Monthly Archives: January 2006

Beijing Kids, Funny Ha Ha!

Last weekend, we had some weiqi friends from Beijing over in Kuala Lumpur. They were actually here for holiday, a trip organised by their weiqi school, the HaiDian Go Institute. Their Vice President, Mr. Zhang Yi Zhou who is a 5 dan, led the group. Among them were three children, a girl of 14 and two boys, one 12 years old and the other younger. The girl is a 5 dan amateur and the boys are both 4dan and 3 dan respectively. I played the 4 dan kiddo and lost.

His judgement and reading was really great. He is very sharp and has superb attacking skills. It was a very interesting game. At the end, nothing really died on the board but I was behind by about 10 points, holding black. So with the komi, I figured I was quite behind and resigned, without finishing the game.

Recent movies watched:

“Saving Face” – Superb, superb movie. Interestingly directed by first time feature director Alice Wu, it was a story very well told. How I wish our local first time directors (and some not very first time directors) can have storytelling skills like this. With a great script and screenplay, first class acting, superb cinematography and a brilliant score, I was completely bowled over. The story is a very simple one and the theme is one that has been told over and over before but the way it was done, it just melted my heart.

“Crash” – Another great movie. It dealt with inter-racial tensions in the US post 9/11 and how these different ethnic groups reconciled with each other. The depiction of the line between who is good and who is bad, what is right and what is wrong, and how each individual deal with their own circumstances and find a place for themselves in this society is very refreshing and thought-provoking.

“Funny Ha Ha” – You will never find an entry for this film in Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide nor would you find it in the annual Time Out Film guide. I have checked the latest copy of these two guides and it is true. One probable reason is that this film never found a distributor and played only in festivals and independent screenings. This film tracks a girl’s life post graduation, sort of like a journey of discovery for herself. Read a wonderful article on this film here.

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Aus so krummem Holze…..

The world is getting more and more existential day by day. More Darwinian. Or at least that is how I feel and perceive it now. It may have something to do with my age, something that anyone approaching sort of like a mid-life crisis will feel. While I am not sure at all if I am in a mid-life crisis (I certainly hope not), the world do seem like that to me now. I used to be an idealist, to a point that can annoy anyone who thinks that there is no such thing as an ideal world. Come to think of it now, it may be true. This reminded me of an essay Isaiah Berlin wrote entitled “The Decline of Utopian Ideas in the West”. Quote:

“The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them – to imagine some ideal state in which there was no misery and no greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity – or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies – simple exercises of the poetical imagination.”

I remembered how joyful I was when I first read Plato’s allegory of the cave in his “The Republic”. I was pretty young then, still sort of a punk that fits Shimamoto’s description in Murakami’s “South of the Border, West of the Sun” – “…uncouth and selfish. And all they can think about is getting their hand up a girl’s skirt”. With my brand new set of “Great Books of the Western World”, “The Republic” was the first book I read from the set.

It just blew my mind away back then. Yes, Truth exists. Perfection exists. Ideals exist. Exactly how I come to adopt a rather different world-view now, I could not understand. Perhaps it is due to many years of roughing up after stepping into society for real, for a living, where resources are scarce, and everyone is going all out to put themselves on the map. It is also through a perception and observation of the many things that happen in the world and around me and I think to myself, how could all these happen if there is really such a thing as “Ideal, Perfect, Truth”?

Anyways, I am not bitter at all with life. Far from it. It just striked me at this very moment how my world-view have changed. Now, for me, existence really precedes essence. Well, at least most of the time. Some essence do precede existence. I still need to go find out exactly what these are. I am still a bit stubborn and would still prefer to be a true idealist. I guess maybe that’s because my “essense” is still rather much the same as the me in the age Shimamoto-chan described. Or maybe even earlier.

As the closing sentences in Berlin’s above-mentioned essay noted, after an extensive analysis of the topic, “Immanuel Kant, a man very remote from irrationalism, once observed that ‘Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.’ And for that reason no perfect solution is, not merely in practice, but in principle, possible in human affairs, and any determined attempt to produce it is likely to lead to suffering, disillusionment and failure.”


The same picture as the last one posted. Exactly what is reality, no one can really be sure nowadays… Thanks to my wife for altering this reality ;-)

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Tentang Dia

Ada yang hilang
Ketika kau hilang

Ada yang pergi
Ketika kau pergi

Hidupku ikut hilang bersamamu
Cintaku ikut pergi bersamamu

Sementara aku masih disini
mencuba tegak berdiri


Poem from “Tentang Dia”, a good Indonesian film from the same director as “Ada Apa Dengan Cinta”. Indonesia makes really good movies like these.

Rough translation of the above poem (apologies for a job badly done):

Something disappeared
When you disappeared
My heart
My soul

Something bid farewell
When you bid farewell
My smiles
My laughters

My life disappeared together with you
My love bid farewell following you

While I am now still here
trying to stand tall
Without you

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Hong Kong Films listing revised

With the conversation with my geeky friend, I have made a call to revise the top ten Hong Kong films after having watched the uncut, original version of “Election” (available on DVD for only about RM26 – original, with the uncut, original Hong Kong version) and “Moonlight in Tokyo”. My top ten list of Hong Kong films previously was:

1. Crazy ‘n the City
2. It Had To Be You
3. AV
4. 2 Young
5. Initial D
6. Seven Swords
7. Wait ‘Til You’re Older
8. Election
9. SPL
10. Perhaps Love

Out of these, here is my top 5 in order:

Number 5: 2 Young

Number 4: Crazy ‘n the City

Number 3: Perhaps Love

Number 2: SPL

Number 1: Initial D

Now, I will have to take “Wait till You’re Older” out and replace it with “Moonlight in Tokyo”. In the top 5, I will have to replace “2 Young” with “Election”. The rest remains the same.

Also, on the 2005 Hong Kong Film Ratings page of the “Hong Kong Cinema – View from the Brooklyn Bridge” website, we can see a list of Hong Kong movies together with ratings from a few reviewers. Let me try to put a rating to the list too, just for fun.

By the way, I do not understand why “Perhaps Love” was not included in this list. Will watch “The Promise” in these few days.

Legend: 1-4=Awful, 5-6=Watchable, 7-8=Good, 9-10=Must See. NS=Not yet seen

2 Young: 8.0
A Chinese Tall Story: 6.0
All About Love: 6.0
AV: 7.0
Bug Me Not: 4.0
Color of Loyalty: 5.0
Crazy N’ the City: 8.5
Demoniac Flash: NS
Divergence: 6.0
Dragon Blade: NS
Dragon Reloaded 2: 6.5
Dragon Squad: 6.0
Drink, Drank, Drunk: 6.5
Election: 8.5
Embrace Your Shadow: 4.0
Everlasting Regret: 6.0
Eye 10, The: 6.0
Fear of Intimacy: NS
Futago: NS
Hand (EROS), The: 7.5
Hands in the Hair: 5.0
Himalaya Singh: 5.0
Home Sweet Home: NS
House of Fury: 6.5
Initial D: 9.0
It Had to Be You: 7.5
Kung Fu Mahjong: 6.5
Kung Fu Mahjong 2: 6.0
Legend of the Dragon: NS
Mob Sister (a.k.a. Ah Sou): 4.5
Moments of Love: NS
Moonlight in Tokyo: 7.5
Myth, The: 6.0
Perhaps Love: 8.5
Promise, The: NS
PTU File: Death Trap: 3.5
Rice Rhapsody: 6.0
Seoul Raiders: 6.0
Set to Kill: NS
Set Up: NS
Seven Swords: 7.0
Sha Po Lang: 8.5
Slim Till Dead: 6.5
Unusual Youth, The: 6.5
Wait Till You’re Older: 7.0
Where is Mama’s Boy: 3.5

Total number of films watched in the list: 36. Average rating: 6.33.

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Recent Movies

Ah! Finally! Got my copy of “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” and watched it just now. I was looking forward so much to this Korean movie with the same intensity as when I was looking forward to watching “Green Chair”. Now that these two have been satisfied, I am looking forward to “Welcome to Dongmakgol”. This is Korea’s entry into the Oscar and based on reputation alone, is worth the wait. A Malaysian company has acquired the rights for Malaysian distribution and I have seen a copy of the screener floating around…. ;-) The Astro Box Office movie has acquired the rights for the channel and shall be showing the movie quite soon.

The wait for “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” was well worth-it. This completes Park Chan-Wook’s “Revenge Trilogy”, beginning with “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and followed by “Old Boy”. In this final work, I can feel the director appealing to us, the audience, to get ourselves involved in this revenge thingy, to ask us if this revenge thingy is right, or whether it can be justified morally. Are they (the characters in the movie) doing the right thing? What would you do? Do you really think that the characters in the movie are really redeemed? Is redemption ever possible?

Over the weekend, I have also watched “Moonlight in Tokyo”. This is Hong Kong’s final movie for 2005 and I went into the cinema hoping for the best. Directed by Alan Mak and Felix Chong (the guys who did the “Infernal Affiars” screenplay) and has Leon Lai and Chapman To as the lead players, it appears to be like a really stupid movie in the beginning, complete with the “Swan Lake” soundtrack. However, as the movie progressed, we still see nothing much, except for two guys trying to survive in the wild Tokyo, far away from home. The movie only really made sense towards the end of the movie, where the whole idea/concept, or heart of the movie, is revealed and we felt that it was very much worth the wait. Anyways, it is a real surprise (pleasant) to find this movie darker and more serious than the keyart for the movie depicts. If you go in expecting lots of laughter, well, then you will be disappointed. Anyways, the Hong Kong movie people get the movie key art wrong a lot of times (e.g. “Crazy n the City”, “Six Strong Guys” – both suffered from really stupid keyart). If I am giving “Initial D” 9 out of 10 points, I am giving this movie 7.5 points.

The final movie that I have watched over the weekend was the Malaysian made “3rd Generation”. I had really high expectations of the movie because the still photos, the trailer, the director’s CV, all looked really promising. However, the only thing that did not disappoint was the cinematography which was beautifully done. The storytelling, the acting (especially Amber Chia’s acting – I am totally convinced that she should just remain as a model and forget about becoming an actress), the sound recording and mixing, the very cheesy dialogues, ggggrrrr…… makes this such a pretentious film! I still could not understand what is wrong with Malaysian Chinese filmakers. All of them either want to be the next Wong Kar Wai or the next Tsai Ming Liang (in style, not achievement).

The movie basically shows nothing – it does not really tell a story (except for providing a broad outline of the movie, something you can do yourself by reading the synopsis), there is no real character development, it also failed to show how beautiful Penang is. All it felt like was like an extended commercial and music video, with very beautiful images.

As much as I like Nicholas Teo (who shot the music video of one of his songs in my house), and besides being a really nice fellow and puts 101% effort in everything he does, his performance did not shine through in this movie (his first feature, so maybe forgivable). However, I believe that this guy has some real talent and will go far. Hopefully his next feature will do him more good.

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There must be something about rain

If I tell people who knows Malaysia that I am going to the east coast at this time of the year for sort of like a holiday, they must say that I am crazy. It is the monsoon season and there is really nothing much to do except to sit in the room, read a good book, lay back in bed, go for a massage, have good and cheap seafood meals (the curry crab was undeniably superb!), listen to some nice music, talk to my wife and catch up with each other,…… errm…… okay, that sounded like it was nice. But it is true, it rained everyday and at almost every hour.

We stayed at the Eastern Pavalion, Holiday Villa in Cherating and it is really a very nice place. Comfortable and hospitable. Only thing is do not eat at their in-house restaurant. The food is not good and very expensive while really good and cheap food is available just outside the resort’s gate. The stay at the resort was actually a prize my wife won in a photography competition and had to be used by end of January 06. We therefore had no choice but to go during this time instead of wasting the coupons.

The rain is a very weird thing and we human beings can really tolerate it. Like Sai observed in “Hikaru no Go” in one of the scenes involving rain, if human beings can go to the moon, how come an umbrella is still an umbrella? Yes, it is amazing that the umbrella technology did not improve very much in the last 100 years or so. I am not talking so much as the technology in making better umbrellas but the fact that umbrellas are still not doing a good job in making sure that we do not get as wet as we get now.

For example, the umbrella only shields your head from rain but from your belly downwards, you get all wet. When you get into the car, the umbrella will ensure that the side of your car gets all wet because the folding of the umbrella is so clumsy. In the car, the umbrella drips and your car gets all wet. When you take an umbrella for two persons, it is almost certain that each person will get half their body wet. Sometimes, it is so frustrating, we might as well get rid of the umbrella and do the “Singin’ in the Rain” dance sequence and sort of try to enjoy the rain instead.

How is it possible to make an umbrella or something to that effect, call it rain coat (which is also not very effective but I somehow enjoy wearing a rain coat. It makes me feel more powerful for reasons I could not understand) that fulfills these requirements?:

1. When put into effect, this article will shield the human body completely from getting wet, even the shoes

2. This article must be easy to carry (best is no need to carry), easy to store (best is no need to store), easy to put on (e.g. you can put it on easily in the car before going into the rain).

3. This article must be made affordable to the common people.

4. Water does not stick on this article. Therefore, for example, when you go into your car, you will not be afraid that your car seat will get wet while wearing this article because it is completely dry no matter how you soak it in water.

5. The raw materials for making this article must not be too scarce (it is as common as say, making soap or the modern day umbrella).

6. This article, when put on, must not obstruct movement and communication. People can still talk to each other, can still touch each other, can still hug each other (without getting wet, of course), and if, say. attacked by a dog, can still wave a stick and hurt the dog.

Oh, by the way, if you will, you can check out the history of umbrellas in William Sangster’s “Umbrellas and their History”.

I hope the rain is not getting too deep into my skull…… if I get to invent this thing, I will try not to charge you guys too much money for it……

A good book, freshly brewed coffee and good company are all you need in bad weather

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What If…

What if one day, when you wake up, you feel a bit wierd. You have no idea why you feel so weird. You woke up at exactly the time you wanted to wake up, you sort of remember a bit of your dream but helplessly letting the memory of the dream fade little by little, you go to the bathroom as usual, you look into the mirror and you see the usual face that needs a good shaving, you still go to iron the clothes as usual, taking extra care not to burn the clothes which you do not have many left in the wardrobe. Everything is so mundane, so routine. But you still feel weird.

Then you get your first kick. Ah, what would you like for breakfast today? Yes, you will have your usual Nescafe but hmmmm….. what do you want to eat, you think? The hot plate noodle, the nasi lemak, the fried kuay teow, the curry mee, the egg and bread toast set, the pork mee, the cantonese fried mee….. hmmm….. so many options. No, today is only Tuesday, no curry mee. Too heavy…. You decided on taking the bread toast set and you really look forward to a good breakfast, with a copy of the BusinessWeek in the car with an interesting article waiting to be read. Wow! Great day, you think. But, hmmm…. why do you still feel this weirdness?….

Then the feeling strike you immediately without warning at the coffee table in your usual restaurant. No, the waiter still comes to you with a glass of iced Nescafe without you needing to ask for it because you have been asking for the drink every morning you have breakfast at the restaurant for the past three years. You have a sip of the Nescafe, then you start to read that article, and at the same time, had a mouthful of the great bread toast. You feel nothing. No joy. No happiness. No contentment. Your taste buds work but you just plainly feel nothing emotionally. No emotions at all. No judgment at all on whether you think if there is just too much milk in the Nescafe or if the toast is a little too hard today.

You drink the Nescafe but the taste of the Nescafe did not give you the satisfaction as it did just yesterday. The toast gave you no satisfaction at all. They also did not give you any dissatisfactions. You just felt, well…… nothing! No opinions at all!!

It is a really scary thought – what if one day, when you wake up, you lose the ability to appreciate anything at all. No feelings whatsoever arise. You just feel nothing. You listen to music but could not really appreciate it. Your ears register the music and recognises it but the music arouse no emotions and opinions from you. You go watch a movie. Your eyes recognise the moving images and sound but you felt nothing for the movie. You have lost all judgment and the capacity to pronounce an opinion. No emotions. Nothing. You are not really sure if it’s a good movie or not. Yes, you know it is a movie, but no matter how hard you try, you simply could not come up with a judgment nor opinion on the movie! You also cease to appreciate people because you simply felt nothing for them. When people shows you love, you know they showed you love but inside you felt nothing. No warmth generated from the love that was just bestowed on you. You know but you cannot feel.

You have lost the ability to appreciate! That’s all!

And as time goes by, you get used to this. You begin to parrot opinions that you have heard or read because you have lost the ability to generate opinions. You begin to tell people how great they are but really does not mean it because simply you do not have the ability to really appreciate how great people are. Because you want to hide this weakness, you begin to just follow what the majority likes. You want to become one of them. If you happen to come in contact with a bunch of artsy-fartsy people, you begin to parrot their tastes. You may even be so good at parroting, you may end up championing their tastes but most of the time, you have no idea what you are talking about.

And as time goes by, you feel more and more empty. Everything becomes more and more artificial, and what you were before that dreadful morning is like the dream you had just the night before – fading helplessly little by little…….

Scary isn’t it? More scary is that there are actually a lot of people that suffers from this in real life.

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New Year Again

Happy New Year! Another brand new year is beginning and although today is just like any other day, psychologically, it is a new beginning. Human are psychological beings anyways, so let’s pray that the new year will bring us lots of good luck, lots of great Go games, lots of great movies, lots of energy and preseverance, lots of understandings and love, and let it bring us, ummm…., world peace.

To borrow a verse from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Love at First Sight”:

“Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.”

Calvin: “Wow, it really snowed last night! Isn’t it wonderful?”
Hobbes: “Everything familiar has disappeared! The world looks brand new!”
Calvin: “A new year…A fresh, clean start!”
Hobbes: “It’s like having a big, white sheet of paper to draw on!”
Calvin: “A day full of possibilities!”
Calvin: “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, Ol’ buddy…”
As they gleefully speed the hill…
Calvin says: “Let’s go exploring.”

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