Google Translate

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's Miss Universe time!

Jessica Tan, Miss Singapore Universe 2007
Soon, Jessica Tan will be competing with hundreds of other beautiful women for the title of Miss Universe. But the only thing anyone would hear from armchair judges is that our local girls "cannot make it" in the international arena.

Also, the last time Singapore made it to the semi-final was in the early 1980s, if I remember what I had read correctly. So perhaps Ms Tan does indeed have a very remote chance of getting in.

Evening gown
Nonetheless, I am glad of one thing: the evening gown has been radically improved. It looks much better than the travesty from last year.
Miss Singapore Universe 2006 evening gown

National costumeAt the National Costume Show
My first impression of the national costume was that it was very Chinese, which maybe doesn't reflect our multicultural society very well. But it actually does have little details from the costumes of the various races. Also, I thought it showed too much leg... until I realised that it was a skin-coloured skirt! Nice!

But I really pity Miss Canada, who has to wear sports gear as her national costume!

The contestants have rehearsed, the press has been primed, the stage is set. And soon there'll be a new beauty who will get to enjoy her 15 seconds of fame.

--

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No BlogOut for me :(

BlogOut, a gathering of bloggers in Singapore, was held this evening. I learned about it about a month before it and was eager to attend, you know, to meet other bloggers. (Even we need some face-to-face time, right?)

When registration opened, I registered, then sat back and waited for the actual day. Today came around and I was all set to go. Then I realised that I was supposed to get a confirmation reply, which I didn't!

Boo!

So, no BlogOut for me. Which I guess was just as well too, because I had to rush some urgent work, which saw me toiling in the office into the wee hours of the night.

--

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Spider-Man 3"

Spider-Man 3
As comic book movies go, the third parts always seem to suck. "Superman 3", where Superman fought a two-bit wisecracking crook and a gang of goons. "Batman Forever", which started the descent of the original franchise. And "X-Men 3: The Last Stand" was just idiotic.

Unfortunately, "Spider-Man 3" didn't seem to buck the trend. In spite of all of the negative comments that I had heard about it, I had high hopes. After all, millions of people who shelled out good money to push this movie to the top of the charts couldn't be wrong, right?

Alas, it had too much of a good thing. Three villains. Two girlfriends. A flashback that got tiring quickly. Underdeveloped characters. A flawed hero who was more humorous than menacing. And the villain who goes bad only because he wants to save his dying kid (how many times has that plotline been used?).

The worst part was that this didn't feel like a Sam Raimi movie, which means it didn't feel very Spider-Man-like. I was watching "Spider-Man 2" the other day and took notice of all of the little Raimi moments. Especially the B-grade horror/slasher homages, like the sudden zoom-ins and terrifying tentacle weapons slashing everything and everywhere. All of that was missing in this outing. The little touches that made the earlier Spider-Man movies one-of-a-kind were missing in this third part.

Even the funny moments seemed like they were forced into the script. Like the part when J. Jonah Jameson bargained with a little girl for her camera. I felt that the scene distracted the audience from the climactic final battle. The only joke that worked was when JJJ's desk kept getting buzzed, and I think it's only because J.K. Simmons could make the mean man look humbled and frazzled.

But this wasn't a JJJ movie, it was about Spider-Man and his villains. So Peter Parker had a brush with his dark side. For a movie that touted that the hero would be tainted, the dark part lasted for too short a time. Everything was building up to it, but that's just it: it was all build-up and the resolution (when he succumbed to the evil symbiote) came and went.

So he was Spider-Man the rest of the time, though he wasn't in his suit as often anyway. And he had one too many foes to deal with. I kept wondering how Spider-Man would defeat Sandman. Turns out he didn't, and the ending was a cop-out. And Eddie Brock was such a spoilt little brat that I didn't care for him at all. In fact, I wanted him out of the movie as soon as he came in.

The thing about villains is that they should have some characteristic that makes the audience think, "Oh yeah, he should live because..." Harry "Green Goblin" Osborn was driven by revenge when his company was pulled out from under his feet. Otto "Doctor Octopus" Octavius went mad with grief when he accidentally killed his wife. Flint "Sandman" Marko just wanted to give his daughter a better life.

But Eddie "Venom" Brock? He was already screwed up, but went crazier because Peter Parker made him lose his job and no one would hire him. Oh, go cry somewhere else, you mama-boy!

If there was one redeeming grace, it was Harry Osborn. Sure, he spent most of the time walking around with amnesia, but when he was in his New Goblin persona, he was wicked! I was definitely shocked at the ending. And it made me feel the way I felt at the ending of "X-Men 3".

The threesome of Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and Harry Osborn was broken. To me, that felt like the death knell for the franchise. Sure, Harry could come back like a spirit or flashback. But I don't think it'll be the same without him interacting in the "real world" with his two best friends.

Oh, and I missed the final scene of Spider-Man swinging through the streets of New York. Yup, this definitely seems like the end of the franchise.

--

Friday, May 18, 2007

Shutting up

We had reached an impasse. The team didn't know how to proceed. He looked at the plan. He couldn't execute the plan. I saw a possibility. I spoke up. He didn't respond. I said something else. No response again.

And I learned a valuable lesson. He didn't want to hear me. He wasn't interested in hearing me. Or anyone else. He only wanted to hear from one voice. The voice that he enjoyed hearing. And enjoyed bantering with. Because the voice belonged to the only one who mattered to him... and his livelihood.

So I shut up. Like everyone there. Why bother? Let the dialogue continue between the two of them. And I faded into the background.

---

There's no "I" in "team", but there is a "me".

--

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cat on the car

Cat on car
I returned home this evening to find the estate's cat, Pearl, lying on the roof of the family car. She meowed when she saw me, beckoning me over. And like a person needing something whimsical to do, I walked over and rubbed her cheek.

We'd "danced this dance" many times before. She turned her head this way and that, letting me reach the other parts that, I assumed, needed soothing. And it was soothing for me to play with a creature that welcomed my attention.

Fur flew all over the car roof as I played with her for a few minutes. Then I decided that it was enough and started to walk away. She saw me leave and scampered off the car (but not before I took the picture!). She then circled around my legs, rubbing against me the way cats do when seeking attention.

It'd become something of a habit for me to look for her when returning home. Playing with her is a nice way of relaxing after working the whole day. And since she's used to my company, I don't have to worry about being scratched or bitten (though she will strike if I rub her stomach).

But I don't feed her. That's where I draw the line. I wouldn't want the cat to become "clingy" to me.

--

Transformers -- ugh!

Optimus Prime (movie)Megatron (movie)
Optimus Prime (cartoon/toy)Megatron (cartoon/toy)
I can't keep it inside me any longer. The robot designs for the upcoming Transformers movie are gross!

Michael Bay, the director, released eight images of the Transformers. These look nothing like the Transformers I know! Compare the live-action design with Optimus Prime's classic cartoon depiction. Or Megatron's cartoon look. Why would anyone want to mess with these familiar designs???

When news of the movie were first announced, I wasn't sure how the robots would appear in what was supposed to be a realistic film. Transforming sentient robots, in themselves, already require a great leap of imagination.

Then, the first pictures of these insect-like, spindly mechanical creatures were released, and I was utterly creeped out. They looked like pieces of shrapnel stuck together. Where were the graceful forms? Where were the vehicular parts that made up the bodies?

Even the Autobots (the good guys) looked terrifying to me! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

I guess I'll still watch the movie when it hits the big screen, mostly because it'd be a blast from the past. But as of now, I'd much prefer enjoying the animated movie, especially since I bought the 20th anniversary special edition of "The Transformers: The Movie", heh.

The other depicted Transformers: Bumblebee, Jazz, Ironhide, Starscream, Blackout, Frenzy

--

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Some statistics on homosexuality

Recently, a government leader said that there may come a time when Singapore will have to give homosexuals as much freedom and rights as heterosexuals. Given this leader's esteemed stature, his statement set off a flurry of emotional responses.

One letter to the press, written by Jonathan Cheng Hern Sinn on May 1, 2007, touched on some topics that raised the ire of many readers. While I thought that what he said was from a biased viewpoint, I thought that I should take an objective approach and see if there was any evidence to back up his claims.

Caveats:
  • This is not a scientific study. My sample of countries was based primarily on the legal status of homosexuality, i.e. if same-sex marriages or unions are allowed, and if there are penalties against homosexual acts. For countries that were not favourable to homosexuals, I selected countries randomly, though most of them ended up to be Asian or African (perhaps due to their more conservative natures).
  • Due to availability, figures were taken from a variety of sources. Where possible, I tried to use similar reporting years, mostly on or after 2001.
My collection of data.

Here's what I found:
Quote: "My expatriate friends find Singapore a conducive place in terms of its low crime and cleanliness."
Unfortunately, crime statistics were difficult to come by for about half of my sample. But from what I could dig up, homicidal rates were tied more closely with a country's status of development (based on GDP per capita and unemployment rate) than legality of homosexuality. And the rate of reported rapes did not seem to depend on any particular factor, i.e. developed status, homosexual legality, region.

Again, note that this is inconclusive because crime statistics were unavailable for less developed or more conservative countries.

Quote: "One does not find pornography sold openly in a neighbourhood shop."
Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to look for any statistics on the sale of pornography. Based on anecdotal evidence, though, one would be more likely to find pornography sold openly in American and European countries, which also tended to be favourable towards homosexuals. On the other hand, the illicit trade of pornography has been known to be brisk in Asian countries, which were less homosexual friendly.

Quote: "To legalise homosexuality will compound these problems (declining birth rate and breakdown of families), given that homosexual couples do not reproduce."
As amazing as it sounds, figures on marriages and divorces were also difficult to find on the Web! Based on what I found, the marriage rate seemed to be higher and divorce rates lower in countries where homosexuality was illegal.

But like crime rates, statistics on marriages and divorces were unavailable for less developed, more conservative (and homosexual unfriendly) countries.

Ah, but fertility rates were available. And yes, they were higher in countries that penalise homosexuality. In particular, the stricter the punishment (death or life sentence), the higher the fertility rate. However, in my sample, Singapore bucked the trend by having laws against homosexuality and being the country with the lowest fertility rate!

Quote: "This (homosexuals' promiscuous and hedonistic lifestyle) increases the risk of STDs, Aids, etc, further increasing the risk to the general population."
I found that this statement could swing both ways (pardon the pun). In countries that had the death penalty against homosexuals, there was a lower incidence of people living with HIV/AIDS (both homosexual and heterosexual). But there was a higher incidence in countries with more lenient punishments, i.e. jail or fine.

So one could make the case that a strong deterrence against homosexuality could result in a lower rate of HIV/AIDS. But if you were lenient, then people would take advantage of the situation and become more promiscuous.

And what of homosexual friendly countries? They were in the lower-middle range, meaning they were relatively "safer" (as the conservatives would spin it) against HIV/AIDS.

In conclusion:
  1. Homicidal rate was more dependent on a country's developed status.
  2. Fertility rate was lower in countries where homosexuality was legal.
  3. Inconclusive about relationship between legality of homosexuality and rape, marriage and divorce rates.
  4. More people living with HIV/AIDS could be found in countries that had more lenient punishments against homosexuality. But countries that legally recognised homosexuals had lower incidences of such people.
So it would seem that I've lent fire to both sides. Just to repeat: this is not a scientific study! I'm sure a more thorough study would be able to bring out some concrete conclusions.

--