Monthly Archives: July 2005

Calvin's Take on Popular Art

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This is just so good….

Just came back from the cinema after watching “Crying out Love, In the Centre of the World”.

Every once in a while and if you are lucky, you will come across a movie that needs no words to describe it simply because words are inadequate to describe the feelings you experienced while watching the movie.

Since the link I have provided above will lead you to a review, I shall say no more than this:

Do yourself a favour and go watch this movie. Please.

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Recently seen in cinemas

Someone informed me via e-mail that he was not able to post a comment to the blog entry. I checked the site and indeed it is true. I have no idea what's the problem. If you need to contact me, please do write to me at hdoong at yahoo dot com (I'm spelling my e-mail address this way so that I can avoid e-mail spam robots. When you write, just use the normal @ and . as usual).

Have seen the following movies in the cinema lately.

“Batman Begins” – Finally! I have been wanting to watch this movie for the longest time and was curious about how good it is given so many good word of mouth about the movie. Indeed, it is quite good. Chirstian Bale played the Batman role very well and his transformation into Batman is very convincing. Other superb performance include that of Michael Caine (I really like his performance in “The Quiet American”. I also liked the movie a lot) and Liam Neeson (but perhaps Steven Seagal would be a better choice?). However, I did not quite like Katie Holmes' performance. Her role was also not very convincing. I think it is the only thing that really sucks about the movie. Christopher Nolan did not disappoint. That guy has talent.

“War of the Worlds” – One thing we must really give credit to the Hollywood team is their ability to create such cinematic spectacles. We are not talking about great cinema. We are talking about great spectacles. To see and hear something that a lot of us will not be able to see nor hear in our whole lifetime. In this, it is engaging and exciting. It entertains. It is also dumb but like a person that I know said, great movies exist because dumb movies exist. So, overall, War of the Worlds is not really that bad although you would like to scream out loud how stupid it is. But afterall, it was based on H.G. Wells' story, so is H.G. Wells stupid as well? hmmm…. I think it is really in the execution of it. Somehow the story did not come out well on the big screen. When you read the book, it was really engaging and you won't feel it's stupid. Maybe it's all due to Tom Cruise's face.

“Seven Swords” – What is quite obvious after watching this movie is that Tsui Hark is trying to go back to his earlier style as we have seen in “Once Upon A Time in China”. However, somehow, the movie did not really work. However, it is definitely much better than “The Legend of Zu”. That movie was an embarassment, with all due respects. Anyway, apparently Tsui Hark said that “The Legend of Zu” was only an experiment and he will never attempt anything like that again.

One major dissatisfaction I have with the movie is the very weak character development for each of the roles. It appears that Tsui Hark is rushing through the movie without giving enough time to properly flesh out the characters. Apparently, he will be doing so in the much longer DVD release (it was said that the DVD will play for 4 hours!).

In general, there is nothing much that is new in this movie. The fighting choreography is really nothing spectacular. Too many tight shots and you see weapons flying on the screen without seeing much what is really happening. The editing is rough. The sound (especially the dubbing) is rough. The cinematography is quite good although I felt that several scenes are under lit. There are also a few scenes that I felt dragged on for so long and can actually be cut short so that more screen time can be allocated to develop the characters more solidly. You will notice that most scenes featuring the beautiful Kim So-yeon has some extended screen time.

Well, anyway, not really that bad. This film is watchable and if you like Hong Kong movies and/or like martial arts movie, you should go.

“Gol & Gincu” – This is one of the latest Malaysian movies that is supposedly part of the Malaysian New Wave, comprising of people from the advertising industry (Yasmin Ahmad, Saw Teong Hin, Osman Ali, Bernard Chauly et. al.) and some short films makers (James Lee, Amir Mohammad, Ho Yuhang et. al).

This is Bernard's maiden feature length movie and you will be able to see that he and his team is pouring their hearts out for this movie. The production design, the screenplay, the cinematography is up to par and is better than our average Malay movie. However, the story is quite weak. I cannot but feel that this is the Malaysian remake of “Legally Blond” with a touch of “Ada Apa Dengan Cinta” and “Bend it Like Becham”.

The social issue that it tried to potray, i.e. the incest, was not, in my opinion, well handled. If the director and screenwriter want to address the issue, it should deal with it in more depth. Else, just let it be a passing remark instead of making it part of the character. I also felt that there is a homosexual undertone to it and I felt that the director was trying to make it a bit subtle by making use of metaphors.

It was shot with the Panasonic Varicam HD camera and the video post production was done at Siam Lab. The HD is quite good although definitely not as good as film. It is still quite flat and do not have the depth and feel a 35mm film can give you. But it has to be noted that the HD people do not intend to equate HD with film. That is not their purpose. They merely offered a digital alternative and expanding the tools of which the directors can showcase their dreams on the silver screen. HD is really great if you intend to do a lot of CGI like in Star Wars or if you need a lot of retakes such as using inexperienced stars and/or crew.

Fazura did well in her role and she did appear to be quite charming. I look forward to more roles for her in the future. However, the male lead is quite bad.

So, in summary, great effort. Good production standards. Two things that really mar it. The weak story (not screenplay, mind you) and an inexperience team of actors. It also needs some originality.

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Tough Week

This recent few days has been quite hectic. Seminars, previews, meetings – seems never ending and there are still so much to do in the office. The schedule looks something like this:

Monday – Finance off site meeting at Hilton Sentral
Tuesday – Shortcuts Forum 2005 at the KL Performing Arts Centre
Wednesday – Dialogue session with the Ministry of Finance at Putrajaya, then the “Seven Swords” Preview at GSC 1-Utama
Thursday – “Gol & Gincu” preview at GSC 1-Utama
Friday (tomorrow) – three meetings, two of which are off-site
Saturday – two meetings

It's quite a tough week, plus there are so many things that are due and is utterly urgent – tax filing deadline, statutory financial statements filing deadline, etc. etc.

It is a miracle that I can still find some time to post on this blog although I have just done the following:

Back from work at about 8pm, took bath, ate dinner, watched “Sin City”, work on the 10 year financial forecast and business plan which is due tomorrow, and now posting blog entries.

I intended to actually comment on the Shortcuts Forum a bit on this posting today and I do have something to say about it. I also wanted to talk about Tsui Hark's “Seven Swords” and Bernard Chauly's “Gol & Gincu” but I feel that my mind is shutting down.

Maybe I'll just go wind down now with a shot of whiskey, read a chapter of that Murakami novel and then hopefully to be able to sleep after that.

Will talk about the Forum and the movies in the next post….

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Goods and Services Tax

The other day, I was required to attend a dialog session with the Ministry of Finance regarding the proposed new Goods and Services Tax (GST). The plan is to enforce this tax from November 2007 onwards, replacing the current sales tax.

Almost everything will be affected by this tax and we shall see a general increase in inflation as happened in Singapore when they first introduced the tax, for example. However, the plan should be to reduce the general income tax rate but then this does not really help much since we pay GST as we consume but the income tax will only affect us once a year. Effectively, we are paying upfront tax.

After the presentation comes the Q&A session. I was compelled to ask about the impact this has on the price the ticket price at the cinema box office. Would the tax be imposed on top of the Entertainment Tax that has already been levied at 25% of the net ticket price (or 20% on gross ticket price)? If it is indeed additional to that, is it then not fair and shouldn't they somehow re-examine the entertainment tax that is really quite out of date?

As someone told me, the “entertainment tax” in the olden days was imposed for a very specific reason. Film projectors in those days were not as hi-tech as it is now and it was common that films get burnt and starts a fire. If you have personally experienced it or if you have watched “Cinema Paradiso”, you will be able to understand that.

Now, the authority needs to get fire engines on standby near the cinemas in case a fire breaks out and these “entertainment taxes” are used to pay for that cost. But in this modern time, films rarely get burnt and the reason for the existence of this tax is no longer valid.

Well, back to the point. The officer could not answer my question on the spot and said that they shall need to consult with the respective state governments.

This is interesting. You will want to know that the entertainment tax is actually collected by the state government, not the federal government. It is sort of like an extra income for the state but GST is federal income. Inevitably, if the federal government is to do something about the entertainment tax, the people at the state government will surely not let this source of income go so easily.

There are also 'rumours' that the state governments intend to cease to refund local producers via the entertainment tax rebate incentive. Without this tax rebate, it is really hard for local film producers to survive, and it is already very hard now that the tax rebate takes so long to come back to the producer.

In any case, if they were to abolish the entertainment tax and impose GST instead, the party that is to gain is actually the cinema operators, not the producers, assuming that they are still getting their tax rebates. Some sort of arrangement will need to be made to keep the balance intact.

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Annual Finance Meet – Dress

Today, our group had our annual dinner for the finance function and I was invited to join. The theme was “Go Green and Hat Trick”. I just realised today that I do not have anything in green, so I went to one of those shops at Berjaya Times Square to get something green to wear. BTS has many of those very interesting small shops selling very interesting items of clothing. And these items are not expensive at all.

I found my very striking green colour Jamaican shirt and bought it at 70% discount, costing me only RM24. It matches really well with my pants. Upon my entry to the hall, the other finance people were clapping and cheering. It was amazing. I didn't know such a simple shirt will get such a reaction. There are other very interesting costumes there as well.

Well, to cut a long story short, I was made to compete in the male best dress category and was made to do cat walk and all, and finally managed to get the third prize. It was quite fun.

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Weekend Escapade

I have not been to Genting Highlands for the longest time now. I have very fond memories there. There was where my wife and I went for a trip for the first time. Of course, we were not married yet. We just met for the first time via a mutual friend and as it was so often when we were young, it was a group outing. It was at Genting Highlands that she first knew my name. My name is not easy to pronounce, so I had to spell it to her and it stuck in her mind. Of course :)

I did not know what got me interested with her. Perhaps it was due to our mutual love for music. Perhaps it was the Enigma that she was listening to in her earphone. I have never heard anything by Enigma before and I was impressed. Perhaps it was just her very pleasant and extraordinary personality. I don't know. These sort of things are hard to know for sure. You can only guess and this made it mysterious.

In everything, there has to be some mystery and cheekiness. If something has lost its mystery or has ceased to inspire us to be playful at times, it will very soon become dull.

Thanks to my geeky friend (yes, the one who is a walking encyclopedia on Hong Kong movies), we managed to get 2 prime seats at the Sally Yeh concert at Genting Highlands last Saturday. Sally Yeh was really superb. Her voice is really crisp and clear, yet powerful and masterly. I have heard many of her songs previously and I do admire her a lot. And she acts really well too. “Shanghai Blues” and “Peking Opera Blues” come to mind immediately. Her husband, George Lam, made a guest appearance. They are really a very lovely couple. And they are still playful with each other. That was so sweet.

I also enjoyed the midnight chat at the park as well, having fried chicken and french fries under the sky and overlooking the KL night skyline. The air was cold, but not chilling, except when the wind blew once in a while. In the midst of the quiet night, the cold wind, a warm stomach, great company and sincere conversations, I felt really great. It reminded me of how we used to get together when we were very much younger, during our secondary school, with a bunch of great friends, and chatted until the morning, without really much clue of what we were really talking about. We just simply enjoyed each other's company.

Thinking back now, I remember even getting reprimanded by policemen because we were chatting until very late at night in Taman Dr. Seenivasagam. We just talk about everything, but mostly about our love interests and girls. Sometimes we talk about how to improve the standard of our band and orchestra. Sometimes on how to arrange a piece of music for performance. Sometimes composing romantic songs. And we were so innocent and ignorant. My heart felt warm whenever I think of those times. I hope I can remember those feelings until my old age, if I ever get to old age.

The next day, we played roller coasters at the theme park. I survived. My heart did not stop. My blood did not burst out of my mouth. It was such a long time ago when I last took a roller coaster ride.

So, it was a really great weekend. Great fun. Great music. Great company.

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Too Many Words

Looking back at my blog entries, I noticed just too many words. Today, I felt rather poetic…. was wondering if this is due to reading too much poetry today or because of the Eminem I've been listening to since morning. Anyway, here's a poem by Li Bai which I like very much:

Drinking Alone by the Moonlight

A cup of wine under the flowering trees;
I drink alone, without a friend by me.

Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon,
For he, with my shadow, will make us three.

The moon, alas! is no drinker of wine;
Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side.

Yet with moon and shadow as my loyal friend,
I must make merry before the Spring is spent.

To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams;
In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.

While we were sober, three shared the fun;
Now we are drunk, each goes his way.

May we long share our odd, inanimate feast,
And meet at last on the Milky Way.

(adapted from a translation by Arthur Waley)

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The Tale of Two Mahlers

Another weekend gone. Another one deducted from fifty two.

It was a rather packed weekend again. In two days, I would have listened to Mahler’s 6th symphony twice, watched two movies (“Green Chair” & “Shanghai Blues”) and started reading a new novel (Murakami’s “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle”).

The Mahler concert was superb. It was a fitting finale to the 04/05 season and most of all, a fitting finale to Kees Bakels’ tenure as music director of the MPO. Kees is a Mahlerian and the MPO is a Mahlerian orchestra, in my opinion. It has played Mahler really well. Perhaps this is due to the young orchestra, both in terms of the age of the orchestra as well as the average age of the players. Its playing is edgy and daring at times. In true Mahlerian spirit.

I was going through my CD shelve to look for the Mahler 6th that is in my collection. Being a compulsive Mahlerian at a point, I have a couple of hundred of CDs of Mahler’s work alone. And it surpises me to notice that I do not actually have a lot of recordings of Mahler’s 6th. Perhaps Mahler 6th is not a work that I liked that much. I certainly love Mahler 9th and it can still make me cry when I listen to it.

Anyways, the purpose of me searching for my Mahler 6th CDs is to compare the various timing of the recordings. Here are the CDs that are in my collection and their various timing for each movement:-

1. Benjamin Zander. Philharmonia Orchestra. 25.27, 12.29, 16.23, 31.59. [version 1]
2. Leonard Bernstein. New York Philharmonic. 21.29, 12.27, 15.19, 28.45. [version 1]
3. Pierre Boulez. Vienna Philharmonic. 23.06, 12.19, 14.47, 29.10. [version 1]
4. Klaus Tennstedt. London Philharmonic. 23.36, 13.04, 17.21, 32.57. [version 1]
5. Herbert von Karajan. Berlin Philharmonic. 22.09, 13.16, 17.03, 30.00. [version 1]
6. Heinz Rogner. Berlin Radio Symphony. 24.52, 12.00, 14.52, 30.33. [version 2]
7. Simon Rattle. City of Birmingham Symphony. 25.36, 13.18, 16.51, 30.32. [version 2]
8. George Szell. Cleveland Orchestra. 17.45, 13.11, 13.30, 28.56. [version 1]
9. Seiji Ozawa. Boston Symphony. 23.33, 13.36, 15.02, 30.40. [version 1]
10. Leonard Bernstein. Vienna Philharmonic. [version 1]
11. Klaus Tennstedt (live version). London Philharmonic. 25.33, 14.12, 17.45, 33.33 [version 1]
12. John Barbirolli. New Philharmonia. 21.19, 13.59, 16.03, 32.47. [version 1]

Version 1 = scherzo, then andante. Version 2 is the reverse.

The MPO booklet said that they shall play different versions for each of the performance. I attended the Saturday and the Sunday performance. On Saturday, they played version 1 with 3 hammerblows. That’s the version that I liked best and I was really excited. On Sunday, the booklet said that they will play version 2 but on that day, Kees said that the orchestra and himself felt that the right way to play it is really to play the scherzo first, then the andante.

I absolutely, totally, unequivocally agree.

And so they played.

The first movement started off on an excellent tempo, not as slow and heavy as Barbirolli and not as fast and rushed as Szell. Based on my watch, the first movement clocked almost 24 minutes. That’s about right. The tempo that I liked. The Alma Theme was sweeping and lifted the heavy thumping of the fate motif to a brighter ground. There is hope. Our Hero’s time is not up yet. There is still Love. And Hope.

The second movement, the scherzo, started off with an “imitation” of the fate thumping motif heard in the first movement but slowly again to be replaced with some sort of a dance that Mahler loved. Some sort of a Danse Macabre, heard already even in his first symphony. The clarinets and oboes were playing and teasing, sometimes playful, sometimes eerie. The MPO performed that superbly well.

And the beautiful, reassuring andante followed. It is poetry in itself, declaring love and hope, only to note that it is sometimes at the verge of sinking into darkness, but yet still afloat. Major key and minor key interplayed seamlessly. It can make you feel warm and be in heaven at one time. And at another time, it made you feel like what Nietzsche said, “…and if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” The MPO strings and woodwind section is just simply superb.

The finale belongs to the hammer and the brass section. Fiery, wild and hard, the Hero fights his way up, overcoming various obstacles only to have all his hope smashed by a hammerblow. He fights once again and there is a glimpse of hope, then again, the second hammerblow descended upon him. And we see that he tried to pick himself up from the crumble, from all the cruelties, and as he has merely accumulated a pinch of hope, the final hammerblow descended on him. This time, he could not get up. Our Hero cannot rise again. He has no strength. He is spent and completely exhausted. He is waiting for death. Shivering helplessly. He does not want to carry on anymore. The brass section, playing the octave motif, bid him farewell. And his eyes shone for one last time as the orchestra played in fortissimo. And then we hear his final heartbeat. He has gone.

The MPO principal percussionist built a wooden hammer and struck on some crates that he has also created. The effect as Mahler required is some sort of a thud sound. The MPO did fairly well with the hammer but being an obsessive Mahlerite, I would certainly wished the thud to be more thudful! This MPO hammerblow is loud, but the thud is just not thud enough! I loved what Benjamin Zander did in his recording and also what Bernstein did with the Vienna Philharmonic. You can really feel our Hero falling to the ground. And your heart went down with him.

But overall, it was a great performance. Kudos to the MPO. We are indeed fortunate to have such a good orchestra here in KL.

Next season, they are playing Mahler’s 5th (again!! – come on, not this already) and also Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). Das Lied is one of my favourite piece by Mahler. Looking forward to that very much.

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This Shaw, You Must Watch

Just finished watching this movie and I think I have never watched it before. It is such a gem, especially if you are a fan of kungfu movies. If you think “Kill Bill” is cool, watch this one. No, I am not saying that “Kill Bill” sucks. I liked “Kill Bill” and the fact that Tarantino is not shying away from announcing his respects in “Kill Bill” (the Shawscope opening title, the camera techniques, the use of Gordon Liu, for e.g.) for these Shaw kungfu films is testament to his wisdom.

This movie is hugely enjoyable. From the husband-wife fighting (reminds you of a certain Mr. & Mrs. Smith? This is far better!), to the superb choreography, to the Chinese-Japanese martial arts showdown, etc. Helming this movie is Lau Kar Leung, who also had a cameo appearance in the movie as the drunken master. The Chinese hero is the superb Gordon Liu. I still cannot accept the fact that he is playing only silly supporting roles in recent TVB series.

*spoilers ahead*

One of this movie’s other title is “Shaolin vs. Ninja” and you will suspect that this is another Japanese-bashing movies a la “Fist of Fury”. It felt that way at first. Japanese are inferior, resorting to all sorts of trickery etc. etc. But this movie is not really about Japanese-bashing. It is about the code of honour in martial arts and at the end both the Chinese and Japanese shoke hands and learn to respect each other. Sweet conclusion eh? I wished the movie didn’t end so fast. Wished at least to see the hero and his wife together again in the end although we know they will be together and will live happily ever after. Anyway, I still enjoyed the movie very much.

I will say it again: I really enjoyed the movie!

Other movies watched since the last post about movies watched:

1. “I ‘Heart’ Huckabees” – good movie. Lots of talking. Can be too philosophical for some people. If you only like action, romantic comedies, or the such, maybe you would like to skip this. If you like Sartre and wished he wrote a sequel to “Being and Nothingness”, it is very likely that you will want to watch this movie.

2. “Shaun of the Dead” – sounds like “Dawn of the Dead”? Yes, I think it is a rip-off. While I did not see “Dawn of the Dead” because I really cannot watch horror and suspense movies, I enjoyed this “Shaun of the Dead”. It is comedy plus a little bit of suspense.

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The Snake Reaction

Today is only Tuesday. Time seems to pass by so slowly and I do not feel that I am doing much. Yes, there are loads to do in the office, but I am not doing much meaningful work. At least work that I feel meaningful.

I usually associate meaningful work with the process of actually creating something that will last at least my lifetime. Pretty ambitious huh? No. A lot of people are doing that. They create a business and pass them on to their decendents and providing livelihood to people working for the business. Some people write novels. Some people make movies. Some people make music. And so on.

Yes, not every business, novel, movie or music can last. Some are really bad and won’t last a week. But the important thing is that the creator is engaged in doing that work of creating something. The results do not really matter. Of course, if you are good enough, it will last. Some lasts for generations.

I am not doing any such thing. My life in this world is just so temporary and all trace of my existence will vanish when the memory of me vanishes. I do not benefit mankind. I leave nothing for them. I just take.

Thoughts like these can scare me very much. And hours can drag like eternity. But why am I not doing anything about it? That is the frustration. I am frustrated at myself sometimes. But there must be something in me that inhibits me from doing it? Maybe I am just not good enough and doing something like that is risky. I really do not know. And am not really seeing any lights.

Well, I think the day will come when the light finally dawns. I really hope so. And I hope that day won’t come too late.

But, I can make myself happy, and others around me happy. Not pretending to be happy. But genuinely happy. The fact that happiness and frustration can exist at the same time is something I could not understand as well. I can make myself be enthusiastic and positive about things. About life. Not pretending to be enthusiastic and positive, but really enthusiastic and positive.

How can that happen, I really do not know. Life is full of contradictions. The best part is these contradictions co-exist. And the better part is to know that you can somehow determine how you want to feel.

I remember reading somewhere, forgotten where, probably in one of William James work which I read a few years back, that our action determines our emotions. We are happy not because we feel happy. We are happy because we act happy. We run not because we are scared of the snake. We are scared of the snake because we run.

This becomes very true when every morning, when the alarm clock rings, I begin to think what’s the point of going to work like a zombie. Perhaps I can just take the day off. But somehow, my mind miraculously moved my body, and I wake up.

Miraculously also, I do not feel the same way I felt just a minute ago. I am all positive and enthusiastic.

It is a miracle. Our actions determine our emotions. Not the other way round.

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Mahler 6th in A minor, "Tragic"

This coming weekend, from the 15th to the 17th of July, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) under the baton of Maestro Kees Bakels will be performing Mahler's 6th symphony. The maestro will conduct this symphony as his final performance after many years being the Music Director of the MPO, so I am looking forward to a very intense musical experience, especially so with him conducting this very intense symphony.

Mahler composed this symphony (1903-1904) during what was seemingly the happiest time in his life. He just got married in 1902 and two daughters were bestowed on him, one in 1902 and another in 1904. His career is taking on new heights.

Why would someone who is enjoying so much happiness compose one of the darkest and most tragic piece of music in classical music history? Perhaps he has premonition, or genuis. Or perhaps that piece of music just had to come out of him. I remember reading him saying that he is like an agent. Some higher powers speak through him and he is merely their instrument.

There are also some controversies re this symphony as well, particularly the order of the two inner movements which is still subject to many scholarly debates. I have recently received a copy of the lastest publication from the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna and there is an article, written at length, to debate this issue.

More on the gossip level, the original score of the 6th has 3 hammerblows in the finale. However, Mahler later revised the score because as per speculations which Mahler denied, the 3 hammerblows is actually Mahler's premonition of his own fate, the first hammerblow being the death of one of his daughter, then his “resignation” from the State Opera and the final blow being the dignosis of his then fatal heart infection.

Here is an essay in which you can read more about this work, and also Mahler's life if you follow on the links provided in the article. This article was written by the reknown Mahler scholar, Prof. Henry -Louis de La Grange.

Prof. de La Grange's essay

Benjamin Zander, the great Mahlerian conductor, has recorded the 6th symphony, complete with a third CD where he discusses in detail the symphony. This is really a great recording and the discussion/lecture CD is really great as well. It is available very inexpensively via Amazon, or if you are living in KL, I have seen several copies at Tower Records.

And yes, the people that manages the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Dewan Philharmonic, has contacted me via a contact from a fellow music fan and has generously extended their offer for Mahler fans to purchase tickets at 50% discount. Here's an excerpt from her e-mail:

“We are delighted to know that you will be coming to these concerts. We would like to offer you a 50% discount( Premium and A Reserve) when you invite your friends and loved ones to these concerts. Purchase must be made by you at our Box Office or you may call 03-2051 7007. Alternatively, you can purchase tickets via online at

Hence, to create further awareness we are keen to work with you to find ways of sharing the enthusiasm you have for Mahler and his compositions to a wider audience. We welcome your suggestions on how we can work together to further enhance the appeal of these concerts. We would appreciate your feedback at your earliest convenience.”

If you are interested, please do quote this and that the offer was extended by Cik Kertini. If necessary, mention that you are from the Malaysian Mahlerites and if you run into trouble, do try to get to speak to Cik Kertini and quote my name. Should be ok if you do that.

Hope to see you there! I will be attending the Saturday evening concert. Will probably go for the Sunday one as well.

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Recent movies seen

Movies seen since the last post:

1. “Just One Look” (2002)

Seen this on Astro a few times but have never watched that movie from head to tail. What an idiot I am! This movie is really good, especially if you are a fan of older Hong Kong movies. It’s something like “Cinema Paradiso”, if you wish to think of something similar. It a very charming movie.

Great acting from Anthony Wong. That guy is just so versatile. He can act in Category 3 movies, play a psychomaniac, play nice chap, play gangster, play smart lawyer, anything!

Eric Kot did very well too. At first I didn’t think much of him because he just has that same comic expression in all his movies. But the final part where we see him in the cinema hall secretly watching movies that he so vehemently denounced and flashed back on how he and his wife used to watch movies together is just so sweet.

I have previously praised Shawn Yue for improvements in his acting. He has proven his potential in this movie as well. So did Gillain Chung from the Twins. I think she has good potential as well.

2. “Initial D” (2005) – watching it in the cinema again for the second time. Still like it a lot. Can watch a third time. And a fourth time too only if they can remove the romance part. Can’t wait for the DVD and looking for the extra features in the DVD release.

TGV Mines’ sound system is really crap. They should really look into upgrading their cinemas.

3. “Love Among the Triad” (1993)

I am catching up on Hong Kong films that I have missed and thanks to a colleague, I am beginning to have access to these movies. This movie is about 5 people, two gangsters and their wives and a woman whom both these gangsters desire. The movie did extremely well in creating the tension between these characters and the women’s way in ‘biting’ each other is very telling.

The fighting scenes are very well shot, especially a gang fight scene in an alley which I felt was superbly litted and framed. Vincent Wan did very well in this movie. Despite his playing numerous supporting roles, his performance is really a joy to watch. He is very well remembered in the “Young and Dangerous 4,5,6” and “Portland Street Blues” as Sap Sam Mui’s love interest.

4. “Casshern” (2004)

I have heard of the rave reviews for this movie and finally watching it. I think it deserves the praises. It’s a piece on the wiles of war, of technological and industrial advances, etc. Thanks mainly to the skillful development of the characters in the movie, it escapes from being preachy like, for e.g. in “The Thin Red Line”. The use of CGI is extensive and one is very much reminded of the anime such as “Akira”.

5. “Public Enemy” (2002)

This is also a rather old film. They have since come up with “Public Enemy 2”. However, since I have not watched this yet, I might as well watch it. My feeling is that this is very much American influence and I am quite certain it’s a “Dirty Harry” remake. Even Dirty Harry’s “You Punk” line is given a face life and the hero in “Public Enemy” has his own line as well.

The narative structure is also similar. Crime committed. Criminal known. Cat and mouse chase. This has also been seen many times in other movies. Kurosawa’s “High and Low” and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” comes to mind.

6. “Colour of Loyalty” (2005)

Forgetable movie. Wong Jing’s earnest effort in making a serious movie but in my humble opinion, is a failure. However, Shawn Yue’s performance shone.

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New Totoro

Bought a new Chu-Totoro. Pics below.

familiar sight? seen this somewhere in this blog?

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Of Culture and Hegemony

Today, I attended a luncheon organised by the Malaysian Institute of Directors. No, this has nothing to do with film directors. These are company directors. Since I am not a company director nor am I a film director, my presence there is quite awkward, but making a couple of new friends and catching up with some old ones felt quite good. At least I know that I am still alive. If no one in this world knows that I exists, I will cease to exist. Phenomenologically speaking, yes, I am still physically here but what is the point of me being physically present but not one being, no matter from what strata in this universe, is aware of my existence? I am connected, therefore I am.

Anyways, coming back to this luncheon. The topic for the luncheon is about culture, with the title, “Malaysian Culture – Dream or Reality”. The guest of honour is our Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim. Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik was also present. From his speech, one can see that Dr. Rais is a substantial and learned man. I hope he can do something to promote and inculcate a nation that is proud of its own culture and heritage. (Oh, by the way, after the event, Dr. Rais came and we shook hands and he called me “young man”. Young man!? I am on the verge of a mid-life crisis and he called me young man. That made me postpone the start of my mid-life crisis.)

But what exactly is “Malaysian Culture”? He defined culture but what is Malaysian Culture? Is it the mamak culture? the orang asli culture? the malay culture? the chinese culture? the indian culture? a blend of all the above? What are these cultures? To be able to protect and promote something, that thing at least needs to be defined in a concrete way. If it cannot be touched, it can at least be felt. If it cannot be touched and felt, then does it exist?

Responding to a comment to my previous blog entry re the Hollywood hegemony, yes, Hollywood films are dominating the world and imposing the American way of life, the American belief and world-view on others, mostly unsuspecting kids, or those people who are intellectually lazy. America always saves the world. Those who are against America are terrorists (used to be Russians, then Chinese, then Osama, then north Korea, etc. etc.) America and American English is THE language the whole world should speak. You speak French? Slap her, she’s French. You speak Chinese? Yah, kungpow, kungpow. You speak Japanese, yah, Yamatei. Non-American things/culture is often being made fun of and belittled. The media is a powerful vehicle to “hypnotise” people into believing certain things.

Why are Hollywood films generally considered bad? Are we just simply film snobs, with a believe that anything that comes from Hollywood is bad but not knowing why and anything that comes from obscure directors, is in black and white and/or comes from poor, remote countries are good and cool, and those people who does not agree are culturally and intellectually backward? Well, consider the following two points:

1. Hollywood stories are stale. They have run out of story ideas, so they do sequels, prequels, remakes, copy ideas from other parts of the world.

2. Hollywood films suffers from its own power. Blame the marketing chief. He is the culprit. One of the rules that I heard these marketing people use to check the commercial worthiness of a film is if the films raises more than 3 questions, it will be banned. Another one, according to a friend who is a film critic based in Montreal, is that, if a film cannot be understood or cannot hold the attention of a 9 year old, it will be banned. Tell me, what good and profound films can come out of such models?

And films deserve so much more.

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