31 July 2008

Under the same Moon (La Misma Luna)

I watched Under the same Moon (La Misma Luna), a Spanish language movie, a Cinema Europa at Vivocity on Thursday night. This overly-polished Mexican effort felt like a run-of-the-mill heart warming movie that studios like Disney used to churn out by the truckloads with a contrived, tearjerking end scene. The New York Times review described it most aptly:

'Like “Cinema Paradiso” and its tyke-centered ilk, “Under the Same Moon” places all its marketing eggs in the cute-kid basket, a container to which American art-house audiences seem particularly drawn. This time the bowling-ball eyes and scripted precociousness belong to the 9-year-old Carlitos (played by the 13-year-old Adrián Alonso), a Mexican moppet whose mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo), works as an illegal domestic in Los Angeles. Every week Rosario calls her son from the same pay phone, while the movie milks sentiment from their separation and semaphores their reunion, an event as preordained as the end credits.'

The life of the illegal immigrant in the USA as protrayed was that of grimness and hopelessness which definitely will require brave political decisions to resolve though none seem forthcoming. Solutions? Social timebomb? Well? Mere legislation may not be enough.

This movie is competent, that is if you like heart-warming and artificially sentimental movies, this is just the movie for you. 5/10

Addendum

Make no mistake, I do enjoy art house films and foreign films. I have also watched 'Life is Beautiful' and 'Cinema Paradiso' though those moppet-centred movies were just unappealing, they felt contrived. I generally avoid movies like 'Children of Heaven' and their irk. No thanks.

26 July 2008

Fine Dining for Monks

I had dinner at Li Bai earlier this evening. At the next table, my sister observed two monks, one in saffron and one in grey eating with some people. We observed that the one of the monks was wearing rimless glasses while another had a stylish frame. The monk in saffron also had a sliding mobile phone with a metallic casing and he was flipping through a mooncake brochure. The Li Bai chocolate truffle mooncakes! The monk in grey was also wearing a large watch with leather straps and after his dinner, he swaggered out. I had thought that these people had sworn off lives of earthly pleasures and when I saw them at the 2007 Restaurant of the Year, I was somewhat astounded. Yes, they could claim that this dinner was a treat given by their devotees and friends but had they not vowed to live a life which foresworn luxuries? And they had all the trappings of modern life, late model mobile phone, stylish glasses and what else? I really don't know, perhaps someone can enlighten me. Is this right for monks?

Swedish Infantry of the Army of Gustavus Adolphus



Swedish Musketeer




Swedish Pikeman
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It's funny when I bumped into Harry and Jane at the exact same spot in Borders last night as when I bumped into them a few years ago! As usual, they called out to me.

24 July 2008

My Canon Canoscan U676U is dying. Pity, it had served me well for about four years. Electronic items these days don't last, even Canon products. My old Canon BJ-200 printer last about three years too. The Epson replacement was not as long lasting.
The cold evening yesterday was perfect for running. After making the initial distance at 9:10, I went on for another kilometre or two. Not much. I should train for longer distances. I really really should get back to running 5 km every time.

I was also at Borders last night. I browsed but I did not find anything that I was looking for.

On an unrelated note, I don't like McAfee Security Centre but it came free with my system. I can't argue with free.

23 July 2008

Film Ratings

I rate films on a 0 to 10 scale. My typical rating would be 5/10 for the average film and 6/10 for a film with a few outstanding points, be it script, exceptional acting, excellent art direction, 7/10 and 8/10 for a film with a strong script and some memorable scenes and so forth. Most films from Hollywood would be 5/10. A bell curve. Here is the key to my ratings on a 0 to 10 scale.

9-10 - A cinematic masterpiece which I like. Films that attain this level will include Fellini's 'La Strada', Welles' 'Citizen Kane', Gilliam's 'Brazil', Coopola's 'Apocalyse Now Redux', 'Yojimbo', 'Trainspotting', 'Bleu', 'Blanc', 'Rouge', 'The Fight Club', 'Full Metal Jacket', '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb', 'Amelie from Montmartre'


7- 8 - A strong film with plotting. Above average but generally worthwhile. Films in this category will include 'Hot Fuzz', 'Memento', 'The Machinist', 'American Psycho', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', 'Zodiac', 'Seven', 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', 'The Ninth Gate', 'In the Mouth of Madness', 'Casino Royale', 'The Brave One', 'L.A. Confidential', 'Delicatessen', 'The Brothers Grimm', 'Lust, Caution', 'Nights of Cabira', 'The Bicycle Thieves', 'Platoon', 'Eyes wide shut', 'eXistenZ', 'Thirteenth Storey'

5-6 - A typical run of the mill piece. It can be competent but nothing extraordinary. The majority of movies released are rated at 5.0. A movie at 5.0 is not necessarily bad, it is merely the median. They are worth watching generally if one enjoys the subject matter and genre. Films in this category will include 'Paycheck', 'First Blood', 'Fantastic Four', 'When Harry met Sally', 'Lost in Translation', 'Chocolate', 'Resident Evil: Extinction', 'Panic Room', 'Transformers', 'Daywatch', 'Nightwatch', 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly', 'Kung Fu Panda', 'Leaving Las Vegas', 'The Deaths of Ian Stone', 'Angel (The Real Life of Angel Deverell)', 'Narco: The Secret Adventures of Gustave Klopp', 'The Matrix', 'The Transporter', 'The Transporter 2', 'Crank'

3-4/10 - Typical but marred by one or two irritating flaws. Derivative and exploitative possibly. Examples of movies at this score would include 'The Last Samurai', 'Radio On', 'Otoko-tachi no Yamato', 'From Hell', 'The Last Crusade', 'Get smart', 'Mars attacks', 'Batman', 'Batman returns', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', 'I not stupid', 'Battlefield Earth', 'V for Vendetta', 'The Matrix Revolutions', 'The Matrix Reloaded', 'Superman returns', 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', 'Serenity'

1-2 - Abysmal. Incomplete. Marred by technical flaws, bad script, bad acting, bad acting, incoherence. 'The Green Berets', 'Mr and Mrs Smith', 'Knocked Up', 'Equilibrium'

0 - This deserves derision for a variety of reasons. I haven't really found any film that deserves this as of this point.

After watching a film, I find that the immediate exuberance of the film, the images lingering in my mind, the manipulation of the director and everything will usually result in a higher rating from me, usually by an addition 0.5 to 1.0. Upon reflection and also comparison with previous films over the years, I will moderate the score. For instance, 'The Dark Knight' would be a 7/10 for me rather than an 8/10.

22 July 2008

The skies were overcast for most of today. Despite the overcast skies, there was some sunshine when I ran earlier. 10:10. I didn't run very far today. I should really be running 5 km.

Books I am reading

I'm reading 'The later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia' by William P. Guthrie. I finished 'Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen 1618 - 1635' last night. I was also looking through a pictorial, 'German Sturmartillerie at War Volume 1'.

What are you reading?

21 July 2008

19 July 2008

Pulau Saigon Bridge

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Sha Villa, Lloyd Road


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A stroll around town

After the recital, I was strolling around Raffles City. To my dismay, I found that Menotti had closed. Oh well. It was 10:15 pm and I wanted dinner. The Seah Street Deli was closed. Rocky Master's at Seah Street was closed.

I ended up with a horrid chicken wrap at McDonald's. I'm convinced that McDonald's is the worst fast food joint on this planet.

Speaking of horrid, despite Wilson's warnings, I tried Gloria Jean's time and time again. And every time I was there, I swore off their crap coffee, convinced that they serve the worse iced blended or non-blended coffee in town. I am giving up on this coffee joint. Even Starbucks isn't this bad.

I also noticed two fat prostitutes eating at McDonald's. There were three others deployed at the entrance of CHJIMES. After gobbling their McMeals, these two ladies of the night went to join their co-workers at CHJIMES. It was not surprising as the place was crawling with expatriates.

18 July 2008

Twenty Four Preludes


I was at the recital this evening where Lim Yan played Rachmaninov's twenty four preludes. I enjoyed myself.

Minor points to note:
  • The ushers had their walkie talkies on. The squelch function could be heard loud and clear in the recital studio. Unprofessional.
  • There were many kids. Many of the kids were fat. And the fat people stunk. One could smell them in the studio. I sat beside one.
  • The kids brought their backpacks and somehow, they had to zip up or zip open. Loud.

I don't play the piano or any instrument, I am not trained but I was familiar with Rachmaninov's preludes as I have heard it numerous times over the years. I can't judge it on its technical merits but I enjoyed tonight's performance. While Lim Yan is not Ashkenazy, but his fingers were deft.

Addendum

Lim Yan played all twenty-four preludes from memory. IMPRESSIVE!
Whee! It's Friday!

Australian Buy-A-Degree Universities

Australian Buy-A-Degree Universities

This is adapted and expanded from something that I had posted in the forum of the Reach Singapore group on Facebook.

I seem to observe quite a few people purchasing degrees in third rate Australian universities over the last two decades. From what I preceive, this is a big outflow of funds. I think that the government is aware of this substantial drain of funds.

Secondly, some of those who had studied there after purchasing their degrees have migrated there because of their experiences of the slower pace and the quality of life there. A house with a lawn in the suburbs and two SUVs anyone? The American dream? This is, of course, an indirect factor which had increased the migration rate from Singapore over the years. We are losing people.

I think there should be provision to make it possible for these people to get a place in a university here. If one does not want to lower the standards of the current universities now, is it not possible for additional universities with lower entry requirements and costs to be set up in Singapore to cater for these people? Give them alternatives. That way, the new generation will stay.

17 July 2008

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight


I just stepped out of the cinema two hours ago. I had gone to watch this new Nolan film with Siu Hean. 'The Dark Knight' is an impressive and heavy film of an anti-hero and the plotting easily tops 'Batman begins'. Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan have written and crafted the most absorbing and engaging of any Batman film yet. Faithful, yet retaining a dark vision that were lacking in the Burton and Schumacher movies, the Nolan's creation of a murderous Joker with his wilful slayings defines Batman and his opposite. The protagonist and the antagonist. The thesis and anti-thesis. Dualism. The viciousness, the orchestrated chaos (sounds contradictory eh?) and plotting were magnificient. Heath Ledger's performance was masterly and there were already calls for him to be nominated and given an Oscar. Bale, Oldman, Caine, Freeman were convincing. Perfect casting. 'You complete me'. What can I say?

How can Nolan maintain continuity and yet top this one? I cannot say. 8/10

Addendum

Siu Hean thought that Nolan should win the Oscar for the screenplay. Ledger's performance was definitely made possible by the intense and dark script provided. He has a point.

Arjun MBT

Arjun MBT


When national ambitions and a nation's technological base don't correlate, the product is a chimera which is thirty-six years in the making like the Arjun Main Battle Tank (MBT), and the drama hasn't ended. First mooted in 1972 after the victorious Indo-Pakistani War, the Indian government's attempt at an indigenous tank after the licence production of the relatively simple Vickers MBT, known as the Vijayanta in Indian service, was the Arjun MBT, a 58-ton vehicle with a superficial resemblance in appearance to the Leopard II and Type 90.


The project, was, of course, to enable India, which had sought the status of a great power, to be self-sufficient in tank design and production, thus much of the development was indigenous. The Arjun is equipped with a rather unique and supposedly accurate rifled 120mm developed in India. Even then, the Arjun has to depend on a German engine and transmission from MTU and Renk as it lacked the technological base to design and produce a 1500 hp diesel engine. Not many nations have that capability then and now.

The development was plagued apparently by integration problems and more likely than not, shifting requirements. Thirty-six years. Technology had not stood still in the field of armoured warfare, tank design and development. The resultant vehicle, it will appear, is that of a Cold War warrior.

Over the years, the project lingered as problems plagued it and when India finally bought T-72 and T-90s MBTs from the CIS to replace the aging Centurions and Vijayanta, it was clear that the writing was on the wall for the Arjun.

At various points in its development, there was talk of the Arjun being cancelled but national pride would not allow it. There was also thoughts of salvaging the project by mounting the turret on top of a T-72 chassis but nothing had come of it.

Today, the announcement finally came, the production of the Arjun main battle tank will be capped at 124 vehicles. This political move comes as no surprise as it will assuage national pride and allow the defence establishment to bow out with a bit of pride intact. That will, supposedly, be the end of a long saga, production of the first tanks have started and the Arjun will be produced in batches. None has been fielded though.
Addendum
After several decades, the Indian defence industry is still unable to design and develop a competitive MBT. The assembling of new batches of MBT will still be dependent on Russian diesels, parts and such. Billions down the drain, national pride notwithstanding.
The existence of Vijayanta, Centurions, Arjuns, T-72s and T-90s means having to stock 105mm, 120mm and 125mm rounds, surely, a substantive logistical issue if there is one.

Of meaninglessness, the sendings and an exercise in futility

Of meaninglessness, the sendings and an exercise in futility

Thinking back, I remember this tiresome person who has sent me a lot of links over the last decade or so. I think there must have been thousands. During that time when he was busy sending those links, I think I had at most visited ten percent of those URLs that he sent, maybe less. Those links that I visited were to sites of transient matters that had little substance and were mostly utterly forgettable. After a while, it became habitual for me to bin almost everything he sent. I suppose, he had thought that by sending these pointless links which he deemed cool in his little world, he was exhibiting a form of coolness, much like the numerous, forgettable mobile phones that he vulgarly sported over the years and was loudly exhibiting to everyone he knew. The desperation he was inadventently displaying reeked of his loserhood.

16 July 2008

Mohammed Sultan Road


Once, a rowdy place on weekends, today, Mohammed Sultan Road is a quiet place of restaurants. There are few pubs left.


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I went for a run just now. 7:58. I ran rather fast today. The glorious blue skies were filled golden clouds. A breathtaking sight.

I should really increase the distance of my runs. Heh.
Zero-rating food and books

I made a suggestion in the Reach Singapore group a week or two ago.

In the UK, certain items are zero-rated or exempted from VAT (Value-Added Tax, or GST in our parlance)

These items include food and books and more. Books, newspapers, magazines, talking books, printed music and maps VAT

Notice 701/10

Food for humans including meat, ready meals and cakes - but not food supplied for catering or hot take-aways, sweets including chocolate and other sweetened food, crisps, nuts and other savoury snacks, ice cream and cones, mineral water and other drinksVAT

Notice 701/14

In other words, Her Majesty's Government recognises that books are essentially for education and the uplifting of people. And HM government also recognises that food are essentials and in that sense, zero-rating food eases the burden of the people. Consumption like that of junk food, luxuries, snacks are taxed but basic staples are not. It sounds like a good idea to me. I hope the authorities will consider this aspect of the UK's implementation of the VAT.
Top religious figure charged with ten counts

Someone in a Facebook forum had thought that the arrest was the tip of the iceberg. It is entirely possible I suppose. It appears in the news today that Shi Ming Yi (real name: Goh Kah Heng), Buddhist abbot of many temples, is being charged with ten counts forgery, conspiracy and misuse of funds.

Quoting from a report in Channel News Asia:

"The monk faces four charges under the Penal Code involving two counts of alleged criminal breach of trust. He also faces one count of forgery for the purpose of cheating, and one count of abetment for allegedly falsifying accounts."

I would suppose the rumour-mongering mills out there are busy but a person is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. Having said that, I imagine that the commercial affairs department (CAD) must have a strong case to have brought this to court. The monk is a popular media figure.

15 July 2008

Head of Ren Ci Hospital arrested

Yet another big charity is in big trouble. This time, the head of Ren Ci Hospital has been arrested. Apparently, from what I have read in the papers, the charge against the holder of a Ph.D. from Mannin University is criminal breach of trust.

After the NKF and Youth Challenge scandal, I wonder how many more of these charities will the government unearth? I can't say that I am surprised by this turn of events.

On that note, I will like to know how much of each charity's donations actually go to the needy.

I remember that someone had wanted to donate toys to a children's charity, I will not say which one, but when he called, he was told that that charity had only wanted cash. What do you think?
Going Green

I just posted this on the Reach Singapore forum on Facebook:

I would like to know how viable it is for all new government buildings to adopt solar-power solutions. Likewise, consideration can be given to the conversion of government facilities to adopting solar power solutions. After all, the government are state entities and not profit-generating entities and they can afford to take a long term view for Singapore's sake.

Likewise, perhaps, a study can be launched to examine the provision of solar-powered solutions for future HDB blocks.

I understand that solar-power is economically unfeasible at present but I think a study can still be made to ascertain the viability. Perhaps, there are means. Cost reductions on a large scale. I think substantive large-scale solutions like solar power will make more of a difference and perhaps, make us partially energy-independent.

12 July 2008

Borders discount

25% off one full-priced book. Click here for the coupon. Offer ends on the 24th July 2008.

10 July 2008

Shop Rentals

I just got a list of rough rental figures. First floor. Location in mall unknown.

Square 2 - 23 psf
Centrepoint - 16.2 psf
Orchard Central - 40 psf
Amara - 10.5 psf
Sun Plaza - 20 psf
Tampines Mall - 25 psf
Far East Plaza - 17 psf
Illuma - 20 psf
HarbourFront - 14 psf
Plaza Singapura - 25 psf
Somerset 313 - 50 psf
Ion Orchard - 60 psf
People's Park - 30 psf
Sembawang Shopping Centre - 25 psf
Scotts Square - unknown
Peninsula Shopping Centre - 8 psf

Very rough figures as I said. Surprisingly the suburban malls have a higher psf than the older malls in Orchard Road. Better traffic I suppose. As for the older Orchard Road malls, I guess Orchard Road is oversaturated? Hmm..

09 July 2008

Books

I was at Borders today and I picked up 'The Killing Ground', a novel about the Ultramarines set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, 'The Art of Clint Langley: Dark Visions from the grim Worlds of Warhammer', 'The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road: 1567-1659' by Geoffrey Parker, 'Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain's Asian Empire' by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper and 'The grand Strategy of Philip II' by Geoffrey Parker.


I have just started on 'Battles of the Thirty Years War: From White Mountain to Nordlingen 1618-1635'. This is one of the most detailed military volumes that I have ever seen. From the bibliography, the primary sources include a lot of the documents, military manuals and such of that period. The secondary sources are even more extensive.

06 July 2008

I swam twenty laps this morning. I was at Boat Quay later and saw Citi-Milk Run.
The Bank Job


An interesting, heist film with Jason Statham as a believable antagonist. This was based on a real event though a lot of it might have been extrapolated. Nevertheless, the circumstances, plot and characters were convincing and the tension real, more so than most output out of Hollywood today. Splendid British period film. Recommended. 7/10.

05 July 2008

Saturday

I was at Borders earlier this afternoon and I didn't manage to find the volumes I was looking for. Soon afterwards, I was at Paradigm Infinitium later. Zaki mistook me for Grey. I told him that I might have to grow a moustache now! I bought two Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay items, ' Lure of the Liche Lord' and the 'character folio'. I also bought the Warhammer 40,000 short story collection 'Planetkill' and a Warhammer fantasy novel 'Curse of the Necrarch' for Wei Yi and myself. Zaki was strange. I was looking through the shop's Black Library catalogue for novels that I might have missed when he quickly took it away and hid it! Heheh. Funny guy. I was at HMV later and I got the Human League 'Live at the Dome' concert DVD, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's 'Architecture & Morality and more' concert DVD and CDs.

Later, I tried the mocha frappé at McCafé. Yuck. Horrid horrid frappuccino. Never again. I watched 'The Bank Job' after. Splendid film. Then, it was an excellent dinner at Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, a Chinese casual diner. Good food. I enjoyed it.

04 July 2008

Chinese Anti-Terror Unit

Interesting images from the Chinese media. There is one of a member of an anti-terrorist unit in China armed with a flamethrower. Flamethrower? Whaaaat? Perhaps, they flame broil them first and then use the water cannon on them after...

There is another of a Chinese anti-terror unit mounted on Segways and shooting from them! From the image, some are armed with submachine guns (oh-oh), Type 56s (AK-47s) and a sniper rifle!

Not very precise means targeting terrorists and separatists in both cases, eh?

03 July 2008

02 July 2008

AMX-13


This old SAF example of the GIAT AMX-13 SM1 is found at Kent Ridge (also known as Pasir Panjang Ridge) and is representative of the light tank that served the army for decades.



The SAF AMX-13 light tanks were supposedly ex-Israeli examples. The main gun was found to be deficient in penetrative ability against the glacis of the T-54 and T-55 main battle tanks of the Arabs.


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01 July 2008

I went for a run earlier in the evening. 9:23. Heh. Good timing. I continued afterwards. I should be aiming for longer distances instead of these little brisk runs.
In an eyeblink, years passed. Eight years or so, that was. I met Gerald at Zhou's Kitchen at Square 2 last night.

The decor at Zhou's Kitchen was clean and bright, I like the place. The service was excellent.