11-20 August 2002
|20 Aug (Tue)||Abort/Stay/Quit|
|19 Aug (Mon)||The PM's Challenge, plus Picture Fixes|
|19 Aug (Mon)||"Bad guys who like to Loot & plunder..."|
|18 Aug (Sun)||My Sassy Girl|
|17 Aug (Sat)||Wil's Out! :-(|
|16 Aug (Fri)||Chronicle of Dramas|
|12 Aug (Mon)||The Nice Cover|
|12 Aug (Mon)||Borders is Good|
20 August 2002 12:29 AM SGT
I watched some Channel NewsAsia coverage of feedback on the PM's National Day Rally last night (the text of the speech is here), and I think Assoc. Prof. Simon Tay gave some pretty good comments. For one he said (and I agree) that it's not the case that all emigrants are "quitters," whereas those who stay put & draw a salary are automatically "stayers," because they could be those who would leave at the drop of a hat (CNA: "Staying put is not a sign of commitment"). Of course there's concern that this could lead to divisiveness like when the PM used the terms of cosmopolitans and heartlanders a few years ago in his Rally speech. It's just too easy to assume that everyone is loyal and duty-bound to Singapore, and hence those who leave out of spite over the high cost of living or whatever are ingrates. To be sure, some of them might never find a place suitable for them because although wherever grass might be greener, it undoubtably still has some weeds (yeah, corny). But are we going to denounce them just like that?
It seems to me that the two sides regard this issue with different mindsets, and that's what's causing all this unhappiness and preventing any consensus from being made:
- Govt, patriots, traditionalists, majority of Singaporeans (I think): I grew up in Singapore and my family, friends, memories, hopes, concerns are here. It would take a lot for me to leave (if I ever do), and of course I would fight for Singapore should it come under attack. I certainly won't pack my bags & take flight like the greedy bastards who are never satisfied & even have the chutzpah to proclaim their disloyalty in public.
[These people think: nation before community & community above self, enshrined as a National Value. By being a citizen, one undertakes an obligation, and those who are ready to desert their obligations might as well be crooked businessmen who don't honour agreements. They have no honour, to use a Klingon interpretation. Singapore has given them so much and they want to leave because of a few measly bucks.]
- The cosmopolitans, the highly mobile professionals, or the disaffected, the disgruntled: I feel no particular compunction to live in Singapore because I have the abilities, or at least the confidence, that I can survive equally well in most places around the world that would have me. I suffer personally from the policies and the costs; am I a traitorous "quitter" because I accessed my options & feel that I could "build a better life" elsewhere for myself or my family? Or because I'm a pacifist? Or because I don't believe in our government's policies?
[These people put the individual first - for how can there be families or friends or societies without individuals? Certainly they are influenced by the spirit of rugged individualism & wonder how an entire society can tie them down or limit their choices simply because they had the luck of being born in Singapore & growing up in Singapore. The world is their oyster!]
I think it's also interesting to consider the reasons behind emigration/immigration, as they are two sides of the same coin. Pull factors: prosperous open-minded societies ready to accept foreign talent; financial incentives, or at least pro-foreign talent policies, like the H1-B policy in the US catering to mostly tech professionals from China & India working in Silicon Valley and such places. Push factors: poverty at home: Chinese and Indian migrants that made Singapore what it is; ostracisation at home (e.g. Einstein's main reason for leaving Germany was not because he thought he could live better in the U.S., or that they were waving greenbacks at him - a minor factor, BUT because he was being isolated by the Nazis, condemned for his "Jewish science" of relativity and his Jewry, and certainly potentially the highest-profile concentration camp inmate.)
Was Einstein a quitter? Not unless you mean it in a factual sense. He was more a victim of political persecution. Neither can we admonish the Chinese and Indian migrants, because if not for their efforts we wouldn't be here today. So I think it would not be difficult to see that the second group, the cosmopolitans or the discontented that are proclaiming their intentions to migrate, are toned-down cases brought about by the combination of the pull factors of 1. the world out there 2. who's willing to pay and the push factors of 1. tough economic situation here & 2. political apathy/frustration/oppression. I'm not saying we're some Third World country & trammelled by the military & corrupt politicians, like in some places in Africa - I'm saying that the same factors exist, to a smaller degree.
National identity takes a backseat to these considerations, because these are free individuals and that's how they choose to think; you either drink the Kool-Aid of patriotism or you stay sober. In a way, our government has been too successful in concentrating on economic prosperity from day one, resulting in this ultra-capitalist, ultra-individualistic (some would say) breed of Singaporean who realises the hollowness of his commitment here and thus has no hesitation about going elsewhere.
So I think we should all tone down the "you're with us or you're against us", "stayer/quitter" caustic rhetoric. Everyone who has the financial means to emigrate holds the ability to choose, and more importantly, the right to choose. I think we should respect their rights as individuals, hard as it may be to accept if they go against your own sensibilities. The government might be saying what it HAS to say, but do we free-thinking citizens have to do the same?
The PM's Challenge, plus Picture Fixes
19 August 2002 4:40 PM SGT
So are you a stayer or a quitter? I have some thoughts on the PM's National Day Rally & I'll post them later. But off the bat - it's too simplistic to couch it in such terms.
Anyway for now I've uploaded a picture of the cover of Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party, and fixed the desktop screenshot because it was linked to the original big version and that took too much time to download. I think I'm one of those losers who upload things like screenshots and book covers on my journal. Just a tad better than pictures of your cat.
"Bad guys who like to
Loot & plunder..."
19 August 2002 1:30 AM SGT
The troops had left, and the big doors of the castle were ajar. In the city within, one could see the carnage and damage done by the raiders, as innocent civilians unlucky enough not to have escaped while they could lay slain. But their possessions were mostly untouched, as the raiders had other objectives in mind. This was their chance; the pillagers advanced cautiously, as if one of the decapitated dead would suddenly pounce on them. Their spoils were everywhere to be found - stacked on the ground, clutched to their chests, thrown about in disarray - and they moved in... to get that book they'd always wanted - by Crichton, Clancy, Kellerman, Hiassen, Connelly, or the movie tie-in hacks that created the Harry Potter colouring pens etc.
YEAH I know that we paid for whatever we bought at the MPH Sale at Expo, so technically it isn't plunder, but I find it hard to believe that those prices were even at cost. I still feel like I'm benefiting from the downfall of MPH as a significant force in our local book-selling industry (see Competition forces MPH flagship to close from the Sunday Times). Still, it's the second time I have gone to such an event, and this time I bought 24 books! (In last year's National Day warehouse sale I bought 21, according to my records.) When good new books are sold at such low prices, I really can't resist.
It was quite similar to the National Library sale I went to - there are boxes of books in spots spaced out in the hall, where books are strewn everywhere and mixed up, so that the same title could be found in 5 or 6 different spots, and everybody selected their books like they were buying vegetables or hauling fish, tossing back whatever they didn't fancy and making a whole mess of the place. It seems to be a very Singaporean way of organising a sale - haphazard, bochap, just do it, get the money & get the next job - and reacting to one (the
barbaric pasar malam book-browsers who couldn't give two hoots about taking care of books, cheap or otherwise). It would be so much more efficient if they simply arranged the books like they do in bookshops - by category and then author (like Fiction | le Carré), but since it was a cheap desperate sale I guess they didn't care.
Some of my more notable purchases:
- Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond. It's the autobiography of sorts by the creator of Linux, the open-source operating system that has taken the computer industry by storm.
- The 13th Warrior (or Eaters of the Dead) by Michael Crichton. It's a spoof of Beowulf, one of Crichton's early works.
- To the Vertical End of the Earth: The Story of the 1st Singapore Mount Everest Expedition by Steven Wong. As it says. Actually I was planning to borrow it from the library before considering whether to buy it, but never mind.
- The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, about the outbreaks of the deadly Marburg and Ebola viruses. Scary stuff, like what Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Outbreak (loosely based on the book) says: "It's one billionth our size and it's beating us", and increasing globalisation could result in a global pandemic that could decimate the human population. I had previously read this book & thought it excellent.
- Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Marukami Haruki, an acclaimed Japanese novelist who here writes about the Tokyo sarin gas attack in 1995.
But one book I'm planning to start on soon is one I found at Popular in the morning: Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party, published by Routledge under the "Politics in Asia" series:
This book is a comprehensive overview of politics in Singapore since its independence in 1965. The authors examine how this tiny island has developed into a global financial center, with one of the largest incomes per head, not only in Asia, but in the world. Its success has been due largely to the leaders of the party which has ruled it continuously, the People's Action Party. The party has coped successfully with the needs of a multi-ethnic population, claims for more extensive human rights, the nascent development of a civil society, and the problems of defending a small country in a turbulent region.
These key policies have been determined principally by Singapore's first two Prime Ministers, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and will be affected in the future by Lee's son, B.G. Lee Hsien Loong. All three personalities are here examined in depth. Mauzy and Milne [the authors] also look at Singapore's response to its economic crisis, the elections of November 2001, and the challenges of the new century.
- Singapore Politics Under the People's Action Party, by Mauzy and Milne
My Sassy Girl
18 August 2002 11:57 PM SGT
Today was an extremely "happening" day for me, but I'll start off with what I found yesterday when I went searching for... I can't remember exactly. Info on Korean films? My Sassy Girl, the hit 2001 movie that I really enjoyed? Or (gasp) Jeon Ji-Hyun? And NO I'm not a lecher - I think she looks good, that's all. A guy has his, shall we say, hormonal urges, and part of the effect is to take notice of nice-looking girls. Or else you take notice of nice-looking guys, & that's a preference, fine. The point is that I think we ALL do so, unless you have immense self-control, in which case I'd like to hear from you about how you do it. There, I think I've put it as delicately as I can. Her performance in Il Mare was OK - I was more interested in the love-across-time theme, the feel-good music and the beautiful house - but she really made the Yupgi Girl character stand out (Actually the girl went unnamed in the movie, but the official site calls her that so I'll comply).
[Another digression, in true LzyData blog-style: Recently I realised that I have been pronouncing the word lecher wrongly since young, where I suppose I acquired the word from SBC Chinese drama serials. There were evidently a lot of lechers, mostly dirty old men or chee ko peks, featured in those shows, as well as baddies with ulterior motives, another phrase I learnt :-) ANYWAY it should be \le-cher\, first syllable like 'le-' in 'let', NOT \lee\ (sigh it's so embarrassing)...]
About the links: The Korean Films Page is pretty detailed in covering the Korean film scene, from what I can gather. It has annual reports of which films did the best at the Korean box office (check out the 2001 report for popular movies like Friend, My Sassy Girl, My Wife is a Gangster, Musa etc.), newsletters, an Actors' page with mini-biographies of the biggest Korean movie stars, including her of course. The Yupgi Girl site is the official site for My Sassy Girl - thank goodness it's still online - and it's very stylish, if you wait patiently for all the Flash elements to load. I forgot what "Yupgi" means in Korean, because I encountered it somewhere, but I'll update this entry when I find out. Anyway, some hot tips from me to non-Korean-speaking people (which means EVERYONE I know): the first two folders from the left you'll find at the bottom of the presentation are the profiles of Kyun-Woo, the long-suffering Mr. Nice Guy, played by Cha Tae-Hyun, whose day job apparently is singing K-pop, and the Yupgi Girl, played by Jeon Ji-Hyun, who's a huge star in Korea these days; the seventh from the left, or seventh from the right - argh the MIDDLE folder - is the picture gallery, with very high quality pictures of the posters, scenes from the movie or posed ones. I now use one of those for my wallpaper, as you can see. And whoever says it isn't gorgeous, why, I'll...
Closing note: I feel so inadequate when I come across pages after pages of Korean text that break on my browser, & even if they do show properly, as on the Yupgi Girl site because it's in Flash, I can't understand a word, & I must painstakingly go through each link to find what it's about. But on the Internet, English speakers are still king, although I don't really know how long that can last. Sigh either somebody develops a good language-parsing and translator program or I'll take the plunge and learn Korean.
NOTE: I changed the link to TalkingCock.com's dictionary (at chee ko peks) on 26 September 02; refer to this post to know why.
Wil's Out! :-(
17 August 2002 12:35 AM SGT
Out meaning out of Star Trek: Nemesis, the next Trek movie. Wil meaning Wil Wheaton, the actor who played the character of Wesley Crusher in one of my favourite series, Star Trek: TNG. For some time the writing's been on the wall, or rather, online, but he confirmed it himself on his blog.
Btw, apparently Wil Wheaton's blog is one of the more prominent celebrity blogs around, and he even won an award for it. It also helps that it has a nice slogan too ("50,000 monkeys at 50,000 typewriters can't be wrong").
Chronicle of Dramas
16 August 2002 1:11 AM SGT
Although I do have a bad habit of neglecting diaries & personal logs, I still intend to keep up with this one. Anyway I have a good reason, or rather, two good reasons for not posting - I've been sort-of engrossed in two drama serials.
The first one is Yuan Jin Jing Sheng (English name: Chronicle of Life, poor translation IMO). It was a 1995 then-TCS drama which I watched back in the days when I was still watching local television actively. It was shown again this week as a condensed version.
I will definitely write a more organised review of the show, but first, some miscellanous thoughts here:
- Strangely, I only remember a few things about the drama: that it starred Fann Wong, that it jumpstarted her acting career, & that I liked the show because the story was very tragic and in the end nearly everyone dies or becomes mad. Yeah I'm a sadist. Mwahahaha...
- Condensed versions are NOT the way to go. Of course I understand the rationale: if MediaCorp showed the full unadulterated version of the drama (30/40 episodes I think) it would take much too long to finish this "Drama Festival." But very early on I caught on to the fact that I would be watching this not so much to savour the experience again but only to tell the basic plot and let viewers like me remember the past experience from there. Three hours - or rather, excluding the time for commercial breaks, around 150 minutes - is not much time to tell a life story like YJJS is, so the result is very choppy scenes and many of the subplots edited out.
- Fann Wong is best when she's acting her age, around her 20s. Or else you could say they ran out of money for making her up as 40+ and 60+ and her face is spotless - nary a wrinkle. And to make her sound old they had her lower the pitch of her voice. Wow.
- Even if it's condensed like crazy, the tragedy still comes through and I can roughly remember why I liked it. Of course I also accounted for the fact that I was young and naive then & was more tolerant of silly subplots. The theme song's nice too - I think it was by Xin Xiao Qi.
- The drama, sad to say, shows its age, not in the obvious things like hairstyles or people (the actors in the main roles are still around) but things like set design - the most extravagant thing they could show the rich people own is a swimming pool, and the operating theatre where Yiwen died is just terrible beyond words - and ideas that anchor the plot.
One of these is flesh and blood (qin sheng gu rou - from your own body, can apply to fathers or mothers) - a Chinese belief, to be sure, but I wonder if it extends to other cultures. Much is made of how the main character Fang Ling grows to hate the evil bad guy Zhou Yongqing but doesn't know till the near end that he's actually her father, so it's supposed to be tragic in that sense. I wonder if I've just become more hardhearted over the years, but this concept just seems quaint today in the age of marriages & divorces, stepchildren, adopted children etc., thinking probably influenced by American shows. But I think it's still quite fun to see good acting around a slightly archaic but amusing traditional idea.
Another thing is how Fang Ling and her bloodthirsty-avenger-in-arms defeated Zhou Yongqing - by using tons of money to buy his company's stock from the open market. Of course we have the silly computer terminals with nice line graphs showing how the shares of the company rose tremendously. But I wonder how this is possible because I don't think ALL of the shares are on the open market, and certainly you would need to be VERY wealthy to buy nearly every share there to jostle into the board. Simplistic, I would say.
(A digression: I've always wondered whether there was actually any basis to "psychological levels" for indices e.g. the 8,000 level for the Dow Jones Index, say. I thought these indices are derived from the share prices of selected stocks, so to have a psychological level one would have to calculate the effect all these stocks would have on the index. That's assuming that the prices themselves result in the index; if price changes result in the index then how can this possibly be done? How could arrive at the figure of 8,000 that truly shows how different investors feel about all the stocks listed in the index? My friend suggests that these much-touted levels could be the analysts' own psychological levels - haha. This is worth checking up on.)
P.S. Oh the second one is Happy Together, the first Korean drama I'm watching from beginning till end. Unfortunately it's dubbed in Taiwanese Chinese.
The Nice Cover
12 August 2002 10:10 PM SGT
"Never judge a cover by its book" is a generally applicable adage except when the cover's too exquisite to resist, like this one:
Of course, I've read the book and it was very good. I usually don't like to buy the movie tie-in version of the book because it would not be appropriate to the subject matter (e.g. Russell Crowe on the cover of A Beautiful Mind, biography of John Forbes Nash, mathematician), but this is an exception because I think it was done very well. Somehow the bilateral symmetry of Grant and the boy fits very nicely with the position of the title - argh I'm not a student of aesthetics so I can't really explain why.
Borders is good
11 August 2002 10:20 PM SGT
I went to Borders today, with just a rough idea of what I want to buy, & planning to fill in the details later. The new system they installed at the CD section is very good - basically you scan the CD you want to sample, and then you can listen to the first minute of each track if it's in their database. This definitely beats the old system where only they only allowed you to sample a few selected CDs (but then again, you could listen to their full contents, but never mind). So I gave in to my urges & bought a complete set of Beethoven's piano concerti, something I haven't listened to before, as well as Mahler's Symphony No. 1 recorded by the New York Philharmonic under the baton of the eminent Leonard Bernstein. I was introduced to a movement (No. 2, the kräftig bewegt (moving strongly?), to be precise) by its use in a Voyager episode. Yeah, looks of disgust & horror from Mahler fans all around, if there are any reading this. Well I have the whole symphony now don't I?
Anyway I have another thing which I think Borders deserves high praise for: the price stickers. If you buy books from MPH or Times or Kinokuniya, to take some examples, you'll see that the stickers at the back are extremely hard to tear out, & if you try you'll end up with half-torn ones or ugly marks on your book as a result of your fingernails being used. I have quite a few 'ruined' books from Kino that are like that. But Borders's price stickers are made such that you can tear them off easily, leaving nary a mark on your book. THAT'S what I call service - it might be trivial to most people, but I think booklovers like me really appreciate it.
Anyway I bought About A Boy, with the great (IMO) movie-poster cover. I'll scan it in & put it here when I get the chance.