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21-31 July 2002

31 JulThat Jap Drama Db
31 JulMore on "Thine Own Self"
31 Jul"Jap Drama Crackdown?" update
30 JulJap Drama Crackdown?
29 JulData
28 JulIt's Over

That Jap Drama Db

31 July 2002 1:39 PM SGT

In the last entry I mentioned the Jap Drama Database, a site that focuses on those Jap dramas that are 10+ episodes long, excluding those super-long NHK dramas. It is quite comprehensive when it comes to the names of Jap dramas, their story outlines & the main stars in them, but entries can be very disorganised: basically they have the name of the show, a picture, some contributor's review or summary or commentary (presumably) taken from some magazine about how the show is perhaps going to sweep the summer ratings race. The problem I have with it is its disorganisation, or maybe because I've been spoilt on IMDB, which is a really professional site for movies, TV series, celebrities' info etc. User comments should be kept clearly separate from the basic facts of the show, like the credits and even things I don't care to know about much, like box office release dates (available for some movies at IMDB). Oh & the JDD's search engine sucks; it's a low-tech thing like this site here where if you searched for Long Vacation, say, it will give you the first "L" page, & you have to find the drama entry yourself. So IMHO the Jap Drama Db is a good start but it could be much better.

Btw, new features here: I will put only the most recent 5 entries on this main page & leave the rest linked from a separate Archives page. & I plan to have a nice LzyData logo up there, but for now it's just text.

More on "Thine Own Self" (see old entry)

31 July 2002 12:56 AM SGT

I missed out some details: Data was actually going to retrieve some radioactive material from a probe that crashed; when he was discovered by the natives (& by natives I simply mean the indigenous population: they aren't wearing skins & beating their chests you know. Like humans a few thousand years before now), he inadvertently distributes the material & causes a health panic because of course the natives don't know about radioactivity, & they blame Data for it.

"Jap Drama Crackdown?" update

31 July 2002 12:46 AM SGT

I've reviewed my log on Jap dramas for the candidates for the 10th place in the Top Ten List of Jap Dramas:

I think I'll give it to Dekichatta Kekkon (Shotgun Marriage) because it has a mature & interesting plot (about how a couple who have no intention of getting together do so because of a conceived pregnancy, and their struggles to understand each other & become a unit), even though some have criticised it for being uneven (for the first 5 episodes or so it's a comedy, then it morphs into serious drama). But the ending was very satisfying, unlike the With Love one. So you can see the update below.

But check out the piano playing in With Love - nice fingerwork! :-) Summary: With Love is about how two people, a bank teller who dreams of living in Paris & an ad jingle composer whose creative juices are running low, get together through email when the latter mistakenly sends his latest composition to her. Then we go on from there to the perennial: will they get together? The progression from here to there is OK if a bit slower than usual (& for Jap dramas, that's saying a lot!) but the ending sucked. Anyway you can listen to the jingle in question when you visit the Jap Drama Database (it starts playing as a background MIDI). Digression about that site: erm never mind, another time.

Jap Drama Crackdown?

30 July 2002 1:50 PM SGT

Eh I don't really have much to talk about today. But word has it that the reason those Jap drama VCD sets are being sold very cheaply ($6 from the old prices of $12-$18) because the Japanese are clamping down on piracy of their shows, and these VCD retailers are getting rid of their stock before the police start raiding them (OK the last one is speculation on my part). I mean, no Jap drama fan in Singapore who has watched one of these VCDs wouldn't know that they were pirated from Japanese TV, what with the advertisements, snippets of which sometimes show up because the editing wasn't skilful enough, and even earthquake warnings in Japanese!

But I wonder what the future holds for fans of Jap dramas like us. Will the original producers of the shows i.e. Fuji TV, TBS etc. come up with their own "deluxe" box sets to export here? Even if they do materialise, and are of acceptable standard, they will surely be many times more expensive than the old pirated copies. From the viewpoint of the consumer, I guess we would like the plain & cheapskate option - just the show in lower quality but still acceptable for watching - & the deluxe option, with high quality video, maybe even interviews & behind-the-scene features, like what they're doing with DVDs nowadays. I would be perfectly happy to buy those for good dramas. Unfortunately this means that studios have to maintain a high level of quality in their dramas to make any real money, & it's just easier to continue making mostly mediocre shows & collecting tons of money from broadcasters & consumers for them. They should consider that it's these pirated copies of Long Vacation & Beach Boys & Beautiful Life & Hero & so on that have made the Japanese celebrities popular & the high quality of some of the dramas greatly appreciated by fans like me.

Sigh it isn't looking good for Jap drama-watching in Singapore; the only sources in the future might be the free-to-air channels which only get the most popular dramas, or cable which you have to pay extra.

Heh going against what I've said to people, I will put here a Top Ten List of Jap Dramas. Of course they're not in any order of merit:

Hmm I can only think of 9 now; might fill in the last one later.


29 July 2002 1:29 PM SGT

So what's with the name? Simple: my initials plus my favourite character from Star Trek: The Next Generation (hereafter TNG). Of course the initials don't make a very interesting subject, because they're just what my parents gave to me, so I'll talk about Data.

My first experience of the universe of Star Trek was "The Pegasus", from TNG's Season 7 that was shown in some graveyard TV slot on Channel 5. It was a story about Commander Riker having to choose between protecting his old captain, now Admiral Pressman when he was serving on board the Pegasus, and exposing the truth, and no prizes for guessing what he eventually did. The captain and Riker were involved in a top-secret experiment involving cloaking technology, and this episode also reveals that the Federation did not adopt this technology against the Romulans and Klingons (who have been using it as a tactical advantage for years) because of a treaty, not technological or scriptwriting ineptitude. Anyway the prevalence (in TNG episodes and movies anyway) of Evil Admirals is a subject really worth exploring, and perhaps I can even link it with the wider Evil Generals phenomenon in some Hollywood movies (Outbreak is one I can think of offhand. The General's Daughter is another).

OK enough of a digression: Data, yes. He first struck me as strange because of his white skin, yellow eyes, impeccably-straight hair and terse manner of speaking, even though I did not begin to think of them as so until I did some research after watching the episode and found that he's an android, an artificial lifeform created to look and behave like a human. He was created by a reclusive cybernetics genius named Dr. Soong (who bears a great resemblance to Data, or rather, it's the other way around). Now even though technically he's a machine, he is a conscious sentient being and his colleagues regard him as no less. His goal is to become more human, because he sees human behaviour, morals and ideals to be good. You could say that this is a function of his programming, so in a sense hes indoctrinated to think this way, but the point here is that Data as a character is a way for a non-human to explore humanity and its nature. He asks questions: why do you think this way? why do you act that way?

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

- Act I, Scene III, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

"The Pegasus" was not where I began to like the character of Data - after all, that was a Riker-cum-Picard episode - but a few episodes after that was a gem of a Data episode: "Thine Own Self". It was about Data transporting down to a planet surface to retrieve some thingamajig (technical details don't matter, as you'll soon see) and gets damaged in some way or another, so that he loses his self-identity. So he ends up meeting some natives and they treat him as a friendly foreigner, until he starts displaying strange signs of his vast knowledge of physics and metallurgy (this civilisation he encounters is still in the Bronze Age) and in a brawl they discover the "alien" circuitry in his body. So at least to himself and to others, Data was a humanoid (close to being human) but he is rejected, to a much greater degree than how he is among humans, but still nonetheless kept at a distance because he isn't like them. I thought it was a pretty sad episode, but opinions might vary.

Other notable episodes focusing on Data that come to my mind now are "The Measure of a Man", which is where Picard represents Data for a legal hearing to determine Data's rights, as he does not wish to become the subject of an experiment by Starfleet at a cybernetics institute; "The Most Toys", where Data is kidnapped by a collector of exotic and rare objects, and where he nearly comes to a "logical" conclusion to end it by killing the kidnapper, totally at odds with his usual ethical programming; "Data's Day", where he narrates the goings-on on the ship during the day and gives his observations of a human couple's tiff, Captain Picard's likely reaction when faced with a crisis etc. There are many more, of course, like episodes where Data and Geordi, his best friend, act out their favourite Sherlock Holmes holonovels, or the 3 (2 and a half?) movies involving the TNG cast where Data usually plays a major role.

I think the great thing about Star Trek in general is that it is not merely about space battles with pyrotechnics galore and nasty power struggles, but rather the exploration of what it means to be human. Ethical dilemmas: how to reconcile, say, your obligation as a Starfleet officer and your responsibility to protect the citizens of the Federation with what you personally think is ethically justifiable, like genocide or betrayal of the very ideals you are protecting. Our ways of behaviour and thinking that we find natural and seldom analyse, like our somewhat conceited assumption that our way of life is the better one compared to other cultures or times. Or even how mind control can severely affect your sense of self-identity and sanity. I think these are fascinating topics, explored mostly in TNG but also in the other series I've watched extensively, Star Trek: Voyager. Someday I'll talk more about this. My point is that Data is my favourite character as he's the representative of the non-human looking into human nature in TNG (like Spock in the original 60s Trek series and the Holographic Doctor in Voyager), and his very nature itself as an android is intriguing.

PS: The links above are to the respective episode synopses and media archives on Startrek.com, and all material there is of course copyright to Paramount and other relevant organisations. That's the most comprehensive source of information I have come across regarding TNG, and the Star Trek: TNG Encyclopaedia is another, although it doesn't have the convenience of linking and searching.

PPS: Sorry for this looooooong entry; you'll find that I'm a very wordy person, haha.

It's Over

28 July 2002 7:29 PM SGT

Wow it's been more than a week! Anyway I have decided not to complain (officially) as I realise that it will not go anywhere, at least not to the people involved (More negative people would say that I have "come to my senses"). For those who want to read my original letter or just talk about the incident, you're welcome to email me. But to talk about the event here would be a breach of the Official Secrets Act, so there.

But no one needs to be smug or anything; everything I previously wrote or said still applies, just that the next time it happens I'll be sure to stay as far away as I can. There are two kinds of people: those who meet challenges head-on, even change things for the better, & those who think it isn't theirs & choose to go elsewhere for challenges they're interested in. I think I'm in the latter group.

For this page, I might still update it now & then - it could even become a blog, although it won't have scripts or message boards or pictures or guestbooks or "My All-Time Top Ten List of Records" & all that snazzy stuff. Reasons: 1. No time. 2. No skills. 3. KISS mentality :-)

(no title)

20 July 2002

Do not be alarmed; I have not been busted. I just want to take it offline first & consider my options. Sorry for any inconvenience.

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