BORNEO 2008!!!

18 January, 2008

Are you looking for a bit of excitement over the March holiday, something more interesting than a new season of Deal or No Deal on Mediacorps, or yet another Giordano shop at the same mall every weekend?

 If so, click on the Overseas Trip page link above and learn about the upcoming FMS trip to Borneo in March 2008.

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If Ever a Post has Called Out for Disagreements….

5 December, 2007

Salihin has decided on the best movies ever made. They’re all in English, and they’re all in color. Surely somebody will have a different opinion.


Inflation Mania!

4 December, 2007

Inflation, simply put, is when prices on things go up. It’s happening in Singapore right now. Some of it is because of the increasing price of petrol. Some of it is because the GST increased (but only by 2%.) Some of it is also because everyone suddenly seems interested in buying property.

And some of it is caused by Starbucks.

While I’m no scientist, and I have no proof to back up this assertion, I firmly believe Starbucks has convinced us coffee costs more than it really should.

If I buy tea at Canteen One from my favourite canteen auntie, I pay 35 cents. When I buy it from my hawker center, I pay 70 cents. When I buy it from Starbucks, I pay $4.10, even though I drink it from a re-usable mug so there’s little wasted packaging materials. How could this be? How could the price increase over 1000% between Canteen Auntie and Starbucks Barista? They both have jobs and need to be paid, so we can’t claim it’s salary costs.

The bigger concern I raise this week is the Starbucks effect the store has had on our everyday life. We’ve somehow become convinced coffee is expensive. The moment of realization occurred to me Sunday night as I was taking the Vivocity shortcut on level 2 that sneaks through Best Denki. After working my way through the crowd of people who watch entire films in the HD TV section (cheap asses!), I stumbled upon an elaborate display of cappucino makers (for those of you who only drink at the hawker centres, cappucino is coffee with some frothy milk on top.) It looks like Best Denki is pitching the home cappucino maker as its signature perfect Christmas present, now that it’s glutted the market with flat screen TVs, digital cameras, and iGallops.

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What struck me about this was the price. I told my friends it was expensive and asked them to guess. They tried $500. Higher. They went up to $700. Higher. They were shocked. We kept going until we reached the actual price of the product: $3700. My friend remarked you can buy a used car for that. I was so stunned I asked the salesperson hovering (you notice how they always hover at Best Denki?), “Who buys something like this?” I suppose, if it could make lots of cappucinos at one time, this may be a useful purchase for a restaurant, but it doesn’t. According to the sales pitch, it does all the work for you, even frothing the milk.

The part I haven’t mentioned was the salesman didn’t share my shock about the price, because there were an assortment of coffeemakers costing over $3000.

Even at Starbucks prices, you would have to make over 500 cups of cappucino before you broke even on this machine. And if you’re satisfied with the simple coffee at the canteen, you’d have to make more than 30,000 cups of coffee. Oh Starbucks, you have wronged us all!


Censorship Now!

26 November, 2007

The law professor Alan Dershowitz once said that everyone wants to censor something. Jews want to censor Holocaust deniers. Evangelicals want to censor The Da Vinci Code. Feminists want to censor sexist pornography. I want to censor reflections which are really only a summary of class.

Case in point: I’m in the office, technically working, and I peruse the latest updates on the writer’s strike on IMDB.com. Lo and behold, there’s a post about Singapore. Media in Singapore? In the international press! How could this be?

I immediately assumed we had censored something else, but it seems doubtful to me that Singapore censorship would make the international news. Oh no, apparently the MDA has made a rap. And I have to tell you, it’s awful.

It doesn’t tell you about the MDA and how it can help you. It doesn’t describe  its function in society. I don’t believe it ever intented to. It was supposed to show the creativity of the MDA (although any fans of the Black Eyed Peas or Gorillaz will recognize the symphonic stylings, and iPod ad aficionados can immediately notice the derivative nature of the chorus’s visual design.)

To me, it epitomizes how Singapore can really get things wrong. Somebody in a high position approved this video. They thought they were being so daring, showing civil servants dancing and rapping and wearing superhero costumes and impersonating a Godfather. And it could have been, if they had gone all the way with it. Serious people having fun can be quite funny. But they couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Because they’re not fun jobs!! There’s no fun in manpower management or the processing of grant applications. And we’re stuck with rhymes like: (All grammar errors are theirs.)

“Media-Action is one of my directions/
Community and international relations.”

Or this creative gem:

“The time has come to build our talents/
These are the strength for the new challenge.” 

I sure hope it sounds better in the Mandarin version. Or at least rhymes….

I know nothing about the production company who made this video (If you do, please reply to the post.) I suspect the fun part of the idea came from them. And shockingly enough, the fun part was well-received when they pitched the idea. Then somewhere down the line in the development process, some woman (or man, but in my fantasy it’s  a woman) says, “But it can’t be all fun. We have to show them we do serious work.” And then everyone else around the table, because they all wanted a raise, nodded and agreed. Why did no one stop this woman? Throw their Razr phone at her? Why did no one say, “That’s a terrible idea!! If it’s not completely fun, then it looks like we’re not in on the joke. Then we become the joke.”

And then we’re stuck with the piece we have now, neither serious nor fun. And worst of all, not funny. Where are our censors when we really need them?


Guilty Pleasures

21 November, 2007

Fat has inspired me. She originally promised to write about the Spice Girls before she ended up writing about The Little Mermaid. I will steal her spark and write about the Spice Girls myself.

 I don’t particularly like the Spice Girls myself. But back when I was in secondary school, I sure did, particularly track number 7 on Spice: “Who do you Think you Are”. I’m sure Nat is smacking himself right now (Oh that Mister Ryan. I used to like him.) But if I’m not going to have genuine favorites, I have to at least admit to things I like.

I really like Austin Powers. I like to quote him. I like that the second movie really has all the same jokes as the first movie, but they last longer.

 I like Desperate Housewives. I like when the Edie character competes with the Susan character for the same man.

I am absolutely addicted to this simple block breaking game on my MotoRok’r hand phone.

But these are the silly things. What about the bizarre? I am addicted to typing information into airline websites. I know that Emirates airlines flies not only to Dubai from Singapore, but to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Auckland. I know if you fly Philippine Airlines from SG to Manila to Los Angeles, the plane has to stop on the island of Guam as well so it doesn’t run out of fuel.

In that same bizarre pattern, I’m obsessed with water drainage systems. One of my favorite vacation cities is Luang Prabang in Laos, and one of my favorite things about it are the beautiful brick water drainage units. I can watch water drains for long stretches of time, and one of my short scripts is about a Singaporean man who builds a boat so he can sail to work down a storm drain rather than sit in traffic.

Surely I’m not the only one. Tell me the things that make you bizarre. We can console each other knowing we’re not alone.


You’re my Favourite!!

14 November, 2007

(Author’s note: I can’t decide whether or not to put the ‘u’ in favorite. I can’t decide whether to stay true to my American roots or write for my Singaporean audience.)

I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to get a new favorite movie. One of the quirks which make me unusual as a film student (and now teacher) is that I have little interest in seeing movies more than once. If I need to analyze it for a project, or show it in a class, naturally I will, but typically I don’t want to revisit movies I’ve already seen. I tend to have a photographic memory when it comes not only to movies, but to the experiences surrounding them.

The movie we’re going to watch on Friday, Election, I saw with Becca Doten at the Century City 14 screen theater. I remember I saw The Pelican Brief with Aunt Rose at the Buenaventura Mann 6 theater before it became a discount theater. I can even remember I ate Sour Patch Kids and Diet Coke, and this was in 1993. I remember there was a fight during Gladiator, which was far more exciting than anything on the screen, and after the movie they gave us all a free pass to come back to the movies again.

The first time I saw Living Out Loud , my currect fovourite movie, was in my apartment on cable. I believe it was the Love Stories channel. Interesting, because the movie is certainly not a love story. I fell in love with the movie then. I’ve always put story at the top of my importance list for good movies, and something about this story clicked with me. It was about rugs being pulled out from under our feet, and the way getting up and dusting ourselves off allows us to reinvent ourselves. Maybe because I was graduating university in a few weeks, or maybe it was because my mom was going through a divorce, but I was in a dusting-off and starting-again mode.

A couple weeks before coming to Singapore, my mom and I watched Living Out Loud again. It was still good, but now I felt like my life had direction, and my mom was single and happy about it. The movie didn’t have anywhere the same impact and I wondered if I had over-rated it four years earlier.

Does that mean I need to go back to my previous favorite movie Fearless, about a man who survives an airplane crash? I’m scared to watch it again, because it’s been over 10 years, and I’m obviously not the same person now I was in Secondary 2 when I watched it on HBO at 11 o’clock at night. What if I don’t like it anymore?

It’s the same thing with my favorite two books. I read them both in high school. While nothing I’ve read since then makes me want to stand up and say, “Wow! This is my new favorite book!” I also wonder if I would still love them if I read them again. Is Alanis Morrissette’s “You Learn” still my favorite song? Is Ethiopian still my favorite kind of food? Is Chicago still my favorite play? Is Fat still my favorite student? (I put that one in just to see if she’s paying attention. She’s actually my second favorite student.)

Many people struggle to name their favorite movies because they think there are several that fit the bill. I struggle because I wonder if none fit the bill, that a favorite movie has to capture my mood and my emotion at the time I watch it perfectly. It’s steadily changing.


A mid-week pick-me-up

12 November, 2007

If you’re feeling bored, feel free to offer your opinions on the nature of evil by adding a comment on the Salihin-Ryan reflection 3 smack-down here.