Thursday, July 31, 2008


31st July 2008, Thursday

Stayed up wee bit too late for several nights this past fortnight to catch a high-rating teen dorama from TBS which had just ended their run (abit strange for the airing period which begins in April and conclude in late July when the new season had just began), Rookies.

Based on a Shounen Jump manga series (can never be wrong with that) by Morita Masanori, this high angst tale chronicled the trials and tribulations of a group of aspiring baseball players to fulfill their dream to make it into the famed Koshien Stadium for the well-elusive summer high school baseball tournament.
A year back during qualification from the Kanto region, everything went wry wrong when one of the student swung the bat during the final round when their school, Niko Tamagawa Gakuen was trailing by a few points, to the opposition's pitcher.
This resulted in a mass brawl between opposing side and created a stain to the school's pristine records in the competition including a famous victory years back.

The baseball club was disbanded with the seniors quitting, the violent batter expelled and the remaining sophomores (now in Year 2) became much feared hooligans whom the school had very much given hope for.

The story began with a rookie teacher, Kawato Kouichi was assigned to take over as the form teacher of that 2nd year class which harbored the problem lot.
Kawato himself had a tainted background. When he was been assaulted by a violent student in his previous stint, he accidentally punched the delinquent, resulting in the latter from falling off a glass window.
The principal, himself the captain of the baseball team that won the baseball competition many years ago had the devious ploy to use Kawato as a pawn to force the ex basball players to incur some violent affair which will bestow the school the right to expel them.

Little did he knew, Kawato was such a passionate teacher who was affixed to fulfill dreams of his students, regardless of their status.
When he talked to one of the ex baseball team member, Mikoshiba who had delivered a letter to quit school; he realized that Mikoshiba was still sore from that mass brawl, prematurely ending his dream to play baseball in high school.
From then on, Kawato was on a one-man mission to regroup the team and resurrect the baseball club.
It was quite an ordeal as seen in the 1st half as many of the players including star player Aniya had lost faith in the school and baseball altogether. But the relentless Kawato was not to back down so easily and eventually won everyone over including the most stubborn of the lot, a brute by the name of Shinjo to reform the team.

The 2nd half of the series gave an insight on how the team struggled to become a decent squad with intense training while trying their best not to get into trouble as their previous incarnation of hooligan surely drew many enemies of the past.
One of them was the violent batter who was expelled, Enatsu returned to haunt then which led to Kawato challenging his present school, Megurokawa which boasts several well-known players in the junior high scene.
En route to the qualifiers, the team faced a lot of skepticism and taunts from the media and even the organization and took pain to win everyone over.

The story really works on a few well-tested themes which the Japanese audience love.
Firstly passionate teacher... Much like the popular "Gokusen" and previously "GTO" and "Kinpachi Sensei", the teacher seems to pit against problematic students who everyone felt was too out of hand.
Secondly the nakama spirit... Baseball is a team sport and no way to excel if you do not trust your team mates. The Niko Gaku team was a band of brothers to begin with and through their ordeals their bonds fully galvanizes. I really like that... reminded me a bit of "One Piece".

With the recent spell of Japanese shows like "Crows Zero", "Gokusen" and now "Rookies" (all based on manga by the way), I really pondered if the Japanese youth are facing violences and hooliganism everyday.
However with the recent spat of public stabbing cases, the Japanese society certainly doesn't look as peaceful as it might had seen.

Some interesting trivia includes the names of the characters are based from real life professional baseball players from the likes of Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.
Kawato, supposedly a Japanese language/literature teacher love to cite famous quotations from the likes of renowned Japanese scholars, European/American scholars and even Confucius. In the dorama, he just splattered the words...Though the quotations were related to the context of the storyline, usually it was too fast and could not catch it.

The Cast:

Kawato Kouichi: The inspirational dream-maker was portrayed by Sato Ryuta who finally had carved a lead role after always putting in a stellar performance as the best mate/friend of male leads in several dorama. He certainly fit the role of the loud-spoken Kawato and possess a sincere grin and a physique which rightly suit a former karate expert as Kawato.
Aniya Keiichi: Ichihara Hayato was cast as the star player and showed versatile acting as Hayato is always famous for. Really showed the struggle of a player yearning to make it into Koushien and you could felt his agony from the injury inflicted to his rib in the finale. Still think he look alot like Sonim.
Mikoshiba Toru: The crybaby captain who sparked the revival of the club was played by Koide Keisuke last seen in "Gokusen 2" & incredibly the gay Afro drummer in "Nodame Cantabile" as the one with the smallest reputation of now. However Keisuke like Hayato and Ryuta showed good performance with his role and with his latest movie "Cyborg She", surely is meant to be a hot commodity in the entertainment scene in Japan soon.
Shinjo Kei: The brooding brute is portrayed by Shirota Yu we all knew as Tekuza from the "Prince of Tennis movie". This Spanish mix-blood from the D-Boys always seem better without much lines and stand one side acting cool (like his role in "Hanazakari no Kimitachi e"; therefore the role of Shinjo really suits him. More significantly, his acting improved in this dorama series.
Wakana Tomochika: The mood maker/ catcher of the squad is played by Takaoka Sousuke who I last seen as one of the dashing gang leader in "Crows Zero". Sousuke surely made Wakana a character to remember.
Sekikawa Shuta: The speed demon of the team and the first to embraced the revival. Nakao Akiyoshi shrugged off those weakling roles he was more famous for and once again played a yakuu-senshuu as seen in "H2".
Kiyama Kiyooki: One fierce-looking mustached figure who also the most tragic figure since he is a poor batter is played by Kawamura Yosuke who I had not deep impression of.
Okada Yuya: Sato Takeru who we known more as Kamen Rider Den-O played the dreadlocks Okada is surely more serious than his breakthrough Kamen Rider role.
Yufune Tetsuro: The blond-haired Yufune who frequently seen paired with Okada and ending his sentence with "gyaa~ (like a cat) is portrayed by Igarashi Shunji, supposedly pedestrain in both "Hana Yori Dango" and "Hanazakari no Kimitachi e" and like Sato has dabbled in tokusatsu series as cast in "Ultrama Moebius"
Imaoka Shinobu: The back-up catcher and a harmless creature always tagging along his buddy Hiratsuka, affectionately calling him "Hii-chan" is played by a relative unknown Onoue Hiroyuki.
Hiratsuka Taira: A strong name for the comedic element of the group. Another "Crows Zero" alumni Kiritani Kenta was cast as the egocentric bench warmer who enjoys a siesta (even taking futon to class to sleep during lessons) and had a crush on the team manager, Yagi. Always eager to see his performance in this series.

In this testosterone-filled drama, only 2 noticeable female characters to be highlighted.
Yagi Toko (played by Murakawa Eri), a fellow classmates of the team and childhood friend of Aniya had made the latter promised to bring her to Koushien. Surely some sparks going between the two.
Kawato's old colleague, English teacher Mayumi was portrayed by Fukuiishi Kazue last seen as Matsumoto's girlfriend in "Bambino!' and the tomboyish Yagi Hide from "Shinsengumi". Mayumi has always been supporting Kawato and eventually the baseball team when the entire school was against them.
Another source of comedy was presented by the rotund Amano Hiroyuki (the fat guy in Black Biscuit and one half of comedic duo, Kya~in) as a teacher desperate for attention by his female colleagues.
Seasoned actors like Asano Kazuyuki, Ibu Masato and Osugi Ren played the caring headmaster and the 2 generation of principals respectively.

There were several cameos by well-known celebrity in the show.
Ayase Haruka who is starring opposite Koide Keisuke in "Cyborg She" was his sister in episode 1.
Moriyama Mirai (the beany-eyed guy in "Water Boys" dorama and "Sekai no Chusin Ai wo Sakebu" movie) was the violent student Kawato knocked out of the window.
Watabe Atsuro was the wise sports journalist who was rooting for underdog and encouraged Kawato near the end.
Hamada Masatoshi from the famous Down Town was seen as a brief passerby who I missed (should watch again for that nanosecond of appearance).

All in all a great cast... Popular dashing young male actors who aren't the typical Johnny's Jimusho type as this dorama surely aren't meant to be a Johnny's vehicle anyway as they may seem too soft for the harden hooligan baseball player type.
My wife commented that most of the cast seem too old to be casted as 17 year olds though especially for the likes of Hiyama, Hiratsuka and Imaoka.

The theme song is "Kiseki" from the dentistry foursome, GreeeeN which is really catchy and suits the theme of series and with the popularity of this series prompted it to be one of the major hits of this summer and perhaps 2008.

The ending left a cliffhanger which we had to find out in a autumn 2 hours special and a movie in spring 2009...damn can't wait for it.

I think the really like the characters in this series and despite some parts of the story seem way too much for them to take but Japanese audience are just too incline for the underdog, revival from the brink of death type of tale which many sports story was based on.
No fancy effects (i.e. Captain Tsubasa) on the sports itself, and not alot of explanation of the rules as people like us who live in a country where baseball is remotely popular (we only play softball and hantam bola when we were young) can get confused as the match goes on.
The nakama tamashi (brother spirits) really won me over and now I am even thinking of getting the manga series....

Well as usual if I want it bad enough, I will find ways and means to get them...
Seems like I am not alone with such nature at home...
I felt strange when the missus was surfing for information of a digital camera and soon she cracked from my interrogation that she had intention to get one despite my persistent insistence that we already had one at home.
Two days ago, she went ahead to buy a Sony Cybershot...sigh
My old man surely was why I had inherited such a nature as he had signaled the interest of a LCD TV for the living room went ahead to buy one over the weekend.
Now our living room was well adroned with a 37 inch LG Scarlet which comes in a reasonable good price...

Japanese word of the day:野球 ~Ya-kyuu~(Baseball) If we have a sports here in school as passionate as the baseball tournament in Japan

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Au Revoir Mon Patron

30th July 2008, Wednesday

Thank god it's midweek already...Not feeling too jovial for reasons unknown over the week perhaps due to lack of sleep..struggling to keep the eyelids open these few afternoons...
Last evening once again threw a fit in front of the PC in my virtual football management as my Sengkang Punggol team with 4 first choice forwards missing through injuries at the same time struggled to beat our arc nemesis Geylang Utd (their incumbent gaffer Lim Tong Hai seemed to like me the least, so I must beat his team constantly to pulp).
It was the same when my Singapore squad just concede cheap goals to France in the 2nd round of 2014 World Cup, my team just fail to win Geylang... After a string of bore draws and narrow losses, I called it a night at 1.30 am.

Anyway this very day surely had some Gallic (not garlic) flavor to it since our French supervisor would be leaving her post she held for perhaps 5 years now to pursue her studies just across the road.
She left behind a legacy and made whoever taking over facing a daunting task to repeat her feat in terms of how meticulous and intricate she could be yet not back down by the amount of projects to handle and made a precise schedule to appease the bosses (especially an unreasonable American one).

So far in my career I had been blessed with good bosses/supervisors.
My first one was like a caring teacher and always condescending to our needs though she could be a bit of push over and shown a wee bit of favoritism which irk the girls and me partially (but it's JxMMy D we are talking about so I can be forgiven to be ruffled).

When BY pulled me over 2 years ago, I was really uncertain whether I could be facing a good supervisor which always make coming to work less dreadful.
In the end it turned out real well as she treated us like adults as we supposed to, not leading the group in a draconian authoritative way.
She very much leave us on our own to handle our project though sometime the expectation for one to complete might be ludicrous (usually is from our main bosses).

The biggest perk from her would be the illustrious appraisal she did for us enabling me to be promoted this year (due anyway) but also warrant us pretty hefty bonus package.
I don't know if the good days are over with that aspect but I am just glad for that the bonus for the past 2 years managed to beef up my accounts abit...
Still shudders at the thought that the upcoming one would be conducted by Mr Shitty Green himself...The onus of it all!

Well she is not exactly that flawless...
Because she is meticulous, she can be pretty pushy and unreasonable at time, the It support especially the scientific computing guys got the brunt of it the most over the years we tried to develop the inventory system.

She also made a point to scan through all the projects and pick out bones from the eggs when you might had forgotten an error is done.
But she does appreciate people owning up to mistakes though she loves to bring out "please be more careful next time" through her limited English vocabulary which got me down for a few times in the past...dunno why just dented my ego a bit.

Two of her best qualities of being impartial to everyone (not biased to any individual though we suspect one or 2 of the old birds..but that's understandable) as well as bestowing us the liberty to handle our own schedule can be her biggest shortcomings.
She seldom hit the lab so had limited idea what was happening inside and tends to turn a blind eye to some non-activities of perhaps the Beautiness in the past and when that particular clique's gathering which really got on the nerve which expedite her departure.
Perhaps she and the bosses had always tried to keep politics to the minimal and hope we work in an utopia-like environment where everyone is friend with everyone...
It didn't worked that way and many left because of it.

Nevertheless she would surely be missed and do pray that whoever takiing over would be just half as nice as her...

Feel really jaded to see a series of departures from work since last year including the lad from the gym who I always had hearty chat about sports with.
However another previous gym instructor (whom BY kept insisting is gay) made a surprise return this week to take over from the current in-charge, surely is a nice change to see a prodigal son to return...

French Word of the Day: merci (Thank You...to my departing supervisor) For everything I had with my current job...


Monday, July 28, 2008

The SM(a)RT Choice?

28th July 2008, Monday

Monday blues....Our well-respected French supervisor leaving her post on Wednesday for her PhD studies and the imminent future deem pretty bleak but life goes on...

The real frustration from the daily routine derived partially from work but the constant helter skelter for train to commute can drives one to the edge...

Evidently with the tenfold increase of population on our booger-sized island, we were expecting to see a greater turn out for commuters.
This was further compounded by the increasing fuel prices resulted in many people to ditch the idea of car-owning and resorted to public transport.
Now it had accumulated to a daily battle for the limited train on the train carriages and at times "Battle of Helms Deep" as I like to put it on the platform for those even more elusive seats.
Singaporeans are pretty ugly in nature to begin with but with this constant rat race and battle, the ugliness had now amplified and blown out to proportion...

With more and more people hopping on the bandwagon , in this case the Mass Rapid Transit, the company should come out with feasible solutions to quell and alleviate whatever misery we paying commuters are entrenched in...

One mean could be the most logical..Increasing the frequency of rides.
But in the economic aspect, it would mean getting more trains and employed more drivers... The company had already obligated to that in early this month with increased frequency during peak hours but for my route, it didn't really seemed like it.
People are still getting stranded on the platforms of Jurong East station unless you risk being "molested" by fellow passengers or even incur the wrath of the others as you pegged yourself in whatever limited space you have into the cabins...

Find alternative transport mean....
Taking cab on daily basis is surely no go considering the various extra levies you have to pay during the peak hours (not forgetting the millions and millions ERP gantries littered around the island).
As for buses, I think of late the bus companies relieved as much if not much more scathing comments on the papers with regards to their appalling frequency as well as the intimidating drivers' attitude.
Personally I need to transit between 3 buses from my home to my workplace which surely make shuffling and nudging on the platform with strangers seems like heaven.

Perhaps the best solution would be avoid really peak hours... Either go out earlier or much later than 80% of the commuters would proceed... In this time and age we might have to look at earlier than 6 or later than 10...Absurd as it sound but it is a safe bet you'll at least guaranteed a seat for your journey....
It would be even better if you can work from home, so no traveling required... I'm surely the King of Wishful Thinking like Go West

In conclusion, the situation would most probably stay the same (I hope) or degenerate further and we can't do nuts about it cos there is not ready competitors for this sector (notice how in Singapore mass appeal services like transport, mobile, high speed internet provider and cable TV have only 2 competitors and one something two are from the gahmen)...
Well they will monopolize the industry, give you the "take it or leave it" attitude and conjure more price hikes (they increase when fuel price increase but when the price goes the other direction, the elevated price remains..go figure), and we just have to endure and take it out on one another on our next journey perhaps....

Japanese word of the day: 欲求不満 (frustration) How do you keep tab of your frustration on the train?


Monday, July 21, 2008

The Night is Dark Before Dawn...

21st July 2008, Monday

At this juncture, Foo had caught perhaps the best movie of 2008 twice and clearly lobbied the idea that Christopher Nolan is his favorite director..period...

Though it might seems like words spluttered out of impulse with the new Batman featured film, "The Dark Knight", the sequel to 2005, "Batman Begins" surely drew superlatives and praises from all over from critics to hardcore Batman fanboys to casual movie-goers.

The huge blockbuster (already oust "Spider'McGuire Can't Dance'man 3"'s record for opening weekend for a superhero flick and recuperated much of the $180 million budget for Warner Brothers) began their viral advertisement for a year or so with Foo religiously feeding me with the updates over the course.
Batman fans who were impressed with a previously-unknown director of cult classic, Memento, Chris Nolan's take of the cape crusader 3 years back had be anticipating its sequel as some awaits the next Superman film.
Of course Heath Ledger's premature passing after completion of his part for this film drew alot of attentions as people are already drawing accolades for the 28 year old's protrayal of Batman's greatest foe, The Joker.
Edison Chen, who had a good 15 seconds of speaking role as "LSI VP" might had fueled more unwanted publicity for this film with his sex scandal.

As the name implied "The Dark Knight" tells the story of how Batman, a much maligned vigilante crimefighter of Gotham was a dark knight who citizens are willing to blame when things go wrong as compared to Gotham's true white knight, assistant district attorney, Harvey Dent.
"Dark" is also the theme of this film which makes "Batman Begins" look like "Enchanted"....

While Harvey went on a personal agenda to bring down the mafia rings of Gotham, enlisting the help of Lt. James Gordan and Batman's help along the way, the mafia got their own "messiah" in a freak they called The Joker.
The Joker promised to take down the mafia's number one pain in the neck, Batman and ensured the mafia leaders like Sal Maroni would not be pinned down by Dent's jurisdiction.
The reward half of the mafia's "black money" but eventually we knew it was his true interest is to cross sword with the Dark Knight as he mentioned "complete him".
So The Joker truly gave the city the villain they had craved for, creating mayhem and fear throughout Gotham, killing the polic commissioner, the chief justice and attempt to even silence the mayor as well as making the police unit an uncertain place as Jim couldn't trust anyone who had the possibility to be corrupted.

It supposed to be a superhero affair and Nolan did gave us Batman with his long line of cool gadgets like the sonar-detection mobile phones, a Bat suit which is more nifty and a cool Batpod ejected from the Rumbler.
However Nolan also played with mind games and true detective stuff as Bob Kane had always projected Batman to be.
It was such tracing accounts which led Batman, Dent, Gordon and co. huffing and puffing all about that really set the mood for the film, keeping us to our toes, cannot anticipate what would happen next.
Some people drew parallel of Ledger's Joker to Hannibal Lector and indeed both are scarily brilliant to visualize their way to kill people or to attain their motives, totally void of humanity.
But the Joker is much more scarier with the fact that he truly utilizes the mafia's power and resources to a greater extent, doing more damage and creating more mayhem.

Kudos for the great script and overall mood Nolan had created and was aptly aided by Hans Zimmer's haunting soundtrack.

In the end behind a great script, wonderful cinematography, intricate backdrop and costume and riveting background music, if there wasn't a great cast to realize Nolan's vision it would be deemed to nothing and surely I must say none of this ensemble disappoint even the corrupted Sgt. Ramirez, news anchorman Mike Engel and Gordon's young son....

Batman took a backseat this time round I felt for his nemesis as well as his rival in love, Harvey Dent but Christian Bale once again let his presence felt on the set in front or behind the mask.

Aaron Eckhart might not be in the mold for a super villain but he surely did it good as a tragic "white knight of justice" drew to the edge of sanity by a madman.

Mrs Cruise felt she is too big for the set so in came Jake Gyllenhal's younger sister, I last seen in "The Secretary".
Maggie surely didn't fare as well for looks but she is much less a "damsel in distress" persona and we empathize with why Bruce Wayne is still so smitten by her and in such grief over her tragic death.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine & Morgan Freeman returned as the 3 wise old men in Batman's life as Lt./ Commissioner James Gordon, butler Aflred Pennyworth and CEO of Wayne Corporation & inventor Lucius Fox respectively. While Oldman totally immersed into the heroic policeman, the wise words and classy acting by the latter 2 surely up the production value of this film itself.

Supporting cast member including Eric Roberts as mafia leader, Sal Maroni, & Singapore actor Ng Chin Han as Hong Kong businessman Lau who launder the mafia's money from Gotham didn't fare badly from their more well-known counterparts.
Fans of "Lost", "Prison Break" and old World Wrestling Federation might find some familiar faces hidden in the mdst as well.

But the star of it all, the late Heath Ledger.
Alright not because we are now waxing lyrical because of his unfortunate passing nor it took on the most daunting role last portrayed by the great Jack Nicholson and voted one of the greatest super villain ever.
In fact I felt Heath just done his part as the psychotic madman as if he was born into the role.
He executed it with such ease and didn't seem to hold it back or over exaggerate himself with devious laughters or what not.
Many claimed his death was due to the fact that months of researching and sinking deep in The Joker persona had proved too macabre for him.
But he surely left it on the high and truly deserve all the accolades being bestowed.

All in all it was a great 153 minutes to savor (for Foo might be the 3rd time soon) and for me surely the best movie since the Lord of the Ring Trilogy...
Will Nolan, Bale and gang come back for a 3rd installment, well we sure will salivate over such possbility...wouldn't we?

Japanese word of the day: 暗い (Dark) Thank god we ditch Joel Schumacher and his outrageous colorful rendition of a great superhero franchise


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ming Yi, the new Durai

16th July 2008, Wednesday

The big news in town has to be the probe and trial of estranged former head of the charity-fund community hospital Ren Ci, Venerable Shi Ming Yi.

After the a few months of investigation by the Charity Council of Singapore with their accounts, it was found that there were several cases of irregularities which led to bring the abbot into limelight as he seemed to approve loaning of money to some other organizations and companies set under his name using money donated to the hospital.

This fiasco surely drew parallel to that of the NKF saga back in 2005 (in fact NKF was probed in July that year) and put the National Kidney Foundation in bad light (donations much reduced) and T.T. Durai, the CEO became the main villain of it all after judged to misappropriate the funds for his "peanuts"-worth annual income, 1st class flights for dubious conferences and golden taps for the personal toilet in the office.

NKF since then halt all public form of aggressively campaign for funds as in those annual (sometime more than 3 times a year) live TV variety extravaganza from our local network to solicit for as much donations as possible with local Mediacrop artistes being subjected to some daredevil stunts.
Their success (in ascension with each rendition) see several other Non-government Charitable organizations following suit, including Venerable Ming Yi's Ren Ci Hospital.

The show the latter put up was a much heart warming one with the sad stories of the poor patients taking the highlight and no lucky draw for cars or other lavish prizes (which was always frowned upon but a tactic local mid-income philanthropists are suckered into).
The actors and actresses of Caldecott Hill after being scrutinized for unreasonably put their lives at risk for those stunts put up acts which involves less danger.
However the grave danger was faced by someone else...Ming Yi himself.
Over the course of the proliferation of Ren Ci's charity shows, the abbot had balanced himself on wooden planks suspended on tall buildings or doing other stunts out of the page from David Blaine or something.
This usually drew sympathy from the hosts and guests of the show, with tears for fear for his demise if something went wryly wrong; and the viewers at home were too shared the sympathies and felt the only right way to redeem themselves, was to make more donations.

For the longest time possible, I felt such method of solicitation for donations is uncalled for and downright abhorrent.
I had refused to support such causes but I am not a very charitable man to begin with though the same cannot be said about my family as they together with a large majority of the local Chinese-speaking population who didn't had much to do on Sunday evenings but watched these programs were suckered into donating quite a lot of money.

Of course we all felt it is for a good cause and for Chinese, we believed in good karma.
However after the NKF fiasco and now with Ren Ci who seemed to be the one organization no one wants to believe to be dabbling with such shameful misappropriation of funds, especially with the well respected Venerable Ren Ci (who my mom claimed to reside in a condominium), I think people starting to become jaded and think twice now on whether they will want to make a donation to such NGOs again.

Personally I felt bad but couldn't help gleefully sniggering with the terms "HA HA SUCKERS!" spontaneously sprouting in my mind...
Then again I believe in karma as well so I shouldn't laugh at others who had done so in the past unlike myself,'cos I might need such aides in the future.
I am also a sentimental human being who will be moved by sad scenes on TV, just that I don't react with my wallet though....

Japanese word of the day: 慈善 (Charity) Always remembered a Uni chum of mine who was adamant not to help out in charitable causes, claiming he is not a charitable person, so why pretend to be one...wise words I tell you


Monday, July 14, 2008

War & Brotherhood

14th July 2008, Monday

War...who wants it...maybe beside certain American President...
It shouldn't even be used as the last resort to resolve any issues, political or not...
But the innate bestial nature of men often resulted in war and unnecessary killing of fellow mankind...
Personally I am against war as a resolution of problem. per se.
I even hate the fact that military exist at all... if we could all live in peace, I wouldn't have to loath on annual basis of going back for reservist...ok that's a big self-centered again

Over the weekend, had a fair share of watching war been waged in the theater as well as at home...

In "Red Cliff", we were taken to 208 AD to witness an important battle in warring history of China when the ruling Premier of the north, Cao Cao was determined to oust his main preposition to rule the entire China mainland, Sun Quan of Dong Wu and Liu Bei.
I am no "Romance of 3 Kingdom" buff unlike the likes of Chan, but did read up abit before watching this John Woo's flick as well as using my recollection of what I had derived from other mediums like games and TV series to gather information of some of the more famous persona.
The 1st part of the movie (2nd part releasing early next year) built up the intensity of how Cao Cao led him troops southwards to thwart Sun's army and intentions to capture his territories, exterminating Liu Bei at the same time; so when the latter 2 decided to forged an alliance he felt it was God's will going his way.
The actors reprising the role didn't did exceptionally well, Kaneshiro Takeshi received quite a bit of flake when he took on the wise Zhuge Liang but think he did quite well.
Tony Leung was just old in the show while Taiwanese premier supermodel surely is a "vase" which take up precious air time.
The battle scene was nicely choreographed with all the formations and all and I was not surprised if 70% were real extras since China is so populated. But there was surely overdose of how valiant and formidable the celebrated generals were.
There are the Joh Woo signatures stamped all over it such as the white doves and the exaggerated action sequences as well as the emphasis of brotherhood...

On Sunday I witnessed a war of another kind altogether.
In "Band of Brothers", once again the Americans might have over-glorified their role in the 2nd World War as their infantry marched towards Germany to force Hitler and his Nazi regime to end their ploy for world domination.
Well that aside it was a touching tale of how the famous Easy Company of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division braved it all into Hitler's lair.
In the 10 part HBO mini series, producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg reunited with the crew behind another WWII flick "Saving Private Ryan" to tell this detailed tale of the close brotherhood the men fostered admist adversities.
I was perhaps a good 7 years late to watch the series I borrowed from Chan, it was still a good way to spend the Sunday afternoon though I was quite sick of all the bombing and shell bursting as night falls.

In both instances, it showed that war surely is the bane of mankind and how innocent soldiers had to serve as pawns for the warring parties...
The other epiphany to draw from war is that in a state where you face imminent death, you will truly show your real self to whoever beside you. You have to put full trust in that guy and likewise him to you. A true kinship is forged which we rarely find in our everyday life of luxury and capitalism.

One cold front of it all surely has to be the workplace.
It is undeniable that one can find true friendship at work but at the end of it, it might just be a masquerade for a more sinister purpose... afterall everyone at work might be after the elusive promotion or bonus...
Well it might be just fabricated but there certainly is some truth in it.
My company did try to come up with events to bolster relationships among colleagues such as a friendly bowling competition on Saturday for the 2nd year running.
Forming a team with 3 of my closest colleagues including the new chap, we just hoped we don't end up the last team among the 13 around for that day despite naming ourselves "The Gutters"
In the end HB's virtusoso performance and CH (the new guy at work)'s exemplary 2nd game run plus me trying to make up for all the gutters in the 1st 2 round, see us clocking a decent 984 points after 3 round, still a significant distant from the top team which clinched 1400+ points.
But it was good fun for us to interact for once outside the domain of work.

The real brotherhood for me now would be back to the La Tendo clique.
After a good 2 weeks of preparation and slight anticipation, the entire crew headed down to Fernvale Grove in Sengkang where Ferris & Lisa's little pad is situated on Friday evening.
Beside the main motive of house-warming, we also took the opportunity to celebrate birthdays for the boys of July, Ferris and Bro, EK.
The neighborhood is well desolated in terms of the lack of human activity as it is still a town in infancy stage.
Even in their block, most of the apartments are yet to be occupied.
Miyano was marveled by the sight of a dark field overseeing from their window with no block of flats or other buildings, a sight surely rare in our island so scarce in land.
The 4 room flat despite the shape of the living room is actually quite roomy and easily able to accommodate all 12 of us (especially with me, Chan and Vincent with slightly more mass) and Ferris always had an eye for aestheticism (though not always noteworthy) ensured his place was well furnished to what his financial state could support.
Lisa and Ferris were competent hosts with looking after our gastronomical and entertainment need respectively.
But it was all good-nature fun especially when the couple of Vincent and Miyano were at their squabbling best again (this time on marriage tussles like the decision of placing their TV set at home) while we ribbed Ferris on his weird sense of expenditures like buying a pack of Tarot cards just for the nice art and constant procrastination to work on his endless amount of resin kit with one Tay-chan had solicited from him to do for like 3 years now high on the stack.
Finally the cake-cutting ceremony see EK dripping wax all over the 2 nice Bakerz Inn fruit cakes Karen had bought on our behalf.
So after a good few hours of good food, laughters, admiring their new house, taking wacky pictures and overall jolly-making, we called it a night or morning as it was close to 2 am in the morning by then when we closed yet another chapter in our own version of "band of brothers/sisters".

My Band of Brothers/Sisters

Japanese word of the day: 大戦~da-i-se-n~(Battle) The only battle I enjoy is Super Robot Taisen

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Identity Crisis

7th July 2008, Monday

Stayed home-bound for the whole of the weekend...simply just catch some dorama, rented DVDs and became immersed and obsessive in my PS3 adventures, ingesting unhealthy snacks along the way

However there seems to be a common theme with the media I came across the whole weekend... the characters seemed to be embedded in a case of identity crisis....

Zettai Kareshi (絶対彼氏): Based on a shoujo-manga of the same name, this Fuji Terebi doramas told a tale we all identify with all along. The fantasy of owning a perfect lover, in this case a robot/cyborg. Dashing Hayami Mokomichi (who's last dorama, "Tokyo Tower" got me all teared up) was 01 model from the Nightly Series from a cybernetic company, Kronos Heaven which was design and made for an unsuspecting customer, a inspiring patissier, Izawa Riiko.
Hayami's stiff acting is just perfect for the role of the robot lover but eventually as the tale came to a climax, he became a sad being yearning for a normal humane life as his "owner" Riiko came to accept him.
But like all movies of such genre (with robotic or supernatural being lover), there will be no happy ending as 01's main IC went busted when he exerted himself too much to generate spontaneous self-programming which baffled his creator and company.
It was pretty touching near the end but the characters have to get out from that surreal state that they would last happy together. There were stances of identity crisis for 01 or Night for his name at the beginning while Riiko hit hers at the end when she thought she could do without real human companionship for a piece of appliance which might most probably outlive her.

Persepolis: One of the movies I rented was this French animated feature based on the graphical autobiography of Marjiane Satrapi, an Iranian exile who tells a tale about the chaotic times in her homeland over the course of Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. The protagonist, Marjiane who dreamt tp be a prophet was exposed to poltical ideals like communisim since young and grew jaded of the stagnant repressive state of her nation. She was a rebel with her own cause... a rebel repressed in a conservative post-war Iran. When she thought she was liberated with her studies in Vienna, there she hit an identity crisis and knew that the demise in her country didn't reflected well in the European scene.
She yearned for a return back home after countless days on the streets of Austria but found it was back to square one as she found it had to adjust with how rigid the government remains in their status quo.
She migrated to France eventually as the tale came to an end...
In the style of black & white graphic novel, the essence of the story was well captured and despite no beautiful CG or delightful artwork, it was the story that really bought me and gave me a great insight with the turmoil the Iran people had to face back in those days when they could actually become a developed nation with their commodity and all.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: After Niko Bellic duly disposed of his great adversaries in Liberty City, he passed the Playstion baton to the renowned mercenary from the mastermind of Kojima Hideo and his Konami team, Solid Snake, now in much aged in 2014, thus known as Old Snake.
Despite not following the MGS storyline unlike most of my friends who had played the prequels back in the Famicom/Playstation days, I knew that Solid Snake is a character shrouded with identity crisis, himself a cloned product of a war hero, now known as Big Boss and constantly had to unraveled the mystery about his background against his "brothers" Liquid and Solidus.
My first venture in MGS was very much like my first venture to Gran Theft Auto, disregarding much of the history and just play the game as it is.
However it was always better to know abit more of the famous game series in which stealth is the best way to win the game...something I am still getting the hang of especially it totally contrast the ideology of GTA in which everyday is a grand massacre involving plenty of car stealing, chases and simply blowing things up.
In MGS we just had to keep cool headed and preferably not to be detected by the enemy, something which would reap rewards in the end. There was even a stress level which certainly reflect Snake's and my own stree throughout the mission. Fortunately, there was the presence of m,y favorite gadget, the iPod to give us some musical relief, alleviating the tension when we need it.
Act 1 is set iin the backdrop of the warring Middle East and the mood of the environment surely set itself to it, although I was expecting the rebel militias to speak Arabic to me rather than American-accented English.
CS was immensely addicted to the game and I could see why... Foo is another advocating the good of it and should jump on the PS3 bandwagon just for it pretty soon.
Then there was Johnny "Akiba" Sasaki as Foo described it.. "is da man!" I have to nod in agreement, as you know I am sucker for such characters....

The Prestige: Another movie I rented was a great buffer to set me forward for The Dark Knight opening next week.
Directed by the same director, Chris Nolan and featured Batman (Christian Bale) and Alfred (Michael Caine) with the same cinematographer and production designer as "Batman Begins", it surely have the same tone of the Batman sequel.
Set in the Victorian era of England where the age of industrialization was at its prime, this film told the tale of 2 rival magicians, bidding to outdo each other and even constant notion of revenge when one aspiring magician Borden( Bale) accidentally killed the wife of Angier (Hugh Jackman), a fellow budding disciple of the dark art in an act.
While the tale showed us some insight of the truth behind several well-known illusions of that time, the crux of it all was the intense rivalry between the 2.
First look at it superhero fans would rejoice of the prospect of seeing Batman vs Wolverine, but seriously beneath the masks, these 2 actors surely are great actors as I was intrigued by how one tried to outdo the other.
The cast was well rounded by Scarlett Johansson (who surely looks good in the bust-enhancing Victorian fashion), Caine (smooth as great wine), Andy Serkis (Gollum of LOTR fame) and a pretty beef up David Bowie who did a competent role as Nikola Tesla, who found the basis alternation current electric power.
At the climax of the story where both were trying to uncover each's secret of the "Tranport Man" act, both were fooled by the identity of the other at the end which surely led to a real twist of the tale.

Glad I have no real crisis with my own identity but this current one is starting to perturb the missus as well as the rest of the household that I might be too immersed to become a confined-in freako...

Japanese word of the day: 危機 (crisis) The only crisis I have now is to increase more "me-alone" time but highly unlikely

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Work Cliimate 2008 Q3

2nd July 2008, Wednesday

Two days back, our French supervisor dropped the bomb that she had tendered her resignation to the company...
As the rumors (actually got the first hand information from BY before she left) were true as she was pursuing her PhD with the ruling recently relaxed for PRs to take up local scholarship.
Her departure will certainly cause ripples in the department and seemingly the bosses had no back up plan at the moment of who and how they are going to replace her.
Another hot rumor in the pipeline was that our resident gay boy might take over the baton since he is here for the longest time....well watch this space if that happens...
In the pragmatic aspect, I wonder who will do our half term appraisal come September...sends shudders down my spine to think of either His Beautiness or Mr Shitty Green...
Wonder the new supervisor would be less of the meticulous error seeker or more of a slave driver than the incumbent...

Speaking of slave-driving, with the purchase of a more advanced equipment which could do the work at a fraction of the time needed now, Shitty Green who had been at our necks for years now how we could up our throughput wants to maximise the new tool and with the way the experiments are run, it seems like either we stayed late or come back during the weekends to produce more results.
With myself joining the slave crew for a good 2 months now, they had the extra manpower to make the entire shift issue feasible.
So we spent a good amount of time calculating whether we could really squeeze another set of experiments in a usual weekday...but it doesn't seems appealing or at least managable...
It all boils down to whether we are willing to come back on the weekend then...
Not your half day on Saturday kind which I had done in the past but two full fledged working hours on both Saturday and Sunday.
Of course we would be compensated with days off (seemingly 3 weekdays for 2 weekends) as monetary rewards are definitely out of the question here.
I think among us we were torn into 3 camps... HB, who used to come back often when he was on another platform and now a legitimate owner of a car thought it was okay for him to come back... while His Beautiness felt taking away his precious weekends might hampered his usual Monday morning routine of asking people in his usual sheepish voice "How's the weekend?"
Seriously his sisterhood and hubby really need him as everyone would be not be working on weekend...
XY and myself are still in dilemma whether doing weekend is good... on the short term perhaps but if as they predicted that we might convert into a full force Asian hub for our trade, it will means factory style for sure...wonder was that the ideology Shitty Green and the bosses are cooking up...

Well everything is still up in the air as we await the final discussion from the bosses and see what they had on offer on the platter...

Personally I felt I might obliged for a weekend of the month and nothing more... but if money was thrown in, well you never know...
Working on weekends actually can be aye okay as you can dance around barenaked if you want to since no one is around...
However I wouldn't do so if I am pairred with His Beautiness..He might pull an "Anwar Ibrahim" on me, if you know what I mean...

Japanese word of the day: 週末(Weekend) If the above-mentioned really enforced, I can't sing the famous X song anymore.... ~Weekend Weekend Weekend I love my Weekend~~

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Rain in Spain...Comes with a Gain after Pain

1st July 2008, Tuesday

One of the more fulfilling weekend, perhaps due to the fact that I took leave on Friday as well...
The intention was to catch a supposedly-thrilling semi-final duel between Spain and Oranje-slayer, Russia on Friday morning.
However I deciphered how my body worked all wrongly.... I thought I could survive till the wee hours after the semi ended at around 5 in the morning rather than clocking a couple of hours of nap time before the match start.
So I continued my adventure of Niko Bellic in Liberty City, even watching an episode of "Planet Earth" (dozing along with the soothing narration of Sir Richard Attenborough) and barely kept my eye-lids open as the match began by 2.45am.
I did remember the 0-0 halftime score and when Guiza scored Spain's 2nd goal in the 73rd minute, otherwise I was all knocked out till 9 Friday morning... The missus had to be the one to switch off the TV once again.

The weekend filled with Chan's birthday celebration at La Tendo, 2 movies, a live soccer match at Tampines, an inaugural Singapore Toy and Comic Convention and sashaying my way to the finale of Grand Theft Auto 4...

Chan's Birthday celebration: As eccentric or erratic as he can be, Chan is always a treasured member of the clique...well all of us would be but Chan seems omnipresent for most events unless he decided to fade to black as usual. There was no cake blowing or costly karaoke sessions as of our last celebration but it was all fun especially as for a long while everyone (except for some foreign-bound members) were present. Despite being constrained by the narrow alleyway of the cashier counter of the shop as well as had limited beverage, we had a hearty chat till 1 in the morning as Miyano gave us an insight of how insane it could get bringing school children to Japan for cultural exchange activities.
Also realized that Karen had made a U-Turn on her decision to resign from a teaching post after her director made some compromises.
Next up would be Ferris' birthday cum housewarming two weeks later...

Double Movie Treats: I had accumulated quite a sum of Citibank points for making expenditure on my Platinum card over the course of the last 2 years or so... I always thought I might use it to waive off my annual fee except it always didn't seems enough plus we all knew the waiving off is just one phone-call away.
So I took on a offer that had recently with a discount on the points needed to claim a pair of movie tickets from Golden Village..I claimed a few pairs, hoping to catch shows I had wanted to catch but reluctant to spend that money.
On Friday while the rest of Singapore is either at work or in school, I got a couple of the clique (i.e. Karen and Chan as well as Chiaki who was off from her work and was shopping with Karen on that day) to join me and the missus to catch "Shaolin Shoujo".
The movie received scathing reviews for a lack of plot and intense exaggeration truly was a waste of time (luckily minimal money was involved).
The tempo of the movie was slow and the plot was nano-thin and cheesy mostly especially the ending.. It collectively wasted good acting ability of the likes of Shibasaki Kou, Eguchi Yosuke and Nakamura Tooru. We now knew why Stephan Chow wanted to be uncredited as the producer of the movie....

The 2nd movie I caught over the weekend was "Get Smart", the Steve Carrell's renewal of the 1960s Mel Brooks' comedy series about bumbling international spy in the mold of James Bond but drew parallel to Rowan Atkinson's "Johnny English".
I love Steve Carrell's and his deadpan comedy act which I felt might be exhausted after this movie...But he did put up a great performances and laughter was guaranteed throughout with some nice action sequence.
The supporting cast was fantastic though I think Anne Hathaway was slightly too young to pair with 40 something Carrell. The Rock or now known as Dwayne Johnson is good as Agent 23.
Cameo from Masi Oka (Hero), David Koechner (regular in Carrell's shows like 40 year old Virgin and The Office), Terry Crews (the Vanessa Carlton loving footballer), Patrick Warburton (David Puddy in Seinfeld), Ken Davitian (Borat's producer) and the Great Khali from WWE make the show even more interesting... Even Bill Murray was trapped in a tree...

Sengkang versus Tampines: Our 3rd live Sengkang match as the hopeless bottom-dwellers took on Tampines in their home ground which always look to be a lost cause.
An early goal from a mistake by custodian Joey Sim gave the Stags the lead within 2 minutes and then to compound our misery Joey got himself sent off and the meaty Adi Salleh had to deputize and the first thing he did was picking the ball out of the net when Sutee scored from a direct freekick. He then were beaten a few times by the pint-sized Aliff Shaffein (twice from headers!) but luckily were ruled offside. In the end it didn't turn out to be a mauling and we had a couple of rare chances to score but current Singapore keeper, Hassan Sunny who seemingly nearly doze off from the lack of activity before his goalmouth refused to concede a goal from the woeful Dolphin attack.

STCC: The first of its kind in Singapore which gather almost all the big boys in the toy, comic, anime and gaming (only Nintendo) under one roof as the otaku-dom as well as fanboys from all genres showed up in strength for the 2 days event making it a real success.
The crowd was pretty insane on Saturday afternoon when we were there but it was really down to the confined space more than anything else.
It was held within one single convention hall but perhaps the lack of participating patrons really didn't warrant a space bigger than this.
La Tendo rejected the offer to be part of it and think they missed much...
The event which showcased quite a bit of local manga talents as well as gather an impressive roll call of popular artists like Pete Fowler and Devilrobots but I am not a wee bit interested in designer vinyl toys...left after mere 30 minutes maneuvering in the sea of curious crowd, curbing my claustrophobia at the same time.

EK and Chan had intended to dropby on Sunday to have some fun on the Playstation 3 but in the end it didn't materialize, so I took the opportunity to clear several missions in GTA4...The finale was pretty heart-wrenching...waiting to watch the end credits...Then it would be Solid Snake...

Managed to catch the final of Euro 2008 live as Spain reigned superiority with their positive football over the Germans.
It is not that Germany played bad football throughout the tournament but it was just that the Iberian nation deserved to win their first accolade in 44 years.
A 33rd minute goal from Liverpool marksman, Fernando Torres settled the game but seriously it would be much different if Klose had scored early on.
Glad the final produced another new champions and marked the end of a really entertaining tournament which my beloved Netherlands once again promised much but in the end meekly departed...

Not the best start of the week for me and the missus...
Minor issue with my possessions as the lithium battery of my iPod seems to have reach its life span. After fully charged, now it could last less than 2 days of usage (the most 3 hours of intermittent play) and I didn't even played video files on it...Contemplating whether to change a new battery which could be pretty costly.
The arcylic protective cover for my NDS lite which I purchased from my 1st Kao-hsiung ICT had snapped into 2 but still holding the console... well I am not the most meticulous person when handling my properties...
However the worst occured to my spouse as a moment of absentmindedness resulted in her leaving her newly-acquired Nokia handphone in the lavatory of her workplace... It was gone in less than 60 seconds for sure...Now only pray some kind soul will return it back to her...most unlikely for sure...

Spainish word of the day: Ganador (Winner) Spain is the worthy winner but I feel I shouldn't lose so much in real life

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