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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For Tomorrow

The folks at Tomorrow.sg explained its linking policy. Looks like I'm late to the party. I was actually notified via SMS at 5:30am. (Thanks, nilsinelabore!) So I'll post my $0.02 worth, and if I have time and am feeling more wordy, I'll post a few more cents (or dollars) worth.

I've managed to read all of the trackbacks and comments (as of this writing (see this entry's timestamp)). Let me see if I've managed to grasp the issue:

Some bloggers are unhappy that their blogs are linked freely by other websites outside of their control, in particular, Tomorrow.sg. As a result, these bloggers suddenly lose their perceived and much valued privacy because readers follow the links to their blogs. And they complain about the loss of privacy. Some eventually move their blogs.

Correct so far? What happens after readers follow the links, like writing nasty comments, is a result of the following-the-link, so that's another matter entirely.

In their rebuttal, the editors of Tomorrow.sg have stated the following:
  1. The Internet is, in general, a public area, therefore everything that can be found there is implied to be consumed freely.
  2. Linking, whether deeply or not, is acceptable use generally due to point (1).
  3. If something is contradictory to (1), then (2) must be denied to that thing, e.g. with a password authentication system, or, in Tomorrow.sg's case, a clear warning label.
They also detail how Tomorrow.sg works (which depends on the three points above):
  1. Internet users contribute public links to Tomorrow.sg.
  2. Links from (1) are published only when approved by Tomorrow.sg's editors.
  3. Tomorrow.sg's 13 editors have varied backgrounds.
  4. At least two editors must approve the publishing of a contributed public link.
  5. As a result of (3) and (4), there is little to no chance of prejudice in carrying out (2).
Did I miss anything? I think that's the gist of their argument. Everything else follows from these points.

If Tomorrow.sg must be villified, I can see only two ways:
  1. What is available on the Internet is not implied to be consumed publicly.
  2. The approval process at Tomorrow.sg is flawed in some way.
To prove (1), you'd have to argue against the entire Internet audience. Or if you believe in geographical jurisdiction, then you have to argue with the thousands of Singaporean Internet users. In general, you will find yourself at the losing end. The Internet has been around for more than 10 years and accepted as a venue where one can consume anything publicly if it can be found.

Therefore, the phrase "there is nothing private on the Internet" can be taken as true... for the most part. As I mentioned, resources can be made private through a variety of systems. The problem is that, with regards to blogging, many bloggers are unaware of these schemes, therefore whether they planned it or not, what they blog is made public, and therefore available to be consumed publicly. This should not be Tomorrow.sg's fault. It is simply the nature of the beast.

So it seems that it is difficult to villify Tomorrow.sg on point (1). That leaves point (2). Remember their two primary defences: links are contributed by the public (not them), and it takes two editors to approve the publishing of a link.

Aside: I don't think "editors" is the right title for them. Given the nature of their work, I think "approvers" or "publishers" is more apt.

Tomorrow.sg's editors have no power over what is sent their way. Therefore, the only other alternative is that they are biased in some way. But it takes two out of 13 editors (which is slightly more than 15%, but still a minority of the editorial board) to approve the publishing of a link, therefore the chance of biasness is reduced (although some may argue that it is extremely easy for a link to be approved than denied if only two votes are required). This argument stands even stronger if each editor approves an approximately equal number of links.

Being the guy that I am, I counted the number of approvals from Great Singapore Sex Show Exhibition (when the two-editor policy came into effect) to romance in rome. Here's the breakdown:
  • Cowboy Caleb - 45
  • jseng - 39
  • Agagooga, ssf - 21
  • shianux - 13
  • la idler - 10
  • preetamrai - 9
  • LMD - 7
  • mrbrown - 6
  • tinkertailor - 5 (with 1 extra as a third publisher)
  • Mr Miyagi - 3
Notice the disparity in approvals? And notice that two editors (popagandhi, Xiaxue) never approved a single link?

I can think of only one reason why Cowboy Caleb approved 45 times while Mr Miyagi languished with 3. Remember the gameshow, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" Before a contestant takes the "hot seat", he has to go through the "fastest finger" round, i.e. when he competes with the other contestants to get the right answer in the shortest amount of time.

The way I see it, there are 13 contestants and two hot seats at Tomorrow.sg. A contribution comes in and the 13 see it at the same time. popagandhi and Xiaxue are busy doing their things and can't play the game. That leaves 11 editors. Mr Miyagi and la idler take a longer time to decide whether to approve or not. Meanwhile, Cowboy Caleb and jseng come in for the steal. And before anyone can blink their eyes, the link has been approved. mrbrown shrugs his shoulders and goes back to play with his kids.

I'm not saying that's how it's done (I don't have any insider information), but that is one perception, and a very powerful, negative one. After all, given the numbers I provided, the casual reader can't help but feel that it seems like the approval process is really just one big game behind the scenes.

So this "our editors have varied backgrounds" defence fails terribly because there is an unbalanced number of votes cast per editor. One workaround would be to give each editor a quota of votes, but this unfairly limits what an editor can vote for, e.g. what if a deluge of contributions come in that Cowboy Caleb and jseng absolutely love but the others can't be bothered about, and the former have used up their quota?

...

Oh wait, that's good, right? Because if 11 editors don't approve that deluge, then maybe those contributions aren't really up to standard, and it's Cowboy Caleb and jseng who have been wrong all this time.

Holy cow, I've unwittingly come up with a potential solution to the perception problem. I honestly did not see it coming. Oh, and no offence to Cowboy Caleb and jseng. I'm just using you as examples.

Here's another suggestion: one man, one vote. Whenever a contribution comes in, each of the 13 editors must vote "yea" or "nay". If there are 7 or more "yea"s and 6 or less "nay"s, then the link is published. If less than 13 votes are cast, the link remains in limbo. This won't work if the editors are busy doing their thing. So a link can be approved with a simple majority, i.e. as soon as 7 "yea"s are received. However, if some editors continue to vote more often than others, then we're back at the same problem.

Okay, that's about all I'm going to write about. I've used up my $0.02 and the gears need to be maintained.

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Snubbed by Digital Times

Figures.

Digital Times, the IT supplement published every Tuesday by the Straits Times, has a regular column featuring local blogs. This week, it focussed on the Tristefemme saga.

Aside: I'm not sure if "saga" is the right word, though it was certainly eventful for a while.

Melissa Lwee, who I assume is a freelance writer, took snippets from three blogs: Tristefemme, Idle Days and Singapore Critic. The first was to establish what the saga was about, the second and third were about individual reactions to Tristefemme's readers' reactions, i.e. they weren't about Tristefemme directly, but targetted at those who had read her blog.

Notice the conspicuous absence of my blog in that list??? Hello! Idle Days and Singapore Critic (both of whom are written by people I know) had linked to my Tristefemme entry (which in Web parlance means that my blog was cited as an authoritative article) as a basis for their entries! And other blogs referred to me as well! And both parties involved in the Tristefemme saga directly (i.e. the parents of the unborn baby) had posted long replies in my entry!

I had been snubbed!

I can think of only one reason for the snub: I had changed my post after it had generated all of the hoo-ha. In effect, my entry was no longer seen as authoritative, and therefore not worthy of the ink used to print Digital Times.

Though I had started the snowball, I did not cause the avalanche, so the geologist wasn't interested in me. (Gosh, I love analogies!)

Yeah, that's my main guess. Melissa Lwee snubbed me because I had censored myself. And she writes for a paper that is known to practice self-censorship.

A censor snubs another censor because the latter had censored himself? Only in Singapore.

Melissa Lwee (mellwee@gmail.com) -- I hereby cast my Evil Eye™ on thee! But I'm a reasonable man. If you're single and available and heterosexual (can't be too sure these days), take me out on a date and I'll call it even. Yes, I'm that shallow.

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Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"They Call Her... Cleopatra Wong"

Ever since I saw the listing in late July, I'd had a hankering to watch "They Call Her... Cleopatra Wong". It was filmed in 1978 as Singapore's answer to the spate of kongfu flicks and popularity of James Bond movies. And it has achieved cult status all because a certain Quentin Tarantino was reportedly inspired by it.

Tonight's was the last of three screenings during Screen Singapore. I watched it with my parents at The Arts House. The lead actress, Doris Young a.k.a. Marrie Lee was there for a while and she talked a bit about the filming. Some interesting tidbits:
  • It was made for S$70,000.
  • It featured Caucasian cast and crew so as to make it more marketable.
  • In a scene with three wrestlers, one of them was supposed to run towards her and then get hit by her fist, but in one take, he ran towards her with his face already turned away.
  • While on location at a strawberry farm, the farm owner invited the cast and crew to sample his strawberry jam and wine, and within an hour, almost everyone was drunk!
  • Doris Young adopted the name "Marrie Lee" because the famous kongfu actor at that time was Bruce Lee.
And then the show started, and in spite of my constant mental reminder that this was made in 1978 for a couple of thousand dollars, I couldn't help but laugh at some of the antics. I wasn't laughing alone, though. Most of the audience laughed as well.

There was a kongfu fight practically every 15 minutes. In each fight, the thug would throw punches and kicks at Cleopatra Wong, and then she would take them out with a well-timed punch or (usually) kick. And when the camera panned out, all of her downed opponents would be lying flat on their backs with arms and legs outstretched.

The silliest parts also shouldn't have been silly, but unfortunately were. I'm referring to the gun fights. Somehow, some way, Cleopatra and her partners would be able to shoot and kill each and every thug without getting shot at -- in the open! Okay, one guy eventually bit the bullet, but I think his was the token death, otherwise it would really be beyond ridicule. So the good guys would sway their rifles side to side, finger constantly squeezed on the trigger, letting out uncountable number of bullets, and every thug would inevitably be shot dead by a few bullets each.

The most ridiculous death lasted half a minute... or maybe it was a whole minute? A thug was on a roof, about to kill Cleopatra and her partners. One of her partners saw him and shot him in the chest. The thug's face contorted in pain, he swayed from side to side, falling, not falling, falling again, and finally tumbling off the roof. Now you know why Quentin Tarantino's films are the way they are.

Even though the movie was written by an American, there were plot holes so big, Cleopatra Wong could ride her motorbike through. Like don't the villains know when a taxi follows them from the port to a woodmill far away from civilisation? Or that Cleopatra Wong's boss (played by local radio legend, Brian Richmond!) so easily suggested that she investigate in Hong Kong without any lead-up? (Maybe Hong Kong was known to be the counterfeit money capital back then, so it was a given.) How about villains who dressed up as nuns (no problem there) and carried rifles openly (problem! problem!)? Oh, and were male too.

And don't get me started on the dialogue! Bad lines, corniness. Add to that the amateurish delivery, which I suppose made the film even more an adult cartoon.

Now you know why I was laughing at this action/drama flick.

Would I watch it again? NOOO!!! Am I glad I watched it? YES! It is not only a classic because of the Tarantino link, it is also a reminder of the potential in Singapore's young film industry. And it is just waiting for a modern remake. Consider these: action flicks like the Bond and xXx movies are popular everywhere, terrorists are real in the region and just waiting to get their asses whupped, and Singapore has the technological know-how to pull off a good film complete with great sets and loud explosions, not to mention a revival in the film industry. The stars are aligned for Cleopatra Wong to make her dramatic return.

Just ditch the so-called American writer, producers and rest of the crew.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Revival Centre Church: the website

One week ago, my church, Revival Centre Church (update 3 Jan 10: link is no longer working), officially launched its revamped website. Today, I'm making the announcement here, so as not to steal my church's thunder.

The story of how I got involved in its revamp is an interesting one. It all started almost four months ago... wow, was it that long ago? Anyway, the old website was admirable, considering the level of web-expertise that the developers/designers had -- and I'm not looking down on them, I'm just saying that the pages were just plain HTML in ASP pages. (HTML = static (generally), ASP = dynamic, i.e. pages can change content without requiring a rewrite of the underlying code)

I got wind that the website was going to be revamped soon, and approached the deacon-in-charge. He was surprised by my offer to volunteer, because at that moment, he was looking for a web developer with some decent coding experience. Coincidence? Divine intervention? You decide.

It turns out that another church member had already come up with the look-and-feel of the website, but that volunteer is more of a designer than a coder. So I became the third part of the trinity. My job then would be to translate the design from paper to bits and bytes.

Three months ago, we had our first sit-down-over-lunch meeting, where I had a first-hand look at the design. Luckily, it was clean and simple, just the way I like it. There's no need for a convoluted, flashy design that only kids-on-caffeine would appreciate. Also, a simple design could be more easily transcribed into a webpage.

Slightly more than two months ago, I finally got the ZIP file containing the required graphics, and got down to work... only to hit a few stumbling blocks. Suffice to say that I found out that the church didn't actually need to pay for the ASP add-on since the server was running Apache and PHP natively. D'oh! And then, while making some pages easier to manage with database support, I found out that the hosting package didn't include the MySQL database, which is almost standard nowadays in similar plans. I had to think outside the box in overcoming the lack of database while keeping the pages dynamic and easily updateable.

About a month ago, I floated the idea of including a podcast of the weekly sermons in the website... only to realise that to include those audio files in the limited server disk space, I'd have to remove some video files of mission trips. Sob! And I like both so very much! In the end, the podcast won. I wrote an RSS feed for it and, after a brief snafu, it seems to be working fine.

Three weeks ago, we finally caved in and bought the MySQL add-on so that we could run our own forum.

Two weeks ago, the deacon-in-charge declared a "soft launch", getting the church staffers to test the website.

One week ago, he made the announcement in church.

And today, I'm making the announcement here.

Yes, it's sparse. Yes, it's lacking in content. But I'm proud of three things:
  1. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards-compliance (not perfect, but very close)
  2. modern CSS-controlled, no-table layout, including collapsible menu
  3. MPEG-4 and some 3GPP (e.g. for playback on 3G handphones) videos (no Windows Media crap, thank you very much)
So check it out: Revival Centre Church (update 3 Jan 10: link is no longer working).

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Technorati tags: Revival Centre Church, web design

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dinner with two ladies

I met Angela and Yan Ying for dinner. I had an errand to run beforehand (sold some comics, yaay! stepped into a puddle in a field, boo!), so I met them later at Siam Kitchen at Bugis Junction. I ordered beef fillet in noodle soup. A wee bit too much MSG for my liking. After that, we adjourned to good ol' Starbucks for drinks.

Aside: check out one of Starbucks' purported logos. Ooh, and another Starbucks logo.

Over dinner and drinks, Angela gave us a semi-crash course on biology and genetics. For instance, suntanning causes adjacent thymine molecules to fuse, causing a change in the DNA, which the body recognises and proceeds to "shut down", which ultimately causes the skin to peel. Or that in a not-so-science fiction way, cancer cells, which can reproduce indefinitely even after the host is dead and provided they continue to receive nutrition, could be the key to immortality.

More biology and other stories here.

Erm, not much to talk about, so I'll stop here.

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Technorati tags: dinner, Starbucks, biology, genetics

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sharing and keeping durians

Some time back, I bought a basket of durians from a reputable stall. When I got home, I cracked the first one open and tasted the fleshy pulp. It was delicious! I finished the first durian quickly and opened the second enthusiastically. Delicious! Absolutely heavenly!

The durians were too good to be kept to myself, so I called all of my friends and family and told them about my batch of delectable durians. When they came to sample them, I offered the mushy fruits happily. All of them agreed -- these were the best durians they had ever tasted! And then they ate some more.

Somehow, the owner of the stall that I had bought the durians from found out that I was sharing my durians with friends and family. He immediately told me to stop doing so. I asked him why. He said that if everyone ate from my batch of durians, then fewer people would buy durians from him. Then how was his business going to survive?

I thought about it and decided that he had a point. So with a tinge of sadness, I told my friends and family that I could no longer share my durians with them. My friends and family were disappointed, but I directed them to the stall so that they could buy their own durians. Now they too could share in my ecstasy of enjoying good durians.

Some time later, I thought that it would be a better idea to transfer the individual fruits from within their thorny shells to plastic boxes. I could then keep the boxes in the fridge so that they would last longer. Then I would be able to enjoy my durians as and when I wanted to.

So I started packing my durians and soon my fridge was filled with plastic boxes containing the yellow fruit. Somehow, the stall owner found out what I was doing and got angry at me. I was confused by his anger. I have been his loyal customer all of this time and though we did not know each other personally, I respected him and I think he respected me. So why was he angry at me?

He told me that the durians that he sold to me could only be eaten directly from their thorny husks. I was not allowed to repack the fruits into other containers. If I wanted durian in plastic boxes, I had to buy them from him. (When I asked him how much, he said I would pay less for his durian-in-plastic boxes than durian-in-thorny-husks.)

I thought that this did not make sense. I wasn't sharing my durians with anyone else. I was only keeping my durian in a different container for my own consumption, but the fruit was still the same. No, he said. I could not repack the fruit in any other container because that wasn't what he had sold me. If I used the fruit in something else, and then if I wanted to keep that something else in a plastic box, then I could do so. But I absolutely could not keep the fleshy fruit in any other container other than the husk from which it was taken from. Besides, it would be even easier for me to share my durian-in-plastic-boxes with friends and family. I told him over and over again that I would not do such a thing, but my cries of protests fell on deaf ears.

I went home, opened my fridge, and took a long look at my boxes and plastic boxes of durian fruit. What should I do?

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Technorati tags: durian, share, transfer, copyright, fair use

Sunday, August 21, 2005

National Day Rally

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Just finished watching the annual rally by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (The National Day Rally is sort of the equivalent of the U.S. President's State of the Union, except it's held every year and lasts longer, like three hours... or more.)

I only caught the last 45 minutes of the 1 hour 45 minute-long English speech (there were the Malay and Chinese speeches earlier). The PM talked about remaking Singapore in two ways: improving the service standard/culture, and reinventing the city physically, i.e. through new developments. I smirked at the part when he said that all housing estates would be upgraded if they supported it. Can anyone say "election year"? Hehe.

But overall, at first glance, I'm quite impressed by the rally. Looks like these will be interesting times for Singapore. Check back in 365 days to see how the country has changed.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Buying a durian

The other day, I wanted to buy a durian. It was the season for durians and I wanted my own. So I stopped by the usual stall that I patronise every time it's the season for picking durians. I don't know the stall owner very well, but we get along just fine, and I support him with my spending.

I had heard that there would be a lot of durians to choose from, but when I arrived, there were just a handful, and most of them looked bad. I found one that was pretty good. I shook it, smelled it, listened to it, weighed it. It seemed like a decent durian that would have reasonably good fruit inside its thorny shell.

The owner appeared at that moment. When he saw my durian, he took it from me immediately, saying that it was a bad durian. I told him that I thought it was good and I wanted it. But he kept saying no and shaking his hand. From the few durians in his basket, he pulled one out. This is the best durian, he said. It will be most delicious, he said.

He gave that durian to his assistant, who agreed readily that it was the best durian for me. Then the durian that I had picked out was thrown away unceremoniously. I looked at it with sadness, but in the end, I bought the durian that the owner had selected. When I ate its fleshy fruit, it tasted good, as the owner said it would.

But it still left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

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Wireless! Broadband!

I'm writing this from my family's new wireless set-up. Due to certain problems, like a suspected burned-out modem, dial-up was no longer a feasible option for us at home, so I thought that this was the right time to move up to broadband. Yes, it's more expensive, but on the upside, we can connect to the Internet at any time, enjoy faster speeds, and break away from the telecom heavyweight.

Yes, we signed up for StarHub's cable modem package. And it was good timing too. Initially, I was worried about having to run wires all around the house. A wireless option didn't seem attractive because of the costs involved in buying the equipment.

Then, while checking StarHub's website for promotional offers, I saw that they had a wireless promotion going on: in addition to the subscription, we get a free router and free USB adapter or PC Card. Woo-hoo!

So now I can surf from my room with full broadband speed while bathing myself in supposedly-not-dangerous radiation. I can't surf from the toilet, though, because Tiraneus doesn't have an AirPort card, and I can't find an older generation one. I had one, but sold it before returning to Singapore because I thought that I wouldn't need it. D'oh!

Yes, I've secured the wireless network, so none of my neighbours should be snooping on it. That goes for you who wardrive too! Begone, thou thieves!

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Ripping of MP3s

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore clarified in the press today that owners of (music) CDs are not allowed, under the copyright law, to "rip" the tracks to MP3s for listening on MP3 players. This has obviously caused an uproar in Singapore, especially among the tech-happy youth. Are iPodders and Zen Micronians in danger of possessing white elephants?

What about fair use? In the United States, a consumer may use a legally purchased medium (book, music, video) as he sees fit, e.g. exporting to a different format from the original. It turns out that there's no such thing in Singapore, in spite of our free trade agreement with the United States.

So what's an iPodder, like me, to do? Well, I think I've spotted a loophole in IPOS' rule. What is it?

Ha, you really expect me to tell you? In a public forum?

Nay!

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Blog Timeline.SG

My little attempt at creating a rudimentary timeline of significant events in the Singaporean blogosphere:

Moved to Blog Timeline.SG.

I don't know if the racist blog and Tristefemme incident are worth mentioning, but I thought I'd include them anyway.

Looks like everything that's anything happened (and is happening) in 2005.

Anyone know of other significant events?

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Short films review

Screen Singapore had a free screening of short films this evening. It was held next to the Singapore River, outside UOB building. The organisers put up a large screen and projected the films from behind from a DVD player. And the audience was seated on hard wooden benches.

I watch Singaporean short films mostly as a show of support for the industry. For the most part, the local films, particularly the shorts, are always too auteur for my taste. I prefer something more mainstream, and if not, then something that just makes me go "Hmm, interesting."

And since the screening was free, I thought, "why not?" I snagged Angela and Chin and Angela asked Stephanie as well. Angela, Chin and I had dinner at the McDonald's at Boat Quay, Stephanie joined us later, and we went to the venue at about 7pm.

The screening was supposed to start at 7pm, but the excuse we got was that it wasn't dark enough. So we chatted among ourselves until 7:30pm or so.

Here's my $0.02 review of the short films:
(all ratings are out of five stars)

1. "Old Parliament House Remixed" by Lee Wong
Synopsis: music video. No, really, that's it.

A bit of background: the local news highlights of Parliament proceedings have a musical intro. This music changed recently. What this short film did is it took the old music and, as the title suggests, remixed it, e.g. a taxi driver whistling it, a school Chinese orchestra performance, and the audience's favourite, an NPCC cadet's handphone goes off in the middle of a march -- and guess what the ringtone is?

Unfortunately, the film uses the first 17 notes of the tune only, leaving me wanting more.

Rating: 4 (saved by the NPCC cadet)

2. "The Secret Heaven" by Sun Koh
Synopsis: a little girl hates learning the piano but her mother insists that she learns it. So she yearns for something more, if not the family bathroom, then... death?

The film started off promisingly. All of us were kids and we know what it's like to endure the pressure from our parents, so I could relate to it. And the girl is sooo cute!

Unfortunately, it got kinda draggy, and the ending left me going "huh?" Spoiler: even though she drinks medicated oil and dreams about heaven, she doesn't die.

Rating: 3 (saved by the girl)

3. "Lunch Time" by Wee Li Lin
Synopsis: a chicken rice stall assistant fantasises about a dream life with the handsome office boy who patronises her stall every so often.

Ah, the classic love story. It's been done before, but like the saying goes, "there are no new stories, only new retellings", or something like that. The problem is, nothing new was added to this retelling, except the location. The guy was so one-sided, all he had to do was act handsome and finish eating his chicken rice.

That left the actress to carry the film. Unfortunately, either she couldn't deliver or the story failed her. As it is, I've forgotten the ending, so that tells you how good it was.

Rating: 2 (I'm a sucker for love stories)

4. "Moveable Feast" by Sandi Tan
Synopsis: a guy enjoys life by eating.

Booooring. No story, just footage upon footage of watching a guy eat for almost 15 minutes. He tells us that he likes various aspects of eating, e.g. the taste variety, people you eat with, etc. I tell myself that this is 15 minutese of my life that I'm never gonna get back.

The only highlight came from the beginning, when an old coffee shop assistant told a customer to "Siam! Sio ah!" ("Get out! Hot (drink)!" We've all met this guy in the coffee shop.

Rating: 1

5. "Homemaker" by Wee Li Lin
Synopsis: a tai-tai recounts her day-to-day life in a letter to an overseas friend.

This short film was probably the best of all. It's short, only about five minutes, but it takes you from laughing out loud to silent pondering. A tai-tai, or rich man's wife, should have a very happy life, but as she talks about her life, we realise how empty it is. She cooks, but she really only directs her maids in the kitchen. She has breakfast with her husband and son, but they're too busy with their lives to care. She interacts with people, but those people are TV characters.

See, money doesn't necessarily buy happiness!

Rating: 4.5 (let down by poor acting, but then, this is a local short film...)

6. "The Usher" by June Chua
Synopsis: a young boy keeps getting caught sneaking into the cinema to watch kung-fu movies, and eventually strikes up a friendship with an usher.

Another good film with some semblance of a story. By themselves, the characters aren't much to admire. The kid borders on being a brat, while the usher is like a lechery uncle that our mums told us to be wary of.

But it's their friendship that saves the film. I felt happy when the boy could finally buy his own ticket (paid for by the usher, who by then had been fired), and sympathy for the usher who made a young friend even though he was fired for it. Good eventually triumphs in the face of overwhelming odds.

Rating: 4

Aside: Chin and I were the only ones (out of the four of us) who remembered those days when the cinema tickets had handwritten seat numbers, the kachang puteh seller had his shop outside the theater, and cinemas weren't as gaudy as they are today.

7. "Hock Hiap Leong" by Royston Tan
Synopsis: a boy remembers an old coffee shop by imagining it in the 1960s with the associated music, dance and flamboyance.

Ah, Royston Tan, suddenly he is Singapore's second favourite director after his gangster film, "15". Sure, he may be a good director (I haven't seen "15"), but I don't think this was one of his best works. It's too sappy and exaggerated. Or maybe that's what he was aiming for: a chance for us to relive our past through gaudiness.

But I didn't like it. It was... too much in too short a time. As a full-length musical, it might have worked, but as a short film, I thought that it was lacking in substance and depth.

Rating: 3

Hmm, I guess those are all the films. I thought there were more...

Oh ya, there is one more... sort of. This one was shown at the start of the screening, and I think it was the best of all of the films that evening. It was touching, thoughtful, funny, sad, warm-and-cuddly, feel-good, etc. It showed people in a museum and there were pictures and pictures and pictures and pictures... Some pictures were well known, some were whimsical. Some were hung in portraits, some were pasted on refrigerator doors. A few of the photographers discussed their pictures. People from different walks of life admired the various pictures. This went on for five minutes before any of us realised what it was. I had a clue midway through and I was correct.

It was a five-minute long advertisement for Kodak. And it was good.

After the screening, which was part of the National Day celebrations, we stayed at the river to watch a fireworks show, then adjourned to The Coffee Connoiseur at Clarke Quay. Stephanie left to join her friends for the night, so the three of us had drinks and chatted. And what do bloggers chat about when they gather?

Blogs.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

An evening with Corrinne May

Corrinne May
I went to the Corrinne May talk/dialogue at the library@esplanade. It was scheduled to begin at 7:45pm, but when I arrived at 7:15pm, all of the 50 or so seats had been taken up already. So I had to stand with a few other people at the rear, where the walkway was. (And I spotted tinker, tailor among those standing there. We nodded to each other in acknowledgement, haha, sounds like two drug agents agreeing to a deal.)

7:45pm came and went and still no Corrinne May. The crowd waited patiently. I was minding my own business at the back when this Chinese lady in a black spaghetti-strapped top and blue jeans walked in front of me. Wow, quite a beauty. Then I looked closer and it was a forehead-slapping moment. That was Corrinne May! Too late, she had already made her way to the grand piano in front before I could whip out my camera.

She opened the talk with "Little Superhero Girl", which was performed beautifully. Then she went into a brief introduction about herself:
  • first memory of music - her mum singing "Rock-a-bye baby", she thought it was scary
  • hummed TV theme songs
  • Yamaha Music School - started at 4 years old, hanging off piano stool
  • private piano teacher, who rapped her knuckles if they weren't raised properly, she wanted to flush her goldfish
  • Raffles Girls' School (RGS) - won a songwriting competition, wrote melody, friend wrote lyrics
  • Raffles Junior College (RJC) - won another songwriting competition also with a friend
  • National University of Singapore (NUS) - graduated in English Literature and Mass Communication
  • Berklee College of Music in Boston - 23 years old, 2 roommates aged 18-19 years old, she brought one purple suitcase
  • moved to Los Angeles with a few friends for practical training
  • learned to drive because buses are 1 hour in between
  • played gigs
She admitted that she was not used to such monologues. But I think she did pretty well, albeit for the occasional "umm-ing". Later, when she was pouring some water for herself, she mentioned that during her concert on Wednesday, the water jug had been placed next to the microphone, so that when she poured, it sounded like a fountain.

Before the Q&A, she sang "Fly Away".

Here're the few questions and answers that I remember (in chronological order, where possible):

1. Are her vocal skills natural or trained?
She trained. One instructor quoted US$150/hour, so she learned under him for a while. She also trained with friend. (She mentioned later that she was in NCC in RGS, and choir and Punch in RJC.)

2. What if she had stayed in Singaapore?
She would probably still be doing music, but admitted that there are limited places and opportunities to perform here.

3. Someone mentioned that he hoped to see her on the Grammy stage.
"Me too!"

4. Religious influence in her songs
She was raised as a Catholic, so there is definitely an influence.

5. Why Los Angeles?
She went with friends. She also recognised the importance of the music industry there.

6. How she made her first album
She stressed the importance of networking, so she met people and gave out namecards as widely as possible. Producers also wanted demos, so she burned CDs of performances and made inkjet covers. Those CDs were titled "Inspirations" "Introspective" and sold it for US$7 each. She also saved money to publish her album.

7. Her most difficult period
Her first 3 months in the US were difficult because she was away from her family. Also, during her practical training, it was even more difficult when she didn't return home (Singapore) for more than 2 years.

8. What she does when feeling down
She writes in her journal, receives hugs and pats on back as encouragement, writes songs (e.g. "Journey"), prays.

9. Who is "Mr Beasley"?
One part of the song is about an ex-boyfriend, i.e. "You don't notice but I see you / In the church when you were praying". The rest is from experiences with guys who wanted trophy girlfriends.

10. How did she meet Carole Bayer Sager, Carole King and David Foster?
She took part in an online songwriting competition organised by Carole Bayer Sager and Carole King, and her song won. So she had the opportunity to go to Sager's house. Sager was very much like a tai-tai with thick glasses and starched clothes. They played a few chords and Sager suggested some lyrics. Sager also revealed that she had also had sessions with a few celebrities, e.g. Michael Jackson, on that same piano. Sager co-wrote a few of Corrinne's songs.

She hasn't met Carole King... yet.

She met David Foster in a session, "Up Close with David Foster". He invited audience members to perform, and her friend, Zach, played first. After that, she had more confidence and also went up to play. As she performed "Same Side of the Moon", Foster watched her play, and when she was done, he replayed it from his observation!

11. What does she do when not making music? (asked by yours truly!)
She watches TV, eats, shops but only when she needs to buy something. She also visits her little oasis in the desert with Joshua tree and cactus and snow-capped mountains in the distance.

12. When is her next album coming out?
"Soon!" She realised that she had promised her last one, "Safe in a Crazy World", by Chinese New Year in February, but it only came out in May.

13. Where does she see herself in 10 years' time?
Hopefully, she would have finished her 3rd or 4th or 5th album. But she admitted that it's hard to predict.

14. Do lyrics or melody come first?
Usually the melody comes first because she is more of a melody person. Sometimes, the lyrics will come first, e.g. "Everything in its Time".

15. When will she write songs for Singapore e.g. for National Day?
She wants to write, but thinks that she needs to be invited. She has written the anthem for the Sports School. When asked to perform it, she refused (maybe due to restrictions by the school?)

16. What is her musical inspiration?
She listens to all kinds of music from the radio. When she hears something nice, she is inspired by the melody first before focussing on the song itself.

The session ended with a performance of "Save Me", then she plugged her website and said her thank-yous.

I wanted to take a picture with her at the end, but she was swamped with other fans, and she also didn't know that she was due for a media event immediately after. And the library was closing at 9pm, which was only about 10 minutes away. So I left partially disappointed. But at least I had a chance to sort of meet her in person.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

About a pregnant girl

If you came here looking for my post regarding something about "who is telling the truth?" etc, sorry to say that you're too late. At Vandice's suggestion, I've pulled my post. I won't be surprised if you can find a cached copy elsewhere, but as far as the World Live Web (a.k.a. the blogosphere) is concerned, the old post no longer exists.

After reading the feedback, rereading my post, reading Idle Days' comments, and much deliberation (because I don't want to come across as needing to overly explain myself), I felt that I should clarify one thing:

I never ever directed my post at Tristefemme herself. Never. Not in a million years. Cross my heart, swear it's true, may lightning strike me if I'm telling a lie.

After her blog first appeared on Tomorrow.sg, I read her entries, then I read the comments on Tomorrow (I admit that I never read any of the comments on her blog, silly me). Initially, I felt sorry for her, and my first thought was that if I had a million dollars, she would receive a tax-free baby bonus from me. Alas, I am no millionaire.

But another thought crept up: strangers were sympathising with her and seemingly pointing an accusatory finger at the father. Wasn't that very one-sided? In the court of law, no judge would allow one side to win a case based on what that side has said about the other (the only exception I can think of is when the other side is absent from the proceedings, in which case the former wins by default). Both sides must have a chance to express themselves, and then the judge decides who is right.

With regards to Tristefemme's blog, she is one side, the father is the other side, and we, the readers, are the judge. For me, there was no rational reason for me to side with her before hearing his story.

So the target audience of my post was actually the readers of Tristefemme's blog. I wanted them to take a moment to sit back, take a breather, and take another look at the situation before pronouncing judgement.

Compassion, on the other hand, is not necessarily driven by logic. And the pregnancy is real. As is her hurt. Which is why I still feel that if I had cash to burn, I'd give some to her. Money is a poor substitute for true concern. Besides, I don't know if she's rich or not (and I'm not going to be dragged into that debate!). But from one stranger to the next, I think it's allowable, e.g. like how one could give to a charity, and the gift would then be seen as a sign of concern.

Tristefemme, if by any chance you're reading this, and you were hurt by my original post, I hope that my clarification helps to alleviate any misunderstanding between us. I apologise humbly if I failed to make myself clearer in my original post about who I was speakinig to.

By the way, the father has replied. Thank you, LX. I applaud your courage in standing up and telling us your side of the story.

Now, let us put this whole "who is right, who is wrong?" argument behind us and focus on the really important thing here, namely, the unborn baby.

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Corrinne May at library@esplanade!

Fly Away (2002)
Woo-hoo! Corrinne May will be at the library@esplanade tomorrow from 7:45pm! Attendance is free!
Come and catch our very homegrown artist, Corrinne May, who is a singer-songwriter currently based in Los Angeles. She has released two albums, "Fly Away" and "Safe in a Crazy World" and is currently on tour to promote her latest album. Do not miss this opportunity to catch her close-up and personal as she shares her experiences as a singer-songwriter, talks about the stories behind her songs and shares her insights on living in Los Angeles.
Thank goodness for the corrinnemayfans Yahoo! Group.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Corrinne May in Singapore

Safe in a Crazy World (2005)
Corrinne May will be performing at the Esplanade tonight... and I won't be attending!

Aargh!!!

I only found out about her performance slightly over a week ago, and of course all of the tickets were sold out already. Anyway, if I had managed to snag the tickets, I would have to find a way to magically be seated by 7:30pm (or 15 minutes earlier) while grabbing something to eat. (Hmm, I sound like Aesop's fox that couldn't reach the grapes.)

So, no concert for me. Nuts. Must... keep... lookout... for... future... concerts... please... be... soon...

After I bought both of her albums, I listened to them three times consecutively. Why am I a fan of Corrinne May? Is it because of her Sarah MacLachlan/Dido-like voice? Or because her songs were featured in a local television drama (made in Singapore!)? She doesn't have the same look as other female performers, so I don't think I'm led by the Y in my 23rd chromosome.

No, because she is a star in her own right. She hasn't been trumped up by the media, she hasn't received any endorsements from politicians, she hasn't endorsed any third-party products (to the best of my knowledge). She is a good singer through and through. Too bad she had to go to Los Angeles before Singaporeans realised her talent.

Singapore needs less Sylvester Sims and more Corrinne Mays. Then maybe Singaporeans will be more passionate about "made in Singapore" music (and other entertainment products).

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What do these numbers mean to you?

Sotong Queen posed something interesting: take a bunch of seemingly random numbers and ask people what they think the numbers mean. To a psychologist, I'm sure that this would be like looking into the person's mind.

Anyway, I'm taking her post and running with it (and to give her her first trackback (methinks) too!).
  1. 2.63 million -- about half of Singapore's population
  2. 2359 -- 11:59pm
  3. 007 -- Bond, James Bond
  4. 006 -- the British secret agent before Bond (the same guy who was the traitor in "GoldenEye"?)
  5. 018 -- StarHub's budget (I think) IDD number
  6. 3 million (cows) -- number of cows in Australia and New Zealand
  7. 6pm -- Go home from work! Also "The Simpsons" on StarWorld
  8. 1130 -- 11:30am
  9. 21 -- legal age
  10. 3 years -- toddler
  11. 40 -- middle age
What does this say about me? As an armchair psychologist, I'd say that I'm a person who follows pop culture quite closely and sees things in the straight-and-narrow.

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Happy 40th National Day!

The Future is Ours to Make
One people,
Together,
Was counting on me.
I stood up
And reached for the sky,
And found five stars
Shining on me.
I will get there:
Home,
The place in my heart.
That's where I belong.

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Sorry, couldn't find a way to insert "We Are Singapore" without resorting to even more corniness.

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"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I have never read any of Roald Dahl's works. Not one. I totally bypassed Dahl and went straight to Isaac Asimov. I am, however, familiar with his books, particularly that though they are written for children, they also contain adult themes.

Like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which I'd just watched.

(Now since I have never read that book, I don't know which parts of the movie are a direct translation, and which parts are creative license, so I shall just refer to the story as "the story".)

The story is about five children who win the chance to visit Willy Wonka's amazing and secretive chocolate factory. What happens is a bunch of good yet disturbing fun, but all of it is a test to see which kid is the most deserving of Wonka's empire. And no prizes for guessing which kid wins.

The movie was a lot of fun, and it's mostly because of Johnny Depp. He overplays as Willy Wonka, the boy-adult. Which is a good thing because I think Willy Wonka is supposed to be such an impossible character to believe. If he had been portrayed realistically, he would have come across as any other Wall Street multimillionaire.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying Depp's acting... and the Oompa Loompas! Or rather, the one Oompa Loompa who was digitally replicated into thousands of clones. Their song-and-dance routines were hilarious, though it was quite difficult to grasp the lyrics (sung by maestro Danny Elfman himself).

Unfortunately, it got tiring to see this as the movie progressed. It was hilarious the first time, still funny the second. By the third time, it was getting old, and the fourth was just begging to be passed quickly (which it did). That's the thing about stories. Sequences happen in three's. If something happens only once, it can be easily missed. Twice and it's a coincidence. Three is the magic number. More than three and the novelty wears off. (That's why most movie series are trilogies. And pop songs have two verses and a bridge. And movies and plays are usually divided into three acts.) I think I can safely blame Roald Dahl for this, although it was probably better executed in the written form because you have to imagine everything, so the memory of the previous occurrences isn't as fresh in the working mind.

Also, since this is a children's movie, it was very predictable, e.g. how Charlie won his ticket, what happened to the other children, what the ending would be like. If it was any more complicated, I think most children would be lost. Adults may find it morbid and disturbing -- and fun? -- when they wonder what happens to each child each time he/she is taken into another room. But it's a kiddie movie and no one dies.

Talking about the ending, that's another part that I didn't like. It was too rushed, as if the story had overshot its limit of pages/minutes and so it needed to be resolved quickly. And it was contrived, i.e. the whole "loving family = successful man" idea was overdone so that it was beyond being saccharinely sweet.

On the other hand, it was a hoot to see Christopher Lee. Willy Wonka, your father is Count Dooku. No wonder you have a silly name, ha.

Minor gripe: besides the Oompa Loompa and the shopkeeper, everyone else is Caucasian!

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" works as an entertaining movie for the whole family to enjoy. If you're a jaded adult, it will either help you relive your childhood innocence or make you more bitter about life.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

One reason to live in an opposition-controlled constituency

I was talking with a few friends after church, and one of them mentioned that he wants to buy an apartment. Although he prefers a private apartment, he also remarked that he wouldn't mind living in a part of Singapore that is not as developed as the rest the country, that seemingly lacks the hustle and bustle of the other housing estates, that gives a rustic feeling, that is like an oasis in a chaos-filled land.

And that gives its residents an almost 100% opportunity to vote.

This mystery place? Potong Pasir.

For 20 years (more or less), it has been the only constituency to be controlled by an opposition Member of Parliament, Mr. Chiam See Tong. Back when his was the sole opposition-controlled constituency in the entire country, people joked that it was called "The Republic of Potong Pasir".

The thing in Singapore is that when a constituency doesn't vote for the ruling party, it gets "punished". (Wouldn't it make more sense to coddle up with the voters to make sure they're voted in next time?) In this case, the public housing blocks aren't as developed as those in other parts, e.g. they rarely get upgraded, let alone given a fresh coat of paint, and when the MP wants to carry out some works, he has to wait eons before receiving approval.

This is not to say that the constituency is a decaying wasteland. Rather, things just don't seem as top-notch or lively as, say, Marine Parade or Toa Payoh.

Well, guess what? Rustic is the new cool! With Singapore as modern as it is, some young people have a desire to return to simpler times or even experience some inefficiency, if for nothing else, then to slow down from the ultra-competitive society.

If this is the start of a new trend, the government may find itself watching the people flock to backwards Potong Pasir like bees to honey (not flies to rubbish).

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Friday, August 05, 2005

What would you do with a piece of land?

*scape
The folks at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the National Youth Council want ideas on how to develop the new Youth Park, tentatively called *scape. Apparently, there's a lack of ideas in spite of the 20 iPod shuffles just waiting to be won.

I want an iPod shuffle! So I submitted the following:
Leave the space as open land and let youths and groups use it as they see fit. Don't overdevelop the area; there's enough concrete in the rest of Orchard Road. At the most, pave a section, but leave most of it as open grassland.

My idea is not to compartmentalise the space, but let it evolve organically based on the whims and fancies of the real users -- the youths. For once, let's leave the nanny out of the picture and see what happens.
Will I win? Depends on whether the powers-that-be like my somewhat radical idea. According to news reports, most ideas are to build some structure or other. Geez, why add another slab of concrete? It's a big empty space! Just leave it alone. Isn't Singapore overbuilt as it is already? Besides, young people want their space, literally and figuratively speaking. So give them some physical space and let them go havoc!

Got a better idea? If you're between 15 and 29, then leave your feedback.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Presidential election

Presidential Crest
So August 27 is Election Day for the President. Now to see if I will finally have the chance to vote. Since turning 21, I have never had the opportunity to exercise my Constitutionally-granted right to vote.

Which is not to say that I live in a dictatorship. Rather, for the past two elections in which I was legally entitled to vote, the first was a non-contested Presidential Election, and the other was non-contested in my constitutency and I wasn't in the country.

Yes, I am excited to vote. It's one of the few times when I feel that I'm making a real difference in the governing of Singapore.

I hope there's a contest on August 27. We'll know by August 17, Nomination Day. And if there's a contest, then August 27 will be a public holiday too! Whee!

...

Oh, wait a minute, August 27 is a Saturday. I and about half of the country already work five-day weeks! So a public holiday on Saturday means nothing to us.

Broody herr...

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Say hello to Mighty Mouse

Mighty Mouse

So Apple has finally released its more-than-one-button mouse, the Mighty Mouse. (Hey, isn't that the name of a cartoon character?) This new optical (i.e. no dirt-collecting ball at the bottom) mouse has not one, not two, but four buttons. Left button, right button, scroll button, and squeeze-at-the-sides button.

And all for S$88. I could probably get it, but will see first.

Interesting tidbit from Apple:
Mighty Mouse even sounds as good as it feels. The audio feedback built into Mighty Mouse provides an aural sensation that responds to your movements. When you scroll or click, Mighty Mouse produces subtle sound effects based on your actions.
Audio feedback? From a mouse? According to one personal review that I've read, the sound isn't as loud as that which is produced by moving parts. Which means that it's loud enough so that you know a scrolling action is being performed, but not loud enough that it's irritating. I'll have to try this for myself to understand it better.

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