liked their previous attempt, Chang and Eng, about a pair of Siamese twins. But then again, when I saw that it was already into its third run. Hopefully they'll tweak this one further before they bring it back to the stage. If they do it should have some legs at least.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Singapore Student Film

A couple of weeks ago (yes, this is how backdated this blog can get) I went to a screening by the graduating class of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Film, Sound & Video department. To be completely honest, I went there without any high hopes. After all, said the snobbish elitist in me, I was from Northwestern University's Radio/TV/Film department. It's going to be hard to find student film that matched up to those I'd seen.

The first half of the program, dedicated to the video works, proved me right. I got there late, so I missed the first one, Solace, but apparently I heard it wasn't fantastic either. Some quick notes about each film, in screening order.

My Favourite Thing
Well-meaning, but fatally flawed in execution. Storytelling was kinda clumsy, with an attempt made at a character arc but failing. Some portions were just head-scratching setups with no payoffs. Above all, the thing that really annoyed me was the bad dubbing, with tons of dialogue out of sync.

Somehow this student film managed to get lots of big-name actors to be in it. I don't really know why. Typical masturbatory self-indulgent student film crap, in the worst possible way, full of the usual tired angst-ridden cliches. The cinematography was impressive and stylistic, and so was the sound design, but they weren't enough to save the day.

Gan Bei
Amusing at times, but again, flawed in execution. Overexposed shots were cut next to normal ones, giving a jarring experience. Episodic in nature, and often rambled on for far too long. If it was cut down by half, it would be a decent short. Still, getting promising, especially after morose wreck that was Eden.

There was a break, during which I discovered that some of the part-time actors that I'd met on set before were actually at the screening and in the films. The second half looked promising in terms of content, but again, there was trepidation. It began with an animation.

Feathered Circle
Animation short. Unoffensive, but boring. Definitely not as deep as its creators would like it to be. And it left me wondering: This is the best animation there is?

And the rest were all shot on film.

I'll come right out and say it: The blue tint for the entire movie annoyed me to bits. But I liked it a lot, because of the gritty look and feel of the entire piece, and the deft editing and storytelling. True, the jumping back and forth along the timeline could have been handled more smoothly, but it wasn't bad. The ending, while clever, was abrupt and kinda anti-climactic, and could have been set up better.

Very well-meaning, with Important Themes, but ultimately also flawed in execution. Confusion arose when the timeline was jumbled up. The flashing back and forth was not as clear as it could have been. This was especially so when the scenes that were supposed to be set way in the past had modern touches like new window grilles in them, which only served to puzzle the viewer. Like it or not, production design plays a huge role in a film, especially when it's a period piece. Little things will signal a time shift - decor, fashion, hairstyles. When these are handled well, it's almost invisible, but when they're missing, it gets very jarring.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting this to be very good at all. I suppose I was still traumatized by the experiencing the extremely bad local film Return To Pontianak all those years ago at the Singapore International Film Festival. So it was a very pleasant surprise when this short actually turned out to be really good and scary. Good sound effects, creepy sound design and overall smooth technical prowess all made this film work well. Of course, because it was shot on film on a small budget, there were times when I wished there could be a cut-in of a closer shot, but that's just nitpicking really. The performances were good too, especially the old Malay actor playing the bomoh (witch doctor). When he got possessed by the pontianak's spirit, he took on creepy feminine poses and sent chills down my spine. The sound designer chose to play the exact same lines recited by the actress playing the pontianak above the dialogue for the scene, and the overlapping was very creepy indeed. A simple thing, but very effective.

Aik Khoon
Rambling piece about a taxi driver and his bum of a friend. While my colleague liked it a lot, I can't say I felt the same way. Thematically, I thought it might have been trying to do too many things at once. The setups were fairly obvious, and it felt rather episodic. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it didn't really flow that well for me.

At the end of it all, I came away suitably impressed. While I might have been harsh on them, I feel that many of them are up to the mark, if not better than the student film I've seen back in school. And that gives me optimism.

Perhaps things will get better here, slowly but surely.

The Original 200th Post

So cyberspace or the Bloggersphere ate up my original post. After taking some time off to recover from the setback, I shall attempt to recapture some of its glory here.

Modern Art

Events have transpired such that I have now begun to take pictures with my camera-equipped phone.

First, my phone is very cool, and I love it.

Second, I loaned my camera to my brother for his Law Camp. One fine day, he was busy doing something, so he handed it to someone else to take pictures with.

That was Crime #1. If I loan you something of mine, it's because I feel I can trust you to take care of it. Please do not betray that trust by handing it to someone else. You might feel you can trust that person, but can you really? This is illustrated best by what happened after.

Crime #2: That fucker, in turn, handed it to someone else.

Crime #3: This someone else manages to crack the filter on the end of the lens.

You must be a stupid motherfucker to do that. These things aren't made of glass. And the way it was cracked, he must've been walking around with the lens cap off and just walked into the end of a pole or something. Or dropped the camera, lens down, onto said end of pole. Either way, he's an idiot.

Crime #4: No one will admit to the offence.

This I find completely unacceptable. Being at a Law Camp, I would assume that everyone there are lawyers-to-be. Is there no integrity at all inherent in the practice of law? I used to give them the benefit of the doubt, but now I know there is none. Quite simply, you can't trust a lawyer. Any lawyer.

So now it's in the repair shop, and there's a story for that too.

My brother first brought it to a store in Peninsular Plaza that dealt in Canon repairs. He was quoted something close to S$500. The G6 is going for S$900+, which the guy pointed out. Was he sure he wanted to repair the camera? Either way, he had to pay a fee of S$25 for the "service" provided in looking at the camera.

He decided to get a second opinion, so he paid the S$25 and left. I told him to go to the official Canon places at either Funan or Harbourfront.

At the Canon place, he was quoted $100++.

What a huge difference.

What lying scum.

Anyway, back to photos. I've noticed that people have many different reactions when confronted by someone wanting to snap their picture with a camera phone. A normal camera is one thing, but with one in a phone, their expressions pretty much run the gamut.

There are those who are able to adopt a polished pose almost instantly...

Is it just me, or does the guy in the background look retarded? Like, seriously.



Those who are frozen, like a deer in the headlights just before it gets run over and its intestines spill onto the road...




Those who run away...


Those who get mad...


Highly amused...


Or just plain go nuts.


Then there are those who just go, "Ah, fuck it, let's have another drink."



Which is also my preferred reaction.

Some more random pictures for your perusal:

Katy, Stage Manager extraordinaire

Yen Miin, Production Manager extraodinaire

I suspect I use the word "extraordinaire" too much.

My favorite author, Neil Gaiman, came to Singapore last week. I got bunches of stuff signed by him.


I've found that authors really like it when you give them weird crap to sign, stuff that's out of the ordinary. Be it a statue, an out-of-print book, an indie CD he released, or even your mother's old underwear - as long as it's not run of the mill, it makes his long day spent signing autographs a little more interesting.

But Neil's great. He's always nice, despite being exhausted, and likes to do little sketches while he's signing too.

On the movie front (because this is, after all, From a Cinewhore's Mind, I saw this poster for The Island.


The tagline is rather telling in itself. Plan Your Escape... because it will be bad.

During the trailer, huge letters announced that it was "from the director of Pearl Harbor and Armageddon". There's pedigree for you.

Still, I'll watch it.

Just for Scarlett, I will.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The 200th (Replacement) Post

I had a post up yesterday morning which I spent quite a bit of time over. A couple of hours later it was all gone, mysteriously swallowed up by a ghost in the machine. I was, understandably, pissed.

A few comments for my previous post have also gone missing. What is happening to Blogger? Is nothing I post safe anymore?

Anyway, this is the 200th post. Well, technically I suppose it's #201, but since #200 went missing, it got bumped up.

I hope folks had a happy Fourth over in the good ol' US of A.

Bah, I'll redo that post when I have time.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Great Genitalia Debate

A month or two ago, a furor broke out among some friends regarding the usage and definition of the Hokkien terms for male and female genitalia. I suppose I was taken aback because of the vehemence of the protest and the apparent misconception that usage of these terms was sexist.

In defense of this article, let me say that this post has been sitting in a draft state for a very long time. I have waited until now to expand on it because I feel that tempers have died down and we are all ready to look at this from a linguistic viewpoint.

Arguments about my behavior that day will be ignored. This post is purely about the study and usage of the Hokkien swearing vernacular.

The girls' argument was that since there seemed to be more use of cheebye, the term for female genitalia - equivalent to "cunt" in English, I suppose - it was sexist and unfair. "Why don't you use your own genitalia?" They wailed.

Well, I do use it, and rather frequently in fact, but this isn't really the place to discuss such matters.

My argument was that each term has very specific uses, and even the compound terms that they're part of can only be used appropriately under certain circumstances. This in fact applies to their English equivalents as well.

For example, calling someone a cunt is different from calling someone a dick. A dick implies stupidity and a general bad attitude. A cunt carries connotations of viciousness, but not stupidity. Perhaps this has something to do with stereotyping - females are intelligent and vicious, whereas males are stupid and boorish. I'm not saying stereotyping is right, it just is.

In Singlish (or Singaporean English - the local pidgin variety), you can call someone a cock too. This usage implies extreme stupidity, even more so than "dick".

The Hokkien term for the male genitalia is lanjiao, sometimes spelled lan cheow. This term, when not referring to an actual penis, is an interjection akin to "like real", "as if" or "yeah, right" or any other reaction in response to someone stating the blatantly obvious or asking a stupid question.

Recruit: Sergeant, can I take off to feed my puppy Momo?
Sergeant: Lanjiao, understand! You think it's your father's army ah?

It can also be used as a tag at the end of a phrase, as in the below example:

Little gangster: Kua si mi lanjiao? You want to fight is it?
(Translation: What the fuck are you looking at? You wanna fight?)

Or as an adjective used to describe a person's annoying face, the kind that make you want to go up to them and slap them for no reason at all: lanjiao bin (literally, "dick face"). And believe me, there are a lot of these people around.

Or, more rarely, as an adjective used to describe a shitty or screwed-up situation, as in "lanjiao daiji" (screwed-up business/trouble).

Apart from these, there are not many other situations in which lanjiao can be used correctly, in the non-biological sense.

Cheebye, on the other hand is mostly used as an exclamation. One might express incredulity, shock, annoyance, disgust - almost any variety of extreme emotion - with the term. Hence when people meet with a shocking situation, they might respond with a strong "Cheebye!!" But what they will not respond with is "Lanjiao!" because it is not typically used as an exclamation. I guess one could exclaim anything, when it boils down to it, like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" but that's quite a mouthful, and "Cheebye!" kind of rolls off the tongue (no pun intended).

In a related but less vehement usage, it also conveys mild annoyance or even a sense of resignation. For example, you might say "Cheebye lah," in response to news that you had to work overtime that day. This indicates that while you find the task annoying, you're resigned to doing it. But if you were to respond with "Lanjiao lah!", it would mean that there was no way in hell you were going to do it (in line with the first example of the term's usage).

It can also be used, like lanjiao, as an adjective to describe someone's annoying face, but the term cheebye bin is a stronger variation. Here would be possibly someone you would like to maim and have drawn and quartered, as opposed to just slapped. And yes, there are also many of these people around.

Finally, it can also be used as a noun or adjective that indicates a certain type of personality, usually hateful. Calling someone a cheebye, or describing him/her as such, implies that he/she (the term is blind when it comes to gender) is generally evil, vicious, and hateful in all aspects. However, it might also be used as a term of endearment, akin to calling some of your best friends assholes or bastards.

Noun: My boss is a cheebye, I really hate him.
Adjective: My boss is damn cheebye, I really hate her.

After our discussion, I hope everyone has come away a little more aware of the circumstances and variations on the usage of these two terms. As you can see, they are used under completely different circumstances, and in no way are they sexist, when you compare one to the other. Possibly the only sexist thing would be that a cheebye bin is more detestable than a lanjiao bin, but that's only one out of so many variations.

So yeah, relax, yah?

Note: This is the absolute last word I will speak on the subject of debate to the friends in question. All comments will be read, but my responses can all be found within the article above.

Friday, July 01, 2005

My Two Nights with Eros

Angeline and I initially tried to watch Eros - the anthology of erotic-themed short films by Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni - on a Sunday night. There were relatively few people in the audience, it was probably only about a third full. The problems began almost immediately, but they weren't as apparent in the beginning.

As The Hand by Wong began, the people behind us started giving their comments. They seemed more interested by the fact that Gong Li was in this movie than in the movie itself, questioning, "What is Gong Li doing in a movie like this?" while she gives Chang Chen a handjob. Their accents instantly betrayed their origin - they were mainland Chinese, here to support their Gong Li.

Apart from a few short comments here and there, The Hand was still relatively uninterrupted. Then Soderbergh's entry Equilibrium came on, and once the English dialogue began, there was no stopping these people. Conversations started breaking out left, right and centre, and to our horror, we realized we were completely surrounded by mainland Chinese who'd really just come to watch the first segment.

The woman directly in front of me got a call on her mobile. She proceeded to talk to the other party - at normal volume. I asked her to please go outside. She ignored me. I repeated my request two more times. She finished her conversation, held up her clamshell phone, and slammed it shut, signalling her annoyance at this idiot who was apparently stupid enough to go into a movie wanting to actually watch it. Obviously she was there to listen to other people's phone conversations. Fucking bitch.

The people behind us started chattering. I asked them to be quiet. They continued. I asked again. They giggled.

By this time I was ready to explode, but for some strange reason, decided to hold it in. I really don't know why I did that. I should've just asked them all to leave. Or made them. Instead I reached for my phone and typed a message asking Angeline if we should go get replacement tickets for another day. We left.

I was rather nasty to the poor counter girl. It was unfortunate that she was the first person I spoke to, because she bore the full (actually it wasn't full, I was still controlling myself) force of my anger. We demanded, and got, our replacement tickets.

Typically I try to refrain from thinking negative thoughts about people of a certain race, or a certain nationality. It doesn't help to stereotype and put a label on a certain group of people. When people are passing judgmental remarks, I try to keep quiet. But sometimes, when things happen that really test my limits, I wonder if I'm not being too nice.

Mainland Chinese can come and take the top positions in our schools, I don't care. Seduce our decent men, become sex-industry workers, cheap labor, take our jobs, or perform any other stereotypical roles that they're said to do, I don't give a shit. But infringe on my movie-going experience, and you've crossed the line, buddy. You have fucked it up. You've pissed off one of the few people who were willing to give you and your countrymen a chance.

It's not that I hate mainland Chinese, I really don't. I tolerate them well enough. Hell, I even like some of them. But I think it's so completely fucked up that after several thousand years of civilization - arguably at one time one of the most advanced in the world - they can still be such uncouth, inconsiderate bastards. It's scary. I hate the kiasuism of Singaporeans, the narrow-minded, selfish trait that makes them think only of themselves, but often I've seen these Chinese out-kiasu the average Singaporean. What is going on here? Even a trait which we claim for our own is being usurped by them.

And don't even get me started on their inappropriate behavior, which was in full display during Eros. Normal people would be embarassed if their phones went off, or if they really had to take the call, they would do it outside. Normal people shut up when you tell them to in the theatre. Not them. They get angry at you. They laugh at you. They seem to think it's their God-given right to do whatever the fuck they wanted. Hell, they paid for the damn ticket. If you think that way, buddy, then please, go back to fucking China, or wherever the fuck you came from. I'll buy your plane ticket myself.

Enough ranting. Back to the movie in question.

We saw it again, on a Friday night. For some strange reason we missed the blinking light that signalled our theatre was being seated. After waiting for a while, we realized that the movie had started half an hour ago. How that could've happened, I don't know. Maybe we were abducted by aliens and lost a half hour of our lives.

"It's OK, we've seen the first one anyway," I said.

"But I really wanted to see it again!" protested she.

Ah well, c'est la vie.

Anyway, since I never mentioned it, The Hand was lovely, as are most Wong Kar-Wai films. But I'm his bitch, so my opinions are potentially skewed in his favor. Did I think it could be a little more subtle? Probably. More yearning needed? More character development? I guess so. But hey, it's gorgeous, and for him, style and mood tell half his story.

Equilibrium was good too, coming in a close second after Wong's entry. It's quite clearly un-erotic, and the nudity in a dream sequence seem to be thrown in more as a joke than anything. However, it's witty, quirky and amusing and Robert Downey, Jr. is great. The black and white cinematography was pretty too.

Antonioni's, however, was utter crap. It reminded me of Color Blossoms, but not as pretty. For reasons unknown some people argue, there's naked chicks in a waterfall, then there's some masturbation and sex, then naked chicks kind of dancing weird on a beach, and finally two naked chicks stare at each other. The whole incoherent mess is strung together by really, really bad dialogue - frankly, I've heard better dialogue in soap operas.

"I like old things."
"But I'm young."
"Is that an invitation?"

Couple arguing in the countryside:
"I just want some space!"
"You've got plenty of that here!"

Antonioni has done brilliant work in the past, my favorite being Blow-Up. Perhaps he got senile and horny and decided to make a soft-core porno, throwing in some pretentious crap just to make it look like art. The whole thing was just such an exercise in pointlessness and a complete waste of time and celluloid, it blew my mind.

But hey, I guess two out of three isn't too bad. At least I had a few laughs at the sheer idiocy of Antonioni's short. The Dangerous Thread of Things. Ha! Even the title is so fucking pretentious you can't help but mock it.

Tales From the Dark Side

So I wrote a few posts ago about how a colleague had assigned roles from Star Wars to the people in the office, and bitched about working with the Dark Side. They'd put the AVP in as Palpatine. At first I didn't realize it, because after all, Palpatine (or Darth Sidious, if you want to put it that way) is an old white guy, whereas she's not that old and definitely not white. But after (finally) watching Episode III, everything became clear as crystal. While physically she might not look like Palpatine, she displays all of his evil, manipulation and deception - although not quite on par with his level of intelligence (or however intelligent Lucas manages to write him).

Last week she sent out an email to almost everyone in the office. She likes to do this periodically to show that she's "working" - hell, it seems to be the only thing she knows how to do anyway. In it she assigned me to cast an entire series coming up. All this without discussing it with me in any way whatsoever. And she knows, she completely knows that I abhor casting, because I'd made that clear before. I'd been warned before about the possibility of her taking her revenge for me working on the musical, but never thought she'd actually carry it out, and in such a devious way too. She always writes very lovely emails, because she makes it look like you were chosen for your task (a.k.a. bitchwork) because you were good and capable and a huge asset to the company. I'm not one to fall for cheap flattery though, and shot back a reply that it was impossible due to my writing commitments. The two tasks could not co-exist.

Very nicely, she replied, again copying it to everyone on the planet, that I was absolutely correct, and hence my writing was going to have to stop until the series was over. Theoretically, according to her warped logic, since the show I was writing for wasn't due to start production until late October, I can cast until the series ends in September, then have plenty of time to start writing.

I didn't know what else to do besides launch a protest and absolutely refuse to work, so I went to my VP (a.k.a. Obi-Wan Kenobi). Strangely enough, he seemed to tolerate her presence much like one would tolerate a fly buzzing around one's head - while annoying, the fly never directly harms him, so he doesn't bother swatting it. I explained the situation, and while he agreed with me on my analysis of the impossibility of the writing situation, he also said it was complicated and we needed to consider other aspects of the matter as well. But he agreed to talk to her about it, so I was relatively pacified.

He spoke to her, and after a couple of minutes they gestured for me to enter her office (or rather, lair). A compromise had been reached: I would cast for two episodes while they looked for a freelancer to come in and do the rest of the series. A freelancer would be so much easier and cheaper - she could already rattle off a couple of experienced names for the position off the top of the head, so it was obvious she'd wanted me to do it for the sole purpose of ruining my life in the short term. I agreed to the compromise.

It was then that she really pissed me off. She insinuated that I was unfriendly, selfish, unmotivated and untrustworthy. By refusing to do work like this, and doing a bad job with the previous casting assignment, I was showing how uncooperative and irresponsible I was. Basically her argument was that because I was such a complete fuck-up, no one in the office wanted me to be on their team.

Now this woman, when she gets started on something, she's like a fucking freight train - nothing can stop her mouth from moving, and she seems to go on autopilot mode. When she's exhausted everything she has to say, she'll go right back to the beginning and start all over again. Her mouth opens and closes, and nothing coming out makes any sense, like a sheep bleating. While it's amusing to read about it here, in person it's really fucking annoying. To get her to stop and allow yourself to get a word in edgeways, all you can do is raise your voice. And once you do that, she's won. That's what she wants you to do, to make you lose control and look like a fool.

At that moment, facing all these baseless accusations, I had to speak. So I raised my voice just a tad and made it a little bit harder-edged. It wasn't even a third of what I'm fully capable of - you don't work two years in a military prison and not know how to really fuck someone over verbally.

Who exactly have you been speaking to, I asked, because I'm quite certain that not everyone in the office thinks this way.

Actually I knew exactly who she'd been speaking to - her cronies Boba Flat and Jabba the Slut. The sycophantic sisters-in-arms. She really only cares about their opinions, which is really too bad, because they probably share ten brain cells between the two of them, and more annoying and bitchy traits than a roomful of over-the-hill drag queens. Okay, I'll admit I'm being too cruel. Jabba probably rates higher in my book, because she actually knows how to do her job - but then again, she's had over a decade of experience. Boba just knows how to scream - she's like a skinny Asian version of a banshee.

But I digress.

Palpatine started giving examples.

"Jar Jar Binks (my former EP) doesn't want you back."

Not a huge surprise. While she and I are OK with each other in our daily interactions, she's not the type to like her subordinates feisty and questioning her decisions, which I did a lot of. I don't hate her, I just think it's better we stay out of each other's path as far as work goes.

"Jabba thinks you're irresponsible, leaving the last casting job like that. She doesn't want you working under her."

Oh hell no, I wouldn't want that either, I said. Although it's an unfair statement, since Palpatine herself pulled me out of that previous assignment to work on the musical with half a day's notice. I didn't say the last bit, because her type doesn't see reason.

This (casting assignment left unfinished) situation was subtly brought up and discussed at the post-mortem of the musical at the end of the week, and our Big Boss made it clear while not naming any names that people should not be blamed for not completing their daily tasks when put on a Special Task Force. That pleased me.

I digress again.

Obi-Wan stepped in, sensing he had to rescue the situation before I blew up further. Quickly, we wrapped it up and everyone agreed to the compromise. I didn't really want to do it, but I went along because I didn't want to put him in a difficult position.

As we walked back to his room, he said, "You have to keep your cool, I can't do anything if you lose it."

Thing was, I hadn't lost it. Not even close. In fact, I was feeling a very uncomfortable rolling in my chest and stomach because I'd been controlling myself. I get that way everytime someone pisses me off and I try to hold my full fury back. I guess I have what one might call an explosive temper. But I do try to control myself.

For example, I was at a bank signing some papers when I was told we had to come back another day because my driver's license was not valid as a form of ID with the bank - they needed an identity card. I pointed out, with murder in my voice, that everywhere else accepted a driver's license as a perfectly valid form of identification. Why would the government bother with upgrading everyone's driving licenses to a fancy new one with a bar code and a photo if they didn't intend for it to be used in other situations too? My IC was made when I was 12 and I look nothing like the photo on it. Did they need verification of the address? No? Then it made no sense to only accept the IC.

But this is Singapore, where if something is changed, there is no logic that says, rightfully, other things should be changed in turn in a domino effect. No, one change is one change. Everything else stays the same, nothing is affected. Change the driver's license all you want, but we only accept the IC.

Fucking idiots. I hate Singaporeans.

Anyway, I was feeling that familiar rolling in my chest, but I thought I was doing a very good job of holding it in. My friend pointed out after the fact that I was actually very nasty to the poor girl.

Well, I might have been nasty in tone, but I made sure I was still polite. I used "please" and "thank you" and all that jazz. That's how I show my displeasure. I kill you with my tone of voice, but on the surface I exchange pleasantries. It seems I deal with anger like a character in a soap opera.

Well, it's either that and feel the rolling in my chest, or give in and explode, smashing the place up and yelling that people are fucking morons. I usually choose the former.

Dammit, I digressed yet again.

One of these days I just might explode in the office. Then everyone will know the full force of my fury.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Well, believe me, they ain't seen nothin' yet.