Monthly Archives: December 2009

Some Pics From Brunei

Well, perhaps my earlier blog post is a bit biased towards Go and may give the reader an impression that I have done nothing in Brunei except doing Go stuffs but that is not true. Xinwen, Tisha (Xinwen’s adorable sister), Peng Hui (Xinwen evilly called him Penguin) and Jayden brought us to some places to visit and the photos below will tell. All photos courtesy of Tisha.

This picture was taken with blur guy Xinwen in the Royal Regalia Museum where all the stuffs regarding the Sultan of Brunei is kept, including the history, coronation, gifts from other countries, etc. It’s full of glittering stuffs and gold. The museum is well organized and very visitor friendly.

This was taken in the Empire Hotel and Country Club, the most posh hotel in Bandar Seri Begawan. This luxury hotel faces the sea and has, amongst other regular amenities, a full scale cinema in its compound. From the picture, Peng Hui do look like a fatter version of Jet Li. Haha.

The above picture captures the atmosphere at the Musical Water Fountain in Jerudong Park. It is a very nice place to just sit and watch the water and the “Be My Guest” song is most apt and the most beautiful, perhaps also signaling Xinwen’s thoughts and treating his guests (i.e mon épouse et moi) so well.

Xinwen horsing around in another Jerudong Park area. Jerudong Park is a huge theme park built by the brother of the Sultan and many many years ago, admission to this park is free of charge (now it only costs B$3.00) and has many rides. However, recently, the park has deteriorated and lesser and lesser people go there. But still, it is quite a swell place to bring the family to go and hang around during the weekend.

Another shot at the Jerudong Park with the Carousel at the back.

We were taken to many nice places to eat and this is a Japanese restaurant called Excapade Sushi. It was fully packed and the food and price is reasonable. The gentleman behind Xinwen is Xinwen’s dad. A very hospitable and extremely nice person. Further back is of course, Tisha.

There are many places that also visited such as the Jame’Asr Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque, the Kampung Ayer and such but we didn’t bring a camera and as such no pictures taken. We have eaten quite a bit too, the Ko Lo me is superb but didn’t have a chance to taste some Brunei food such as the famous Nasi Katok which looks like our Nasi Lemak but I don’t know about the taste. Maybe next time.

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Tide of Iron – Wargame Video

Falling in love with this game more and more each day! Come play buddies!! Waiting for you all :)

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Tide of Iron Wargame/Weekend

So, yes. Back from Penang. Had the great laksa and Hokkien Mee. Met the geeky friend and talked endlessly about movies. Watched MUALLAF where the whole hall only consisted of 6 patrons while the telephone booking confirmed that all allocated seats are fully booked. Did lots of traveling, eating, family reunions, dining and partying (and of course, ahem, the usual party stuffs). And there went the weekend.

And also, yes, the TIDE OF IRON wargame is now in da house. It’s a scenario based, World War II game. With little miniature soldiers, tanks, vehicles and a configurable terrain map, it sounded like an excellent game and we decided to give it a try.

Together with my old pal Chyn where we always try new games, we had a run at it and tested the game. Here is the test results. We played the AT BREAKING POINT SCENARIO where the Germans are to break the American defense line and occupy at least 3 hexes designated by the scenario rule book. The American has lots of soldiers well positioned behind razor wires and some also deeply entrenched, plus they have reinforcements, which gives one a feeling of an unending supply of soldiers defending the line while the Germans had a lot more elite troops plus one Panzer tank. I played the German side and Chyn played the American side.

In general, the production quality of the game pieces are very high. The boards and markers are thick and solid and the plastics are also solid and nice. The little miniatures are also very well made. However, the only problem is that it is very troublesome to put the miniature solders into the holes on the based to form a squad and one has the feeling that the little plastic is going to come off soon. Other than that, the quality of the materials and game pieces are superb.

The rules of this game is a lot more complex compared to other lighter games such as Risk. There are many different rules governing each turn and action, and different rules applicable to different troops and terrain type. One needs to really study the rules properly and in advance before play to save time. There are some confusing thing about the rule but some checking on online forums will clear the clouds.

In the game with Chyn, I deployed my troops as per the instruction in the scenario book and after Chyn set up his American defense line, it looks like an impossible job to break the line, what more with his mortars and high terrain line of sight, which enhances the attack range of his troops, and of course, the endless reinforcement.

I deployed my troops to the right flank with the normal troops leading the way and the machine gun troops and elite troop trailing behind. The Panzer tank followed behind the flank too and the troops are moved so as to take advantage of the terrain to provide as much cover as possible.

I divided another troop to attack on the left flank as well, mostly made of normal troops and a mortar troop. At round 3, the fire action is inevitable and I was subjected to heavy fire from the American troops as I have had to get out of cover to be able to have a shot at the line. I concentrated my fire to break a hole in the defense line and hoping to punch a weak point there for my troops to move in but there is just too many soldiers and every time I punch a hole, the reinforcement team plugged it.

Many German dead bodies lie outside the fence as a result and the Americans again deployed more reinforcement troops and used their strategy cards to cancel the effect of my strategy cards.

With my attack line on the right side thinning, I had to use my left division to attack but it is too late. It is impossible to break through and after 2 hours, we stopped the game and had a post mortem.

In the post-mortem, Chyn pointed out that I should have used my main troop to attack on the left where I can get a lot of terrain cover from the forest instead of leading the troop in the open on the right side. Basically, it is better to reverse the troops in the game. Plus, because of the forest cover, it created a natural narrow window from which the Americans can fire on me, and because of the narrowness of the terrain, the huge American troops’ effect are limited because of the stacking limit of the hex and the other troops will be put to waste while I concentrate the firepower of the elite German troops and the Panzer tank and break the line there. Like this there is probably a better chance of winning.

So at the end, we thought we really needed to read the rules more carefully and familiarize ourselves more. We look forward to more game sessions in the future, trying out many other scenarios.

More about the game here, including the Rulebook download and scenarios: TIDE OF IRON

Here is one review: Review

Here is another excellent session report: Session Report

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Perhaps Love 如果·愛 (你是爱我的 You Do Love Me)

Love this movie.

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Bolly Bolly Bollywood

Suspecting readers would have guessed by now that I am going to write something about Bollywood after posting two superb music video recently, one from FANAA and the other from DIL SE. Well, yes, I am getting more and more back into movies nowadays and lesser on Go because the fact that I still suck at Go despite many efforts to improve makes me quite depressed. Anyways, as always, I found refuge in movies.

The title of this post, i.e. BOLLY BOLLY BOLLYWOOD is a term coined by my superb ex-colleague and good friend Abid when we were thinking of the names for a movie slot for Bollywood movies. As creative as he is and multiple award winning at that, this name stuck as it is at the same time catchy and sticky.

When I started to work at the movie channel, I realised that with its vast library from movies from all over the world, there is a need to create platforms to showcase the movie so that there is a structured way to schedule the movies according to themes and it will be much easier to sell to both the viewers as well as sponsors. Scheduling is a very interesting area in television and is both science and art, although I would say perhaps 90% science and 10% art.

The key to good scheduling lies with good and reliable information. By studying the demographic and more importantly the psychographic attributes of the viewers, together with months of viewership data, and with a good knowledge of the movies in the library, one can create a really good schedule and attract as many of the targeted viewers as possible, especially so with a package of good promos and marketing support.

Talking about scheduling, there are many more little tricks to it rather than just the formal study of the data (of course, without studying the data, there is no need to proceed). Some of the tricks like tent-pole scheduling and step-scheduling is common but by far, my favourite scheduling trick is what I call predatory/pre-emptive scheduling. This is achieved, broadly speaking, by studying the schedule of your competitor that is competing for the same audience and you schedule your way and promote your program in a way that takes viewership away from them or prevent them from taking away your audience. This is actually quite tricky and it is beyond this post to discuss more of the details.

Okay, I think I got carried away. This post is about Bollywood movies. I realised that I have not updated my Notes section of this blog, where I may file this, for a very long time and looking at the statistics provided by this blog, there is still a significant number of reader that reads those notes and a lot of them landed on the notes via a search engine. One of the most often read notes is the one on the Malaysian New Wave and is also much quoted in this post on Gubra in the Asian Film History wiki site. However, I wrote that note back in May 2008 and a lot have changed since then and an update is due. But I am now out of that industry and my knowledge is that much more limited, compared to that time where I have unblocked access to the movies as well as their makers.

Bollywood, as most people know, comes from the word Bombay/Hollywood. Often, Bollywood movies is mentioned synonymously with Hindi movies. Since the Indian economic reform in the early 1990s, there has been a boom in the Indian film industry and big producers such as Yash Copra who founded the Yash Raj Films took advantage of that boom. In fact, Indian cinema goes way back to directors such as Guru Dutt and Raj Kapoor and also includes an alternative cinema with such directors as the great Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak up to NRI directors such as Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta. However, for this post, let’s talk about popular Bollywood cinema from 1995 onwards.

The first movie one may want to watch is DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE (1995) starring the then still relatively young Sharukh Khan and Kajol and directed by Aditya Chopra (son of Yash Chopra). This movie made the earth (or Indian cinema) shake for a while and some swear by it as still the best of Sharukh Khan ever. This movie is also the longest running movie in India and even today, it is still playing in Mumbai. Believe it or not. So if you can get your hands on this movie, please jump on it if you are interested.

When Bollywood movies are mentioned, one will always think of dance and songs, and of course that 3 hour time commitment. However, there is of course a lot more to just dance and songs which I enjoy a lot but one has to look at the social aspect of it. In many ways, it is a way for the mass to escape to another world. With movie tickets very much affordable, India has one of the lowest ticket prices in the world, the common people who have worked so hard can find a means to escape to another world, a dream world which they will never be capable of living.

While I was staying in India for some time, I went to watch movies in the cinema too, although without subtitles. I remember watching KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA (KANK) there and lining up in queue for the ticket. It was an almost full house show and one can feel the atmosphere inside the theatre hall. Imagine a movie like KANK which is a very modern movie set in New York getting that kind of response, just imagine other movies that speaks closer to their hearts. It is a rather enjoyable experience watching a Bollywood movie in an Indian cinema. One almost wants to stand up and dance in tune with the music.

Okay, so, other good Bollywood movies that I can recommend are as follows (in no particular order, just from memory):

1. LAGAAN (2001)
2. KAL HO NA HO (2003)
3. KABHI KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM (2001)
4. RANG DE BASANTI (2006)
5. DIL SE (1998)
6. FANAA (2006)
8. DEVDAS (2002)
9. LAGE RAHO MUNNA BHAI (2006)
10. HUM AAPKE HAIN KOUN..! (1994)
11. KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI (1998)
12. MOHABBATIEN (2000)

And of course, DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE (1995).

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Two Dark Movies

[Warning, this post contains some spoilers]

Nope. Not NEW MOON (which I have not seen, I didn’t watch TWILIGHT too). But two recent Hong Kong/China movies that has a very dark tone.

The first is STORM RIDERS 2. I attended the launch of the movie in Hong Kong in 2008 and was looking forward very much to watch this movie. So while in Brunei with nothing much to do, Xinwen, my wife and I watched it in one of the cinemas there and yes, thank goodness, it is presented in the Cantonese language and not dubbed!

In general, it is quite a good entertainment with some good CGI work but the predictability of the story solicited some yawns. Since I have never read the comic book series, I do not know how true the interpretation is but for most of the part, I did not feel too good about the movie. And I almost burst out laughing when Charlene Choi called out to the master, “Master, I am Second Dream”. “Second Dream”?? Hahahahaha. What a name.

And of course, the movie is dark with Wind turning to the evil ways and started killing innocents while Cloud tries to save the world and sacrifices himself along the way. Of course, there is going to be Storm Riders 3, no?

The next movie just watched is BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, a story about the protection of Dr. Sun Yat Sen during his trip to Hong Kong in 1906 to get the leaders of the revolution together and topple the Qing dynasty, which eventually happened in 1911. In this fictional account, it tells how the idealistic students tries to save China from itself and how the kungfu masters protects Dr. Sun during his trip, a true depiction that the pen is as powerful as the sword.

With Donnie Yen being featured so prominently in all the marketing stuffs, one naturally expects some big time kung fu but in general, the tone of the movie is dramatic with endless streams of tears from man, which we also see in STORM RIDERS 2 (for potential movie makers out there, note that it is a trend now to make man cry shamelessly on screen, not that it is bad but this is a new trend! hahaha).

All in all, the production quality in BODYGUARD AND ASSASSINS is top grade and it has a very good story backdrop, and the message it drives through is that mankind need to sacrifice for the better good of the future. But what is the eventual meaning of this? Did the Chinese really live a better life after the revolution? Maybe not but somehow, Dr. Sun and his gang thought that China needed to change.

We can get started and talk about China post 1911 and what a mess it became right after that up to the huge mess that Mao did after coming into power in 1949, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution just to name two of the most hideous. And post Mao, Tienanmen and such. But did the Chinese live a better life post 1911? Well, I don’t know and I don’t really think so, until perhaps recently with the economic reform.

So what is the real point of the revolution leaving so many good people dead? One of the good thing that BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS did was to show us the story of the heroes that sacrificed their life, that their life has meaning, and they actually did sacrifice their life thinking that there is a better future. Say for example Ah Si (character played by Nicolas Tse). He is about to be married. He has a really good heart. And he is going to have quite a good life if he didn’t die. So did he die in vain and his widow suffering through her life in vain?

So at the end, what was in my mind is not that I am disappointed that it is not a kung fu flick and I was cheated my money but it makes me reflect on the true meaning of a revolution and in this, I think the film succeed tremendously.

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Chanda Chamke

Also wonderful.

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