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the simple life

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


A work in progress, but fascinating enough to be screened already.

From the Rotterdam Film Festival website.

Work in progress definitely.

Fascinating maybe not.

I walked out of the cinema and told my friend:

It's not CNN.

Maybe I'm so used to the violence of Hollywood and the immediacy of embedded journalism that something about the "lives, hearts, and minds of those living in Iraq during the tumultuous days after the fall of Saddam" isn't fascinating enough.

Especially when its so indirect, seemingly random and inconclusive.

At the end of the film, the protagonist, a film director looks at the camera and asks "Who are you"?

I am a child of TV.

And I'm bored.

Fem benspænd, De

All of his meddling failed to produce the desired result, which was to force Mr. Leth, a chilly perfectionist, to make an imperfect film.

According to A.O Scott.

A perfect summary of The Five Obstructions.

Good stuff, this film. Not for everyone though.


It makes me think about how set my ways are. Like Mr. Seth, I always have a particular approach to my work, to problems, to thinking.

It hardly changes.

By imposing these five obstructions to Seth, von Trier wants to violently force Seth out of his comfort zone.

His goal is clearly to shatter Mr. Leth's nearly superhuman composure, to wrench him out of longstanding habits and techniques and to break down his aesthetic and psychological defenses.

He fails miserably.

The irony of it all is that his failure is to get Mr. Seth to fail.

It goes to show how stubborn humans are and how a movement such as Dogme, with its Vow of Chastity can be so valuable to innovation and art.

Of Love and Eggs

Nugroho’s newest work is a delight to watch.

The film festival booklet proclaims.

I was really looking forward to my only Asian entry for the festival.

Afterwards, I was slightly disappointed. My impression of it was that it tried to be an Iranian film.

Minus the magic.

After all, there are similarities. Children. Islamic values and background.

I read a review that describes this as a Neo-Islamic film, in the vein of early Egyptian comedies.

I thought it would be much better if there are less characters to focus on. It wasn't confusing but I didn't have enough time to fall in love with any of the characters. I didn't like the happy ending, was hoping for more irony.

To be fair, I think I'm disappointed because of my expectations and bias towards certain Iranian films.

I must say the lead actress is hot. She looks like Halle Berry.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

ITE Rules

Underdogs who came up tops

22 April 2005
By Veena Bharwani

IT was sweet revenge.

The foursome had felt snubbed by other teams, simply because their English wasn't polished.

And because they were mere ITE students, the only ones in the contest.

In the end, however, they beat 39 other teams - including those from JCs, polytechnics, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University - to win the annual IBM Women's Leadership Competition.

This year, teams had to present their views on how women today can lead fulfilling lives at work, play and in the community.

Unlike the other teams, the ITE team did not put up fancy presentations on famous women leaders, or organise sophisticated surveys.

Boldly, they just presented their own lives.

And while no heroines on the academic front, these young women are trailblazers in other spheres.

Hemalatha Arudas, 17, is a hockey player who has played for Singapore in New Delhi and Korea.

She hopes to take part in the Olympics one day.

Budding entrepreneur Michelle Santiago, 19, runs a hamper business at school.

Nurhidayah Zainal, 17, gives up her Saturdays to teach basic computer skills to students at the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

Tiffany Tan, 19, organises ITE events and plans birthday parties at childcare centres like My Little Cottage.

The team members, from different ITE campuses, summarised their lives in a video that they presented to the judges, who included Ms Patricia Yim, managing director of IBM Singapore.

Yet they never expected to win - and had received the cold shoulder from other teams.

Said Michelle: 'On the day of the finals, we told a tertiary team's mentor that we were from an ITE. Her face changed immediately.

'It was as though the other teams thought we were not good enough for the competition, as it is a prestigious competition and ITEs are not prestigious.'

The team sensed similar vibes from other teams.

But though 'really insulted', they chose to focus on the competition.

On the day of the finals, in February, they triumphed.

Said Michelle: 'When we went to receive our prize, other teams couldn't believe we had won. They didn't smile or anything.

'In fact, the same mentor just said, 'It's a very normal presentation'.'

But organiser IBM said that it was the team's sincerity that clinched the win: 'Their aspirations and ambitions were very real and achievable, and they demonstrated the small steps and efforts in realising these achievable goals.'

Other teams also acknowledged the impact of their inspirational presentation.

Said Sri Ranjini Mei Hua, of second-placed NTU: 'It was very different as they were presenting their lives instead of someone else's life.'

And all four ITE students are truly passionate about their lives.

Just take fiery Hemalatha, who is truly hockey-crazy - yet faces strong pressure from family members to quit. They feel playing hockey is unladylike.

But she won't be knocked off the pitch so easily. She spends more than 10 hours a week training, citing the example of other successful sportswomen, like former national hockey player Geraldine Ho.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Make-Believe Town

I have more than enough to read. But I was in the library the other day and the quote on the back cover of a book caught my attention:

"Writing, in my experience, consists of long periods of hanging out, punctuated by the fugue of remorse at the loss of one's powers, and wonder at occasional output in spite of that loss.....I hear, as do we all, of those people who spend eight to ten hours a day at their typewriters, and I think, has no one told them of The Nap?"
- David Mamet, Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembrances


Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Whisky is global cinema at its best.

Film Threat's words, not mine.

Seems like I'm on a roll here. 2 superb films out of 3.

Not too bad.

"Whisky has no big, dramatic moment to allow for spleen-venting soliloquies. Instead, it is a symphony of small gestures, throwaway glances, brief exchanges of unexpected observation and silences which actually say more than pages of dialogue."

It is a very understated film. Many things are left unsaid. We are left to guess, to stare and to fill in the blanks.


Performances are marvelously unforgettable. If you have a chance, visit the Film Threat link and check out the poster. Very nice, especially for those who have seen the film.

Don't say cheese.

Say whisky.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


This is one of the best films of the year.

Roger Ebert's words, not mine.

Millions was the 2nd film I saw at SIFF. I'm glad they are showing this delightful comedy commercially so you guys better not miss it.

What is it about?

It's about a kid who takes God seriously.

Don't fret, it's not a religious film and it's really funny.

The ending could be better but it is mostly satisfying, I assure you.

Anyway, in tribute, here's Ryan (as seen on Oprah) who digs wells in Africa.

And Water Aid, where Danny Boyle donated part of its budget to.

For more about the film and its director, read this interview.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Route 181

Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel was my entry point to this year's Singapore International Film Festival.

It was 4.5 hours long and so you'll naturally like to know:

Was it worth it?

I guess that really depends on your definition of documentary. If you want an unbiased account of the Palestinian-Israeli issue, this is not it. Neither can it provide for a historical framework to understand this issue. Rather, it takes the voices of the people and allows these views to serve as commentary.

What's wrong with that? After all, isn't hearing from the people who are in the heart of it all the most important thing?

I agree it has tremendous value but this is an emotional issue and you need clear heads for this one.

Especially if you're the audience.

Because you might go away watching this and think that Jews are murderous scums and the Palestinians innocent victims. Any documentary that presents such a clear-cut picture needs to be reexamined. Its not always that simple.

I was extremely disturbed by some members of the audience who laughed loudly, derisively, mockingly at some of the Jews being interviewed. It is precisely such attitudes that prevents peace and understanding.

I do especially like the end when a Moroccan Jew, a mother whose son died in the conflict, commented: "Sharon and Arafat should be shot with their mothers."

Both sides are guilty and both need to work together before peace can come.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Piracy in China

"In China, piracy is so entrenched that even the pirates complain about it. According to an article by Anne Stevenson-Yang and Ken DeWoskin in the March issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review, Chinese storekeepers who sell fake DVDs for 10 yuan gripe about street vendors selling them for seven. And the street vendors complain about competitors offering two-for-one specials."

For more, read this.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A ready defense

Lately, for some reason, many people have been asking me for my criteria for a girlfriend.

Far too many people.

I don't have a criteria. At least it's not something I think about. I think having a criteria for a girlfriend is not as easy as having an idea of your dream home.

A door, two windows and long corridors.

Enough about objects of desires (another screenwriting term).

It's unnatural for me to set one too. What happens if you set one and you meet a girl that's totally opposite of that but she just makes you go wild. Who do you remain faithful to?

Anyway, just to get people off my back, I'll need to design an answer. It's much easier to have an answer than explain why there is no criteria. It's shorter anyway.

I'm going to quote Goethe, from The Sorrows of Young Werther.

"So much simplicity with so much understanding, so much goodness and so much resolve, and tranquility of soul together with true life and vitality."

The short version - fully alive.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Story Design

My mom is something else.

I got home today. She opened the door for me and immediately went on to turn on my router and modem, which she usually does.

I told her to stop and that I will be not be needing the computer for now.

You see, that's what I usually do when I get home - turn on my computer.

I surf. I chat. I read. I watch television. All on my computer.

"Don't frighten me!"

She said to me in Cantonese.

My mom associates my work with the computer. Rightfully so. She must think I've lost my job, although that never happened to me before.

"You're giving me a heart attack."

She went on to say.

So I told her I wanted to read. I haven't dedicated enough time to reading lately. And I realized I won't get any reading done if I don't plan for it and set apart time. Besides, since I work so much on the computer at work, I shouldn't be doing too much of that at home.

I went to McDonald's to read, knowing that a computer sitting at home turned off will tempt me to do something about that.

I'm reading Robert McKee's Story, an influential book on screenwriting.

I'm actually re-reading parts I have read before although I never finished it. But what I am reminded of again is that screenwriting is all about design. Nothing happens by accident. There is a plan. Everything happens for a reason.

Even in good antiplot films, there is a reason why illogical, apparently random events happen.

I'm constantly aware of aspects of life that are now happening randomly.

It's time for me to go back to the drawing board.

For a start, I've designed it in such a way to finish the book in a week's time, from where I ended off. Meaning 2 chapters a day and I will be done with that on the 22nd.

You can say that this is an Inciting Incident, described as an event that "radically affects the balance of the forces in the protagonist's life."

A hell of a start.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tenderness (Part 2)

"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life. " - Proverbs 4:23

I pay a lot of attention to my mind. I read. I discuss issues with friends. I do research on the internet. I spend a lot of solitary time thinking about things.

So when the above verse was shared, it struck me.

Above all else - guard your heart.

Let's not get into a complicated arguement on what is the heart and what is the mind. Let's, for simplicity sake, conclude that the heart is the emotional core of a person.

One of the things I struggle with constantly is my love for God. There are a lot of things I know about God - His love, His plan, my destiny in Him and His commandments. I know, in my mind of minds, that to fear God and keep His commandments is the most important thing in life.

Of course, I sin like everyone else. But what I struggle with is my love for Him. The things that I do for Him, do I do it out of love or out of a sense of responsibility and integrity. Many times I feel it's the latter.

When my friends tell me something that hurt them or disturb them greatly, I always tell them about the root of their problems or ask them to be strong and to look towards the future. It's always a rational approach, based on analysis and logic. But I almost never asked them -

How do you feel?

Yesterday, a friend of mine told me he just got a girlfriend. Instead of congratulating him, I was like "What she's like?" I was more interested in knowing the facts rather than affirming his emotional needs.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy about my ability to look at problems. Its a gift and a strength. But I believe that I need to look at my heart more, to pay attention to my feelings and the emotions of others. I believe I have a strong sense of empathy but I need to express it to people. I don't do that enough.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Tenderness (Part 1)

Some of us might believe that life is a series of random events.

I don't.

The last series of posts on INTJ almost never happened. But it did after an apparent random conversation with a friend who just completed the Myers-Briggs test.

It got me thinking about a lot of my personality, especially how I relate to challenges and problems. A lot of that is apparent as you see me blog about situations my friends and I face.

I would describe my evaluation of problems as ruthless. I'm not going to claim efficiency here. Simply this - I can think of solutions without letting emotions get in the way. Doesn't mean I always take the most logical decision.

Some of my friends do come to me for advice. I think it's probably they like my approach to problems.

Or maybe they have no friends.

Ruthlessness does have a price.

I just attended the G12 conference organised by my church. The message that spoke to me a lot was a sermon on tenderness and tears.

It was a timely message.

"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life. " - Proverbs 4:23

I have been paying too much attention to my mind.

Not nearly enough attention to my heart.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

INTJ (Part 3)

Famous INTJs:

Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers)
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
Chevy Chase (Cornelius Crane) (Fletch)
Hannibal, Carthaginian military leader
Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote)
C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor
Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense
General Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
Lance Armstrong
Richard Gere (Pretty Woman)

Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
Gandalf the Grey (J. R. R. Tolkein's Middle Earth books)
Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs)

This is a fascinating list. I'm proud to be among these luminaries (pretend not to see Rumsfeld).

Let's go through the list.

Dan Aykroyd. Good actor. Not the best. But I did watch Ghostbusters at least 15 times. In the cinema. No kidding. That's for another entry.

Jane Austen. I read Pride and Prejudice. Enjoyed it. Wished it was half as short though. Chevy Case. Another funny guy. I think I'm pretty funny when I'm in the mood. Maybe I should consider a career in stand-up.

Hannibal. Nothing like him. It was hell in the army for me. Even as a clerk.

Angela Lansbury. My heroine. Grew up watching Murder She Wrote. And Matlock too. They should team up and kick some CSI-ass. Love the Eureka moment as she figures things out and the big revelation minutes later. They don't seem to use this technique anymore. Shame.

C.S. Lewis. Wow. If I can write like him. He married for the first time when he was 53 years old. Shortly after his marriage, his wife died of cancer. Troubling. (Did you know C.S Lewis died on the same day that JFK was assasinated?)

Arnold "I can't spell his name" the Governor of California. I love Commando and Predator. I love San Francsico too. So he's ok in my book.

Rudy Guliani. Tough decisive leader, unafraid to make tough decisions. I would like to be that kind of leader.

Colin Powell. Seems a nice guy, not much of an impression. But better than that bulldog "can't spell his name too" of a general in Gulf War.

Lance Armstrong. Another cancer victim. But he lives strong. Oh, before I win the Tour de France, someone better teach me how to cycle.

Richard Gere. Not my favourite actor. But he's the American Gigolo. He gets paid to get laid. Not a bad deal.

Mr. Darcy. Oh, I get to fall in love. The hard way. Still nice.

Gandalf the Grey. Why can't I be the elf?


Whether I am the beast or the beauty, I need help.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

INTJ (Part 2)

"As children, INTJs are often inwardly focused on their thoughts of the way the world is or ought to be; they enjoy day dreaming. They can be quite stubborn when information relayed to them by authorities, such as parents and teachers, contradicts what they believe. They are sure of their own belief system. INTJs are compelled to establish their own rules, boundaries, standards, and style. "

I enjoy day dreaming as an adult so there you go. Seriously, I used to day dream a lot more when I was younger. I used to be more rebellious of authority figures. But I am more submissive now thanks to my Christian values. Of course, I can do better.

"INTJs tend to find ways of acquiring knowledge. They gravitate toward libraries, public lectures, courses, and other learners and teachers - sources that offer them information and direction."

Bingo. Why do you think I hang out so often in Borders, libraries and museums?

"Some occupations seem to be especially attractive to INTJs: computer systems analyst, electrical engineer, judge, lawyer, photographer, psychologist, research department manager, researcher, scientist, university instructor, and other occupations in which long-range vision is essential."

Oops. None of the above. Maybe I need to do some career planning here. I do like research and enjoy teaching.

"Wishing to control nature, the INTJ "scientist" probably has more difficulty than all other types in making up his or her mind in mate selection."

Oh dear.

"The INTJ "scientist" is also attracted to the ENFP "journalist," probably because of the enthusiastic, effervescent, and apparently spontaneous enjoyment and wonderment this type exudes-the very antitheses of the careful, thoughtful exactitude of the INTJ."

Anyone knows a ENFP "journalist", call me.

Now is a good time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

INTJ (Part 1)

A friend took the Myers-Briggs personality tests today so we had fun making fun of one another.

I'm an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking and Judging). I thought I post some characteristics of my personality type and have some fun.

"Inclined to focus on their own inner thoughts and abstract ideas INTJs often prefer working on their own, sometimes finding conversation and discussion an unwanted distraction from their desire to complete tasks in a systematic methodical way."

Yes, I have many inner thoughts, maybe too many. Abstract ideas, I don't know much about that. I lean heavily towards thoughts that can be distilled as simple as possible, for me to apply and to communicate with others.

Yes, I prefer working on my own. This is how I do my best work. I am my worst critic.

Yes, I like things done in a systematic methodical way. In the past, I used to be more domineering and lead discussions from the start so that things can be done my way. Now, I only do so when its really important or when no one stands up to the plate. Reluctant leader, I am.

"Quietly curious and introspective, they are inclined to focus on the deeper patterns and hidden meanings behind surface forms and structures. Thus, they tend to view life from a somewhat detached, academic point of view. Logical, analytical and orderly in their thinking they are motivated to get to the heart of theoretical issues."

Yes to introspective. But I'm not curious about everything. I'm not really keen on how things work - mechanically, electronically or scientifically. I'm more concerned about how ideas, concepts, philosophies affect people's lives. I'm curious about thoughts and ideas but not things.

Not so sure about academic. But detached I am.

"Having a strong sense of duty and responsibility they believe it is important to adhere closely to established methods and procedures, and will be committed to complete tasks on schedule and to the required standard. However, their emphasis on Thinking may cause them to question tasks and procedures that are not based on a sound logical analysis. "

Yes, I'm always questioning tasks and processes. I need to understand why we need to do something before I pour out my heart to do it. If there is no logical reason to do something, I will try my best not to do it or pass the buck. I only have a strong sense of duty and responsibility when I'm convinced of the importance of the task and my role in it.


Friends, please feel free to disagree with me. My logical and detached mind allows me to accept your criticism without affecting our friendship. My intellectual prowess tells me also that your perception may not always be the truth but it is helpful to know how others think. Be anonymous if you want.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth

I speed read this book some time last week, during lunch. Not aloud. Silently.

It's not worth buying. "Think and Grow Rich", it reminds me off. Still, a good reminder. And here are the main points:

1. Rich people believe "I create my life." Poor people
believe, "Life happens to me."

2. Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people
play the money game to not lose.

3. Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people
want to be rich.

4. Rich people think big. Poor people think small.

5. Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus
on obstacles.

6. Rich people admire other rich and successful people.
Poor people resent rich and successful people.

7. Rich people associate with positive, successful
people. Poor people associate with negative or
unsuccessful people.

8. Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their
value. Poor people think negatively about selling and

9. Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor
people are smaller than their problems.

10. Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are
poor receivers.

11. Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor
people choose to get paid based on time.

12. Rich people think "both." Poor people
think "either/or."

13. Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people
focus on their working income.

14. Rich people manage their money well. Poor people
mismanage their money well.

15. Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor
people work hard for their money.

16. Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear
stop them.

17. Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people
think they already know.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Give Me A Break 3

Oh, this is hilarious. Don't start whacking, hear him out first.



"I like it. You can never have too many tits in a movie."
Russ Meyer

Roger Ebert talks about Russ Meyer here: the end is especially funny.


If you like both Star Wars and M & M's, click here. I love the M-Stormtrooper.

The Eloquent Roy Keane

Here's an entertaining article on player/manager exchanges in football. An excerpt:

Roy Keane's appraisal of Mick McCarthy

When the Republic of Ireland's captain clashed with their manager in front of the whole squad during a pre-2002 World Cup training camp on the South Pacific island of Saipan, Keane delivered an appraisal of McCarthy that striker Niall Quinn described as "one of the defining moments in Irish history."

"People talk about Irish patriot Robert Emmet's speech from the dock," explained the gangly striker, "They talk about the oratory of Brendan Behan, Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins. But Roy Keane's 10-minute oration can be mentioned in the same breath. It was clinical, fierce, earth-shattering to the person on the end of it and it ultimately caused a huge controversy in Irish society"

We are happy to present a full transcript here in all its glory.

"You can stick the World Cup up your b*******, you *****. ****** ** * *** ** ****** **** ** f**** * ** c***** ****. *** you, ****** ***** ***** **** *** f*****, *****, e*****, d*****. **** ***. ***** *****, erroneous, x****, ****, v****. F*** y**. *******. *****. ********. What's more, you ******* ** ******* ***er."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005