Monthly Archives: December 2006

Watch this movie if you can

You may feel that it is a an over-dose of good feelings but I don’t know about you, I like good feelings :) Same good feelings like after watching IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Love it. If you like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and likes the feeling after watching it, you will love this movie. I do, I do… whao so nice…. I am so easily manipulated…. hehe.

Official site: http://www.always3.jp/

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Filed under Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Cursed Titles

First of all, the movie should have been screened in Mandarin instead of Cantonese. Secondly, the Chinese title is far more interesting and the English translation is a bit short and may result in some Mat Sallehs misunderstanding the movie, most dramatically speaking. The Chinese title, 滿城盡帶黃金甲 can literally mean “the whole city wears the Gold Armour to their heart’s content”. Maybe the producers or (high chances) the marketing people felt that the word “Armour” is no longer cool and has been used by Jacky Chan before and this CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is in fact a lot more exotic sounding. Exotic sounding but lost a critical meaning, I think. But why “cursed”? What has “cursed” got to do with it? hmmmm…..

The Chinese title is borrowed from a poem by a failed rebel Huang Chao and what he refered to as Golden Armour is actually a city clad in chrysanthemum flowers. Quote:

“If I could be the king of the flowers, I would allow the chrysanthemum to bloom with the peach blossom; The fragrance (of the chrysanthemum) would fill Chang’an City, and the city would be clothed in golden armour.”

But what has this to do with the story? The story is, in fact, nothing new to me because the storyline is nothing new. We have seen (or read) similar stories many times before (incest, power struggle, sibling rivalry, etc.) and in fact, this movie is based on the extremely popular Chinese play called “Lei Yu” (Thunderstorm) by Cao Yu.

So then what is good about this movie? First of all, the movie is very colourful. Secondly, the movie managed to somehow saved itself during the final half hour, else it will feel like it is dragging on forever, like an aeroplane spinning round and round but could not land. Thirdly, is Zhang Yimou’s final episode of his intended “wuxia” trilogy, beginning with HERO followed by HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS and now CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, which means, after the Olympics, we can be spared of his further “wuxia” efforts (I hope…)

Come to think of it, this trilogy is not bad by normal standards but coming from Zhang Yimou, it somehow did not clicked. Maybe I am prejudiced. If this trilogy is directed by me, it will be praised sky high by my colleagues. Of the three, I think I like HERO the most. HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is fine also but it felt more like a comedy than anything else, particularly the scene when Zhang Ziyi refuses to die. CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER is nothing really special.

But all three, no matter what I want to say, I must admit that they are all a great spectacle. Given a choice, I would rather Zhang Yimou made these three films rather than he has not.

Oh, and by the way, China has seen many uprisings in its history and because of my recent effort to study the rise of Communism in China, I appreciate the importance of rebellions the more, from the rise of the Yellow Turban rebellion to the An Lushan rebellion to the Taiping rebellion to the May 4th Movement which, according to my studies so far, is an important milestone that contributes to the rise of communism in China and to the Tianamen incident that marks, in my humble opinion, the begining of the end of Communist China. As Mao Zedong said:

“There are innumerable principles of Marxism, but in the last analysis they can all be summed up in one sentence: “To rebel is justified”. For thousands of years everyone said: “Oppression is justified, exploitation is justified, rebellion is not justified.” From the time Marxism appeared on the scene, this old judgment was turned upside down, and this is a great contribution.” – From “Stalin is our Commander”, pg. 453 Sources of Chinese Tradition.

Seems like Mao is eating his own words….


Whoa! It’s going to pop!

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Filed under Movie Review, Movies

Yellow Chicken

Buy this DVD set from Borders World Cinema selection! Yellow Chicken (cantonese for “Wong Kai”) War Collection directed by Yellow Chicken, includes IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, AS TEARS GO BY, DAYS OF BEING WILD.

I thought I misread but they are really referring to Wong Kar Wai. With this coming out of Sight & Sound, it is a real embarassment, although it is only an advertisement. Shouldn’t someone knowledgeable check the copy before printing with a quality control process as superb as we see how they do it in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA? And these are supposed to be people in the business ;)

Just for fun, I run a search for Wong Kai War on Google and my my, what a fun surprise!

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Filed under Trivia

Weiqi Insights

It has been quite some time now that I have last blogged about Weiqi. I think I have mentioned previously that there are a lot of insights about life that one can get from playing and understanding Weiqi. And I qualify again, fans of other games will without doubt protest that this is the same for the game of their passion but somehow, since I have also played other games ranging from Monopoly to Hold’em to Golf, Weiqi fascinates me the most and inspires me about life the most, especially during periods in my life when I needed understanding the most.

For example, I sometimes find myself in situations where things can be really frustrating and I think you will agree with me that most frustrations are brought unto us by some nasty and mean people and not really by events. When we encounter these nasty people, especially at work where these nasty people seemed to be very well connected and can put an end to your career with as much effort as killing an ant, what do you do?

I may be wrong but naïve and idealistic people will protest loudly and demand for justice. I don’t know if this really work but my honest guess is that it will not work. It is easy to protest but it is not easy to be subtle, which may solve the problem better than using pure force and power, if there is any force or power to start with. For lone rangers that do not have connections, there is no power to talk about. The next best thing is to resign the job but unless you have lots of dough in the bank, it will not seem like a viable option, not to mention a major dent in one’s career.

So how could Weiqi offer an insight? There is this concept of “thickness” in Weiqi. “Thickness” in Weiqi means that a group of stones are very strong and powerful, with no defects in its formation and therefore not vulnerable to attacks. The general rule of thumb when encountering thickness is not to play near it.

While studying Weiqi recently, I came across two different books that reinforced my understanding of thickness. One is Yuan Zhou’s book, “How to Play Handicap Go” and the other being Yoda Norimoto‘s “Vital Points and Skillful Finesse for Sabaki”.

Here’s from Yoda’s book:

“The time that sabaki comes into play is when one is weak. In Weiqi it is an ironclad rule that in weak positions initiating a frontal assault for a strong fight will not produce a good result. For that very reason judgment about strength and weakness is essential.”

Here’s from Yuan’s book:

“It is not good to attack when you can’t see a clear benefit. Black seems to be just attacking to see what will happen. This can lead to your own positions getting damaged.”

Both of these quotes refer to a position where you are weak and the opponent’s position is strong and on the art of attack and defense. In our day to day life when we are faced with situations where we are at a disadvantaged position, we must arrive at a judgement on our own position and from there to think how to re-act. If we want to attack (i.e. stomping and protesting), can we be sure that the attack will bring us benefits without doubts or is it just that we hope we will arrive at a better position but could not really work out exactly how? If yes, then we may end up in a much worse position than before we even started.

So if this is the case, what should we do? As Yoda’s book recommended, we should handle the situation subtlely and skillfully, i.e. use sabaki techniques (develop the stones quickly, lightly and flexibly) and as Yuan indicated, we must be patient and attack only when we can work out exactly how the benefit can be derived. In short, do not be stubborn but be patient, look at the big picture and don’t worry about losing out a bit now for the realisation of a longer term plan/strategy.

But sometimes, when you’ve got to fight, you’ve got to fight. Knowing when is key and Weiqi too can offer some insights on when and how to fight.

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Filed under Weiqi/Go/Baduk

What Am I Reading Now?

I have long found Communism fascinating (after reading the “Manifesto of The Communist Party” in volume 50 of the Great Books of the Western World series but could never really get past Part 1 of “Capital” and had to rely on secondary sources…sigh… such weakness), not all the cruelties that seem to be part of that system, but Marx’s philosophical foundation of communism. According to the Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (which is not really very good compared to say The Oxford Companion to Philosophy but alas! I have the Routledge in my library but not the Oxford):

“Communism is the belief that society should be organized without private property, all productive property being held communally, publicly or in common. A communist system is one based on a community of goods. It is generally presented as a positive alternative to competition, a system that is thought to divide people: communism is expected to draw people together and to create a community. In most cases, the arguments for communism advocate replacing competition with cooperaton either for its own sake or to promote a goal such as equality, or to free specific groups of people to serve a higher ideal such as the state or God.”

Isn’t this a wonderful idea? In fact, if we look at it, what is currently happening in the world inspired by open source software and blogs and communities such as MySpace is exactly what communism is about and see how far they have gone and how they have beaten capitalists (read for example, Microsoft) so convincingly?

The sad thing is communism is too great a political system for human beings because human beings are still, no matter how you want to argue it, base and vulgar, selfish and ignorant. In fact, communism as Marx has conceived it, is a system for an advanced society. But somehow, it appealed to a society that is far from being advanced but dominated by selfish people controlling the mass of poor peasants and exploited workers who are willing to give it a shot since there is nothing to lose anyways. However, as Eric Arthur Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell) said beautifully, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. Until all animals are really equal, communism will not work as a political system.

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Filed under Books, Philosophy, Thoughts & Commentaries

Condemned to be Free

“Professor Levy: We’re all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.”

quote from Crimes and Misdemeanors

Dostoevsky once wrote “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”. That, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to. He can’t start making excuses for himself.

If existence really does precede essence, there is no explaining things away by reference to a fixed and given human nature. In other words there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. On the other hand, if God does not exists, we find no values or commands to turn to which legitimize our conduct. So, in the bright realm of values, we have no excuse behind us, nor justification before us. We are alone, without excuses.

That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless free; because from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything that he does.”

quote from Jean-Paul SartreThe Humanism of Existentialism

****

I don’t know if this is happening to other people but the older I grow, the more stupid I feel. Everyday I grow more and more stupid. I sink into my routine and my circle of intellectual curiosity becomes smaller and smaller, and I find that my general knowledge is also becoming pathetic – besides the few things that I like and am passionate about, I dont seem to know – or put it more correctly, I don’t seem to be that interested in other things anymore like I used to when I was say, about 10 years younger.

When I was 10 years younger, I thought I was more intellectually curious – I dig into philosophy, history, literature, science and has built entire websites accumulating these knowledge with hard HTML codes using Notepad – each command self-learnt. Pages on the website will include a study on Chinese History and Philosophy (which I self studied using the UCLA course syllabus which was pubslished online last time), Western Philosophy, World History, Tagore, Emerson, Mahler, etc. etc. During the Mahler craze period, for example, I studied scores, read all available materials that I can lay my hands on, talk to experts, invite Maestro Benjamin Zander to give us a talk (read section two of the article linked), write articles that was published in various Mahler-related websites and one was actually used as a programme guide, get in touch with Mahler’s existing family and do up their paternal family chart, etc.

That was all before the Weiqi craze period but after the Chinese classical music period but no matter what, the point is 5-10 years back, I always had something on, something intellectually and spiritually stimulating and I find that I am dumbing down now. I am a lot less intellectual, a lot less eloquent, a lot less pushy and aggressive, a lot less energy – but perhaps a lot more elephant grace.

In this past year, there are many changes to my life, including a lot of travelling and of course working in India for almost half a year. I have certainly gained something, but I am not really sure what. But I am still very intellectually dull and I need to work on my general knowledge but what do I do now? How do I start? Do I have the time or is this merely an excuse? Or am I destined to go downhill from now on and become more and more a stubborn and pathetic old fellow clinging on to whatever is left inside this ageing, deteriorating shell? I really don’t know but I must do something as I am beginning to despise myself for being such an intellectual sloth!

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Filed under Philosophy, Thoughts & Commentaries

Geeky Link

Since it is no longer a secret as it has been announced elsewhere, I guess I will also do my part to announce the arrival of my much awaited blog by a friend who I find infinitely interesting :). For those who has been reading my blog since the beginning, this person is whom I refer to as “geeky friend” and to the greater community of Asian (particularly Hong Kong) movie fans, she is better known as YTSL, a regular contributor to the Mobius Home Video Forum (Asian Cinema) and a long time movie reviewer for Hong Kong Cinema – View from the Brooklyn Bridge. And of course, she is also my sifu on Hong Kong cinema and more.

Well, she is not paying me for a promotion of her new blog but I am compelled to point a link to the blog because I think and feel that it is something that is worth the few minutes of our time each day. The blog is not really about movies (so far) but on food, anthropologists, Arsenal, beer, trees, Tsai Chin, places…. etc. I personally like a mash-up of topics on living, sort of like Lin Yutang's “The Importance of Living” type of journal-like, joy of living type musings.

Here's the URL: http://webs-of-significance.blogspot.com/. Hope you like it too!

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