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Friday, March 31, 2006

"Batman Begins IMAX"

Batman Begins
It's been a long time since I've been to the Singapore Science Centre, yet alone its companion Omni-Theatre. I think the last time I was there, I was in primary school, or more than 15 years ago...

But I was back there last night, though not to visit any scientific exhibitions. Sure, there was "The Art of Star Wars" going on, but I'd procrastinated on it to the point where I didn't want to go to it. In the dark of the night, coupled with my long absence and the newly renovated entrance, I felt lost finding my way to the ticketing counter.

And bought my ticket for "Batman Begins"!

My first ever IMAX fiction movie. Sure, I'd seen other IMAX films before, but those were the scientific documentaries. This was my first time watching a Hollywood film in IMAX. It cost me $12 (with free no-expiry one-time admission to the Science Centre), but I thought it was good money for a good movie. Besides, I'd also be supporting the Science Centre, so I racked up some karma points too.

I had a couple of minutes to kill before the movie started, so I watched some kids play in the outdoors water park (water must be cheap in water-scarce Singapore), then read some posters on the origins of the Earth and life.

I felt lost again as I entered the Omni-Theatre. There was the ticketing counter, as I remembered, but no signs to the hall entrance. Fortunately, my memory had not failed me in remembering that it's behind the counter. In the entrance, on one wall hung the posters of previous IMAX movies, including one for Disney's "Beauty and the Beast".

I entered the hall and, since it was free seating, settled on a seat in the middle of the hall. Big mistake. Given the size of the screen, the best seats are actually in the last three rows. So just before the movie started, I quickly changed seats.

BTW the seats don't seem to have been changed since the Omni-Theatre opened (how many years ago was that?).

The movie itself was exactly as I had remembered it. It was still shown in 16:9 format, instead of warped to fill the domed screen. If the fight scenes were disorienting in the original format, they were dizzyingly more so in IMAX. I tried to follow the punches and kicks and throws, but it was a strain on my eyes. Christopher Nolan just isn't a fight director.

I also thought it'd be cool to see Batman soar or the Batmobile jump at me in IMAX. Alas, those were not to be.

From this experience, I've learned that there is nothing really special about movies in IMAX format. You get a slightly larger picture and the sound may be better. But they don't make full use of IMAX, i.e. the huge screen.

Or maybe I'm over-generalising. The "Apollo 13" trailer did fill the whole screen. It's quite a treat to see rocket engines flare to life at that magnification.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Miss Singapore Universe 2006

(To all you horny buggers who found my blog when searching for "miss singapore universe" or "cheryl tay" or such terms (including, surprisingly, "swyn teo" and "natasha riard"), this is for you.)

In keeping with my one-year-old tradition of being shallow, I'm going to give my $0.02 of this year's Miss Singapore Universe finalists. Note: not "contestants". There were 25 contestants, seven were kicked out, leaving 18 finalists.

(The 18 finalists in surname alphabetical order are Juliana Chan, Carol Cheong, Viola Choo, Ginnie Goh, Annabelle Liang, Geraldine Loo, Genecia Luo, Naazrina Mohamed, Zeenat Nisha, Christine Ong, Agatha Phua, Ssunita Rai, Jade Seah, Vanessa Tan, Andrea Teo, Michele Tsai, Jeannette Wee, and Weng Yifei.)

Maths aside...

Previously, I rated all 18 finalists. But that got a spat of nasty comments. And I felt bad about it because I felt like I was rating meat.

So this time, I'll pick those who may have a shot at the crown. The latter part of that sentence means that a few girls won't make it to my list:
  • non-Chinese (or at least not Chinese looking) -- I'm not being racist, it's just based on the history of the competition
  • short-haired lasses -- alas, this is also based on history... and the male preference for long hair
Having said that, here's my prediction:
Genecia Luo#1: Genecia Luo
Age: 23
Occupation: Occupational therapist
(Multiply) (Blogger)
(Flickr)

Word on the street is that she's the favourite to win. And why not? She's beautiful, she looks confident, she knows how to pose.

But she may have some competition from...
Geraldine Loo#2: Geraldine Loo
Age: 20
Occupation: Marketing communication officer

Apparently another crowd favourite. Her picture doesn't seem to do her justice here, but from what I've seen in the TV ads, she's definitely a looker.
Andrea Teo#3: Andrea Teo
Age: 22
Occupation: Undergraduate

Another pretty lady, and again, another crowd favourite. Hmm, looks similar to Genecia. Will that be a negative for her if Genecia really is the front runner? I don't think the judges would want a "clone" for the first runner-up.

Having said that, if I were a judge, I'd pick the following girls (in reverse order):
Jeannette Wee#3: Jeannette Wee
Age: 22
Occupation: Undergraduate

In her photos, she seems to have this innocent, wide-eyed, doe-eyed look. The "Oh wow, I can't believe I'm on Miss Singapore Universe!" kind of look. The look that makes me say, "Aw, shucks! Let's just send her to Miss Universe so that she'll have even more stories to tell her grandkids."
Michele Tsai#2: Michele Tsai
Age: 22
Occupation: Postgraduate

I think this is the deja vu girl. There's one finalist who, every time I see her for the brief moment on TV, I think, "Hey, it's Cheryl Tay!" It's either Michele or Jade Seah, but I think Michele looks nicer, heh.

In a way, she looks like Miss Singapore Universe 2005. And what can I say, I've grown to appreciate Ms Tay's looks.
Weng Yifei#1: Weng Yifei
Age: 23
Occupation: Laboratory biologist

But if I had to pick the winner, Yifei would be it. She has this air of strong self-confidence and the behaviour of a top model. It's like she knows what she wants and damned be the person who gets in her way.

(I don't know what she's like in real life, so don't ask me!)

Yeah, she's got short hair, but guess what? It works for her. If you ask me to name the finalists based on their pictures only, she'd be the only one I can name on my first try. And I think that's a plus for her: instant recognisability. Whether that translates to success in a pageant is something I cannot predict.

And if her job is exactly as it's listed, hey, beauty + brains!!!

So these are my picks for this year's Miss Singapore Universe. Note that I haven't attended any press conferences or outdoor exhibitions or MediaCorp event. Everything I've said is based on their pictures, the website and the occasional TV commercial. I didn't even vote for anyone by SMS.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

"V for Vendetta"

V for Vendetta
Jeff and I watched "V for Vendetta" today. Again, it's another comic book-based movie. And again, I had never read the comic before, though I'd heard of it. Like "Sin City", this is probably as close to the comic as I'm going to get.

Initially, I had thought that it was interesting that such a movie would be screened in Singapore, for a couple of reasons:
  • it's about a man engaging in terrorist activities,
  • the government portrayed in the movie believes that it does what it must for the good of the people,
  • it's rated NC-16, so it wasn't restricted to adults only,
  • it's election season here in sunny Singapore
After watching it, I felt that the political message had been overhyped. While there was a lot of politics in the back story, the movie is really about a man's revenge against the authorities for things done against him and his fellow prisoners. It was about a man who knew no other way to enact that vengeance except by destroying the symbols of power, e.g the high court and parliament building.

In other words, it's a sad, tragic story.

I suspect that most people who watch it will gloss over the political message (or be confused by it) and focus on V's story. And maybe that's why it's a "safe" movie (aside from it also being a blockbuster, and therefore must be screened).

There were many things that were good about the movie, but the part that I enjoyed the most? Okay, this probably sounds weird, but I really enjoyed listening to Hugo Weaving's voice. Ever since I saw him in the "Matrix" trilogies, I've always been enraptured by his voice. I don't know how to describe it, but his enunciation plus its deep tone makes it stand out from others. Even from behind the mask, his voice stood out distinctively.

It's like listening to Agent Smith all over again, except that now he's on our side, heh.

After the movie, it was dinner with Jeff and Angela, then I headed home.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

MBA a marketing liability?

AdAge.com
Well, this is a fascinating marketing article that I came across (free subscription required).
Marketing executives from 18 underperforming companies [...] were twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies [...]
It seems that the high flyin' MBA isn't as well regarded in certain professional fields. I've heard of something like this before, that MBAs are not as exclusive as they once were. That story had something to do with the high number of MBAs being churned out of China...

With regards to this article, theories are that "(u)nderperforming executives, particularly ones with M.B.A.s, spend more time filling out surveys, or are more likely to be in contact with consulting firms like the one that administered the study."

My own theory is that these MBA-types think the same way. Marketing is about promotion of a product or service. To promote effectively, the message must stand out from other messages in a crowded media-scape. To stand out prominently, the message must be out-of-the-box.

Out-of-the-box thinking is the opposite of herd thinking. MBA is herd-thinking. Therefore, an MBA is a liability to a marketer.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, further down the article:
"(M)arketers that outsource marketing-services functions the most actually have higher staffing levels than ones that outsource less."
I wonder if this applies to outsourcing in other fields as well. Singapore is big on outsourcing. Hmm, could this be a counter-intuitive way of increasing employment?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Two clicks to file taxes

According to the news, the taxman has simplified this year's e-filing of taxes. Instead of seven clicks of the mouse, you will only need two. And there are just two forms to complete.

Aside: Can we please get rid of the "e-" prefix??? That was so 20th century!

So what is this new system? And how does it work? Let Yuhui show the way.
Step 1: (after logging in)
"Q: Please state your income for YA 2005: ______"
<type> <type> <type> <click "submit">
Step 2:
"Q: Please state your total expenditure, deductions and relief for YA 2005: ______"
<type> <type> <type> <type> <type> <click "submit">
Step 3:
"You saved _____. This is your total income tax for YA 2005. Have a nice day!"
See? Two clicks, two forms. Simple, right?

(YA -- Year of Assessment.
Welcome to Singapore, Land of Abbreviations)

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Haha, of course, the above is entirely satirical. As far as I know, none of it is true. I have never filed (Singaporean) personal income tax before, so I really don't know how the whole system works.

However, reading the news report reminded me of that American joke from the 1980s: "How much did you earn? How much did you save? Send that in."

...

But this year, Singapore has a budget deficit...

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Monday, March 13, 2006

First Singaporean PostSecret?

I hate myself for giving in to your sick desires. Everytime we have sex, a bit of my soul dies.
I'm a big fan of PostSecret. I read it every week. Heck, it's how I start my work week!

And this week, there appears to be the first-ever secret from sunny Singapore. And on stationery from a subsidiary of one of the two local media conglomerates no less.

I don't want to know who wrote it. After all, privacy is the main point of a secret.

I just wanted to highlight this. We all have dark secrets. Even if we live in a socially-engineered utopia.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

O.C.-ism

The O.C.
From The Heights:

Girls want to be chased by guys who are not interested in them.

Guys want to chased by girls who are interested in them.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

"Harness your bosoms!"

The local tabloid, The New Paper, ran a story on Sunday about a secondary school teacher (or teachers) who removed female students' bras that were deemed to be too colourful. For the rest of the day, those girls remained bra-free -- even after they were done with school for the day.
Punishment strips students of dignity

Take off your coloured bra.

Now spend the rest of the school day without it.

And go home without it as well.

That is what some students in a secondary girls' school had to go through.

The problem is which is worse: Wearing a coloured brassiere in school or going around without wearing one at all?
And later in the article...
'As a school we are concerned with the development of good values in our youth,' said the principal in an e-mail reply.

'The school would like our students to develop a sense of decorum and modesty.'
Hmm, tell that to the bra-less girls who were seen in public in semi-translucent blouses. Whither decorum? Or modesty? And I didn't know public embarrassment is a "good value".

This incident reminds me of a quote from the second episode of "Boston Public":
Harvey Lipschultz: Wear a bra, for the good of the country.

[later]

Harry Senate: [as girls are removing their bras in the hallway, in defiance of Lipschultz' "patriotic rule"] They must all be a bunch of communist sluts.
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Wrong number

Today marks the first time I received my first wrong number call on my handphone. As in the dialler had legitimately misdialled a number and got my phone, not some prankster randomly dialling numbers.

At least I think it's legitimate.

Instead of dialling "3" at the end, the person dialled "9". Thus my phone rang, I answered, and wondered why a Chinese-speaking woman was asking for some other person. Fortunately, that was settled pretty quickly and painlessly.

When I first subscribed to my handphone, I deliberately picked a number from the new batch of mobile numbers, i.e. those starting with "8". This was because mobile numbers are "recycled", i.e. old numbers that are no longer subscribed to are added to the pool of available numbers. Inevitably, this leads to calls from people asking for the previous subscriber. I didn't want to deal with that. Also, since fewer people have numbers starting with "8" instead of the older "9", my contacts are more likely to recognise my number.

So anyway, back to this post. Yup, my first wrong number. Blah.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bloggers outing at Settler's Cafe

After an aborted attempt at karaoke before Chinese New Year, a few of us bloggers finally got around to organising a get-together. We were to meet at Settler's Cafe at Clarke Quay (really North Canal Road opposite the Speaker's Corner at Hong Lim Park).

Angela and I arrived slightly before 2pm, and even though the outlet was supposed to open at that time, it remained closed until about five minutes after. Such is Singaporean flexi-time that even establishments observe lateness.

Jeff joined us later, followed by Kelly and Eddy, "the host and hostess" because they made the reservation. We selected our package ($48 for six drinks, snacks, and two hours of gaming), ordered our drinks, then selected our games.

BTW Settler's Cafe is a hang-out place where you can play non-electronic games, e.g. board games, card games, etc.

We played:
  1. "unknown name of card game"
    We are given a stack of cards with four "suits" corresponding to four different types of fruit (e.g. banana, grape, etc). Each card shows between one and five of the fruit (e.g. one banana, two grapes, etc). Each of us receives an equal number of cards.

    Going around the table, each person lays out a card. When there are five of a fruit showing (e.g. two grapes from player A and three grapes from player C = five grapes on the table), the first person to ring a bell gets all of the cards on the table. The objective is to gain all of the cards.

    I admit that I have a slow reaction. In the end, it came down to between Eddy and Angela, and Eddy finally won.

  2. "Apples to Apples"
    This was probably the most subjective game. In the box are two stacks of cards: green and red cards. On each green card is an adjective (e.g. "important", "charming", etc.). On each red card is a noun (e.g. "Atomic bomb", "John F. Kennedy", etc.). Each person gets seven red cards.

    Going around the table, a person will be the "judge" and show a green card. The other players will then pick one of their red cards which they think best matches the adjective. The "judge" then decides which red card should win. The person who gave that red card wins the green card. The winner is the person who wins a certain number of green cards.

    Given how the winner is determined by the "judge"'s impartiality, wit and command of English, it is no wonder that I didn't think much of it. And no, it's not because I didn't win.

  3. "Dawn Under"
    Each player is given fourteen "vampire" cards, facing down save for four. Each player also receives three "garlic" cards with a colour representing the player. Each vampire is a certain colour (e.g. red, white, etc.) On the board are several "graves" covered by "stone slabs". Each stone slab has a colour (e.g. red, white, etc.) or a rat.

    Going around the table, each player turns over a stone slab. If it has a colour (e.g. white) and the player has a vampire of that colour (e.g. white), then the vampire is placed in the grave. When a player has played his four face-up vampire cards, then he can reveal another four more from his deck.

    If the player doesn't have a corresponding vampire, then he can choose to place his garlic card in the grave.

    If the slab is a rat, the player can also choose to uncover the immediate surrounding slabs. The rat slab is then replaced by one of the extra slabs and it is not played again.

    If the grave is already occupied by another vampire, the player gets a stake. If a player collects three stakes, the other players give him one of their vampires each. If the grave has a garlic, then the one who placed that garlic will give a vampire to the player. If the garlic belongs to the player, then he receives a vampire from each of the other players.

    After a slab has been revealed and the corresponding action taken, the slab is replaced. The winner is the one who gets rid of all of his vampires.

    I quite enjoyed this game because it really is a memory game, since you have to remember which slabs have been revealed and what lies beneath. I'm pretty sure that a computer version could be programmed...

  4. "I'm the Boss!"
    Another board game, this time about wheelin' and dealin'. Each person plays a character. At the start of the game, each player holds five "bargaining" cards. Each card has things like "send someone on a trip" or "stop the action" or "I'm the Boss!"

    Going around the table, a die is rolled and a token is moved to a square. Each square states how many investors are to be involved and the number of shares in play (e.g. 4 investors and 5 shares). On some squares, specific characters may also be mentioned who must be involved in that round.

    Then the bargaining begins because of the unequal number of shares. Any player can say how many shares he wants, and to back his statement up, can play one of his cards (e.g. "send someone on a trip" so that player is out of the negotiation) or negotiate with the other players. The other players can, of course, play their cards to get the upper hand.

    Once a deal is arrived at, each player then receives some money corresponding to the number of shares (e.g. $2 million per share). About every alternate round, the amount per share goes up by a million dollars. The objective is to earn the most money.

    Initially, since we were new to the game, we would make bargains like "okay, you can have two shares, we'll all get one each". But later, some of us got greedy, e.g. "I want all of the shares and you guys get nothing", which would inevitably lead to bargaining and jockeying. There was never a round where someone got all of the shares, but there were one or two where a few of us ganged up against another player.

    If it sounds confusing, that's because it is. But isn't the game of business confusing? Anyway, when all of the money was counted, and even though I thought I had made some bad negotiations, I won.
Chin called about an hour after we had started to ask where we were. It turned out that he had gone to the Holland Village branch, so he didn't join us. Stephanie stopped by later and joined for the last two rounds of "I'm the Boss!"

And then our gaming hours were up, so we just hung out until after 6pm. Eddy and Kelly left for an evening appointment, and the rest of us took a taxi to Marché for dinner. We thought that the fare would come up to the same as taking a train or bus. Haha, stupid youths.

We ate, talked cock, pondered what to do next, and in the end, we went our separate ways at about 8:30pm.

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