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1-10 August 2003

10 AugEuthyphro
9 AugSing Singapore
9 AugHappy 38th birthday
8 AugHome & Away pilot
8 AugHeaven's Coins
8 AugMPs meet SBS Transit
8 AugWhat if you organised a flash mob & nobody turned up?
7 AugBidding VI
6 AugBus complaints
6 AugBidding V
6 AugAcademic advisor meeting
5 AugVia Instapundit...
4 AugBidding IV: USP modules
3 AugBidding III update
3 AugThis week's TV
3 AugCelebrate surviving; void decks
3 AugBlogs by language
3 AugWord file headers
2 AugKaleidoscope: Jobs dispute, illustrations, slowing time
2 AugBidding III
2 AugBidding II
1 AugHome Run, & the great Singaporean filmmaker
1 AugBidding

Euthyphro

10 August 2003 12:04 AM SGT (link)

I'm trying out a form of intensive reading of Plato's dialogues in preparation for Reason & Persuasion (Bidding V), starting with Euthyphro, & so far it's been pretty rewarding.

I've also got the idea that Euthyphro is probably the best introduction to Plato's thought; I wonder whether Stephanus also thought the same, because he put Euthyphro right at the beginning of his three-volume collection of Plato's dialogues. His edition matters because people now generally refer to paragraphs or sections of the dialogues by Stephanus numbers - their page & the letter of the section in which the quotation starts, so the dialogue Euthyphro ranges from 2a to 16a.

Why is it a great introduction? This is somewhat linked to one of the study questions at SparkNotes: What is the final lesson that we are to draw from the Euthyphro? Why did Plato write it? I don't think it's clear what Plato's intentions were in writing the dialogue; it may not have even been for any pedagogical purpose, but its subject matter is nicely structured so that it achieves a multitude of aims:

  1. It's a good introduction to the Platonic Ideas, when Socrates repeatedly reminds Euthyphro that in seeking the answer to "what is piety/holiness?", it's inadequate to just name examples - one must elucidate the common concept behind the instances. Socrates persuades us of the logic of this by naming the cases of how people resolve differences over questions of arithmetic or weight, & shows that morality has to be grounded in a kind of absolute standard - a Form! - to have power over all humankind & also legal force (hmm or perhaps that isn't as obvious as I thought...).
  2. An ambiguous conclusion leaves us pondering (Euthyphro has to hurry off before the question can be answered to Socrates's satisfaction). This is a staple of the early dialogues, & also makes the point that philosophy should be a continuing activity of Socrates-style dialectic: exchanging questions & answers with the aim of illuminating concepts like piety. In this phase of Platonic thought, he wants to tell us (I think) that there are no easy answers in the realm of ethics, morality & philosophy - that in fact, we should avoid easy answers, instead arriving at our own. In dialogues of the Middle & Later period, Plato forgoes ambiguous conclusions for exposition of his own theories, most of the time through the mouth(piece?) of Socrates - & I for one keenly miss them.
  3. Socratic irony permeates the dialogue & is at times even pungent, as Socrates literally pleads with Euthyphro to teach him what piety is so that he may not only be enlightened but also know how to defend himself against the charges of Meletus (for corrupting the young). Socrates is looking to become Euthyphro's disciple in order to learn the true nature of religious piety, so that he may have something to answer to Meletus's charges. The irony is all the more effective because clearly Euthyphro doesn't really know what he's talking about, or at best he hasn't bothered thinking too much about the piety of his act, & in the end Socrates is left in despair (or mock despair; we can't really tell). It would be funny if it wasn't so serious (i.e. Socrates's impending conviction & death).
  4. As mentioned, the Euthyphro alludes to the trial of Socrates: even though Euthyphro is not involved in charging Socrates or eventually convicting him, & in fact he is sympathetic to Socrates's plight, his reaction to Socrates's probing of his knowledge of piety exemplifies the problems some Athenians have with his philosophical modus operandi. Beside his knowledge or lack thereof of the idea of piety, Euthyphro is occasionally non-cooperative, & even once calls excessive questioning "tiresome". While of course being on Socrates's side, Euthyphro also lifts the curtain of propaganda for a while to show us how Socrates's speculations & dialectic are subverting traditional Athenian society, & has Socrates remark on how his "talkativeness" may be the cause of his legal troubles.

I can't think of any other Platonic dialogue that achieves these four objectives & is also as short & easy to understand as Euthyphro is. OK, Socrates's reasoning about what's holy & what's loved by the gods is a bit subtle, but read it a few times & you'll get it. It seems Euthyphro is really the best introduction to Plato's genius.

Sing Singapore

9 August 2003 10:23 PM SGT (link)

On this occasion it's apropos to listen to some national songs - that is, if you haven't got your fill from singing along at the National Day Parade. When it comes to these songs, I'm a steadfast conservative: the older the song, the better, especially if it's one of the classics. The MITA site has most of the older ones, while Sing Singapore has the more recent ones by notables like Stephanie Sun (2003), Stephanie Sun (2002), Tanya Chua, Kit Chan & others. There are also MP3s so you can download the songs to listen for yourself.

One of those songs that really sticks is 小人物的心声, which I translate as "the song of the layperson" (I'm not a very poetic person, yes). Recently it occurred to me that it's anti-elitist, perhaps even Maoist in its celebration of the proletarian life:

小人物的心声

曲: 陈天进 词: 温雪莹
演唱: 蔡立章、张俊雄

也许
我一个人不能成就一番大事业
让我尽力贡献一份微薄的力量

也许
我自己不能发出万丈光和亮
但我能为斗室带来足够的光芒

我从来都不在乎自己不是个大人物
应为平凡也是一种幸福
看到名人总是忙忙碌碌
我的时间由我控制
平凡日子一样会充实

- 小人物的心声 lyrics

The Song of the Layperson (a translation)

Perhaps
as just one person, I can't carve out a distinguished career
But I will strive to contribute what little strength I have

Perhaps
as just myself, I can't emit enough radiance to set the surroundings aglow
But I can bring enough hope & cheer to our little metropolis.
(In Chinese, light is a metaphor for brilliance & achievement, like "resplendence" - it's hard to translate)

I don't feel upset that I'm no bigwig
Because being ordinary is also a form of happiness
Looking at famous people hustling & bustling
While my time is mine to spend -
the ordinary life can too be meaningful.

I think it's special in the pantheon of national songs for celebrating the common uneventful life, plodding middle-management careers - you get the idea. It might have a consolatory effect, but I'd much rather sing about greater achievements for the nation & all in it, thank you.

Other favourite songs of mine: 细水长流 ("an everflowing stream"?) about the joys of long-lasting friendships, & the 1998 theme song /Home by Kit Chan (Chinese/English versions), which conveniently never mentions Singapore so it can be used by any country, & not necessarily as a national song. Anyway it's a great song.

I also like this Chinese song 我们应该自豪 ("we should be proud") (lyrics not online) - I think many Singaporeans, especially those who had to sing it in primary or secondary school, won't agree because they find it quite stilted & operatic. In contrast I find that's where its charm lies.

Addendum: Why are all my favourite songs Chinese songs (excluding the English version of "Home")? Maybe they're better written. Maybe I'm more used to listening to Chinese songs (I listened to FM 93.3 - Chinese pop - some years before, & I don't generally listen to music of any other language). I don't really know.

Happy 38th birthday

9 August 2003 10:52 AM SGT (link)

It seems humour's the hip way to celebrate this year: Today has some funny articles like Exclusive interview with the Merlion, while Talking Cock obviously is talking cock as usual with 60 signs you're a true Singaporean. My favourite signs:

...10. You separate food into 2 basic groups: heaty and cooling.

...17. You force your children to take Speech & Drama classes, but pray they wont wind up in Arts later on.

...18. You suddenly realize youre very interested in biotech - just like you suddenly realized three years ago that you were very interested in e-commerce, and before that, engineering, and before that, medicine and law.

...41. You copy down licence plate numbers of cars involved in accidents.

...52. Your mother probably cant speak your mother tongue.

- Talking Cock, 60 signs you're a true Singaporean

But read the whole thing. What's more, Talking Cock also has articles like MOM: NTU Economists Wouldnt Have Made Errors If They Were Foreigners & DPM Tony Tan Uncovers New Security Initiative: Hair Helmets with outrageous Photoshop work. That's a little bit too personal IMHO.

Home & Away pilot

8 August 2003 11:02 PM SGT (link)

I mentioned here the new Japanese drama Home & Away, starring Nakayama Miho, on Channel 8 on Thursday nights. I watched the first episode & I thought the story pretty novel & the drama worth following. A synopsis.

Nakayama Miho plays Nakamori Kaede, a 30s-ish woman who goes on a holiday to Shanghai with two friends, but on the way home she has one freak accident after another. She spends a lot of time on the road & getting to know people on the way, & she helps them in big & small ways, while also learning something about herself in the process. It could be in the vein of journey-as-self-discovery stories like the Chinese classic 西游记, Journey to the West, but there is a comedic twist because she's not on a journey of her own choosing, but just trying to get home, & she is repeatedly thwarted. This is my recollection of what exactly went wrong in the return flight from Shanghai to Tokyo. She got as close to her doorstep:

  1. She leaves her engagement ring in the toilet & has to run back to get it, hence missing her flight - but the airline arranges her to take the next flight 3 hours later. She has to sit between two big-sized fellows, & it's uncomfortable, but that's nothing compared to what happens next.
  2. There is bad weather over Tokyo & the plane has to land at Sendai instead (that's some distance to the north of Tokyo). She takes a train to Tokyo & sits next to a passenger who's a debt collector & who takes all the chocolates in a box bought in Shanghai.
  3. Having reached Tokyo (I presume), she goes to the taxi stand but then helps an old lady there who faints from exhaustion. She brings her to the police station but when she returns, mysteriously there is a super-long queue that snakes on forever, & they refuse to let her cut in.
  4. She tries to use the subway but the last train has gone.
  5. She returns to the taxi queue & later, finally reaches her apartment block, presumably at a very late hour.
  6. She meets her neighbours & find out that they're the ones who have to run from the same debt collector she met earlier. As she helps them get away, the company people who help people escape from debt collectors (the kinds of business in Japan, goodness) mistake her for one of their clients & dumps her in their getaway van.
  7. She wakes up in a field with her suitcase & handphone, & later finds out that this is a horse ranch in Hokkaido (very north of Tokyo). It's not explained how she got there, but we have an idea.
  8. Her adventures begin! as she tries to return to Tokyo.

In my review of Hoshi no kinka, I mentioned two features common in Japanese dramas: a symbolic object/memory, & a handicapped main character. I add here a third one: starting with a big bang. You will find that many scriptwriters/producers simply can't resist having their characters meet under totally bizarre circumstances, usually in out-of-the-ordinary costumes or hairstyles, & most of the time they come into conflict (even violent conflict), & the story goes from there. I think those who don't even watch a lot of Japanese dramas can think of a few examples already - a wonderful classic: in Long Vacation, Minami runs through the streets to Sena's home early in the morning all dressed in a traditional Japanese wedding costume to look for her fiancé, who was Sena's roommate but has since moved out (& dumped her).

It may very well be that the first episode of Home & Away is this bizarre because it's keeping with the tradition, but I have doubts about this because the synopsis hints at many adventures for Kaede as she tries to go home, & there's the ending of the pilot episode: she takes a ride on a fishing boat to get to the next town to catch the express train back to Tokyo... next we see her washed up on a beach with her suitcase! I suppose we are to think a heavy storm either sank the boat or knocked her overboard, but - come on! is this kind of thing supposed to happen at the end of every episode, so that we can go on to her next adventure? But I must admit the prospect's not really that bad - & it does make this drama more lively by being so quirky.

Heaven's Coins

8 August 2003 9:54 PM SGT (link)

I finally understand what Die Sterntaler means!

星の金貨, hoshi no kinka, or "Heaven's Coins" as it's usually translated, purports to be a modern retelling of the story from the Brothers Grimm, "The Star Talers", which in German is, yes, "Die Sterntaler", star money, roughly. That's also the subtitle of the drama, & I was pretty puzzled by it because it looked German but didn't translate cleanly. I should've got the Brothers Grimm connection immediately!

Anyway the folk tale is short enough that I should just post the whole thing here to give you an idea of what the drama's about:

The Star Talers

Once upon a time there was a little girl whose father and mother had died, and she was so poor that she no longer had a room to live in, nor a bed to sleep in, and at last she had nothing else but the clothes she was wearing and a little piece of bread in her hand that some charitable soul had given her. She was good and pious, however. And as she was thus forsaken by all the world, she went forth into the country, trusting in dear God.

Then a poor man met her, who said, "Ah, give me something to eat, I am so hungry."

She handed him her entire piece of bread, saying, "May God bless it for you," and went on her way.

Then came a child who moaned and said, "My head is so cold. Give me something to cover it with." So she took off her cap and gave it to the child. And when she had walked a little farther, she met another child who had no jacket and was freezing. So she gave her jacket to that child, and a little farther on one begged for a dress, and she gave her dress away as well. At length she made her way into a forest and it was already dark. Then there came yet another child, and asked for a shift [= a woman's undergarment], and the pious girl thought to herself, "It is a dark night and no one can see you. You can very well give your shift away," and she took it off, and gave it away as well.

And thus she stood there, with nothing left at all, when suddenly some stars fell down from heaven, and they were nothing else but hard shining talers, and although she had just given her shift away, she was now wearing a new one which was of the very finest linen. Then she gathered together the money into it, and was rich all the days of her life.

- "The Star Talers", told to the Brothers Grimm

This 1995 Japanese drama is the story of a girl born deaf & dumb, Aya (Sakai Noriko), who lives in a remote Hokkaido village, & her love for a Tokyo doctor that comes to work in her grandfather's clinic for a year, Nagai Shuichi (Osawa Takao). When Shuichi is recalled to Tokyo, he leaves her with a promise of marriage. Later circumstances intervene (of course they will) so that Shuichi has amnesia & forgets this part of his past, while Aya comes to Tokyo to find him & later gets embroiled in the power struggle in the Nagai family's hospital. Shuichi's younger brother Takumi (Takenouchi Yutaka) also meets her & gradually falls in love with her; he's bitter at his father for looking down on his abilities as a doctor & successor to the position of hospital director, at his mother for using him as a pawn to usurp the "throne", & women in general for being unserious about love, but his relationship with Aya transforms him.

A feature of many Japanese dramas, if not all, is that an important part of the story, such as the relationship between the main characters, is grounded in a symbolic object or memory e.g. a necklace, or a declaration of love (which gets replayed often, but not too many times). In Hoshi no Kinka, the crucial moment is when Shuichi tells Aya the story of the Star Talers, & likens her to the girl in the story who's kind-hearted & can give the people around her valuable gifts, even if she doesn't know it herself. (Aya also lost her parents when young.) This folk tale, & the accompanying book, also becomes a kind of commitment in their relationship, together with a scene at the airport where he signs to her that he loves her & he will return to marry her.

Another feature of quite a few Japanese dramas is how they revolve around someone with a handicap. This is mentioned under "Television Networks and Trends " in a 1997 paper on the uniquely Japanese renzoku ren'ai dorama, continuing romance drama. (Unfortunately it's pretty dated, so much so that dramas that we today consider classics, like Long Vacation, are regarded as pretty new.) It's truly amazing what handicaps Japanese scriptwriters have managed to saddle their main characters with: they can be deaf &/or dumb, blind, wheelchair-bound (Beautiful Life), with a heart condition (Summer Snow), with a speech defect (another character in Summer Snow) & so on.

I would say that ironically, while the main character may be handicapped, the scriptwriters hardly have a handicap, a disadvantage, in writing: one suspects that handicap dramas are common because it's an easy way for the main character to garner sympathy & greater interest from the audience. Who could be unmoved at seeing Aya frantically signing away, trying to communicate to others, when they don't understand the sign language? Most of the time she instead writes down what she wants to say in Campus notebooks, & the person she's talking to reads them out for our benefit.

The flip side of handicap dramas is the inevitable melodramatic scene or scenes that are practically calculated to talk directly to our tear ducts. In Hoshi no kinka that came when Takumi wants Aya to speak to him & all Aya can do is alternately bawl & groan. Some people might be touched, but I managed to distance myself from it, & I thought it voyeuristic, exploitative & ultimately very discomfiting & unpleasant. Handicap dramas aren't all bad in this way - I think Beautiful Life was pretty good, & Summer Snow excellent - but I think it's simply irresistable sometimes to "use" the characters like this. Granted they aren't real people, but it doesn't seem right.

Takumi, however, was a surprisingly rich character to me. He starts out as a rebel, the younger son to the hospital director who prefers to spend his time seducing girls & lashing out at the world in general. As I said earlier, his father doesn't look too highly on him - so he feels inferior to his brother; his mother's plainly interested only in him taking over as hospital director so she can be the "empress dowager" - so he thinks he's being made use of; all the girls he meets & sleeps with flippantly tell him they love him, but he thinks this love rings hollow & is merely materialistic. This begins to change when he meets Aya & gets to know her better, & her "back story" back at Hokkaido with his brother - Aya "touches" him in a way no one else can - in simple ways, by not being "talkative", & in more complicated ways, by showing him what's really important & how to find true love.

So, although I was pretty interested in how it turned out (sometimes that alone is enough to keep you watching), I didn't really like Hoshi no kinka. I hear its sequel is even more dark & depressing than the first drama; the first already had plenty of eeevil characters all scheming for power in the hospital, which struck me as either part of Japanese society & culture (the importance of control of the hospital, not being eeevil) or totally unrealistic. For me it was Takumi that kept me going; I wasn't too interested in Aya & her pitiful condition, which maybe the scriptwriters will consider a failure on their part.

MPs meet SBS Transit

8 August 2003 10:30 AM SGT (link)

EMOTIONS ran high at a closed-door dialogue last night when about 100 grassroots leaders aired their grievances about the move to cut bus services that run along the same route as the North-East Line.

In the end, they walked away with several promises by SBS Transit, which operates most of the affected services and the rail line.

Among the areas it will look into are increasing the frequency and capacity of existing bus services, such as those which take students to school.

SBS also promised to look into providing more feeder buses that will take residents to stations on the NEL.

...[MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Mr. Charles Chong] also said: 'Every day you pay 63 cents for the bus. Now, you have to take a bus to the NEL and then the MRT, incurring extra cost.

'To the policymakers, you have the means to travel. But how you get there is also an issue.'

- ST 8 Aug, SBS Transit pledges to look into grievances

Also see today's Today, MPs take on SBS Transit.

Promises may be great, but what guidelines should SBS Transit follow in minimising the pain to the affected commuters? What minimum bus frequency? What maximum walking distance from schools to bus stops? What price one pays? Undoubtedly some will have to pay more, as said in the last two paragraphs, because where they used to take one bus service, now they have to transfer to the NEL too. Is it morally right to ask people to pay more for the new bus-cum-NEL route when obviously they were happy with the old bus service & didn't ask for the NEL to take that away from them? It's a difficult call for SBS Transit to make when they're asked to please as many people as possible.

What if you organised a flash mob & nobody turned up?

8 August 2003 1:06 AM SGT (link)

'Flash mobs' spread to Europe (CNN): I had to have CNN tell me that there was a flash mob held in Singapore, & after some Googling, I found the email invitation & a brief post-mortem (both on blogs). It seemed to have been a disappointment. My first post was only days before the event, on July 17.

Does this invalidate my painstaking analysis that flash mobs are at best a not-too-wise choice for a group activity in Singapore? I can't really tell because it doesn't seem like the flash mob a discernable impact, either with the public on the scene or in the local media. I have no idea exactly how the publicity was done, so there might be room for improvement there; we shouldn't assume that Singaporeans are too apathetic for this sort of thing. But next time, let's have one which doesn't require handphones, yah?

Bidding VI

7 August 2003 6:13 PM SGT (link)

Got my philosophy module (see Bidding V for details) but space in the Maths modules hasn't materialised in this round, so I'll have to wait till next week to resolve it. (Can you say space materialises? you know, if it's a vacuum or something. Read: places.) The faculty says that if by then we still can't get the modules or the quota's been filled, then we can approach them for help, so they can be the deus ex machina to save the day.

So people, stop panicking! (In Chicken Run, there's a scene where one of the hens tells the rest "let's not panic, let's not panic", there's a pause, & immediately afterwards everyone starts clucking away in even greater panic. But I don't mean that: I mean stop panicking.)

Bus complaints

6 August 2003 2:29 PM SGT (link)

SBS Transit again under pressure for transport woes in Hougang area (4 Aug), More public outcry over withdrawal of bus services after NEL opening (6 Aug) (Channel NewsAsia):

Me: The idea people on the ground are having is have someone start a bus service alternative to the evil SBS Transit that's cheating everyone's money by building an expensive underground, fully computerised train system while leaving some stations like Buangkok unopened & cutting off the bus services for Northeasterners, even those who don't live near the NEL & haven't benefitted one iota from it.

Mini-Me: Yeah why not? SBS Transit gets its customers - people who would use the NEL, & the new bus service will serve those people who don't find the NEL convenient for them, & would anyway still be pissed off if they were forced to use the NEL that in the long run, SBS Transit's reputation would be affected. Everyone should be happy.

Me: Not exactly everyone.

Mini-Me: Why?

Me: If enough people defect to this new bus service - especially if it's cheaper - & the NEL doesn't have what it calls the forecast passenger load, then the NEL will bleed big money in the short term, probably forever if enough people use the alternative bus services. SBS Transit couldn't earn enough to cover its costs, as the government & the PTC are always reminding us. Granted that the company's not exactly made up of paupers, the point's still valid. It's not a good idea to "force" them out of business.

Mini-Me: So in order to keep SBS Transit in business we need to screw the Northeasterners? Anyway, why did we build the expensive NEL if not enough people want to use it, & pay for it, & instead they can have the cheaper bus services?

Me: Beats me. No really, I think it does benefit people but this group of folks don't speak up often enough. Guys that want to get to Orchard from, say, Hougang - & with the NEL they can do it faster than folks living in Clementi. So I think what we, rather, what SBS Transit needs to do is take a look at their bus rationalisation plans & change services only if it's clear that the NEL has substituted them, & maybe when the substitute transport route (bus/train or purely train) results in a reasonable increase in fares (because we got to pay off the NEL capital investment), & not above it. You can couple this with other factors like travelling time. I suppose SBS Transit considered these factors when they did the bus route cancellations or changes, but it seems the first draft's not satisfactory.

Clarification: I didn't watch both Austin Powers movies, so please don't send in complaints about how this dialogue (or soliloquy) isn't true to the characters, because I have no idea what they're supposed to be like.

Bidding V

6 August 2003 1:59 PM SGT (link)

After the craziness over the Writing & Critical Thinking module described here, I don't have enough points in my General Account to bid for the introductory Japanese 1 module. For the current round, bidding started this morning & will end tomorrow noon, & the last I checked, the minimum successful bid was 148 points already. I guess I'll just have to defer it till Semester 2 or maybe give up the whole thing altogether (but probably not the latter).

(Oh & it seems that minimum successful bids of over 300 points for the USP Writing modules aren't unheard of, so I think competition is really keen & some USP folks just have to defer it till the second semester. On the other hand, they'll have more points in their General Account to spend if they want to.)

But it's a blessing in disguise, because it means I can take the introductory Philosophy module Reason and Persuasion instead. Check out the site: it's very nicely designed. The module aims to "hint" at this "odd-sounding question: what sorts of ways of convincing people, and being convinced by people – about life, about the universe, about anything – are good ways?" It will cover Plato (Euthyphro, Meno, first book of the Republic), Descartes (some of his Meditations), J. S. Mill (On Liberty) & Isaiah Berlin (Two Concepts of Liberty).

On Liberty came up in an MP's response to ST columnist Chua Mui Hoong's article on whether we are carelessly brushing past civil liberties when fighting SARS - he (the MP) seemed to think that Mill was some kind of crazed libertarian who was hopelessly outdated with regard to infectious diseases, when actually On Liberty is a very different book from what one thinks it is. I really welcome the chance to study it, & Berlin's sort-of sequel, in a formal setting & share thoughts about it with the lecturer, A/P John Holbo (his blog), & fellow students.

Descartes, besides being the man who came up with the coordinate system that bears his name, also wrote in his Meditations about his philosophical problems & the solutions he arrived at. I believe we've all heard of the aphorism "I think, therefore I am" - but I think fewer of us know that it wasn't some isolated musing on the benefits of education towards becoming a more complete person, though that's a worthwhile thing too. (I remember my Sec 2 Maths teacher used it too, but not in the philosophical sense.)

What the man was really getting at was something like this: he wanted to clear his mind of all falsehoods, & by a systematic deductive process construct a knowledge system that he could convince himself as being irrevocably true. One's senses may deceive us; we all have times when we think with all our hearts & minds, sort of, that we are actually experiencing what we are experiencing, but the next moment you wake up & you realise it's a dream. (In the case of dreams it's not so much that our sense feedback is defective or misleading, as it may be in other times, but internal mental processes.) That's why Chuang-Tzu could write:

Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly I awoke, and there I lay, myself again.. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly, dreaming that I am a man?

- Chuang-Tzu, 3rd century BC

...perhaps in a drunken stupor. Anyway Descartes thought he couldn't necessarily believe everything his senses were telling him. He also found other reasons to doubt scientific knowledge (not so hard, as the sciences were not too advanced in his time) & mathematics, but ultimately, what could he regard as a secure foundation of knowledge?

...I was convinced that there was nothing in the entire world, that there was no heaven, no earth, that there were no minds, nor any bodies. Was I not then also convinced that I did not exist? Not in the least. It was certain that I myself existed since I convinced myself of something (or just because I thought of something). But there is some kind of deceiver, who is very powerful and very cunning, and who always uses his ingenuity in order to deceive me. Then, for certain, I exist also if he is deceiving me, and let him deceive me as much as he wishes, he can never make me be nothing as long as I think that I am something. So that, after having considered this well, and having carefully examined everything, we have to arrive at the definite conclusion that this proposition: "I am, I exist" has to be true every time that I utter it, or that I mentally think about it.

- Descartes's Second Meditation (Dr. Holbo's translation)

Of course, he has many other conclusions to make about the existence of his self & the world which I won't go into here because... um I'm not too familiar with exactly how he reasoned them, haha. (That's why I'm taking the course!) But I think it's the case that Descartes's method of provisional scepticism & doubt in order to seek philosophical truths is what has made his name in philosophy, rather than his specific conclusions. It's a bit like elements of Socratic dialogue & irony rather than the doctrines or near-truths Socrates manages to tease out of the people he questions, or later when Plato espouses them through the character of Socrates.

Academic Advisor meeting

6 August 2003 1:20 PM SGT (link)

Today our USP academic advisor met 7 of us (excluding one absentee). It was pretty interesting because it wasn't just self-introductions & ho-hum pat advice about surviving in NUS &/or USP, like don't leave everything till the last minute or you'll just die from the pressure. My advisor's a biologist, & naturally he had more to say to the Life Sciences people, of which there is a great horde this year, leading to the inevitable conclusion that there will be a corresponding great glut in 4 years' time - but he was nice to everyone.

I think he was waiting to get to me because before I spoke it was the 5 girls' turn, because he pointed out the problems guys from NS will have in getting used to learning & studying. That's a problem every new NSman going to NUS/NTU/[overseas university] is acutely aware of, & will probably have sleepless nights about, so I really don't think it's necessary to "rub it in". I personally do not know anyone who has finished NS & has absolute confidence in jumping into the academic mode of life again after 2.5 years where your mind basically atrophies, no matter what your vocation is, & you'd rather do saigang or some other routine work than slog at learning concepts or hit the books. Maybe sometimes I'm guilty of that kind of Pollyanna-ish thinking, that learning will be exciting! fun! great!, but I do know that we're in university now, & we can't just mug & get through with it - the more so for USP modules, where there may not even be exams, just projects, essays & presentations.

On the other hand, what's the point of sitting around wallowing in your worries? If you're learning swimming, it's probably much better (& fun?) to get into the pool (but not one too deep) & learn there instead of having lectures in classrooms. Sama sama.

Via Instapundit...

5 August 2003 8:29 PM SGT (link)

Flash mobs come to Boston!

Plus, the Mentos conspiracy.

Bidding IV: USP modules

4 August 2003 6:22 PM SGT (link)

Yay! I got my USP modules. Mathematical Ideas was not too popular (less bidders than vacancies, the last time I checked before the round closed), so that was easy, but bidding went totally wild for Questioning Evolution (a Writing & Critical Thinking module, the kind best taken in the 1st semester). If I'm doing the calculations right, the winning bid was 311 points, so it's truly a Pyrrhic victory: "one more such victory and I am lost." (For reference: Science students like me are given 400 points in our General Account to start with for USP & other non-major modules. Other faculties' students may have even less.)

USP academic talks

This morning, from 10 to noon, we had academic talks by some of the USP faculty about the modules that are being offered this semester. The timing couldn't be worse because this is also the same period for Round 2A's closed bidding - & bidding ends at noon - so even if we were bowled over by some professor's advertisement for his module (which was not the case), we couldn't do anything about it except maybe see if it's offered in subsequent semesters.

So far none of these academic talks have been really beneficial or inspiring, even if they're not held at completely inappropriate moments like today's USP module one. The last query in today's Q&A session, though, was instructive in the negative, because the guy basically asked for what the professor's recommendations really were. I presume he thinks that all the USP faculty has been doing is to present an attractively wide range of modules to take, & advertising the virtues & merits of each unique subject, while slyly keeping their cards close to their chests, & not revealing the real optimal path to take & modules to choose. Most of us in the LT had an adverse reaction to this - can you believe this guy? - but I wonder how many of us share his feeling to some extent, that beneath this bevy of choices, there's something like the truly good choices to make. Maybe the sheer diversity of it all is somewhat frightening, as the professor (Prof. Lo Mun Hou) explained later - certainly it's disorienting to us who have basically just turned up at school for 10+ years without having to decide very much what we want to learn.

Anyway I think we are really being given the opportunity here to decide whether we want to aim at our interests & strengths (which may not coincide all the time) - like when most of the Science-domain modules are interesting to me, while most of the Arts ones are intimidating - or just for the heck of it, try something totally different, like something we wouldn't find in any other faculty or course. No one's holding our hands, no one has the secrets to success in USP - it's more like traversing different paths up a mountain, but getting to the summit all the same.

Bidding III update

3 August 2003 11:20 PM SGT (link)

Sequel to this: I did some research & found that Computational Science, Computational Finance and Statistics majors (with some specialisations for each) also have to take one of the Maths modules (the one that was 50% overbooked). I still have no good explanation for why the other one attracted so many bids. Anyway it's pretty much water under the bridge now, & all I can do is wait for the next round where I hopefully can get a place.

This week's TV

3 August 2003 9:53 PM SGT (link)

Central is having leading Iranian directors on FilmArt this August every Wednesday at 10 p.m.: this week we have Majid Majidi's The Colour of Paradise, & next Children of Heaven, which as anyone who read my post on Home Run knows, I regard as an excellent movie. I think it may not be accidental on Central's part to show Children of Heaven before Home Run opens in cinemas on the 7th, but then again maybe I'm being paranoid.

On Tuesday at 10 p.m., Central is also showing Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way - I was crazy for that show at a time (& no, not in my childhood but much later). Thursday 11.15 p.m., Channel 8 is premiering a Fuji TV Japanese drama starring Nakayama Miho, Home and Away. There's hardly a word online beyond a bare synopsis, so I have no idea whether it's a good show or not. I guess I just have to believe in Nakayama Miho & give it a try.

OK, end of this week's TV highlights. I won't be doing this regularly; I just thought we could use a reminder, especially for the Iranian films, so people won't just have to take my word for it when I say that Children of Heaven is great.

Celebrate surviving; void decks

3 August 2003 12:38 PM SGT (link)

...So, what is there to celebrate this year? Why, as always, surviving, of course.

We've survived 38 years. And prospered, despite dire warnings from certain quarters.

...Being who we are, a nation which was never intended to be much more than a colonial outpost and transit point, circumstances will always be tough. City states must create their own hinterland. Our future must - as always - be shored up with blood, sweat and tears. It is the legacy of our immigrant fathers, who came with nothing and hoped for everything.

- ST 3 Aug, Celebrate surviving

Correct! People who celebrate their birthdays do so on the appointed day without having to do an annual report of their accomplishments & setbacks, & then based on this, decide whether to have an extra-big party or just scrap the thing altogether. They celebrate their birthdays all the same.

Void decks

On a lighter note, what makes us Singaporean? Here are some thoughts from ordinary people, published on the Knowledge Net website:

...'Malay weddings on void deck.' -- Chuqiao, 23

'Chinese funerals on void decks.' -- Charles Cheang, 18

- ST 3 Aug, Celebrate surviving

This is something I've pondered about before, whether there's any deeper meaning behind the contrast. Void decks are places where people can gather conveniently, & the cost to the organisers is lower than for spiffy air-conditioned hotel ballrooms (for instance), so why is it that the Chinese generally use them for funerals, while Malays use them for weddings? Why such a large contrast between sad & happy occasions?

(There's a racist explanation but I won't say it here because it's obviously bunk.) It could be that the Malays still retain a bit of the old kampung spirit where your neighbours were like an extended family, & events like weddings would be held in such communal locations, instead of more "high-class" places like hotels that didn't make one feel at home. In comparison, maybe the Chinese generally value things like "face" more, so they would want to rent that same "high-class" place to "show off" to their peers & guests. This could be a legacy of mercantilism or a strain of Chinese culture (a pretty ugly one, IMHO).

This crude theory of mine of course excludes factors like seating capacity & logistical requirements: obviously if there are too many guests or the wedding's to go on for some time, it'll be more comfortable & safe to hold it at a hotel.

Addendum: OK maybe my explanation can be considered racist too, in saying that Chinese are more of show-offs than Malays. But the issue at its core is a great contrast in behaviour on racial lines, so I don't see how that can be avoided.

Blogs by language

3 August 2003 12:47 AM SGT (link)

Blogging by the Numbers links to the study at the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITL) BlogCensus that has some stats on blogs by language. As expected, most are in English (about two-thirds), but I was shocked to find that the number of blogs in Japanese didn't warrant a mention, even compared to languages with less speakers, like Malay (1340). I'm inclined to think this is some kind of methodological or technological error in the census, rather than a mysterious paucity of bloggers who blog in Japanese, so slot this in the "wait & see" category.

I went looking for the Japanese blog numbers because I thought it would be helpful for my Japanese language studies in future to blog in the language, even if all I do is post inanely simple sentences. As they always advise for Chinese, 多听, 多讲, 多写 - listen more, speak more, write more - & maybe a host of yet more "more"'s. I failed on all three counts; I just didn't have the interest & inclination to really work at it.

Word file headers

3 August 2003 12:42 AM SGT (link)

I haven't been paying much attention to the scandal over the British government's "dodgy dossier", but I came across this explanation of a "feature" in Microsoft Word that may have unpleasant privacy implications as it did for Downing Street - Microsoft Word bytes Tony Blair in the butt. This "feature" is a revision log containing user IDs & filenames of the last 10 times the document was edited & saved. You'll be surprised at how much you can find out from this data, especially when the people doing the editing are government officials. So, the moral of the story is: don't publish stuff in Word, or else, "clean it up" before doing so.

Update: According to a later instalment of Woody's Office Watch, a newsletter of Office news & tips, Word 97 & 2000 have these revision logs, but Word 2002 & later don't, even though MS in its Knowledge Base says it does.

Kaleidoscope: Jobs dispute, illustrations, slowing time

2 August 2003 11:13 PM SGT (link)

Bidding III

2 August 2003 7:54 PM SGT (link)

It appears I was a bit complacent in logging off the CORS some time before bidding stopped, because I've failed in getting my two essential Maths modules in this round (meant for bidding for modules essential for one's major). Looking at the bidding history (which is linked to from the main site, not one's personal account system), it seems that for one of these modules, the quotas for Arts & School of Computing students was barely touched, while the one for Science students was about 50% oversubscribed. I'm guessing the crowd that bid up the thing is made up of Science students taking these Level 1000 Maths modules as unrestricted electives - that's the only thing that makes sense, but still, the number of bids seems too large for that.

But I'm not depressed or tearing my hair out: there are still some rounds after this where I can bid for the modules, & by the looks of it, quite a lot of unfilled places for them too. At the most I'll appeal or beg the faculty or something... I can fix this. I'll also be more kiasu the next time.

Bidding II

2 August 2003 8:08 AM SGT (link)

So far there have been no big screw-ups or anything, except that I chose the lecture slot for a Maths module whose quota was allocated to Arts students, not Science ones, so it didn't appear under "modules available in current round." CORS could certainly use an improvement in this area: the information about this kind of thing is not integrated with the main module/bidding management but in a list on another part of their site.

Bidding for my Maths modules has been fast & furious, & open bidding closes in 2 hours' time. One of these modules seems to be eagerly contested by School of Computing folks who also have to take it (then again, it's strange that the "number of vacancies" displayed in CORS is only the Science quota, according to that list above), & the other one is quite a mystery, because only us Maths majors are supposed to be able to bid for it at this stage. Very strange...

Home Run, & the great Singaporean filmmaker

1 August 2003 6:22 PM SGT (link)

(I wanted to do this closer to the opening date of Home Run in cinemas, which is 7 August; I've had these thoughts here for some time.)

Home Run, adapted from Children of Heaven

Not a simple adaptation, of course; I found this closing part of the synopsis very interesting:

...The story is set against a historical backdrop at the birth of a nation. While Ah Kun sees the solution of his problem in winning the race, uncertainty of the future looms in the minds of the people. Can they call this country their home?

- Synopsis of Home Run at Eng Wah

& elsewhere Jack Neo says:

...He said: "Normally my movies always very layman style. In this movie I use 1965 as the background to show children how poor we were in the 1960s, and a pair of shoes was very meaningful. To overseas audience, we want to show 1965 Singapore, the fashion, the props and the lifestyle."

- Channel NewsAsia, Jack Neo's latest movie 'Home Run' hits cinema screens from 7 Aug

Home Run could turn out to be all these three things: a brilliant retelling of the story we first saw in Children of Heaven, a 1997 Iranian film by Majid Majidi; an awesome historical film (a la Gangs of New York, maybe on a smaller scale); & a film that examines the question of Singapore & what the place means to Singaporeans. Or it could fail on all the three counts. I've told many people, especially when we pass by the Home Run posters, that I'm scared that it's too ambitious a move on Jack Neo's part to adapt such a great story like that of Children of Heaven, so that the chances of it falling flat &/or not matching up is quite high. I watched the said Iranian film, of course, & it was wonderful. But I will go watch Home Run with trepidation.

To put it unkindly, I'm not confident Jack Neo has what it takes to do something like this. Look at his filmography: 那个不够 ("That One Not Enough") & 小孩不笨 ("I Not Stupid"), both comedies that may have done well at the Singapore box office, but really were just stories cobbled together from kopitiam crude humour & Singaporean concerns (& the subject of complaints warranted & not) like of the stressful education system for the latter. It's one thing to respect his past successes as a comedian & an actor, & another to say that he's a "great" Singaporean filmmaker; what's obvious is that he's only the most successful one thus far. His films have been entertaining, but they're more like a sounding board for Singaporeans, for jokes in dialects (some I find funny, some not), & not a canvas for a great historical tale of Singapore's infancy, told through the small tale of a poor boy & a pair of shoes. That's Jack Neo films IMHO: sounding board, not canvas. What we need in a great Singaporean filmmaker is the creativity & vision to transform an empty canvas into an evocative portrait of Singapore & Singaporeans.

Great Singaporean films

I think there are many great stories from Singapore's history to tell - when I think of a great Singaporean filmmaker, I'm thinking someone who consistently weaves ideas of Singapore the nation, the home, the environment, the mindset etc. into his/her films, something like what Scorsese does with films like Taxi Driver (psychopathic New York yellow-cab driver), Bringing Out the Dead (near-mad New York paramedic), & of course Gangs of New York (near-crazy gangster Bill the Butcher). Set aside the similarities in crazy or mad protagonists for a bit: all these films, & probably everything Scorsese does, is influenced by a keen desire to portray New York & New Yorkers in all their nuances, their beauty & ugliness, & to tell their stories. Obviously Gangs was the most spectacular of all, & the reports had it that this was actually Scorsese's age-old dream.

In my review of Gangs of New York I sketched an idea I had for "Gangs of Singapore", which would tell an interesting story of a Malay inspector & his Chinese sidekick as they attempt to solve a murder amidst the burgeoning tensions between the different Chinese immigrant groups. This may be too ambitious for anyone but a Scorsese to do, especially the panoramic view of Singapore River circa 1850s, with shophouses occupied by Chinese, Arab, Malay & British merchants, bumboats crowding up the bay, coolies, that kind of thing. (I think he did these panoramic scenes in situ instead of using computer-generated graphics, which makes the achievement all the more admirable.)

& while we're on the epic scale, I might as well just add my grand scheme:

The Birth of Modern Singapore, a trilogy

1. Marshall

Historical scope: Post-war Singapore as the legislative council seats are freed up for elections, suffrage increased, growing political participation - Marshall's Labour Front forms the government (1955), negotiates for independence from Britain (1956-58), strikes, Lim Yew Hock takes over as Chief Minister, puts down unrest from trade unions & communists.

Focus: I thought one of the big problems with The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, that was sadly more evident in this the 2nd instalment than the first one, was the lack of a focal character or storyline - instead we had things happening on multiple fronts & it became a sort-of a la carte deal based on which character you had most interest in. So, I think having a focus to this period (generally 1955-59) would be beneficial in viewers' understanding & identifying with the story of the struggle to gain independence from the British vs. increasing political unrest at home. Who else but the undervalued Mr. David Marshall? His role in all this is largely forgotten today, & we could all use a reminder.

Ideas: This trilogy could feature a scene where we look at a certain place in its present day (2003) & then it shimmers or something like that & changes to the day being portrayed (1955, for instance). I thought what Zhang Yimou did in The Road Home was fantastic. He stood the convention on its head, & used black & white for present day & bright colours for the past, because the story was mainly the story of the narrator's parents in their younger days (the mother played by Zhang Ziyi). So for a place relevant to this period... the site of the Hock Lee bus strikes at Alexandra Road, for instance (imagine the transition!). Or somewhere more documentary-style, like Marshall's old residence.

Marshall will essentially be an idiosyncratic character, pipe-smoking, irreverent & all that - eccentric, but not a laughingstock - & his political struggles should make people sympathise for him & recognise his efforts. Lim Yew Hock? I don't know: the textbooks usually just say what he did, like he put down the unrest more decisively & effectively than Marshall did after he (Lim) took over, but not much on what kind of a politician & a person he was. You see: here's where the movie can actually educate its audience.

Bridge: Unfortunately for Mr. Lim, his part towards the end, after Marshall moved aside for him, has to be brief, because I see the bridge to the second movie as being like a "loss of innocence" for the burgeoning democracy of Singapore having to deal with the grave danger of a communist takeover. So in essence, (I don't know if this is historically justifiable, but) Marshall's time was past.

2. Communists vs. Moderates

Historical scope: PAP rides on own appeal & Chinese communist support to win the elections of 1959. The story will be mainly about the tale of how the PAP English-speaking socialist moderates "rode the tiger" of Chinese communism & eventually isolated them into the Barisan Sosialis in 1961. Some overlap with the labour unrest in part 1, & events in part 3.

Focus: Dual focus: Lee Kuan Yew & Lim Chin Siong. The famous good-guy-vs.-bad-guy model, except that it won't be as clear-cut as that. In keeping with the aim of not simply going for the conventional historical understanding, we should see Lim Chin Siong & his compatriots not only rouse trouble but also explain (in some way) what it is they are fighting for. If it means that we have to portray Lee Kuan Yew & the PAP Old Guard as having outwitted the communists politically, instead of being the righteous winners against evil as we normally regard them now, then that has to be our interpretation. I'm not saying that communism is good or communism for Singapore is good, but I think we should try as far as possible to go in-depth into the political views & aims of both sides.

Ideas: The trailer simply must have the actor who plays Lee Kuan Yew (who will hopefully try to mimic his voice for "historical accuracy") intone something about "riding the tiger" to his colleagues. For the present-site fadeout, may I humbly suggest my alma mater The Chinese High School, scene of many student-led, communist-inspired riots, but where this ugly & politically-incorrect history has been whitewashed away. I think we're a people mature enough to look at things in perspective now.

More on the good-guy-vs.-bad-guy paradigm: so who's the good guy, actually? Lee Kuan Yew, valiantly & shrewdly outwitting the communists that were taking Singapore down the path of economic & social destruction? Lim Chin Siong, the idealistic youth that meant well, & who was as much a patriot as any of the white-shirt-clad folks? There will not be a helpful narrator or an unequivocal scene that clearly comes down on one side or the other. (Anyway, coming down unquestionably on the latter side will probably assure the filmmaker a term of detention without trial.) I think a partially ambiguous ending (is that understandable? as in it's clear, but not too clear) can evoke critical discussion amongst viewers: that's where IMHO the movie Contact succeeded but The Quiet American failed.

Bridge: I'm not too sure about where we can situate the bridge between the second and third movies, because of my unfamiliarity with the intricacies of this period, but maybe we can have it to clearly show that the tide was turning towards Kuala Lumpur's (& pro-merger's) favour, & away from the communists.

3. Merger & separation

Historical scope: The grand idea of a federation of Malaysia proposed by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1961, the PAP's interest in this as a move against the communists, the referendum in Singapore with the Barisan Sosialis's unsuccessful appeal for blank votes, & the successful merger effected in September 1963. Later the troubles between the Alliance & PAP, primarily UMNO's participation in Singaporean elections, PAP's participation in Malaysian elections (1964), racial riots in Singapore (1964), the Malaysian Solidarity Convention of opposition parties including the PAP (1965), press acrimony, & the eventual separation on 9 August 1965.

Focus: More tricky. We could have Tunku & Lee, but the subject matter as it is already has to incorporate some kind of meta-explanation of the differences between the Alliance & the PAP, as well as between Singapore & the rest of Malaysia.

Ideas: Fadeout idea: MacDonald House at Dhoby Ghaut, scene of a bomb explosion orchestrated by Sukarno's call for Konfrontasi. However, Confrontation will be not be a big part of movie no. 3. Or else we could have a shot of the North-South highway, & the older version on which Lee & some of his colleagues drove up to Kuala Lumpur to decide on separation.

The third movie can be similar to the second in that there's no hard-&-fast conclusion to who was right & who was wrong: it'll probably be more like the resolution of a family quarrel (abang-adik!), where both sides admit that they were each "wrong" in some areas. The idea is not to have people leave the theatre with a pat NE lesson that they've imbibed, but rather to have them develop one of their own, subconsciously or not. That will be the level of personal & national discussion & introspection that a Jack Neo film like "I Not Stupid" doesn't reach, because it just reproduces the layman's conventional complaints but doesn't examine them in-depth or ask anyone to derive any insights from them.

How to begin each movie

There's something to be said for the way Peter Jackson manages the year-long difference between the times two instalments of The Lord of the Rings are shown - he doesn't; he jumps into the story immediately, & woe is he the viewer who didn't watch the previous instalment. Perhaps this is a good way of "persuading" people to acquaint themselves with previous instalments, so that the story is fresh in one's mind, so one wouldn't have to be asking to oneself or others, who's Gollum? for instance.

However, I don't think that this would be a good model for "The Birth of Modern Singapore: A Trilogy". Even though each movie should stand on its own, I think it would be helpful if there could be some kind of bridge between movies, not in the simplistic flashback or "last time in The Birth of Modern Singapore" as what they do for Star Trek two-parters & ER, but rather, maybe a bit of story that was covered in another way in the previous movie. For instance, in the bridge between No. 1 & No. 2 ("loss of innocence") we could link the two using the leader of the PAP, now SM, Lee Kuan Yew. There will be a brief recap of what he was doing, how he got himself elected & his party into government (in 1959), & then the story continues without a hitch. Of course, the relevance to the previous movie will have to be clearly made even though the story is now told from a different person's perspective, & trivia fans may then watch attentively for a fleeting glimpse of Marshall's downtrodden look, or something like that, during this prelude.

Why the saga

This is obviously not a perfect scheme: for instance, part 3 has the problem I said about being too long & unwieldy, with too many personalities & sideshows, that it may end up sounding more like a boring documentary, the kind we've all been exposed to as part of National Education. As I see it, the difference between National Education material & this trilogy that a great Singaporean filmmaker will do is that the latter concentrates on telling the story; it may have to adjust some facts here & there, & step on the toes of a few people, but its main aim will be to tell the Singapore story, which may not be the version the government or other parties are most comfortable telling, but a story that is as true as it can be. For instance, it may not celebrate our SM Lee Kuan Yew's contributions as much as some people may want, but so long as it doesn't take too many liberties with the truth, I think it will be acceptable as a "Singapore story" nonetheless. It will not be easy, because the storytelling has to be really cogent & compelling in order to make a good movie, but I see this as something the great Singaporean filmmaker will attempt sooner or later, if only because he wants to, like a child seeking his roots.

Small Singapore

Of course, it doesn't mean that this Singaporean filmmaker has to do these grand historical epics in order to be considered great: as far as I am concerned, if he can do one powerful one on a small scale, it would be a notable achievement. Small quiet tales are there to be had: a son inheriting his father's business, & the generation gap between old-timers & Westernised baby boomer Singaporeans, for instance. If Home Run succeeds in this, then Jack Neo will be on his way.

One's own sea

However, it will not be me. One poignant moment in the Jap drama Beach Boys (yes, the Jap drama, not the group behind the high-pitched singing) is when the innkeeper tells Hiromi & Kaito, the two "Beach Boys" that are taking a long break by working at the seaside inn, that "the sea here is mine", & encourages them to search for their own - meaning that however much they're enjoying this laid-back alternative lifestyle, it's not really the final point in their lives, & they shouldn't stay here & live to regret it like he (the innkeeper) does. I find this concept of 自分の海, jibun no umi, or "one's own sea", one's own sphere of excellence, is pretty relevant. Mine is unfortunately not in filmmaking: it's not only that I don't have the expertise, I also don't have the interest beyond the level of "won't that be cool?", which is hardly enough to get you through difficulties like lack of funding & the need for a good script.

Addendum:

Addendum II: The more I look at my brief descriptions of the movie trilogy, the more ideas I'm getting - I added some paragraphs & links to the movies at IMDB.

Addendum III: The Muse has spoken once more! This time on the bridges between the movies, to borrow a musical term, & a bit on how to begin each movie.

Addendum IV: I notice that my Sec. 3 History textbook (the navy-coloured "History of Malaya and Southeast Asia" that students are initially horrified to see because it's quite thick) consistently calls Tunku Abdul Rahman, first prime minister of Malaysia & architect of the merger, Tengku Abdul Rahman (like on page 269, in a profile). (There's also Tuanku Abdul Rahman, ruler of Negri Sembilan, who became the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaya in 1957, but that's a different guy person.) I found a lament on how the Tengku's legacy has been forgotten, & it claims that "Tengku" is how the Prime Minister wrote his name, & everybody else, including, say, Tunku Abdul Rahman College, is wrong. Now I know next to nothing about the Malay language & culture, so I can't say anything to clear up this situation, but it seems to me that most history texts, not to mention the newspapers (& it has more mentions according to Google), call him the Tunku, so I think that's the standard to follow.

Bidding

1 August 2003 6:00 PM SGT (link)

The real action has begun: bidding for modules. The round for bidding for modules for one's major started this morning & ends tomorrow afternoon; USP ones after that. I'm having the time of my life!

OK, a few qualifiers, mostly for those who don't really understand the nuances of this era: it's not really the best time of my life, but it's better than sitting through more faculty & academic talks where the professors reiterate whatever's already in the handbooks & online, or orientation activities. (I feel very bad about not going for the "ice-breaking", schmoozing events like today's BBQ, but I really don't feel like it. I'm not a crowd-pleaser.)

I believe most "freshies" who are all caught up in the intricacies of CORS, modules & exactly what to bid for & how much, won't admit to having the time of their lives, or even enjoying the whole thing, when I see that they obviously do, in the excitement & sharing of knowledge & tips all that. I just want this stage to be over; & that'll happen in 9 days' time, as Eugene helpfully pointed out to me. It might be inspiring & all to be hearing about the greatness of USP modules' multidisciplinary approach, & fun to weave together a nice personal schedule of lectures, tutorials & exam dates for the next semester, but shouldn't we just get down to things sooner?

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